Having missed out on the show in its '80s heyday, a hapless Monte Williams shares his thoughts during his baffled first look at The Galaxy Rangers.
The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: Volume 1Distributor: Koch
Cast: Jerry Orbach, Bob Bottone, Maia Danziger, Laura Dean, Earl Hammond
First date: 1986
US Release Date: 2008-05-13
Normally, I only frequent Wikipedia in search of strange, obscure background information on a given subject (turns out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was retitled Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles in the United Kingdom; and would you believe The Garbage Pail Kids Movie was a financial disappointment?) But in the case of The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: Volume 1, Wikipedia served not as a source of trivia but instead as a makeshift Babelfish, without which I'd have never managed to even decipher the show's plot.
I feel like something of a Geek Without A Country where The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers is concerned; for all my cartoon-obsessed, nerdcore leanings, I don't boast the requisite nostalgia to overlook the inherent batshit craziness and somehow almost inspired stupidity of a given 1980s cartoon, and in this case, I am seeing the cartoon in question for the first time; I had never even heard of The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers until 2008. How it escaped my notice in my TV-obsessed '80s youth I can't understand, but I am happy for an opportunity to judge an '80s relic on its own merits; this might well be the only truly objective '80s cartoon review ever penned by a member of Generation X.
What first strikes the novice viewer, before the stirring Galaxy Rangers opening theme has come close to conclusion, is the curious fact that no attempt is made to account for the show's frankly inexplicable Old West theme. The theme song's obligatory Expository Voiceover offers the following succinct summary of the show's central premise:
In 2086, two peaceful aliens journeyed to Earth, seeking our help. In return, they gave us the plans for our first hyper drive, allowing mankind to open the doors to the stars!
We had assembled a team of unique individuals to protect Earth and our allies. Courageous pioneers committed to the highest ideals of justice, and dedicated to preserving law and order across the new frontier. These are The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers!
Am I out of line in suggesting that, somewhere in this proudest of introductory speeches, the narrator might have added something along the lines of, "Also, they're robotic-looking cowboys! For some reason!"
Admittedly, they're called Rangers, which evokes images of, say, Texas Rangers. But the mixture of the science fiction and western genres was immediately understood to be at the core of not only Joss Whedon's Firefly, but also another animated space western from the same era as Galaxy Rangers: Marshall Bravestarr. (Bloody hell, some hasty research reveals that there was yet a third cowboys-in-space cartoon in the 1980s: Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs; I don't know whether I'm more disturbed at the unsuspected popularity of such an unlikely genre, or by the uncomfortable realization that there were two cartoons I somehow managed to overlook during my 'toon-crazed childhood.)
Having not realized ahead of time that The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers likewise had such a cowboys-and-spaceships premise, I was initially a bit taken aback; each episode's opening sequence is just a big, spastic orgy of science fiction imagery: spaceships, lasers, alien life forms, vast, empty stretches of space. And then our narrator mentions some heroes we'd assembled, and suddenly this heroic quarter of tech-enhanced cowfolk come bursting onto the screen. On robotic horses.
I can't quite express how unexpected and off-putting this all is, but I came to grips, not five minutes into the first episode, with a far more surprising revelation: I was fixating on this one relatively minor and forgivable misstep because to broaden my gaze in the least would mean that I'd be forced to acknowledge that, flawed and silly as you might rightfully expect it to be, The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers is better than all of its fondly remembered animated peers by a staggering and comical margin.
Keep in mind, I had already made this sad concession during the opening scene of the pilot episode, which stars in part a creepy, ostensibly endearing character named Zozo, of the species Kiwi, who looks for all the world like a violet Dobby with a bad brunette wig and unsettling, lidless orange orbs for eyes. I suspect he is meant to be this universe's Orko; meaning he's the cute, silly mascot type meant to appeal to the youngest members of the audience.
This, for you layfolk, is a discovery of no small scale.