Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was a production of The Landmark Entertainment Group and was created by Gary Goddard and Anthony “Tony” Christopher (neither of whom actually wrote any of the stories) and developed by Marc Scott Zicree with J. Michael Straczynski becoming de facto head writer.
The show was set on Earth in the middle 22nd Century and followed the aftermath of the “Metal Wars” – a cybernetic revolt, spurred on by a once-human traitor, Dr. Lyman Taggert, who subsequently became the cyborg tyrant Lord Dread, that resulted in the subjugation of the human race by intelligent machines. Captain Jonathan Power leads a small group of guerrilla fighters, called “The Soldiers Of The Future,” which opposes the machine forces that dominate Earth.
The show ran for 22 episodes and was accompanied by a Mattel toyline that interacted with the TV show! This was because in each episode there would be a segment that included visual and audio material which interacted with the toys.
So how did the Metal Wars start? Well by the year 2132, advanced robotic soldiers known as “Bio-Mechs” had replaced humans in the armed forces of the world’s nations. The existence of Bio-Mechs meant that wars could be fought without significant loss of life, allowing turning war into a nearly harmless battle between machines. A group of scientists, led by Dr. Stuart Gordon Power (Bruce Grey), had begun working on an advanced supercomputer, called OverMind, capable of overriding the control systems which the world’s armed forces used to operate the Bio-Mechs, and thus stop them, bringing an end to war. It required an equivalent to human brain patterns to become operational. But Dr. Power’s closest associate, Dr. Lyman Taggart (David Hemblen), became impatient with the slow pace of the project and hooked himself up to the system, bringing the supercomputer to operational status.
With the new opportunities offered by the human-machine combination, Taggart becomes obsessed with the precision and “perfection” of machines and convinces himself that merging human consciousness with mechanical bodies is the next step in human evolution. OverMind achieves self-awareness and shares Taggart’s beliefs as they take over Bio-Mech armies throughout the world and attack humanity in a conflict known as the Metal Wars.
World governments turn to Dr. Power for find a way to stop Taggart. He develops the “Power Suits,” a combination of exoskeletal body armor and advanced weapons and prepares a number of prototypes for testing. However, Power dies trying to rescue his son Jonathan from Taggart. Taggart himself is severely wounded, and OverMind saves him by implanting cybernetic mechanisms into his body, eventually calling himself Lord Dread.
By 2147, 15 years after the Metal Wars broke out, humanity had been largely annihilated by Lord Dread’s forces, and those who survive live miserable existences in hiding lest they be discovered by Bio-Mechs and “digitized” as virtual beings within OverMind. Advanced Bio-Mechs called Bio-Dreads and humans loyal to Dread carry out the extermination, as Dread rules from his headquarters in Volcania, somewhere in North America.
Despite the dire situation, a number of human forces band together and fight the Bio-Dread Empire. One of the leading human resistance groups, Jonathan Power’s “Power Team,” uses his father’s Power Suits to mount attacks on Bio-Dread forces. They stage out of the “Power Base,” an abandoned NORAD installation in the Rocky Mountains, and are guided by a supercomputer programmed with Mentor, an artificial intelligence whom Dr. Power designed in his own image and voice to guide his son and the group. It is later revealed that there are human resistance groups in other locations.
During the show’s only season, there was a story arc involving Project New Order, Lord Dread’s plan to eradicate human life and develop his ideal world. The plan consisted of four stages:
- STYX – the release of a powerful toxin into the human population;
- CHARON – the creation of an advanced Bio-Dread warrior force;
- ICARUS – the construction of a massive orbital platform capable of large-scale digitizing; and
- PROMETHEUS – the release of a plasma storm capable of scorching the Earth surface.
Captain Power’s group uses a system of teleportation portals, called “transit gates,” both to move quickly around North America and to keep their base’s location secret. However, at the conclusion of the first season, Lord Dread breaks the gates’ access codes and sends forces to assault the base. Power and most of his team escape the facility, but Corporal Jennifer “Pilot” Chase, a former member of the “Bio-Dread Youth,” is trapped and activates the base’s self-destruct mechanism, killing herself and the Bio-Dread troops.
J. Michael Straczynski was the writer of the last episode of the series. He commented about Pilot’s death, revealing that the scene was inspired by an especially tragic event in his own past.
“I’ve never talked about this before—said I was in a thoughtful mood—but I’ve known several people, friends, who’ve taken their own lives. In one case, I spoke to her just beforehand. Tried, through the phone lines, to reach her one more time, pull her back from the edge. I couldn’t. Years pass. Time comes for me to write the last filmed episode of Power.”‘
“Jennifer Chase is going to die, partly of her injuries, partly of her own volition. Part of my life went into that scene, in the way it was constructed, and what was said. And what was not said, what never had the chance to be said, and thus still burns. I knew that, at the crucial moment of that scene, he couldn’t be near her, as I wasn’t near my friend…it had to be long-distance, hearing but not seeing her, and the terrible pain of arriving too late. I cannot watch that episode without crying. Ever.”
Proposed second season
The second season focuses on an anguished Captain Power neglecting his duties as the leader of the team and obsessed with killing Dread and Locke, the slicer who had betrayed them in the previous season finale, to avenge Pilot’s death. Major Hawk would have assumed more leadership roles as Power goes off on his vendetta. Two characters were to have been introduced: Chris “Ranger” O’Connor, a woman who would be Tank’s love interest and Private Chip “TNT” Morrow, a soldier who had appeared in the first season under the name of Andy Jackson.
The plot also covered the team’s quest to find “Eden II,” a supposed secret human refuge mentioned in the first season, while setting up a base of operations on a facility that was the prototype of the Power Base. Lord Dread would have gained a new mechanical form, as actor David Hemblen was not required back let alone, perhaps, for voice work. His new army would have consisted of “Hunter-Seeker” troops and a new Warlord-class Bio-Dread called Xenon. Dread would also have gained a new assistant called Morgana II, a machine with the mind of his former lover – who would have proven to be Jonathan Power’s mother.
OverMind would have taken a larger role in the war and revealed a hidden agenda: after digitizing all the remaining human beings, it would erase them from existence. Wanting to keep this secret from Dread, the plot would have seen the AI give Soaron secret programming to assassinate Lord Dread in case he suspected anything.
In the recent DVD release, series head writer J. Michael Straczynski reveals that the planned end for the series was Lord Dread learning of OverMind’s hidden agenda, and as a result, teaming up with Captain Power to free all of humanity from OverMind.