March 28, 2015

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, unproduced episode "Face of Darkness"

Taken from an undated draft, written by David Bennett Carren and J. Larry Carroll. There's no title page, but the original title "Face of Fear" has been crossed out on page one.


Blastarr leads a swarm of forces through the city of Toronto, dead set on wiping out any remaining human presence. A pack of survivors cram down into a subway station, but find themselves surrounded with Dread Troopers on one side, a Hunter-Seeker on the other. The Hunter-Seeker orders the Troopers back to the street so he can finish the humans off himself, but when the bots question him, he de-cloaks, revealing a Power-Suited Scout who quickly blasts into them. He orders the survivors to take off down a tunnel to where Captain Power and the others are loading other pockets of refugees on the Dropship, but they're reluctant, saying a monster is known to roam these tunnels. "There's monsters here!" Scout shouts, forcing them along as more Troopers flood in. As he's set to cover their rear, Blastarr arrives, blowing off Scout's Power Armor and knocking him down an empty elevator shaft. Blastarr is set to leave, declaring Scout "terminated", but he's ordered by Dread to find and recover the body in the hopes of examining the Power Armor.

The refugees reach the Dropship, Troopers on their heels, and a huge fire-fight breaks out. Power learns of what happened to Scout and orders the others to take off, bringing the refugees to the Passages while he goes back to look, refusing to leave a member of his team behind. Ranger insists on going with, he refuses, she goes anyway. As the Dropship takes off, laying down a barrage of covering fire, Power and Ranger sneak their way back to the subway station, trying to find a way down to their friend before Blastarr beats them to it.

At the base of the elevator shaft, Scout is found by a hunched figure wrapped in a cloak, who grabs him with twisted, monstrous hands and drags him off. It brings him food, but when he comes to, it's startled, rushing off behind a corner, dropping an object as it goes. Calling after and painfully dragging his way over to the object, he discovers it's a doll as he hears the figure begin to cry.


Scout approaches the figure, who asks him, in a scared voice, distorted, but that of a teenage girl, if she can have her doll back. He gives it to her. He gets from her that her name is MD-4, taken from a barcode on the back of her twisted arm, which Scout recognizes from Dread's eugenics labs. He assures her he means no harm, and nicknames her "Mindi". At the sound of Troopers exploring nearby, she leads Scout to her hideaway, where he's stunned to see beautiful drawings and murals on the walls. She says she learned how to draw from SD-4, a fellow lab subject, who figured out how to help Mindi escape, but was unable to join her. She points to a drawing of beautiful eyes, those of SD-4.

SCOUT: "She was beautiful."

MD-7: "No. She was like me. People would have called her 'monster' and run away. Like they run away from me."

(Scout tenderly reaches out... but the hooded girl pulls back, keeping her face hidden. Scout speaks softly...)

SCOUT: "Lord Dread is a monster, Mindi. You're a person, a human. Like me."

MD-7: "No. My name is MD-7, and I was never human. Never."

Outside, Power and Ranger reach the elevator shaft, but suddenly hear blaster fire from below. They can't wait for the rest of the team, who are just landing on the surface after dropping off the refugees, and so drive downward on their own, plowing through any Troopers along the way.

The blaster fire comes from a pair of Hunter-Seekers, who found the tracks of Scout and Mindi in the dust and followed them to the hideaway. Scout fends them off as best he can with just a blaster and no Power Armor, and follows Mindi's lead as she draws the Hunter-Seekers into a machine shop where they can be better opposed. The battle is a rough one, as Hunter-Seekers don't go down with a single blast or well-aimed punch like the Troopers, and while Scout and Mindi are able to hold their own, they're having a hell of a time finding a leg up... until Power and Ranger swoop in, blasting the enemy down.

More forces are approaching, so Power orders Scout to evac Mindi to the dropship while he and Ranger lay down cover, but Mindi pulls away, terrified at the idea of rejoining humanity and leaving her solitude in these tunnels. She throws back her hood, revealing a gnarled face of surgical scars and tissue growths. "Don't you understand, now?" she cries to Scout, who replies "People will accept you. But if you hide from them and refuse to accept your own humanity, then you're the one denying you're a human being. Not us." He offers his hand. "Come with us. Out of the darkness." She takes it.

Our heroes race through Troopers and explosions, Power and Ranger cutting off Blastarr's pursuit by caving in a tunnel. They make it to the Dropship and take off, where Tank makes Mindi laugh with a joke. Landing at the Passages, they're greeted by a woman and her little daughter, who hides from Mindi, afraid the girl is a monster. Mindi smiles, offering the child her doll and saying she's human. The girl beams. Our team claps Scout on the back as they turn away from the small but important victory.


Up front, let's clear up a few misconceptions we had in our overall Season 2 post last week. Blastarr has in fact survived the destruction of the Power Base. I'm still hoping there was an episode somewhere in there where he had to dig himself out of the mountain, but he's still around and doing the same old, same old. We were under the impression from the synopses that the Hunter-Seekers were going to be CGI balls of energy, but while this script doesn't describe them, it does talk about them taking steps and raising limbs, so I'm guessing some kind of bipedal robot. I wouldn't be surprised if they were just upgraded Trooper suits, a more badass visual to go with their sharper skills, which we do see here as they quickly get the bead on their enemy while Blastarr and his Troopers are shuffling around blindly, and put up a much nastier fight.

Otherwise, there isn't a whole lot of difference between this script and a typical Season 1 episode. Lots of focus on action. Power and his team swooping in to clear out refugees. Dread sitting at his monitor as he bosses Blastarr and the Troopers into action. Captain Power, for all we heard about a new, Mad Max loose cannon approach, is still your typical Captain Power, the stalwart leader there for the people even as he refuses to leave a friend behind. Hawk's the dependable second, Tank gets to crack a line, and even TNT and Ranger fit in nicely without upsetting the dynamics. He just gets a few lines where his cocky reassurance is cut down by terrified refugees, while she's heavily involved in the action, sticking to Power's side against his orders as he dives into a potential suicide mission. I like how she's wisecracky without being an asshole, and her enthusiasm in the battles is a nice counter to the good Captain's square-jawed reserve, giving them a great chemistry I would like to have seen explored. I don't mean in a romantic sense, but they've got a nice bounce and compliment one another, more like Luke and Han than Han and Leia. And speaking of the romance, there's nothing involving her and Tank this episode, so we still have no examples of how that would have played out.

I was struck by how much the main plot feels like a retelling of "Pariah", wherein Hawk was left stranded and injured by an action scene, and is taken in by a teen escapee from one of Dread's laboratories, the two taking shelter even as enemy forces are closing in. While I feel the underlying theme of viral weapons had a bit more meat to it than what we get here, that actual execution left a lot to be desired, and at least on paper, I prefer what we get in this second stab at it. Mindi is very Newt-like at first, with her hidden nooks and little doll, and the trauma and anxiety over her appearance is well played, as well as her artistic side, drawing the beautiful eyes of the slain fellow lab subject who set her free. I wish we could see what the art team would have done with the murals and doodles on her walls, but it works well on paper, and giving this story to Scout is an interesting spin. There's no deeper thematic reason to it being him, but just letting him get a story where he's the driving focus, and show how understanding and compassionate he can be, it really gives some oomph to the character he'd been lacking before. Shame we can't explore him further by reading any of the stuff between he and Morganna-II.

I like how the Passages continue to be a regular go-to location, especially with the lack of a Base, though I'll say I never really felt any of the issues DiTillio said they were aiming for, in terms of the team lacking supplies and and ability to charge their Suits. The only one to De-Power is Scout, and that's after we open on an already active action scene, during which he takes quite a beating. It never feels like anyone else is being limited in their use of the Suits. I'm actually glad about this as I did worry they might be shying away from them for the wrong reasons. That's not an element of the show I feel needs to change.

Overall, it's not a particularly stunning or game-changing episode, just another of those one-off adventures where we get a little character, a little dark commentary, a lot of action, and our heroes being heroes. But on paper, it's a perfectly fine one, which kept me involved and interested all the way through. If this speaks to the overall quality of the season 2 which never came to be, it's unfortunate that more hasn't surfaced or been officially released. This is literally it for us in terms of new Captain Power stories for the moment, and I'm really damned eager to find some more, even if they can only be read.

A few notes:
  • The final scene between Mindi and the little girl is so sappy, but in a good way. It works. I go with it.
  • When Blastarr is confronted by an elevator shaft, instead of working to find a way down, why doesn't he just jump? Dude's survived having two mountains blow up on top of him, he should be able to brush that landing off and roll right on.
  • There's quite a few hand-written notes and revisions throughout the script, and most are sadly unreadable due to the copy quality, but I did catch the important distinction where the motive of the Dread forces has the word "Digitize" crossed out with "Destroy" written above. They're definitely out to kill this time around.
  • Didn't catch anything different about Dread here than what we've seen before. They never describe his face, so he might be full robot with that one rolling eye, but they never say. No Overmind, no Lacchi, no Soaron. Just typical Dread. Though I am intrigued by his order to capture Scout specifically so they can get a Power Suit. I smell a thread being set up.


New Captain Power, same as the old. Noel's right, next to nothing we were promised about Season 2 is in this script. Brooding Captain Power? Nope. Still seems all milk and cookies to me. Desperate circumstances? No more than usual. Dread is once again watching the action from his La-Z-Boy 2000 and I certainly didn't detect any differences in his personality or mannerisms. All you'd really have to do is switch out Ranger and TNT for Pilot, introduce the Hunter-Seekers, and maybe tweak a detail or two, and there's no reason this couldn't have been an episode from smack dab in the middle of Season 1. That said, it's still a pretty good script, if perhaps a weak story.

Like Noel, my fears about the new team members were quickly allayed. TNT seems to have taken Scout's place at the end of the bench and is a total non-entity. There's really nothing that he says or does which couldn't have been given to Tank. He's superfluous, but that's my only complaint about him. Ranger, on the other hand, is charmingly roguish in a Han Solo kind of way, and a breath of fresh air. I agree with Noel that she works well paired up with the square-jawed Power, but I'll disagree about their romantic possibilities. I see them as having a possible Han Solo/Princess Leia dynamic, with the genders simply reversed. I really didn't relish the idea of Captain Power becoming Captain Ahab. All I wanted was someone for him to play against, and Ranger - assuming she were properly cast - is just what the Dr. ordered.

Sappy is a pretty good way to describe the resolution with Mindi - simplistic is another - but I thoroughly enjoyed everything leading up to it. I've commented before that I believe Maurice Dean Wint was far and away the best actor amongst the Power Team, and I can totally see him delivering here and taking the material to another level. And it's a good message about acceptance, so damn my cynicism.

In the end, this is a rather inconsequential side story that doesn't move the dramatic football down the field, but nevertheless provides some good characters moments and solid action. Perhaps in the context of the season in motion, with the more desperate circumstances and other changes already established (but not reestablished here), this might've played even better.


Ross said...

The one thing I didn't like about this one is that Scout's "big speech" to Mindi felt kind of victim-blamey. Nothing unusual for 1980s TV, but it still rubs me wrong here in 2015

NoelCT said...

That's a great point, Ross. That line could use some re-working, and I wonder if the end scene comes off especially cloying because it's just some random kid Mindi confronts instead of any of the people from earlier in the story who'd branded her a monster. While I do think there is some degree to which Mindi has to face her fear of not being accepted, the burden is definitely on the population to be open to accepting her, so yeah, the focus is definitely off in the moral lesson.