First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the 1988 interactive series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, you need to watch it. This series was freakin’ fantastic, and while it was marketed as a kid’s show, this thing told a dark, deep, and complex story. Sure there was some silliness as well, but the storytelling was top-notch.
If you have watched the first and only season, like me, you’re going to wish that it would have gotten a second season because it sounds like it would have been awesome and taken the show to a whole new level.
The series was created by Gary Goddard (Masters of the Universe) for Mattel, and he wrote it along with Marc Scott Zicree (Centurions, Super Friends, The Real Ghostbusters, Twilight Zone, Star Trek: The Next Generation) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5). The story was set on Earth in the 22nd century following the Metal Wars, a cybernetic revolt that resulted in the subjugation of the human race by intelligent machines. Captain Jonathan Power and a small group of guerrilla fighters, called the « Soldiers of the Future, » oppose the machine forces that dominate Earth.
Captain Power attempted to reach both children and adult audiences, with its dark, post-apocalyptic storyline showing the aftermath of nuclear war and featured allegories on topics such as Nazism. The show was seen as being too violent for kids because of its toys for shooting at the television and live-action violence. Then there were the less mature aspects of the series which drove away adult audiences. On top of that, each episode cost a million dollars to make at the time, which was way too costly for a kid’s show. Then there was the early morning Sunday morning time slot that it had. All of these things led to the series being canceled after only one season.
But, before it was canceled there was a second season in the works, and I just wanted to share some details on what that next chapter of the story would have entailed.
The second season was going to focus on Captain Power neglecting his duties as the leader of the team and being obsessed with killing Dread and Locker, the slicer who had betrayed them, and to avenge Pilot’s death. Major Hawk would have assumed leadership as Power goes off on his vendetta and Season 2 was to have seen the introduction of new characters Chris « Ranger » O’Connor, a woman who would be Tank’s love interest and Private Chip « TNT » Morrow, a soldier had appeared in the first season under the name of Andy Jackson.
Larry DiTillio, who served as story editor on the series gave an interview way back in 1989 with Starlog, and he offered lots of information about Season 2. Starlog no longer exists, but I managed to find this interview conducted by Marc Sharpiro, and I had to share it! It details all the main points we would have seen in Season 2, and I sure wish the creative team would have got to make it!
The second, and so far lost, season of Captain Power finds the Soldiers of the Future homeless and to a large extent, vulnerable after the fiery destruction in ‘Retribution’. They become more urban guerrilla in their outlook as they travel across the battle-ravaged landscape in search of a new Power Base. Dread and to a larger degree, Overmind continue to wreck havoc and do battle with Power and company. Along the way, the War Dogs and other new and old characters put in appearances.
« The tone of the second season was similar to The Empire Strikes Back , » explains DiTillio. « There were many threads from the first season that would unravel in the second. Eden II was going to become actively involved in the battle with Dread. Several new characters were going to be introduced and the characters returning from the first season would undergo changes in personality. We were going to do more multi-part stories that would carry a thread from the previous episode. It wasn’t going to be just the ‘Ruined Earth’ scenario anymore. Power and his group would be on the move and consequently, we would have used different locations. We were also going to show, through different episodes, that the post-holocaust society wasn’t made up entirely of helpless people. »
The second season wouldn’t have wasted any time. A two-parter entitled ‘Vendetta’ would have kicked off the season with Captain Power addressing Pilot’s death in a decidedly un-heroic manner.
« Power basically stops the war to take personal vengeance on Dread for Pilot’s death. It was the beginning of an evolution that was going to make Power less of a goody-goody hero and more of a bitter,Mad Max kind of character. The heroic leader is a pretty limiting and thankless role. We hoped to add some real dimension to his character by having him evolve from a relative innocent to a bitter loose cannon. »
Also scheduled for some twists in characterisation were Scout. » We basically got so wrapped up in the thread of Project New Order that we didn’t realise the good chances we were missing with Scout. He played an important part in a number of the second season episodes, in particular ‘Face of Darkness’. It was a real from-the-heart kind of story. Scout also figured in an ongoing relationship with one of the new characters. And in the light of the fact that Power would get progressively crazier as the season progressed, we had plans for Hawk, who got quite a bit of play during the first season, to assume more of the leadership role for the group »
Tank, reveals DiTillio was also due for a major change of pace. » We knew that for Tank to shine, we had to get him out of the suit and involved in doing physical things. There were also plans for him to become somewhat involved with another character on the show » Conspicuous in the Captain Power production offices during the first season was a vast array of sketches of possible new characters for guest shot or recurring roles. With the possible exception of Andy Jackson [see The Intruder] who DiTillio claims would have made at least a token appearance during the aborted second season, none of these characters made it past the drawing board. But, with Pilot’s demise in « Retribution » some new additions were planned.
« With Pilot gone, we felt we had to have another female in the crew and from the beginning, we felt she had to be much tougher than Pilot, more of a commando type. » Filling this void resulted in the introduction of Ranger, a no-nonsense survivor of an early Dread attack who has sworn her own kind of vengeance on Dread. » Ranger would have presented some interesting departures for the show, » DiTillio speculates. « Unlike Power and the rest of the Soldiers of the Future, Ranger has no problems with killing. She also isn’t big on taking orders which would have been the cause for further conflicts. Plus, after Pilot’s death, Power is reluctant to risk the life of another member of his group, especially another woman. Ranger was also going to figure in a possible relationship with Tank. » chuckles DiTillio. » Tank is uncomfortable around women so we felt it would make things interesting if we threw Ranger at him, In her first meeting with Tank, she was going to take one look at him and say, ‘That’s for me.’She was going to be hustling him. »
On the side of the devils, Dread’s ‘tin-can robots’ would have been replaced by invincible balls of energy called Hunter Seekers. Dread was also going to get an assistant named Morganna II. » Morganna II is, to an extent, an android-like creation, » says DiTillio » She’s human consciousness transplanted into a metal body and a creation who is very beautiful, very lethal and very mysterious. Her storyline [which DiTillio refuses to disclose] would have been surprise and would have opened up an additional threat for a planned third season. » We were going to have her become involved in a relationship with Scout. They’re both fascinated by machines so we felt it would be interesting to throw them together and see what developed. »
But DiTillio claims that the biggest development beyond Captain Power’s grim new attitude would have been the next phase of Lord Dread. » Dread’s changes were going to be considerable, » admits DiTillio. » With his brain have been linked with Overmind, Dread was becoming more of a machine anyway, so we decided to take the character the next logical step and put his human consciousness into a machine body [This is hinted at in the final episode of the first season – BL] He would become visually, more imposing: A sleek killing machine who would begin thinking more and more like a machine but whose lingering sense of humanity would slowly but surely drive him mad. Dread’s agenda would also change. At this point he’s no longer interested in digitising human survivors. What he wants to do is wipe them out. Overmind was also going to be beefed up. He was going to come to the fore in the second season, unveil a hidden agenda and make it plain that he is the one running things. »
The story editor also recounts some projected changes in the series that would have altered the Captain Power landscape. » Because the Power Base was destroyed at the first season’s end, we would have had Power and his group running around without a way to recharge their power suits. They would only use the suits in an extreme emergency and would have spent most of the time running around in jungle camouflage . Tech City was also going to figure prominently in some new episodes. And there was also a very real possibility that Sauron [Soaron] would have a falling out with Dread and join up with Captain Power. Things were definitely going to change. »
And uppermost in those changes was the projected cutting down of the battles scenes in favour of the stories taking precedence. Given that attitude, something had to go. It turned out to be the interactivity. Interactivity proves a touchy subject with DiTillio, who denied Mattel forced a certain number of interactivity scenes on Captain Power’s writers.
« ‘Forced’ is not a good word » he declares. » We were given parameters of having a minimum of one minute and a maximum of three minutes of interactivity per episode. Because of the technology involved, it proved easier to incorporate the interactivity over battle sequences. In some episodes, we were told that some battle scenes would be necessary and that meant in some cases, story elements had to go. Most of those involved with the show weren’t happy with the interactivity at all. We would all be thrilled to do this show without the interactivity now that we’re away from Mattel. »
DiTillio concedes that despite everybody’s best efforts, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future never quite got away from it’s « kid’s show » label. » But I think we got the adult side of this show across more often than people might think » offers DiTillio. » You’ve got to remember that we were saddled with the worst title for a TV show ever created. however, we were also dedicated to doing a show that the kids would watch, but that would be geared totally towards an adult science fiction fan. We always had the robot blasting for the kids, but the stories were definitely adult in nature. You can see by what I’ve told you so far that the second season was going to be even more adult. »
Speculation on the future, if any, of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future runs rampant at this point. But the future has it’s share of obstacles: Tim Dunigan is now Young Davey Crockett, as part of Disney’s new anthology series. David Hemblin was not scheduled to return for a second season. Actresses had been auditioned for the roles of Ranger and Morganna II but the final selections had not been made. The creative behind-the-scenes personnel are all currently busy elsewhere.
« There is the possibility of a TV movie if somebody doesn’t pick up the check for a second season. » notes DiTillio. « There are certain second season episodes that could be restructured into something that would effectively tie up the story’s loose ends.Before Mattel pulled the plug, we had also begun discussing a possible third season, but none of that is on paper. It’s all in my head and I really don’t see the point in going into specifics about another lost season. but the possibilities were endless. We might have even taken the show into outer space. »
Larry DiTillio punctuates the statement by leaning back in his chair and interlocking the fingers of his hands. » But however things turn out, I really want to see the end of this fight. »
I would love to have seen the end of this fight as well! The was an attempt to reboot the series in 2016. It was announced at Comic-Con with a teaser and it it would have been colled, Phoenix Rising. Goddard said at the time: “Although the surprisingly dark themes, serialized storytelling, and shocking character deaths features within the series were well ahead of their time in 1987, they’re exactly the kind of story elements a modern viewing audience craves.”
Nothing ever happened with that reboot, though. There’s been no update on it since the announcement. But I would love to see a new Captain Power project get made one day!