The Shape of Wars to Come

by Marc Sharpiro, Starlog January 1989 (Used without Permission)

Larry DiTillio has a tendency to let his already fertile imagination run particularly wild when it comes to Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. But DiTillio, who served as story editor for much of the TV series' first season, does know his limits.

"Just look at that battle scene" he exclaims as he points to a splash panel from Continuity's Captain Power comic book. " We would never be able to do a battle scene like that. And this dialogue. We could never say 'Eat this suckface'"

He's doing his litany of "I wishes" during an early afternoon conversation in his Los Angeles home. Scattered across a table are color slides, comic book panels and magazines, publicity materials that became artifacts this year when, after the death of Pilot and the destruction of the Power Base in the season-finale, "Retribution," the money men did what Lord Dread couldn't do. They killed off Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future.

DiTillio is obviously a man in the middle in regards to Captain Power's future. He is getting on with his writing life and has snagged a pair of script assignments for the animated Superman Series. He also has a couple of series ideas making their way down the bumpy road to development. But the very real possibility that Captain Power may get new financing and a second life sits perched on his shoulder - as do the events that lead to the show's demise.

" We already had a second season in the works" reports DiTillio of a work spurt that hit high gear in November 1987. "I had updated the show's bible to reflect new directions we were going to take to keep the show fresh. Everything was hunky-dory"

Until January 1988.

"We were starting to hear rumours that Mattel was getting ready to pull out. I told the writers of the 18 scripts that had been assigned for the second season [down from an initial 22 because Mattel felt they could effectively strip the show for syndication with 40 episodes] to hurry up and finish them so they could get paid if there was no second season" recalls DiTillio.

DiTillio cites several reasons for Mattel's cutting off the show's funds: Mattel's tie in toys didn't sell up to expectations, parents group charges that the show was too violence, and having to shell out Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild residual payments because Captain Power was live action.

"It could have been any or all of those reasons," laments DiTillio " but the bottom line was that in January, we were informed that there would not be a second season."

However , there would be a second season's worth of scripts, written by DiTillio, Christy Marx, Rich Hoag, Larry Carroll, Dave Carren, Steve Gerber, Craig Noonan, Mark Nelson, Michael Reaves and Michael and Mark Cassutt, to gather dust and speculation as to what Captain Power's future might have been.

Power Mad

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."