Monday, October 29, 2007

In Praise of Exosquad

Last week, I posted a video mashup and redub of scenes from the old sci-fi cartoon Exosquad. It reminded me of what a gem was this short-lived show.

Exosquad was set 150 years into the future, as humanity had begun to settle terraformed Mars and Venus. The series began with the narration "It was a Golden Age for mankind. The Earth knew no hunger, nor want...." But all was not paradise. To work in the harsh environs of space, a united Earth had created a race of genetically-engineered slaves. Fifty years before the show, these slaves, called NeoSapiens, had rebelled against their Terran masters. The rebellion was crushed, but the NeoSapiens were manumitted anyway to prevent future trouble. Although free from forced labor, the NeoSapiens were second-class citizens. They chafed under their bonds, until they fell under the spell of a charismatic leader named Phaeton.

Phaeton became Governor of Mars and secretly built an army to conquer the solar system. After luring the small and underfunded Exofleet out far away from the inner planets, Phaeton launched a sneak attack on Earth and Venus and conquered the homeworlds. But Phaeton had dreams of more than just freeing NeoSapiens; he intended to exterminate all natural humans. A three-year war followed, comprising the Exosquad series, which told the story of the war in general and one squad of Terran soldiers in particular, led by Lt. J.T. Marsh.

At first glance, Exosquad was a cheap cartoon intended to sell toys. And the show was indeed very toyetic. But it was much more: the plotline and the characters had substantial depth and complexity. It was very similar to Babylon 5 (the greatest sci-fi series in TV history) in that way.

Alas, Exosquad had many liabilities that led to its cancellation after two seasons, the conclusion of the war, and what Jeff the Baptist called "the biggest cliffhanger". It was a cartoon, and an action cartoon, which would naturally lead it to be marketed to kids. But few children could have grasped the sophistication of the story. It was also a serial, which allowed for the writers to create an intricate plot, but also made entering the storyline mid-stream challenging (Bab 5 faced the same problem). And finally, it had the most awful timeslot available: 6 AM on Friday mornings, when any sensible adult or kid would still be in bed.

Exosquad was simply too good a show to survive in a culture that appreciates only lighter fluff. At the time, when I was 17 and 18, I recognized that it would not last in syndication, and patiently recorded it on VCR tapes. But thanks to the Long Tail, it is now available for purchase.

Here is the first episode of Exosquad, titled "Pirate Scourge":


Jeff the Baptist said...

"And finally, it had the most awful timeslot available: 6 AM on Friday mornings, when any sensible adult or kid would still be in bed."

I actually watched it weekday afternoons so not everyone had it so rough. Fortunately my market had 3 UHF stations. One showed Disney content, one showed Fox content, and the last showed whatever was left. Exosquad was one of the few diamonds in the rough amid what was mostly a lot of garbage.

John said...

I'm glad to hear that it was more available elsewhere.

It's a real pity that the Exosquad project wasn't tackled with the financial resources to really do it justice.

the reverend mommy said...

I remember Exosquad, but I must say, it's been a while... I'll have to surf around and see if I can find it.

B5 -- most excellent. I am going to purchase the entire 5 season collection for Christmas..

What do you watch currently? We are watching Heroes, Star Trek and I will say that I'm totally into Naruto right now. I'm still watching the original arc -- the kids are on Naruto Shipp┼źden.

John said...

I watch very little TV these days. I mostly watch videos from the Internet. I'm gradually working my way through Lexx right now.

Wow, Theresa, you're, like, totally cool, you know? I don't know many people your age (40) who watch anime.

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