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Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: TV.

Canadian/US tv series (1987-1988). The Landmark Entertainment Group/Mattel/Ventura Pictures, Inc. Syndicated. Created by Gary Goddard and Anthony Christopher. Developed for television by J Michael Straczynski and Mark Scott Zicree. Directors include Otta Hanus, Jorge Montesi and Douglas Williams. Writers include Gerry Davis, Larry DiTillio, Michael Reaves, Straczynski, Marv Wolfman and Zicree. Cast includes Todd Dillman, Timothy Dunigan, Bruce Gary, David Hemblen, Peter MacNeill, Jessica Steen, Sven-Ole Thorsen and Maurice Dean Wint. 22 25-minute episodes. Colour.

Set in a Post-Holocaust 2147, this series tells of the aftermath of the Metal Wars which had begun fifteen years earlier, in 2132, when the nations of the Earth abandoned the use of humans in their armed forces, replacing them with "Bio-Mechs", Robot soldiers that allowed wars to be fought with a reduced number of deaths. The Bio-Mechs were to be controlled by an advanced Computer called Overmind (voiced by Dillon) developed by Dr Stuart Gordon Power (Gary), who re-creates himself as an AI known as Mentor, and his assistant Dr Lyman Taggart (Hemblen); but Taggart, growing impatient with slow progress, hooked his own mind into the computer, like his boss transforming himself into a kind of AI. Convinced that the merging of human consciousness with Machines was the next step in human Evolution, Taggert then initiated the Metal Wars.

Despite Dr Power's creation of Powered Armour suits and other advanced Weapons to oppose the Bio-Mechs, and despite the aid he offers in his guise as Mentor, humanity has largely been subjugated by 2147. The main action of the series shows Power's son Captain Jonathan Power (Dunigan) leading a desperate guerrilla movement from an abandoned North American Aerospace Defence command base in the Rocky Mountains of the former USA; his team includes Major Matthew "Hawk" Masterson (MacNeill), Lieutenant Michael "Tank" Ellis (Thorsen), Sergeant Robert "Scout" Baker (Wint), and Corporal Jennifer "Pilot" Chase (Steen), focusing their attacks on Taggart, now known as Lord Dread, by means of a network of "transit gates" which allows Teleportation about North America while keeping the base's location secret. Dread's most-feared weapons are huge flying Robot machines called "Bio-Dreads" which digitize all of the humans they can locate, storing them as programmes within Overmind. In the final episode, Lord Dread learns the access codes to the teleportation portals, and sends an assault force of Bio-Mechs against the base. Most of the team and base personnel escape: Corporal Chase, seriously injured, activates the base's self-destruct mechanism, causing her own death and destroys the invading enemy force. The series was cancelled before viewers could begin to speculate on her possible revival as yet another AI.

Captain Power made use of early CGI effects, with the result that each episode cost an unsustainable $1,000,000 or more. As the series was interactive with various Tie gamesets and assorted toys produced by Mattel, overall product costs tended to mount, also to unsustainable levels. There was some controversy in America over the (implied) sexual relationships among some characters; some exceedingly mild profanity also aroused viewers, making Captain Power difficult to market to younger audiences. Corporal Chase's death also aroused perturbation, as American series did not normally feature disruptions of this sort. Straczynski later said that the various toys failed to sell as well as hoped, leading Mattel to withdraw funding. Other merchandise included a Comics title which appeared briefly from Continuity Comics from 1988 to 1989, written by Straczynski and illustrated by Neal Adams.

Plans were announced in 2012 for a revival of the series; although little more has since been reported, the project has not yet been killed. [GSt/JC]


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