Reviews

Posted May 28, 2008 by John
Categories: The Collection Volume 1

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A few reviews of the Collection Volume 1 DVD set have been drifting in. Some are worth reading, others were obviously written by someone too busy auctioning off promotional DVDs on ebay to actually watch any DVDs. Here’s a few you may not have seen …

What now might seem a stereotype of a team was revolutionary back in 1986. Rather than superheroes fighting the villain of the week, this was a team of experts using skills and abilities to protect and preserve a free way of living.

Monsters and Critics


Mark my words–this DVD release (as well as the hopefully soon to be released Volume 2) bodes well for a Galaxy Rangers resurgence in some form. Recommended.

DVD Talk

What 80s Sci-Fi cartoons excelled at (and what today’s Sci-Fi cartoons are terrible at) was keeping up with the imagination; their technological undertones and social commentary constantly pushed the envelope, introducing us to the once futuristic concepts of cybernetics and genetic manipulation, while keeping us in tune with such encompassing issues as the Cold War. What you get with “Rangers” is a bunch of cool heroes and villains, cool aliens, cool weapons and star ships and kick-ass story lines. And when it comes to kids watching their favorite Sci-Fi cartoons, isn’t that what it’s all about?

EDGE Boston

“Galaxy Rangers” isn´t quite my cup of tea, and I have to admit that I only watched about a half dozen to prepare for this review.

DVD Town

In fact, it’s striking how mature the show’s tone is, and how well it does at putting its characters in realistic jeopardy. A good example, even for a syndicated series, would be the surprisingly ubiquitous sight of clearly manned enemy craft exploding. Thankfully, there’s also plenty of humor to offset the seriousness, and, amusingly enough, many of the verbal jokes and puns are of a deliberately corny nature. Still, the commentary tracks do suggest the show was slightly too mature for the younger demographics, which was one reason the series was not as successful as other shows.

Toon Zone

Phoenix

Posted May 28, 2008 by John
Categories: NASA

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Phoenix DVD
Is any other GR fan totally enjoying the fact that the new Mars probe is named Phoenix?

It’s got a DVD too, just like us. The Mars DVD is not a boxed set with a glossy 32 page booklet, but it does have the War of the Worlds radio broadcast and other stuff I’d prefer the Martians didn’t really know about. Check it out.

Showdown to Showtime

Posted May 25, 2008 by John
Categories: Rangers Reminiscences, Showtime

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Continuing my post from yesterday:

As you already know, the zoo in Showdown became a wild west circus and rodeo show, and Krebb the zoo collector became Wild Bill Krebb, but there were a few drafts in between where Krebb was an evil circus clown. In the final confrontation with Niko, he throws a pie at her horse and Voyager rears up and throws her. Evil clowns are certainly creepy, but we were getting away from the western motif, so he became Wild Bill Krebb. Here’s a screenshot of Niko acting like Emma Peel.

Emma Peel

Goose’s battle with Gelatinous was handled differently in every draft I have, and none of them exactly matches the final product. In the first treatment, his head swelled so that he was too large to be suffocated, then next time he grew spines like a porcupine. Then he turned into another Gelatinous, only a slightly stronger one. Then he grew a snorkle … I’m not quite sure what he does in the actual cartoon, but the main point is, he gets to breathe. And he’ll never eat jello again.

Goose v Gelatinous

The only other thing I need to mention on Showtime is a few items that didn’t make it into the final cartoon. In the opening scene, Zozo refers to a conference with “the parsley monsters of Ribus 6.”

Clown

And of course, there was a song. What is it about me and songs? I just love putting them into stuff and I think all my Rangers scripts had a song written into them at one point or another. This is just a little blues number sung by the circus performers:

Well I’m stuck here in this circus
Jumpin’ hoops and eatin’ fire
Yeah I’m stuck here in this circus
Way up there on the high wire
I could sure use a friend
Won’t no one take me home again?

Zozo v Ernie

Oh, and after Zozo knocks Ernie out with his own juggling pins, Ernie showed up wearing a neck brace.

Showdown

Posted May 24, 2008 by John
Categories: Rangers Reminiscences, Showtime

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Back to what happened in 1985 …

When I completed my work on Tune-Up, I returned to Robert’s list of Sample Storylines to begin my next project. The one that intrigued me most was this:

SHOWDOWN

The planet Kirwane is under attack by a gang of zoo collectors. The Galaxy Rangers must fly to the rescue. The Rangers lure the outlaws into outer space where The Goose, Niko, and Zachery each go one-on-one with the evil scum.

While this is a pretty far cry from the final story that Showtime evolved into, it does explain why Doc is nowhere to be found.

I dreamt up three villains for my zoo collectors. A multidimensional alien named Krebb to attack Niko, a nasty android called Hymie to face Zach, and a protoplasmic blob named Gelatinous to challenge Goose (or as we called him at that time, “The Goose”).

Zach punches Ernie

I thought Hymie would be a good name for a killer android that gets his metal butt kicked in by Zach. I forgot the name is sometimes considered a slur, however I’m certainly grateful that he became Ernie before he graced the airwaves.

Zeezaw death scene?

Zozo’s brother Zeezaw, the plucky little Kiwi ambassador, made his first appearance in this episode, and in the first treatment I wrote, he died trying to escape from the three zookeepers. Introducing a brand new character and killing him a few minutes later has been a tried-and-true formula since Homer sang the Illiad. It’s a cheap and easy way to heighten the stakes, but for cute little guys like the Kiwi, it was not such a hot idea. Anyway, Zeezaw survived to dance his way into your hearts in future episodes like The Mothmoose. Aren’t you pleased?

You Andorians Don’t Know How To Enjoy Yourselves

Waldo regresses

The concept of the Andorian regression appeared early in the process. Andorians really needed more backstory. If Waldo is like Spock, where is his Vulcan neck pinch, his mind-meld, or anything that would make Andorians interesting? If you were a toy corporation, would you try to sell a Waldo? “Look kids, he designed the hyperdrive! And he’s got a cape!”

I intended the Andorian regression to be one of several layers in the characterization of their race. Robert asked how Andorians could even get into a spaceship if they reverted to animals in enclosed spaces. I explained it wasn’t claustrophobia. It was an instinctive hatred for captivity.

“Look kids! Put him in a cage and he roars like a lion!”

Well, maybe it would have worked.

Don’t Fall Swee! Hang on Bud!

Kiwi kids

So far, we have the makings of a pretty dark story. Ambassadors devolving into wild beasts in cages — Eugene Ionesco would have liked it. Add some remote control choking collars, a rather acrophobic scene on a tightrope and a clown playing the harmonica — it’s starting to look like an Alfred Hitchcock cartoon, if Alfred Hitchcock had ever made cartoons. 

“I want to have the Kiwi kids in this one,” Robert told me. This was a bit of a shock. First of all, I didn’t know there were any Kiwi kids, since they weren’t in the Writer’s Guidebook. But the show had to appeal to all age groups and so the Kiwi kids had to be along for the ride. 

In Showtime, Swee and Budd are written as barely old enough to form words, coming out with a rare one now and again. If Zeezaw wasn’t to be killed off to heighten the dramatic tension, then he could become a father and protector, which arguably heightens the tension even more.

I know the Kiwi kids are massively unpopular with most fans (okay, all fans) but they were a necessity of our circumstances in the 1980s. If we wanted to survive for a second season, we had to sell toys. Teens and pre-teens do not buy toys. 

Unfortunately, Showtime was not the kind of story that would leave a little kid with a warm squishy feeling in his heart. 

At the time, I was not all that concerned about the Kiwi kids. I was more concerned about the battle cry, Galaxy Rangers ho. Did anyone really go around saying ho?

More on Showtime in the days ahead …
 

Rangers Are Forever

Posted May 24, 2008 by John
Categories: The Collection Volume 1

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Funny coincidence. My DVD set finally arrived Thursday, and I was looking forward to watching it, when I happened to cross paths with a friend of mine. We’ve never discussed the series and she has no idea I wrote for it. I don’t discuss it much, because most people never heard of it, and if I do mention it they assume I mean the Power Rangers, that pukey live-action show that ran for a trillion years.

Anyway, I mentioned I got my new disks of the old tv series Galaxy Rangers, and to my astonishment, she starts singing the song from the show! She’s got the words down cold too! “Into these worlds of unknown danger they ride …” And she’s going on about the characters and all. “And there was that Senator …”

“Senator Whiner?” I said.

“Yeah! Senator Whiner!”

It is so mind-bending to realize how beloved this old cartoon really is. It ran in these awful timeslots like 7 a.m. or 2 p.m., and it went off the air after a year in many parts of the U.S., but somehow it managed to touch the hearts of so many people, while the stupid toy-merchant shows just droned on and washed over us like just another wave of craptacular promotional tele-spam. 

If you haven’t laid eyes on this DVD set yet, they did a first class job. The box has a big glossy gold star covered by a slipcase. The slipcase has a color image of the four Rangers on their robo-steeds, galloping across a desert terrain with distant mesas. They’re firing their blasters like a bunch of wild pioneers dedicated to the highest ideals of shooting stuff. Goose is firing two blasters, cause he’s extra bad. Zach’s arm is glowing a dangerous shade of gold. The skies are thick with Ranger ships hyperdriving their way across the new frontier.

Inside the slipcase, we are confronted with the famous opening lines of each show, tilted slightly back in the way that only classic science fiction openings should be tilted back. This package folds out in three parts to reveal the DVDs and a very impressive glossy color booklet entitled: Visual Guide to Characters. There is an introduction by Robert Mandell, accompanied by some of Justin Norman’s artwork of the Rangers. Most of the other images are designs drawn for the Writer’s Guidebook in 1985, or screenshots from the show.

Buzzwang is in the center gatefold, so you may find your booklet happens to open to his page a lot. There is a big image of him snapping his fingers, because many regarded him as the beat poet of the 21st century.

One less glitch on the internet

Posted May 23, 2008 by John
Categories: Eradicate Inaccuracy!, Voices

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Received this morning from those nice folks at Amazon:

Subject: Your Amazon.com Catalog Update Request

Date: May 23, 2008 1:35:46 PM EDT

 

Greetings from Amazon.com,

Thank you for using the Catalog Update Form.

For ASIN: B0013D8LZE, Title: Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers Collection 1, we have received your updates to the attributes listed below. Beneath each attribute we include the action we have taken.

Attribute: Contributor Name  

Current value: 

 Maia Anziger 

 Actor 

 

Your suggestion: 

 Maia Danziger 

 Actor 

 

Action: Your update has been accepted and processed. It will appear online within the next two to three business days.  

Data accuracy is highly important to us. We appreciate the time you have taken to submit your updates to us.

Best regards,

Catalog Department

www.amazon.com

 

Space Colony

Posted May 23, 2008 by John
Categories: Voices

Tags: ,

Ever play the old computer game Space Colony? One of the many delights in this off-the-wall game is hearing Hubert Kelly’s voice as “Dean,” a doctor in outer space. Yup, Doc went on to more space adventures. 

You might find this gem in a remainder bin at your local computer store – it’s worth a spin. If you can’t find it, I assembled a batch of sound files for your amusement. The game is rated T for Teen, so don’t play these if you have a two year old on your lap right now, or if your boss is within earshot.














Worst Synopsis Ever?

Posted May 21, 2008 by John
Categories: Eradicate Inaccuracy!

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I’ve been hunting around the web lately for news about the Galaxy Rangers, and came across what I thought was the worst synopsis I’ve ever read (click image for non-blurry text):

Earth inhabited by friendly aliens? Extra terrestrial skies?

Pretty bad, but nothing compared with another one I found:

It kind of reads like it was written by a bot. Except bots are usually more accurate. Captain Kidd the robot parrot and Darth Vader clone Seven-Zero? Produced by Columbia Pictures?

It’s upsetting enough when a site like All Movie Guide messes up this badly, but when I see the New York Times has copied the same inane synopsis, it’s time to fret.

Why fret? Well, because if you really want to see a rebirth of this show, either as a movie or a new series, the new DVDs from Koch need to be a big seller. And frankly I can’t imagine someone wanting to buy a DVD after reading that synopsis. Can you?

Tune-Up

Posted May 20, 2008 by John
Categories: Rangers Reminiscences, Tune-Up

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Back to my first meeting with Robert in 1985.

Along with the Writer’s Guidebook, I was given a five page list of sample storylines. Most of these were a couple of sentences long, describing the plot for a given episode. 

Looking at them today, these samples are pretty interesting. Here’s one:

22 – ELMA

The Goose is assigned to test out a new ship with an ultra-fast propulsion system and a sentient talking female robot named ELMA. Unfortunately, because of the size of the engine there is no room for weapons. As soon as word gets out about the ship, every pirate in the system tries his hand at stealing it.

The one I chose to work on went like this:

18 – TUNE-UP

Bizarre but dangerous mechanical relics, left by an advanced civilization of aliens, are whipped into working shape by Buzzwang. Now repaired, the droids steal all of Q-Ball’s latest inventions. Buzz must get them back before anyone finds out.

I developed this into a short treatment and met with Robert again to discuss it. Looking at the treatment now, it’s interesting to see what was originally ventured and what fell by the wayside, as I went on to write multiple drafts of the script. Q-Ball starts out with a furious rant at Buzzwang, cutting him down to size for his preposterous desire to become a Ranger.

Q-BALL

When are you going to wake up and realize that you are nothing but a tool! A robot can’t join the Galaxy Rangers any more than could a spaceship or a land rover! Or a pair of shoes! Or a stepladder!

Robert patiently explained to me that Q-Ball’s relationship to Buzz was like a parent and child, and he would never talk to Buzzwang so harshly.

The concept of the alien photocopy machine emerged pretty early in the process — I think it is the most interesting part of the whole episode, although it might obscure the sorcerer’s apprentice theme somewhat. On the other hand, the image of Buzz running around with an axe, chopping Buzz-babies in half was too disturbing to contemplate.

The first treatment follows along rather closely with the final outcome, with Buzz and Little Zach chasing the Buzz-babies to some desert badlands planet where they discover Lazarus Slade has masterminded the whole scheme. Laz regards Buzz as just another one of Q-Ball’s inventions, and opens Buzz up to find out the valuable information stored inside him. This automatically triggers a self destruct mechanism … the notion of Buzz performing a heroic act of self-sacrifice had not occured to me.

Most interesting perhaps was the idea that Buzz could not be rebuilt with normal robot parts. This does not quite make sense, but it is interesting.

Q-BALL

At first, I thought there was no hope of putting Buzzwang back together again. Each time I tried to introduce a new piece of machinery, his robot anatomy would reject it. That’s when I hit upon an interesting idea. We’ve been so successful in our attempts to graft bionic parts onto injured humans. Could human parts work as well with injured robots? Since there seemed to be no other way to save Buzzwang, I decided to give it a try. And today I am proud to present to you a new form of life! Buzzwang, the robot with a human heart!

Robert vetoed the whole “robot with a human heart” thing, and I don’t blame him. But then he amazed me when he said, “Let’s make him a Galaxy Ranger then.”

NEUROTIC COMPUTERS

Next time we met, I had a full script which ended with Buzz becoming a Galaxy Ranger. I still wasn’t sure what to call the Buzz-babies … I was calling them “critters” at this point. And they had wings. Once I got through the part with a robot giving birth (kind of), the story moved on to the sticky topic of neurotic computers.

Since Doc is described in the Writer’s Guide as a “computer psychoanalyst” I felt it would be interesting to introduce one of his patients. David Gregg was responsible for the great computer-generated animation on the show, and made the scenes with the ship’s computer really click.

The tricky part was describing this computer’s condition. Would the eight year olds in the audience know what “neurotic” meant? Maybe the whole concept of mentally ill artificial intelligences was too strange for children’s animation. In the end, we decided to say the computer was “wacko,” and Doc’s skills as a psychoanalyst were not heavily emphasized.

By the way, David Gregg was also the guy who explained why I really ought to buy a computer, instead of typing everything on my typewriter. He even told me what kind to get and where to buy it. Atari, of course, because they had the best graphics, and midi too.

On Continuity

Posted May 19, 2008 by John
Categories: Rangers Reminiscences

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I want to pause my story here to discuss continuity.

(Um… yes that was a joke.)

I’ve been reading messages on the various fan forums, and it’s interesting to see how often the question has been asked about the strict ordering of GR episodes. Did the Queen’s armada invade the Solar System before or after Zach returned to the Queen’s psychocrypt? If you’re a fan, these things are kind of nice to know, and if you’re writing fanfiction, they become even more important. How can you put together a timeline unless you know exactly what happened when?

After I finished writing my first episode for the show (which was Tune-Up) and was embarking on my second (which would be Showtime), a similar question occurred to me. In Tune-Up, we had just promoted Buzzwang to a Galaxy Ranger … that would mean he would be treated as a Ranger for all the future episodes, right?

Well … no, not exactly. This is when Robert explained some realities of the business to me. The Galaxy Rangers was not going to be broadcast on some network feed. The episodes were to be delivered on videotape to independent television stations across the U.S. We had no control as to which episode would air when. Each of those television stations had their own procedure. We could put a nice sticker that said “EPISODE 23” on it, and hope for the best, but we had no strict control. 

Robert told me the best policy would be to write each script so they would stand alone as much as possible. It’s clear that a lot of the other writers were not told this, since we had several two-parters and obviously The Scarecrow’s Revenge couldn’t have happened before The Scarecrow. But I was instructed to view each of my scripts as a stand-alone story rather than a strict chronologically-assigned chapter in an ongoing saga.

Now, if I had thought of it, I could have asked, “But what about when our fans grow up and start writing their own stories and sharing them on the internet?” but honestly, I’m not all that prescient.

An official chronology has now been constructed for the new DVD release, because they understand that’s what people want, but we never had it before now. 

Of course, there definitely were episode numbers, just to keep all the artists and other staff from tearing their hair out and running around yelling, “Am I drawing Boomtown or Shaky blowing up here?” Also, numbers are handy when you’re shipping work from New York to Tokyo. So a number was assigned to each episode, but that number did not necessarily mean anything more than the script was ready to go. (I’m wading into an area here that has gotten fuzzy over the years. I’m not entirely sure if the number was assigned once the script was ready to be passed to the preproduction artists, or if was assigned at an earlier point in the process.)

Phoenix was always intended to be the first episode, but it wasn’t ready in time, and didn’t air until a few weeks in to the season in 1986. On the other hand, Tune-Up was the first episode that was sent off to Toyko to be animated. Some other episode was the first to air, I’m not sure which, and I’m not sure if it was the same episode from each independent station. See how confusing this becomes?

Today, someone on the Ranger-L Listserv observed an error in the “official” continuity of episodes — regarding the placement of Mindnet — and I must say I’m not surprised. It’s just a little oops, and probably not the only little oops people will uncover in the new official continuity.

I leave you with a link to another ironclad list on Wikipedia, which tells us the official production number of One Million Emotions is 06 and 09, and gives it two original airdates. Oops.

Um, not to change the subject or anything, but is there an official timeline for the hundreds of fanfic stories out there? I haven’t read any, but I’m a bit curious.