Western Animation: Sky Commanders

Left to right: RJ Scott, Mike Summit and Spider Reilly at work.

"Deep in the South Pacific, a tumultuous and untamed new continent has erupted, spawned by a highly unstable new element, known as Pheta-7. If this powerful new element could be controlled, whoever possessed it would be the undisputed ruler of the world! One man, General Lucas Plague, is determined to hold that title. And it's up to a rugged team of mountaineering experts, lead by commander Mike Summit, to stop him. Employing revolutionary new gravity-lock and laser-cable technology to traverse the ever-changing terrain of the High Frontier, Mike Summit's Sky Commanders, and General Plague's Raiders, are locked in mortal combat, with the fate of the entire world hanging in the balance . . ."

Sky Commanders was a Merchandise-Driven animated television series made by Hanna-Barbera that premiered in July 1987, only lasting for thirteen episodes. It was based on a Kenner action figure line.

The storyline of Sky Commanders comprises the daily adventures of a multi-racial group of soldiers and mountaineering specialists from all over the world who battle the evil General Lucas Plague and his goon squad of villainous mercenaries and miscreants, "The Raiders," whose aim is to seize control of the planet. The series is set on a new continent deep in the South Pacific which was created by the emergence to the surface world of a new and powerful, unstable radioactive element called Phaeta Seven.

This lethal energy source can only be stabilized for containment by exposure to temperatures of 200 degrees below zero. It is known that whoever can control the element and harness its enormous power would be the ruler of the world; a goal that the amoral General Plague wants strongly. It is up to General Mike Summit and his highly trained soldiers to stop him.

Complicating the Sky Commanders' objective of stopping the criminal ambitions of the Raiders is the fact the new continent (collectively referred to in the series as "The High Frontier") is routinely beset by sporadic, unstable and highly dangerous weather conditions and environmental hazards such as landslides, earthquakes, cave-ins, whirlpools, etc. There is also the need for monthly shipments of fresh supplies, new advanced technology and weapon systems. Constant attack by the scheming and underhanded Raiders and the aforementioned environmental dangers make the Sky Commanders's mission only that much more dangerous.

Travel throughout the new continent is only possible by means of high-altitude flight, or by means of using Laser Cables; a specialized version of a rappelling cord emitted from combat backpacks worn by both Raider and Sky Commander. When used, the cables shoot out from the combat backpacks in the form of energy beams. When contact is made with a solid object, the Laser Cable solidifies into a solid metal cable line upon which travel is possible.

Phaeta Seven, the radioactive element that both sides vie for control of, came from the deepest subterranean recesses of Earth itself, and it has brought with it, on its rise to the surface of Earth, not only the new continent itself but also a wild and voracious, bizarre menagerie of utterly horrific creatures to inhabit it. These lifeforms are either the products of long-term mutative exposure to Phaeta Seven's radiation or were just naturally brought about the way that they are. Occasional violent encounters with these monstrosities is yet another danger waiting for both sides of this battle for the future freedom or enslavement of the world.


  • Awesome Aussie: Jack 'Spider' Reilly
  • Badass Bookworm: Books Baxter, the technician.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The Raiders do this to RJ Scott after they take him down in an operation. RJ eventually almost cuts a cord that holds a few commanders from falling into a pit, until General Plague orders him to stop.
  • Calling Your Attacks: "Hot wire!" Not an attack, but is the term they use when they quickly travel on the wires.
  • Cold War: Likely to be the cause of tension between leader Mike Summit and new recruit Yuri from the Soviet Union. They eventually get along.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Sky Commanders wear uniforms with bright primary colors, while the Raiders wear green and purple.
  • Cool Old Guy: Some of the Sky Commanders appear aged, but in "Welcome to the Fold", the younger-looking Spider Reilly's age was brought up, indicating he's a lot older than most of the Commanders.
  • Cut Short: Only thirteen episodes were done.
  • Death World: The High Frontier is a dangerous, geologically unstable environment, even without the monsters. Kenner's 1987 catalog, which introduced the toy line to retailers, describes it in vivid detail:
    "A terrifying new continent emerged from the earth's core—deadly and ever-changing. Hurricane-force winds and tornadoes of poisonous gas veil the bizarre new continent. Within lies a nearly endless variety of mutating environments, all different, but all sharing one sobering quality: man can survive only in the peaks and highlands. The horrors of the surface promise certain death! Christened the 'HIGH FRONTIER', towering chunks of stone rise up out of molten rocks and float like icebergs, topped with spires and columns that soar to dizzying heights. This is a volatile and unpredictable land, where mile-high plateaus can rise and fall in a single day. Whole islands can form overnight—then disappear as the thin crust riding on the elemental ocean breaks apart like a shelf of melting ice."
  • Dumb Muscle: Mordax.
  • The '80s: Very much a product of it, including the theme tune and hair styles.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The creatures formed in the High Frontier. One of them is a Man-Eating Plant that gobbles Cutter Kling, until the others save him.
  • Enemy Mine: A very difficult mission requires both the Sky Commanders and the raiders to work together. While the leaders (Mike and Lucas) keep their differences aside, their deputies (Reilly and Raff) can't stop squabbling. Subverted, however, when this is the case only during the mission- outside of it, the remaining Raiders attack the other Commanders.
  • Episode Title Card
  • Expy:
    • Sky Commanders was made two years after Centurions, was aimed at the same demographic, and was a product of the same toy company, Kenner. Therefore, it's not surprising that the two shows' characters are not that different; Mike Summit resembles Max Ray, and RJ Scott resembles Ace McCloud, amongst the most notable examples.
    • The toys were clearly influenced by another Kenner action figure line turned cartoon, M.A.S.K.. Both lines featured tiny figures that were packaged with gimmicky vehicles.
  • Fake Defector: Books Baxter, the Sky Commanders' Gadgeteer Genius, turns against the Sky Commanders and joins the Raiders because the Commanders rejected his new technology—or so it seems. Eventually, it turns out that Books is a Mole in the enemy camp.
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • Five-Token Band: The Sky Commanders are composed of characters of varied backgrounds, including an Eskimo (Kodiak), Soviet (Yuri), Australian (Spider Reilly), Jamaican (Striker), a technician who sounds British (Books) and a Fiery Redhead Irishwoman (Red McCullogh).
  • Follow the Leader: Owes a bit to Centurions and in turn some concepts later went into SWAT Kats.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Name all the Sky Commanders in the show. Then give us a little information on all of them.
  • Merchandise-Driven: While a few have good memories of their Sky Commanders toys, this toyline was a poor seller and the toys are now very hard to find.
  • Multinational Team: Both the Sky Commanders and the Raiders.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: General Lucas Plague.
  • Nepotism: One episode reveals the only reason General Plague keeps Mordax around is that Mordax is his brother-in-law.
  • Opening Narration: It was added after the first few episodes; the announcer was Danny Dark (a promo VO guy for NBC in the 80s and 90s, the original StarKist Tuna guy, and Superman from Super Friends).
  • Out of Order: The first episode shows Yuri, the Soviet, as a member of the Sky Commanders. However, he isn't introduced as a full member until the third episode.
  • Power Armor: Not so much armor as they are high-tech backpacks for rappeling across the High Frontier.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Most of the musical cues are typical Hanna Barbera soundtracks.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Mike Summit.
  • Surfer Dude: RJ- even Raider Kreeg calls that one out.
  • Technology Porn: Too much of it, as well as Scenery Porn (and Scenery Gorn).
  • Unobtainium: Phaeta Seven.