Judge Maurice Cobbs thinks that it's perfectly all right to let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
No guts, no glory.
If sad experience has taught me anything, it's to never eat spaghetti at a leper's house. But only slightly less poignant than that tried-and-true guideline is this one: "Best of" collections are rarely worth the time or bother. A good illustration of this adage are the Batman: The Animated Series one-disc offerings when contrasted with the marvelous boxed sets of the show that have seen recent release. While there are a couple of exceptions, collected episodes usually beat selected episodes hands down.
This is a problem for fans of the quaint or obscure, of those wonderful little one- or two-season wonders that we watched and loved and thought that we'd only ever be able to enjoy, at best, from dubbed VCDs from Ebay, or at worst, from our own rapidly deteriorating videotape collections. Of course, from time to time, some enterprising studio will collect a few episodes from one of these nigh-forgotten shows and release them in an unsatisfying one-disc release: unsatisfying for fans of the show, because they never offer enough episodes of the shows we love; and unsatisfying for new viewers, because they often don't bother to explain any of the character relationships or allow easy access to storylines or subplots.
Such is the case with The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: Tortuna. Long before Joss Whedon's Firefly went out in a blaze of glory, Robert Mandell had the idea to do an animated space western, kind of a "Lucas does Leone" concept. The series took place in the year 2086, when two alien ambassadors come to Earth seeking help in resisting the evil, sprawling, genocidal Crown Empire. In exchange for an alliance, the aliens offer Earth the secrets of the hyperdrive, which makes faster-than-light travel and off-world colonization possible. To combat the Crown, Earth's Bureau of Extra-Terrestrial Affairs (BETA) forms the Series 5 Rangers, a group of technologically enhanced lawmen: Commander Zachary Foxx (Jerry Orbach, Law and Order), the straight-as-an-arrow team leader who pushed for the formation of the team after suffering a terrible personal loss; the terse, Eastwood-like Shane "Goose" Gooseman (Doug Preis), the last of the genetically altered Supertroopers; Walter "Doc" Hartford (Hubert Kelly), the easygoing computer expert; and the beautiful psychic Niko (future friend of the Friends Laura Dean). The series also boasted colorful supporting characters, involving story arcs, and some of the best villains ever seen in eighties animation, including sleazy gangster Jackie Subtract, Daisy O'Mega and the Black Hole Gang, and the tyrannical Queen of the Crown.
Galaxy Rangers was certainly an anomaly in the mid-eighties, the height of the era of toy-based animated series; while many other shows, such as the similarly themed Bravestarr or He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, existed primarily as half-hour advertisements for their respective toy lines, Galaxy Rangers took the novel approach of presenting well-developed stories by established science-fiction writers such as James Luceno (of the Robotech novelizations and the New Jedi Order series) and his frequent collaborator Brian Daley (writer of the Han Solo Trilogy of adventures). The result was a comparatively intelligent, fun, engaging, and inventive show that pushed the envelope and was naturally cancelled after one season: Although a line of toys was eventually produced to accompany the series, the lack of an initial toy line would spell doom for the Galaxy Rangers.
Or would it? The proliferation of old TV shows on DVD has granted Galaxy Rangers a new lease on life. However, with the first volume of these adventures, "Tortuna," Koch Entertainment seems to be making the same mistake that was made with the series when it first aired: They are showing the episodes out of order, destroying the crafted continuity—leaving potential new fans puzzled. For instance, the first episode on this volume, "Tortuna," thrusts you two or three episodes into the storyline without explanation. Although a dedicated fan might know why Zach Foxx has a grudge against the Queen of the Crown, why the Rangers must infiltrate Tortuna in disguise, and why the Queen is so eager to capture humans, these details will naturally be lost on the first-time viewer without benefit of the previous episodes. This isn't a very good way to build up a fan base, and it must be frustrating for seasoned fans, even as they must delight in finally having at least a few episodes available on DVD.
It's a shame, really—because this is otherwise such an excellent package. The shows are gorgeous, with a crystal-clear remastered picture that looks fantastic, and your choice of 2.0 or 5.1 surround sound. And the rest of the episodes are not so continuity-dependent, although you might wonder why certain characters do certain things, or where they came from, or whatever. I particularly liked "Scarecrow," a pretty startling episode that finds Goose, Niko, and Doc on the agricultural planet Grana, where they inadvertently awaken a powerful and mysterious being that has slumbered beneath the planet's surface for eons. "One Million Emotions" finds the Rangers working security at an intergalactic art show, but a Poe Mutant Sensation Doll—a work of art that holds a million emotions and imparts them to anyone who holds it, except another Poe—is stolen, and the Rangers must track the statue down before it drives someone mad…or worse. And "Heart of Tarkon" pits Rangers Doc and Niko against the Queen of the Crown, as they try to stop her from deceiving the King of Tarkon into a treaty that would pave the way for her domination of the planet. Plus, the episode synopses and the character bios in the special features help to fill in a little of the missing back story, but not nearly enough to suit me…it would have been better to start at the beginning.
The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers is a fun and exciting show. Dare we hope that Koch Entertainment plans to release all 65 episodes…in order? This is certainly the sort of show that is best enjoyed with the continuity and storylines intact, and is enhanced by commentaries and behind-the-scenes material. Let's hope it comes along soon, so that those who are new to the Galaxy Rangers universe can join in the fun as well. C'mon…take a chance. Like the Rangers say, "No guts…no glory."
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
• Episode Synopses
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