|Elvis may have done it first, but Mattel made it legal: shoot your television. The idea had Skywalker-wannabes salivating across the country-an interactive Saturday morning space adventure. With your Powerjet XT-7 or Phantom Striker (both spacejet-shaped laser blasters), you could get in on the action, firing at enemies as they fired back at you. Lose, and your action figure pilot ejected. Television was never so dangerous.
The interactive portion of Captain Power was actually only five minutes, so the show’s creators knew they needed more than a gimmick to sustain the half-hour running length. What they came up with was a future in which earth was ravaged by the Metal Wars, “when man fought machine… and machine won.” In 2147 A.D., humanity rose from the ashes of that war on the wings of Captain Jonathan Power and the Soldiers of the Future. Jonathan and the other Soldiers-Tank, Hawk, Scout and Pilot-fought with specialized “power suits” against evil cyborg Lord Dread and his mechanical BioDreads.
The show mixed live action with computer animation, creating a spectacle unlike anything else in syndication. Storylines were complex and ongoing, designed to draw in adult viewers as well as kids. Children’s television activists protested the show’s violent content (a human was “digitized” by a BioDread in the opening credits, and Pilot was killed in the final episode), but ratings were high. Unfortunately, co-sponsor Mattel pulled the plug after only one season, citing slow toy sales. The show retains a devoted following, partly because story editor J. Michael Straczynski went on to create the sci-fi series Babylon 5.