The Planeteers are five teenagers from five different continents assembled by Gaia, the Spirit of the Earth to defend the world from pollution, criminals, and natural disasters. When the situation is too much for them to handle they let their powers combine to summon the environmental superhero, Captain Planet. They have a monkey on their team too.
Sadly Mythtaken: How the powerful titaness of the earth from the Greek Mythology became an entity that relies on others to do her work. Maybe she's just lazy? In the Myths, Gaia was lazy and she created monsters to do the work. Also in the myths, she could not care less if the humans pollute or destroy the planet.
Silk Hiding Steel: Wise and respectable and generally above lying, one time she twisted a "Freaky Friday" Flip to get a villain's minion to do her bidding even after the minion switched back. On a daily basis, she'd have to be steel willed to put up with the pollution of the villains.
A 16-year-old conservationist from Africa, Kwame is the group's level-headed voice of reason and de facto leader. Kwame's ring was of the element earth, used to create small, localized earthquakes; move rocks in the earth; cause holes or furrows in the earth for planting; create tiny islands by raising rocks from the shallows of the ocean; and turn mud into solid ground.
A 17-year-old street-wise smart alec from North America, Wheeler probably knows the least about matters about the environment but his heart in the right place. While he has been known to flirt with other women, he developed feelings for Linka. Wheeler's ring was the element of fire, used to create tiny bolts of lightning or create and direct small fires.
This Loser Is You: Loser might be a bit of a strong word, but as the only white, American character on the team and a frequent victim of the need for a holder of the Strawman Ball, it's hard not to see him as a stand-in for the sorts of first-world behaviors the show was built to try to change.
A 16-year-old ornithology expert from Eastern Europe, Linka is the team's no-nonsense strategist and computer expert. Linka likes to think logically, and use common sense when on missions, but has developed feelings for the impulsive Wheeler. Linka's ring was the element of wind, used to command it to swirl or gust, or create small tornadoes.
The Great Politics Mess-Up: Created during the brief rapprochement between Russia and the United States, Linka is one of the precious few unambiguously heroic Russian characters in American media. The evidence suggests she's not actually Russian, or at least her family isn't; she was a Soviet citizen, though. Before the Soviet Union fell, the opening would say "Linka from the Soviet Union", and then after it fell the writers changed it to say "Eastern Europe". The episodes before then weren't changed, and the first episode has her saying to Wheeler, when he mentions that he loves her accent and asks her if she's Russian, she replies "SO-VI-YET!" as close to his face as possible to make it clear. "Now please...go avay"
A college student of marine biology from Southeast Asia, Gi is skilled in high-tech equipment and, like Linka, is a computer expert. She is very passionate and protective of both ocean life and her friends and family. Gi's ring was the element of water, used to control any water source, creating small squirts to waves and water spouts depending on the size of the source.
Achilles' Heel: She can't make water with her ring, so if there is no water nearby, her power is useless.
Asian and Nerdy: Though her perfect, unaccented English lessens the impact.
As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Gi occasionally uses bits of Japanese, has no discernible accent, and has a name that is actually Vietnamese (and a boy's at that).
A member of the Kayapo Indian tribe in South America, Ma-Ti is the youngest Planeteer at 12. Ma-Ti's ring was the element of heart, which enables him to communicate telepathically with animals, the other Planeteers, and Gaia.
Achilles in His Tent: Once he refuses to go into a mission because he's too pissed off at his friends and insecure about his own self-worth.
Captain Planet is the result of the Planeteers powers being combined and magnified. He is summoned by the Planeteers as a last resort to save the day. He can use all the Planteers powers and blend them to make more. His weaknesses are various forms of pollution and hate (mental pollution).
The Eco Villains are a small group of villains and their subordinates who wreak havoc on the Earth with pollution, wildlife endangerment or shady business dealings. Many of them do this out of short-sighted Greed, but for others it's never explained besides the fact that they can.
Morality Pet: He has a son who is like him but not quite evil, and when said son was in danger due to the air pollution Greedly caused, Greedly chose to co-work with the Planeteers rather than let him die.
Nothing Can Stop Us Now: In his very first appearance, poaching ivory in Africa, he boasts that no one can stop him. Of course, the Planeteers soon show up and summon a certain someone to prove him wrong.
Pet the Dog: Arguably, he's not that bad in "Bitter Waters" until he realizes what irrigating the desert meant in terms of ecological damage. He does give a poor reservation money and jobs by irrigating the desert, but does so the wrong way. Later on, when they develop a cleaner source of energy and income, admits they can make just as much using what they have as they can what he gave them.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: More than once, he's come up with relatively ingenious ways of handling waste disposal, just not recycling, and is good friends with Dr. Blight, who can create just about anything technological. He never thinks to use any of his resources beyond quick waste dumping scams.
Lazy Bum: Many of his waste dumping scams harm the environment because of how short-sighted and hasty they are. As noted above, if he weren't so lazy and short-sighted, he'd probably be able to get rich and help the public good, with the added benefit of not attracting the Captain's attention.
A radioactive mutant who represents the perils of nuclear power and ozone depletion. Also one of the few enemies on the show to have superpowers like the protagonists.
Artistic License - Nuclear Physics: ...It was a different time. Paranoia at this new-fangled nuclear power business was the prime motive in his creation. Also, the fact that everyone he ever interacts with on the show DOESN'T have super-cancer is part of the license.
Dumb Muscle: In the later episodes, he becomes less articulate and guileful, and his plans for gaining radiation became even more simplistic and bare. If you're feeling charitable, you can chalk it up to his progressing mutation robbing him of his higher brain functions.
For the Evulz: ...Kinda? Some episodes, he needs nuclear materials to eat, some episodes he could just eat human food but chooses to devour nuclear radiation to grow more powerful, and sometimes he wants to take over the world and turn everyone into a mutant like him.
I Love Nuclear Power: He requires it to feed... maybe. Maybe he just wants more to fuel his desire to remake humanity in his likeness and transform the world into a wasteland of nuclear power. Depends on the episode, really.
Mad Scientist: Supposedly, Duke Nukem became the way he is due to a nuclear experiment, and was once referred to Kwame as "Dr. Duke Nukem."
For the Evulz: Eventually his only reason for doing anything is apparently to destroy the environment or (more often) ruin people's lives for laughs, and he only occasionally mentions ruling the wreckage he intends to leave behind. An entire episode focuses on his efforts to stir up prejudice against an HIV-positive kid just for the hell of it.
Knight of Cerebus: The episodes with him as the main villain are normally Darker and Edgier. For example, someone actually died as a direct result of his actions, and it was even a relative of a main character. He's usually focused on hurting people rather than the environment. In his first episode, he creates a cloud of acid rain, not to destroy a forest or something but to destroy a city.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Many of her experiments seemed to have money in mind, and her business ventures revolved around profitable animal-related tests (Draize testing for cosmetics companies, running a puppy mill).
Red Right Hand: Her haircut covers up the fact that the entire left side of her face is horrifically burned.
Refuge in Audacity: A rarely rerun episode has her build a time machine, steal some plutonium with her future self, then go back in time to sell a nuke to Hitler. If it weren't for YouTube, most people wouldn't even believe the episode exists.
For the Evulz: Despite the stereotype, the other villains generally had some kind of motive for whatever harm they were doing to the planet. Zarm, on the other hand, was out to foment conflict and destruction (up to and including nuclear wars) just because he hated humans and Earth.
An evil counterpart to Captain Planet that is a result of the combination and magnification of the powers of rings of destructions created by Dr. Blight. He has the powers of super radiation, deforestation, smog, toxics, and hate and consuming and bathing in more pollution makes him bigger and stronger. He is defeated twice by Captain Planet, the latter may have been for good.
Evil Twin: Was created from the opposites of Captain Planet's elements. As such, he and Planet are both pretty much each others Kryptonite Factor, though Pollution is far more willing to use deadly force than Planet is.
HenchmenThe various henchmen for the Eco Villains that include Rigger, Greedly's Yes-Man (well "yep" man); Argos Bleek, a mercenary soldier, and leader of Plunder's private army; Oakey and Dokey, Plunder's two unintelligent lumberjack employees; Ooze, Sludge's whiner sidekick; Tank Flusher III, Sludge's strongman garbage collector; Leadsuit, Nukem's cowardly errand boy; the Rat Pack, Skumm's part man, part rat thugs who eventually dwindle in size into just one rather competent nameless henchman; and MAL, Dr. Blight's evil high-intellectual supercomputer.
A Day in the Limelight: Bleek, when he went solo in the episode The Predator to hunt Basking Sharks, and was a very competent and effective villain.
Sycophantic Servant: Rigger, Ooze and Leadsuit. Though Rigger is shown to be as technologically proficient as his boss, Ooze and Leadsuit exist only so that Sly Sludge and Duke Nukem don't end up talking to themselves.