"Earth, 2147: The legacy of the Metal Wars, when man fought machine - and machines won. BioDreads: Monstrous creations that hunt down human survivors and digitize them. Volcania: Centre of the BioDread Empire, stronghold and fortress of Lord Dread, feared ruler of this new order. But from the fires of the Metal Wars arose a new breed of warrior, born and trained to bring down Lord Dread and his BioDread Empire. They were Soldiers of the Future, mankind's last hope!
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 in 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 civilization has been destroyed by Lord Dread's robotic armies. Fortunately, Captain Power and his team have the ability to transform into armored super-soldiers by touching their power suit's insignia and saying, "Power on."
The show was a relatively early TV example of dystopian Cyberpunk, 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: Zig-zagged. Overmind became evil after integrating with Lyman Taggart, but Mentor — who was 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: The finale.
- 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: Pilot.
- 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, this would be a Planetary/Species Extinction for all (organic) life.
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: In one episode, Lord Dread manages to lure Captain Power into a mental battle in cyberspace, complete with a symbolic melee fight and both sides attempting to play on the hidden fears and regrets of the other. Dread loses.
- 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.
- Black Cloak: Part of Lord Dread's outfit, as befitting his villainous nature.
- Body Uploading: In a malevolent way. Warlord-class BioDreads are equipped with Digitizers that can reduce a human being to data, which is then stored in the Master Computer Overmind. Although the process can be reversed, victims tend to be irrevocably changed by the experience.
- By the Power of Grayskull!: "Power on!", of course.
- Captain's Log: Like Captain Kirk before him, Captain Power often performs narration in the guise of "database journal" entries.
- Captain Superhero
- Christmas Episode: The worst possible kind.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Lord Dread's forces usually kill or digitize any human survivors that they encounter, but they're not above resorting to torture on humans who have information of value.
- 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 Lord Dread's Phantom Stryker.
- Cut Short: The writers had more than enough material for a season 2. But the executives didn't like the direction the show was going.
- Cyberpunk: While the overall tone of the series is After the End, one of the very few remaining human settlements — Tech City — has a heavy 80's cyberpunk vibe.
- 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. He is also troubled by still-human motives, his remaining flesh is disfigured/pale, he was the colleague and murderer of Captain Power's father, he is subordinate to the setting's true Big Bad (Overmind), and the one time he and Captain Power actually fight in person, he manages to kick the good Captain's ass. Seriously, this guy looks (and acts) like the bastard son of Darth Vader and the Borg.
- Downer Ending: It counts as this rather than Bittersweet Ending because yes, the heroes managed to stop Lord Dread's Project New Order before the resistance was wiped out... but Pilot is dead, the Powerbase is destroyed, Locke is still among the resistance, and Lord Dread is last seen preparing for a cybernetic upgrade to make him even less human, meaning the war is about to get (even) worse. The show was unfortunately canned before the second season began production because Mattel didn't want the show to get any darker than it already was.
- The Dragon: The pterodactyl-like Soaron to Lord Dread. At least until Blastarr is created, and then he and Soaron become Co-Dragons (and bitter rivals).
- Dressing as the Enemy: Scout's MO is infiltration via a hologram projector that allows him to impersonate someone in Lord Dread's organization. While this works well against Dread's human collaborators and Mecha-Mooks, the vastly more dangerous Bio-Dreads can see right through his hologram.
- Dying Declaration of Love: Pilot's final words for Captain Power.
- '80s Hair: Freedom One. When she removes her helmet to reveal her impressively voluminous hairstyle, one is tempted to think that Captain Power's father wasn't the only one who developed a way to defy the laws of spatial physics.
- 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.
- Energy Weapon: Everyone uses them in the future.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Before his transformation into Lord Dread, Lyman Taggart was a close friend of Stuart and Jonathan Power, and clearly retains feelings for them despite all the horrors he has wrought upon them, himself, and the rest of the world. Even now, he has kept a music box that the Power family gave him before the Metal Wars, harbors the idea that Jonathan could still be persuaded to join him deep into the series, and even (after that point is passed) forgoes a golden opportunity to ambush Jonathan to instead visit Stuart's grave. Overmind more than once chides Lord Dread for such "weakness".
- Evil Plan: Lord Dread has already conquered much of the world, but he's not done yet. Over the course of the series, he plots to enact Project New Order, which consists of four stages:
- Styx: A deadly disease.
- Charon: A new army of Bio-Dreads.
- Icarus: An orbital weapons platform capable of digitizing people en masse.
- Prometheus: A deadly plasma storm to finish off any survivors of the first three stages.
- 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. Consequently, blood is a rare sight in the show.
- 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 and computer networks.
- The Big Guy: Lieutenant Michael "Tank" Ellis. The team's stoic heavy weapon expert and Mighty Glacier.
- The Chick: Corporal Jennifer "Pilot" Chase. Rescued from the Dread Youth and also quite stoic; she becomes a love interest to Captain Power as the show progresses.
- 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.
- Gendered Outfit: While Pilot's power suit is nowhere near Stripperiffic, it's still conspicuous that her suit is the only one among the Power Team that doesn't have a helmet, though she does start wearing one towards the end of the series.
- Good Colors, Evil Colors: Dread's army use purple lasers while the heroes' lasers are blue.
- Going Down with the Ship: In one episode, Captain Power runs afoul of a paranoid General Ripper resistance leader who hides his men and his base from the outside world at all costs — and not entirely without reason, as once Lord Dread discovers the group's existence, his forces almost immediately attack and overrun the base. The general finally accepts the need for his men to escape into the outside world, but opts not to join them.
- Healing Factor: The warlord-class BioDreads can regenerate from any damage, even being blown to smithereens.
- HeelFace Turn: Part of Pilot's backstory, as she began as a member of the Dread Youth before betraying the machines and joining the Power Team.
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: The overall MO of the Power Team. For all their powers, they lack the numbers to depose Lord Dread head-on. But with the help of the Jump Gates, they can strike at vulnerable targets and withdraw to the Powerbase before Dread's forces can corner them.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Darktown, which isn't merely ruined and "dark", but covered with acid fog as a result of bombing during the Metal Wars. Neither the Power Team nor Dread's robots can tread lightly there.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Dread Troopers have a really bad aim, including Soaron and Blastarr.
- The Juggernaut:
- Blastarr. While neither of the BioDread warlords are easy to take down, Blastarr is clearly the more resilient of the two.
- Tank is a heroic Juggernaut, being the Power Team's toughest member as well as the one most fond of crashing through walls.
- 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 she can't express her true feelings, instead saying "It can wait"), she is inadvertently left to Hold the Line from an enemy invasion, and she ends up performing a Heroic Sacrifice to save the Power Base's sensitive data when all is lost. At least she managed 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 assorted other human resistance groups — allied or otherwise.
- Legendary Impostor: One episode involved an impostor of Captain Power who worked for Lord Dread, luring survivors into being digitized by Soaron (and poisoning other survivor groups against the real Captain). True to the usual trope, the real Captain eventually manages to expose and defeat the impostor, setting the villain up to be digitized by Soaron himself. Afterwards, Soaron and Lord Dread realize that they have digitized their own "Captain", but decide they're okay with that.
- Les Collaborateurs: The Dread Youth and Overunits. The former are basically Lord Dread's expy for the Hitler Youth (and despite being human, they worship machines and reject human frailties like emotions), while the latter are humans who lead troops of Mecha-Mooks in service to Lord Dread.
- Machine Worship: One sequence shows Lord Dread dictating what seems to be a Holy Bible for his machine empire; his "verses" wouldn't sound even slightly out of place among the Adeptus Mechanicus. Elsewhere, Lord Dread's speeches to the
HitlerDread Youth seem near-evangelistic. One of their rank near-religiously praises "the Machine" and practically describes the team's heroic heel-face-turncoat as a heretic.
- Martial Pacifist: Captain Power has sworn never to take a human life. He will go all out to destroy robot enemies, but even when he is as angry with another human as we ever see him — issuing a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to a Legendary Impostor who had caused him (and countless other survivors) no small amount of grief — he manages to stop before outright killing the bastard. The rest of the Power Team are also never seen killing other humans.
- Master Computer: Overmind, originally designed to stop wars between countries, initiated the Metal Wars against mankind itself.
- Mecha-Mooks: The Dread Troopers.
- Merchandise-Driven: One of the things that frustrated the writers' attempts to make the show more adult-oriented.
- The Mole:
- Laccki is this for Overmind, working in Lord Dread's service. Interestingly, 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. In fact, Laccki is so useless that one suspects his real purpose is not to spy on Dread, but rather to remind Dread that Overmind doesn't fully trust him.
- The resistance itself also has problems with moles, including Freedom One and Locke. In the former case, it is clear that she was in league with Lord Dread from the beginning, but the latter's case is more ambiguous (especially as Locke expresses disgust with himself almost immediately after selling out Captain Power to the robots).
- My God, What Have I Done?: After defeating Kasko, Tank reveals that he enjoyed crushing the bastard, but — as both he and Kasko were trained and augmented for warfare — he's depressed because that makes them too alike. He snaps out of it when Captain Power reminds him that Kasko fought for revenge, while Tank fought to save lives.
- 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.
- No-Holds-Barred Contest: When Tank encounters Kasko, a rival genetically-augmented soldier from his past, the latter is so eager for revenge that he takes some hostages in order to force Tank into a duel.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Overmind.
- One-Way Visor: Both the enemy Mecha-Mooks and the heroes' Powered Armor have these.
- Opening Narration: Every episode starts with the narration mentioned at the top of this page.
- Pimped-Out Dress: A resistance fighter who was Hawk's Old Flame attempts this in one episode where the two end up hiding out together. The dress is actually quite plain by the standards of The '80s (much less now), but Hawk has lived in a ruined world for so many years that he still remarks that it's the most beautiful thing he's seen in a long time.
- Powered Armor: The Power Suits, which all feature powerful weapons and protect their users from any damage (at least until their power runs out).
- 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 have very Nazi-esque uniforms. Interestingly, the actor playing Taggart/Dread also looks frightening similar to Adolf Hitler, sans the iconic mustache.
- The Remnant: One resistance group Captain Power encounters is a military unit who have been hiding in their base with their General Ripper leader for so long, they don't even know that the Robot War is over and human civilization has ceased to exist. True to form, the general instantly assumes Captain Power (and Hawk) are enemies, resists all their attempts to explain what's really going on, and tries to execute them.
- The Rival:
- Robot War: The Metal Wars, which serve as the backstory for the series. The present is the "legacy" of this conflict, after the machines have triumphed over humanity.
- Serkis Folk: Soaron and Blastarr.
- 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 — rather than Scout — was the first (and only) team member to get killed off.
- Storming the Castle: The Soldiers of the Future must storm Volcania to stop Project New Order.
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: Lampshaded in an episode where Captain Power meets and works with another resistance leader. She's surprised to learn that his last name actually is "Power".
- 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 Power Team uses to get around the continent. While for most of the series, this is how the team was able to perpetrate hit-and-run attacks against the Biodread Empire so effectively, it ultimately became their own undoing when Lord Dread acquired the network's access frequency.
- There Was a Door: Tank, the Power Team's strongest member, has a habit of charging through walls, either to open an escape for the team or (more often) to surprise enemies.
- Title Scream
- This Is Gonna Suck: In one episode, Captain Power encounters a woman who was blinded at the onset of the Metal Wars (and the downfall of civilization). When her sight is restored, the woman rushes to a window to see the city again, which she remembers as being beautiful at night. The Captain doesn't say anything, but hangs his head as she rushes to discover that everything was ruined long ago.
- 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.
- We ARE Struggling Together: The Power Team aren't the only ones resisting Lord Dread, but the other resistance groups are often all too human themselves. More than once, Captain Power has encountered survivors who are so paranoid, arrogant, or insane that they're almost as much a threat to him as Lord Dread's forces are.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist:
- Lyman Taggart sincerely thought that humanity would be improved by becoming cybernetic. 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 development of robotic soldiers.
- "What Now?" Ending: The fate of the Power Team after the series finale. Well, except Pilot.
- Whole Episode Flashback: "The Summoning Of Thunder," a Death by Origin Story for Stuart Power, and Start of Darkness for
Lyman TaggartLord Dread.