After Power Rangers became a breakaway success, Haim Saban and Shuki Levy decided to make another Ameri-toku series, this time, adapting three shows from the Metal Heroes series, Superhuman Machine Metalder, Dimensional Warrior Spielban, and Space Sheriff Shaider (in season two). Together these three shows would make up the basis for VR Troopers.
VR Troopers began life as a starring vehicle for Jason David Frank called Cybertron. It pretty much follows the same plot as VR Troopers, but it just focuses on the Metalder footage, JDF would’ve played Adam Steele, the Troopers martial arts instructer Tao Chong would’ve helped train Adam to become Cybertron, he also had a daughter all of Grimlords minions were called War Drones, Karl Ziktor was called Cyrus Riktor, he also had a son Percy, and for some reason Jaime Kennedy was part of a Bulk and Skull-like duo. The pilot was reworked and renamed Psycon, most likely to avoid a lawsuit from a certain toy company, who just happens to own the term Cybertron.
The world got its first official look at VR Trooper in the form of a trailer that played before or after various Mighty Morphin Power Rangers VHS’, and while some things carried over from Cybertron, like Tao and Grimlord, once again there were some differences between it and the final product. For instance, Adam is now called Ryan, Kaitlin’s last name was Hall in the trailer, but was changed to Star in the series. The most notable difference, is the Troopers’ mentor Professor Horatio Hart, in the show he was an black, but here he’s caucasian, and rocking the Einstein look, and Jeb, Ryan talking dog, doesn’t sound like he’s impersonating Jack Nicholson as he does in the show.
Once the final changes were made, the show officially aired in syndication from September 3, 1994 to February 21, 1996
The show focused on three young adults in their late teens, Ryan Steele, Kaitlin Star, and J.B. Reese, living in the fictional West Coast town of Cross World City, California. They regularly attended and were teachers at “Tao’s Dojo”, a karate studio. Ryan was the most focused martial artist; J.B. was the computer wizard; while Kaitlin was a photographer & budding reporter for the local newspaper, the Underground Voice Daily. One day, Ryan’s search for his long-missing father led him and his two friends to a strange laboratory. Inside, a digitized head of Professor Horatio Hart, a friend of Ryan’s father, Tyler, explained the truth about his life’s work of having developed extremely advanced virtual reality technology in secret. “VR” is a dimension existing alongside our own; within it lie mutants bent on conquering both worlds. The main ruler of these is a creature known as Grimlord, who, unbeknownst to anyone on Earth, has a human identity as billionaire industrialist Karl Ziktor. As Karl Ziktor tries to overcome the barriers of the true reality to allow his armies easy passage from virtual world, the responsibility falls to Ryan, Kaitlin, and J.B. of defending the planet on both sides of the dimensional barrier. They have assistance in the form of armored bodies having incredible firepower. This included eventual additions to their arsenal, such as a Turbo Cycle, Techno Bazooka, VR Troopertron, VR Shoulder Cannon, VR Battlecruiser/Interceptop and a flying, laser-blasting Skybase.
Other regular characters on the show included Zeb as Jeb, Ryan’s hound dog, who, after an accident in Prof. Hart’s lab, was now capable of human speech; Woody Stocker, Kaitlin’s wacky hat-loving boss at the Underground Voice Daily; Percy Rooney, the local mayor’s nephew and Kaitlin’s bumbling rival reporter; and Tao, the wise martial arts sensei who owns the dojo and a family friend of the Steele Family. Recurring villains include General Ivar, Colonel Icebot, Decimator, the Skugs, and more throughout.
During the second season, the show changed format very slightly. Ryan’s father was finally found and restored to normal. Then, he quickly left to help the government research further Virtual Reality based technology. With him came Ryan’s new V.R. armor and an upgrade to his powers. Grimlord’s base of operations switched from the virtual dungeon to a massive spacecraft, and added new Generals such as Oraclon, Despera, Doom Master and his Vixens. The Skugs now had the ability to become more powerful in the form of Ultra Skugs.
Like Masked Rider, V.R. Troopers never had an official ending due to the stock footage from all Metal Heroes shows running out. There were plans to use the footage from the series Heavy Shell Beetle Fighters, and use that as the third season, but the plans were scrapped, and retooled to become another show that I’ll look at in the future, Beetleborgs.
The show is pretty decent. Like Power Rangers, it pretty much made me an instant fan of the Metal Heroes franchise, while it’s pretty corny and cringe-worthy at times (which is pretty much par for the course in most Saban productions.), it’s still fun to watch from time to time. With the advent of new V.R. technology in the real world, I could see this series making a comeback, as either a new series, or even a movie akin to the Power Rangers movie (though that seems a little unlikely since the movie kinda bombed). Overall, while corny, and may or may not have single-handedly killed the Missing Father cliche, I still think it’s worth checking out.
RANK: 3 out of 5
Oh! And check out this hilarious fan dub of the show, performed by the cast themselves.