October 5, 2014

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, episode 7 "The Ferryman"

A squad of Biodreads are escorting a battle vehicle from Epsilon Station. An eye-patched refugee crosses their path, promising to hand over info on Captain Powers' location in exchange for reward. The Biodreads say he can do it in exchange for his life. The refugee suddenly reveals himself to be Scout as the other armored Soldiers of the Future appear and ambush the Biodreads, quickly taking them down. As Soaron and enforcements start to arrive, Tank lays down cover fire while Scout cuts off the lead Biodread's head. As they pile into the dropship, Scout starts digging around to recover the Biodread's memory chips as the others struggle to get their damaged afterburners to kick in so they can escape Soaron.

At Volcania, Lord Dread gives a speech before hundred of Dread Youth, uniformed teenagers who have pledged their lives to the cause. He promises they will become "Immortal! Mechanized! Human minds in gleaming, undying metaloid bodies!" They are his New Order. As he leaves the chamber, a human lieutenant notifies him of the ambush and that the captured Biodread head contains info about Project New Order. Dread orders a broadcast of the unit's destruct code. He also confers with Overmind, the master computer, saying the breach means they need to push up their schedule and warm up the "birthing chamber". Power stations throughout the country are activated as all their energy converges on Volcania. Dread swells with pride, until Overmind reminds him emotions are for organics.

At the Power Base, they're having no luck hacking the head, until Mentor volunteers to have his circuits spliced into it. Just as data about New Order begins to download, the destruct signal reaches the head, causing it to blow out, which overloads all of Mentor's systems, as well. He's down and the entire command center is shutting off, but Power is more worried about a personal loss due to Mentor being designed to look like his father. After jury-rigging together what they can, they manage to restore Mentor, and he fills them in on Dread's plan to create a new army of ground troops. They decide to interrupt the central power station where all the energy is converging. Power On!

The dropship swoops in over Volcania, intercepting the signals while broadcasting feedback to short those stations out. Soaron flies in, and Power climbs into the Powerjet XT-7, a fighter craft that disengages from the top of the dropship. They fight, and Power and the Soldiers hold out long enough to take each of the stations down, even though their ships are so badly damaged they barely limp home.

In Volcania, the interrupted process results in the creation of only one new trooper, named Blastaar, who climbs onto a balcony to roar at the retreating Power in greeting. Hearing some squeaks, Lord Dread turns to find something new and unexpected emerging from the birthing chamber. Overmind said it had just enough parts to assemble one more bot, a small, comical robot quickly named Lackey. Lord Dread is not pleased. As he storms off, Overmind transmits a secret mission command into Lackey's mind.


Just when I thought this show could no longer surprise me, we get an episode like "The Ferryman", complete with a heaping dose of Hitler Youth symbolism. Like the Empire in Star Wars or the Borg of Star Trek, you don't have to look very hard to see the parallels between the bio-mechanical philosophy of Lord Dread's BioDread Empire and the racial purification propaganda of Adolph Hitler's Third Reich, but it's never been this blatant. Red banners form the backdrop as a lone figure on a stage holds sway over a group of gray uniformed youth, all white, mostly blond haired and blue eyed. It's a chilling sight, and one that likely wouldn't have been lost on a generation of kids raised on the adventures of Indiana Jones. How in the hell did this ever make it into a Saturday morning kid's show?

As for the episode itself, if you've been with us the last few weeks, you know the show is on a bit of a roll, and I'm pleased to say that "The Ferryman" continues the streak. It may not be as emotionally resonant as "A Fire in the Dark", or as exciting as "The Mirror in Darkness", but it's a very tightly focused episode that has a few notable elements. For one, I feel the group dynamics of our heroes have settled into place as both the writers and the actors seem to have figured out who these characters are. In particular, Scout has come into his own. Though the show has yet to put the spotlight on him, he's managed to stand out thanks to the charming, devil-may-care attitude provided by actor Maurice Dean Wint. I'm also pleased to finally get a little clarification on who or what Mentor is. I always suspected he was supposed to be an avatar of Power's Father, but what I didn't realize is how much he looks like a member of the Bee Gees. Acting as a touchstone for Power, the threat to Mentor here once again provides Tim Dunigan a moment to shine. I hate to keep fluffing this guy each week, but I'm really impressed by how much he's grown since the pilot.

This episode also sets up some interesting storylines for our villains. OverMind clearly has an agenda of its own, and it should be fun to see how its subterfuge against Lord Dread plays out. I'm also anxious to see Blastaar in action. Soaron is cool, but he's been overused, and his string of defeats have robbed him of his menace. A good, old-fashioned bit of sibling rivalry between Soaron and Blastaar could really breath new life into things.

At right about the one third mark, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future seems to have hit its stride. After seven episodes, my scorecard reads five positive, one neutral and one negative. I don't know about you, but I'll take those kinds of percentages from here on out.


There is so much awesome going on in this episode that I don't really know where to start.

Let's go with Project: New Order. We've heard mention of this over the last few episodes as Lord Dread has been putting the pieces in place to build a new army. I figured this would be an arc throughout the season, but no, we're only about a third of the way through and he's already kicked it into full gear. He's assembled his Dread Youth, stone-faced, loyal teenagers clad in Nazi-esque uniforms who will be grafted with cybernetics to create the perfect blend of the organic and the mechanic. And you'd think the main thrust of our episode would be our heroes saving these teenagers from such a plight, but no, this entire group of youths is fed into the meat grinder, and our heroes potentially* destroy most of them before the process can be complete. I'm not entirely sold on the necessity of Blastaar, or how he can go places where Soaron cannot (was expecting something more visibly organic, like Terminators, and with their ability to infiltrate), but there's a very twisted, haunting notion to this one, lone figure being the only one to walk out of such a massive level of group sacrifice. Granted, our heroes probably weren't fully aware of the young victims of their day-saving maneuver, but it's still a surprising, bold direction for the show to go.

[* Upon rewatch, there's nothing saying the Youth as a group did, in fact, die, yet also nothing to say they didn't, which still leaves things on a very unexpected note.]

I also like that we get a little more exploration of Overmind. I haven't been clear on whether Lord Dread oversees the Overmind or if it's the dominant force he's in servitude to. It seems to be a bit of both, as Dread is clearly the mastermind behind much of everything, and the giver of orders, and yet there's the moment where Overmind chides him for expression emotion, followed by a quick flash of fear Lord Dread is quick to bury. I wonder if Overmind lets him lead just because it's not interested in doing so for the moment, and as long as he keeps feeding it digitized victims to fuel its processors, it plays along, like the Elder God placating a Sorcerer while quietly amassing full power.

On the hero side, we get a nice episode of the entire team working together. Pilot and Hawk don't get much beyond some good lines (she fixing the broken ship, as usual; he wanting to kamikaze their vessel straight into Volcania at one point), but they still make them work. And I love the big action opening with Scout and Tank blowing the crap out of their enemy while trying to run off with a head. Tank especially has some charming quips. As for Power, I think what makes Tim Dunigan really work is that his seeming blandness masks this roiling intensity inside. It's not an angry intensity, but like the recent Chris Evans Captain America, its an intensity of loss, trauma, as well as the weight of responsibility for the actions you need to continue seeing through and all the people looking to you for inspiration and guidance. There's a heaviness to him, and like Cap, he still rises to the occasion by not being the best, but being the best he can be, which in turn leads the others to doing their best around him. He is what a leader should be, and they've finally found their full footing in making it sell.

Even Mentor works this episode. They do a nice job of showing how, instead of just being a search engine, he's also a connective processor which reveals how separate strands intersect and build a deeper picture of what's going on. And then he's suddenly blown away, and Tony called it in that he is, in fact, a digital representation of Powers' dead father, and now Power is going through the emotional swing of having to lose the man all over again. I almost wish they hadn't managed to bring Mentor back, as I still don't find him that essential of a player and there would have been more weight to not having a clean rescue of the data core, but it's still a nice victory moment and I'll give it to them.

My only gripes with the episode are that the aerial battles continue to be clumsy in execution and stand out from the grittier work on the ground, Scout's disguise in the opening wasn't very well played and continues their odd, unnecessary slang lingo, and did we seriously just give Lord Dread an adorable, comedic, Johnny-5 is Alive sidekick? Was that really something the show needed at this point?

But it's overall a very strong episode as Straczynski pulls a lot of the building threads together nicely, and gives us a solid push down some new roads I'm curious to explore.

If you'd like to watch along with us, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future is available on DVD!

1 comment:

Tony Williams said...

I can't decide if Lackki (Wah-wah) reminds me more of Johnny-5 or Jinx from Space Camp.


Either way, the last thing Dread needs is a comic sidekick.

The comparison between Chris Evans' Captain America and Tim Dunigan's Captain Power is a very good one.