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VR Troopers
The VR Troopers
Format Action-Adventure-Drama
Created by Haim Saban
Starring Brad Hawkins
Michael Bacon
Sarah Brown
Gardner Baldwin
Julian Combs
Richard Rabago
Michael Sorich
Aaron Pruner
Kerrigan Mahan
Zeb
Country of origin United States/Japan
No. of episodes 92
Production
Running time 25 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel first-run syndication
Original run September 3, 1994 – January 21, 1996

VR Troopers (Virtual Reality Troopers) was a syndicated live action show produced by Saban (creators of the similar Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series) from 1994 to 1996. The show tried to profit from the short-lived Virtual Reality fad of the 1990s as well as the success of Power Rangers.

The show featured early CGI and video effects mixed with Japanese stock footage from three different Metal Hero Series: Super Machine Man Metalder, Dimensional Warrior Spielban, and Space Sheriff Shaider. This kind of adaptation technique, turning multiple shows into one show, was originally used in anime with shows like Robotech and Voltron. This was the first and only time this was used for a tokusatsu adaptation.

The series was deemed successful, but not as successful as the Power Rangers franchise. Unfortunately, for the series, the Japanese footage was quickly exhausted due to extreme cases where multiple tokusatsu scenes were put together in a single episode to the point stock footage had to be reused multiple times throughout the series. Similarly, another Saban program, Big Bad Beetleborgs, would do well but ultimately end quickly due to a lack of stock footage. Both series were adapted from the Japanese Metal Hero genre, which ended in Japan around the same time. The show spawned a toyline and a videogame for the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive).

Contents

Plot

Saban's VR Troopers was the first official "sister series" to the most popular "action fighting kid show" at the time, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Much like it, this was an Americanization of a Japanese tokusatsu children's program by Toei Company LTD.

The show focused on three young adults in their late teens, Ryan Steele, Kaitlin Star, and J.B. Reese, living in the fictional West Coast town of Cross World City. They regularly attended and were teachers at "Tao's Dojo", a karate studio. Ryan was the most focused martial artist; J.B. was the computer wizard; while Kaitlin was a photographer & budding reporter for the local newspaper, the Underground Voice Daily. One day, Ryan's search for his long-missing father led him and his two friends to a strange laboratory. Inside, a digitized head of Professor Horatio Hart, a friend of Ryan's father Tyler, explained the truth about his life's work of having developed extremely advanced virtual reality technology in secret. "VR" is a dimension existing alongside our own; within it lie mutants and monsters bent on conquering both worlds. The main ruler of these is a creature known as Grimlord, who, unbeknowst to anyone on Earth, has a human identity as billionaire industrialist Karl Ziktor. As Karl Ziktor tries to overcome the barriers of the true reality to allow his armies easy passage from virtual world, the responsibility falls to Ryan, Kaitlin, and J.B. of defending the planet on both sides of the dimensional barrier. They have assistance in the form of armored bodies having incredible firepower. This included eventual additions to their arsenal, such as a Turbo Cycle, Techno Bazooka, and a flying, laser-blasting Skybase.

Other regular characters on the show included Jeb, Ryan's hound dog, who, after an accident in Prof. Hart's lab, is now capable of human speech; Woody Stocker, Kaitlin's wacky hat-loving boss at the Underground Voice Daily; Percy Rooney, the local mayor's nephew and Kaitlin's bumbling rival reporter; and Tao, the wise martial arts sensei who owns the dojo and a family friend of the Steele Family. Recurring villains include General Ivar, a vicious rocket-shaped monster with his own tank; Colonel Icebot, a cold-blooded virtual menace; Decimator, a sword-wielding warrior; the Skugs, gold-headed foot soldiers, and more throughout.

During the second season, the show changed format very slightly. Ryan's father was finally found (having been restored to normal off-camera) and quickly left to help the government research further Virtual Reality-based technology. With him came an upgrade to Ryan's V.R. armor and powers. Grimlord's base of operation switched from a dungeon to a massive spacecraft, and added new Generals such as DoomMaster and his Vixens, Oraclon, and Despera. The Skugs now had the ability to become more powerful in the form of Ultra-Skugs.

Cast

Cybertron

The show was originally called Cybertron, but was changed to VR Troopers later because of a copyright issue with Hasbro ("Cybertron" being the name of the title characters' home planet in the various Transformers properties). The production studio kept the name Cybertron Productions for the show's lifespan, similar to how Power Rangers kept the name of its original season ("MMPR Productions") until it closed in 2002. Jason David Frank was originally cast in the part of Ryan Steele. However, he had to withdraw due to his popularity on Power Rangers, prompting a return to that series. The theme to Cybertron would be reworked and became the Green Ranger theme ('Go Green Ranger Go') on Power Rangers.

He filmed one episode back when the show was known as Cybertron. At the time, Frank's character was called Adam Steele.[1] Rough promotional reels of Cybertron drew its source footage from Metalder. Adam Steele was depicted as a solo hero going up against an entire army of sentient robots known as War Drones who were led by the evil Grimlord. Grimlord's alternate identity in the pilot was known as Cyrus Riktor (Gardner Baldwin) who also had a son named Percy Riktor, Adam's martial arts rival. Tao Chong (Richard Rabago) was also present, but played a more vital role in the show. Tao was not only Adam's caretaker and sensei, he also served the role of Cybertron's mentor; this was dropped and the character Professor Hart occupied the role. Tao also had a daughter named Mia, and Doug Sloan played the part of Tyler Steele. Also featured were a pair of bumbling news reporters named Elmo (played by Jamie Kennedy) and Scuzzy, who would've served as the series' comedy relief.

Production

According to early VR Troopers promotions, Kaitlin had a different last name. Instead of "Star", her surname was referred to as "Hall". Also in these early promos (seen at the beginning of many Power Rangers home videos), Professor Hart was played by a different actor, and had an entirely different voice and personality than the Professor that was later used.

Like Power Rangers, VR Troopers used a combination of American footage spliced with fight scenes from Japanese shows. The Japanese shows adapted in to VR Troopers are Space Sheriff Shaider, Dimensional Warrior Spielban, and Super Machine Metalder. All three come from Toei's Metal Hero Series. Specifically, Ryan's first season suit was that from Metalder and his second season suit was from Space Sheriff Shaider. Both JB's and Kaitlin's suits came from Spielban.

Out of all of Saban's tokusatsu adaptations, VR Troopers uses the oldest source-footage of any series. Shaider was aired from 1984 to early 1985, making it 11 years old when first used for VR Troopers in 1995; Spielban was aired from 1986 to early 1987, making it eight years old when originally used in 1994; and Metalder was originally aired in 1987 to early 1988, making it seven years old when it was adapted in 1994.

Because more than one Japanese show was used in an episode at any given time, Ryan's alter-ego was never in the same action scene as JB or Kaitlin's (since they were taken from two different shows). Due to this, many episodes involved some sort of plot device that separated Ryan from the other two, forcing them to fight separately. Almost every episode ended with either Ryan or JB destroying the monster of the day (Kaitlin never got to destroy any on her own), at which point his missing comrade(s) would come running up to inquire how the fight went. The only time the group fought "together" or in battle grid mode was all original American footage.

VR Troopers as an adaptation is different in many ways from Power Rangers and Big Bad Beetleborgs. Because it was syndicated, the monsters were destroyed more violently; mutant/robot destructions included the monster being split in half, impaled, and decapitated. None of the VR Trooper forms were given names since none of them had one main color.

The show lasted two seasons (1994-'95 and '95-'96) with nearly 100 episodes before it was cancelled in favor of Big Bad Beetleborgs, which continued to use footage from the Metal Hero Series Juukou B-Fighter and B-Fighter Kabuto.

The series was cancelled because all the fight footage was used up. All three of the Metal Hero shows used in the series had a lot of human vs. human battles. However, because the fights featured close-ups of Japanese actors, it was deemed unusable. Distance shots were usable in some of the fights, and battles with the monster footage were also kind of limited (splicing up to 2-3 episodes), but otherwise such footage was limited. In addition, because many episodes of fight footage from Metalder/Shaider and Spielban were being used in a single episode, the footage ran out faster.

In Season 1, the show would open with the traditional "Today on Saban's VR Troopers" teaser, showing scenes from the episode and narrated by Dave Mallow. After the "Quest For Power" mini-series in Season 2, however, Ryan, Kaitlin, or J.B. took over the part and narrated the teaser (and in the first-person to boot).

Various voice actors were listed under different pseudonyms in this series. For example, in the Season 1 end credits, Kerrigan Mahan was credited under his pseudonym, Ryan O'Flannigan (which was also the name credited for doing the voice of Goldar in the early seasons of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers); in Season 2, he would be credited under his real name and was properly identified as Jeb's voiceover. Likewise, Richard Epcar was occasionally listed in the end credits under a pseudonym of his own, Richard George (although he was credited under his real name for the first two episodes of the series), and Mike Reynolds was credited under the name Ray Michaels.

Episodes

Season 1

Title Original Airdate #
"The Battle Begins, Part One" September 3, 1994 1
"The Battle Begins, Part Two" September 10, 1994 2
"Error in the System" September 14, 1994 3
"Lost Memories" September 15, 1994 4
"Battle For the Books" September 16, 1994 5
"Oh Brother" September 19, 1994 6
"Grimlord's Challenge" September 20, 1994 7
"Computer Captive" September 21, 1994 8
"Kaitlin's Little Helper" September 22, 1994 9
"The Virtual Spy" September 23, 1994 10
"The Virtual V-6" September 26, 1994 11
"No One's Friend" September 27, 1994 12
"Dogmatic Change" September 28, 1994 13
"Searching For Tyler Steele" September 30, 1994 14
"Save the Trees" October 3, 1994 15
"A Dirty Trick" October 4, 1994 16
"Kaitlin's Front Page" October 5, 1994 17
"The Dognapping" October 7, 1994 18
"My Dog's Girlfriend" October 10, 1994 19
"Digging For Fire" October 11, 1994 20
"The Great Brain Robbery" October 12, 1994 21
"The Dojo Plot" October 14, 1994 22
"Grimlord's Greatest Hits" October 19, 1994 23
"The Disappearance" October 25, 1994 24
"Nightmares" October 31, 1994 25
"Secret Admirer" November 3, 1994 26
"Grimlord's House of Fear" November 4, 1994 27
"Three Strikes" November 7, 1994 28
"Danger in the Deep" November 8, 1994 29
"Small But Mighty" November 9, 1994 30
"Defending Dark Heart, Part One" November 14, 1994 31
"Defending Dark Heart, Part Two" November 15, 1994 32
"Defending Dark Heart, Part Three" November 16, 1994 33
"Defending Dark Heart, Part Four" November 17, 1994 34
"Ghost Biker" November 18, 1994 35
"Endangered Species" November 21, 1994 36
"Field Goal" November 22, 1994 37
"The Littlest Trooper" November 23, 1994 38
"The Reality Virus" November 29, 1994 39
"Friends in Need" November 30, 1994 40
"Good Trooper, Bad Trooper" February 6, 1995 41
"The Transmutant" February 7, 1995 42
"Who's King of the Mountain?" February 8, 1995 43
"The Couch Potato Kid" February 9, 1995 44
"The Old Switcharoo" February 10, 1995 45
"Race to the Rescue" February 13, 1995 46
"Fiddler on the Loose" February 14, 1995 47
"Virtually Powerless" February 15, 1995 48
"New Kids on the Planet" February 20, 1995 49
"Message From Space" February 22, 1995 50
"The Rise of the Red Python, Part One" February 27, 1995 51
"The Rise of the Red Python, Part Two" February 28, 1995 52

Season 2

Title Original Airdate #
"Mutant Mutiny" September 11, 1995 53
"Trooper Out of Time" September 12, 1995 54
"Secret Power" September 13, 1995 55
"Quest For Power, Part One" September 18, 1995 56
"Quest For Power, Part Two" September 19, 1995 57
"Quest For Power, Part Three" September 20, 1995 58
"Quest For Power, Part Four" September 21, 1995 59
"Quest For Power, Part Five" September 22, 1995 60
"Fashion Victims" September 25, 1995 61
"Game Over" September 26, 1995 62
"Watered Down" September 27, 1995 63
"The Negative Factor" October 2, 1995 64
"Kaitlin Through the Looking Glass, Part One" October 3, 1995 65
"Kaitlin Through the Looking Glass, Part Two" October 4, 1995 66
"Kaitlin Goes Hollywood" October 9, 1995 67
"Grimlord Takes Root" October 10, 1995 68
"The Disk" October 11, 1995 69
"Virtual Venom" October 16, 1995 70
"New World Order" October 17, 1995 71
"Grimlord's Children" October 18, 1995 72
"The Millennium Sabre" October 24, 1995 73
"Grimlord's Dark Secret, Part One" November 2, 1995 74
"Grimlord's Dark Secret, Part Two" November 3, 1995 75
"On the Wrong Track" November 6, 1995 76
"Forward Into the Past" November 7, 1995 77
"Into Oraclon's Web" November 8, 1995 78
"Santa's Secret Trooper" November 13, 1995 79
"The Charmeeka Invasion" November 14, 1995 80
"Dream Battle" November 15, 1995 81
"A Hard Day's Mutant" November 20, 1995 82
"Magnetic Attraction" November 21, 1995 83
"Get Me to the Lab on Time" November 27, 1995 84
"Grimlord's Big Breakout" November 28, 1995 85
"Field and Scream" February 5, 1996 86
"The Duplitron Dilemma" February 6, 1996 87
"Despera Strikes Back" February 7, 1996 88
"The Ghost of Cross World Forest" February 12, 1996 89
"Grimlord's Dummy" February 13, 1996 90
"Time Out" February 20, 1996 91
"Galileo's New Memory" February 21, 1996 92

See also

VHS & DVD Release

In the US five VHS videos were released: Lost Memories, Oh Brother, Computer Captive, Error in the System and Virtual V6.

In the UK four DVDs were released by Jetix Films. They included three single disc Volumes and a Mega Disc DVD that contained 8 various episodes that were released across the first three Volumes. At this time there are no plans for a US DVD release.

External links

References

  1. ^ May 1994 issue of Disney Adventures







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