Their leader: Captain Jonathan Power, master of the incredible powersuits which transform each soldier into a one-man attack force! Major Matthew "Hawk" Masterson, fighter of the sky! Lieutenant Michael "Tank" Ellis, Ground Assault Unit! Sergeant Robert "Scout" Baker, Espionage and communications! And Corporal Jennifer "Pilot" Chase, Tactical Systems Expert! Together, they form the most powerful fighting force in Earth's history. Their creed: To protect all life! Their promise: To end Lord Dread's rule! Their name....CAPTAIN POWER AND THE SOLDIERS OF THE FUTURE!"
There were a number of experiments in interactive TV in the late 80s, such as a murder mystery where viewers called in between acts to vote on who would turn out to have dunnit. One of the more radical experiments in interactive television was Captain Power And The Soldiers Of The Future. The story followed the adventures of Captain Jonathan Power and his team of freedom fighters on a post-apocalyptic Earth where most of the population had been converted into robotic warriors by the evil Lord Dread. Fortunately, Captain Power and his team had the ability to transform into armored super-soldiers by standing in a special booth and saying, "Power on."
The show was a relatively early TV example of dystopian Cyber Punk, and, though ostensibly aimed at children, was so dark and violent many parents complained to Mattel about the Anyone Can Die nature. J. Michael Straczynski, Larry DiTillio, New Teen Titans creator Marv Wolfman, veteran novelist and scriptwriter Michael Reaves, and Marc Scott Zicree of The Twilight Zone Companion and Magic Time fame worked on the show, and Howard the Duck creator Steve Gerber was slated to write for the unproduced second season. Mattel pulled the plug on the show after the season one finale, as the producers wanted to go into even more of a Darker and Edgier direction which would've thrown off the Merchandise-Driven aspect of the show even further.
The show's main draw was the merchandise interactivity. Captain Power action figures interacted with electronic toys based on the show's transformation booth, fighter jets, and other hardware. These could interact with each other: the jets fired a strobe of light which a receptor on another jet could register as a hit. The toys could also interact with the show itself: various things in the show emitted a strobe effect which would register on the toy. Villains and heroes had strobes which the jets would register as targets, weapons fire emitted a yellow strobe that would register as a hit (and viewers were gently reminded that hiding the jets behind their backs was cheating). The "power on" sequence would both reset the damage count on a jet, and activate the "power on" cycle in the transformation booth toy. At the end of each episode, one of the characters would step through the Fourth Wall to tell viewers what constituted a good score.
Around the same time as the show's release, three animated videos were released, Future Force Training, Bio-Dread Assault, and Raid On Volcania, which fans could train on between episodes. These featured the viewer as a new recruit, designated "Pilot-1", who received training from the captain himself in piloting the XT-7 fighter, and undertook some dangerous missions. These episodes were animated by AIC, one of the companies responsible for Bubblegum Crisis and many other anime of the late 80's.
The series celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012 with a long-awaited DVD release. In late 2012, executive producer Gary Goddard announced that a revival of Captain Power was beginning development under the name Phoenix Rising. Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens have been tapped as showrunners.
Captain Power and the Tropers of the Future!
- After the End : Via Robot War.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Overmind went evil after becoming rampant. Mentor, given the personality and appearance of Stuart Power, is fatherly and benign.
- Airstrike Impossible: The Star Wars-style trench run against the control center for the Icarus Platform.
- Also all three of the animated videos, ranging from a mad dash down a gratuitous radioactive tunnel to an assault through Volcania itself.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese intro is Furimukeba Danger! performed by legendary anime & tokusatsu singer, Mitsuko Horie.
- Animesque: The videos lean heavily on this. A side effect of being animated by AIC.note
- Antagonist in Mourning: Lord Dread visiting Stuart Power's grave.
- Anyone Can Die
- Apocalypse How: The series starts off at Planetary/Societal Collapse, with isolated pockets of civilization still around. Overmind is aiming to convert humans to robots; given the scope and methods of Project New Order, it could end up as a Planetary/Species Extinction for all life.
- Battleship Raid: The climactic battle of the second training video.
- BFG: When the team raid Lord Dread's place, everyone except for Tank, switch to bigger laser rifles.
- Big Bad: Lord Dread and Overmind
- Brain Uploading: Warlord-class BioDreads are equipped with Digitizers that can reduce a human being to data, which is then stored in Overmind. Although the process can be reversed, victims tend to be irrevocably changed by the experience.
- By the Power of Grayskull!
- Captain Superhero
- Christmas Episode: The worst possible kind.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: from Neal Adams' Continuity Comics. It only lasted two issues, however.
- Cool Ship: The Jumpship, the XT-7 fighter (attached to the top of the Jumpship,) and the enemy Phantom Stryker.
- Cut Short
- Cyber Punk
- Darkest Hour: ...at which point, the series ends.
- Darth Vader Clone: Lord Dread. While he doesn't wear a helmet, his black armor and cybernetic body certainly fit the trope.
- Downer Ending: It counts as this rather than Bittersweet Ending because not only is Pilot dead and the heroes' base destroyed, Lord Dread clearly won the day and is last seen preparing for an cybernetic upgrade to make him even less human, meaning the war is about to get worse. The show was unfortunately canned before the second season began production because Mattel didn't want the show to get any more darker than it already did.
- The Dragon: The pterodactyl-like Soaron to Lord Dread.
- Dressing as the Enemy: Scout's primary method of infiltration is a hologram projector that allow him to impersonate someone in the Dread organization. However, none of the Bio-Dreads can be fooled and see right through his hologram.
- Dying Declaration of Love
- Emotion Suppression: The Bio-Dreads teach their human followers that "Emotion is for the weak," and one of Lord Dread's goals (and Overmind's goals for him) is to purge himself of all emotions. Ironically, Soaron and Blastarr are quite emotional, especially when they have to deal with each other.
- Eye Beams: In addition to his hand blasters, Soaron can fire with his eyes.
- Family-Friendly Firearms: Both the Power Team and their enemies use laser guns. Several characters also use firearms, but they don't do a thing against Bio-Dreads.
- Five-Man Band
- The Hero: Captain Jonathan Power. A good strategist and a fine soldier, but impetuous, immature, and still learning what it means to be a leader.
- The Lancer: Major Matthew "Hawk" Masterson. A war veteran and friend of Jonathan's father, Stuart.
- The Smart Guy: Sergeant Robert "Scout" Baker. Good with infiltration of both enemy bases as well as their computer networks.
- The Big Guy: Lieutenant Michael "Tank" Ellis. The team's heavy weapon and Stone Wall, short on character development.
- The Chick: Corporal Jennifer "Pilot" Chase. Rescued from the Dread Youth and quite The Stoic; ironically, becomes the heart and soul of the team.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: Everyone use them in the future.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: In the three training videos, there are hundreds of BioDreads in Soaron and Blastarr's units... only not quite as durable as the real thing. In the actual series, only one of each class exists, but they're much, much more fearsome.
- Good Colors, Evil Colors: Dread's army use purple lasers while the heroes' lasers are blue.
- Healing Factor: The warlord-class BioDreads can regenerate from any damage, even being blown to smithereens.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Dread Troopers have a really bad aim, including Soaron and Blastarr.
- The Juggernaut: Blastarr.
- Killed Off for RealStraczynski: "I've never talked about this before — said I was in a thoughtful mood — but I've known several people, friends, who've taken their own lives. In one case, I spoke to her just beforehand. Tried, through the phone lines, to reach her one more time, pull her back from the edge. I couldn't. Years pass. Time comes for me to write the last filmed episode of Power. Jennifer Chase is going to die, partly of her injuries, partly of her own volition. Part of my life went into that scene, in the way it was constructed, and what was said. And what was not said, what never had the chance to be said, and thus still burns. I knew that, at the crucial moment of that scene, he couldn't be near her, as I wasn't near my friend...it had to be long-distance, hearing but not seeing her, and the terrible pain of arriving too late. I cannot watch that episode without crying. Ever."
- This particular case is loaded with tropes: the character took the time to go through personal effects and mementos from previous adventures, her relationship with Jon is finally put front-and-center (but can't express her true feelings, saying, "It can wait," instead,) is (unwittingly) left to Hold the Line from an enemy invasion, and has to perform a Heroic Sacrifice to save the Power Base's sensitive data when the base is overrun. At least she got to destroy Blastarr (we hope) along the way.
- Kill Sat: The Icarus Platform that the Power Team has to destroy before the assault on Volcania.
- La Résistance: The Power Team, along with several groups of allies.
- Machine Worship: At least one sequence shows Lord Dread dictating what seems to be a Bible for the machine empire; and his speeches to the
HitlerDread Youth seem near-evangelistic. One evil spy actually near-religiously praises "the Machine" and practically describes the team's heroic heel-face-turncoat as a heretic.
- Master Computer: The Overmind intelligence, originally designed to stop wars between countries, initiated the Metal Wars against mankind itself.
- Mecha-Mooks: The Dread Troopers.
- The Mole: Laccki is this for Overmind, working in Lord Dread's service.
- Laccki is a terrible mole: he lacks anything even vaguely resembling stealth or subtlety, and Dread is suspicious of him from the very moment of his creation. Laccki is such a terrible mole, in fact, that one suspects his real purpose is not to spy on Dread, but rather to remind Dread that Overmind doesn't fully trust him.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Lord Dread
- Nintendo Hard: The Battleship Raid and Storming the Castle sequences in the second and third training videos toss the player into the yellow-strobe equivalent of Bullet Hell.
- No Fourth Wall: The series had VHS Game elements that you could play along with using your series-specific toy that had a light gun incorporated inside.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Overmind.
- One-Way Visor: the mooks and the heroes' Powered Armor have these.
- Opening Narration
- Powered Armor: The Power Suits.
- Precision "D" Strike: Actually occurs in one episode. There's also a Precision "H" Strike in another.
- Punny Name:
- Captain Power's headquarters and stronghold is called the Powerbase.
- The biological androids —biodroids— under Lord Dread's command? Biodreads.
- Putting on the Reich: Dread's Human goons are all dressed as Nazis. Interestingly, the actor playing Taggart/Dread also looks frightening similar to Adolf Hitler, sans the iconic mustache.
- Robot War: This formed the background of the series. There was a war against the machines, and the machines won.
- Serkis Folk
- Shout-Out: To Star Wars's Trench Run during the assault on Volcania. The ending credits recycle this scene, presumably to allow kids to interact with it with the toys.
- The Smurfette Principle: Pilot was the only female member of the team. Interestingly enough, she was the only team member to get killed off.
- Storming the Castle: The Soldiers of the Future must storm Volcania to stop Project New Order.
- Taking You with Me: Part of a Heroic Sacrifice.Blastarr: Surrender, by order of Lord Dread.Pilot: Go to hell. (pushes self-destruct button of the Power Base reactor)
- Technology Porn: Oh, yeah.
- Teleporters and Transporters: The Jump Gates, which the Soldiers of the Future use to get around the country. Ultimately became their own undoing when Lord Dread acquired their access frequency.
- Title Scream
- Transformation Sequence: Power On!
- Utopia Justifies the Means: As noted below, Dread is convinced he is justified in converting everyone into robots and/or digitally converting them into data, because he believes he is making them immortal. When called out on his atrocities, he defends his actions: "It will be worth it!"
- VHS Game: Toys, designed to interact with the cartoon, would be able to keep track of your hits and misses during certain segments. Due to being cut short, Mattel produced additional VCR tapes to use with the toys.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist:
- Lyman Taggart sincerely thought that humanity would be improved by becoming a cybernetic organism. After becoming Lord Dread, though...
- The whole idea behind Overmind in the first place was as a computer with which Taggart and Power could take control of all the world's military robots, in order to end the years of stalemated warfare that had followed from the invention of robot soldiers.
- "What Now?" Ending: The fate of the Soldiers of the Future after the series finale.
- Whole Episode Flashback: "The Summoning Of Thunder," a Death by Origin Story for Stuart Power, and Start of Darkness for
Lyman TaggartLord Dread.