“Captain Power & the Soldiers of the Future”: Don’t just stand there, children, fire back!

By on July 11, 2018

Captain Power & the Soldiers of the Future was a short-lived syndicated sci-fi fantasy series, set in the far-flung future, airing from September 1987 to March 1988.

Watch all twenty-two episodes of its first and only season, now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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Almost two years ago, the AV Club’s “One-Season Wonders, Weirdos, and Wannabes” post ultimately decided the show was “Weirdo, bordering on wonder.”

The Plot: Set in the year 2147, on what’s left of Earth after the long and violent “Metal Wars” (the show’s original title), Earth’s humanity is on the very brink of total destruction.

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Captain Jonathan Power and his “soldiers of the future,” a small band of plucky resistance fighters, are Earth’s last hope of salvation against the planet’s evil leader, Lord Dread, and his insidious New Order vision.

Ruling from Volcania, a massive iron fortress, Dread plans the implementation of the Bio Dread Empire, half-machine/half-human (“Where man fought machines — and machines won” is how the exposition-heavy opening credits described it).

There were “heroes”: “Captain Jonathan Power” (Tim Dunigan); “Major Matthew ‘Hawk’ Masterson” (Peter MacNeill); “Lieutenant Michael ‘Tank’ Ellis” (Sven Thorsen); “Sergeant Robert ‘Scout’ Baker” (Maurice Dean Wint); “Corporal Jennifer ‘Pilot” Chase” (Jessica Steen); and, “Dr. Stuart Powers” (Bruce Gary).

And, there were “villains,” several of whom were only voiced and not seen: “Lord Dread” (David Hemblen); “Soaran” (Deryck Hazel); “Blastarr” (John Davies); “Overmind” (Ted Dillon); “Overunit Wilson” (Kelly Bricher); and, “Laccki” (Don Francks).

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The Power Team, left to right: Sven Thorson (“Tank”), Jessica Steen (“Pilot”), Tim Dunigan (“Captain Power”), Peter MacNeil (“Hawk”), and Maurice Dean Wint (“Scout”)

Obviously, we recommend that you begin your “Captain Power” binge-a-thon with the first episode, “Shattered.”

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In this episode, Scout penetrates an Energy substation and, while narrowing escaping capture, manages to destroy it.

Lord Dread then uses an old girlfriend of Power’s as bait to lure him to “San-Fran.”

Power receives a message from Athena, but doesn’t realize she’s been digitized and he’s heading into a trap.

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You can read the descriptions for every one of the 22 cyber-punk themed episodes over on Night Flight Plus.

The entire series — each episode cost an average of $1.2 million per half-hour — was filmed on soundstages created in an abandoned bus maintenance depot in Toronto, Canada.

Read more about “Captain Power & the Soldiers of the Future” below.

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“Captain Power” was created by Gary Goddard and Tony Christopher as a action-packed sci-fi drama TV show initially designed, in part, to sell toys to kids.

Although the Mattel Toys produced their own video game system in a cooperative effort with the show’s producers and the Landmark Entertainment Group, the mix of high-quality SFX and “mature themes” were really meant more for older viewers, and not children.

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Broadcast signals used during the program would activate the toy guns, made to look like ships, which meant viewers watching at home could participate in the action on their TV screens.

Additionally, lights and action-figures would react to the broadcast of these signals.

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Goddard had previously collaborated with Mattel on “He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe.”

Mattel Toys had been working on interactive technology in-house, but they didn’t know anything about creating a TV series, so he worked with them on this CGI-heavy show.

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What they came up with together was this groundbreaking TV series, the very first to use CGI on a weekly basis.

The show featured live-action characters interacting with the viewers at home, who — to get the full effect of the show — would also have to go out and buy the Mattel Toys tie-in products.

Mattel Toys manufactured five toys total — including two jets, the PowerJet XT-7 and the Phantom Striker — which interacted with the onscreen targets from as far as ten feet away. Each toy could be played with independently of the TV show, too.

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Points were scored each time a target was hit. The TV bad guys could return fire too, taking away points, and that could result in the planes ejecting their cockpits when the score reached zero.

The jets also featured a light-emitting diode (LED) that indicated when a “target lock” was happening, and a power check button that indicated scores.

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Used as a base, the Power On Energizer transfer unit lit up and emitted sounds whenever light beams through the Captain Power action figure, whenever the live-action actor playing Captain Power onscreen (Dunigan, later starring on TV’s short-lived “Davy Crockett” series) gave his “Power On!” battle cry.

Lord Dread had his own ship/gun, the Interlocker, an anti-aircraft throne which exchanged fire with viewers shooting their TV screens at home.

The throne was also ejectable, gave a digital score readout, and had a “battle scope” used for viewing the action from the figure’s eye level.

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There were also three animated (not live-action) VHS “Battle Training Tapes” — Future Force Training, Bio-Dread Assault, and Raid On Volcania, animated by AIC, one of the companies responsible for Bubblegum Crisis (read more) — which each featured fifteen-minute interactive battles and chase footage, which could be used to practice with at home, honing your toy gun skills.

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Parents felt that the show’s battle scenes were too violent, though, and the show’s themes too dark, for young children.

Unfortunately for Mattel Toys, they’d already convinced retailers to purchase forty-two million dollars worth of merchandise, but because the show ended after just twenty-one episodes were aired, retailers were left with a 22-million dollar shortfall in sales.

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Watch Captain Power & the Soldiers of the Future on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.