Nostalgia November: Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
by Frank Landau
Ah the 1980's. This was the decade that changed everything in entertainment. After seeing what 1977's Star Wars did with merchandising, every movie and television show wanted some of that action figure cash. In fact, toy companies wanted it, too. So we started seeing toy lines developed and THEN shows and movies based on the toys. Transformers, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, My Little Pony, and G.I. Joe paved the way for this sort of thing to be common place. These were all popular cartoons for kids on Saturday mornings. One of the overlooked gems (at least in my book) was Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. The show had a successful toy line that INTERACTED WITH YOUR TV! As a young child of the 80's, I was sold! I needed to watch this show and pester my parents until they bought me the toys.
The show was marketed for kids, but had a mature, adult-themed story line. Little did I know that this would be the bigger reason I liked this story, not the toy line tie-in. The story goes like this...
It was the 22nd century and humanity had turned to machines to wage their wars. They were "Bio-Mechs." A rogue scientist found a way to control the Bio-Mechs and used them to destroy most of the human population. With the help of a supercomputer named Overmind that became self aware, Lord Dread was on the verge of conquering the world. Overmind wanted the remnants of humanity digitized so they could become virtual beings within the supercomputer.
What a depressing world, especially one meant to be a Saturday morning kid's show. But in the 22nd century, humanity did not just roll over a die. They had a resistance, and the most prominent (and biggest thorn in the side of Lord Dredd) was Captain Power and his Power Team!
The guy front and center is Captain Jonathan Power. His father, Dr. Stuart Gordon Power was a scientist who worked with Lyman Taggert before he became Lord Dread. Taggert and Dr. Power were working on finding a way to shut down all the Bio-Mechs and end war for good. When Taggert took over the Bio-Mechs with the help of Overmind, Dr. Power developed a means to combat Taggert and the Bio-Mechs. He creates powered exoskeletal body armor with advanced weaponry called "the Power Suits."
Dr. Power never gets a chance to see the results of his work as he died saving his son, Jonathan from Taggert. The confrontation between Dr. Power and Tagger took Power's life and critically injured Taggert. Overmind saved Taggert's life by implanting cybernetic mechanisms into his body. It was after this procedure that he became Lord Dread. Dr. Power's legacy was the Power Suits. It gave humanity hope in fighting Dread and his mechanical monstrosities.
The show had an amazing premise, great writing, and a unique story to tell but it suffered from a lot of confusion from the fans. Was this a kids show considering how dark the setting was and how much violence showed? Was it a show for adults even with it's goofy title? If it's for adults, why the toy line tie-in? It also had an awful time-slot as some syndication outlets showed the episodes at 5 am on Sundays. And let's talk about this TV-toy interaction for a minute: it sucked. The toys were cool on their own but when you played the VHS that came with it and tried to play along, it was lame. This all contributed to the shows demise after only one season.
Now, I was lucky that I had a nerdy father who enabled my childhood love of sci-fi. He would record the episodes for me so I could watch them at a reasonable hour. We had the whole 1st season on Betamax. I fell in love with this show. It didn't make the same mistake that many kid's shows stumble upon: dumbing things down for kids. It treated the viewer as intelligent and mature. There was joy, sadness, and the despair of being constantly on the run from Dread's machines. There was even an episode where Lord Dread could have killed Captain Power as he was visiting his father's grave. Lord Dread saw a gift that Dr. Power gave him and withdrew his attack plan. It showed that good guys and bad guys were not predictable, cookie cutter characters.
Let me give you a quick rundown on the Power Team, word for word from the show's opening
"Their leader--Captain Jonathan Power master of the incredible Power Suits, which transform each soldier into a one-man attack force.
Major Matthew 'Hawk' Masterson fighter in the skies.
Lieutenant Michael 'Tank' Ellis ground assault unit.
Sergeant Robert 'Scout' Baker espionage and communications.
And Corporal Jennifer 'Pilot' Chase tactical systems expert.
Together they form the most powerful fighting force in Earth's history. Their creed: to protect all life. Their promise: to end Lord Dread's rule. Their name: Captain Power And The Soldiers Of The Future!"
If that doesn't make you jump up off the couch and pump your first, this website isn't for you.
The first season had Captain Power lead his team to Volcania, the stronghold of Lord Dread. They dealt Dread's attempt to wipe out the rest of humanity a crippling blow. The Power Team disabled a destructive satellite and knocked it out of orbit, sending it towards Volcania. One of Dread's Bio-Dread monstrosities, Soaron, was damaged severely trying to stop the satellite from hitting Volcania.
He was unsuccessful. The flaming wreckage impacted Lord Dread's base of operations, causing massive damage. The Power Team went home to their secret base at an abandoned NORAD facility successful. Unfortunately, a hacker sold them out and gave Dread the codes to access the transit gates. These transit gates allowed the Power Team to keep their base secret and attacked quickly. Dread's forces ambushed the team while Pilot (the former "Bio-Dread Youth" who was the only female member of the team) was left stranded at the base. A massive force of Dread's troopers entered the transit gate and attacked the Power Base. Pilot fought valiantly but was overwhelmed and had to destroy the base, but in the process wiped out one of the Bio-Dreads, Blastarr.
It was a heart wrenching scene. The Power Team was on the radio with Pilot the entire time, hearing her make the final decision to end her life. Pilot was able to send key elements of Mentor (the Power Base's AI matrix) and the remaining Power Suits out in a hoverbike for the team to recover. This was the season finale...and ultimately the series finale. It ended on such a down note but there was still a glimmer of hope for the team to fight on against Lord Dread.
For years, the series was thought lost with the exception of anyone who might have recorded it on VHS/Beta, but the series managed to pick up a cult following. It garnered fans at the comic con scene and eventually, the show's creators decided to re-release it on DVD using the original reels from the shows initial run. They even included commentary and deleted scenes! So this means, that after reading this article, you will be as excited about this show as I was, and go out and buy the DVD set! Just like...give it a week, I want to buy a copy, too. I gotta wait for the next paycheck. You know how that goes.