When I was seven years old, I joined the Resistance.
I lived in a post apocalyptic world where technology had corrupted human flesh to the point of no return. Cities were in ruin, we lived in hiding and every day brought the possibility of being Digitized: having every piece of your organic matter broken down into encoded data and stored by the machines. This was the world of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. Where the adults could go enjoy those hefty rated R films that kids like me couldn’t see, at home, there was a dark, gritty show that I could watch all on my own. It didn’t talk to me like I was a child, the stakes were high and the danger was very real. Captain Power was the birth of my fandom. It was the ignition switch that propelled me over the edge into a full blown lover of all things Sci Fi. Sure, there were other incredible properties that exploded onto the scene in the 80′s. When thinking back on what they loved about their childhood, some people think of that familiar hissing sound when a lightsaber bursts to life, or the cool blue pulse of a Warp Nacelle just before the Enterprise leaps across the galaxy. For me though, it was hearing Actor Tim Dunigan say the words, “ Power On ” and watching Captain Jonathan Power morph into a golden clad juggernaut with a blaster at his side.
It was a show that made me drop the old cliche’s of my childhood. Good guys weren’t invincible anymore. There was no, “I’ll get you Gadget” or “Foiled again”! No, this was a whole new ball game. The bad guys had already won. This was about hitting back and looking good while doing it. There was a sense of desperation and determination that I couldn’t find anywhere else. It made me want to help. I had to go buy Captain Power toys! I had to get Captain Power Armor! The Resistance needed me! And holy hell, the toys were incredible. The only thing that rivaled the excitement of an impending birthday party or Christmas morning, was knowing I was about to hunker down in front of a television with my Powerjet XT-7, pop in the Captain Power Raid on Volcania Skill Level 3 VHS and save the world. I remember flailing around in front of the TV, weaving the Powerjet as skillfully as possible to avoid being shot at. If you were lucky, you made it to the end with out triggering the sensor in the Powerjet, shot from a light source on the TV and causing your Captain Power action figure to explode out of the cockpit and sail through the air. There was simply nothing like it. Nothing! When the TV was in use, it was time to strap on that plastic Captain Power chest plate and put on that Captain Power helmet (that never sat still on your head, causing frequent blindness at critical moments in battle).
Megatron was certainly one of the most iconic villains of our childhood, but I will never forget the first time I ever saw Lord Dread. I thought someone had taken Sark from TRON, crossed him with a T-800 and an Imperial Officer from Star Wars and then put him on a Throne that made Skeletor’s look like a lawn chair. There were the Bio-Dreads, the robotic CGI Sentries of Volcania. CGI! On TV! In 1987! Seven years before Babylon 5 made us sci fi nerds flip out with its special effects, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was bringing us face to face with robotic CGI demons hell bent on digitizing everyone that defied the orders of their master. Soaron was a frightening foe, cunning and wicked. His sleek silver look and those red eyes would haunt me as a kid. Sometimes during recess, I would keep my eyes on the sky just in case he had found out about my other life in the real world and planned an attack while I was vulnerable. Part of me wanted him to! But it was the relentless menace of Blastaar that nearly gave me nightmares. His voice, those tank treads for feet…
And of course, there was the healthy crush I had on Corporal Jennifer ‘Pilot’ Chase, played by the beautiful and talented Jessica Steen (who has continued her trend of playing bad ass warrior women throughout her career).
It was a an insurgency. Captain Power was everywhere and all my friends and I ever wanted to do was watch it and play it. My course had been laid in: I was a Sci Fi nerd for life! Then, one morning, tragedy struck and it struck hard.
I didn’t realize it as I sat down in front of the TV, but I was about to watch the final episode of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. As a kid, I never followed the trends of what shows were doing behind the scenes or if it was being canceled. Kids today seem knowledgeable of such things, but back then no one really paid much attention to the politics or ebbs and flows of television programming. Shows get canceled all the time, but not Captain Power! Something this amazing? This original? This huge? No way. Yes way. And it ended with a heart crushing punch to the feelers.
I had already been exposed to death when it came to characters I loved. Optimus Prime anyone? Folks my age love to reference that moment, when Optimus hands the Autobot Matrix of Leadership over to Ultra Magnus… then quietly dies from his wounds. It was a stunning moment for us kids. But Optimus never truly died, did he? We heard his voice at the end of the film as Hot Rod becomes Rodimus Prime. And then there’s his resurrection in the cartoon show shortly after. Optimus died, but he came back big time! Corporal Jennifer ‘Pilot’ Chase dies and the show died seconds after her. Not only does she go out in a heroic blaze of glory, but we are treated to a gut wrenching montage of her life with the team and tender moments with Jonathan Power, just before we go to the last credit sequence of the show.
I was at the edge of my seat. Blastaar was in the base! Pilot was alone! Captain Power is trying to get to her! But there’s no time! She’s wounded, out gunned and everything is about to be lost! She makes the hard call: she has to destroy the Power Base! The seconds that followed her decision were seared into my mind and stayed there well into adulthood:
Pilot confesses her love.
Bastaar breaches the door and lays down his ultimatum, leveling his gun to digitize her. Pilot turns, her hand hovering over the Self Destruct switch and rage on her face.
“GO TO HELL!” she defiantly screams!
And then I watched the both the woman little seven year old me loved and the Power Base that I had come to call home, explode. A surreal quiet settles on the bridge of the Powerjet, as our Hero, Captain Power puts his head in his hands.
Mom had to come see why I was crying.
Captain Power never returned to the airwaves and eventually I became a nostalgic teenager who would occasionally remember that final dramatic scene from that one show I used to love. Not too long after that, I became an adult and Captain Power was a fleeting memory. And then one day, Captain Power walked through my door. It’s a story for another time, but it’s enough to say that a chance meeting with a pair of deeply passionate sci fi fans who just so happen to be involved with the relaunch of this incredible show, crossed my path and found a kindred spirit.
Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was a gem. It was ahead of its time, so far ahead in fact it couldn’t sustain itself in the decade it was aired. But now it’s 2014 and guess who is back? It’s time for this fantastic story to rise from the ashes and here in the Mentor Files, you’re going to be kept up to date on what is happening with the relaunch of Captain Power, now called Phoenix Rising. My name is Eric and I am a proud member of the Resistance against Lord Dread. Chances are, if you’re reading this right now, you are too. Welcome back Captain Power Fans.
– Eric Campbell
Fan Liaison & Mentor A.I. Systems Specialist