Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future: "Final Stand"

In “Final Stand” by J. Michael Straczynski, Captain Power (Tim Dunigan) and his officers attempt to save a group of captured humans before Sauron, re-charging nearby, can digitize them. 

Unfortunately, the humans are being held hostage by Kasko (Chaels Seixas), a genetically-engineered human soldier who strongly dislikes Tank (Sven-Ole Thorsen) and wants revenge against him.

Kasko makes a deal with Captain Power.He will release the hostages, and not detonate a bomb threatening his captives if and only if Tank agrees to fight him to the death, no armor allowed…

Hoping to buy the trapped people some time, Power has no choice but to agree to Kasko’s terms…

“Final Stand” is a strange episode of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future (1987) and not a particularly strong one, even though JMS -- the series' finest writer -- is the author. The whole episode exists so that Tank can fight another soldier, mano a mano, but the battle itself feels underwhelming.

The episode never reveals the source of the personal conflict between Tank and Kasko, or why they are such bitter enemies. We know only that they are both genetically-engineered, or “freaks” as Tank terms himself.  Late in the episode, Tank also reveals that when he “escaped Babylon 5,” he thought he put that life behind him.

So yes, that’s a pretty direct allusion to another JMS universe, and one that was still years away from production. 

Clearly, however, it must be a different Babylon 5. In Captain Power the locale sounds like a military colony or camp where soldiers were “grown" or incubated.

Here the reference feels thrown in, like there is a huge back-story we need to know about Tank and the locale…but we get absolutely none of it.  

And worse, Kasko doesn’t feel like a very strong threat. Some of his dialogue is absolutely atrocious.  

At one point he says “Sad, really. You’ve lost the killer instinct.” Today that  line plays almost as parody.

Matters don’t get any better -- or any more three dimensional -- with Tank’s explanation of Kasko’s problem. “He’s crazy.”

Yes, but why does he hate you, Tank, and why does he want revenge?

Like "War Dogs," a couple of weeks back, one gets the feeling in "Final Stand" that the series was attempting to establish the supporting characters, giving them increased prominence in certain stories. But in both cases the writing feels off-the-shelf and cliched.  Hawk discovers an old flame in "War Dogs," and Tank meets an old enemy who makes him question his past in "Final Stand."  Neither story actually deepens our sense of the characters much.

Still, the episode’s end message is a good one.  As “Final Stand” suggests, the reasons why we fight are often more important than the fact of the fight itself.  Kasko kills for revenge, for some personal sense of blood-lust. Tank fights so as to save the hostages. There’s a huge difference there, and in that difference is the definition of heroism, as Power points out.

When Captain Power blogging resumes: "Pariah."

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