The revolutionary toy technology of 'Captain Power' that time forgot

Hey 80s kids, remember Captain Power? If you do, great. And if not, that's not entirely surprising.

Action figures and toys related to children's entertainment flourished in the 1980s: Thundercats, GI Joe, and He-Man all dominated our toy boxes and our televisions. How could a Gene Siskel-endorsed science fiction series with complementary groundbreaking toy technology fail so miserably? In the latest video for Popular scienceKevin Lieber dissects the most monumental break in TV history.

Captain Power and the soldiers of the future ran for one season from 1987 to 1988. The 22 episodes followed Captain Jonathan Power (Timothy Dunigan) and a small team of specialist soldiers wearing power suits as they battle Lord Dread's robot army. The show featured interactive elements that children could “shoot” with a toy XT-7 jet manufactured by Mattel. Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, not to the thousands of parents who opposed the show for blurring the lines between children's shows, warfare and toy commercials.

The whole “filming on your TV” thing wasn't the only problem Captain Power confronted. The show's writers insisted that they were not writing for a child audience and instead weaved complex stories with dramatic themes that appealed more to adults. They wanted to make a show for adults to sell toys to kids, and it doesn't quite work.

Despite the failure of the show and the toys, Captain Power proved to have a lasting influence. It was the first show to use CG-modeled characters as part of the main cast, inspiring perhaps one of the world's most infamous villains. Star Trekand the team responsible for the show helped define science fiction entertainment for a generation.

The whole story of Captain Power is a fascinating study of the major consequences of failure.

Do you want more videos? You certainly do, because you can learn about the Siri and Alexa predecessor called Butler in a Box and drill holes in our heads. Subscribe Popular science on Youtube.

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