ROCKS 18A: Exosquad Pilot - The Fall Of The Human Empire

Discussion in 'Other Cartoons & Collectables' started by LiamABC, Oct 21, 2018.

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  1. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    WELCOME EVERYBODY TO THE FIRST DISCUSSION IN THE EIGHTEENTH STRAND OF "R.O.C.K.S." - REWATCHING OLD CLASSIC KIDS SHOWS! A big thanks to everyone that are joining us through all of this.

    The next few weeks we're covering another great show from the early 90s, Exosquad. Again, as with other 90s cartoons, the continuity arcs are stronger than their 80s counterparts so picking individual episodes is tricky. So as the first season was 13 episodes consisting of a 5-parter and two 4-parters, that will fit nicely into this format


    We're starting this week with the establishing story, the five part feature "The Fall Of The Human Empire". The individual component episodes are:

    - Pirate Scourge
    - Seeds Of Deception
    - Hidden Terrors
    - Blitzkrieg
    - Resist

    Just a friendly reminder to everyone that, whilst fans are obviously welcome to passionately discuss and give their views on these episodes, please remember to keep things on a friendly footing and respect your fellow posters.
    Also, please do not post where or how to find the full episode online. And do not post asking others to PM it to you. You are however allowed to watch the show in whatever manner you want.
     
  2. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    Exo Squad was a great series. I watched this pilot a couple years ago after chatting about it with @LiamABC .

    Overall a great pilot 5 parter.
    I really like how they built the characters and the story arc was very interesting.
    The animation was pretty cool and influenced by the style of the time like the popular X-Men cartoon etc.

    Growing up in the early 90's I only seen this a couple times on TV. I remember seeing it on Channel 4 on Sunday mornings. Usually I watched the cartoons on ITV and sometimes BBC depending on what was on. I regularly used to watch Dennis The Menace but around the early/mid 90's Channel 4 didn't seem to show as many cartoons I was interested in.

    It's strange I didn't watch more of this at the time as it have a really cool theme of intergalactic war, space battles with robotic exo-suits....a lot like Robotech and Gundam.
    Coincidently enough Playmates Toys re-released some Robotech toys in the Exosquad toyline. Which was quite strange as they were originally made by Matchbox then re-released again in the late 80's/early 90's by Harmony Gold...so I am not sure how Playmates got the moulds. But overall I suppose the various robots/vehicles worked in the Exosquad line.
    What is even more strange is that I also really liked Robotech yet didn't try to get any of the toys. I suppose I was just more interested in some of the other toylines out at the time like TMNT, Power Rangers, Batman, Spiderman and X-Men etc.
    I do recall seeing some of the smaller Robotech toys in Exosquad packaging in the shops but didn't bother. I don't recall ever seeing any of the main E-frames in the shops...perhaps if I had seen them I would probably have got one.
    The toys had so much potential to be popular with the action figures being 3.75" compatible like G.I. Joe along with big robotic suits with firing missiles etc.

    I can't help but think the cartoon and toys would have been a lot more popular if Exosquad had been on ITV or BBC. The only quite popular cartoons with toylines I know that channel 4 ever showed was M.A.S.K, Inspector Gadget, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors and Biker Mice From Mars. Of course it could also just have been timing. When it was released there was a lot of shows with toys everyone seemed more interested in like TMNT, Power Rangers, Batman, X-Men and various others.
     
  3. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    Exosquad is something I never actually saw as a kid, I only ever caught the last few minutes of episodes when tuning in for something else after watching something on another channel. I remember it was sunday mornings on channel 4, and that it looked like something I imagined I would like, but that's all. I didn't even remember the title until about 2-3yrs ago I decided to find out what this show actually was. Fortunately for me, my fragmented memories were sufficient to bring something to bear. I googled "good alien called Marsala" and hit the jackpot. Instantly this title came up and it rang a bell. A quick glance at the Wikipedia page for it confirmed enough other details, notably a few other character names (Phaeton, Nara Burns and Sean Napier were the only ones that I could specifically recall), what those aliens were called (Neosapiens) - and then I found out that technically they weren't aliens, but human creations who rebelled. And then I ended up watching the whole show . . .

    Apart from the period (futuristic sci-fi instead of Arthurian legend), this show actually has a lot in common with the show we've just previously covered on here, The Legend Of Prince Valiant. Both of them have strong continuity between episodes and complex character relationships. Both are unafraid of showing the horrors of warfare to the young audience, trusting that they will understand death when it serves the story purposes. And both star Robby Benson, he was Valiant before, and now here he's the main character Lt J. T. Marsh, and also if I'm not mistaken pirate chief Jonas Simbacca and Mayor Reed.

    This brings me naturally to the voice cast - a lot of familiar 90s names here. While a lot of the great 80s cartoons would usually feature the likes of Frank Welker and Jim Cummings, the 90s shows have their own regular core of reliable voice actors. This one features, apart from Robby Benson (who in addition to voicing Prince Valiant was also the Beast in the Disney movie Beauty And The Beast), Wally Marsh as Admiral Winfield (he was the Commander in Captain Zed And The Zee Zone), Gary Chalk as Marsala (Captain Flannel in Captain Zed, and also Lord Viper and Phil in King Arthur And The Knight Of Justice), Michael Donovan as Wolf Bronski (Darren in Knights Of Justice, and apparently the title role in Conan The Adventurer, although I never saw that), and that's just the names that mean something to me!

    As for the writing, well, like I said, it doesn't hold back. There is plenty of action, and a story that continues from one episode to the next. One thing the 90s shows did better than their 80s counterparts was keep the story moving - these shows didn't press the reset button at the end of every episode like some 80s shows did. We have a story that starts out with plenty of action and keeps going, building up in both action and intrigue. By the fifth part, we know the stakes are high.

    If there is one thing that I don't like, it's some details of the animation. They all have either too much or too little hair for one thing, and the Able Squad uniforms don't exactly look like uniforms. The crew of the Resolute have uniforms that do look sort of like uniforms, even if it is hard to tell what rank everyone is. Those uniforms actually remind me of the Star Trek movie uniforms!

    However, there are other areas - much more important areas! - where the animation does excel, notably the space battle sequences. The E-frames are a really cool idea, and provide the main visual hook. Even if it is unclear why every one has to look completely different! Obviously that was to sell more toys, but still, of the seven E-frames, five look basically the same while one (Takagi's) looks more like a jet, and the big one shared by Nara and Marsala looks like something else again. No explanation was given for that, and indeed for why there was just the one two-man E-frame in the squad. Was it because Marsala is a Neosapien and the powers that be don't fully trust him? Even though his teammates clearly do.

    Speaking of which, Marsala is definitely my favourite character in the show, and what little I did see of the show as a kid had a major impact on me. Between Marsala here and Magneto in X-Men, I was fascinated, and remember writing a character in my own sci-fi stories with a similar angle. I suppose it all goes back to Mr Spock in Star Trek, famously there's an early episode, the brilliant "Balance Of Terror", in which we first get a glimpse of the Romulans and we discover they have pointed ears same as him - and one crew member does raise the inevitable question.

    The rest of the characters are great too. Marsh is pretty straight as a hero but very well written. When he goes against his superior Captain Marcus, you're on his side. Nara too, as the one with the closest family ties, is a great way to show us the human cost of a war like this. She doesn't know what has happened to her parents and her brother after the attack on Venus, and she is worried . . . but that is for next week! Bronski is an effective comic relief character but you'd still be glad if he had your back. Interestingly this show was very forward-thinking gender-wise, as three of the eight members of Able Squadron were women, Nara Burns, tech wizard (witch?) Maggie Weston and drill sergeant Rita Torres. Torres in particular is intriguing because her part is the sort of part that even today we think of as masculine, but here she is doing that job just as well as any man if not better. To a lesser extent, Weston as the engineering whizz also has a part that had typically been assigned to male characters previously, but this woman too can do her job as well as any man. Intelligence officer Alec Deleon and rookie Kaz Takagi complete the squad lineup, the latter being so green you could put him in the ground and water him, but again, good at his job. Deleon is a more interesting character whose nature and history get explored a bit more in season 2, although we're just covering season 1 here. However, if you're liking the show so far, it's one you'll want to watch all through from beginning to end.

    And yes, to sum up, this is a great show. I'm only sorry I missed it first time round! But I guess I caught enough of it first time round to home in on it now, and for that I am truly grateful. I love this show!
     

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