Like a lot of ultra-violent films in the 80s, Robocop struck a chord with a younger audience. A market that gravitated towards the cool looking heroes and the cooler action sequences. This created a cascade of sequels and spin-offs all focusing on the younger-than-the-age-certificate market. In 1994, a Canadian T.V. adaptation tried to match that market’s demands with the relatively limited creative space that could be found on T.V. at the time, in Robocop: The Series.
Sometime after the first film, Robocop is still patrolling the streets. The Murphy Family is gradually readjusting to life without him, yet Robocop is still trying to be a figure into their life. Delta city is now run by an enhanced supercomputer, a recent invention designed to manage and automate the metropolis, but even still injustice stalks the fair city. Robocop must face off against devious villains and corruption from inside and outside O.C.P., that threaten the safety of Delta City.
The continuity with the films is somewhat murky, the two sequels are ignored, and fan-favourite characters have been revamped or re-organised. The mysterious Chairman of the film is back but merely inept as opposed to the cunningly malicious antagonist. Due to legal issues, Robocop’s partner is now called Lisa Madigan, and throughout the show, her personality is given a lot more airtime. It allows Robocop’s partner to shine, getting into her fair share of scrapes as the show progresses. Delta City runs on a new automated system, powered by the human brain of a secretary, Diana Powers, who was Selina Kyled into the system. She seems okay with it, appearing as a liberated hologram to guide and converse with Robocop, a fellow spirit in a machine. A viewer proxy by the name of Gadget joins the ranks, she is a tech-savvy orphan and knows her way around the streets and becomes friends with Murphy’s son. The villains that Murphy faces are a mixture of recurring villains, and threats-of-the-week, displaying misplaced ingenuity and lashings of greed.
The constraints of the network can be felt here. The ultra-violence had to be toned down, but even then, Robocop is still an action-packed spectacle (just no swearing or people horrifically melting in acid.) Despite this, the Corporate culture of the late 80s is still being zinged, even more so than in the preceding film. It is delightful how this exaggerated hyper-consumerist world manifests, with examples such as a cybernetic (yet nefarious) welfare system, sponsored orphanages, and water valued the same as oil. There are even quick cartoon advertisements from superhero Commander Cash, who the values of capitalism and consumerism. These sequences are well animated and a genuine hoot, far beyond the quality that you would expect from a minute-long throw way gag. Exposition helpfully comes from a 90s style news break, and it is fun to watch to get a further glimpse of the technological dystopia yet to come.
For 22 45-minute segments, Robocop: The Series shows it can still provide the entertaining thrill ride that people loved seven years ago, with both hands tied behind its back. Fresh ideas blend with established canon, as the world of Delta City is littered with some tech references and societal issues that are charmingly retro, and others that are eerily relevant to the world of today. It is comforting to know regardless when corruption stalks futuristic metropolises, it will meet its match with Robocop.
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