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The Journeyman Project 3: Better Late Than Never

Well, so much for big ideas.

Suffice to say I had a modicum of personal drama the past couple of months. Alas, others have commented as eloquently or moreso than I could on Captain America: Civil War.

However, I do have a loose end that deserves tying up. I was going to write a series on adventure games and by jingo, that’s what I intend to do.

‘Better late than never’ has a bit of a double meaning for us today; better I be a while getting back to this blog than not at all, thus I’ll resume my reviews of Adventure Games. And this one was one I encountered a very long time after first hearing of it: Presto Studio’s 1998 saga The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time.

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Your view in the game: bottom centre is your current disguise, bottom right, Arthur’s interface

As I said back at the end of March, my interest in adventure games dates back to Myst and Riven. When I first played Riven in the late 90’s, CD ROM was still how it was all done. By and by, we happened upon the discovery that one of the (five) discs that Riven ran on also had a demo for Legacy of Time.

Only in recent times and the rise of GOG.com was I able to chase it down and experience it in its entirety, and so I have.

In the Journeyman Project series, you play an agent of Earth’s Temporal Security Agency. Earth is a junior partner of an interstellar alliance called the Symbiotry. A traitor to the Agency, on the run since trying to sabotage Earth’s entrance into the Symbiotry, is trying to get your attention from across the millennia.

Now, an enemy is moving towards Earth which the Symbiotry is powerless to stop. The Symbiotry realize that they seek ‘the Legacy,’ a relic of a vanished ancient, advanced alien civilization that was deposited on Earth and its hiding place concealed from history. It exists in three parts, in times and places once thought to be myths: El Dorado, Atlantis and Shangri-La.

You have to travel to each of these time periods, interact with their inhabitants, learn their mythology, and, with the help of your AI partner Arthur, solve the myriad little puzzles standing between you and the safety of humanity.

This is much more the traditional point-and-click adventure game than Myst is. Unlike Myst, you collect an inventory of objects used to do anything from repairing a machine, reaching a lever, cutting a rope, or even bribing your way into somewhere. Some objects also go together to craft something you’ll need later, or are used in a different time period than where you find them.

From a gameplay point of view, the game has aged modestly well. As with Syberia, the process of moving around is cumbersome. Although from a first-person perspective, advancing to the next area is represented by a slow movement of the camera with a ponderous footstep effect. You can skip them by keeping one hand on the escape key, but nevertheless, it’s an unnecessary addition to what is essentially the same journey from still image to still image that Riven uses.

You can move at leisure between the three time periods if you get stuck and you’ll come back to the last point you left when you return.

The puzzles themselves are, for the most part, quite artful. In a number of cases, there is actually more than one variation on the solution. I first discovered this in Shangri-La. There, you have to lubricate a rusty prayer wheel that’s part of a sort of combination lock. I discovered in separate playthroughs that there are two ways to do this: either using a bowl of yak butter from Shangri-La itself, or one of olive oil from Atlantis. This ameliorates my big problem with Syberia, in that if one approach requires collecting an item that is easily overlooked, I still have a chance to solve it in a way that doesn’t involve scouring all three game worlds for whatever it is.

When you do get stuck, that’s largely what Arthur is for: he’s the hint machine. You can adjust in the game’s settings how much help he gives you, but he’ll give successive and more pointed hints on request if you’re really stumped. He also adds little witticisms and observations that are often based on the real histories of the civilizatons the game settings are based on. He kind of reminds me of Bob in the Dresden Files.

The downside is that the ‘witticisms’ can vary enormously from ‘actually pretty funny’ to ‘will you shut up already.’ It’s especially obnoxious in that it wrecks the tone from moment to moment. The first time you visit Shangri-La, shortly after its destruction (ever after you go back to before then) you find a dead monk, and Arthur is suitably sombre and horrified. Then a couple of moves later he’s declaring his desire to yodel into the Himalayas. Maybe his emotional subroutines are corrupted or something.

Otherwise, the character interactions are somewhat variable. Legacy is like Myst in that it uses real actors on a bluescreen and integrated into the environment – Full Motion Video – rather than building CGI characters – something that would have been really hard to do well at the time. You use your time travel suit to assume the appearance of people you meet, and interact with other people in their form. It has a strategic element, especially in Atlantis, because you get different results depending on who you pretend to be.

That said, it can be a bit of a guessing game chasing down which disguise will accomplish anything. I recognize one or two actors from 90’s shows like Star Trek: the Next Generaton, but the acting is forced or amateurish, though never to the point of seeming lazy. There’s a particularly quirky performance from the Lama of Shangri-La, whom Arthur dubs ‘Lama Blinky.’ I suspect the studio lights were getting in the actor’s eyes a bit. Mostly, though, the writing is just clunky. There’s a lot of what Tropers call ‘As You Know’ dialogue, with characters elaborating at length on things they know the person you claim to be already knows, or infodumping on you under a guise of idle chit-chat. It’s like an undercover mission in a kids’ tv show.

I must here give full credit to the game for doing something I didn’t think I had a right to expect: to the best of my knowledge, the actors are (mostly) from the right part of the world for the parts they’re playing. I kind of worried I was going to be watching a bunch of Anglo-Saxons in wigs and silly accents. But, judging from the surnames in the credits, the Atlanteans are mainly Greek, south European or Middle Eastern (or American immigrants therefrom, at least), the El Dorado people are Latin and/or Native American (I think), and the monks of Shangri-La are all East Asian (albeit not Tibetans or Nepalese). Not bad, considering. And, by and large, there’s not an excessive amount of stereotype. Talk of magic and spirituality isn’t much more pronounced in the Native Americans than in the other two groups. A couple of the Doradoans (Doradii? Doradoi?) seem a bit over the top, though. So far as I’m any judge, there is no particular Asian stereotype common to the Shangri-La characters. As for the Atlanteans, the only thing in the game that makes me cringe is the hammily cheerful African ferryman, who, while technically a slave, professes to be perfectly content with his lot. Swing, and a big, racist miss.

Visually, the game looks lovely. The graphics are low-res even by the standards of their time, but the designers lovingly studied the aesthetics of real-world civilizations to build these places. The Inca and Nazca lent a lot to El Dorado. If they’d had hot air balloons, this is what they’d have looked like, I daresay. Rather than do the usual thing and make Atlantis look like an idealized Classical city, they went for a lavish Minoan look. Much more plausible and unfamiliar to modern eyes. And, speaking as the grandson of a Buddhist, I had to laugh when I realized that the monastery of Shangri-La is basically the Potala Palace in Lhasa and the Boudhanath in Kathmandu in the wake of a head-on collision.

Actually, on that note, there’s something about this game that really jumped out at me. You remember how I said that you pick up some real-life historical trivia from Arthur pertaining to the real civilizations these settings were based on? Nowhere is that more true than in Shangri-La. Possibly because Tibetan civilization is better documented than Nazca or Minoan. Anyway, the game takes a stab at having educational content – it vaguely reminds me of Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego – but while you’ll pick up tidbits about ancient South America and the Mediterranean, this game contains virtually a grade-school level introduction to Tibetan Buddhism!

Talk to the Lama, and it’s all there: reincarnation, the Four Noble Truths, enlightenment, Nirvana. The whole shebang. The famous mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is even a key to one of the puzzles! I actually found out a few things about the mythology I hadn’t previously heard of.

It tickles my affections because Buddhism is the one religion I’ve ever even considered follwing, and as a secular code of ethics it still retains its charm. You can solve the three worlds in any order you like, but I think that the developers intended for you to do Shangri-La last – which I ended up doing in my first playthrough. The origins of the ancient alien artefact are expressed using the wheel of reincarnation as a metaphor, and there’s an extra step in finishing the level that’s analogous to enlightenment.

Which makes it a little distressing when you remember that you’re visiting all three civilizations a few days before their destruction. There’s no suggestion that we’re even trying to avert that and save all the characters we’ve gotten to know. If there’d been some kind of Temporal Prime Directive, as they say on Star Trek, that would’ve have at least acknowledged it. It’s a plot hole that jumped out at me my second run through, and left it with a rather melancholy air.

However, that omission aside, the game is quite clever, beautifully designed, and unexpectedly charming. Amateur-hour acting and writing aside, it’s a lot of fun, and kicks off a free-floating sense of nostalgia for a 90’s kid. Time travelling in pursuit of ancient alien artefacts was the kind of plot I’d have gone absolutely ga-ga over in those days. I’m glad I caught up with it.

Or it travelled through time via the GOG machine to catch up with me, I suppose.

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Posted by on July 18, 2016 in Video Game

 

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Pirates of Dark Water: A Missing Link

I’ve said before that we 80’s-90’s kids are a nostalgic bunch, and when it comes to cartoons, we have much to be nostalgic about: Gargoyles, the DC and Marvel Animated Universes, and for us unironic leftists, Captain Planet.

For the longest time, I’ve had a vague memory in the back of my head of a program from my early childhood, but I couldn’t remember what it was called; I could only recall one scene, and that it was about sailing ships and questing for a bunch of treasures. After a while, I began to wonder if a couple of unrelated childhood memories had just blurred together in my mind.

A couple of weeks ago, a passing reference on Zero Punctuation finally kicked my mental stars into alignment. I wasn’t even paying full attention to the video when I heard the title, and my eyes widened in recognition of the words: Pirates of Dark Water.

This animated series by Hanna-Barbera, running from 1991-93, takes place on an alien water world known as Mer. Young Ren is the keeper of a lighthouse on the shores of his former home, the ruined realm of Octopon. Destroyed, like much of Mer by the spreading plague of Dark Water, a vile, devouring horror of the seas.

The evil pirate Lord Bloth sails to the ruins in pusuit of a castaway prisoner, who reveals with his dying breath to Ren that he is the former King Primus of Octopon, and Ren’s father!

Prince Ren takes up his father’s broken sword and magic compass, to complete his quest: to seek the magical Thirteen Treasures of Rule. These treasures have the power to restore the ruined lands of Mer and drive back the Dark Water.

Ren brings together, to use the show’s phrase, “an unlikely but loyal crew of misfits” including the cynical pirate Ioz, the beautiful magician-warrior Tula and Lord Bloth’s former slave, the monkey-bird Niddler on the good (stolen) ship Wraith. Together they seek for the Treasures, fighting off sorcerers, sea monsters, barbarians, cultists and the unrelenting Bloth, who covets the Treasures and their power over Dark Water for himself.

The funny thing is, I don’t actually have a lot of nostalgia for Pirates of Dark Water; as I said, up until now I thought I might have imagined it. Watching it on the Internet, though, I can certainly understand why people would be.

It evokes a lot of things for me. The sleek, ornamented ships, Arabian Nights clothing and sea monsters make it look like a cartoon version of Ray Harryhausen swashbucklers like the Golden Voyage of Sinbad or Jason and the Argonauts. The sword-and-sorcery setting evokes Krull, Dungeons and Dragons, or sci-fi/fantasy adventure writers like Robert E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs. The menace of an ancient evil sealed beneath the seas evokes H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

It also stands out in the quality of its visuals. Keep in mind that Hanna Barbera was known at the time for limited-style cartoons like Yogi Bear, the Flintstones, Scooby Doo and the Jetsons. It made for efficient and economical production, but the consequence was that their characters never moved more than the minimum necessary. This resulted in characters whose heads seem only informally attached to them, and who run like Riverdance, with upper bodies stock still above legs cycling like windmills.

Pirates of Dark Water looks startling by comparison, but at this point that really is faint praise. In fighting scenes, for example, there’s seldom a sense of impact, of force transferred from one person to the other. Although the ‘choreography’ is pretty good, it looks more like rehearsing a fight, not having one. Similar to this are things like Niddler lazily flapping his wings while carrying a person three times his size. The animation also didn’t maintain well; as the series went on it got less and less subtle. Characters’ physical ‘performace’ sometimes didn’t sync up with intense emotional dialogue. It looks way better than Transformers or Jem a few years before it, but not as good as Captain Planet or Batman: the Animated Series which followed after. The lavish watercolour backgrounds are lovely, but when compared to the bright flat colours of the characters, the effect is that they’re in front of the scenery rather than part of it.

That said, it’s really nice scenery to be in front of: the designs of buildings, ships and landscapes are marvelously variable, and brings across a sense of a huge world of widely-dispersed civilizations, a little bit like Earthsea. Whole ranges of creatures and sea monsters and ships delight the eye. Bloth’s giant ship the Maelstrom, constructed entirely of bone and transporting a pirate army with riding dragons and support craft is particularly magnificent. The show also has catapult-launched gliders, balloons, and bristles with exotic swords, boomerangs, crossbows and esoteric weaponry using venemous sea creatures as ammunition.

Character design deserves great credit; the villains are all so weird and deformed looking they may not even be human – and there are many non-human races on display – Bloth in particular is ogre-like, and Morpho, the Cthulhu-inspired Dark Water cultist genuinely unnerved me.

Better still, none of the three human leads are styled as lily-white Europeans. Ren admittedly looks like a deeply tanned Scandanavian, although a quirk of the art style makes his eyes look somewhat epicanthic, like maybe he had a Japanese grandmother or something. Tula and Ioz are definitely not Western European in appearance. Ioz looks sort of East Asian and Tula, going from her dress sense as well as her looks, could be from just about anywhere between Turkey and Thailand if those places existed on Mer.

What really stood out for me as I watched the show was that the dialogue is startlingly naturalistic and polished, with lots of banter and little character moments. For comparison I watched clips of episodes of She-Ra and Captain Planet, from opposite sides of Dark Water’s era, and their dialogue is comparatively clunky, pedantic and, as I’ve said of Captain Planet before, more like it was written by a child rather than for children. In other words, Pirates of Dark Water doesn’t talk down to kids like many of its contemporaries.

The main characters themselves are surprisingly nuanced. Ren is the Hero, always running to the rescue and doing the right thing, but in a way that brings him across as naive as much as principled. Ioz is a bit of a chauvinist and rogue who proves the line from Curse of the Black Pearl, that ‘piracy itself can be the right course.’ Tula wouldn’t be caught dead acting like a damsel in distress, and has cunning and gumption enough for the whole crew. Niddler stays consistently a step above the annoying, comic-relief team pet by having genuine traumas in his backstory. Bloth is smart, pragmatic but affable and with an honourable streak that makes for a more complex villain than, say, Megatron. The protagonists generally do develop, subtly, as time goes on, with Ren getting more savvy, Ioz more softhearted, Tula more trusting and Niddler more courageous, though the arcs are still very slight and unambitious.

This is backed up by the voice actors: Ren is voiced by George Newbern, later Superman in the DCAU’s Justice League series and beyond. Tula’s actress, Jodi Benson, had previously voiced the star of Disney’s Little Mermaid. Bloth is played by Brock Peters, known to Trekkies as Captain Sisko’s dad and Admiral Cartwright in the fourth and sixth movies, and has henchmen played by Tim Curry and Peter ‘Optimus Prime’ Cullen! Roddy MacDowell played Niddler in the pilot episodes, whereupon Frank Welker took over. Hilarious, considering Welker would much later hold the role of ‘Nibbler,’ another ravenous alien creature, in Futurama! Since, as usual, he also plays a ton of supporting characters and animals you can play ‘Spot Frank Welker’ while watching if you know what to listen for.

In general Pirates of Dark Water is working toward the state of later shows like Batman: the Animated Series, in that it’s aimed at kids but can also resonate with adults. Notably, it occasionally uses words like ‘die’ and ‘kill’ which were utterly off-limits in many contemporaries. To give the show a bit of grit, the writers created a set of fantasy-language curses. There are several blasphemies against Mer’s gods but also words that are clearly taking the place of ‘damn’ or ‘shit.’ It reminds me of one of my favourite shows: Farscape, which is famous for its alien swears. A key thing to remember though, is that Farscape’s fake swears were mainly meant to be funny; Dark Water’s were meant as a worldbuilding device and to darken up the setting, but some of them just sound goofy to adult ears. ‘Noy-Jitat’ sounds like an honest foreign language, but when Ioz exclaims ‘Chongo-Longo!’ the dramatic tension abruptly turns to dust. Not helping is that, as the show went on, these went from occasional punctuations to every second word of the dialogue. The dialogue is further undermined because, although well written, the short episode length often requires the actors to speak their lines quite quickly, making them seem rushed and halfhearted.

The worldbuilding is undisciplined. Part of what pulls you into Avatar: the Last Airbender is a clearly defined world for you to explore and learn about. In Dark Water, though, while there are one or two places revisited, we never see a world map and get a sense of the scope of things. Every island seems to have a completely different ecology and civilization, which is usually seen once and never again. There are so many one-off sapient creatures that the world seems overstuffed, vague, and less real.

But Pirates of Dark Water’s biggest drawback is that it didn’t finish. The show was cancelled with only eight treasures accounted for. Funnily, looking back, I remember now that I wasn’t sold on the show because I didn’t like the idea of a multi-episode story arc. I was too young to understand times and dates well enough to reliably keep abreast of it. With thirteen treasures to hunt down, I could have easily missed a lot and it turns out I was right to be wary. If they’d made it three treasures, or seven or some smaller, resonant number, that might have been safer. More problematically, though, the treasures became increasingly spaced out by filler episodes. It became more like the episodic one-adventure-at-a-time show that was standard back then instead of sticking to its guns.

My feeling is that Pirates of Dark Water was a show before its time. It clearly foretells the calibre of the DCAU, Gargoyles or Avatar, but it doesn’t actually reach that level itself. The animation standards weren’t equal to the story the creators were telling and there was little prior experience in mythology arcs, character development or refined worldbuilding to draw from. I also think the cast of protagonists is too small to create the kinds of complex dynamics that drive fanfiction and fan shipping. Speaking of shipping, the Wraith itself looks awesome, but characterizing your ship – the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean, Moya in Farscape or Serenity in Firefly – is, I believe, essential for this type of story. But the Wraith’s really just a mode of transport in practice. I also just think Wraith isn’t a very punchy name.

Pirates of Dark Water does not evoke nostalgia for me, but in a way I wish it did. It certainly deserves nostalgia, despite of missed opportunities. Much as I grumble about remakes, I wouldn’t mind remaking Pirates of Dark Water, because it’s a chance show all that’s been learned, from the age of Transformers to the age of Legend of Korra, and truly realize its ambitions. Regardless, I’m glad to have recovered this lost memory, and to memorialize a sign of things to come from my childhood.

Sail away, sail away.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2016 in Television

 

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Earth Day Special: Nostalgia, Applicability and Captain Planet

Every so often I go off on a massive nostalgia kick. This seems to be a common affliction with people in my generation. Growing up, as we were, in a bit of a Renaissance of animation, video games and literature, we’re lucky to have much to be nostalgic about.

But, nostalgia, in the words of Yahtzee Croshaw, “is like stuffing your cheeks with cocaine-infused marbles in that it makes you say stupid things.”

In the early nineties media overlord Ted Turner got a bee in his bonnet about corporate responsibility and commanded his underlings to create a program about environmental superheroes. Said underlings went to the cartoon stables and decided to crossbreed Power Rangers with Care Bears and thus was born Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

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By your powers combined…

Gaia, the spirit of the Earth (resembling the Greek Titan in name only) shakes her head at humanity’s polluting ways and recruits five young people, one from each major continent (Australia goes overlooked for some reason) and gives them each a ring that allows them to call on one or another Classical element, plus ‘Heart’ which allowed telepathy with animals, among other things. When the Planeteers (as they become known) are, inevitably, confronted with a situation that their wits and individual powers can’t overcome, they activate them all in sequence summoning, a ridiculously powerful genie-like superhero who mops up the villainous polluting plot of the day.

The premises of the show are that a whole is stronger than the sum of its parts, if you need me to figure that out for you, and that we should all give peace a chance and save the world and that nature is inviolate etc. etc. It also drew in a startling number of celebrity voices, including Sting, Malcolm MacDowell, Martin Sheen, Vanna White and Elizabeth Taylor, plus a lot of the iconic voice actors of the time, like Jim Cummings, Frank Welker and Ed Asner.

Okay so you can sort of see how we’re off to a good start here. Now try actually watching it…

A half-hour program does have to streamline the content, but ‘streamline‘ isn‘t the same thing as ‘dumb down.’ Captain Planet does dumb down and sends the quality down through the floor. The writing gives the impression that the creators have heard of environmental crises, but they don’t genuinely understand what they’re talking about, and they have a similar relationship with anything outside the white-middle-class-American experience. Whatever region of the world is the setting du jour tends to get a massive injection of stereotype. The episode “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belfast” lives on in especial infamy for this reason.
Amerindian cultures (from which Ma-Ti, the South America/Heart Planeteer, originates) get this particularly badly, being all mystical, morally superior nature-communers.
The main characters themselves are dreadfully one-dimensional. Kwame (Planeteer of Africa/Earth) comes the closest to seeming well-rounded, and I’m not sure that that isn’t a just product of having the voice of LeVar Burton, who can make stereo instructions sound profound. Wheeler (North America/Fire) serves the same function as Doctor Who’s companions, to ask the audience’s questions, but he’s portrayed as arrogant, complaining and constantly wrong about everything. Compare him to Sokka of Avatar: the Last Airbender, who is frequently obnoxious and contrary but is still intelligent and allowed to be right every so often.

The show is often mocked for villains who are into ‘pollution for pollution’s sake.’ Most of them are technically in it for money or ideology or insanity of some sort but the cackling glee they take in doing as much damage as possible is headache-inducing. Example: the episode ‘Fare Thee Whale’ covers the real-life practice of getting around international whaling bans by throwing up a façade of scientific research; the evil scientist villainess uses it as a chance to refine her ‘concentrated pollution formula.’

Speaking of which, the dialogue is atrocious, with characters giving lectures to each other and speaking in terms so pedantic it’s like a bad radio play.

The show is, in all the wrong ways, a spiritual successor to Generation 1 Transformers: it’s created to push something (albeit a bit more honourable than toys) and the stories are just vehicles for that with no soul of their own. The show actually broke some pretty impressive ground in a few cases, highlighting social issues like AIDS, family planning and gang violence, but the problems above rob them of gravitas. The morality is absurdly black-and-white, never admitting to the concept of doing a bad thing for the greater good or vice- versa.

The episode ‘The Dream Machine’ demonstrates this. It was attempting to show the negative impact of runaway consumerism by presenting one of the villains springing it on a remote, rural South American community. But since this comes out of the USA it comes across as saying ‘We already have this, but NOT FOR YOU OR YOU WILL DESTROY YOURSELVES!’ As they say on TV Tropes, their Aesops are Broken.

Some would say this is because it’s a kid’s show, but its contemporaries like Batman: the Animated Series and Gargoyles proved that kids are not this dense, and can handle some actual subtlety and grey areas in the name of a good story well-told. Everything in Captain Planet has to be saccharine and morally clean, which just ends up making a show for kids sound like it was written by kids.

So why does anyone remember this fondly? It was an insult to our intelligence and ideologically a lot of what left-leaning people and organizations are stereotyped and sneered at as being. Oh, and I might add the theme song was horrendous.

There are at least three possible explanations. One of these is that its hackneyed-sounding motto of “the Power is Yours” actually counted for something.
I’m fairly sure that it’s the nucleus of the fact that I care about the environment in the first place. I once stumbled across an interview from the mid-nineties with LeVar Burton (who, between Star Trek, Captain Planet and Reading Rainbow was something of a fixture in my childhood) wherein he said that kids responded overwhelmingly to its message.

The second one is that, as I and others of that generation have grown up, the issues dealt with so ham-fistedly in the show have not gone away. Some of them, like Climate Change, sectarian conflict and economic inequality have actually gotten worse. So those of us from that generation use it to remember when we got to be idealistic about this kind of thing.

The third is that we recognize how good and effective it could have been. We love it for all the things it had the potential to be. It wouldn‘t have a fan fiction community otherwise. Watching as an adult you can see glimpses of the right ideas. If they’d made the show arc-based and character-driven instead of episodic and plot-driven, or the writers done enough research to lend some authenticity to the content, some good things could have happened. Given the show-stopping power of the Captain’s abilities, removing Captain Planet himself and making it just about the Planeteers‘ characters, or placing some strict limits on the circumstances where they can summon him would have been a massive improvement.

Every so often they got it almost right between lesson and story: the episode ‘Bitter Waters’ managed to deal sensibly with big business’s relationship with low-income communities, and call itself out on the double standards discussed earlier, but then blew it on the ‘stereotyped Native Americans’ front. Likewise the episode “’Teers in the Hood” dared to take the characters down a morally difficult path, but yet again, you can tell the writers had only ever heard of street gang violence without understanding it, and they only gave themselves 20-odd minutes to work in.

It would be nice if we could have such media with real-world applicability for kids without the preaching from the pulpit of privelige. Lots of shows have good and positive themes, but seldom actually arm your social conscience the way this one tried to. This and His Dark Materials conspire to make me wonder: is it literally impossible to make a clear statement and tell a good story at the same time?

I decided to do this retro review in honour of Earth Day, and like the show itself, it is rather weak. This is not merely because I’m a nerd in denial or a preachy soppy liberal (although both of those happen to be true) but because I and many of my friends still remember this show fondly and yet aren’t sure what to do with it. All I can say is that, as I make little gestures like picking up litter or turning off lights in the name of being an environmentally conscious citizen, and agonize over whether (and where) to go into activism, those five kids and their blue buddy are in the back of my head, reminding me that the power is ours…

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2013 in Television

 

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