Western Animation: Centurions
aka: The Centurions
Left to right: Max, Crystal, Jake, Lucy, Ace, Hacker and Terror.
"In the near future, Doc Terror and his cyborg companion Hacker unleash their forces to conquer Earth! Only one force can stop this evil: a handful of brave men. In specially created Exo-Frames, they can be transported anywhere to fuse with incredible assault weapon systems, beamed down from the space station Skyvault, becoming man and machine, Power Xtreme! Max Ray, brilliant Sea Operations commander. Jake Rockwell, rugged Land Operations specialist. Ace McCloud, daring Air Operations expert. Whatever the challenge, they are ready—the Centurions!"
A heavily Merchandise-Driven 65-Episode Cartoon
series, produced by Ruby-Spearsnote
in 1986 and based on a Kenner
action figure line. It followed the adventures of three (later five) technological Superheroes
who fought against evil using Assault Weapon Systems.
Their uniforms, actually cybernetic Exo-Frames, had a number of hardpoints on the surface, to which the various parts of their weapon systems would attach after having been beamed in from the orbiting space station, Skyvault.
The three original heroes were:
- Max Ray, brilliant sea operations commander. The team leader, wore a green Exo Frame, had a genuine porn-star moustache that made him look like Magnum, P.I. (And yes, the resemblance was deliberate.)
- Jake Rockwell, rugged land operations specialist. Wore yellow, worked on land. Probably Texan. Cooks his special chili surprise.
- Ace McCloud, daring air operations expert. The ladies man. Wore blue, loves to fly and it shows. A cocky, wisecracking daredevil a la Han Solo.
The two additional team members added later were:
- Rex Charger. A bearded energy specialist with a glow-in-the-dark Exo Frame.
- John Thunder. An infiltration specialist with a dark blue Exo Frame. Described as "a full-blooded Chiracahua Apache and a direct descendant of Geronimo", John was one of the better Token Minority characters.
Rex and John were introduced late in the series; they were intended as additions to the (mostly unproduced) second year of the toy line.
Almost invariably, the team's opponents would be Mad Scientist Doc Terror
and his dull-witted assistant Hacker
, two extremely ugly cyborgs bent on world domination.
Reasonably notable for being one of Cartoon Network
's early staples when they were just starting; it aired soon after school let out, leading a to a fair few grade schoolers watching it in the mid-90s and the show getting a minor return to fame, although not enough to lead to being Un-Cancelled
is currently in rotation on Cartoon Network's sister network Boomerang
- Action Figure File Card: The toys had them.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
- When Doc Terror and Hacker briefly remove their cyborg parts to partake in an aerial operation during "The Better Half", their mechanical halves manage to unite and perform a hostile takeover. Christening themselves "Uniborg", they get closer to victory in one two-part episode than Doc ever managed over the entire series. When Terror is about to destroy them for their treachery near the end of the episode, Uniborg attempts to save themselves by pointing out to Terror that they are still a part of Terror and Hacker. Terror then fires his laser, but we never see if it hits Uniborg. While the episode is deliberately ambiguous as to whether Terror destroys Uniborg, they never appear again in the series as a merged entity.
- In "You Only Love Twice", Doc creates a solid light hologram of Crystal's missing and presumed dead former fiance as part of a scheme to capture her. Said hologram ends up Becoming the Mask and helps her to escape. He's slowly losing power throughout the episode and convinces Crystal not to waste effort trying to save him, telling her that he's "not real". He uses the last of his power to send a signal to the Centurions before fading away.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Each episode has an epilogue in which one of the characters discusses a scientific principle that (usually) relates to the story. Also one of the few series in which the lesson is sometimes delivered by the villain.
- John Thunder's segment does not deal with a scientific principle, but a behavioural trait of his tribe.
- Awesome Mc Cool Name: Everyone.
- Atlantis: The two-part episodes "Atlantis Adventure" and "Hole in the Ocean" are set there.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Crystal Kane and Ace McCloud, notably whenever Ace is about to go on a risky do-or-die mission. Showcased at its strongest in "Operation: Starfall" and "The Better Half". The two kiss in the latter story, though Crystal isn't too keen on the specifics, as the egotistical Ace chooses to show off and kisses her in full view of his pals.
- Badass Beard: Rex had one.
- Badass Bookworm: Rex Charger, who was both a scientist and a Millionaire Playboy before joining the team.
- Badass Crew: The Centurions, of course.
- Badass Mustache: As noted, Max had one.
- Bald of Evil: Hacker and Claw.
- Baseball Episode ("Three Strikes and You're Dead")
- BFG: An extreme example is Rex's Gatling Guard. Cranks it Up to Eleven by launching solar flares and altering gravity.
- Big Bad: Doc Terror.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Ace, and how.
- By the Power of Grayskull!: Combined with Power Echoes: "Pow-ER Ex-TREME-reme-reme-reme!"
- Casanova Wannabe: Ace seems unable to approach Crystal, Cassandra or any attractive single woman without hitting on her.
- Catch and Return: Both of Rex's weapon systems use a high-tech version of this trope to absorb energy, usually from an attacker, then redirect it to fire weapons, usually back at the original attacker.
- Chicago: The setting of "Zone Dancer".
- Clear My Name: In "Traitors Three", the Centurions are falsely implicated when a dam is destroyed, Doc Terror steals a space shuttle and flooded a town- to rescue a school- which was abandoned for years- until it was crushed in a landslide. They find that they've been set up, and have to clear their names. Luckily, Max steals their exoframes.
- Clothes Make the Superman: The Exo-Frames give the Centurions Super Strength, even without the Assault Weapon Systems.
- Comic Book Adaptation: DC Comics published it.
- Comm Links: The heroes' wristwatch-like communicators.
- Cool Bike: Wild Weasel, Jake's motorcycle-like weapon system.
- Cool Boat: Any of Max's weapon systems.
- Cool Plane: Any of Ace's weapon systems, as well as Hornet, Jake's helicopter-like weapon system.
- Cool Tank: John's Thunder Knife, Jake's Awesome Auger, and a much lighter example in Jake's Swingshot.
- Cruel Mercy: When Ace infiltrates the "cyborg underground" in "Cyborg Centurion", he defeats a powerful warlord in a gladiator game, then lets him live because "He'll never command respect from [his followers] again."
- Cyber Punk: "Zone Dancer", whose plot combines elements from Blade Runner and Neuromancer.
- Cyborg: Doc Terror and Hacker. (And eventually the entire human race, if they get their way.)
- Daddy's Little Villain: Amber, Doc Terror's daughter, is this, though she will perform a High Heel-Face Turn if his plans go completely overboard.
- Do Not Adjust Your Set
- Dracula: Menaces both the Centurions and Doc Terror in "Night on Terror Mountain". Fight Dracula ensues.
- The Dragon: Not Hacker, he's a Side Kick. Instead, the bad guys who invariably turn out to be Doc Terror's minions. Their motivation for siding with a madman who wants to rule the world and transform everyone into cyborgs was not clear...
- Dragon Lady: Lady Fang, the special guest villain from "Firecracker".
- War for Fun and Profit: Lady Fang foments war between two South American countries so she can sell arms to both sides.
- Drill Tank/This Is a Drill: Jake's Awesome Auger weapon system consists of a giant drill attached to a tank-like body.
- Elaborate Underground Base: The series has two.
- Centrum, the heroes' terrestrial headquarters, is a secret installation beneath New York City.
- Dominion, Doc Terror's fortress, is hidden somewhere underneath the Arctic.
- Emergency Transformation: How Doc Terror became a cyborg. Atypically for the trope, he likes his new form.
- Empathic Weapon: The Assault Weapon Systems respond to the Centurions' mental commands.
- Episode Title Card
- Everything's Better with Spinning: John's Thunder Knife weapon system is essentially a gigantic circular saw, complete with spinning action, attached to a tank-like body.
- Evil Is Not a Toy: Terror and Hacker learn this in "Man or Machine" when they realize that the alien Master Computer they've recreated on Earth won't exempt them from its plans to exterminate all organic life just because they're cyborgs.
- Explosive Decompression: Averted! When Ace was spaced in one episode he doesn't immediately explode. On the other hand, even though he was teleported to safety in time, he probably shouldn't have been able to recover so quickly from the experience.
- Fake Defector: Both "Max Ray... Traitor" and "Cyborg Centurion" feature one of the Centurions pretending to turn against the team in order to infiltrate a criminal organization.
- Even one of the guest stars got into the act; in "Atlantis Adventure", Sean O'Connor pretends to join forces with the evil Prince Naro just long enough to rescue Ace.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: While Centurions was primarily a Science Fiction series, it also did several episodes with supernatural themes, as this page will show.
- Fictional Country: The series had a few. In "Firecracker", the South American countries of nations Quisto and Montenegro were manipulated into going to war, so the episode's villain could sell arms to both sides.
- Fiery Redhead: Ace.
- Fish Person: Mako, one of Doc Terror's Evil Minions.
- Five-Man Band: After Rex and John join the team.
- Freudian Trio: Max (superego), Jake (ego), Ace (id).
- Gatling Good:
- Jake's Fireforce weapon system has a futuristic gatling gun called a "plasma repulsar".
- Rex's Gatling Guard weapon system is half hovercraft, half revolving missile magazine.
- Genius Bruiser: Max Ray.
- Gladiator Games: In "Cyborg Centurion", cyborgs fight in front of an audience to establish dominance.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Happens when Cassandra is impersonated by her Evil Twin sister Lilith in "Return of Cassandra". Good Witch Versus Bad Witch ensues.
- "Good Luck" Gesture: In "The Sky is on Fire", Crystal tells Lucy the orangutan to cross her fingers just before attempting to teleport a weapons system through atmospheric disturbance. Lucy holds the gesture behind her back.
- Grand Theft Me: "Double Agent".
- Hot Scientist: Crystal Kane, Colleen O'Hare, Mai Ling and many others.
- Hot Witch: Cassandra Cross, Ace's Love Interest in "That Old Black Magic" and "Return of Cassandra". Her Evil Twin sister Lilith also qualifies.
- I Have Your Wife: In "Traitors Three", Doc Terror holds a politician's grandson hostage to force her to cooperate.
- I Work Alone: John's attitude when he first joins the team.
- An Ice Person: In a high-tech version of the trope, Jake's Hornet and Detonator weapon systems both have freeze rays.
- Impossibly Cool Clothes
- Incredible Shrinking Man/Inside a Computer System: "The Incredible Shrinking Centurions" uses both tropes.
- Instant Armor
- Land, Sea, Sky: Jake Rockwell, Max Ray, and Ace McCloud respectively.
- Landmark of Lore: In "Merlin", Doc Terror revives the titular wizard, whose remains are perfectly preserved beneath Stonehenge.
- Machine Worship: Doc Terror doesn't quite worship machines, but he clearly thinks they're superior to humans, which is why he wants to turn everyone into cyborgs (willingly or otherwise).
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Terror.
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Amber, though she's anything but innocent.
- Mecha-Mooks: Only a select few kinds.
- Milkman Conspiracy: The janitor spies in "Max Ray... Traitor".
- Mind Control:
- The titular villain's gimmick in "Zombie Master".
- Also, Dracula uses this instead of his vampire powers in "Night on Terror Mountain".
- Mission Control: Crystal Kane, who rarely leaves the space station.
- Mummy: The Centurions fight a small army of them in "The Mummy's Curse".
- Na´ve Newcomer: Rex and John when they're first introduced.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Doc Terror.
- Niagara Falls: Doc Terror has a hideout at a Cave Behind the Falls in "Let the Games Begin".
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Doc Terror turns two predatory animals into heavily armed "Cybervores".
- Non-Human Sidekick: Lucy the Orangutan, Skyvault's mascot, and Shadow, Jake's pet malamute.
- It should be noted that Shadow has his own rocket launcher weapon system.
- One-Word Title: The series itself, as well as these episodes: "Whalesong", "Firebird", "Malfunction", "Merlin", "Firecracker", "Sungrazer", "Novice", "Breakout" and "Revenge".
- Opening Narration: Quoted above.
- Pet the Dog: Hacker does this in two episodes.
- In "Return of Captain Steele", he befriends a tribe of South Sea islanders and later sabotages Doc Terror's latest scheme when it threatens the tribe with destruction.
- In "The Better Half", Hacker reverts to childlike docility when he and Terror are temporarily captured and separated.
- Plot Tailored to the Party: Max was the team leader, but his weapon systems were all aquatic. Since most population centers are near water, it didn't come up much, but on occasion he needed to use Jake's systems in the desert, and wasn't as good at it. He was taken aback when Jake borrowed his heaviest weapon system for underwater use.
- Power Trio: Before Rex and John join the team.
- Product Promotion Parade:
- A sequence in "Man or Machine" in which Max introduces Jake and Ace to their new Assault Weapon Systems—and also tells them that Rex and John are joining the team.
- Happens again in a later sequence, after Rex has joined, to introduce his new big weapon.
- Two weapon systems, Max's Sea Bat (which resembles a Manta Ray) and Jake's Swing Shot (something that runs on tracks that can ride a roof) got no more than three episodes between them.
- Psychic Powers: An Emo Teen uses them to control Wild Weasel in "Child's Play".
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Pow-ER Ex-TREME-reme-reme-reme!"
- Rival Turned Evil: Claw, John Thunder's Evil Former Friend, who does a Face-Heel Turn and becomes one of Doc Terror's Evil Minions in "To Dare Dominion".
- Sea Mine: The "hydromine" from Max's Depth Charger weapon system.
- Signature Device: The Assault Weapon Systems.
- Sixth Ranger: Rex and John.
- Space Clothes: Even on people walking down the street.
- Space Elevator: Set up as a train.
- Speech Impaired Animals: Shadow and Lucy were supposedly "augmented IQ" animals, who were intelligent but couldn't speak.
- Spy-Tux Reveal: A parka-clad Rex does a variation when he first appears. On a mountain in Iceland, he uses one of his inventions to draw heat from a volcano, then removes the parka (revealing the tux underneath) and has a formal dinner in the middle of nowhere, complete with robot waiter!
- Start of Darkness: One episode of the five-part "Man or Machine" mini-series had a flashback revealing Doc Terror's and Hacker's past which explains how they became cyborgs in the first place and why Doc is bent on world conquest. Hacker was originally a petty thief that Doc helped to avoid jailtime in exchange for Hacker's help in procuring materials he needed for his cyborg experiments. Doc then turned Hacker into a cyborg and presented him to the rest of the scientific community and had his ideas rejected over ethical reasons. Later, Hacker had a brief Freak Out when Doc told him that the change was permanent and accidentally mortally injured Doc. To save himself, Doc became a cyborg himself. Still bitter over being rejected by his peers, the new Doc Terror decided to put his genius to evil use and conquer the world.
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: The Centurions' Meaningful Names.
- Supernormal Bindings: In "Return of Cassandra", heroic witch Cassandra Cross was captured by her Evil Twin Lilith and bound with mystic chains. Ace had to use a magic rose she'd given him to enchant a sword to be able to cut through them.
- Swirly Energy Thingy: Doc Terror's "Neutron Vortex" from "To Dare Dominion".
- Team Pet: The series had two: Jake's malamute dog Shadow and Crystal's orangutan Lucy.
- Team Title
- Technology Porn: Featured throughout the series, especially in the closeups of the Assault Weapon Systems' individual parts during the Transformation Sequences.
- Teleporters and Transporters: Send the team around the world (or into space) and deliver the gear. Only those protected by an Exo Frame or special harness can safely use them.
- Temporary Blindness: In a variation, the Centurions experience temporary deafness in the Comic Book Adaptation story "Sound Off".
- Three Plus Two: Max, Jake and Ace + Rex and John.
- Time Travel: In "Counter Clock Crisis", an accident with an experimental "sonic beam" briefly sends Jake 24 hours into the future, where he sees that Doc Terror has taken over Skyvault.
- You Have to Believe Me: When Jake gets back and tells the others what he's seen, they predictably think he's gone crazy, so Jake has to stop Terror's plan with Shadow as his only backup.
- Title Scream
- Token Minority: John Thunder in the main cast, though the series was much better than most '80s cartoons in showing ethnic diversity.
- Toyless Toyline Character: Crystal and the Team Pets.
- Transformation Sequence: Stock Footage of the Assault Weapon System of choice attaching to the Exo Frame.
- Averted as much as enforced, though. Frequently the pieces would appear and attach with little fanfare (and no stock footage). And other than Jake's Swing Shot and Rex's Gatling Guard (which have noticeably worse animation than the original sets), the later weapon systems never got a stock footage version of the sequence in the first place.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future
- Underwater Base/Underwater City: Sealab. No, not that one.
- Vibro Weapon: One of John's weapons is a Vibro-Knife.
- Wig, Dress, Accent: Amber only needs to put on a wig, and occasionally glasses or a French accent, to fool the heroes again and again.