Centurions – Power Xtreme!
By Dave Newman on 15th February 2021
One of the big winners of the vote last week was Centurions, which ran for 65 episodes in the eighties and has always felt like something that should’ve been a lot bigger than it was. Great toyline, with the main characters having powersuits with ports all over them that allow you to connect different weapons and vehicle parts to them, with Ace McCloud in blue as the aerial guy, Max Ray in green as the nautical guy, and Jake Rockwell as the ground guy (although he did have some flight gear as well). The writers were pretty cool about mimicking how you might play with them as kids too, so if Max Ray is on the injured list and you need to go underwater then Ace or Jake could power up with one of his sea suits. Or, you could be Jake Rockwell and be scooting around a city in a road vehicle, but need to join up with the others quickly, so Skyvault, the space base of operations, can beam up the ground vehicle and refit you with an aerial vehicle to fly off.
Villain of the show is Doc Terror, with criminal cohort Hacker. He kinda manipulated Hacker into becoming his personal science experiment in order to ensure his freedom from the cops. Not seen, but implied, is that he has to have an arm and a leg chopped off in order to be bonded to a heavy armour and weapons suit. When the World Council see him as an abomination, and without the ability to be changed back, he throws a tantrum that seriously injures Doc Terror, meaning that the scientist has to give up half of his body AND face to live on. They can switch their cyborg halves with similar flight or weapon suits.
This is a “mini-series” insomuch as it was aired about six months before the rest of the series, but it’s not like one episode flows into the next and so on.
The Sky Is On Fire
Immediately notable is the remastering that Warner Bros. did prior to releasing these episodes on DVD, with all the blast effects and explosions especially looking bright and vivid. The Centurions travel to the island base on Oceania, which Hacker, Doc Terror’s daughter Amber, and an army of Doom Drones have infiltrated. They get away with a prototype weapon with special heat and freeze capabilities. I’m immediately reminded that it has to be an island base so that Max can pursue the villains’ boat by water.
Doc Terror’s long game is to ignite the Van Allen belt, setting the sky on fire, with the implication that the cryogenic laser can negate that. The World Council seemingly give into his hostage demands to ensure the safety of Earth, but the “President” is actually Max in disguise, with Ace in close pursuit. Max gets exposed pretty quickly, with his mask actually splitting in half vertically after a tussle with Terror, and takes a tumble out of his airship.
Then, to Tibet, where the secret weapon is being held, in order to recover it. Not really the most complex plot, pretty much designed to show off the gimmicks of the show, but it’s very quick-paced and I realise just how heavily influenced by James Bond the villains are, with Terror fitting the mad scientist billing who has the world to ransom and Hacker being the heavy akin to Jaws, with even Amber having a bit of possible ambiguity as to whether she is truly evil or not.
Battle Beneath the Sea
An Antipodean adventure, with a Doc Terror attack in Australia drawing the attention of the Centurions. Ace takes care of the borgs in the sky, Jake the ground, and Max the sea, sending Terror and Hacker back to their base, Dominion. Terror works out that the problem in battling the Centurions is their access to Skyvault and the weapons beamed down, so somehow he concludes that creating a robotic merman named Mako will solve that. Mako creates an explosion that causes a tidal wave, cracking the underwater Sealab and allowing him and his fellow fishborgs to invade while Jake is there. Somehow the maths don’t work out, but it does enable him somehow to control their beam technology.
Luckily Ace and Max are aboard Skyvault, so they can still access the equipment up there, even though they’re in space, but then it seems like they just go and use it anyway. They come to the rescue, led there by intelligent, communicative dolphins, although the dolphins seem to do better against some armed sharks than you’d give them credit for.
My two main points on this episode focus on the points of cyborgs and Jake Rockwell. There’s a theme of if you remain human but can engage with technology then you’re OK, but if you change your physiology you become a freak despite your enhancements, hence why the green carp-like soldiers led by Mako are so ghastly, plus a giant squid Terror creates loses something and becomes free for any attacks when its tendrils are metallic.
With Rockwell, he’s played by Vince Edwards, who didn’t have the same level of experience as a voice actor as the other members of the cast, so his performances are a bit more on the nose. I was interested to find out he was from the New York area when Rockwell is so clearly a cowboy, the type of character that someone like Robert Conrad would’ve played. Makes me ponder what drew them to employ him, not that it’s unwelcome.
An Alien Affair
A comet heading towards Earth seems to have some sort of intelligence inside it, so the Centurions head inside and notice how it seems to have been made for something to inhabit. Sounds like a science fiction movie premise, Jake knowingly remarks. There is some sort of dragon-like creature residing in it that we get to see here and there, but is that just a pet of something bigger? No, it’s the big bad, and it shoots electricity from its chest.
The creature piggybacks the beam back to Skyvault, where it causes havoc before the boys put it on ice. More of an antagonist than it is a smarmy scientist who’s more interested in research than human concerns. The creature causes a lights out situation, meaning the third act gets to be played out in a cool blue shade for a while before the creature overtakes the base.
Where this one wins points is from being the first episode to go without a threat from Doc Terror and Hacker, not that they were pushing their luck. Where it doesn’t entirely fulfil the potential is not embracing the full horror of the Alien concept and being quieter, darker and more mysterious. The alien creature, somewhat comically nicknamed ‘Kitty’, could’ve been hidden away for longer and maybe have been the device of something greater trying to test the Centurions, but it is what it is.
Found: One Lost World
From outer space to a secret world beneath the surface of the world. Ace and Max down Doc Terror’s airbase, then rather than bringing down a security team to take them prisoner beam back up to Skyvault. Terror and Hacker go walkabout and find a land populated by dinosaurs and some lizard-like savages who can mentally control them. Terror’s plan: make dinoborgs out of them, under his control. It’s actually not far off what Dino-Riders would do later, and the tyrannosaurus is particularly horrid, with metal jaw and replaced eyes. Terror takes it to the surface, again drawing the attention of the Centurions.
Even though they’re the victors, as always, this isn’t a great episode for the Centurions, with the more interesting stuff coming with a jealous reptilian warrior who’s not happy that Doc Terror has come underground and taken over the show. They flesh out the lizards pretty well for monosyllabic characters, including having women (with BIG hair!) and children that aren’t entirely to blame, plus ultimately having them become dispensable. It’s Terror and his men who slink away at the end, with the dinosaurs left for the lizards to control, but there’s no reversal of how they appear, so the impact of them going from “stone age to machine age”, as the guys remark, is pretty big.
An Arabian transport crew encounter a seemingly moving sandstorm, with a massive worm-like creature at the centre of it, then disappear. This draws down the Centurions AND Skyvault commander Crystal Kane to investigate. A prince is visited, who Crystal immediately gets close with, while Ace flirts from scene-to-scene with whichever attractive females are around. A suspicious character is presented in the form of the prince’s general, but is he too obviously villainous? He is the sort of arsehole to have a bust of himself in his office and hidden plans (and a hidden camera) reveal a link to Doc Terror, so it’s not too long until the villains reveal themselves properly.
The five episodes, although not part of an ongoing storyline and all acting as individual stories, share a common goal of showing off the heroes in varied locations, be it in the sky, underwater, in space, the jungle, or, in this case, the desert. Crystal is a welcome addition to the ground, even though she serves a damsel in distress role at least once in the episode. She gets to be part of some cool hovercar driving too.
Doc Terror and Hacker actually cut and run early, with energy diverted to their base, leaving the evil general as the man to beat. He’s also in possession of the monsters from the episode, the worm and vaguely humanoid scorpions, which is a change.
The Bottom Line: A highly accessible introduction to the Centurions show, with the heroes and their weapons shown off well throughout.