Who am I? 24601! (Captain Power: Judgment)

It is the last day of January, 1988. INXS tops the Billboard charts with “Need You Tonight”, one of those songs people tend to use a second-long clip from as part of an audio montage to indicate “The Eighties”. They unseated Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”, which last week dethroned George Harrison. Whitesnake, George Michael and Whitney Houston fall out of the top ten in favor of Expose, Roger, and Eric Carmen (with “Hungry Eyes”, the song which usually follows “Need You Tonight” in those eighties audio montages). A Washington football team whose name I will not repeat wins their second Super Bowl, defeating Denver. Their quarterback, Doug Williams, is the first African American Quarterback to play in and win the Superbowl, while tying the then-record for most touchdowns thrown, and breaking Joe Montana’s record for most passing yards. Biggles In the past two weeks, Skrillex was born, Canada’s supreme court has struck down an abortion ban, Vice President George Bush appeared on the CBS Evening News and gets in an argument with Dan Rather over the Iran-Contra Affair, The Phantom of the Opera opens on Broadway, Biggles, a movie Leah liked as a kid, premiers, and I turned nine.

Immediately after the Super Bowl, ABC premiers The Wonder Years, starring Fred Savage as a kid growing up in the 1960s, with Daniel Stern narrating as the same character reflecting on his youth from the present. In a minor coincidence, in the late ’90s, Savage would star in Working, a failed over-the-top satirical workplace comedy, while Stern would voice the title character in the failed animated TV adaptation of the over-the-top satirical workplace comedy Dilbert.

Captain Power took last week off, leaving Star Trek The Next Generation unopposed in the war for the hearts and minds of geeks, insofar as there was ever an actual fight going on. Correspondingly, TNG softballed it with “Angel One”, about which the nicest thing I can say is “at least they tried. I think.” It’s pretty much one of Roddenberry’s original example premises from the initial 1960s Star Trek pitch: a planet where the women are dominant and men are the underclass, isn’t that wacky? I guess the basic idea of “See? You wouldn’t like it much if you got treated that way, would you?” isn’t terrible, but there’s the whole undercurrent of “Women in charge? That’s not right!” that ruins it. Also, this was apparently meant to be a direct parallel to South African apartheid, but that really only comes across at the end, when the local leader decides to banish the uppity menfolk rather than executing them, having conceded that the current system is unstable, and resigned to just slow down the inevitable.

They bring their A-Game this week, though, with “11001001”, an episode that’s actually good, provided you can get past a handful of really stupid things that the plot hinges on. Such as the bit where the Binars, members of the Federation, hijack the Enterprise to save their planet, because if they’d just mentioned to the Federation that their planet was doomed and needed to borrow a Galaxy-Class Starship’s main computer for an hour, the Federation “might have said no” (See, because they think like computers, they are unable to — actually, no, I have a fucking master’s in this stuff, so I am not going to belittle my education by pretending there is any logical way to explain their actions that isn’t predicated on complete nonsense masquerading as discrete logic), or that the captain and first officer of a Galaxy-Class starship get distracted by an attractive holographic woman and fail to notice the entire ship getting evacuated. But these are intensely ordinary “People who write for TV don’t have a damned clue about how computers or formal logic work,” and “Starfleet Bridge Officers are notoriously incompetent,”  sort of problems that you expect from Star Trek, not the particular incompetence of the first season. Plus Minuet is a neat character, and the Binars are the most interesting and exciting new race to be introduced, hence us never seeing them again.

Up against what’s pretty much universally considered one of the stronger season 1 TNG episodes, Captain Power responds with “Judgment”, an episode that has enough promise that Stargate SG-1 will go on to do basically the same plot twice. I should be up-front about this. “Judgment” is an important character-development episode for Pilot, an important bit of enriching the world, it has some of the best CGI work in the series, and complex themes, it’s got a really surprising guest cast, and Jessica Steen got a Gemini nomination for her performance (Also nominated that year: Sarah Polley, who is not quite three weeks older than I am, which, as previously mentioned, was nine while all this was happening. Okay, dad, you can commence comment about what a slacker I am). And I just don’t like it very much, and I don’t really know why. It’s just kind of… Meh. I don’t know. The pacing is weak in the first act, and the resolution is too pat, and even as the least-action-packed episode we’ve had, it still feels like it’s bitten off more plot than it can chew. I don’t hate it or anything; I’m just underwhelmed by it.

Captain Power on SkybikeWe open, unusually, on Scout giving the Captain’s Log. I haven’t mentioned the Captain’s log framing device much because it hasn’t really mattered much. Just a short voice over giving the date and establishing the context for the episode, usually something like, “We intercepted a signal from Lord Dread and are going to Sector 3 to investigate”. This time, it’s a bit different, since Scout is informing us that Cap and Pilot have gone missing while bringing back an intercepted “data tape” with critical information about Project New Order. We’re actually seeing these events play out on-screen, so the main contribution of the voice-over is to establish what they’re doing out there. Also, I guess, to justify Maurice Dean Wint’s paycheck, since neither he nor Tank nor Hawk appear at all in this episode.

For no obvious reason, Captain Power is riding bitch on a hoverbike with Pilot, rather than doing what they have otherwise always done and take the Jumpship, or at the least, do the obvious thing and ride separate hoverbikes. But then the plot wouldn’t happen. They’re being chased by Soaron, and while it’s sweet of the effects artists to try, the hoverbike’s “shadow” on the landscape is so wrong that I half expect Peter Pan to show up and try to stick it back on with soap. Cap manages to take off one of Soaron’s wings and his leg with that laser bazooka from last week. But as the CGI menace spins off out of control, he gets in one good shot and blows up one of the hoverbike’s hover-things, causing a not even close to seamless crash scene that ends with Cap and Pilot being very gently thrown to the ground.

Pilot Kisses Captain PowerFor such a gentle tumble, though, Cap really failed to roll with it: though we don’t actually see the injury that’s rendered him unable to walk, Pilot’s able to assess it just by looking once she cuts a hole in his pants, and that suggests a pretty bad break, possibly a compound fracture. He orders her to take the data tape and make for the nearby oasis. She begrudgingly agrees, then kind of awkwardly gives him a kiss on the cheek. This is supposed to be heartwarming, I guess. She’s worried about her friend, and we’ve been very slowly establishing her feelings for Cap all the way back to “Shattered”. But the sudden escalation here makes me kind of uncomfortable. It’s not that it comes out of nowhere per se, but it feels forced that she’d suddenly pick this moment to make a move. The impropriety of it bugs me. I’m not saying it would be wrong for any character to react like that, but this is Pilot. Her whole characterization so far has been based on little subtle reactions and stoicism. The sudden jump here is something that feels out of character for Pilot. You can have a character like her do something like that, but you need a proper build-up and payoff. You know what there isn’t? A sense of urgency. There ought to be; Cap is injured, they’ve got crucial data, and the Bio-Dreads know their proximate location. But it doesn’t come off in the way the scene is shot. Things feel serious, but not urgent. It’s kind of ironic, even; their banter in this scene is good. Great even, very natural and conveying a sense of camaraderie that usually gets glazed over with any pair of characters that doesn’t include Hawk. But in context, it ends up working against the sense that they’re in a tense, time-critical predicament: it feels normal. In fact, it’s the most normal pretty much any pair of characters in this show has ever felt. And there’s the rub: suddenly giving her boss a peck on the cheek is not a normal thing for Pilot to do. It’s not the right context for a character like Pilot to make that leap.

Cap, for his part, reacts with pretty much just dull surprise. There's a fraction of a second where it looks like he might crack a smile, but it's so quick that I'm half-convinced Tim just flubbed the take. Back at Volcania, Dread makes his contractually-mandated appearance this episode and orders Blastarr to go retrieve the data tape and capture Cap. I guess this is the episode where we really establish the relationship dynamic between Soaron and Blastarr, who haven't really interacted before. The series bible likens Soaron to the Red Baron -- a sort of old-school "noble villain" type, who wouldn't shoot an unarmed opponent as it'd be unsporting. I guess I can see a little of that having made it through to the screen. As a child, as I've mentioned, I was inclined to imagine Soaron as a weaselly, Starscream-type character. I think what I was picking up on was really the sense that he considers himself above the rest of Team Evil. Blastarr, on the other hand, is much more brutal, straightforward, and short-tempered.
Blastarr Threatens SoaronDespite the basic jankiness of 1987 computer-generated effects, this is probably the most effective scene we've had with the CG characters in Captain Power so far, just because when it's Blastarr and Soaron, the Bio-Dreads can do something that we've never seen them do before: physically interact with something. Neither Soaron nor Blastarr normally touch anything; they don't even share the screen with another character or moving object that often. That works against both of them, but especially Blastarr. It's easier to justify with Soaron, not only since his thing is aerial combat, but also because you can very easily imagine Soaron as being the sort who would consider actually physically striking someone to be too proletariat for him. But with Blastarr's emphasis on brute, physical strength, I think we really all just want to see him pummel someone with his bare hands, and it seems wrong that he never does.

This was especially evident back in "The Intruder", when Blastarr is interrogating Jim. It's a standard clicker who forces Jim to the ground, restrains him, and holds him at gunpoint, but it's Blastarr who hovers over him and demands information. After the actual sequence of Jim being taken down, the clicker vanishes save for its foot and the barrel of its gun. Because it really shouldn't be a nameless goon in that position: it should be Blastarr. That fact shoulds so hard that the first time I watched it, my mind just kind of implicitly registered Blastarr in that position. The scene is edited to trick you into forgetting that he's not actually the one physically interacting with Jim: filmmaking convention suggests that when the camera is on Jim, we're seeing Blastarr's POV, and when it cuts back to Blastarr, symmetry tells us it should be Jim's POV. And the angle on Jim is clearly POV of the same person pointing the gun at him -- it's basically shot straight along the gun barrel. The scene is framed like Blastarr is standing directly over Jim with his foot on him, and the scene just works better if you can make yourslf forget that's not what's happening.

When Blastarr finds the injured Soaron, this comes to a head: Soaron wants the honor of the kill, and refuses to give Blastarr Cap's last known coordinates. Blastarr responds by picking Soaron up and throttling him until he gives in. Then, after he's dropped the other Bio-Dread to the ground (or at least, to be composited in as close as they could to making it look like he's lying on the ground), for good measure, he picks up Soaron's severed leg and tosses it some distance away.

While that’s going on, though (Confession: I’ve flipped the order of these scenes since it makes this article flow better), Pilot has hiked the ten miles to the nearby shantytown. She barely gets in a hello, though, before the one teenager in this town literally decides to murder her with an axe.

Axe Murder

See, it seems that back in her Dread Youth days, our beloved Pilot was involved in the destruction of the boy’s previous home, Sandtown. We’re treated to a flashback of a young Pilot — well, actually she looks exactly the same age as in the contemporary scenes. How long has she been out of the Dread Youth anyway? I know back in “Gemini and Counting”, I claimed that she’d been out for about ten years, as per the series bible. But that was plainly bullshit even when I said it (The uniform still fits, after all). This flashback suggests that it couldn’t have been more than a few years. Less if we assume Pilot’s no older than 20 (If, say, she’s 24, I could buy that the flashback was five years ago. But if she’s 19, no one ages that imperceptibly in their teens). Equally convincing: the Bling Nazi who’s in charge of the operation is the same not-Erin blonde from last week. None of this fits with the bible’s notion of Pilot having left the Dread Youth young and working her way up through the resistance in her teens. Instead, it seems like Pilot can’t have left Team Evil more than about a year ago. That scans with the comic’s implication that she wasn’t around at the previous anniversary of Daddy Power’s death. But it’s a bit hard to swallow that she’d go all the way from Dread Youth to Power Ranger in such a short time. I mean, when Cap turns down Chip’s application in “The Intruder”, he makes it out to be about how it takes time to earn trust. Pilot has evidently earned Cap’s trust very quickly. The compressed timetable also works against the implication of “Gemini and Counting” that her conversion away from the cult of the machine was a process that took time, a long “journey”. You could salvage it if we interpret Sandtown as an event after she’s already started questioning her allegiance, but this episode is going to unfold in a way that argues against that. Unlike the origin-story-by-proxy we were shown in “Gemini”, here we seem to be implying a much more TV-cliche “Complete character reversal due to a single traumatic incident” origin for Pilot. Which, hey, okay, things become tropes because they work. But now they’re making me really want to see that origin. When Erin’s story seemed to be a direct analogue for Pilot’s that was a clever way of telling us about Pilot’s backstory without resorting to flashback. If the two characters aren’t really all that parallel, it leaves a hole where there should be an origin. There are three characters in this show who joined up with Cap but we don’t know the details (Hawk worked with Cap’s dad, as we’ll be learning next week), and of them, Pilot is the most compelling (“How did Tank end up here?” is a less interesting story, to my mind, than “Where did Tank come from?” and Scout is such a blank character at this point that it’s hard to care one way or the other about him. It seems perfectly in character to imagine that he’s simply a hard-working guy who worked his way up through the resistance by doing his job well until he got promoted to Cap’s team, with no particularly eventful backstory. Not that it wouldn’t be nice for him to have one; we just haven’t established enough about the character to make me feel like there ought to be one).

To make matters more complicated, the locals claim that the sack of Sandtown was “years ago”, long enough that the boy, Randall, was a small child at the time. He basically just keeps shouting “Kill her! Kill her!” and swinging an axe at her until he’s restrained. The town is quickly swayed by the persuasiveness of his argument, which pretty much boils down to, “She’s lying! Kill her!” and it looks like a lynchin’ is about to ensue until Pilot finds a really unlikely ally.
William B Davis guest stars on Captain Power
I know, right? That’s William B. Davis, best known as the “Cigarette-Smoking Man” from The X-Files. But here, he’s kind of freaking me out in the role of Arvin, the local authority figure, who strongly opposes vigilante justice and wants the rule of law and the democratic process to prevail. Pilot agrees to stand trial in return for two of the locals going back to find Cap.

Unfortunately for them, they arrive at the crash site at roughly the same time as Blastarr. Cap, who had been biding his time by apologizing to and then murdering a cactus, drags himself behind some rocks to cower while Blastarr easily murders the townsfolk, leaving their armored vehicle to crash harmlessly into a boulder. Blastarr intercepts their radio call for help, and sets a course for the Oasis.

Pilot’s trial mostly consists of Randall demanding people kill her, intercut with flashbacks that kinda belie — deliberately, I hope — his claims that Young Pilot had been particularly gleeful about it. His uncle Gaelan confirms that Pilot was there and involved, but shows a suspicious lack of bloodlust, even going out of his way to defend her: she wasn’t an Overunit; she was just following orders; she was a “child spouting slogans,” who didn’t have any way of knowing what she was getting into.

And this leads into Pilot's big speech, which is almost certainly what got her the Gemini nomination.
It's true I was in the Dread Youth. And I was in Sandtown. There's something you have to understand. I never had a family. The Dread Youth was my family. It was my whole world, there was nothing else. From the day that I was born, I never knew about having parents. Or friends. Or feelings and love. I knew nothing about being human. I served the machine, and I was so proud. To be "Youth Leader Chase". And I knew all my lessons, and I knew my destiny as part of the new order. But there's something else you have to understand: that night, everything I knew, it fell apart. Into the lie that it is. I wanted to shout out. I wanted to stop them. If I could've told you, that I didn't know. I didn't realize what was going to happen. That night, I did. I saw the true meaning of the slogans and the uniform that I was wearing. And I started a journey. And it later led me to Captain Power. And he has taught me what it is to be human. Things that I never knew. If I could go back and change that night, I would. But I can't. And I try every day of my life to make up for it.
It's a nice speech. She talks about what it was like to grow up as a child of the Machine, and how she never had a real family or knew what it was like to be properly human.


Let’s be frank here. This speech boils down to “It wasn’t really my fault and I felt super bad afterward, and besides, that’s totally not me any more.” And on top of it, she gets all weepy and cries at them. Pilot.

I don’t like it. It’s cheap and emotionally immature, and it comes off to me like she’s trying to dodge responsibility for her actions rather than take it.

As I said before, Stargate SG-1 more or less did this plot twice. The more straight-up of these is the first season episode “Cor-Ai”. Teal’c, the former First Prime (read: Chief Henchman) of Apophis (read: The Bad Guy), who’s switched sides and joined SG-1 (read: The Good Guys) is recognized by the locals on a planet they visit as the dude who carried out the ordered execution of some of the locals. He’s put on trial and will be executed unless he can persuade the son of a man he killed not to.

Yeah, like I said, it’s close. Even up to the part where, in the end, the bad guys show up and the condemned prisoner demonstrates having turned face by risking themself fighting to defend the place, which is going to happen to Pilot in a couple of minutes.

The first season of Stargate SG-1 is generally understood to not be all that good. This is true, but “Cor-Ai” is one of its high points. And a big part of the reason that the story works so well is that, unlike Pilot, Teal’c doesn’t break down and protest that he’s changed. He confesses. And more, he refuses to defend himself. Teal’c defense falls to his teammates. Because Teal’c believes that he does deserve to be held accountable for his crimes, and that if his execution will make some kind of recompense to the people he’s hurt, it’s only fair: the fact that he’s reformed doesn’t make him any less guilty of his past crimes.

I think that’s what’s really lacking here. Pilot’s whole thing is that she’s stoic: thanks to her upbringing, expressing emotion doesn’t come naturally to her. In this, her most important character focus episode, though, she basically spends the whole episode out of character. Kissing John, then breaking down in tears at her trial, it’s like the writers are trying to cram her into the “Action Chick” stereotype that she’d thus far mercifully avoided.

Teal’c also gets a better twist to his story. The laws of dramatic necessity tell us that it is a real problem for one of our heroes to have something like this on their record. We can forgive them, but only if they throw us a little bone: we need something to offset their guilt. For Teal’c, the reveal is about why he specifically executed his accuser’s father. Dad was crippled, and Teal’c knew that the local custom was strictly “leave no man behind.” So, given that he couldn’t outright disobey a direct order from his god-king and therefore had to kill someone, he chose the person whose sacrifice would improve the community’s chances to evade recapture in the future.

Notice how Teal’c isn’t entirely let off the hook here: he still shot a dude, and he still did it deliberately and with premeditation. Jennifer gets off lighter. Uncle Gaelan triggers a flashback to Volcania shortly before the raid. Captain Power flashback interrogationThrough a stroke of incredible coincidence, Pilot just happened to overhear Gaelan, at the time a prisoner, break under interrogation and pony up the location of Sandtown. Turns out that while, okay, Pilot was there, and she was involved, it’s not like she had any actual say in what was going on.

It’s too damned easy is what it is. And really, it displaces the crowning moment of the story onto Gaelan: the moment we see him locked in a cell with some kind of evil Occulus Rift strapped to his face muttering, “Please, stop, I’ll tell you anything,” it stops being Pilot’s story and starts being the story about an old man in an impossible situation who did the only thing he reasonably could have done, and spent years consumed by guilt over it — it becomes his redemption story, not Pilot’s.

News of the approaching Bio-Dread interrupts the trial just as The Cigarette-Smoking Man is about to ask the jury for their verdict, so, after all his impassioned insistence on observing the rule of law… He gives Gaelan his gun is just like, “Well, I guess you get to decide whether or not to shoot her,” as he runs off with the others to prepare the town defenses. There’s nothing in the way Gaelan’s acted so far to suggest that he’d even consider offing Pilot, which makes it seems a little unnecessary and kind of cruel that Pilot’s immediate response is to not-very-subtly let him know what she knows. It’s played entirely wrong, and comes off like she’s trying to shame him out of killing her. Naturally, he gives her the gun and releases her to go aid in the town’s defense, while he hangs back to confess to his nephew.

The scene is played precisely wrong. I mean, in the first place, no one seems to even suspect that something is Up with the fact that they sent two dudes to the location Pilot gave them and ran into a Bio-Dread — no one jumps up and says, “Well hey, obviously she was lying about Captain Power being there and it was all a trap.” I mean, except Randall, but “She’s lying! Kill her! Kill her!” is basically the extent of his dialogue for the whole episode. And it really feels wrong for her to try to shame Gaelan like that. They should have tried to convey a sense of kinship between them, like with Erin a few episode back. How hard would it be for her to say something like, “I never wanted anyone to get hurt. But I was scared, and I was hurt, and I didn’t feel like I had any other choice. I think you know what that’s like.”  I don’t know, maybe that is what they were going for, but color me unconvinced.

The townsfolk’s puny blue lasers are no match for Blastarr’s superior pink lasers, so Pilot powers on and faces him down, even though her suit’s triple-A batteries are only at ten percent. Her intervention comes just in time to rescue one townsman from a chronic hysteresis:

Captain Power Editing Mistake

It’s nice to see Pilot in a one-on-one fight for once. Unfortunately, as is always the case for the first few minutes of a Blastarr fight, she’s utterly ineffectual. Even a random bazooka she just happens to find lying around can’t bail her out — Blastarr may be dumb, but he’s got the capacity to learn from past mistakes. Captain Power: Pilot DemorphShe takes some finger-lasers to the chest and de-morphs in a sequence that rather bizarrely involves her boobs teleporting about a foot upward.

Blastarr hovers threateningly over her, waving his digitizer and threatening her in a way that will totally not seem prescient later. But just as it looks like Pilot’s number is up, Gaelan comes running out shooting a laser-revolver. Blastarr promptly murders him, but the distraction allows Pilot to… Not do anything. Blastarr turns back to her, but apparently he too is surprised that she’s still there waiting for him, because it takes him forever to line up his shot.
Captain Power enemy Blastarr
And that gives Cap time to unexpectedly arrive unnoticed in that armored vehicle from a few scenes ago. Which he drove by telepathy or something because he’s in the gunner’s position rather than the driver’s seat.  I mean, seriously, we’re meant to believe that Cap pulled up next to them, got out of the driver’s seat, got into the gunner’s position and got off a shot without anyone noticing he was there? With a broken leg?

The truck-mounted gun knocks Blastarr to the ground, and Pilot finally does something about it, retrieving that bazooka and giving the Bio-Dread a few in the chest as he stands up. This whole “Blastarr is completely invincible the first few minutes, then suddenly becomes vulnerable for no reason,” thing is kind of weird. The most sense I can make of it is that Blastarr can basically take any blow that he’s prepared for, but it requires some kind of conscious effort on his part, so he’s incredibly vulnerable to any shot he doesn’t see coming. This is a little backed up at least, since they do make a point of showing Blastarr catch the shots he takes on his shield or arms. Though one of Pilot’s ineffectual throwing-snowflakes did explode directly in his face earlier.

Captain Power in TruckI really like the way the end of the battle plays out in spite of the fridge logic. Pilot’s allowed to remain the center of the action even after Cap arrives. He hangs back, doesn’t even power up (It’s implied that his suit is out of power), just gives her a thumbs-up after getting his shot off. It’s very Action-Movie-Sidekick of him. Pilot’s still allowed to land the “kill”-shot herself rather than Cap becoming the default center of the action.

Pilot promptly ignores her injured commander to go emote over Gaelan’s dead body as everyone pointedly doesn’t do anything about the unconscious killing machine a few feet away. Arvin shows up and apologizes for that whole trial thing, though I don’t know what he’s got to apologize for. “Sorry we put you on trial for a crime you did commit and frankly responded entirely reasonably under the circumstances.” Arvin She declares the whole thing no harm no foul, and the editor stops paying attention for a second, because they let the shot linger on William B. Davis too long after he cracks a smile so that it kinda looks like he’s now looking down at Gaelan’s dead body with a grin that drifts onto the border of “lecherous”.

Everyone evacuates the town in the time it takes to change camera angles, in order that the animators don’t have to account for anything moving when they composite in Soaron for one last appearance where he berates the recovering Blastarr a bit, then it’s an evening funeral scene in a geographically disconnected bit of sand and rocks. The townsfolk bury Gaelan while Pilot and Cap — who’s on crutches, so at least they remembered that much — watch. Afterward, Randall apologizes to Pilot for that whole attempted-axe-murder thing. Pilot’s magnanimous. After all, they, “Both have things to be sorry for.” Yeah Jennifer. He’s sorry for attempting to extract violent revenge for the murder of his family; she’s sorry for her complicity in multiple war crimes; it all balances out I guess.

I guess that really sums up what I don’t like about this episode. They’re so determined to exonerate Pilot that they end up stripping the character of any tension; Pilot’s story can’t be one of redemption if the narrative is going to go out of its way to apologize for her. It’s Gaelan who ends up having the compelling story here, not Pilot: he’s the one who makes the noble act of self-sacrifice at the end. At the end, he’s dead, having died to save Pilot, and the cherry on top is that this convinces Randall to forgive her and view himself as the one who was out of line. When this happened to Teal’c? The Randall-equivalent character doesn’t apologize. In fact, he can’t even bring himself to forgive Teal’c, not fully: instead, he claims that he made a mistake, and Teal’c clearly isn’t the same person that killed his father. He’s willing to grant legitimacy to the new man Teal’c has become through his redemption, but even still he doesn’t forgive his father’s killer. That could have worked here too. Have Randall say something like, “I was wrong. A Dread Youth Leader killed my family. You aren’t Dread Youth.” But the way this episode is written, even that would have laid too much blame on Pilot; they prefer the idea that she was there but can’t permit her to have actually had any agency in those flashback scenes.

You know what would have made this episode better? Scout. I’ve said so many times that his character is pretty blank, and this would have been a great opportunity to fill him out a little. We know from the Captain’s Log segment that Scout had been tracking Cap and Pilot. So have him arrive at Oasis looking for them. Have him defend Pilot at her trial. He seems like a people-person, far moreso than the others. He could tell stories about Pilot from his perspective, which would flesh out both their backstories. And you don’t put Pilot in the position of trying to justify, y’know, having been a Nazi.

I’m loathe to take Pilot’s big speech away from her. I mean, the Gemini folks thought it was pretty good (Though not quite as good as Sonja Smits in Street Legal), even if I think it’s kind of a betrayal of the character. So let’s keep the speech, but have her give it to Scout, privately. Yeah. You can even let her cry Scout feels like the right person for her to cry to, not a bunch of strangers. Of all the members of the team, he’s the closest to her equal. It’s hard to imagine her being willing to show that level of vulnerability to Cap, or even Hawk. And Scout — admittedly, this might just be through neglect — seems the least wrapped up in a “soldier” persona; battlefield-formality suits him less than the others (In fact, if I were writing Scout, I think I’d give him a non-military background. Make him a civilian communications expert who was drafted to Power’s team out of necessity, rather than an officer who worked his way up through the ranks).

The key thing to making this episode work for me would be to make Pilot actually accept responsibility for her past. We can still have the karmic saving throw with Gaelan, but Pilot shouldn’t be making the argument that she was young and didn’t have a family and didn’t know what she was doing. And we need her to have had actual agency in Sandtown. Yeah. Go all-in. We need to see her actually pull the trigger. Maybe we shouldn’t go as dark as having her personally gun down Randall’s family, but we can have her be the one to set fire to their house. Or at least give the order. Heck, Gaelan calls her a “Child spouting slogans,” so how about in one of those flashbacks, she actually spouts a slogan? You can’t have redemption if you can’t own up to having done wrong. We need to see that Pilot herself believes that she deserves punishment for her crimes.

Admittedly, adding Scout to the mix complicates matters for the climactic battle. But that’s not too hard to solve. Let’s do something with that data tape that was the Macguffin for setting up the episode. Make the data on it time-sensitive, so Pilot sends Scout away with it ahead of the attack, and we play this as Pilot firing her defense because she’s resigned herself to losing this trial. Boom. Problem solved.

As it turns out, pretty much every criticism of this episode I have boils down to, “SG-1 did it better,” so it shouldn’t be surprising that my “fix” for the episode is “Pretty much make it the same as the SG-1 episode.” Of course, Stargate SG-1 is literally a decade away at this point. In fact, this is weird. “Cor-Ai” aired almost exactly ten years after Captain Power aired “Judgment”. Like, five hundred and twenty weeks. (It is January 23, 1998. Savage Garden tops the charts with “Truly, Madly, Deeply”. ABC is so desperate that they’re showing Sabrina The Teenage Witch twice tonight. In the past weeks, Ted Kaczynski has plead guilty to being the Unabomber and accepts a life sentence without parole, the UN has banned human cloning, Sarah Polley turned 19, Pope John Paul II visited Cuba, and President Bill Clinton was accused of sexual harassment. By Monday, the Queen Mother will have a new hip, Grease will have closed on Broadway, Posh Spice will be engaged to David Beckham, the Broncos will have won the Super Bowl, and President Clinton will have said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”) So maybe telling that kind of story properly is still in the future. A little specter of it has popped its head up here, fully ten years too early, and Captain Power couldn’t quite nail it.

But, all my complaints aside, it got it really really close.

2 thoughts on “Who am I? 24601! (Captain Power: Judgment)

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