By Joseph Walter
Borrowing the action footage from "Denkou Chojin Gridman," the show was sort of a mix between "Tron" and the aforementioned "Power Rangers." The main character, Sam, along with his friends (Sydney, Tanker, and Amp) unwittingly find themselves with the ability to enter the "digital world," becoming Servo and Team Samurai, respectively, to combat the viral forces of Kilokahn, a violent, experimental military AI gone rogue (voiced deliciously by Tim Curry) who is helped by the lonely outcast, Malcolm Frink.
It's an odd show: The teenager, high-school-focused American portions have a very goofy, pure-90s tone, which are quite jarring with the stark, detailed, Japanese action footage.
And seriously, the art and set design from "Gridman" are outstanding.
Interestingly, the two-part Christmas Special seemed to be designed as a series finale. Its tone is surprisingly grim, and long-standing plot-threads are tied up. If it ended up as the series finale, it would have been a damn good one by any standard. Unfortunately, they pushed on (despite running out of footage) and things took a nosedive.
Either way, let's open our present and discuss!
However, unlike Rita Repulsa or Lord Zedd from "Power Rangers," who never have an effective plot to destroy the heroes, Kilokahn finally comes up with one: Tired of countless defeats, Kilo suggests to Malcolm that they create a virus that is essentially a diversion, and once Servo and the team come to destroy it, he'll track down where Team Samurai comes from, and then they'll be able to discover what their identities are, and destroy their home computer.
Hold up a minute... this is actually a really good idea. The kind Zedd could only dream of.
Malcolm and Kilo send their virus into the gifts for the poor, and, like clockwork, Team Samurai engages. While the battle rages, Kilokahn nearly froths at the mouth tracking down the exact location of Servo and his clan.
After this, Kilokahn convinces Malcolm to throw a Christmas light-decorating competition. Essentially, the plan is that the more lights that are put up, the more power Kilo will have to physically travel the digital world and take out Servo personally. And that's exactly what happens.
Right when the lights go on, Kilokahn absorbs the surge of power and, for once, achieves the god-like status he always believed he had. So now, fully-charged and more dangerous than ever, Kilokahn travels to Sam's house, and straight up kills Syd, Tanker and Amp through the fucking computer.
Sam returns home to find the carnage, and Kilokahn belittles him before declaring that he's off to go kill Malcolm before he deals with Sam personally. Now aware of the Malcolm/Kilokahn link, Sam rushes to Frink's house and warns him just in the knick of time.
The two return to Sam's house to formulate a strategy, but Kilokahn's omnipotence is too potent to be denied. Sam desperately attempts to explain to Malcolm the need to play a particular power chord on the guitar (this is what triggers the Sam/Servo transformation) but Sam is finally killed before he could complete the instructions. Malcolm, whether by luck or fate, knows one chord, and plays it. Sam's spirit is then thrust into the computer, where it embodies Servo, permanently.
Malcolm apologizes for being an asshole to Sam, and Sam apologizes to him. Malcolm wishes they could have been friends, to which Sam replies "we are." After this sweet moment, Servo engages in combat against Kilokahn directly, who is overwhelmingly powerful.
Then, thanks to a Christmas miracle, everyone is revived, and the world is returned to normal, albeit with no memory of the fateful battle that just happened.
Malcolm feigns disgust at being in Sam's home, but the two suddenly have a peace come over them, and genuinely wish each other a Merry Christmas.
Malcolm returns home and is dismayed to his computer has crashed. He's then relieved to realize that he just backed up his computer. He puts in the first few floppy disks, and is greeted with a very familiar image and voice:
"Greetings, Meat Thing."
On the less heady side of the equation, all of the high school, decorating, gifts-for-the-poor sub-plots scream the 90s at their top of their lungs, and manage to accomplish that elusive Christmas-y feeling that was all around me every December as a youngster.
And, finally, the heartfelt elements are perfect for the holiday season: Malcolm and Sam reconciling their differences and coming to a peace, in particular, along with the general holiday spirits of the main characters. It may be idealized, but their attitudes are what I always hope the month of December will bring people. Just a very warm, joyous aura for one and all.
Hell, even Kilokahn gets into the spirit with a post-credits "Noel."