Centurions was always a dark horse for me. It never reached the immense amounts of popularity some of the other toons of it's time enjoyed, (and still enjoy) but at the same time, it was clearly one of the more unique ones of the lot, mixing the era's fascination with weird electro gizmos with the classic good/versus evil derivative. The thing that made it so interesting was how they took serious subject matter, like terrorism, and just totally goofed it all up by having villains who essentially were even more retarded versions of Box from Logan's Run.
Today we're going to review an episode of the show, not because the episode is all that interesting, but because it'll be easier for you to understand the nuances of the show with a walkthrough of the Centurions' daily life, which consisted mainly of cliche one-liners and getting lazer beams shot at them from a spaceship. Radiation doesn't exist in 80s cartoons. The team consists of Max Ray, Jake Rockwell, and Ace McCloud - who respectively can each call upon special equipment that gives them mastery over land, sea, and air. Crystal Lake, the resident hot chick, usually just hangs out in a ship hovering above the Earth, ready to beam down any special weapons the team might need. It's a lonely job, but she gets to hang out with a monkey, so there's at least a little balance.
The villains consist of evil mastermind, Doc Terror, and his henchman, Hacker. They're basically twisted versions of the Centurions who turned to terrorism only because they're too ugly for heroism. Now that we've set everything up, let's see how a usual story played out. Bear in mind that I often mix up the heroes' names, so from this point on, the Centurions will simply be known as 'The Yellow Guy,' 'The Green Guy,' and 'The Blue Guy.' If you're writing a term paper on 'em and need the real names, I wouldn't quote X-E as your main source in the bibliography.
We start off with Hacker infiltrating a government warehouse by hiding inside one of the delivered crate. I guess he was stupid enough to go along with Doc Terror's plan of mailing him to the government in a cleverly unmarked box. You've really gotta wonder how long he's been sitting in there, waiting for this precise moment. Were there any telltale signs of when he was supposed to break out of the box, or did he just wing it and assume Lady Luck was with him at the time?
Whatever the case, he terrorizes the staff with his spinning claw hand, mainly because that's what a terrorist does, and if you had a spinning claw hand, you'd use it to inspire fear too. I mean you gotta make lemonade with your lemons, right? Hacker may never achieve that perfect American archetype of having a family with 2.5 kids, because let's be honest, who's gonna fuck him, but at the very least -- he knows how to be menacing. At this point, we're still not sure what his intentions are, but since he's snarling a lot and breaking office equipment, it's easy to surmise that he's not there to find his inner child, or a soda machine.
Elsewhere, the Centurions meet up with some blonde scientist who shows them a top-secret government weapon - a gun that turns everything it hits into pure ice. Why the government would be creating super-weapons like this is beyond me, and even beyond the Centurions, who marvel at how terrible it'd be if Doc Terror ever got his hands on it. It must suck if you're the government guy who creating this thing, since you spend months upon months crafting this awesome gun only to have it's very existence shot to shit by the president's pet project.
The blonde chick explains that the Centurions must protect the gun, while I realize that lavender seems like an odd choice for government officials. The heroes agree to the mission, because if an ice gun ever got into Doc Terror's hands, there'd be Hell to pay. He could like, you know, freeze stuff to death. By the way, doesn't the guy with the hat in the second picture above look like M. Bison's distant gay cousin? I'm just saying.
Sure enough, Hacker appears from a side door with his evil robot army, demanding that they get the super-lazer. The Centurions aren't going for it, so the bad guys just blow stuff up, covering them with an array of debris left over from the explosion. It always amazes me that, in these cartoons, the heroes are always totally vulnerable to any and every attack in the first few minutes of the show. It's like they don't remember that they're totally infallible and invincible till the last trimester of the episode, if for nothing else than to inspire a cool, heroic climax. It's almost as if they're letting Hacker win here so they can formulate a grand drama and save the day later, after the hoopla's all over the news, so they can look like really great guys.
Oh yeah, that blonde chick? Turns out she wasn't a government scientist at all. In fact, she's not even a blonde. Trickery!
Look, it was actually the Baroness in disguise, following the dreadful mandate of Cobra. No, it's really Doc Terror's daughter, the Poor Man's Baroness. She doesn't share her father's penchant for ugliness, but she's indeed evil, and worse yet, the Centurions can't simply kick the shit out of her because that wouldn't be very gentlemanly. Of course, this begs the question of why she'd go through the trouble of messing with the Centurions when she's already incognito and has the ice gun, but I've learned a long time ago that shows like this defy rationality and, if I'm going to review them, I've gotta remember that the target demographic was more interested in the heroes' colorful suits than of the intricacies of Doc Terror's daughter's stupid ice-beam stealing plot.
Up in space, Crystal beams her men down some special equipment to help get them out of the rubble. Great timing, Crystal...where were you five minutes ago? Ace could've really done wonders if you turned him into a giant cannon or something. Frickin procrastinating bitch.
The Centurions fly, run, and swim off to attempt to reconcile their previous errors, but it's too late: Doc Terror is already well on his way to completing his mission of becoming the world's biggest ball buster.
I've got a confession to make - I don't really understand how or where the ice gun fits into his plan. As we find out, Doc Terror is threatening to raise the Earth's temperature to over 150 degrees, which is neither cool nor comfortable, and would cause a huge panic and a lot of people to melt like Klondike bars. I guess he could be stealing the ice gun as a sort of backup plan. If trying to turn the planet into a giant oven doesn't pan out, he could always start freezing everyone. It almost worked for Mr. Freeze, but Ahnald Schwazanagggah Doc Terror ain't.
In a small press conference between only himself and his sworn enemies, Terror makes a gigantic ransom demand that'd be totally ridiculous for anyone to meet. Still, since he has the power to turn Earth into Hell, the Centurions worry that their superiors might give into his demands. They're not worried because they want to keep Doc from getting rich - they're worried because they'll end up looking like saps who can't get the job done. And if that happens, someone might discontinue their use of those ultra cool suits. If there's one thing the Centurions hate, it's waiting on the line at Sears to buy a pair of boring slacks.
Sure enough, their fears are realized: the president has every intention of meeting the Doc's demands. What's a few million dollars going to be worth if he's too scorched to spend it? The Centurions start absolutely freaking out, despondent that the nation's leader doesn't have enough faith in their abilities to let them give it a try first. Hey guys, you should've considered that before you let a loser like Hacker cover you in concrete and fly off with a super-weapon. The past really does bite you in the ass, sometimes. It just takes a little longer for it to happen in the Centurions' case because their asses are covered in some sort of experimental neon-colored metal.
Eventually, the president caves and allows our heroes to give it a shot first. What could it hurt, right? It's only the fate of the planet at stake. Let's try to save some money.
The Green Guy dresses up like the president and delivers a faked version of the ransom, but Doc Terror soon unmasks his plan. Amazingly, The Green Guy managed to find a leisure suit that perfectly fit over his blocky mechanic uniform without looking suspect in the slightest. That's how we know they're really powerful. Unfortunately, this little prank just serves to piss Doc Terror off more, and as The Green Guy escapes, our favorite villain decides to raise Earth's temperature to 150 degrees.
150 degrees? Wouldn't half the population die off like, immediately? I dunno, I can't really tell, maybe I should consult some people on the west coast. Seems a little odd to me, though. Now the Doc's plan has changed a bit - he's no longer asking for a ransom. He's going to go ahead and raise the temperature, hoping to inspire enough exhaustion and confusion that he can easily enslave the entire planet. Because, you know, that's what bad guys do. Enslave planets.
Our friends prepare for the final battle, all suited up. Let me take a moment to explain the premise of their power-suits. Crystal, up in space, can send her guys any equipment they might need with the push of a button. So, if one of them is falling from the sky, she can beam down rocket packs or something of that nature. The reason their suits are full of holes is to allow slots for all these goodies to attach themselves to. I'm a little concerned that the weight of putting an entire rocket or boat on their backs might be a bit much, but they seem unaffected. I guess Crystal's beaming down steroids and a God Complex too.
My guess is that they'd use all these holes for other things, too. Maybe Ace uses all the holes by his waist to hold various keys when not in combat. They're also great for smuggling store-bought candy into the movies. What we've got here are the ultimate outfits for multitasking.
Sadly, once they reach Doc Terror's evil complex, they're captured immediately and thrown into a prison cell. So, they hatch the stupidest plan I've ever heard of in my life to escape, and it actually works! They extend a piece of metal wire out the convenient prison window, running it to the locked steel door. Lightning strikes the wire, and the current travels through it, blasting the door clear off it's hinges. If I hatched a plan like that and it actually worked, I'd be bragging about it for at least a half hour. Fortunately, our heroes realize there's no time for that, and just set their sights on fighting crime to the extreme.
See what I mean? Fifteen minutes ago these guys couldn't get a bullet within miles of Hacker, and now they just totally beat his ass. Course, it doesn't hurt matters any that Crystal is beaming them down weapons at a rate of one every ten seconds. Hacker doesn't know any chicks in space who hang out with monkeys to send him extra ammo, so he falls to his knees and begs for mercy. Actually he doesn't beg for mercy, he just kinda growls and it sounds like a retreat-like noise.
Knowing when to call it quits, Doc Terror grabs Hacker and his daughter and uses an underground monorail to escape to his secret Arctic base. No really, that's where they're going. Must be an insanely fast underground monorail. But before they leave, they blow up their palace out of sheer spite and leave no traceable way of keeping the planet from boiling over. So even though they lost the battle, looks like they might win the all-important war. Or maybe not, since there's still four minutes left in the episode, which is just enough time for the heroes to halt Armageddon.
I really couldn't follow what happened here, but one of the Centurions flies up into space with the ice beam, shoots at something, and everyone's satisfied that the global threat has been vanquished. I'll take their word for it. Why would they lie? If the Earth started melting in a few minutes, everybody would know the truth anyway.
I was a little disappointed that they didn't use their suits much in this episode - usually, we get a ton of stock footage of them transforming into ships and tanks and stuff. They spent too much time haggling with politicians and getting beat up in this one. Oh well. They're Centurions, not Jedi. Put Kit Fisto in one of those suits and we'll see some real action.
To close out the show, The Yellow Guy makes hot, hot chili, which brings on groans from his teammates. All things considered, all they want is cold, cold water. Isn't it awesome how The Yellow Guy makes dinner while still wearing that bulky suit? I'm telling you, once you put on an outfit like that, you never wanna take it off. Even if it wasn't so cool, who wants to spend three hours pulling 50,000 pieces of metal off their chest?
Overall: Fun show. I'm interested in seeing more episodes, if only to find out if Crystal stays up in space all the time. I don't see how it's possible. She can't go through the trouble of putting on all that makeup every day just to impress the damn monkey, right? B+.
The Centurions, of course, had a great line of accompanying toys. The figures were far larger than those of most other lines, and came with more gadgets than any kid knew how to work. Here's a little gallery of various Centurions toys and items from throughout the years. If you look hard enough, you'll even see the elusive Centurions Presto Magix set. Click on each picture to see the full-sized version...
By the way, if you missed it yesterday, we reviewed another 80s toon classic, Bravestarr! What's coming up next? Check back tomorrow and see. Unless I decide to take a month off. Then come back in June.
Instant Messager: xecharchar
X-E in Entertainment Weekly: X-E was mentioned in the last issue of EW for an old Star Wars Holiday Special article I wrote. If you've got the latest issue, the one with Ozzy on the cover, check out page 97. If you don't, you can see the story on their site by clicking here!