"The evil Kilokhan lives inside computer circuits! With the help of Malcolm Frink, he creates Megavirus Monsters to attack electronic systems! Meanwhile, a freak accident turns Sam Collins into Servo! His friends join forces in their samurized attack vehicles! Together, they transform into... the SUPERHUMAN SAMURAI SYBER-SQUAD!"
Yet another in the wake of post-Power Rangers superhero shows adapted from Japanese tokusatsu series. Adapted from Denkou Choujin Gridman ("Electric Superhuman Gridman"), Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad (yes, that is "Syber" with an "S") tells the story of Sam Collins, a high school student, guitarist and video game programmer who, after being hit by a power surge through his guitar, briefly vanishes, only to reappear with a wrist-mounted doohickey!At the same time, the same power surge, presumably, strikes a military base. Using it as a distraction, the AI Kilokhan escapes into the internet. He pops onto the monitor of Sam's classmate, Malcolm Frink. Malcolm enjoys designing monsters, and Kilokhan offers to bring his monsters to life as Megavirus Monsters to attack computers. Malcolm agrees, because he's just that kind of malcontent.Later, Sam, still having an unknown phlebotinum attached to him at the wrist, tries to call a girl he recently met, only to be interrupted when a Megavirus Monster attacks the phone company, disrupting every telephone on the planet. Dejected, he notices strange activity on his computer in the form of a model called the Servo Program. While he checks it out, yet another power surge hits, this time drawing him into Cyberspace. He takes the form of Servo, and is forced to fight the Megavirus, which he has been transported to. Later, the rest of the band, Syd, Tanker, and Amp, later replaced by Lucky, assist using 'helper programs', taking the form of various 'samurized attack vehicles' that can fight the Megavirus independently, join together into a single robot, called Xenon, or able to combine with Servo to from Synchro. Later, they gain another set of vehicles, able to transform into Drago, and to combine with Servo to form Phormo.
Big Damn Heroes: Sam's teammates did this repeatedly whenever he was being overwhelmed by a virus and needed help. Sometimes they came in with their "helper programs", other times they simply sent him his sword and shield.
Big Damn Villains: In one episode where Servo was Brainwashed and Crazy and actually began working with the virus, the rest of the Squad came in to stop him with Xenon. Xenon was winning against both Servo and the virus until Kilokahn intervened, using his powers to banish the rest of the Squad from Syberspace.
Boisterous Bruiser: Tanker. The only things he likes more than beating up viruses are his friends and football, in that order.
What's funny is, it turns out the phrases are completely unnecessary. Miss Starkey finds herself in the digital world after pushing a button when she sees Drago (and the improvements Syd was making to it) onscreen and thinks it's part of a video game.
Clingy MacGuffin: The device that allows Sam to become Servo is stuck to his wrist and can't be removed, which probably explains why he's the only one who ever becomes Servo, with one exception.
Cloudcuckoolander: Amp was frequently called a "space cadet", and in fact it was revealed that he regularly attends space camp. In fact, in his farewell episode, he leaves behind a postcard that reads "Greetings from the Crab Nebula."
Combat Medic: Servo was an unusual variant in that he had healing powers, but he didn't restore the other members of the Squad. Rather, he could repair the damage done by the viruses after he'd destroyed them and restore the machines they'd infected to their normal functions.
Tanker was forced to take Sam's place as Servo on one occasion when Sam wasn't available.
On a larger scale, in the toyline, the main Servo figure was repainted numerous times to represent armored versions of Tanker, Syd and Amp (along with the requisite Servo repaints and chromed figures). These armored forms did not appear in the show.
Deadpan Snarker: Malcolm Frink, who goes out of his way to insult everyone around him on a regular basis.
Distaff Counterpart / Spear Counterpart: Sam travels to an alternate universe in one episode, where he meets a version of Malcolm who's a nice guy and essentially that universe's version of Sam. Main-universe Malcolm's role is filled by Yolanda Pratchett, the principal's daughter and friend to Sydney and Jennifer, serving as a black female version of Malcolm in that she colludes with Kilokhan and creates the Mega-Virus Monsters.
Dub-Induced Plot Hole: In the original Japanese show, we get at least some sort of explanation of where Gridman came from. The American version doesn't really give any explanation as to where Servo or his helper programs came from.
Dude, Where's My Respect?: In one episode, Amp scored the highest on a national aptitude test. He's very hurt when everyone assumes that there was either a mistake in the scores or that he cheated. The Respect came at the end of the episode where a repeat of the test (due to loss of data earlier) showed his score was on par with Sydney.
Everything Is Online: Everything. Telephones, wristwatches, pompoms with lights in them, an alarm clock (not even a digital one!), and a windup cooking timer with no electronic components whatsoever have all been used to host Megavirus Monsters.
Exact Words: In one episode, Syd tries to design a "good" megavirus monster, and Kilokhan agrees to animate it, promising that he won't make any changes. So he gets Malcolm to reprogram it for him.
Expy: Servo and Xenon bear a striking resemblance to Ultraman and Optimus Prime respectively. This is not a coincidence, since the original Japanese series (Gridman) was a co-production between Tsuburaya and Takara.
Heel-Face Turn: Both Malcolm and Kilokhan, on separate occasions. It doesn't take either time.
Heroes Prefer Swords: The handle of Servo's shield contained a sword that he could use as a melee weapon. It could also be fused with the shield to create a strange sword/axe combination.
Heroic Sacrifice: Combined with The Hero Dies and Senseless Sacrifice and subverts all three of them at once. When Servo is battling Kilokhan, it's clear that he's outmatched and tells Malcolm, who by now has gotten a Heel-Face Turn, to reboot the computer to destroy them both. Malcolm does so, with Sam being ready to sacrifice himself to destroy Kilokhan. All three tropes are turned on their heads as Sam's consciousness escapes the computer and returns to his body, and it turns out that Malcolm had already backed up Kilokhan on a floppy disk, so Servo's sacrifice would have been in vain.Go figure. And everyone loses their memories of the event, which is why Malcolm notices that Kilokhan is missing and re-installs it onto his computer. *gonk* It's like we're watching a Cosmic Retconin action. "Those past twenty minutes? Ignore them, they never happened!"
Apparently, they thought they were getting cancelled, so they used the Gridman finale for this blockbuster ending where Kilokhan finds where Sam lives, fails to kill Malcolm in a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness moment, does kill Sam dead with an electric jolt before he can enter the net as Servo, there's a touching Take Up My Sword scene with Malcolm, and when Malcolm tries to become Servo, it turns out the Servo program has saved Sam via Brain Uploading. Sam battles Kilokhan personally in the bowels of Servo's own program (with the villain destroying all of the helper programs except the already-summoned sword and shield) takes the battle to Kilokhan's own turf, and has to use the power surge from the rebooting to wipe it and Kilokhan out for good. He appears to be destroyed too as Kilokhan - along with the area of the net that is him as much as his body - breaks up, but Servo manages to survive, and leaves for parts unknown hoping that he can return to his human life, somehow, someday. Damn. Did we mention this was the Christmas episode? When they had to do more episodes, there was no way to do it but to tack on a "It all got undone somehow and nobody remembers" ending. And when they had to end the show, it feels like a Cut Short as they'd already used up the Grand Finale. The last episode could've been any old episode.
He Who Must Not Be Seen: Elizabeth, Sam Collins's sister. Sam talks with her through the laundry chute, and she drops objects on Sam's head. We also never see or hear Sam's parents, though sometimes one of the team is heard talking to them on the way down.
Humans Are Special: Servo keeps telling Kilokhan that this is the reason he always wins. For his part, Kilokhan doesn't believe that Servo is a human, because inferior "meat-things" could never defeat his superior programs.
Humongous Mecha: Zenon and Drago, which were formed by combining different vehicles and could also transform into armor wore by Servo.
Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: The virus Skorn had various ninja-related powers, including the ability to create illusory duplicates of himself, energy bolts shaped like shurikens, and ninja weapons like nunchuks and katanas.
Insufferable Genius: Malcolm Frink certainly has the "insufferable" part down. As for the "genius" part, well, he certainly thinks he is one...
Knife Nut: Hock had large knife-like blades on his hands, large knife-like blades in his tail and a large knife-like blade in the center of his face. Notice a pattern here?
Know When to Fold 'Em: In the episode "What Rad Universe", Sam travels to an alternate dimension where Malcolm is a nice guy who's essentially his counterpart in that universe, Jennifer is a nerdy computer genius who's essentially Sydney's counterpart and Yolanda is an angry loner who's that universe's version of Malcolm. In this universe, not only does Sam destroy Yolanda's first virus, but Jennifer also manages to destroy Kilokahn himself. Without Kilokahn, Yolanda decides to give up on being an evil genius, calm down, go into therapy and find a date for the prom.
Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: One of Servo's "helper programs" is a shield that he can use to protect himself from enemy projectiles. The shield's handle also contains a sword that Servo can use to fight back.
Misapplied Phlebotinum: Malcolm isn't all that interested in helping Kilokahn Take Over the World; he just wants to make Sam Collins miserable and steal his girlfriend. Malcolm often has to practically trick Kilokhan into going along with his small-scale plans. Of course, this doesn't necessarily prevent Kilokhan from enjoying the mayhem that results.
In the Alternate Universe episode, Tank incredulously remarks there's probably one where they're all Japanese.
The moment in the supposed Grand Finale when Sam urges Malcolm to become Servo in his place is probably a reference to the discussed but never-produced sequel to the original Japanese show, where Malcolm's equivalent character would himself have become Gridman's new human partner.
This also applied to Kilokhan himself in the Christmas episode. Malcolm had already backed Kilokhan's data up on a floppy disk before the battle with Servo that ultimately destroyed him. When Malcolm booted up his computer and tried to reload his files, Kilokhan was revived.
Elizabeth, Sam's little sister, calls him to the laundry chute and dumps something mesy on his head. The list includes ice cream, marshmallows, and on one rare occasion, her piggy bank.
Other characters have fallen victim to this too. Elizabeth once dropped a bunch of cookies on Tanker, and she dropped a mousetrap on Malcolm. Ouch.
Personality Swap: There was a monster that did this. When it used its powers on Servo, he turned evil.
Playing with Fire: Recurring fire virus Plexton was one of these, spitting both fireballs and fire waves at his enemies. Kord was another example, being able to generate heat of up to 10,000 degrees Celsius on his body and concentrate that heat into fireballs.
Powered Armor: Drago and the attack vehicles could help Servo fight viruses as separate entities, or reshape themselves into body armor for him to wear.
Product Placement: Did COMPAQ hope this show would help drum up business? Possibly not, as in one of the early episodes Sydney remarks Sam's computer was a piece of crap until becoming Servo somehow turned it into a supercomputer.
Younger tropers might not remember, but around the time this show was being made, Compaq were as ubiquitous as Dell are in 2013, and offered similar bulk discounts for corporate and public-sector clients. Chances are the producers simply phoned up someone in the IT office and asked them if they could borrow a few PCs for props, and Compaq-branded kit was all they had on hand.
Punny Name: Amp Ere = Ampere, the SI unit of current.
Put on a Bus: Amp moves away, leaving behind a postcard that says "Greetings from the Crab Nebula."
Rule of Funny: The effect of the Megavirus Monsters on the real world is usually something comedic, such as turning the school principal into the hippie he had been in the 1960s. Of course, sometimes it's not so funny. Turning all the water into hydrochloric acid, which looks just like water, and is corrosive enough that what it does if it gets on your skin, let alone if you drink it, is definitely kid-unfriendly. Kilokhan also once decided "screw your petty revenge plans, I'm gonna use this virus to take over the world's nuclear arsenal and start World War III."
Stalker with a Crush: Malcolm wanted Jennifer to pose for him so he could draw her. How does he get her to do it? Uses a virus to trap her in the Digital World and freeze her in place on his computer screen. Ick.
Unintentional Period Piece: See Technology Marches On. Anything that involves real-world computers is going to run right into this. Even though the computer is turned into a supercomputer by the Servo program, everything we see onscreen still looks pretty darn primitive when it isn't digital world battle footage. Also, Sydney's outfits, especially her Blossom-style hats, are vintage-early 1990s and look positively quaint by today's standards. And the hairstyles looked outdated five years later; we were on the tail end of '80s Hair.
Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Sometimes the villain plots were funny, but sometimes they were not and either would have killed lots of people horribly if Servo hadn't stopped them, or must have killed lots of people horribly but a kids' show has to gloss over it (again, putting hydrochloric acid in all tap water was not a nice thing to do.) Kilokhan more than once attempted a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness and would have let Malcolm die. Malcolm himself is not the Harmless Villain he sounds like by this point: he's as gleeful about watching the suffering caused by the "kill a whole lot of people" plans as he is about the "annoy Sam, because why not?" plans so long as he himself isn't in the line of fire, and then there's the Fridge Horror of him: a kid whose ego and paranoia makes him take anything not going his way, or even gestures of kindness, as proof everyone is out to get him, and he wants revenge on everyone around him for these either very minor or completely imagined slights? Many an actual mass-murderer - including some school shooters, are basically people like Malcolm who found guns instead of evil computer programs in need of a Monster of the Week designer.