Not only is this my first article, but this is dealing with a subject that not only I, but many others, know little about, so please bare with me on this one.
Back in the 1980's, the toy company Kenner created a franchise known as M.A.S.K.
M.A.S.K. was pretty much invented by Kenner in order to compete with rival toy company Hasbro (who actually bought Kenner, after it was acquired by Tonka in 1987, in the 1990's and dissolved it in the early 2000's), who was making money off of both Transformers and G.I. Joe. M.A.S.K. was in many ways a combination of the two, as it had human soldiers battling it out in vehicles who can transform.
About a decade after the animated series ended, in 1996 the concept of everyday vehicles transforming into different machines was rebooted into a new line of toys and an animated series.
This new cartoon was Vor-Tech: Undercover Conversion Squad.
Vor-Tech aired on this weekday action-oriented animation block known as The Power Block. The Power Block was aired through first-run syndication across the U.S., which meant it aired on several different channels, which included Fox, The WB and, from what I read, ABC, along with several other channels as well.
The Power Block also aired such cartoons as Beast Wars and the cult-classic Reboot.
As mentioned before, the Power Block aired weekdays on different channels throughout the United States. From what I found and from my own memory, it aired one episode each day, with each show getting a different day to air (I don't know what they did on the fifth day). The Power Block would open up with it's intro, showcasing some clips from each cartoon it had, then show the intro of which cartoon they were airing, then preceded with the cartoon, then ended with the end credits being shown while the Power Block intro and theme was played next to it, showcasing some additional footage from the cartoons not shown in the Power Block's intro.
The Power Block was sort of created in order to help these cartoons build up viewership, as at that point no channel wanted to air them unless they could prove they could survive. Both Reboot and G.I. Joe Extreme had aired before this but couldn't attract viewers, and both Beast Wars and Vor-Tech were new shows that no channel wanted to risk airing.
From what I found here: http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Power_Block, the Power Block only aired for a year before being cancelled. I'll get more into this later.
Now let's talk about the main cartoon that we're here for today: Vor-Tech: Undercover Conversion Squad.
The show was about Vor-Tech: Undercover Conversion Squad, a group of secret agents who use this advanced technology known as VOR-Technology.
Using this technology, the members of Vor-Tech wear special helmets and masks. These masks and helmets enable them to turn their ordinary vehicles into advanced machines.
The Vor-Tech team is it war with this group of evil being's known as the Bio-Mech's.
(For some reason the picture won't load, so here's a link to fan art of the Bio-Mech's: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Mechs-351565918)
The Bio-Mech's are these techno-organic beings, very similar to the Borg from the Star Trek franchise, except they actually have personality to them.
The Bio-Mech's were created when their leader, Damian Roarke/Lord Matrix, a scientist who specialized in nanotechnology, experimented nanotechnology on himself. Something went hideously wrong, and it transformed him into a Bio-Mech.
This particular nano tech strain went under the name of "The Matrix"(bare in mind this show came out a few years before the movie). When someone is exposed to The Matrix, it transforms them into a Bio-Mech.
This was the goal of the Bio-Mech's in the show: to unleash a techno plague onto humanity, creating a techno-organic world as a result.
This set up Vor-Tech's mission: to stop the Bio-Mech's, free them from The Matrix and defeat The Matrix once and for all.
Here's another detail I forget to include: The leader of the Bio-Mech's, Damian Roarke/Lord Matrix, is the older brother of the leader of Vor-Tech: Hudson Roarke/Shepherd. It set up a reoccurring event in the show where both would meet at a location and put aside their conflict to convince one another to join their side.
Admittedly, this is about where my info on the show ends.
Here's the thing: as mentioned before, the Power Block only aired for a year. When it ended, every show that aired on it had to find a new home. Beast Wars eventually continued to air on Fox Kids, Reboot jumped around from channel to channel before ending on it's infamous cliffhanger, G.I. Joe Extreme ended it's run, and, well, Vor-Tech: Undercover Conversion Squad couldn't find a home, which is why it was cancelled, after only one season containing 13 episodes, the last two of which were a two partier that left the show on a cliffhanger.
To this date, the show (to my knowledge) has never re-aired, nor has been released on DVD. You can't find any episodes on the internet, which is why there is so little info on this series.
I did manage to find two brief clips on Youtube from one episode, but it ends with that.
I somewhat put a lot of the blame for it's failure on the toy line. The vehicles themselves were very similar to the one's used for M.A.S.K. back in the 80's, but that wasn't horrible itself.
However, the vehicles were still horrible. Some had no features outside of transforming the vehicles:
Some didn't even resemble what they looked like in the show (this is the toy version of the white jet that appeared in the intro):
But the figures were the absolute worst. They barely had any joints, the paint jobs were off and had no resemblance to the characters on the show.
These are the two male Bio-Mech's, Jason King/HardFire and Damian Roarke/Lord Matrix, toy counterpart's. Just compare them to the fan art and video I showed you before:
Even the mask's and helmet's for the Vor-Tech figures were off. Compare the Rick Rhodes/Ace figure (he's my avatar, you can see him in the intro):
One website dedicated to M.A.S.K. also had a page setup for Vor-Tech. They also managed to find a few photos of figures and vehicles being made for the 2nd series of Vor-Tech toys, given us some insight into what the 2nd season of Vor-Tech: Undercover Conversion Squad had to give us:
Nearly a decade after Vor-Tech: Undercover Conversion Squad aired, Hasbro produced a new show called A.T.O.M., which, like Vor-Tech, is a new reboot of M.A.S.K. and it's idea of vehicles transforming into much more powerful machines. It lasted much longer then Vor-Tech did, and while I haven't seen any episodes, I've heard it's a decent cartoon.
Given that M.A.S.K. recently received a DVD release, I really hope that one day Vor-Tech: Undercover Conversion Squad does too. It was a short lived cartoon that didn't air as long as it could of, and hasn't seen the light of day in years.
Since I'm now no longer a child, I would love to just sit back and watch the episodes again, reliving the awesome 13 episodes of the show, maybe with my own kids that I might have one day.
Robert Verne:"Inorganic methylmercury, known as PMT, used as a desliming agent that collects algae and prevents it from forming on preprocessed timber. Its widespread use discontinued in 1956 when evidence of its fatal effects...were seen in the deaths of 100,000 people in Minamata, Japan."