Thursday, April 16, 2009

ExoSquad + Space Above and Beyond = Happy Day for Me!

eJust received the first season of ExoSquad on DVD and boy oh boy, this brings back so many fond memories. The show really holds up well, except for a few slight elements.

The greatest sci-fi war epic of all time, in saturday morning cartoon format. ExoSquad was not a funny series of hijinks and misunderstandings. Nor a treasure trove of pop culture references randomly inserted throughout. It was simply a dramatic and at times brutal account of the Second Neo Sapien War. For a saturday morning cartoon, this show took risks. Characters you'd grown to know and love could and would die. Entire populations were brought to starvation and slavery in concentration camps. And the most frightening aspect of all... mankind had pretty much brought this on itself. We were responsible for creating our own conquerors, the genetically engineered Neo Sapiens. Slaves who were now our slavemasters.

The show basically took World War II and transported it into the 22nd century, with sci-fi exoskeletons known as Exo-Frames. Basically, all the cool aspects of Starship Troopers, but with a much more relatable conflict. Instead of just blowing away anonymous bugs, we were fighting our own bitter creations, who were politically ruled by a megalomaniacal tyrant named Phaeton. I'll never forget the first season episode "The Brood" in which the ExoFleet, returning to Earth to liberate it from the occupying Neo Sapiens, ended up being overwhelmed by two Neo Sapien fleets. The flagship Resolute going down in flames as its lifeboats shot out and were blown apart by hostile fire is probably one of the most traumatic images of my childhood. Sure, I'd seen the Reliant get blown apart by the Enterprise in "Wrath of Khan" before then, but that was a ship full of escaped criminals and villains. They were trash. Seeing the Resolute, flagship of the entire Exofleet, the pride and joy of Admiral Winfield, slowly get ripped apart by laser fire and then explode with the traitorous Captain Marcus aboard invoked a curious mixture of horror, despair, and wonderment.

Now that I've grown up, I actually find that I can appreciate the series more, which is rarely the case with these saturday morning cartoons. But it's only now in my adult life that I find myself recognizing the subtle touches of the writers, like the state of the Neo Sapien people in the first few episodes resembling the state of Germany before World War 2. Or the problem of human collaborators working with the Neo Sapien occupation, just like the Vichy regime of France.

Here's a quote that I've found especially memorable. Only a mere taste of the excellence embued in this animated masterpiece.

Thrax: "I used to worry how I would face the end. Would I go bravely like a soldier? But let me tell you something, Neo Mega, it's life itself that matters, not how it ends. Each moment is a precious gift, if only we have the courage to accept it. That is where our duty lies, not in taking life, but in living it."

You can find the entire series on Hulu to watch.

BTW, I also picked up the Space Above and Beyond DVD set along with this, and I've gotta tell ya... Fox can go eat a dick. It's fucking awful. No extras, and double-sided discs. Who the fuck still thinks double-sided discs are a good idea? Still a great show, but the DVD treatment is some kind of Special Olympics.

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