February 15, 2015

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, episode 19 "New Order, Part 1: The Sky Shall Swallow Them"

Power and Scout meet up with a dude named Locke who passes them info on the latest stage of Project New Order. They come under attack from Soaron and Blastarr, but get away.

At the Power Base, they decode the data, revealing they have less than 2 hours to stop both the Icarus and Prometheus stages of New Order. Icarus will use a massive, orbital digitizer to gobble up the entire remaining population of the east coast, followed by the ignition of Prometheus, which will bathe that land in a plasma storm, burning it clean so Dread's new empire can build atop it. They stock up on everything they've got and plan to storm Volcania itself. Pilot uses what time she has practicing on a simulator a trench run she'll need to fly. She can't crack it, but Power reassures her with a kiss on the cheek.

At Volcania, Dread plots and gloats, and trades barbs with Lacchi.

Our heroes swoop in, Hawk taking on Soaron in a skirmish while Power, Scout, and Tank take to skybikes and escort Pilot in her dropship down a fortress trench. She makes the shot, blowing in the secure entrance at the end of the trench so Power, Scout, and Tank can get inside. They shoot a bunch of stuff. Make it deeper in and shoot a bunch more stuff. Make it to a control room, shoot some more bunches of stuff, and trigger an explosion on Icarus just before it can fire.

Dread is miffed at the loss of Icarus, and that the wreck of the satellite is on a direct collision course with Volcania, but when asked by Overmind what they should do, he decides to fire Prometheus anyway, and burn all those lives instead of capturing them.

Our heroes rally and head off deeper into Volcania to take on Prometheus.

To be continued...


In this week's episode, our guest star blinds us with science, Pilot gets her Luke on, and Tank is once again obsessed with parties. But is the Force with it? Let's find out.

Noel, without taking the time to go back and actually tally them up (which would require me to take my shoes off), I still think it's safe to say that you and I both have liked more episodes of Captain Power than we have not. Some more, some less, but more yea's than nay's. But I still think we're both waiting for that signature episode. The one where it's firing on all cylinders and reaches that level of epic that it's only thus far teased. After watching "New Order, Part I: The Sky Shall Swallow Them", I believe we're still waiting, but it comes closer than any episode thus far in my opinion. I don't know that it's necessarily the most generically entertaining episode so far, but in terms of scale, drama, and action with purpose, I do believe that it takes a leap forward from the rest.

I had a feeling I was going to like this episode the minute I spied Thomas Dolby doppelganger Paul Humphrey (Locke). Sleazy looking informants who look like the keyboardist in a New Wave band have been a harbinger of good things in this series thus far, and that streak continues here. In an ironic twist, Mr. Humphrey is a musician in real life, and Captain Power ranks as one of his few acting gigs. Too bad, as he does a solid job with his bit part here.

It's impossible to watch "New Order, Part 1: The Sky Shall Swallow Them" and not think Star Wars (the first movie, which I refuse to call A New Hope, not the franchise). You've got an orbiting platform (Death Star) positioning itself to strike the Eastern seaboard of the United States (Yavin IV). Pilot (Luke) has to maneuver through a tight trench and hit a small target (thermal exhaust port). I seriously kept waiting for the voice of Mentor to impart some sort of spiritual encouragement to her. That said, it's a great scene, with Power and the Boys on their flying bikes zipping through a very impressive miniature. The same one used during the end credits scene each week if I'm not mistaken.

Noel and I mentioned how clumsily the previous episode, "Freedom One", was directed, but there's no such problem here. Otta Hanus, he of episodes like "The Mirror in Darkness", "Flame Street", and "Gemini and Counting", once again shows a steady hand, competently staging the action, and even displaying some subtle flair now and then. Combined with a script by Larry DiTillio that knows exactly what it needs to do and does it with little wasted motion, it makes for one Hell of an episode.

That said, I do have a few minor complaints. The episode would've benefitted from more of a cliffhanger ending. Yes, the platform is heading for Volcania, but it's usually the good guys who are in peril at the end of the first half of a two-parter. Tank continues to be saddled with cringe-inducing one-liners, many containing the word party (or pah-tee as he says it) for some unknown reason. Maybe the writers just get a kick out of hearing Thorsen say pah-tee. "Where's the pah-tee?", "Pah-tee time!", "Now this is a pah-tee!", "It's a pah-tee. Who wants some cake?" Actually, he doesn't say a couple of those, but I defend my right to use dramatic license. And Power kisses Pilot. Really? Are we going there? I don't really have too much of an issue with this, I suppose. He's the hero, she's the heroine. That's how these things work. But the handling of this "romance" thus far has been so ham-fisted that it just feels cheap. I also continue to lament that Lord Dread is relegated to sitting on his La-Z-Boy 2000 in total reactionary mode. It's a waste of the character and the actor who plays him.

But those are mere quibbles. I thoroughly enjoyed the epic epicness of "New Order, Part 1: The Sky Shall Swallow Them" and look forward to watching part 2. Noel, what say you?


Honestly? This one didn't click too much with me. It's not that I feel it did much wrong, it just felt flat to me. They certainly kicked up the action, to the point where I felt their 7 minute action mandate had been instead flipped to just 7 minutes of story, as once they fly in, it's nothing but laser beams and explosions. And yet, that's the problem, in that there's really nothing but laser beams an explosions. There's a lot happening in the action scenes, but very little going on. There's no story to the scene themselves, no staging to have dramatic twists and turns and everybody getting something to do as their coordinated effort drives them forward. No, with the exception of one brief moment where Hawk is grounded and briefly squares off against Soaron, they just shoot a bunch of stuff while everyone shoots at them, and manage to get through it. Hell, they take so many direct hits, I'm astonished none of them Powered Down. Which, honestly, would have given us some actual stakes as they'd have to coordinate around it. Pilot's dropship looses all its shields, both forward and rear, just before she makes the shot, yet her taking out the door wouldn't magically make everyone stop shooting at her, so why wasn't she blown away, having made a valiant sacrifice that the others need to keep building on to save millions of lives?

No, it's just a bunch of shooting without anything actually happening, so a good two thirds of the episode just kind of drone for me. On top of which, yeah, Dread stays seated the whole time (why not have him in that control room our heroes storm?) and the dramatic cliffhanger of Volcania being threatened with a wipeout doesn't exactly keep us on the edge of our seats. Something needed to be lost, something needed to be sacrificed to give an edge to our heroes pushing on and seeing the final half of the mission through, and we just don't get that.

I will say, I don't dislike the episode. The plot, while yeah, very derivative of A New Hope The First Star Wars Episode Four Named A New Hope, does kick things up to a very significant scale, and I love the idea of Dread willing to take out the entire East Coast, first with a massive Digitizer which will capture everyone en masse, then a plasma storm which will swallow everything else in fire and ash for his new empire to be built on top of. And when the Digitizer is taken out, damn, he's ready to just watch it all burn anyway. That does give us some stakes, and I love the passive/aggressive challenge when Overmind asks him "What do we do, now?" One is still in charge while at the whim of whether the other approves of his response.

I also do like Locke, whom Tony has thoroughly and perfectly described. Was shocked to see in this "kids show" a dude first smoking, then firing an actual gun with actual bullets. Scandalous! Though on the flipside, yeah, the Power/Pilot romance, which has always just been these tiny, awkward moments, and has never had any room to breathe or be explored.

So it's one of those midline episodes for me. Tony's right in that this has definitely been a series that we've enjoyed more often than not, though I do find we gravitate toward different episodes for the most part. For example, this episode. It wasn't one of those firing on all cylinders epic gamechangers, though that's not something I'm still waiting for. I've already hit that spot, not once, not twice, but three times as this show pushed further than I ever expected it to, with deft execution that gripped my interest and yanked it up another level. The first time was "The Ferryman", the second was "Judgment", and the third was "A Summoning of Thunder". Those are my high bar I wish more of the series would hit, and this was not one of those instances where they did.

On a final note, yeah, definitely using end credits footage as they fly down the fortress trench. I believe that's also pretty much what the interactive training videos which came with some of the toys are like, but I'm sure we'll be taking a look at those when Tony covers the toyline soon. In terms of the use here, while the race along the trench is exciting, the rocking cut-n-paste effect of the ships over it looks even tackier than it usually does in their midair battles.

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

1 comment:

Ross said...

This one had a real wall-banger for me when they're all like "How could Dread have built this without us noticing?" and the answer is "There's a whole rest of the world outside of north america which we haven't been paying a lick of attention to in the past fifteen years." It really brings home the way that this show has absolutely no sense of geography at all. It feels like cheating to have Lord Dread and Captain Power being 19 hours' drive from each other with neither one making significant progress for fifteen years when there's a whole rest of the world out there that only becomes relevant at this point.