Animation has experienced a renaissance lately, witnessing an influx of animated TV shows and films. Previously, Western animation predominantly targeted children, epitomized by Disney and similar offerings. However, two significant influences altered this landscape: the surge in popularity of Japanese “manga” animation, which caters to adult audiences, and the success of The Simpsons, a show that adeptly entertains on multiple levels for over a decade.
While Starship Troopers, as a film, saw only moderate success initially (though it later gained a cult following), it faltered due to a crucial flaw: it veered away from the book, a deviation that disappointed many fans of the novel. Additionally, by not placing sufficient emphasis on the main action—when Rico and his comrades were occupied with rescuing a damsel in distress, other troops off-screen captured the brain bug— the film missed the mark for moviegoers.
However, what didn’t work for the film seems to be working exceptionally well for Starship Troopers: The Series (also known as Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles). Positioned as a “replacement” rather than a sequel to the film, it follows Johnny Rico, Dizzy, and Carmen as rookies in the Mobile Infantry. Melding a closer adherence to the book’s narrative with the bugs from the film, and introducing new ones, Roughnecks adopts the perspective that Rico and Dizzy’s unit are part of a broader structure. While they engage in demanding missions, the war unfolds around them, influenced by external factors. For instance, while the Mobile Infantry achieves success in one area, they face setbacks in another part of the planet (primarily set on Pluto in the initial part of the series).
This approach imbues the series with a grander, more epic quality than the film managed to achieve. Furthermore, while the film focused on war’s brutality and parodied news stories—a forte of director Paul Verhoeven (who found major success in this vein with Robocop)—the series, airing in a “kid-friendly” timeslot like Australia’s FoxKids channel, tones down the violence. Instead, it delves deeper into the personal relationships among the troopers as the war rages on. The “love” triangle between Rico, Dizzy, and Carmen remains palpable, albeit presented in a more suitable manner for younger audiences, with Rico oblivious to Dizzy’s affections.
Moreover, the bugs receive greater development in the series. While the film left much unexplained about how the bugs traversed between planets, the series introduces the concept of colossal space-capable “carrier” bugs, expanding the variety of bugs beyond what the film showcased.
Regrettably, only one season of Starship Troopers: The Series was produced. As often happens, subsequent seasons fall victim to financial constraints and management changes. Nevertheless, it stands as a testament to animation’s progression, nearing the point of creating human-like CGI. It also demonstrates how the ostensibly “children’s” genre of animation can seamlessly transcend into the adult sphere. The younger audience enjoying Starship Troopers: The Series likely wouldn’t have been allowed into cinemas to see the film.
While a revival of the series remains a remote possibility, it’s doubtful. More likely, it has faded into obscurity—a regrettable loss considering the scarcity of high-quality military sci-fi shows like Space: Above and Beyond.