31 May 2020

Future War Stories from the East: Super Dimension Century ORGUSS (1983)

During the early days of the 2nd Wave of Anime/Manga coming to the West, it was not always a straight forward journey from the shores of Japan to the American audience. While there are titles like ROBOTECH, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, and VOLTRON that were more traditional importations to the American audience then there were also titles like Super Dimension Century ORGUSS that came to the western shores in various ways and methods that caused it to be a forgotten title that has famous roots and was nearly famous itself if history had played out differently. In this installment of Future War Stories from the East, we will be diving into 1983's Super Dimension Century ORGUSS.    

What the Hell is "Super Dimension Century ORGUSS"?
Before we can discuss ORGUSS, we have to breakdown the term "Super Dimension" (or Chōjikū Seiki in Japanese)within the title for ORGUSS, because among the classic anime titles, the term "Super Dimension" carries alot of weight. In terms of anime titles that stormed the beaches of the collective consciences of the world and imprinted just how cool combat mecha is, really came down to really two anime: Mobile Suit Gundam and Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Both continue to spawn new titles in their respective franchises and turn out countless plastic-fantastic model kits that are like crack to their legions of followers. Unlike Mobile Suit Gundam, Super Dimension Fortress Macross was a massive hit for Big West, Tatsunoko Production, and Studio Nue during its original run from October of 1982 to June of 1983 on the MBS network. Given the success while Macross was airing, there was already work on another series with the similar themes of love during a time of future war where mecha was the primary foot-soldier. That series, the 2nd in the Big West "Super Dimension" Trilogy, was titled "Super Dimension Century ORGUSS". ORGUSS carries the title of "Super Dimension" due to it being made by the same studio and people associated with Macross and it borrows the general theme as Macross.
Chōjikū Seiki Ōgasu was created by two Macross veterans: Ken'ichi Matsuzaki and Hiroshi Ohnogi. In terms of style, two heavyweights were involved with the look of ORGUSS: Haruhiko Mikimoto (characters) and Kazutaka Miyatake (mecha). Both worked on Macross and Miyatake would go on to design the mecha for Crusher Joe and the Mobile Suits for the Starship Troopers OVA series. That is a great deal of talent involved in ORGUSS, but ORGUSS was not a Tatsunoko Production. Instead, the animation was done by TMS due to Tatsunoko gearing up for MOSPEADA. The 2nd installment in the Super Dimension trilogy would air on MBS on July 3rd, 1983, just after Super Dimension Macross had wrapped up on June 26th of 1983. During work on Macross, the production staff inserted the ORGUSS mecha into some battle scenes as a nod to the next series.
While hopes were high at Studio Nue and MBS for a repeat of Macross, ORGUSS did not live up to those unrealistic hopes. It suffered under a bad time slot, a slow-boil storyline, organic mecha designs that were not similar to Macross design that proven so successful, and poor toy/model sales. Despite, the lower-than-expected ratings and other issues, SDC ORGUSS ran for 35 episodes, ending its broadcast run on April 8th, 1984. For a time perspective on the other two parts to ROBOTECH: Genesis Climber MOSPEADA was airing from October 2nd, 1983 to March 23rd, 1984 and Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross aired from April 15th, 1984 to September 30th, 1984.

The Story of Super Dimension Century ORGUSS
The series would open to a war in 2063 between two governments over the important space elevator. The night before the big mission, hotshot space fighter pilot Kei Katsuragi spends the night with his girlfriend Tina and little does he know, he knocked her up. The mission for Kei and wingman Orson to protect a team of engineers as they attempt to setup the new top secret Space/Time Oscillation Bomb with their standard military aerofighter of the Freedom Space Corps, the AV-11D "Bronco II". The hope is that the space/time bomb will destroy the power source of the space elevator and end the destructive war for both sides. However, the mission is called off by HQ and Kei completes the task due to the high cost of the mission. When Space /Time Oscillation Bomb explodes, it throws both Kei and Orson forward into time by 20 years and reality for the Earth fractures and shatters.
This means that the world of this new Earth should have been like something out of Palladium Books' Rifts...but, sadly it is not that cool.  Different realities are sandwiched together on the new Earth with different races. This new Earth is always changing with new dimensional gates opening, allowing for new things to come through...like Jahby. When Kei wakes up the alien savager aero/ground vessel, the Glomar, he is in a very different world than the one he left. He had been picked up the human looking Emaan, who have tentacles...because...reasons and there is the talking intelligent dinosaur, Jahby. Jahby's race comes from alternate Earth where the comet never wiped out the dinosaurs and Jahby's race evolved and dominated their Earth. Beside the Emaan and the dinosaurs, there is the remains of the human race, the dangerous and militaristic Chiram (AKA Terram) and the Geth-like robotic Mu. Over the course of 30 episodes, the new Earth factions will purse Kei and the also transported Olson due to their relationship to the portals and mecha battles will ensue between the Emaan and the Chiram.
During Kei's time with the Glomar crew, he becomes a protector with his new Orguss mecha and also falls in love with Emaan hottie Mimsy Raas. Kei also runs into his own daughter, Athena, who is a pilot on the side of the Chiram forces. Towards the end of the show, the robotic Mu become increasingly aggressive towards the Chiram and the Emaan, causing these former rivals to combine their resources and forces to battle the Mu. To set things right and restore reality, the Earth, and themselves, Kei and Orson must battle through the heart of Mu territory to the old space elevator into the dimensional effect field.
It is discovered by Kei and Orson after the bloody battle that the time bomb is still active and they attempt to shut it down when they are confronted by another version of themselves. All four draw their pistols, in a very Quentin Tarantino scene, and then shoot one another. The end of the show has left audiences to draw their own conclusions based on flashes of different realities for the main characters and maybe the Earth. Some scenes show Kei and Mimsy with their child, Kei with Tina, Orson and Athena together, Much like what Rick is always saying about endless alternate realities in Rick & Morty, it seems that is what happened for the world and characters of Super Dimension Century ORGUSS. This ending has caused some backlash by the audience and it was sort of addressed in the 1995 six-part OVA "sequel": ORGUSS O2. 

The Historical Context of Super Dimension Century ORGUSS
When developed and aired on Japanese airwaves in 1983-1984, Super Dimension Century ORGUSS was the product of a trend in the world of manga and anime that swept the world: the Giant Robot Crazy. First starting in the 1970's with Mazinger Z and Mobile Suit Gundam, the trend of including mecha in military science fiction settings exploded after Gundam and Star Wars. Now, space and mecha centered stories were the hot product and ever studio and toy/model firm wanted a piece of the pie. With the success of Super Dimension Macross, other anime TV shows and OVAs were ordered with similar themes and style, and ORGUSS was one of those children of Macross. During this time, US and European firms were looking to import anime titles along with associated merchandise to feed the Giant Robot Crazy along with the 2nd Wave of Anime into the West.
At this point, 1983/1984, things were changing in America and there was an audience of the Japanese cartoons and the toys/models through the growing economy and what we would call the "geek culture". Thus, ORGUSS came at the wrong and right time period. Other works, like Macross, Star Musketeer Bismark, and Beast King GoLion were repackaged for western syndication TV with toys and models to follow that were supported by the show. Other works, like Fang of the Sun Dougram only had their models imported to the West. This was the unfair nature of the importation of anime titles during this time. As the 2nd Wave gave away to the 3rd, the anime market in the West shifted from the TV airwaves to the VHS/Laserdisc market with stores like Suncoast supporting it along with countless catalog stores advising in backs of magazines like Starlog. But, these were tougher sales for new titles to the western audience. If the anime title had not run in the West, nor was their press/reviews/chatter, the title (like ORGUSS) loomed on the store shelves as a bulky VHS tape. These VHS tapes of anime TV series were generally sold as "volumes" and these tapes contained two episodes per tape for the price range of $14-$24. That was alot to lay down for a anime title you did not know. Most were likely to take a chance on an OVA VHS title than buy Volume I of a TV series that if you liked could cost you hundreds of dollars to complete the series. I, for one, never bought the VHS tapes of Starblazers or ROBOTECH despite my burning love for them due to the nosebleed cost.

The Ambassador Mecha: The ORGUSS
In every mecha-based show, video game comic book, model/toy line, or even tabletop war game; there is a piece of mecha that serves as the ambassador of the entire franchise or product. ROBOTECH/Marcoss as the Valkyrie, Gundam has the RX-78-2, SST has the Maraduar APS, Voltron has the Lions, and Star Musketeer Bismark had the Bismark. This the burden laid on the Orguss mecha from ORGUSS. So iconic and cool was the design of the Orguss, that transcended the anime and became an favorite of mecha lovers even without them knowing or even liking the SDC ORGUSS TV show. When Kei Katsuragi arrived into the alternate reality, he was flying his standard military aerofighter of the Freedom Space Corps, the AV-11D "Bronco II". The "AV" stood for "Attack Variable" which meant that the Bronco II could transform from fighter to GERWALK mode. In episode 3  "Pretty Machine", Kei's fighter is wrecked along with one of the Emaan "M. Lover" fighters onboard the Glomar, the two are combined into the namesake mecha by Reeg and by episode 4 "Caravan", Kei and the audience get to finally see the Orguss mecha in all of its organic style glory.
The actually naming of the mecha is not until the next episode "Lovers", when the talking dinosaur Jabby’s thinks it should be named "Orguss" after his people's god of war and there we have it. Oddly, in the scene of the show when the main characters are brainstorming names for the new mech, they pick names that the show producers thought for the title that were not used. The Emaan Orguss mecha would out class the Terram mecha and soon the Emaan military would develop a mass produced version of Reeg's original design: the Orguss II. The original Orguss mecha piloted by Kei is like the familiar Veritechs of the Macross series in that it transform from the Flier mode, to GERWALK (Ground Effective Reinforcement of Winged Armament with Locomotive Knee-joint) mode then to a humanoid mode that is called "Orgroid" in Super Dimension Century ORGUSS instead of "Battlroid" as in Macross. While onboard the Glomar, the Orguss is stored and launched in the GERWALK mode.
 However, unlike the VF-1 Valkyrie from SDF Macross, the Orguss has one more party trick: a 4th mode called "tank". I am not sure why this mode exists for the Veritech-like Orguss and it is not common to see this in most transforming fighters in anime/manga. Mecha fans are divided on the coolness factor with the tank mode. In the TV series, the tank mode is used only once in actually combat during the battle against the robotic Mu race on episode 34 "Battlefield", just one episode away from the ending of the entire series.
The Orguss was armed with several missile launchers in the arms and a missile cannon/shield attached on its right arm that allowed for both hands to be used in combat...which is very different than the mecha seen in most anime at the time. This missile cannon was altered to a directed-energy beam cannon later on in the series. When in "flier" mode, the majority of its missile launchers are not able to be used, and wing-mounted missile racks and DEW pods are used if the models are to believed. The Orguss is a powerful machine infused with Emaan anti-gravity technology and the skillful piloting of Kei. This mecha is the symbol of the show just as much as the VF-1 Valkyrie is in ROBOTECH/Macross, but for some, the organic design by Kazutaka Miyatake was not as celebrated as those in other mecha-centered animes. In addition, mecha fans were turned off by the design of the standard Chiram mecha, the  MBG-21D-2 "Ishkick". 

While ORGUSS is not well known to western audience as much as other anime, especially those associated with ROBOTECH, there are times when ORGUSS is resurrected to debate: to discuss its rumored incorporation into the ROBOTECH franchise. It has been  a long running rumor among ROBOTECH fans and sites that Carl Macek was eyeballing Super Dimension Century ORGUSS for the third installment of the landmark series instead of Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. However, according interviews with Carl Macek, ORGUSS was never under real consideration as a replacement for either Southern Cross or MOSPEADA, due to issues with the ORGUSS storyline and how easily the mecha of Southern Cross and MOSPEADA fit into Macross stylistically. Another issue was that Harmony Gold did not own the rights to ORGUSS, but did have them for Macross, Southern Cross, and MOSPEADA. 
This sealed the deal for ORGUSS not being included into the iconic ROBOTECH Saga TV series. The ORGUSS mecha does make those infamous Easter egg appearances during some space battles on the deck of the SDF-1, and there was the inclusion of ORGUSS mecha into the Revell Robotech Defender model line. In another interview, Carl Macek hinted at the possibility that ORGUSS was being considered as a far-future sequel to the original ROBOTECH TV series that was tied directly to the ROBOTECH II: The Sentients TV series, ROBOTECH: The Odyssey. There is little information out there on the subject of the aborted ROBOTECH: The Odyssey. We do know that The Odyssey would have been an 110 episode series and about 1/3rd been composed of ORGUSS and the rest would have been new animation to tie ORGUSS and the original ROBOTECH series into a complete narrative. If it had been made, ROBOTECH: The Odyssey would have concluded their story by ending where the first episode of the original series began, as the SDF-1 crashed on Macross Island in 1999 during the Global Civil War. The end of the circle and yet the beginning.    

Could have Super Dimension Century ORGUSS Have Worked in the ROBOTECH Universe?
For years, the question if SDC ORGUSS could have been incorporated into the ROBOTECH universe if Harmony Gold had secured the rights. Let me be clear here, ORGUSS could have NEVER worked within the classic ROBOTECH saga as we understand it today. ORGUSS is just too much of acid trip when compared to Macross, Southern Cross,and MOSPEADA. In addition, the-three-generations-at-war storyline would have been thrown by the strangeness of ORGUSS and its world. If ORGUSS had replaced Southern Cross or MOSPEADA, the very core of what we know as ROBOTECH today would have been lost. ORGUSS could have only worked if it had been in the post 3rd Robotech War era...maybe the adventures of the SDF-3 while lost? I personally do not think that given the look, feel, and story of Super Dimension Century ORGUSS, it could NOT have worked within the context of ROBOTECH whatsoever. 
There is an example of this with the context of the time that may show us how horribly it could have gone for ROBOTECH if Harmony Gold had selected ORGUSS. When World Events Productions attempted to unite three separate Big Robot anime series together to have something long enough for syndication under the umbra of "Voltron: Defender of the Universe", it failed horribly. Much like ROBOTECH Macross, the first installment of the Voltron saga was the most iconic and successful among American audiences and merchandising. 
It was based off the 1981 Beast King GoLion anime TV series and the other two series that WEP had picked to follow the Lion Force Voltron were much different that GoLion: Armored Fleet Dairugger XV and Lightspeed Electroid Albegas. When the 2nd series of Voltron: Defender of the Universe  was aired with the footage from Diarugger as "vehicle Voltron", the audience was confused, hurt, and Voltron suffered to the point that WEP ordered more Lion Force Voltron shows be made in Japan by Toei to save the Voltron enterprise. As a result, the 3rd Voltron series based on Albegas was never finished and certainly never aired.         

Super Dimension Century ORGUSS in the West
During the 2nd Wave of Anime into the West, many titles that were  similar to SDC ORGUSS arrived to western shores, but SDC ORGUSS did not arrive during the heyday of mecha anime and lost that momentum to capitalize on the western audience that was horny for any sweet mecha action. So, what happened to OGUSS in the west? For comparison, we will be examining ORGUSS through the lens of Voltron, Fang of the Sun Dougram and ROBOTECH. We have to remember that titles like these have two histories, one is their origins and original release in Japan and their other history is in the west. These can and often do differ greatly.
For example, the three separate anime TV series that form the Harmony Gold ROBOTECH saga were shows in Japan with some shared elements that were not ever meant to be unified and all three had different experiences and fates in the Japanese market. Then Harmony Gold imported these three series here to the States and altered them greatly in terms of story to form the ROBOTECH saga. While there was an idea by Carl Macek to possibly incorporate ORGUSS into the ROBOTECH universe, it never happened and this mecha TV series that was related to Macross, suffered a similar fate to Fang of the Sun Dougram in the West.
Much like Dougram, the element of Super Dimension Century ORGUSS that made it to the shores of America was not the TV series, but the toys and the model kits. So, there was no context for the mecha of ORGUSS to forge relationships with the American consumer of Japanese robot toys and models at the time. Many of us involved in the 2nd Wave of Anime Importation, like me, had no clue what the hell ORGUSS was or what title this cool looking transforming mecha came from. That hurt ORGUSS long-term and likely caused for the lack of success that the ORGUSS TV show had once it was released by US Renditions in 1993 on VHS tape. More on that in a minute. For the most part, many of us in the West knew ORGUSS via its brief appearance in those ROBOTECH battle scenes, the knock-off of Taiwanese toys, and the "NEBO" Robotech Changers Revell model line. This was the same fate shared by Dougram as well. The mecha of Fang of the Sun Dougram was familiar to kids of my generation via the Revell Robotech Defender model line and was not until the age of the internet that most of us figure out the true origins of these Revell model kits. In the case of  the ORGUSS models of the Revell model line did not (thankful) even get an appearance in the crappy DC Comics 2-part limited Robotech Defenders comic book series.
During the 2nd and 3rd Wave of Anime to the West, one of the key players in importing anime titles to western audiences was US Renditions. Founded in 1987, US Renditions was a special branch of Books Nippan that was tasked with bring anime titles to the West. One of those titles was Super Dimension Century ORGUSS. Betten 1992 and 1993, US Renditions would release some of the ORGUSS TV series on VHS around with two episodes per tape at a cost of $29 (or $51 in today's money) for about 55 minutes of programming. Only Volume One of the US Renditions SDC ORGUSS contains three episodes and runs fro 81 minutes. In the first issue of Animerica, on page 36, none other that Star Trek TNG's Rick Sternbach did a review for the first two VHS tapes and on the following page was an ad for US Renditions releases. For many of us, this was our introduction to the world of SDC ORGUSS or at places like Suncoast video or other specialty shops. Sadly, US Renditions was shut down during the their releasing the series when Books Nippan closed for business, leaving the only US release of SDC ORGUSS at episode 17 until the summer of 2007 when New York based ImaginAsian network got the rights and aired ORGUSS on American airwaves along with a proper DVD release. Alas, ImaginAsian folded in 2011 and the DVD of SDC ORGUSS had poor sales. Success would finally come in 2015, when Discotek Media released the full series on DVD, which can be bought today, Both of these releases used the old US Renditions English dub. For those of you curious, here is the list of the episodes released by US Renditions:

Volume 1:"Space/Time Collapse", "Lonely Wolf". "Pretty Machine"

Volume 2: "Caravan", "Lovers"

Volume 3:"Vanishing Point","I Love You"

Volume 4: "Runaway","Revolution"

Volume 5: "Barbarians","Dummy"

Volume 6:"Chiram Girl","Caspian Crator"

Volume 7:"Operation D","The Idioblast"

Volume 8: "The Factory","Seventeen"

My Experience with ORGUSS
Back during the Giant Robot Crazy of the late 1970's through the 1980's, a number of plastic-fantastic Japanese mecha/robot toys and models were imported on mass. Little attention or care sometimes paid to what these suppliers were buying and putting out onto store shelves. Even in my limited corner of northern Oklahoma, these mecha toys would arrive at comic book stores and even grocery stores in the toy section. During the original run of ROBOTECH on my local Tulsa airwaves, I saw several ORGUSS "Orgroid II" plastic mecha toy appear in the toy section of a local grocery store and I snapped up two of them and loved them. I did not until more recently that these toys, including an SDF-1 I also owned were Taiwanese knock-offs of the original Japanese 1:80 scale ORGUSS mecha toys by Takatoku. I proudly displayed these up until college in my bookcase until they were lost...pity. I knew that the ORGUSS mecha had been seen in some of Marcoss Saga and Revell had ORGUSS kits in their ROBOTECH Defender line, but it wasn't until I read an article in the first Animerica magazine on page 36 along with the US Renditions ads that I learned the truth of what "ORGUSS" was. This shows how, much like other MSF animes we've covered here on FWS, how Japanese anime arrive here on western shores. Not always are the anime or manga released, but the toys/model kits instead, leaving the western audience confused. This directly applies to me with ORGUSS. While I was knowledge about other imported mecha titles, I only knew of ORGUSS due to the knock-off toys and the Revell model kits. It would not be until the mid-1990's that I would learn of the ORGUSS anime and its connection to ROBOTECH.

Is Super Dimension Century ORGUSS Worth Watching Today?
The mecha anime from this time period is considered by many to be legendary and there are those that love ORGUSS and consider it mentioned along side the Gundams and Macrosses of this time, but I am not one of them. Some years ago, when I was preparing this piece originally and someone had uploaded Super Dimension Century ORGUSS to YouTube. Happily, I watched the entire bloody series and while I thought the Orguss mecha was an amazing design, the story is a mess, and the characters were mostly annoying, and the central story could have been something much grander. If you are a fan of this time period of anime, especially, mecha-based anime, than it could worth a watch...just don't pay for it.

What About ORGUSS 02 OVA from 1995?
I had never heard of the 1995 6-part OVA "sequel" until Bennett the Sage did a retrospective on the title for Anime Abandon. He was very vexed about if ORGUSS 02 about good or not. The setting is where two rival kingdoms battle for supremacy using mecha from 200 years in the past that are located on the seafloor. It seems that the mecha are not from their own past, but the past of another world. This is all due to the  Space/Time Oscillation Bomb from the original series. The iconic mecha from the original Super Dimension Century ORGUSS is seen in nearly Easter Eggs scenes. It is really only lightly connected to the original 1983 series up until the final sixth episode, then suddenly it is ORGUSS sequel via the character of the Mu robot Tai and the Space/Time Oscillation Bomb. In the last 3 minutes of episode 6, the female character of Nataruma is transported back to some other dimension and we see Emaan children and aerial vehicles similar to the Glomar. ORGUSS 02 has an interesting story of the mecha coming from the world of the original series and it is interesting that the failed SDC ORGUSS even got a sequel of any kind.

Super Dimension Century ORGUSS Today
Since the age of the internet allowed many of us that gained their fandom for all things anime during the 2nd Wave, to research the anime titles of our youth and to connect to those that share the common passion...Super Dimension ORGUSS has part of those discussion. For many, it was just getting to the bottom of just what the hell Super Dimension Century ORGUSS was and how it was related to ROBOTECH and/or Super Dimension Fortress Macross. For much of the online discussion and debate surrounding SDC ORGUSS, that pretty much of the bulk of it and is sad, because it seems that ORGUSS itself lives under the shadow of those two iconic mecha anime franchises and its own awesome Orguss mecha design. Much of the story, characters, and setting are either just lightly touched on in these discussions or just appear as entries on anime sites to explain the basics of the 1983 series. While there are fans of the series and its story that come to its defense and attempt to education, the odd history of the importation of ORGUSS to the West did not mint many a fan and let us be real for a second, SDC ORGUSS does not the best story and writing when compared to its brethren Macross and ROBOTECH.     

Next Time on FWS...
What is the best military sci-fi comic book series? Well, after two years, it is time to find out. Join us next time for The Masterworks of Military Science Fiction Comic Book Edition!

20 May 2020

Military Sci-Fi Toys: Mattel's Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future

During the 1980's there was much change in filed of technology, television, the toy market. What had not changed was the excitement of science fiction, the after-effect of Star Wars, and the urge to make money. All of these elements came into play for many products that are iconic to the 1980's, especially to those of us that are were kids at the time. Several companies attempted to attack the wallets of the parents of 1980's kids with assaults on multiple fronts: toys, tie-in cartoons, and cool futuristic technology. FWS has profiled the two laser tag systems, Lazer Tag and Photon that attempted to use all of the tools of 1980's marketing to promote a high-technology toyline, but there were more...In this installment of Military Sci-Fi Toys, we will be examining the high-tech toyline of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future.

What is Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future?

Some toylines, like Kenner's Star Wars or Matchbox ROBOTECH, they are a tie-in to a film, TV show, cartoon that existed only to enhance and expand the market possibilities of the primary work that came before the toys. At times, it was hard to see if the toys helped get kids into the show, or it was the show that got kids into the toyline. That was the hope for all companies when they created original works or toylines during the 1980's: to develop another Star Wars or Masters of the Universe. That was the hope for Canadian Landmark Entertainment Group when Gary Goddard, Anthony Christopher, and Marc Scott Zicree gave birth to Captain Power and his merry band of shiny metal heroes in the 22nd century post-Metal Wars darkness around 1985.
There have been two different versions of the show's origin story told. One is that basic premise of the show was thought up due to a need by Mattel for another line of Boy’s toys and Mattel really wanted to include the interactive television they were already developing. The other origin story was told by Goddard in the documentary included with the Captain Power DVD set. He says that he came up the basics of the show, including the name and copyrighted it because he liked the way it sounded. The angle for Captain Power then in 1985 was to be an live-action show for kids with CGI enemy character...which was new for 1985. At some point, Mattel and Goddard were discussing the idea for Captain Power and the toy company wanted to incorporate their interactive technology into Landmark's idea for the Captain Power show. While on the surface, the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future TV show setting seems like a rip-off of The Terminator with the whole robot revolt trope, it was a little more complex than that. The show is set in 2147 (originally to be 2099) just after the human race lost the Metal Wars to the machine army of Lord Dread and Overmind.
Years before the Metal Wars around 2132, the nations of the world used machines to wage their wars thinking that it would make war more humane. Much like the Cotton-Gin, it actually made the situation worse, and humanity was locked in a cycle of repeated wars. Enter Dr. Stuart Power and his team of scientists with Project OVERMIND. The goal was to have a master control program to take control over the legions of advanced robotic soldiers, called Bio-Mechs, and to end the wars and created a real world peace. That did not happen. One of Dr. Power’s scientist, Dr. Lyman Taggart, merged with Overmind and became obsessed with machine perfection and turned the machines against humanity. With the machines doing most of the fighting, the human race did not have the forces to repeal the machines and the tide turned against the meat bags. Dr. Power developed a secret base, a teleportation system, and the Power-Suits. These Power-Suits allowed one human to be outfitted with a temporary advanced exo-armor and weapons…unfortunately, there were only six. Dr. Power’s son took over the new fighting force and waged the guerrilla war against the machines. This expensive show only lasted one season of 22 episodes and ended on a cliffhanger with a death of a major character.  Directly tied to the TV show was the Mattel toy that had some of the vehicles and playsets interacting with signals from the TV. Every episode contained at minimum one minute to a maximum of three minutes of interactive content as stated in the contract with Mattel.  This made the Captain Power toyline unique, but also the target of parenting groups.

Historical Context of the Toyline
At the time that Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was being developed, it was during one of the greatest eras for toys, tie-in licensed merchandise, and programming directed at children. It was also a time of increased computerization, syndicated TV shows, economic downturn, and the Great Laser War. For the toy industry, it had been 10 years since the injection of the Kenner Star Wars toyline and it was showing. The strategy of tie-in cartoons and tie-in toylines had been working, but overall sales were slowing and those toylines without accompanying cartoons were disappearing for the toy store shelves by 1985-1986. This was due to several factors including the aging out factor of the kids that were buying the big toylines like Masters of the Universe, the exploding home video game market, and simply too much options.
With the more historical boy’s toylines not bring in the dollars, companies like Mattel, began to search for the next big thing to excite the market. One of those elements that was thought be able to excite buyers was interactivity.  During this time period, there were two “laser tag” systems battling it out to be the dominate form of laser tag during the Great Laser War along with several home consoles also battling for market share. This greater interactivity was thanks to the rapid progress of computer technology in the 1980’s and more homes were beginning to buy their first computers for work and play during the mid-1980’s. When it came to the mainstay of home entertainment, the TV, things had changed. As the 4th American network emerge, many of the smaller TV stations not tied to a major network made their ratings via unique programming that did come from syndicated programs. At the time that Captain Power swam into the waters of the 1987 airwaves, shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Bravestarr, and Ducktales (one of the most popular syndicated TV shows of 1987). Another thing to remember about 1987, there was a major US Stock Market crash on October 19th, 1987.

The History of the Captain Power Toyline
The history of the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future TV show is one that is not yet over due to the possibility of Phoenix Rising. However, for the toyline that ran from 1987-1988 it is done. While much entries on the internet are devoted to the live-action groundbreaking TV series, that lasted one season, the toyline also as a history and story that is both linked to and separate from the TV show. This is article will attempt to discuss the toyline for Captain Power. One of the first things to know about the story of the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future toyline is that two different parties were working two elements of the eventual Captain Power interactive toyline separately.
One was Landmark Entertainment's Gary Goddard and Tony Christopher, whom developed the basic concepts of the futuristic live-action show instead of an cartoon when they learned that toy giant Mattel was looking for a new toyline aimed at boys. The other is a more unknown key player of the technology used in Captain Power was Mattel Toys' William Novak. He worked on the interactive technology that was at the heart of the toyline and would be later involved in Mattel's Power Glove for the NES. At the time, Mattel was developing this new technology due to the market projecting that the incorporation of interactivity technology into toys was the next big thing. However, Mattel did not yet have a vehicle for this developing technology. Mattel had attempted to enter the high-tech toy arena before with their Intellivision home video game console and they were looking at the up-and-coming field of "interactive television" as the next frontier for a high-tech toyline hit. When Landmark went to Mattel and proposed marrying the interactive television technology for a toyline that was based around their live-action military science fiction show, it seemed like a winner and the deal was inked. One sacrifice was that Gary Goddard had originally wanted to title the show "The Metal Wars", but was changed by Goddard and Mattel for the sake of the toyline. The name "Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future" was filed with the US Patent Office on November 4th, 1985 with the approval coming on November 18th, 1986. Mattel themselves were betting heavily that interactive television was future to the tune of a hoped for $200 million profit to a company that was suffering. Oddly, Gary Goddard would also later direct the live-action Masters of the Universe in 1987 that was very loosely based on one of Mattel's biggest toy successes.
The public's first look at the toys of Captain Power came during the New York Toy Fair on the 9th of February of 1987. There at the show, there were several other "toys activated by TV" as the South Florida Sun Sentinel called it in their 1987 piece such as Axlon's Tech-Force. It is believed that the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future promotional video was shown as well during these toy shows that were so critical for toy buyers and the toy companies. At some point in 1987, the Captain Power toyline was released prior to the premier of the show. There is no hard date for the release of the toys, but it standard operational procedure for the toys to be present on the shelves before the show or film.
When the television show aired on September 19th 1987, it aired on 96 TV stations in the US (20 overseas), reaching 81% of the TV audience in 1987 according to Entertainment for Mattel VP John Weems when he testified before Congress during the Commercialization of Children's Television hearing on September 15th, 1987, just four days before the show premiered on the airwaves. From September 1987 to March of 1988, Captain Power and his merry band battled on the television, in living rooms, and in meeting rooms for survival across 22 syndicated episodes. This was the critical time for the brand to establish itself and for the fans to be minted and cash spent. According to everyone involved in the production of the show and some of the actors, Mattel had contacted Landmark to include up to three minutes within every show aimed directly at the audience using their interactive toys. These interactive moments were meant to organically incorporated into the story and not a separate event. However, by January of 1988, the books were closed on 1987 and it had been a tough year for Mattel.
According to 1988 business articles, Mattel was holding layoffs and closing the last US-based toy production plant. All of this was to save $10 million after disappoint sales of their new and established toylines. Among these was Captain Power. While Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future had sales at around $42 million dollars, it was not enough. One of the bread-&-butter toylines of Mattel, Masters of the Universe, lost $200 million in sales in 1987 alone and Mattel needed the bleeding to stop. Besides the production plant and the jobs, Captain Power toyline was also another victim to Mattel hatchet. This would seem to be the end of the story, but then in 1988, there was a Series 2 of figures and vehicles released along with being featured in the Mattel 1988 catalog. Oddly, only four character action figures were released in America, with the Series 2 vehicles and playsets being released in Europe only. The majority of the European vehicles and playsets were only released in limited numbers and are some of the most sought after by collectors today with price tags to match. Despite these Series 2 toys, Mattel held to their decision to power down Captain Power and his soldiers of the future in their fight against Lord Dread.

Overview of the Mattel Captain Power Toyline
The American toy market that Captain Power toys entered into was like Thunderdome and would need something to stand out among the crowed field to attach the attention of kids and their parents' money. Like many other toylines in the post-Kenner Star Wars era, Mattel’s Captain Power 1987 toyline was constructed around 3 3/4th inch figures, a few playsets, and some ground and air vehicles. However, unlike many other toylines of this time, there was the much  talked about TV interactivity features built into some of the toys. The TV interaction was the pièce de résistance feature and it was hammered home in both comic book and TV advertisements by showing the XT-7 Power-Jet and the Dread-Jet blasting or being blasted by the TV signals. Both the live-action TV show and anime (yes, the animation was done in Japan!) VHS training tapes had the embedded TV signals to allow for interactive play with the toys. Adding to the toys was a line of roleplay pieces, birthday supplies, lunchboxes, and random other bits that were common in 1980’s toylines. Because the Mattel Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future toyline only lasted about one year, it has in total: 10 actions figures, 9 vehicles, and 5 playsets of various sizes were made. Then that brings us to the interesting geographic puzzle and confusing mess of the 1988 second series of toys.
The majority of the second series of Captain Power toys were sold in Europe According to some sites, the original Series 1 toys were sold by Mattel, and then for the limited Series 2 released in 1988, they were maybe sold by our old friends Arco Toys. I disagree with this. Arco Toys is mostly known for making branded cheap plastic role-play items like toy guns, toy binoculars, and walkie-talkies. Examining the entire line, it is amazing how many toys were sold only in Europe and those were in limited numbers as well. It was like Mattel just dumped what they had and moved on, like some bad breakup. Why did this happen, given that Mattel is an American company and Captain Power was made in Canada? I’ve been unable to locate the answer to this. It could be that the Captain Power TV show was aired later or longer in Europe or it was more popular. Perhaps, the Mattel Europa BV company was tasked with moving the limited number of Series 2 toys by the Mattel of America? 

The Action Figures
When compared to the other action figures available in 1987,the Captain Power action figures were very similar to many in terms of function and movement. What set the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future action figures apart was their chrome-like paintjobs that was only surpassed by the 1987 Kenner Silverhawks and the odd alignment with their on-screen characters.For example. while bulky on-screen, Lord Dread had a confusing lower section that had a very small wrist and big legs that made him unstable and he was outfitted with an bladed weapon not seen on-screen. For that matter, most of the hand weapons seen in the action figures were not accurate to the TV show weaponry. This was especially true of the two BioDreads that used body-mounted weaponry, but the figures had hand weapons. In addition, the BioDreads were larger than the average person in the series, and yet their toy copies are only  four inches tall. They could have been deluxe-sized figures to communicate their fearsome abilities. Most reviewers agree that Hawk and Soaron were the two best of the figure lineup. When it came to the Series 2 figures,two were main characters, Scout and Pilot, and  two of them not seen on-screen: Stingray and Tritor.

Series 1
  • Captain Power
  • Lt. Tank Ellis
  • Major Hawk Masterson
  • Blastarr Ground Guardian BioDread
  • Soaron Sky Sentry BioDread
  • Lord Dread (with pink cape)
Series 2:
  • Corporal Pilot Chase
  • Sergeant Scout Baker
  • Colonel Stingray Johnson (unseen in TV show)
  • Tritor Ocean Attack Warlord (unseen in TV show)
  • Dread Trooper (sales samples only?)
  • Dread Commander (sales samples only?)

The heart and soul of the Mattel Captain Power toyline was undoubtedly the XT-7 Power-Jet light gun. This futuristic attack jet was the star of the toyline and the most commonly seen vehicle of the line in the stores in 1987. It retailed around $32 in 1987 ($76 today). There were three versions of the Power-Jet toy: the standard that was just the light gun fighter, there was deluxe set Power-Jet with the Cpt. Power figure and one of the training VHS tape version, then there was the Gift Set version with the Power-Jet, the figure, and the “BlastPak-1200” attack long-range jet pack system. The oddball BlaskPak-1200 is a rare toy and was only sold in Europe in both the Light Gun fighter Gift Set and in its own individually package. Both sides of the conflict would have used the BlastPak-1200 
Due to the amount of vehicles and playsets that the BlaskPak interacts with, the Blastpak-1200 was likely going to be a major toy if the line had been supported by Mattel. The dark reflection of the XT-7 “Phoenix” Power-Jet was the “Dread-Jet”, the Lord Dread Phantom Striker attack jet. Both of these light-gun jets were able to be a play toy, light guns that could play an odd version of aerial combat laser tag, and they interacted with the TV show and training VHS tapes. Both kept scores, and if it reached zero, the jet ejected the pilot. Nothing else in the vehicle lineup for the toyline is has memorable or common as the XT-7 Power-Jet. For the vehicles like the Captain Power ATR Mobile Photon Cannon and the Magna Cycle are way too gaudy, overdue, and odd to be military vehicles. These were not featured in the TV series…mercifully and only sold in Europe. The oddness continued with the “Mobile Sky-Bike Launcher”, which was an armed manned ground-based mobile transport for two Sky-Bikes and one BlastPak-1200 and was a Europe only toy. There is suggested in some box-art that the Machines were going to get their own Mobile Launcher featuring the BlastPak-1200. This is one of the rarest toys in the entire Captain Power toyline, commanding some of the highest prices due to it being only released in Europe. The Dread Empire vehicles were odd as well with the remote-controlled four-legged mech “Dread Stalker”, the “Interlocker” TV interactive DEW turret, and the rarest Captain Power toyline vehicle, the TV interactive Dread “Anti-Personnel Patroller”. This was again part of the European only toys and likely released in the very limited Wave 2 and possibly only in Italy and/or France. How limited are some of the Series 2 toys? In terms of number for the Europe Series 2 release, here is the information collected by the Captain Power Lives tumbler based on sales on internet auction sites: 3 individually packaged BlastPak-1200 toys, 3 Dread Anti-Personnel Patrollers, 8 Captain Power Mobile Sky Bike Launchers,

The Playsets
Playsets are key foundational items for any toyline due to the fact that provide an anchor for the characters and adventures that kids come up with. From Castle Greyskull to the G.I. Joe Headquarters Command Center, it seems that most toyline had a playset base for their characters. For the limited run of Captain Power toyline, it produced an amazing five playsets. For the record, only two were released here in the States, the Power Base and the Power-On Energizer, the other three were released in Europe for the Series 2 in 1988. The center of the playsets in the Captain Power toyline was the skeleton Power Base that could be added on with the other smaller playsets in the lineup, like the Power-On Energizer, the trans-field communication station, and the Sauron Beam Deflector. Speaking of the Power-On Energizer, it was designed to mimic the power-on sequence in the show and interacted with only the Captain Power figure properly due to his clear chest symbol. One of the stranger playsets was the European only Eden-2 Trans-Field base station. It carries the name of the hidden human colony of "Eden II" for some reason that was never explained and that the playset was more like a froniter outpost. One wonders if the toyline had continued, would there have been more added to the Power Base playset?

The Rarity Guild from the Captain Power Toyline
This guild was made by the good people over at the “Captain Power Lives” tumbler which has been a wealth of important information on the toys during the research phase of this blogpost.

COMMON (US, Japan, and Europe)
  • Pilot, Scout, Cpt. Power, Blastaar, Tank, Hawk, Soaron, Lord Dread
  • Dread Interlocker, XT-7, Power-On Energizer, Dread Phantom Striker
  • Cpt. Power Trans-field Communication Station
  • Cpt. Power Magnacycle (Europe only)
  •  Eden-2 Trans-field Base Station (Europe only)
  • Stingray figure
  • Tritor figure
  •  Soaron Cpt. Power Beam Deflector (Europe only)
  • Dread Stalker
  • Cpt. Power ATR Proton Cannon (Europe only)
  • The Power Base Playset
  • Blastpak 1200 (packaged with the XT-7 or Phantom Striker is European exclusive)
EXTREMELY RARE (All sold only in Europe)
  • Cpt. Power Mobile Sky Bike Launcher
  • Dread Anti-Personnel Patroller (France or Italy only)
  • Blastpak 1200 {packaged individually}
  • Dread Trooper and Dread Commander (possibly sales examples form Taiwan)
Role-Play and other Items
For many watching the TV show, the desire to don their own power armor was met with some plastic-fantastic role play items that span everything from dart guns to even an laser tag golden gun. This is one of the most unique role play items in the lineup and one of the rare examples of an branded laser tag game for a major toyline during the Great Laser War. Based stylistically on the golden directed energy pistol used by Captain Power in the series, the Power Laser was designed to be used in three ways. One was to be a target game with several modes, another was to be used as an one-on-one laser tag system with the sensors being worn on the belts, and then in team laser tag games with the Red Team vs. the Green Team. The cost of the Power Laser in 1987 was $44 (or $102 in 2020 money). In comparison, the similar system sold by Entertech for their Photon line was about $39.  

The Comic book Series

Continuity Comics was a small press publisher that operated in a very hit-or-miss fashion from 1984-1994 and one of their titles was Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. On the surface, the idea of a Captain Power comic book series seems like a great idea that could have communicated the world of 2147 in a way that the uneven TV series could not. If Continuity Comics had done something similar to NOW Comics did for their 1988 Terminator series for Captain Power, it could be worth a buy...but, that did not happen. Continuity Comics only published two issues for their Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future and these issues were separated by five months! Adding to the oddness, was that the fact that these comics were not published until after the TV series and the toyline were cancelled. The first issue was published in August of 1988 and then the second in January of 1989. Rubbing salt into the wound was the most of the story of these two comics were recycled from the excellent two-part episode "A Summoning of Thunder" with some new elements with okay art and even worse scripting. Nothing much came from it and the only other Captain Power comic book was published by Marvel UK in 1989 as an 60 page "annual". To sum up, it sucks horribly. Childish writing and coloring caused this to be much worst than the Continuity Comics "series".

The Computer Game
In 1988, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future computer game would be released for DOS, Apple II, and Commodore 64 machine and it was...a game? Developed and published by Box Office, Inc, it was a typical 2D side-scroller with one real mission and a training simulation. Oddly, the training missions are from a first-person cockpit video and more difficult than the 2D section. If more of the game had been from the cockpit and had more variety, this would have been serviceable rather than a soulless cash grab that it is. Other similar 1987 properties got their own computer game back in the day, like Worlds of Wonder Lazer Tag and Photon.
The Prototypes and Rumored Toys
In the 1988 Mattel sales catalog, two new Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future action figures were pictured, but never produced and they were not released…or where they? There is some mystery surrounding the possibly unreleased Dread Trooper and the Dread Commander because according to most toy sites, these figures never produced, however, there are few collectors that have both sealed and loose copies of these very rare figures started showing up around 2007-2014. Some have suggested the Dread Trooper and Commander were either a very limited run, final prototypes/sales copies used by Mattel, or they were released only in Europe.
According to a post on the Captain Power Lives tumbler, they stated that around 12-24 of Dread trooper and commander were made, which means they were likely sales samples. Most of these figures have been found in Taiwan, which is where the figures were made originally. In addition, Captain Power Lives has concluded that more of Dread Troopers exist than the Commander figures.  At the moment, we known of 9 Dread Troopers total, and out of those, 7 are carded examples with two being loose examples. Only one sealed and carded Dread Commander is known to exist along with a loose example that was battered up with missing helmet and weapon. One odd feature of the Dread Trooper and Commander figures was they had these skull-like faces under the helmets...which was not seen on-screen. The other toys were all vehicles and unlike the Dread Trooper and Commander, they were not produced and nor have the prototypes been seen. 
 The Resistance Ambush Pod Station was ball-shaped one-figure pod with a large DE cannon designed to look like debris in the urban battlefield then surprise mother fucker! The odd toy of the bunch was the T.R.A.C 5000 Captain Power allied robot. Originally, I thought this was a mech-like suit for one of the figures, but it actually an interactive motion-sensing toy that “attacks” any incoming enemy with IR beams. Pew-Pew. The coolest toy was based on a Dread armored vehicle seen patrolling the ruins in the TV series, called the Bio-Dread Armored Destroyer, it would have been an interactive toy and awesome. We would have also gotten a larger SkyBike, in the SkyBike ST-300 toy that was also interactive with the TV show and VHS tapes.
Lastly, there would have been an add-on to the Power Jet XT-7 called the “missile lock indicator” that would have been interactive and allowed for plastic missiles to be fired? In terms of the rumor mill associated with the Mattel toyline, there was a vehicle and playset in development…according to rumor. The vehicle would have been the massive jumpship used by Power and Company as their mobile command center. Just like in the show, the Power-Jet would have locked on to the top of the JumpShip, there would have been seating for the whole group. This would have been a massive vehicle and if the rumor is true, than it was nothing more than an idea. There was also the rumor of a playset of Lord Dread’s homebase Volconia that would have been complete with an Overmind.  Of course, if there had been a season two with Mattel’s money, there would have been more toys based on the new season including the newest member of the team, the female commando "Ranger". Since Mattel pulled out prior any real planning sessions on how to market the further adventures of the Solders of the Future gang, we fans have no idea what could have been in the cards for more Captain Power toys. I do think that more toys that did not or would not exist on the TV shows would likely have continued given the setting of the planned second season.

Who the Hell are Stingray and Tritor? 
Despite Mattel cancelling their involvement with Landmark Entertainment's TV show in January of 1988, there actually was a small second release of Captain Power toys released in 1988 in America and Europe! Just four figures were released in Series 2 for America with no vehicles, two being series regulars in Scout and Pilot, but there where these two other characters: Stingray and Tritor. Just who the hell were these characters because they did not seem to be in the TV series?! Originally, there was going to be an aquatic operations character named Colonel Nathan "Stingray" Johnson added to Power's merry band of five, but the entire underwater environment for 2147 was cut due to budget reasons concerning the water tank. The yin to Stingray's yang would have been another BioDread warlord named Tritor, the Ocean Attack Warlord. While both of these characters were cut from season one and were not scheduled to return for a planned season two, these figures must have been in some state of final production to warrant release for the 1988 Series 2 in both European and American toy markets. It is odd to think of the inclusion of an underwater member of the Soldiers of the Future as well an CGI BioDread to combat and control the waters in the post-Metal Wars world.
Odd because none of the season one episodes contain anything related to the water and adding CGI to underwater shoots would have been a real bitch in 1987. However, we know that both aquatic operations characters were designed and in the case of Stingray, the full power suit costume was constructed due to the fact that they used him in the 1986 live-action promo video for the TV series for about three seconds of footage. When the show actually entered into production, the underwater elements were completely eliminated and both characters were cut. Despite my best efforts, I could not confirm if the CGI model of the Tritor BioDread had been mocked up. If these characters had been included in the series, it is likely that they would have only been in a few scenes/situations storylines due to the special effect budget limitations and the limited nature of their operational field. Much like other water-only characters in other media, it is likely that Stingray would have been like Aquaman or Zuma and condemned to filling out TPS reports back at the Power Base while the rest of the Power gang would have been out battling Dread and his tin-cans.

Why Did Captain Power Fail?
It would seem that the wind should have filled the sails of the little Captain Power enterprise and it would be one of the iconic 1980's sci-fi franchises. However, the ship sank for many reasons and Captain Power the show and toyline were dead by winter of 1988. Why? One of the reason came in the form of parenting and children's rights groups disliking the direction of children's television programs and its entanglement in the toy industry. They felt that most cartoons of the 1980's were thinly veiled 30 minute commercials and they contained too much violence. These groups really hated Captain Power and embarked on a tar-and-feather campaign that did result in directly harming the TV show's future along with the Mattel toyline. Peggy Charren, head of Action for Children's Television in 1987 also leveled this at the interactive nature of the toys and their high price tag:
 "It's remarkably unfair, the poor child couldn't participate,'' she says. ``But the problem isn't Captain Power ... it's that when this works, Mattel and Hasbro will do it with all their toys. It's going to take over, and when educational shows work the same way, then you really have a problem with the exclusion of poor kids.'' As we stated above, the VP of Mattel's entertainment division was asked to testify before Congress during their hearings into the commercialization of children's TV in September of 1987 because Captain Power was in the crosshairs of these parenting groups and lawmakers with an interest in children education. It should be noted that Ms. Charren was also at these hearings as well. Mr. Weems raised the point that owning the Power-Jet was not critical to watching and enjoying the show during these hearings.
The also brings up an issue of the price tag of these toys and that interactivity feature. Toys that were high-tech and used interactive features were becoming the hot trend for toys in 1986, 1987, and 1988. Toys like Lazer Tag, Photon, Teddy Ruxpin, and Mattel's own Bravstarr all had technology and interactivity at their electronic hearts with prices to match. Just one of the Captain Power 3 3/4th figures sold for $3.99 (about $9.28 in 2020 money) which is about standard for the time, but it was the Power Jet XT-7 that the show interactivity feature was directed aimed at, and that vehicle came with $32.99 price tag (or about $77 in 2020 money). This made for an expensive toy that was directly tied to a TV show or VHS tapes and it seemed that buyers were not convicted for spend that kind of money that was competing against laser tag systems.
More over, the toys were just okay and they much played up interactivity features was uneven. As someone that liked and watched Captain Power in 1987, I was completely not interested in the toys after seeing them in person and they reminded me of Silverhawks too much. Another element that worked against the show and toyline was that Captain Power was attempted to be all things to all viewers. Some shows span age groups, like Star Trek, Classic Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, or even ROBOTECH. Adult, teens, and kids watched these shows and it was hoped by Mattel and Landmark Entertainment Group that Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future could be counted among those types of shows. The issue with this approach is that it often does not work, as Landmark Entertainment figured out too late. During the research phase for this article, I read repeated similar claims by those associated with the show that it was not aimed at kids. Gary Goddard, the developer of the show, said this to Starlog Magazine in March of 1988: "The show was definitely created with an older audience in mind. I'm not saying Captain Power is not for kids. What I am saying is that it's not just for kids." Take for example a show my 4 year old daughter watches: Paw Patrol. I have watched the show to see what my daughter is viewing and understand it when she wants or needs to talk about it. But, Paw Patrol is not a show I'm going to watch on my own and was mostly true was Captain Power for many adults. The show was stuck with a terrible title, which several involved with the show admitted to, it had a toyline, and it had the interactivity element. Moreover, the show was too short in runtime to flesh out the stories it was trying to tell, the writing was terribly uneven as all hell, and it ran in kiddy TV time-slots in most markets. These were all reasons that the show had the deck stacked against it.
We have to also remember that Captain Power was at its gold-armored heart a military science fiction show that took place in a post robot apocalypse that had its heroes in shiny metal armor and the main villain was in bad Borg cosplay with all around terrible writing/dialog. It was either too mature for the kid's or too lame for the adults. Adding insult to injury, the show was expensive to the tune of over a million dollars an episode (around $1.2 million on average), and Mattel was not having the sales of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future merchandise to cover this cost.
In total, the show came in at a total cost of $26 million. This all led to the decision by Mattel to pull their funding of the TV show in January of 1988, and thus, ending the adventures of Captain Power and company. Larry DiTillio, the story editor of the TV show, summed up to Starlog Magazine in January of 1989 the reasons why Mattel pulled out of Captain Power. He listed the backlash from parents groups about the violence, the added expense of having a live-action show instead of a cartoon in the form of residual payments to the Guilds, and lower sales of the toys than expected. Gary Goddard added that Mattel was unhappy about the direction of the show at the end of season one and the setup for season two.
The death of the character Pilot, the loss of the Power Base, and the mental toll on the group caused some major shifts for season two that would likely not be as geared for tie-in toy development as original planned when Mattel and Landmark made their deal. As I've said before, with the fate of one goes the other. When Mattel's toyline was not selling, they pulled the funding for the expensive show to stop the bleeding. According to articles I've uncovered, Mattel sold about $42 million dollars of Captain Power toys and merchandise, but Mattel had planned on around $60 million, leaving a good amount of Captain Power stock on the shelves, bound for the bargain bins.  If the toys had been a massive success, Mattel would have continued with funding the show, but that didn't happen. Despite more than a year of hunting for new partners to fund a second season of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future that did not tie into a toyline, none could be secured, thus ending the story of Captain Power and his merry band...for now

The Planned Second Season of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
In an Starlog Magazine interview from January of 1989 with Larry DiTillio and Gary Goddard, they laid out the planned 2nd season of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future without the involvement of Mattel and their demands for interactive laser battles.Without Mattel's requirements and toy, the show and setting would have been reshaped to focus more on the post-apocalypse/robot revolt elements with increased maturity. With the destruction of the Power Base and death of Jennifer "Pilot" Chase, Captain Power is a broken man and the remains of his team are playing a running battle with Dread forces with Hawk as their leader. The objectives of the machine empire would have changed, and they are now on a campaign to kill the remains of humanity. Lord Dread himself would have gone from cyborg to completely robotic, thus marking the end of the role for the actor. While looking for a new base, the team would interact with those in Eden II, the human resistance, and others in the post-Metal Wars societies, like Tech-Town. During the 2nd season, the character of Tank would have more of the certain and the new member of the Power team, the female commander "Ranger", would have been his love interest. Another female character would have been added for Dread, an android that would have been involved with the character of Scout. Then there was the hinted possibility for Sauron to leave the machine empire and join up with the human side of the war. Another hint was that Larry DiTillio, who called the show's title "the worst title for a TV show ever created", was thinking about changing the title of the show to appeal to more adults and get the "kid's show" label away from Captain Power.
How close was the production team to the 2nd season? There were 18 scripts finished, the series bible was updated when Mattel pulled out in the winter of 1988. This lead to Landmark Entertainment's now disgraced Gary Goddard to seek out new investors in the show as late as the winter of 1989 and it was a fruitless hunt. The planned 2nd season never materialized, but Landmark was able to re-acquire the rights to the first season of the show. Sadly, it would have extremely difficult to get Captain Power off of the ground again in 1989 due to the majority of the production crew and actors moving on to new jobs.

The Legacy and Impact of the Captain Power Toyline
In September of 1987, when Captain Power first started airing on TV stations, it had an immediate impact in both bad and good ways. The ratings and toy sales were actually quite good at the beginning and there were many fans of the Terminator like setting, but it had already drawn the attention of parenting groups. The flame quickly burned out and as we know, it was cancelled in the winter of 1988 to the tune of just 22 episodes. But, that did not lessen the fact that Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was a groundbreaking show and toyline that attempted to break new ground with interaction and elevating kid's shows and their themes. One interesting side effect caused by failure and cancellation of Captain Power, was the hyped next frontier of toys being the interactive TV concept was halted by the companies working on their own take on interactive television products.
When we consider the show today, some 33 years later, we can see that the kids that grew up with Captain Power (like me) are still discussing it on the internet and asking for the adventures to be continued. That is impressive for a cancelled single season show. Sadly, these warm feelings of nostalgia do not extend as greatly to the Mattel toyline. While still discussed and traded on the internet and vintage toy stores, the prices for much of the toyline is reasonable and there seem to be alot of sealed & carded examples of the action figures, which is telling about the supply vs. demand for Captain Power toys at the time of their release. To me, I've always thought the story of the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future TV and toyline was a sad one. A great deal of effort went into the TV series and the toyline and then Mattel pulls out ending the whole grand experiment.

Could Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future have been a Success?
Recently, I was discussing with a friend that I grew up and watched Captain Power back in the day about the article. He asked me if I thought Captain Power the show and toyline could have been a success. When rewatching the series, there were moments I could see a glimmer of hope and possibility with the series, especially in some of the later episodes...but it too late by then and its fate had been sealed. The Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future TV show and toyline could not have been success as we knew them in 1987. The basic concept of the show was sound and interesting to some degree, but the actual show was a mess and the tie-in toyline did not help matters. If the show had been titled something like "The Phoenix Project", been an hour long, dumped the shiny golden armor in favor for something more realistic, altered the designs of the robotic enemy, and not had a toyline tie-in than I could see that this show may have been a success in the syndication market of 1987. Where does that leave the Mattel interactive toys? If the toy company wanted an interactive program for their toyline than it should have been a cartoon and been something like Bravstarr, which was a Mattel property as well.  Oddly, I think the Captain Power the show, if animated, could have been a great vehicle for the toys.

Next Time on FWS...
Back in 1985 when ROBOTECH was airing on channel 41 in Tulsa, I was nine and completely obsessed with all things anime related. One day, I found this mecha toys with box-art that made me immediately think of ROBOTECH and seemed to think I had seen them somewhere before. I snapped up both of them despite not knowing what the hell "Orguss" was. For years, I could not find anything out on these odd robot toys I had...that was until I read Viz Media's Animerica #1in 1993. In the pages was a review of the VHS release of something called "The Super Dimension Century ORGUSS" and then I finally knew what those Orguss mecha toys were and why I had seemed to be familiar with them back in '85. Join us next time when FWS dives into the confusing world that is Super Dimension Century ORGUSS!