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Auto Pilot: VR Troopers

By Zach


Continuing this month’s look back at the wonderfully insane world of 90’s Saban shows, let’s dive into the next series launched after the success of Power Rangers, VR Troopers.

Episode Title: The Battle Begins, Part 1

Original Air Date: September 3rd, 1994

Did I Know Anything Going In?: I had obviously heard of the show and seen the intro but the thing was, unlike Power Rangers and Beetleborgs, which aired on Fox Kids, VR Troopers was syndicated and I don’t believe any of my local channels had it, so this is the first time actually sitting down and watching a whole episode.

VR Troopers follows a similar format to Power Rangers and Beetleborgs where Saban had footage from three different Japanese shows and then filmed new scenes with American actors to fill in the gaps.  In VR Troopers, we have our hero, Ryan Steele, and his friends JB and Kaitlin being recruited to fight off the forces of Grimlord, who rules the “Virtual Reality” and wants to break through the “reality barrier” and take over our world.  He’s secretly active in our world as evil industrialist Karl Ziktor and I guess by blowing up random buildings he can break through the barrier?  The whole show kind of has a fundamental misunderstanding of what “virutal reality” actually is and it really seems like out of touch Saban executives just heard that phrase since things like The Lawnmower Man and gigantic mall based VR machines were popular and just had everyone on the show keep saying it in hopes that eventually it would make sense.   Ziktor is also kind of like an evil Robert Palmer, as he has a gaggle of identically dressed model assistants that is very reminiscent of the famous Addicted to Love music video.

Anyway, the first episode kicks off with JB and Ryan winning a karate tournament for Tao Dojo, which is sort of the equivalent of the juice bar on Power Rangers while Kaitlin, who’s sort of a junior Lois Lane, gets a tip from her ridiculously annoying boss Woody that Ziktor is going to blow up a building and there’s a protest going on because he wants to build a nuclear power plant.  Afterwards, the trio gets a mysterious message from Professor Hart, who is either trapped in VR or uploaded his brain to a computer, I don’t think they explain it in the episode and I don’t really care.  He worked with Ryan’s father, who was definitely lost in the VR dimension and, after surviving an attack from some of Grimlord’s Go-Botesque henchmen, the trio arrives at Hart’s lab and gets a rundown of what is going on and their transformation necklaces that allow them to transform into VR Troopers.  They split up to take on the various attacking henchmen and Kaitlin and JB manage to take down the, admittedly pretty awesome looking, steampunk gorilla they face off against but Ryan goes down against his foe and is seemingly defeated for a cliffhanger ending.

I think it’s probably because I didn’t grow up with it, but VR Troopers doesn’t have the same charm for me that Power Rangers still has.  The main trio is pretty bland and the whole idea of the show is just a mess of buzzwords and random footage from the Japanese source material.  I do like the designs of the villains, as they all look kind of like live action Transformers or Go-Bots but it just feels like it lacks the energy and fun of Power Rangers.

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