October 20th, 2011
03:06 PM ET
The year was 1987, and children's TV was dominated by cartoons, usually tied into toy lines, such as "Thundercats" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Gary Goddard, who had worked on "He-Man" and grew up on live action kids' shows like "Sky King," came up with the concept of "Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future."
Not only would this show feature live actors, telling the story of Captain Power and his fellow soldiers rebelling against the evil Lord Dread, but toy company Mattel suggested using its new interactive technology that would allow young viewers to "shoot" with their toy spaceships at the screen. A groundbreaking TV series was born.
The show utilized new technology in more ways than one. "I wanted CGI villains," Goddard told CNN last week. "Computer animation was very new. No one knew if we could push to the level of getting characters but I thought we could."
The show was not without its share of controversy (as you can see by watching the below CNN story from 1988). Some parents groups balked at the idea of children shooting toys at the screen, not to mention the live action violence that took place on the show.
Goddard said that they purposefully made "Captain Power" in a way that would appeal to adults as well (something that later kids' programming like "Batman: The Animated Series" would use to great success), including references to romance between characters and continuing story arcs.
"The future earth was kind of a grim warning of what could happen if the wrong decisions are made," he said. "We wanted to give [kids] ideas about morality, about making the right choices."
Tim Dunigan, who played Captain Power, recalled wearing that suit of armor. "The suits we wore were very hot. You would wear a jumpsuit of cotton but the armor, the suit itself had neoprene on it which they use for wetsuits. And then they velcro strapped on the armor."
Unlike others, "at least I could sit down," Dunigan said. "It would be 12 or 13 hours of that. You were constantly sweating. It was a tough shoot but a lot of fun. We had a lot of laughs and did some great work."
Jessica Steen, who played Corporal Jennifer "Pilot" Chase on the show, said, "It was my first experience with sci-fi and there's a lot of equipment to familiarize yourself with. My proton scanner was a Black and Decker electronic screwdriver."
The experience was a big help to Steen in future sci-fi roles like the TV series "Earth 2" and the movie "Armageddon."
As for Dunigan, he is now a mortgage broker. "So pretty close to the same thing," he joked. "I wear the Captain Power suit to the office. When I meet my clients, I 'power on' for them."
The series is returning to DVD on December 6, with in-depth documentary footage shot at the time the show was produced among the six hours of bonus features.
Goddard hopes to bring "Captain Power" back in "an expanded version" - similar to what happened with "Battlestar Galactica" - if the DVD does well. This time the series would be aimed squarely at an adult sci-fi audience.
"With what we can do [in special effects] now," he said, "we can really bring this world to life."
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