Judge Clark Douglas was surprised by how different this show was from its cinematic follow-up, Space Cowboys.
The ultimate defenders of the universe.
"No guts, no glory!"—The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers theme song
Facts of the Case
A narrator helpfully explains during the opening moments of the first episode:
"In 2086, two peaceful aliens journeyed to Earth, seeking our help. In return, they gave us the plans for our first hyperdrive, allowing mankind to open the door to the stars. We have assembled a team of unique individuals to protect Earth and our allies. Courageous pioneers committed to the highest ideals of justice and dedicated to preserving law and order across the new frontier. These are The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers."
The "team of unique individuals" is comprised of four key members. Each member has received a special implant, which gives them unique powers. They're going to need those powers, because there are a lot of rough, tough, technologically advanced aliens out there. First up is Zachery Foxx, who has a bionic left arm. He has the ability to fire thunderballs at enemies. Shane "Goose" Gooseman (aka Mr. Clint Eastwood Wannabe) doesn't have any attack powers, but he does have the ability to heal very quickly, making him almost invincible. Niko is an attractive 24-year-old archaeologist with unique psychic abilities, which helps the team a lot during the decision-making process. Finally, there's Walter "Doc" Hartford, who serves as comic relief, token minority character, and technical expert. He is a "computer psychiatrist" and has the ability to talk almost any computer into doing anything. Together, this team comprises the noble and heroic Galaxy Rangers!
Thirty-two episodes are spread across four discs, all housed in a fold-out case (which is housed within a cardboard box).
These days, the idea of an American animated television show drawn by artists in Japan about cowboys in space might not seem so unusual. However, in 1986, such a thing was groundbreaking. Before the era of Firefly, Cowboy Bebop, and the explosion of Japanese animation, The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers seemed like an extraordinarily refreshing concept. It was a strange, unusual show that was certainly a far cry from everything else the kids were watching on Saturday mornings. Not only was the program vastly different in tone, it featured considerably more complicated plots than any other animated program at the time. Here we have a true science-fiction world, in which every character, planet, creature, and machine has been meticulously crafted in a very specific and detailed manner.
The show confused some viewers while it was airing, but this was not necessarily the fault of audiences. The show features a lot of long-arc storylines, which require viewers to catch each episode in order. However, the shows were frequently not broadcast in order, causing perfectly understandable befuddlement. To make matters worse, when episodes of the show were released on DVD (on those annoying compilation discs that feature just a few episodes), they were still not placed in chronological order. So, you can understand why the packaging on this particular DVD set makes a special note of the fact that these episodes are being presented in chronological order.
That's going to make fans of the show happy, and there's a lot to like about Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Despite some occasionally overcomplicated scenarios, the show features likable characters and a lot of interesting situations. Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers frequently feels like The Magnificent Seven filtered through Star Trek and a Duran Duran album. It's got such a unique tone that it actually took me quite a while to get used to. Watching these space rangers riding robot horses into a moon saloon and battling rejected ideas from the cantina scene in Star Wars is unusual, to say the least. However, the whole "western in space" thing works quite well, even if the concept isn't handled as engagingly as it was during the short-lived Firefly.
Voice work is typically solid from the lead characters. Doug Preis (Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law) does a nice Clint Eastwood impersonation in the role of Goose. Jerry Orbach (Crimes and Misdemeanors) is probably the biggest name here and handles the lead role of Zachary Foxx quite well. Hubert Kelly (Bird) brings a sly sense of amusement to his role, and Laura Dean (Friends) not only voices Nikko, but also two of the Foxx family members!
The DVD transfer is just fine, though some occasional scratches appear here and there. The sound is mediocre, with the music occasionally drowning out the dialogue. DVD extras are a mixed bag. The two audio commentaries with creator Robert Mandell and a couple of his collaborators are engaging, but pretty much everything else (a video interview with Mandell, a music video, a test pilot for the show) falls flat.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is a pretty good show, but there are only three problems that prevent me from giving it a very enthusiastic endorsement. First, the pounding-synth '80s score dates the show quite a bit and doesn't add much of anything to the drama. A better—or even a quieter—score would have helped a great deal. Second, while the voice work for the heroes is strong, almost all of the villains are voiced quite poorly. Some of them are too shrill, some of them are voiced with too little enthusiasm, but very few of them are just right. Finally, the show has a tendency to focus a little too much on the complicated plots and too little on characters. I'm reminded of something someone once said of Alistair MacLean's novels: "They've got enough plot for five films, and barely enough characterization for one."
If you're a fan of The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, this is far and away the best DVD release of the show in existence. You will finally be able to watch the show in chronological order, which very likely means that you will finally understand what the show is about. It's hard to say how much kids might like this rather dated show, but fans of 1980s animation will undoubtedly gobble this stuff up.
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