Hi everyone, and welcome back to--
Sir, I realize these are progressive times, but you appear to be naked.
Huh? Oh. Right. Sorry. Here. Power on!
And welcome back to A Mind Occasionally Voyaging as we dive once again into the post-apocalyptic world of...
Now, I'm not saying that I am tapped into the pulse of Hollywood, but on October 19, I posted my review of episode one of Captain Power, and on October 20, CNN Entertainment did a feature on it. Which can only mean one thing.
That the pending DVD release has sparked up public interest, including both the CNN article and your own review?
Um, no. Clearly, it means that the writers at CNN Entertainment have spies in my basement, watching me blog.
One thing I learned from the article is that Tim Dunigan, who, as I mentioned last time, is now a mortgage broker, still has the Captain Power suit, and sometimes wears it to work to impress clients.
- A Mortgage broker shows up to closing dressed as Captain Power
- B "I have five piercings. Guess where they are."
- C 3 AM Text Messages from Ex-Girlfriend You Haven't Spoken To In Five Years Demanding Personal Details About Your Wife
- D Bumping into Shari Lewis at the Holocaust Museum
I can't quite imagine how this could have a positive effect on a normal client, but of course had he been my mortgage broker, I think I would have immediately caved on that extra half a point I wanted them to take off. To better explain, please see the chart to the right to explain exactly where this idea falls on the scale of awesome to creepy.
I haven't mentioned Gary Goddard before. His entertainment company has been responsible for a lot of things, mostly designing theme park entertainment like the Star Trek Experience and Jurassic Park: The Ride. But he also has done work on the stage, in Specifically, Masters of the Universe, but I can't imagine that's the thing he wants to be remembered for.film, and television. And the reason I bring him up is that he created Captain Power, and in the CNN article, he mentions wanting to revive Power as a modern not-for-kids Sci-Fi Drama, a la the (now old) new Battlestar Galactica. Which would kind of blow my mind -- in much the same way that the new Galactica did -- though I'm having a hard time imagining an adult audience taking a title like Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future seriously. Still, fingers crossed.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. For a revival to get greenlit, people need to buy the DVDs, and for people to buy the DVDs, you need to read my reviews, see the wonder and majesty that is Captain Power, and mutter to yourself "Oh man, I have to buy this and tell all my friends to do the same!" In this episode of A Mind Occasionally Voyaging, we're retreating back to the magical land of the eighties to take a look at episode 2 of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
Episode 2: Wardogs
By Larry DiTillio
And here I have some eratta from last time. I previously credited the writer of Episode 1 as "Larry Oitillio". That's because they insisted on doing all the intertitles for this show in the OCR Font designed to convey "It's the FUTURE!" to the audience by showing them 1960s banking technology. Google assures me that Larry DiTillio is a fairly famous writer, whose credits include He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Babylon 5. So I should not at all be surprised to see his name attached to this show.
We open on Cap's Log, explaining that they've received word of several well-orchestrated raids against Dread in "It's the future, so regions don't have names, but numbers.Sector Seven", and that he's sent Hawk out to do
a greenscreen "field correspondent" piece for The Daily Show aerial reconnaissance.
A Dread convoy is doing its darnedest to look inconspicuous against the gray and colorless backdrop. Aside from the bright red strobing target lights on the front. We cut to this episode's guest talent, hiding behind a rock. The man observes the Dread troop movements and reports back to an unseen female voice, name-dropping something called "Eden 2", which is their ultimate goal, and -- hey, where do I know that voice from?
Anyway, the guy with the binoculars orders his gang, who he refers to as "War Doggies", to attack. I'll take a moment now to point out, outside of the regular cast, the only characters we saw in episode 1 were the bio-mechs, the sontaran, and Athena, who is fairly well groomed, having just been restored from tape backup. So this is really the first time we see Non-Future-Force-People-of-the-Future living the post-apocalyptic lifestyle. They look pretty much like you'd expect: like extras from a Mad Max film. Long hair, sleeveless shirts, more exposed chest hair than I am really comfortable with, Rambo-style headbands, shoulder pads that would make Rob Liefeld cream himself, and -- oh holy crap. The guy calling the shots in the raid is notable First Nations actor and guy-often-confused-with-the-English-author Graham Greene. You may remember him from... Pretty much everything in the last 20 years that called for a Native American of a Certain Age. His big break in the US market was Dances With Wolves, but he also held such widely respected roles as the Alaskan dad in Roget Ebert's least favorite movie ever, North, as well as episodes of A great show which I really miss now that it's gone, in spite of doing something silly with their title such that I am forced to refer to the show as "Numb-three-ers".Numb3rs (as a Native American chief), The Red Green Show (as a nearly deaf and possibly deranged explosive expert), the second Twilight movie (as Charlie's token Native American-slash-Werewolf friend), and Canadian time-travel-domestic-drama Being Erica (as probably the most senior of the time-traveling therapists. Seriously, if you're not watching Being Erica, you should be. It also has a former Power Ranger in it), and numerous other things I haven't watched and therefore will not mention.
He will be playing the role of "Cherokee" this week, a name which reflects all the care and subtlety that goes into choosing a name that reflects and is respectful to the character's heritage without straying into harmful stereotypes or cliche oversimplifications. Well, that or they just threw a dart at a board with popular Native American-Sounding names on it and it landed just shy of Tecumseh. But what can you expect from a culture where most people still use the term "Indian" for a people who we've known for over 600 years are from the opposite side of the planet from India.
The doggies make short work of the Bio-Mechs, by which I mean there's an overly long fight scene to show off the strobe effects in order to give the kids their money's worth this episode. Eighties River Tam jumps atop a tank and tosses a grenade inside, in order to establish her as a reckless risk-taker, a trait which will at no point be relevant. We cut back to Hawk, who reports in that he hasn't seen anything, such as a pitched firefight with a large Dread convoy, and that someone is "playing a game of hide and seek". On the ground, a mech with a giant truck-mounted canon decides that it would be a good time to reveal his presence and starts shooting. That finally gets Hawk's attention, unlike the previous firefight, and he dispatches the mech with a single shot from his wrist mounted nerf rocket. Unfortunately, none of the wardogs see him do this, because a few seconds later, they look up, and Eighties River Ram identifies him as a Graham Greene repeats it back to her as "Clicker", so I assume it's Futuristic Slang for "robot" and they've mistaken him for a mech. But she quite distinctly pronounces it "Quaker".Quaker, and because they apparently hate the society of Friends, Graham Greene shoots Hawk with his big gun, disabling him in a single hit.
Knocked out of the sky, Hawk falls powerless, perhaps thousands of feet, to land on the sun-baked desert landscape below, and is severely injured. He'll spend the rest of the episode slowly dying of his massive internal injuries. Naw, I'm just kidding. Hawk isn't hurt at all, just playing possum. Cap psychically deduces something has happened, and tries in vain to reach Hawk on the radio, but he's called away by Tank and Scout, who've discovered a secret gigantic Dread-made technodrome in the middle of nowhere which they think for no clear reason must be related to Project New Order, so they'd better look into it, what with everyone having read the back of the box, and knowing that Project New Order will be a recurring plot element over the course of the series.
Graham Greene and Eighties River Tam are still bound and determined to mistake Hawk for a Bio-Dread, and make plans to cut his head off to access his delicious bubble memory and nougat center. Hawk overpowers Eighties River Tam, springs to his feet, and, having his would-be decapitators at gunpoint, and defended from their counterfire by his armor suit... Powers his suit down so everyone can see his Spooky Face while he tells them, "Sorry, but I've gotten used to this head!" Bless his heart. He's really trying to toss off a cool one-liner, and it just isn't working out for him. He proceeds to go through a lengthy series of really creepy facial expressions that I think are aiming for "Dirty Harry", but come off as "Creepy Stalker" as he explains that his butt hurts and he is not happy about having been shot at. Larry DiTillio is still convinced he can keep up this farce about the Wardogs thinking Hawk is working for Dread, so they just sneer at him while someone offscreen presses a gun to Hawk's neck. Graham Greene calls him a "Dread Head", but Hawk can't even get out his angry retort as he turns around to see this newest attacker, then squeals like a little girl when he sees that it's his old friend-with-benefits Vi. They go in for a quick cuddle while Graham Greene and Eighties River Tam look on in befuddlement, before a hard cut to the inside of... Somewhere. I mean, I assume it's a cave or something, but this really just drives home for me how completely ungrounded this episode is, geographically. The Wardoggies had assumed that the convoy they raided was headed for Dread's base. Did they mean Volcania? Volcania is supposed to be in Detroit, and is post apocalyptic urban sprawl as far as the eye can see. This is... A quarry. Possibly the same quarry as the last episode. Now, admittedly, we never went as far north as Michigan on that road trip I took out to the midwest ten years ago, but I'm like 50% sure that Detroit is not normally surrounded by a desert wasteland riddled with cliffs and caves and desert. Given that Hawk is ostensibly Canadian and Vi served with him in the Metal Wars, and Graham Greene is Canadian, so I might guess that this episode is set in Canada. Sure. Why not. According to myth, had a second season been produced, the Power Base would have relocated to Canada. Now, my Canadian geography is not great, so for all I know, there are huge swaths of Canada which look like generic post-apocalyptic deserts (cliff-bearing type), but I am unconvinced that there exists a place in Canada where one would get "much needed supplies" in convoy-quantities such that the shortest path from there to Detroit takes you though such a landscape.
Logic suggests that such a convoy could only originate in Ottowa, Toronto, or Montreal.
It is fascinating how much I fail to care. Vi introduces Hawk to the Wardoggies. Well, she introduces him to them. There's no scene where they cut to each of them in turn giving us a name and a personality trait so that we care if they die later. Instead, Vi takes Hawk back to her room to... Apparently talk abut Hawk's dead wife. I assume she's dead. And his wife. We really just get "What about Joanna? Is she--" and a sad head-shake from Hawk. She also asks after "Mitch and Katie", who were "In Dalworth when Dread hit it." Again, nothing to connect these to, but, um. Did they just tell us that Hawk's children are dead? Or digitized, a fate which the last episode dedicated itself to explaining was worse. Hawk tries to get Vi and the Wardoggies to join La Resistance, but she's tired of all this fighting, thinks the war is unwinnable, and is "If this is indeed Canada, "north" seems like an unlikely place to put your mythical promised land heading north" to a place called
EarthPrelapsarian BoogalooEden 2, which they've got a hot tip about, though Hawk doesn't believe in it.
While they're each trying to convince the other to run off with them, Graham Greene rushes in to alert them to a ship on their radar. Hawk identifies it as Cap's shuttle, and runs outside to call him. And because Hawk apparently does not carry a radio separate from his easily-disabled and power-limited Power Suit, this requires Powering On.
He calls home and, typical man, invites Cap over to Vi's place and totally expects her to do all the cooking when he didn't even ask her ahead of time. Cap totally ditches Tank and Scout, revealing which teammates really matter to him. Tank and Scout tempt fate by saying that everything is totes cool and Dread's forces have no idea whatever that they're nearby. A little flying nothing-in-particular-shaped thing scans them with its Dalek Vision, and instantly, Dread is personally alerted in Volcania. Dread does not understand the concept of matrixed management models. He So... What exactly is Dread doing before he turns around to face the screen. Does he just sit there in his throne all day looking dour at the empty space in front of him?turns toward the video screens, the only adornment in his lair. He immediately places his base on high alert, and calls Soaron. Man took over the entire world and has reduced 98% of the human race to convenient 3.5" floppy disc, but he seems to have exactly one guy he can go to when he needs something done.
We cut back to inside the Wardoggies' cave, where Hawk has, of course, immediately de-morphed. Cap is here now, and Vi is explaining their plan to rendezvous with a contact who is going to get them to Eden 2. Cap explains that the entire "It's the future. There are sectors now.sector" is closed off, and offers to take them to "The Passages", but they're determined. And if Eden 2 turns out to be a myth, they'll... Find something else. We have yet to hear anything about these Passages other than "they're a place where Cap takes people he saves, where they are safe," and we have yet to hear anything about Eden 2 other than "It's a place where you can go and be safe," so any real sense of why they'd be so determined to choose the one over the other was certainly not clear to audiences during the original airing, or, for that matter, to internet critics a quarter century later.
Vi indicates that she will not be swayed, so, in spite of Hawk's protests that Cap somehow magically convince her otherwise, Cap and Pilot decide to just bugger off to see what Tank and Scout have found, leaving Hawk to... Um, do whatever I guess.
Soaron flies around, basically just to show off the state-of-the-art 1980s CGI for a good 30 seconds before landing in front of -- hey, isn't that exactly the same Egyptian Catacomb entryway from last week? Anyway, he orders the biomechs to withdraw and announces VERY LOUDLY that they're going to abandon this top secret and highly valuable base. Scout calls Cap and asks if they should go in. Cap tells them to hang back, so they can all march blindly into the trap together. We cut back to Scout and Tank, and it sounds for all the world like the boom mike catches one of them farting.
Back in the caves, Hawk is still grousing about Vi's unwillingness to give up her dream of leaving the horrors of war behind to hide out in a secret underground refuge in favor of leaving the horrors of war behind to hid out in his secret underground refuge. Vi decides to win the argument by seducing Hawk, by stepping out from behind a curtain dressed like Donna Reed. She's all dolled up for some romance, but for some reason, they decided that, with Hawk and Vi both being Soldiers of a Certain Age, their notion of dressed-for-seduction is straight out of the 1950s. I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that the writer momentarily forgot that this is the future, and that the, say, thirty years earlier when Hawk was in his prime is still a hundred and thirty years in the future.
Or maybe he did, which is why Hawk's reaction to this clumsy act of seduction is a look of confused horror. This reaction, and I realize that you will all be shocked to learn this, is not what Vi was expecting, and she starts to cry and self-deprecate over her foolishness. But it turns out that the sight of a woman crying is exactly what it takes to get Hawk's motor running, and he rushes over, takes hold of her and announces, "Which he means as a compliment, but it seems to edge kinda close to "Given that my choices are heavily restricted due to the apocalypse, I guess you'll do."You're the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time," and then they make out.
The show suddenly remembers that this is a kid's action adventure, and we cut back to Captain Power and company before we get to see Hawk pull out his little war doggie. They gun down the few remaining guards at the Technodrome, and Pilot unlocks the front door using
an industrial vibrator a sonic screwdriver. Inside, Scout finds computer files about the mysterious "Project New Order", which he tries to decrypt, while the others plant a time bomb, and have just found a pile of Ominously Foreshadowy Barrels when they are caught by a band of mechs led by Dread's chief Nazi, "Overunit Weber".
Overunit Weber is a sort of over-the-top "pretty-boy" fascist type, in a a uniform listed straight from the SS, with jodhpurs and an abundance of braid and decoration, and a tall hat, and, for reasons best known to himself, enormous Mr. T-style bling. He gloats over how Power is now his prisoner, and prepares to dispatch the remaining Rangers of the Future, unaware that Scout is still in the next room. Scout morphs his suit into the likeness of Lord Dread and walks in on them just as Overunit Weber calls the real Dread to report his victory. Scout makes no attempt at subterfuge: he just walks in, stands there for a second, and Overunit Weber is surprised enough by this that Cap can give the order for the others to start shooting. Which means that there's absolutely no reason Scout had to turn into the likeness of Dread. Which has me thinking...
Cap and company brutally slaughter all the mechs, allowing Overunit Weber to run away like a small child. They give chase, but like all secret Dread facilities, there's a "Lock the heroes in a small trap-lined hallway" button, locking our heroes in a narrow room with bunch of giant novelty phalluses hanging from the ceiling.
Knowing that the visual style of this series was heavily influenced by Japanese media, the Future Force fears that this show is about to take a tragically Hentai turn, and Tank creates an exit for them the way only he can.
Back in the caves, Vi is back in her uniform with an easygoing, postcoital manner as she tries to persuade Hawk to come away with her to Eden (yeah, brother) 2, as "We've done our share of the fighting. Let's spend whatever time we have left loving." As she considers helping herself to another heaping helping of Hawk, Graham Greene busts in and announces that Dread's pulled all his forces east, giving them an opening to slip off to meet their contact. Hawk, though, knows that "east" is the general direction where the rest of his team has gone. After a few seconds of hesitation, Graham Green sheepishly reveals that Cap and the others are trapped. Way to bury the Yes, that's how it's spelled. It's newspaper jargon.lede there, Cherokee.
Hawk asks Vi for help, and she holds fast that, if it were just her, she'd do it, but she's unwilling to risk her men. Hawk goes hardcore Bros Before Hos with her and says, "Yeah. I feel the same way about the Captain," which you can read as extremely homoerotic if you want, but I choose not to ship Hawk and Cap because the age difference makes it kind of creepy for me. He storms off, telling the rest of the Wardoggies, "I hope you find your paradise," in a tone that very clearly indicates that by "I hope you find your paradise," he means "Go fuck yourselves." Yeah. How dare they not want to give up their only chance at survival and a peaceful escape from decades of horrific war and the constant threat of a fate worse than death to go on a probably suicidal mission to save a group of five strangers who are much better equipped than they are and wouldn't even need saving if they hadn't waltzed into possibly the most obvious trap to ever be shown in a television series before the premiere of Stargate SG-1? Anyway, Hawk powers up again and salutes Vi, which I'm going to take as one last parting jab, since he's making a point to make his final goodbye to her as a soldier rather than as a lover.
Outside the Technodrome, Soaron is... Just sort of hanging around. Dread calls him and alerts him to Hawk's approach. And we get another exciting air battle, where we intercut back and forth between a badly CSO'd Hawk and a badly CGI'd Soaron trading shots at each other, most of their laser blasts exploding harmlessly in the empty air behind or off to the side of their targets.
The fight goes on for, well, too long really, then Hawk seems to just kind of get distracted and plays with his glove for a while, giving Soaron the opportunity to get in a good shot which knocks Hawk out of the air and unmorphs him. Soaron declares "Victory is mine!" So naturally, God smites him for his pride by having the Wardoggies show up and in about three shots from the ground, dispatch Soaron, who could hold his own against Hawk, who was flying. Vi helps Hawk up and announces that she'd decided to "Give Dread something to remember us by," which prompts a warm expression from the previously kind of dickish Hawk. Fickle!
The exposition fairy inspires Tank to remind Cap that there's a bomb about to explode on the computer in the next room, and that their power suits are almost drained, because these things get slightly worse gas mileage than '57 Chevy with six passengers and a trunk full of gold bullion. For his trouble, he takes one to the chest in the next volley of gunfire and powers down. A cutaway to the bomb shows 87 seconds left on the clock. Overunit Weber orders Power to surrender, but Cap responds by telling Weber to "This show is really terrible about pithy one-liners. That bit from Hawk about his ass being sore is pretty much the best we're going to get.Come try it." But just as Overunit Weber orders their destruction, the Wardoggies blast their way in through the wall. They don't actually do anything; the distraction just gives Cap an opening to gun down all the Bio-Mechs while Overunit Weber curls up in the fetal position. Can't have our heroes killing a human. Hawk offers them a lift, and the rest of the team races back to the curiously doorway-shaped hole. Tank looks back to tell the empty room "Less get out! Zeese plays gonna blow!" For emphasis, we cut back to the bomb timer, which now shows 15 seconds, even though it's only been 30 seconds since the last time we saw it. Exactly twenty seconds later, just as the Future Force and Wardoggies are driving away in their little tiny tank-jeep-of-the-future thing, the bomb explodes. Or maybe not. Something explodes, but it's clearly an entirely different design of building than the technodrome we've seen in every other exterior shot. And a good thing too, because Overunit Weber who they'd gone out of their way not to kill was still inside the technodrome.
With only a few seconds left in the episode, Vi and Hawk say their goodbyes and exchange a last kiss as the rest of the cast sort of stands around awkwardly, trying to figure out why the director didn't tell them all to wander out of frame for this bit so that it didn't look like everyone else had huddled around to watch Hawk make out. As the Wardogs drive away, Vi and Hawk exchange a last salute to each other, but since Hawk isn't being a passive-aggressive dick at the moment, it's a very relaxed and casual salute. In fact, Vi looks more like she's just waving at him, and Hawk looks more like he's tipping an invisible top hat at her.
And that, friends, is episode 2 of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. I think it's a pretty solid one -- it's a character-focus episode for Hawk, which is a little weird this early on, but as I said before, I get the distinct impression that the aired ordering of these episodes didn't have a lot of thought put into it. The big thing you'll probably notice is that the plot of this story, at its most basic, is "One of our heroes meets up with an old love interest, gets shot at, then smooches. They raid a Dread base and blow it up after hearing a cryptic clue about 'Project New Order'. Dread sets up an obvious trap and the heroes fall for it." So on that level, it's basically the same story as last week. But this one lacks all the heaviness that comes from making a protracted rape metaphor. Further, by separating the episode out into the A-plot with Hawk and the B-plot with the others, this episode is a lot more balanced, giving everyone something to do, even if Pilot is limited to unlocking doors with sex toys. This episode has a lot more action, and just a lot more general-stuff-going-on, and it doesn't stray too far into dangerous territory by getting hung up on a protracted metaphor.
Which isn't to say that this episode is shallow: the whole thing with the Wardogs in general and Vi in particular is a prevailing sense of how just plain exhausting war is. We have all the proof we need that Vi and the Wardogs aren't cowards, and they aren't weak, but they've been fighting for years, and they're just plain tired of it. And the way Hawk and Vi act toward each other feels pretty natural -- I give Hawk grief for being a dick to Vi, but it's a very natural sort of dickishness: his friends are in danger so he lashes out -- and they're both quick to forgive when the crisis passes. I don't especially like Hawk in those scenes, but I can understand where he's coming from.
Now, this series is really a showcase for why "Half-Hour Drama" is not a common modern TV format. I really would have liked to have some insight into the Wardogs themselves. After their first scene, their screen presence basically shrinks down to "Graham Greene walks into the scene, delivers a message, then leaves." There just isn't time to develop more that the one of them -- we don't even learn most of their names.
Warning: the next paragraphs contain a discussion of gender essentialism and the portrayal of women in the media. If you're not cool with that, skip ahead to the paragraph accompanied by a Mad Libs cover.