Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future is a 1987-88 sci-fi/action television series that ran for 22 episodes in Canadian/American syndication. A toy line was also produced by Mattel, and during each episode there was a segment that included visual and audio material which interacted with the toys.
Christmas of 1987 was ALL ABOUT Captain Power for me. Captain Power pajamas, action figures, VHS tapes, vehicles…literally, I had just about everything Captain Power that you could get. I adored the adventures of the Soldiers of the Future, the resistance against Lord Dread and his Bio-Dread Empire.
Shockingly, you can pick up the series on DVD or Blu-Ray (unofficially) at www.captainpower.com. I decided to give the adventures of Jonathan Power and his team of rebels another shot, remembering them fondly from my youth…
I was surprised to find that there isn’t so much of an origin episode. You’re told everything you need to know about the history of the world and the formation of the Soldiers of the Future during the beginning credits, and thrown right into the middle of a mission from there. I re-watched the first few episodes of the show, and was surprised to find very little continuity from episode to episode. Most episodes are self-contained, which isn’t bad … it just makes the show feel like more of a “live action cartoon” than I originally remember.
That’s not to say it’s bad. In fact, though there are some laughably bad elements of the show, the writing is actually pretty strong (not surprising given the involvement of J. Michael Straczynski). The acting is a little stiff, and a little over the top in certain places, but it didn’t make me laugh from being awful. And really, the core cast leans more towards the positive. I was ready to hate the show – in fact, watching the first episode, it’s surprising that anyone stayed for the second. I can’t imagine the special effects even being impressive for the time – sure, it was some early CG-work in its robotic villains…but damn, they look AWFUL. There’s not even an attempt to make them blend in.
The biggest drawback I can see in the show (other than those God awful special effects) is the running time. Since 1987, we’ve pretty much figured out that good science fiction needs an hour to tell its story. Almost every episode ends kind of abruptly, and because each episode is self contained…you just kind of assume that the stories are over. Captain Power wasn’t really meant to be good science fiction – it was really meant to be a live action cartoon, made to sell toys. You can tell as much in the fact that the villains in every episode have a little red spot on them so that you could aim your toy ship at the screen and shoot them. It just so happened that the writers and cast and crew decided to make it something more with decent writing and acting.
It’s a shame an official release has never happened for this show – it deserves it more than half of the 80’s crap that’s been released on DVD. Must be a rights thing – still, if you can get your hands on the show, it might be worth revisting.