The mid-late 1980s series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future is best remembered for its rather disappointing interactive toy tie-ins, but those who bothered to watch it recall its surprising depth and the intricacy of its story-lines (particularly for a half-hour children’s show), largely due to the work of future Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Stracynski.
The aforementioned toys–made by Mattel, who also financed the series–weren’t exactly the incredible innovation they were built up to be: The toy spaceships could “shoot” enemy targets on the screen–but kids who were expecting an emotionally satisfying explosion instead got an electronic tone that designated a “hit” or “miss”. Enemies could also shoot back, with hits resulting in the somewhat more dramatic payoff of your ship’s cockpit bursting open and the action figure inside falling out (yes, I had one).
The show only lasted a single season, however, Captain Power has developed something of a cult following. The popularity of Babylon 5 no doubt lead many to seek out the all but forgotten show, and a few years ago it got its own remastered DVD set featuring six hours of extras.
Here’s what show creator Gary Goddard had to say to io9 about the original Captain Power:
Captain Power was my attempt to merge sci-fi and superheroes, two of my great loves. And beyond that, I wanted to create a show that would be groundbreaking. First, a story that would start in the ashes of defeat (for the human race) and show how a small group of warriors, with power suits that would level the playing field with the opposing forces, could change the course of the war. The idea that they would fight to preserve life against all odds was at the heart of the story. And then, the idea of a live action show with CGI created bionic “monsters” that the armored team would fight against – this was a radical idea at the time. CGI capabilities were not at the level to create “realistic” robotic creatures that could be composited into live action sequences. And on a weekly series! Live action heroes battling larger than life bionic “thinking” machines – in a weekly series – was considered impossible.
And then, when we went to Mattel, they pulled out the interactive toy technology and said “can you work this into the show?” And I said, I thought we could find a way, but that it could not be a situation where the shows “featured” this technology. Rather the shows would work whether or not you – as an audience member – knew there was any interactivity. But here we were on a very aggressive schedule producing a series that was going to merge live action production with the CGI biodreads, a challenge in an of itself, and then we added this other layer of interactive technology for the Mattel toys. But that show was definitely ahead of its time.
Now Goddard’s production company is pitching a reboot of Captain Power called Phoenix Rising, with a pilot script written by Trek scribes Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Phoenix Rising will be an hour long show, and will accentuate the darker, more mature aspects of the old show, making it more of an adult sci-fi drama than the 30 minute toy commercial its predecessor went down in TV history as.
Captain Power star Tim Dunigan will return as the father of his old character: Show protagonist Johnathan Power, in the form of a holographic mentor.
The pilot has yet to be picked up, but reportedly it’s being shopped around to markets outside the United States, one of which, it seems, is very interested.
We’ll definitely be watching this story very closely, and bring you updates as they become available.