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Western Animation / Centurions

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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!"

Centurions is a heavily Merchandise-Driven 65-Episode Cartoon series, produced by Ruby-Spearsnote  in 1986 and based on a Kenner action figure line. It follows the adventures of three (later five) technological Superheroes who fight 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 are:

  • Max Ray, brilliant sea operations commander. The team leader, wears a green Exo-Frame, has a genuine porn-star moustache that makes him look like Tom Selleck (and yes, the resemblance is deliberate).
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  • Jake Rockwell, rugged land operations specialist. Wears yellow, works on land. Probably Texannote . A futuristic cowboy who prefers straightforward attacks to stealth or guile. Cooks his special chili surprise.
  • Ace McCloud, daring air operations expert. The ladies man. Wears blue, loves to fly and it shows. A cocky, wisecracking daredevil a la Han Solo.

The two additional team members added later are:

  • 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 is one of the era's 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 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. Centurions has also played on Cartoon Network's sister network Boomerang.

The series now has a character sheet.

Tropes Extreme!:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: As the opening narration says, "In the near future..." The exact year was never specified.
  • 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 Colonel Chuck Bates, Crystal's missing and presumed dead former fiancee, as part of a scheme to capture her and turn her into his cyborg slave. Bates' 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 McCoolname: Everyone.
  • Atlantis: The two-part episodes "Atlantis Adventure" and "Hole in the Ocean" are set there.
  • Aw, 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 Charger has 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 has one.
  • Bald of Evil: Hacker and Claw.
  • Baseball Episode: "Three Strikes and You're Dead".
  • BFG: While all three original Centurions have one heavily-armed and armored weapon system with larger weapons than most of their others (Max's Depth Charger, Jake's Detonator, and Ace's Skybolt), Rex's Gatling Guard cranks the trope Up to Eleven by launching solar flares and altering gravity. John's Silent Arrow has a giant bow and launching arrow (which breaks apart to reveal a capture net) instead.
  • Big Bad: Doc Terror.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The series has only one example, "To Dare Dominion", which makes it all the more memorable. The Centurions stop Terror's most dangerous scheme ever and destroy Dominion. However, John's conflict with his former friend Claw ends with Claw falling to his death while John watches helplessly. When Ace asks who won the fight, John says "Nobody won." and walks away. The End.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Ace, and how.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Ace does a momentary impression of Humphrey Bogart in "Attack of the Plant-Borg".
  • 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 Exo-Frames.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: The Exo-Frames give the Centurions Super Strength, even without the Assault Weapon Systems.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: At least two. DC Comics published a mini-series in America, while different comics were created for the British market.
  • Comm Links: The Centurions' 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.
  • Coordinated Clothes: Ace's civilian clothes and Crystal's uniform share the same color scheme.
  • 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."
  • Cyberpunk: "Zone Dancer", whose plot combines elements from Blade Runner and Neuromancer.
  • Cyborg: Doc Terror and Hacker, along with several guest star characters — 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.
  • Denver: The setting of "Denver Is Down", in which Terror sinks the entire city into an underground cavern, where he intends to turn the populace into cyborgs.
  • Disney Villain Death: The fate of Claw in "To Dare Dominion", who falls into an energy shaft at Dominion.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Terror often does this to announce his latest Evil Plan and issue threats to the world.
  • 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".
  • 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 Centurions' 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: As usual with Ruby-Spears series of this era. There are two different designs: the original five episodes have a group shot of the original three Centurions with Crystal and Lucy.note  The second design is just the series logo on a computer grid background.
  • 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 gets into the act; in "Atlantis Adventure", Sean O'Connor pretends to join forces with the evil Prince Naro just long enough to rescue his Friendly Rival Ace.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: While Centurions is primarily a Science Fiction series, it also has episodes that feature a variety of supernatural themes, as several tropes on this page demonstrate.
  • 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 People: Recurring Character Mako, one of Doc Terror's Evil Minions, is a rare example of a Fish Person who's also a cyborg.
  • 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 Cross 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".
  • Hardboiled Detective: Gabe Knight, one of the main guest stars in "Zone Dancer", is a futuristic version. He even supplies a Private Eye Monologue throughout the episode.
  • 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: Applies to not only the Centurions, both in and out of uniform, but all the civilians too.
  • In Medias Res: The show depends on the Opening Narration to get viewers up to speed. We don't get a proper Origin Story until the Flashbacks in "Man or Machine", which happens late in the series' continuity.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man/Inside a Computer System: "The Incredible Shrinking Centurions" uses both tropes. Terror and Hacker shrink themselves to wreak havoc within a Master Computer, and the Centurions follow suit to go after them.
  • Instant Armor: The Assault Weapon Systems attach to the Centurions' Exo-Frames within seconds — as long as everything is working correctly.
  • Killer Robot: Doc Terror's army of Mecha-Mooks.
  • 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.
  • The Lost Lenore: "You Only Love Twice" plays with this trope. When Crystal learns that her dead fiancee might be alive after all, she throws her usual caution to the winds to find him — just as Terror planned.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Name: Each of the original trio have names suited to their specialisation: Max Ray, Jake Rockwell and Ace McCloud.
    • The latter additions also have them - Rex Charger is an energy specialist. On the other hand, John Thunder has an ironic name as he specialises in infiltration.
  • Mecha Expansion Pack: Played With. The Assault Weapon Systems have interchangeable parts and can be used by any of the Centurions, making countless combinations possible. Not only was this one of the toy line's selling points, it also happened In-Universe; you'd occasionally see things like Jake adding Detonator's missile launchers to Hornet (or its freeze rays to Wild Weasel), or Ace mixing Orbital Interceptor with Skybolt (which he did twice, in two different configurations).
  • Mecha-Mooks: Only a select few kinds.
  • Merchandise-Driven: A clear example. The Centurions rarely encounter a problem they can't solve with their Assault Weapon Systems, whose abilities are shown off in loving detail.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: Gremlin, the secret organization of 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".
  • Naïve Newcomer: Rex and John when they're first introduced.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Doc Terror.
  • Net Gun: John Thunder's Silent Arrow system, which fires a giant arrow that opens to reveal an Inescapable Net, is a variation of this trope.
  • 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.
  • Operation: [Blank]: The episode title "Operation Starfall".
  • Pet the Dog: Despite his usual depiction as a dimwitted thug, Hacker occasionally grabs the Kindness Ball.
    • In "Return of Captain Steele", he befriends a tribe of Pacific islanders and later sabotages Doc Terror's latest scheme when it threatens the tribe with destruction.
    • In the two-part episode "The Better Half", Hacker reverts to childlike docility when he and Terror are temporarily captured and separated.
  • Planimal: In an attempt to find Centrum, Terror sics a small army of cyborgized plant monsters on New York City in "Attack of the Plant-Borg". They threaten civilians and crawl over skyscrapers (as well as the Statue of Liberty) until the Centurions stop them.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Max is the team leader, but since he's the sea operations specialist his weapon systems are all aquatic. Since most population centers are near water, it doesn't come up much, but on occasion he needs to use one of Jake or Ace's systems. He's taken aback when Jake borrows Depth Charger, 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 later weapon systems, Max's Sea Bat (which resembles a Manta Ray) and Jake's Swingshot (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 has done a Face–Heel Turn and become one of Doc Terror's Evil Minions by the time we meet him 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.
  • Spectacular Spinning: John's Thunder Knife weapon system is essentially a gigantic circular saw, complete with spinning action, attached to a tank-like body.
  • Speech Impaired Animals: Shadow and Lucy were supposedly "augmented IQ" animals, who were intelligent but couldn't speak.
  • Spiritual Successor: Japanese Mecha Musume toy franchises such as Busou Shinki, Frame Arms Girls and Megami Device have a similar gimmick to Centurions: interchangeable sci-fi weapons that attach to the figures in a variety of combinations. However, the heroes of these franchises are Badass Adorable Robot Girls instead of human adult male soldiers, which gives the lines a very different feel. 30 Minutes Missions also uses the interchangeable armor idea.
  • 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 whom 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, only to have 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 turned himself into a cyborg. Still bitter over being rejected by his peers, the new Doc Terror decided to put his genius to evil use and conquer the world.
    • "To Dare Dominion" has a flashback for Doc Terror's special guest minion Claw. He was once John Thunder's Friendly Rival while they were learning martial arts together, but when their sensei criticized Claw's aggressive fighting style, he took it personally and blamed John for his failure ("You humiliated me! I thought you were my friend!"). This led to Claw doing a Face–Heel Turn and becoming one of Terror's henchmen.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: The Centurions' Meaningful Names.
  • Superhero: The Centurions, more or less. They may be Badass Normals without costumes or special powers, but their Exo-Frames and Assault Weapon Systems make up the difference.
  • Supernormal Bindings: In "Return of Cassandra", heroic witch Cassandra Cross is captured by her Evil Twin sister Lilith and bound with mystic chains. Ace has to use a magic rose Cassandra had 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".
  • Synthetic Plague: "Sungrazer" begins with Doc Terror unleashing the Z-80 virus, which causes humans to lapse into a catatonic state. The cure for the virus is a MacGuffin that leads into the main story.
  • Team Pet: The series has 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.
  • Teleportation: Each Centurion installation has a "beaming chamber" that can instantly transport the heroes anywhere on Earth (or into space), and also beam their weapon systems onto their Exo-Frames. Living beings need the protection of an Exo-Frame or special metal harness to safely use the devices, which nullifies their Story-Breaker Power.
  • Temporary Blindness: In a variation, the Centurions experience temporary deafness in the Comic-Book Adaptation story "Sound Off".
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Played with. Max was usually fairly useful even though his suits specialized in underwater combat. Plus, it was shown in several episodes that the Centurions were all capable of using each others' Assault Weapon Systems if they really needed to.
  • 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: At the end of the Opening Narration.
  • 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. Rex and John are borderline examples, since their figures were canceled due to the toy line's disappointing sales.
  • Transformation Sequence: Most weapons systems had Stock Footage of the Assault Weapon System of choice attaching to the Exo-Frame, although it was averted as much as enforced. 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.
    • It was also averted in regards to the exo-frames themselves; the Centurions had to put them on like normal clothes.
  • Underwater Base/Underwater City: Sealab. No, invoked not that one.
  • Vibro Weapon: One of John's weapons is a Vibro-Knife.
  • Villain Exclusivity Clause: Doc Terror is the Centurions' opponent in all but a handful of episodes.
  • War for Fun and Profit: In "Firecracker", Lady Fang foments war between two South American countries so she can sell arms to both sides.
  • 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.
  • The X of Y: The episode titles "Tornado of Terror", "Attack of the Plant-Borg", "Return of Captain Steele", "Return of Cassandra", and "Day of the Animals".
  • You Killed My Father: "Revenge" features a variation. Terror ruins the career of Marina Abbott's father, so she seeks vengeance by attacking him with mutated giant sea creatures.


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