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Troopers three! (Go!) Virtual Reality...
In the spirit of, on the heels of, and by the makers of Power Rangers, the Metal Heroes Toku series was adapted by Saban into a new show known as VR Troopers in 1994.
The premise is basically that via Applied Phlebotinum created by Tyler Steele, Karl Ziktor, and Professor Horatio Hart, anything created in virtual reality actually exists in Another Dimension, and can be brought forth into the real world. Tyler Steele goes missing, but left behind the means for his son and friends to defend the real world from Ziktor, now a Corrupt Corporate Executive with a virtual army ready to conquer the world. Crossworld City is a weak point between dimensions and as such, the front lines in the battle with Ziktor, aka Grimlord (Ziktor's super-powered virtual world avatar), and his forces. Professor Hart, his body mortally wounded by Grimlord, exists inside the base's computers and acts as The Obi-Wan.
The second season sees the complete overhaul of the villains' setup and one character's gear in a series where Status Quo Is God... or was.
Like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, three Metal Heroes series were used as source materials to make one. Ryan's armor, Grimlord, and any villain ever seen in Grimlord's lair came from Choujinki Metalder. Another show, Jikuu Senshi Spielban, provided armored Kaitlin and JB, General Icebot and Ivar, the Skugs, many of the team's vehicles, and most of the villains of the week (such as Red Python and Desponda). The second season, in which Ryan's armor and Grimlord's tech are switched out, takes footage from still another show, Space Sheriff Shaider.
Somehow, with that many sources of footage, costumes, and plots, the vast majority of second season episodes revolved around something dangerous being made in an underground lab that had eventually to be taken out with the same drill vehicle going through the same Stock Footage.
VRT's suits were a vast departure from those of Power Rangers and the like: instead of suiting up a human, the Troopers were actually transformed into robot forms that were created from scratch in virtual reality. If damaged in Trooper form, they had to be repaired as machines before they could return to human form.
The show has a rather interesting production history, to say the least: originally a vehicle for Jason David Frank, an unaired pilot was both shot and sold to several stations, who proceeded to buy it due to the popularity of Power Rangers , but at the last minute Saban decided to bring JDF back to PR, which meant that the starring role had to be recast with Brad Hawkins (who was originally set to play the White Ranger in the second season of Mighty Morphin), although the show by that point was deemed highly unsalvageable and was filmed only for contractual obligations with the TV stations who had already bought the series. To the surprise of many, the first season was actually quite successful and a second season was soon green-lighted by Saban. However, during the second season all the Metalder action footage ran out and Saban was forced to use footage from a third and drastically different (and much older) show for the Ryan Steele segments. Eventually all the remaining Spielban footage, as well most of the Shaider footage, were used up too.
Saban picked up the rights to a fourth Metal Hero series Juukou B-Fighter, but rather than risk alienating the show's fan-base by changing the entire team's costumes and motifs like they did with Power Rangers Zeo, they decided to start fresh with a new Americanized version, Beetleborgs, resulting in the cancellation of VR Troopers.
- Ryan Steele, searching for his father Tyler Steele, who helped create the technology, is assumed to be second in command at Tao Dojo.
- Kaitlin Starr, who works at a newspaper called the Underground Voice.
- J.B. Reese, martial artist who works for the dojo where the Troopers train.
- Professor Hart, friend of Tyler Steele, whose mind was placed inside the base's computers to save his life.
- Tao Chung, martial arts teacher and mentor of the team (in a life lessons sorta way. He doesn't know they're the Troopers.)
- Woody, the editor of the Underground Voice. Much more personable than J. Jonah Jameson. Frequently heard to say "What an ideeeeeee-a!"
- Jeb, the dog turned sentient and made speech-capable via some of the base's Applied Phlebotinum.
- Percy, mayor's son and would-be beau of Kaitlin. Highly obnoxious. Strictly comic relief. Occasionally, his parents show up. They're even more comic relief.
- Karl Ziktor, a Corrupt CEO who has a dual identity: in virtual reality, he's the Big Bad, Grimlord, with an army of VR cyborg creatures.
- Applied Phlebotinum: In addition to the impossible array of one-shot gadgets seen in the lab, "virtual reality" is the king of all plot devices. In this series, it basically means "whip up anything you want on the screen and have it pop out in reality."
- Bad Boss: When Grimlord gets new tech and uses it to make a new fortress and minions, he self-destructs his old base, killing all of his old minions except for the small handful he decided were useful enough. On one occasion he mentioned that he didn't care that they destroyed his monster of the week since it was just a distraction from the master plan.
- Barehanded Blade Block: Kaitlin does this unmorphed against Doom Master once.
- BBC Quarry: The "virtual world," when we see it, is the same quarry frequently seen in Power Rangers's Super Sentai footage. JB frequently teleports the entire battle back here so as to keep civilians from getting hurt.
- BFG: JB's Techno Bazooka.
- Big Bad: Grimlord.
- Book Ends: Each episode begins with Ryan remembering something his dad taught him. The episode would then have An Aesop involving what Ryan talked about. The episode would then end with Ryan summing up the Aesop.
- Bound and Gagged: In one episode, Kaitlin was captured in a trap specifically meant of her then bound and gagged to lure the others into a Death Trap.
- Due to the different footage sources meaning there's no Japanese footage of everyone against the same monster, capturing somebody is a common way of explaining someone's absence from the final round with the Monster of the Week.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Red Python, Dark Heart.
- Butt Monkey: Percy, courtesy of Jeb.
- By the Power of Greyskull: "Trooper Transform! We! Are! V! R!" (Actually, the "We are VR!" is unnecessary.) The Big Bad also had one: "Forces of darkness, empower me! Take me back to my virtual reality!"
- Calling Your Attacks: Every weapon or tool was activated by saying "[gadget name] command, now!" Even returning to human form was "Retro-form command, now!"
- Catch Phrase: Woody: "What an ideeeeee-a!", Ryan and JB: "See Ya!"
- Christmas Episode: "Santa's Secret Trooper". And this is done without the Spielban or Shaider action footages too!
- Cloning Blues: Kaitlin's evil clone actually does a Heel Face Turn and is summoned to help out now and again.
- Cut Short: Our heroes never got to defeat Grimlord or learn that he was Karl Ziktor.
- Cyberspace: The virtual world.
- Death Is Cheap: See Monster of the Week.
- The Dragon: Season 1 didn't have Dragons per se, but Grimlord had his go-to recurring monsters and his assistants as Ziktor, as well as sub-villains who handled the technical end of his plans or prepared the Monster of the Week, such as General Ivar, Colonel Icebot, and Decimator. Season 2 had warriors Doom Master and Despera, and the monster-maker Oraclon.
- Decimator beat the crap out of Ryan Steele almost every time they met, was explicitly said to be Grimlord's second in command, and usually either guarded Grimlord or acted as field commander. He's a full-on Dragon.
- Evil Counterpart: The Red Python.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: The veterinarian who was Brainwashed into becoming the Red Python was suddenly a lot less popular with her patients after her change.
- Fad Super
- Follow the Leader: No, not Power Rangers; Toku is a genre of its own. However, high schooler heroes use pendants to fully transform into robotic forms? Sounds suspiciously like the new-at-the-time Marvel Comics character Darkhawk.
- Genre Blind: The Troopers. Every episode, they see three people quietly walk up to them, without saying a word, and never realize that they're Skugs in disguise.
- Gratuitous Japanese: As with Power Rangers, Japanese footage in the background is an occupational hazard of using Stock Footage from Japan-original shows. It's most obvious in one episode where a monster kidnaps a little boy. There is a kanji sign in the hallway to his apartment. Justified Trope on this occasion, as the boy was Japanese-American (in order to match up with the kidnapped boy from the Japanese footage), and the place might have been in a Japanese community within Crossworld City.
- Haunted House: The episode "Grimlord's House of Fear" features one. Turns out it's just Colonel Ice-Bot trying to break into the Real World.
- Healing Hands: Only two episodes ("Error in the System", "My Dog's Girlfriend") have Kaitlin run to JB's rescue and, seeing that he is critically injured by Skuggs, she uses her healing technique/command called "Power Transfer" to restore JB's power. And the technique choreography in the former episode is amazingly longer than in the latter.
- Hero Stole My Bike: Averted; JB checked with the owner before chasing after the monsters.
- Insult Backfire: In the episode "Nightmares:"
J.B.: (After a monster transforms.) "You're still ugly!"
- Kiai: Ryan Steele. So much so, that he has three distinct battle cries.
- Kryptonite Factor: Skugs dissolved if they touched each other.
- Let's Split Up, Gang!: Since Ryan's Trooper form and Kate/JB's Trooper forms came from different shows, they always managed to find an excuse to split up.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: When we finally got to meet the famous Tyler Steele, we didn't know it was him at first.
- Made of Steele: ...and in that arc, he really earns his last name. Ouch.
- Matter Replicator: Apparently the Virtual World works like this.
- Monster of the Week: In the first season, the goons seen in Grimlord's court were all monsters who'd eventually get to be the monster of an episode. Since stock footage was used for some villains' base scenes, previously defeated monsters were often right there to greet Grimlord as he arrived, just like last week... and some would do battle again, with or without their past demises Handwaved. Many monsters were seen multiple times, with his personal favorites kept into the second season. (Most egregious example: Air Striker. This helicopter-based monster was sent nearly every episode, destroyed nearly every episode, and always came back for more.) Of course, given the fact that they're computer-generated creations, he can simply recreate any monster he likes.
- Mooks: The Skugs. With the ability to shapeshift, they frequently approached in the form of civilians. Karl Ziktor's female assistants were Skugs, and so was his main underling, Strickland (who acted like a Skug while looking human if no one who wasn't already in the know was around. Creepy.) As Skugs are often destroyed, there have in fact been many assistants and Stricklands. In Season 1, they're upgraded to Ultra Skugs, and female Mooks called Vixens added.
- Skugs are destroyed by forcing two of them to collide. On at least one occasion, Grimlord managed to successfully steal an item by sending an odd number of Skugs. The last one standing after all the pairs were dealt with grabbed the item and ran.
- Never Say "Die"
- One-Winged Angel: Oraclon's android body, and the way Ultra Skugs tended to look like normal Skugs initially and then transform midway through a fight.
- People in Rubber Suits
- Redemption Equals Death: Sort of. Ryan had an extended battle with Grimlord's third-in-command, Sektor. Ryan just barely won the battle. Sektor told Ryan that his father was still alive... and promptly got remotely self-destructed by Decimator. His final act was pushing Ryan out of reach of the explosion. It's a "sort of" only in that, like all the monsters, he could be recloned. In fact, he was, and he could be seen in the pit with Grimlord's other monsters in every other episode.
- Right-Hand-Cat: Ziktor's iguana takes this role.
- Secret Public Identity: Only the bad Trooper bothered with a codename.
- Show Within a Show: In one episode Jeb was watching Samurai Pizza Cats on the base monitor.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Percy.
- So Last Season: Ryan's new armor and Grimlord's revamped forces. Oddly enough, Shaider (the show that was used for Ryan's second season suit) is a much older show than Metalder (the source of his original suit).
- Stock Footage: Both footage from its Metal Heroes forebears and internally-reused footage.
- Strictly Formula: Ryan talks about his dad ---> The Troopers are having a normal day ---> Jeb does something to Percy ---> Grimlord hatches a plan ---> The Troopers fight Skugs, and then go to deal with the Monster of the Week ---> Ryan is separated from the others due to footage restraints ---> Monster killed ---> Grimlord declares vengeance and shakes his fist ---> Jeb does something to Percy ---> Ryan sums up the episode. This is usually how episodes go.
- Stunt Double: When the actors are oddly dressed in '80s clothing for certain scenes in an episode, anticipate the show using footage of the Japanese actors as this in the very next shot.
- Technology Marches On: Obviously, some of the Virtual Reality concepts are dated, but one noticeable instance has Ryan commenting on how it would be great if the team could communicate while still far away. Professor Hart gives them Gameboy-looking communicators, but if the show was set in modern times, this could have easily been solved by a cell phone. Even though they had cell phones back then, the batteries were unreliable.
- Token Trio: The three protagonists, duh.
- Transformation Sequence
- Transformation Trinket: The Virtualizer pendants worn by the Troopers.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Ziktor. Good enough to keep people from suspecting he's Grimlord, at least. He's still disliked for his polluting ways.
- Virtual Worlds
- Where the Hell Is Crossworld City?
- Zeerust: The show was made when Virtual Reality was the "Wave of the Future." Now, at least in the form it's seen in the show, it's more of an artifact that anything else.