The Best 80’s Sci-Fi Cartoon You’ve Never Heard Of: Adventures Of The Galaxy Rangers
I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to old 80’s cartoons, or rather, I’m addicted to them until I watch them again. I loved them when they came out, but time has a way of clouding the truth when it comes to entertainment. Over the past decade, while DVDs, the internet, and nostalgia have all created a vehicle for my favs as a kid to make a reappearance, I have re-watched most of the cartoons that I loved as a child. Some have been about what I remembered, some have been absolutely terrible, but few have amazed me by their moments of brilliance like The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers.
Space Western, sound familiar? Well, Joss Whedon was not the first one to the party. Predating even the schlock-tastic 1994 direct to DVD classic Oblivion and even the much loved Bravestarrthat debuted in 1987, was The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, a Saturday morning cartoon that used a mix of state of the art computer and traditional animation that debuted in 1986. Galaxy Rangers tells the story of a group of space lawmen who are enhanced with cybernetic abilities to protect the new frontier planets from outlaws, alien conquerors, and evil space wizards. Yeah that’s right, space wizards. Before the advent of midi-chlorians, people didn’t mind having some far out mysticism mixed in with their sci-fi.
When I first decided to revisit Galaxy Rangers I was a little hesitant. I remember loving the show so much that I would set my alarm to wake me up before anyone else in the house just to watch it on Saturday mornings, but I’ve seen enough old 80’s cartoons to know that what you may think is cool as a kid and what is actually watchable can sometimes be two totally different things. Case in point: Silverhawks. If you need a refresher on why this show was actually pretty terrible, you really don’t have to go any further than the opening credits where they unveil the roster of villains. If you are anxiously awaiting a revival of Silverhawks, I’d suggest that you don’t hold your breath.
I finally started watching The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers and was astonished. Not only was it as action packed as I remembered as a kid, some of the stories were actually good hearty sci-fi in their own right. No, it wasn’t the kind of stuff that makes you think about the themes afterward or what it means to be human, but as far as the world building and general plot went, it was surprisingly well thought out and constructed. Some of the characters, such as the Clint Eastwood-esque super soldier Shane “Goose” Gooseman, actually had interesting backstories which came into play during the series. Other characters weren’t as fleshed-out, but the varied structure and settings for the stories provided a rich backdrop for the action even when the characters fell flat.
Now I won’t lie to you. For every awesome episode like “Scarecrow” or “Changeling” there is an abysmal “Mothmoose” or “Tortuna Rock”. And while some of the voice work is good (the late Jerry Orbach is the voice of the team’s leader Zachary Foxx), some of the voices are like nails on a chalkboard (the Queen of the Crown and Captain Kidd). The animation itself can be a little hit and miss at times as well. Even though the use of computer graphics in the cartoon was ahead of its time, the traditional animation duties fell on TMS Entertainment who used three different teams of various levels of skill to animate the episodes.
Nothing bad can be said about the killer 80’s rock theme song though…
Once you spend some time with the series, you’ll start to wonder why nobody has snatched up this property for a reboot yet. The backstory is rich, character designs interesting, and the locales and stories leave plenty of room for expansion. If they can make the current run of Thundercats as interesting and grounded in a sci-fi universe as it is, I shudder to think of what a good studio could do with Galaxy Rangers. The show remains relatively unknown next to the likes of Transformers and Thundercats , so it will never happen, but the potential is definitely there waiting to be exploited. In a time when movies and tv are starved for ideas, it would be nice to see a remake of something that most people didn’t know by heart.
If you like the space western setting or just old cartoons in general, you should give it a look. Right now you can either spend your money on the complete series in two volumes over at Amazon, or if you are one of those people who like free stuff you can watch the entire series run over on Hulu. It’s not for everybody, but if you look at a robot horse and your first thought is “Awesome!” instead of “Why?” you will probably dig this.
Here’s the show’s entire first episode to get you started…