27 October 2004 | wingsandsword
Good Idea, Poor Execution
As a child of the 80's, I grew up with all the toy/TV fads. GI Joe and Transformers were kings, but there were many claimants to the throne.
Captain Power was one. It had the whole package deal, action figures and vehicles, a TV show, video tapes, and even a tie-in magazine.
The show itself was kinda neat, the only live action children's sci-fi show I think there was in the 80's. Now, the effects were hokey, but I recall that the writing and story lines were actually halfway decent (the excellent J. Michael Stracynzki was responsible for the writing). The show ended up on what was presumably to be a cliffhanger, and I remember thinking that the entire episode was very, very dark for a children's show. Unfortunately they never got to resolve that cliffhanger.
The show broke new ground in it's use of CGI, back in the late 80's before it became ubiquitous in movies about 5 or 6 years later. The villain's two major henchmen were entirely CGI creatures.
There were 3 tie-in videotapes which were just a short intro sequence with the main characters at their base before moving along into an animated battle sequence that was interactive with the gun/ships. There wasn't animation for the battles in the show, but presumably they just used cartoons to save money for the tie-in tapes.
I even had a subscription to the tie-in magazine, which was a disaster. It had it's glossy, shiny opening issue which of course talked all about the show and it's world, with a few side-articles about sci-fi type things going on in the real world (the Biosphere II project and the debut of Star Trek: The Next Generation). By the second (bimonthly) issue Captain Power magazine merged with He Man magazine (a very dying franchise at the time) and production quality of the magazine dropped sharply from it's glossy premier. Then with the third issue it was only He Man magazine (with a short note that Captain Power magazine had been discontinued and the remainder of subscriptions would be serviced by He Man). Then for the 4th issue on the subscription He Man magazine folded and gave way to Muppet Magazine, and so on, as it fell between dying and fading children's entertainment franchises.
Unfortunately, the toys were the real let-down. I remember when Captain Power came out, at the same time as the Nintendo Entertainment System was in the US. Among all my friends, the two products were in direct competition. You could have fun being interactive with your TV by shooting it with light guns built as toy planes, or you could have video game cartridges. The toys themselves weren't exceptional either. I might have been spoiled by GI Joe, which had great figures with good sculpting, flexibility and variety. There were only 3 good guys and 3 bad guy figures (nevermind the variety of heroes and villains on TV), and 2 good-guy vehicles and 2 bad-guy vehicles. The interaction with the TV was glitchy at best (often taking hits when nothing on TV was shooting at you), and almost never scoring hits even when you get right up on the TV and hit it directly.
So, it was a decent show that might have had a shot of being successful, but the poor execution of it's tie-in lines doomed the brand.