Koch Vision // 1986 // 774 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // September 22nd, 2008
"Rangers are forever."
-- The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers end credits song.
The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers premiered on U.S. television in 1986 and then quickly got lost in the wasteland of toy line tie-in animated shows that dominated the era's after-school timeslots. The cult-favorite series resurfaced initially on four separate DVD compilations, each set featuring four episodes out of continuity and broadcast order. Koch Vision finally rewards patient fans with Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers -- The Collection: Volume 2 which completes the series' 65-episode run in its original chronological order.
In 2086, Earth joined a military alliance with alien races against the Crown Empire that was quickly spreading through the universe and enslaving its inhabitants. In exchange for our help, mankind learned the technology of the hyperdrive and the colonization of distant worlds began. In this new lawless frontier, the Galaxy Rangers emerged to maintain law and order. A select group of Rangers received Series 5 cybernetic implants that give them individual, special powers. Zachary Foxx (Jerry Orbach, Beauty and the Beast) leads the group that includes Shane "Goose" Gooseman, Niko and "Doc" Hartford. In addition to the Queen of the Crown, the Rangers also contend with villains such as Scarecrow, the Black Hole Gang, Killbane and giant marshmallows.
The final 33 episodes of the series are spread across four discs numbered continuously after the Volume 1 set:
* "Lady of Light"
* "Natural Balance"
* "Scarecrow's Revenge"
* "In Sheep's Clothing"
* "Marshmallow Trees"
* "Shoot Out"
* "Bronto Bear"
* "Rogue Arm"
* "Aces and Apes"
* "Badge of Power"
* "Galaxy Stranger"
* "Lord of the Sands"
* "Promised Land"
* "Battle of the Bandits"
* "Rusty and the Boys"
* "Trouble at Texton"
* "Don Quixote Cody"
* "Tortuna Rocks"
* "Fire and Iron"
* "Tower of Combat"
* "Gift of Life"
The series' production was based in New York but the animation was farmed out to TMS Entertainment, Ltd. (one of the oldest and most prominent animation studios in Japan). Imported anime hadn't yet gained popular acceptance with American audiences so The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers had a very unique look for its time. The show also benefited from a mixed roster of talented novice and established science fiction writers. Not having to answer to a toy company, the writers let their imaginations dictate the direction of the show and a lot of creativity fills the corners of this universe. Galaxy Rangers also has a more mature tone than similar shows aimed at young viewers: space cruisers are blown up, planets threatened with extinction and background characters are disintegrated on screen.
The four Rangers receive roughly equal screen time over the course of the series, but Shane Gooseman (Doug Preis, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law) often comes close to stealing the show. The Goose is a Western hero in the Clint Eastwood mould: short on words but quick on the draw. More than a few episodes are devoted to his history and how his past continues to haunt him.
I was a little impatient during a few of the early episodes in this set that spotlighted the Kiwi kids. They're meant to be lighter episodes, giving audiences a break from the action-packed sci-fi storylines, and younger viewers might identify more easily with the adolescent aliens. Even when I was at that age myself, I didn't care much for those supporting characters that were inserted into a show solely for the cuteness factor. Some viewers might enjoy the silly antics of these big-eyed aliens but I was looking forward to a few fists and lasers to fly. That's not to say the Rangers are necessary for every memorable episode. In two episodes about a boy and his flying horse, a youngster named Billy carries the story quite well. That just goes to show how strong writing and direction is more compelling than gimmicky characters.
There are enough supplemental materials in this collection to satisfy diehard fans of the show. Creator Robert Mandell talks about the experience of selling the show in an oversaturated animation marketplace. Mandell also joins story editor Christopher Rowley and voice talent Henry Mandell on audio commentaries for four episodes. In an 18-minute interview, then-novice writers Dan Fiorella and John Rawlins share their memories of working on the show and talk about their finished scripts for the second season that was not to be. In the first of two "Show and Tell" segments, crew members share their memories of actor Jerry Orbach. Then, Fiorella and Rawlins exhibit some kids meal merchandise that tied the show in with a restaurant chain. A separate feature allows you to listen to ten original underscore music tracks used throughout the series. The character art slideshow is a gallery of the concept art by Justin Norman. Outside of the discs, this collection is also packaged with a "Visual Guide to Vehicles and Technology" booklet that mixes episode stills and production drawings with brief explanations of the machines in the Galaxy Rangers universe.
Koch Vision has done a nice job presenting the second half of the series on this DVD set. The picture is clean, exhibiting only the faintest signs of dust and damage, and the colors are rich and strong. I just barely remember seeing the series when it was first on television, but I can't imagine it looked any better than it does on these discs. The show's soundtrack is adequately delivered in a stereo mix. However, the audio for the episodes sounds more like a strong mono compared against that of the Underscore Music Tracks supplement or even against the menu screens. The rockin' electric guitar and synthesizers are like a time machine to the 1980s.
Animated television series of the 1980s were treated as disposable toy commercials and it was expected that the episodes would be broadcast out of chronological order. The writers of Galaxy Rangers must have anticipated this as almost all the episodes work just fine as stand-alone episodes. Without exception, the status quo is restored by the end of each story. While it is nice to have the entire series presented in order across this two-volume collection, the story continuity doesn't necessitate viewing the episodes strictly in order. Consequently, there isn't a grand story arc that shapes the direction of the series. For example, the threat of the Crown Empire never builds to a showdown. A few other storylines develop a theme that is explored in consecutive episodes or revisited over a few separate ones. But our perception of the characters or their universe isn't dynamically altered between the start of the series and the final episode. Ultimately, the lack of a cumulative continuity does make individual episodes feel somewhat disposable.
The Galaxy Rangers ride again and fans of the show will appreciate the completion of the series on this DVD collection. A very good-looking picture and a fistful of extras will satiate nostalgic cravings for 1980s cartoons. This one is strictly for the fans with fond memories, though. While it is a cut above the average for its time, it will be a tall order convincing new viewers that this is a lost gem from an era of forgettable kids shows.
Review content copyright © 2008 William Lee; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 774 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Four Audio Commentaries
* Original Underscore Music Tracks
* Show and Tell Segments
* Character Art Slideshow
* Visual Guide to Vehicles and Technology
* Official Site