Wing Commander Academy is an American animated television series created and produced by Universal Cartoon Studios and NBC Universal, along with a team led by Larry Latham. The show was based on the Wing Commander franchise and loosely served as a prequel to Wing Commander. The show's premiere airdate was September 21, 1996 in USA Network's "Action Extreme Team" block. The series' last episode aired in December 21, 1996. The show came out on DVD on May 29, 2012, and on Peacock when it launched in 2020.
Ships featured in the series
The series featured many ships introduced in the Wing Commander video games. The Scimitar and Broadsword were the primary fighters and bombers flown by the main characters, with the Dralthi and Grikath fulfilling those roles for the Kilrathi. As in Wing Commander I, the TCS Tiger's Claw was a Bengal class strike carrier. Individual episodes also featured cameo appearances from ships introduced in later games such as Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tigers Arrow V, Hellcat and Longbow and Wing Commander IV's Avenger. None of these ships are mentioned by name. A number of new capital ships were introduced by the series including the Achilles class destroyer and the Agan Ra Sivar class dreadnaught.
- Episode 1
- Red and Blue: Blair and Maniac are assigned to the Tiger's Claw for training.
- Episode 2
- The Last One Left:Blair and Maniac encounter a Confed war hero turned renegade.
- Episode 3
- The Most Delicate Instrument:Mentally unbalanced from stellar phenomena, four cadets begin to exhibit erratic behavior.
- Episode 4
- Word of Honor:Blair and Grunt crashland on an alien world, but they're not alone...
- Episode 5
- Lords of the Sky:Blair and Maniac land on an alien world where the local savages worship the dastardly "Lords of the Sky".
- Episode 6
- Chain of Command:Tolwyn meets an old "friend"- who just happens to outrank him now!
- Episode 7
- Expendable:Blair and Payback scout an unstable jump node.
- Episode 8
- Recreation:The crew of the Claw discovers a mysterious being in suspended animation aboard a derelict space capsule.
- Episode 9
- Walking Wounded:Maniac scores guard duty on a crippled medical ship.
- Episode 10
- On Both Your Houses:Blair, Maniac, and Archer pursue Kilrathi fighters to a lush tropical planet where things are not as they seem.
- Episode 11
- Invisible Enemy:The Kilrathi have a new and terrible weapon: the Stealth Fighter.
- Episode 12
- Price of Victory:Blair crashes on an ice world, where he meets an unusual Kilrathi- who just happens to have an agenda...
- Episode 13
- Glory of Sivar:Blair and Grunt land on the planet Dolos- and find themselves surrounded by fur!
- Commodore Geoffrey Tolwyn: Malcolm McDowell
- Christopher Blair: Mark Hamill
- Todd Marshall: Thomas F. Wilson
- Gwen Bowman: Dana Delany
- Lindsay Price/Maya McEaddens: Lauri Hendler
- Daimon Karnes: Ron Perlman
- Thrakhath nar Kiranka: Kevin Schoen
- Admiral Rhea Bergstrom: Jessica Walter
- The Warrior King: Michael Dorn
- Dr. Bronwyn Sing: Joan Van Ark
Academy was first envisioned as a tie-in to Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger. The main characters are voiced by the actors who portray them in the FMV scenes of the game. It was set to occur between the original Wing Commander I Secret Missions, after Operation Thor's Hammer and end with Operation Crusade. It would also feature/introduce characters from WC III. However, during production, it was decided το move it back in time, and serve as a prequel to Wing Commander I. Cobra and Flint were changed to the original cadets Payback and Archer, Rachel Coriolis became the engineer Maya McEaddens, and Kilrathi defector Hobbes became Garahl nar Hhallas of the same clan.
However the connections to WCIII still remain, sometimes creating apparent discontinuities:
- Prince Thrakhath nar Kiranka is the main villain and antagonist of the series, holding great political and military power. This would be true in the WCIII context, but according to the early games, this position was held by his father, Gilkarg nar Kiranka. The games imply that Thrakhath arose in power later, only after taking the position of his father, following his execution at the end of Secret Missions 1. According to the final timeframe, Gilkarg should be alive, and still hold his office. However, there is a slight explanation see Chosen Claw, where apparently the Emperor chose Thrakkath as his next in line with Sivar's blessing, apparently bypassing his father at this point (but it may revert back to his father, after Thrakhath's losses and dishonor during the tv series).
- Geoffrey Tolwyn remains a major character therefore the writers established his connection with the TCS Tiger's Claw;
- Tolwyn's appearance has been retconned to have the resemblence of Malcolm McDowell as in the later games, rather than his earliest moustached appearance in WCII.
- Maniac, while in WC I appears as a reckless pilot who is first introduced to the player, is now Maverick's coed and rival, resembling more his flamboyant later appearances;
- The cadets are mainly flying Scimitar fighters, which is surprising since in WC I is reserved only to more experienced pilots; one would expect the series to feature the lighter Hornets for the cadets;
- Many ships from the later games make their appearance, such as Avenger-class, and Kilrathi capital ships that have a design similar to the later Hvar'kann-class. Such ships obviously represent later, WC III-era technology, but their appearance in the series retroactivelly pushes their existence further back in the timeline.
Some visual inconsistencies are also apparent:
- The Tiger's Claw largely resembles its game counterpart, but the main hull features a dorsal fuselage instead of the gigantic flight deck. Fighters in the series launch from internal hangars instead, through (magnetically sealed) windows.
- The cockpit of the Scimitars resembles that of a Hornet or the Rapier, with the Radar Display and the VDUs at the lower part of the console; the game version Scimitars have them overhead.
- The cockpit controls, specifically the Radar Display, are not consistent with the games. The Radar Display also doubles as both a Status Screen and a Communications Screen. The flanking VDUs, although present, are almost never shown activated in the series.
The cartoon also took some liberties concerning the WC universe.
- The Claw is teemed with humanoid aliens or Terran offshots, apparently members of the Terran Confederation, although the name of their race or origin is not mentioned on screen.
- Τhe ejection proess is quite different than in the first game, as the pilots are inside an eject pod.
- The Scimitars have color markings, so that they are recogniseable from each other.
- Maverick: Blue
- Maniac: Green
- Archer: Purple
- Payback: Orange
- Grunt: Orange/Yellow
- Blizzard: Blue/Cyan
As a final note, the series' continuity participated in the brief crossover meta-series with other features of the USA Network. More in the Warrior King article.
Timeline and chronology
The series is a 'semi'-prequel to the first game (although according to the series bible and related media sets it chronologically after the first game in 2655, and the DVD box set also lists it as taking place in 2655 in the series description on the box), and there are several elements that appear to be 'alternative' and contradictory to both the games and other sources. Star*Soldier places the first episode of the series chronologically one year before WC1, and the rest of the episodes more or less 'simultaneous' to the first game.
The plot of the series makes the characters Maverick and Maniac as if they were still cadets, and are members of the Academy (fan consensus although not clear if it's officially endorsed is that by later episodes they are cadets in a special "Leadership" training program, and somewhat supported by the fact that each character has their normal rank as well, but not always consistent with other sources); presumably all episodes.. According to the game itself, the Vega Campaign (and the storyline) started on 2654.110 in the Enyo System where the player starts as a 2nd Lieutenant; and according to the WC III manual the victory at Venice System happened on 2654.287. The animated series do not provide dates (the exception of the 2655 reference on the box, and Japanese DVD coming with a timeline based on a fan timeline), but according to the above (if it is a prequel), all episodes should occur before 2654.110.
CIC has provided a chronology of the episodes, forming a timeline a little different that the order the episodes aired (this is obvious in Chain of Command, which refers to events that happen to its following aired episode, Expendable).
The CIC chronology gives no source for its dating (and is probably fan created), but it gained some official status, and was later supported by sources such as Star*Soldier manual. The latter source largely follows the CIC, although it moves The Last One Left from .094 to a much later date, .131 for unknown reasons. This may have to do with The Movie novel and Pilgrim Stars (as .131 occurs during a free and open period between both books) before Tiger's Claw becomes semi-permanently stationed over Netheranya for several weeks. According to the Star*Soldier authors and designers notes;
- "2654.131" - My addition, describes 'Last One Left'. The Wing Commander Academy dates come from the Japanese version of the Wing Commander movie DVD, which takes them from the CIC's theoretical timeline.
Lords of the Sky occurs on .162, which happens to be a brief 1 day window between the last chapter and the epilogue of Pilgrim Truth giving it only a small window of time to travel from Netheranya and back. A big issue between Pilgrim Stars and Pilgrim Truth is that Blair or Marshall are off the Claw for long stretches of dates, or completely detained (locked in a brig or other issues). Blair and Marshall are on the CS Olynmpus over the period of .098 to .128 for example (so not even around for the Enyo campaign on 2654.110).
|Episode||Air order||CIC dating||S*S dating||Production order|
|Red and Blue||1 (Sept. 21st)||.072-073||2653|
|The Last One Left||2 (Sept. 28th)||.094||.131|
|The Most Delicate Instrument||3 (Oct. 5th)||.155|
|Word of Honor||4 (Oct. 12th)||.169||.293|
|Lords of the Sky||5 (Oct. 19th)||.162-163||.162|
|Chain of Command||6 (Nov. 2th)||.177||.176|
|Expendable||7 (Nov. 9nd)||.176||.176|
|Recreation||8 (Nov. 16th)||.185-186||.185|
|Walking Wounded||9 (Nov. 23rd)||.183|
|On Both Your Houses||10 (Nov. 30th)||.190-191||.190|
|Invisible Enemy||11 (Dec. 7th)||.184||.184|
|Price of Victory||12 (Dec. 14th)||.292||.293|
|Glory of Sivar||13 (Dec. 21st)||.292-293||.293|
However this dating creates a discontinuity, as it moves episodes The Most Delicate Instrument (dated 2654.155) and onwards within the timeframe of WC I and the Vega Campaign. Even if we accept that the series events happen concurrently with the game and the Vega Campaign (which begins in 2654.110), Maverick and Maniac are always referred to as cadets in the series, as well as being in the Academy (worried that they will be 'washed out' from the Academy for lying/cheating, etc), whereas Maverick is already a 2nd Lt. in the game (he is still listed as 2nd Lieutenant the Academy Bible, and on the door to his room in the TV series as well); furthermore the Vega Campaign and characters such as Paladin or Angel are never mentioned in the series.
Fan consensus although not clear if it's officially endorsed by later sources is that by later episodes they are cadets in a special "Leadership" training program/academy (technically already graduated from the Terran Space Academy and flight school) so this is a special Academy course designed to develop an elite group of leaders with specialized skills. This is somewhat supported by the fact that each character has their normal rank as well, though these ranks are not always necessarily consistent with other sources.
Most of the material does not fit with either the backstories mentioned in Wing Commander Academy game, the Wing Commander ! & 2 Ultimate Guide, or even some of the details given in Claw Marks/WC1 game itself, and details in the KIlrathi Saga manual (let alone the movie related material). Point of note in WC1 itself Maniac acts as if he has met the player character for the first time (be it Blair, LaFong, or Armstrong, or whoever) when you encounter him in the Bar. Although most sources have Maniac as friends with or rivals with the various incarnations of Bluehair..Most of these other sources (including the movie novels) tend to reference more into the Ultimate Guide's history for Maniac (rather than the the animated series).