I recently remembered this show and watched it all the way through, and it still hits me like it did so long ago. All of the things that interest me now when it comes to scifi: post-apocalyptic stories, high tech armor, women in lycra and metal chestplates (did I just say that out loud?) all appear in this show.
Many people have theories as to the inspiration for Captain Power. I cannot claim to know what the creators were thinking, but it does bear a striking resemblance to the Japanese "Metal Hero" programs, such as Space Sheriff Gavan. The idea of using a codeword and body language to change into an armored hero was not unfamiliar at the time, at least in Japan. But what makes Captain Power different from the metal hero shows is the seriousness of it. Metal Heroes were always laden with superhero bravado and tongue in cheek plots. Sure, Captain Power had it's share of camp, but it was still miles ahead of the Japanese programs.
I've also heard this show mentioned as an inspiration for Power Rangers. This is not true, as Power Rangers is simply Japanese Sentai shows adapted into new American series. Sentai series have been running since the early 70s, thus predating Captain Power.
In my opinion, Captain Power was crippled from the get-go by the tie-in toys. They were a good idea from a marketing standpoint, but this was not the show to test them on. Perhaps if this show had been marketed (and named) differently, sans-interactive toys, it would have lasted longer. A kids' show is still a kids' show to most people, no matter how well done it is.
This show had its share of television firsts, which of course are always ignored :
As far as I know the first completely CGI characters in a TV series. Sauron and Blastarr looked quite good, with the technology being so young at the time.
The first real "cyberpunk" reference in a TV series, in the episode "Flame Street".
And surely others I cannot recall at the moment.
It also contained a lot of very kid-unfriendly ideas, such as torture, drug use, and the sheer horrors of global war.
What makes the shame of this show's cancellation even greater is the depth of themes that were present. It of course had the very strong "War is hell" message in nearly every episode. These days this is quite common, but at the time it was nearly unheard of. Naturally it also dealt with the power of the human spirit, in the heroes' continued triumphs over Dread's often superior forces. This was also very uncommon at the time. And some specific episodes had some fantastic lessons to teach, such as "Freedom One", which tells of the use of the radio medium as a voice of defiance. Very powerful work for a supposed children's' show.
Watching this, recently, I often find myself forgetting that I am watching what was marketed as a children's' show. Nearly every episode is laden with rather mature material, such as the first episode, where Power's old lover is brought back to bait him, or the final episodes which are laden with suspense and darkness far above kiddie-levels.
To this day it infuriates me that a show with such great creative force behind it, and nearly unlimited potential, met an early demise due to what was essentially studio politics. Reasons given for the cancellation of Captain Power vary, from poor toy sales to parents' groups. Personally I think all these could have been avoided if the show had been properly (in my eyes) marketed to a broader audience. Any fan of sci fi in general would appreciate this show, although it was rather campy at times (that was to be expected). And besides, Pilot was my first crush ever (I doubt I was the only one).