As of yesterday morning, the final new episode of Power Rangers aired. In a way, it was not spectacular; they wrapped up the Power Rangers RPM season, and while it did that quite well, the ending for the whole series feels rather bittersweet.
I still remember when the first episodes aired in 1993. It was a neat show, different from anything else that was on at the time. Cool martial arts, neat weapons, awesome mecha, hot girls, slapstick comedy– Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had it all. And yet, something didn’t quite stick with me– it was cool, and I enjoyed watching it, but it was lacking that “it” factor, that one thing that really connected with me.
And that’s when one Tommy Oliver, portrayed by Jason David Frank, walked into Angel Grove. Ranger rival Rita Repulsa (try saying that three times fast) placed him under a spell and bestowed upon him a Power Coin of Green energy and the Sword of Darkness to maintain her hold, and he proceeded to absolutely decimate Zordon’s selected team.
He was, in a word, awesome. He did things his own way, including ripping off the door to the Megazord’s cockpit and throwing the Rangers out of their own mecha. I mean, who does that?
Tommy, the Evil Green Ranger, that’s who. But as cool as he was, I’m not usually one to back the side of evil. If only he were one of the good guys…
As Rangers villains didn’t tend to stick around as they do in other shows, I didn’t hold any such hope for Tommy. I figured they’d free him, but the powers would be destroyed, and the status quo would be re-established.
In the final episode of five parts, the Green Ranger would receive a new gift from his Empress: the Dragonzord, which had only appeared in teasers for the saga before that point. And seeing it in action… well, it was awesome. In essence, it took five other Rangers to equal one Tommy, as the Dragonzord seemed more than capable of holding its own in battle, even against the Rangers’ own five-component Megazord.
Imagine my delight when Red Ranger Jason destroyed the Sword of Darkness, and we find out that the Green Dragonzord powers are his to command. And it could join with some of the other Dinozords to form its own battle robot mode! From that point, I was hooked.
Of course, there were some rocky points along the road. Tommy eventually lost his powers back to Rita when she played a trump card in the Green Candle, which eventually siphoned away his energy. But before she could claim victory, Tommy was able to transfer his powers– or at least some of them– to Jason, making him able to command not only the Tyrannosaurus Dinozord, but the Dragonzord as well. Plus, he would dual-wield the Power Sword and Dragon Dagger, and summon the Green Ranger’s shield armor when needed.
Still, it wasn’t quite the same, but it was enough to keep me watching.
Fan demand saw to it that Tommy was written back in, and with his own theme song at that, but that too proved to be short-lived, as Rita’s boss, Lord Zedd, saw to it that the first order of business was to finish the Green Ranger once and for all. But before Tommy was out of the picture, there came whispers of a new, more powerful White Ranger on the horizon. Since Tommy was no longer Green, it would have to be him… right?
All said, the White Ranger’s identity was a pretty well-kept secret until it was ready to be revealed– I doubt such a secret would have been able to be kept these days, with the way information spreads across the internet. But back when it was revealed to indeed be Tommy, there was relief to be had.
Granted, he was no longer controlling a wicked robot dragon, but Jason had one now, and the White Tigerzord was pretty cool on its own merits. Plus, he was the new leader of the Rangers, so that meant he wasn’t going anywhere for a while.
The second season wore on, and something else new shook things up: new Rangers, as three of the originals felt they were being underpaid by Producer Haim Saban for the amount of money that the franchise was pulling in. Evidently, they received bad advice from their agents, and threatened to walk, and so Saban let them, quickly casting three new Rangers in their place. Who would have imagined? It’s not like you’d replace Leonardo or Raphael.
Then came the first major motion picture, which raised expectations of what the Power Rangers could be, only for new Japanese footage to bring things back down to Earth. Turns out the awesome armor-looking costumes tore a bit too easily, and in hindsight, the ultra-shiny computer-generated Ninjazords don’t hold up as well. Still, it would have been nice if they’d kept the new Command Center, Lord Zedd costume, and other fun stuff for the series.
Still, in the third season, things were starting to feel a touch worn. It’s likely to be expected when you’re trying to figure out why the guy driving a Falconzord is still wearing a costume reflecting a tiger, or the ape-guy has a T-Rex on his head. So, Saban did something unexpected, which at the time seemed to be something they did well…
They blew everything up.
They destroyed the Rangers powers, their Command Center, their Zords, the whole nine yards, and rebuilt the franchise as Power Rangers Zeo, which featured new costumes and weapons in addition to Zords and villains from the Japanese Super Sentai version of the show. And, it had a snazzy new theme song, too.
It was a good season, and was followed by the short-lived Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. And as I missed it in theaters, I was left confused as this time, the new season of the show, Power Rangers Turbo, picked up from this one’s events. Rather inconvenient, and perhaps unexpected, as the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie was entirely contained within its own pocket continuity.
After a few eps, the novelty wore off, and I dropped the series. And apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Mid-season, Saban decided to recast the entire lot, and it turns out the second half of the season was better than the first. But I wouldn’t know this until after the next season had begun, Power Rangers in Space.
Let’s face it: Power Rangers in Space, on title alone, sounded kind of lame, as though they were running out of ideas. As it happens, the scope and quality of the show exceeded expectations. But I wouldn’t know this until I was persuaded to watch the show by some old friends: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
At the time, the Turtles had returned to Fox Kids TV in Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, another live-action Saban venture spun off of the movies. It had some good ideas, but the execution was lacking. Even so, it pulled in high ratings, but apparently Fox wanted something they could own, and at the time, creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird weren’t ready to sell quite yet.
So they had their show going on, and then it happened, the crossover I’d wanted to see years ago: the Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers. Of course, the Next Mutation Turtles and the Space Power Rangers weren’t what I had in mind at the time, but I decided to give it a spin anyway. And while the Turtles part was “meh,” the rest intrigued me. Who were all these new Rangers? Why were they in an admittedly-awesome spaceship? Who were these new villains?
I would discover deeper characterization and a greater sense of continuity from episode to episode as Red Ranger Andros went in search of his lost sister, while he and the other Rangers also sought to free the captured Zordon from the wrath of Dark Spectre, a baddie so big (literally) that he held all the other villains under his command.
I was drawn in, got caught up, and rode what I would later find out was to be the grand finale of the Power Rangers saga to the very end: Countdown to Destruction, which wrapped up all the major loose ends and villains running around by this point, and wiped the slate clean with the death of Zordon. It was incredible, and a worthy end to the series.
Except that it was perhaps too incredible for its intended purpose; Space did so well that it actually revived the flagging franchise and breathed new life into it. The next season would be Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy, which would be the true beginning of a greater adherence to the Super Sentai format. Each year would be its own stand-alone story, with its own characters, themes, and everything else. And most of the time, there would be team-ups with the previous year’s team, or other recurring characters and elements which tied it all together as a part of a greater tapestry. Following Space, I made a vow to stick with the series for as long as I was able.
Lost Galaxy served as a sort of epilogue to what fans now refer to as the “Zordon Era” of the show, and a prelude of sorts to what came after. Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, and Wild Force would follow, with Saban’s library and assets being purchased by Disney during the latter’s run. And during that run, we got a special treat: “Forever Red,” a tenth anniversary team-up that would unite ten Red Rangers against a group of threats familiar to longtime fans. Sure, it played things fast and loose with continuity, but for fanservice, it was hard to beat.
The following year, Disney would move filming to New Zealand under the umbrella of Village Roadshow Productions, who have produced a number of motion pictures, including the Matrix films. The first fruit of their efforts would be Power Rangers: Ninja Storm, which arrived on the scene with a bit of controversy as people wondered whether or not it would be a part of the long-running Power Rangers universe fans had come to know and love.
As it would be proven in the next series, Dino Thunder, it was indeed a part of the same continuity. This was revealed thanks to one Dr. Tommy Oliver, who now served as the mentor for a new dino-themed Ranger team. In addition, he was able to add another color to his wardrobe as he became the Black Dino Ranger.
Sadly, this is where my last VCR broke down, and due to the absurd hours at which the Family.ca channel ran the show, I fell away from watching in the middle of the season. I never got to see how Mesogog failed in his bid of evil, nor did I get to see the following series of Power Rangers S.P.D. (Space Patrol Delta, save for at Otakon during the year when I caught a glimpse of them in action. That and a few clips online still hooked me, if only briefly), Mystic Force (which brought back original Ranger nemesis Rita in a surprising role), Operation Overdrive (for which I made sure to catch the 15th anniversary special on YouTube), and Jungle Fury. In the end, even though I hear they weren’t as good as other seasons, I really regret missing them.
And that brings us to the final new season, 2009’s Power Rangers RPM. After hearing that this would be the final new season and realizing that I was staying up to nearly-absurd hours on Friday nights anyway, I opted to force myself to start watching again, and I’m glad I did. RPM was quite a work, and having watched the first ep for the first time only earlier yesterday, I can definitely say that it stands as something special within the Power Rangers franchise. And the ending, as I said at the start of this article, was bittersweet, but still satisfying.
Next week/year, January 2nd, 2010, it all begins again. As reported previously, ABC Kids will begin re-airing remastered episodes of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Hope remains that this may keep things afloat until we can get a new series, and I share in that hope. But if that doesn’t turn out to be the case, it was a great run, and Power Rangers RPM was a fantastic series to go out on.
The only thing that bothers me, and many others, is something which has bothered us for some time: Disney’s seeming refusal to release box sets of Power Rangers seasons on DVD. They’ll release a few episodes on a few DVDs over the course, but never enough to cover the whole season or reach the finale. Perhaps, with any luck, they’ll begin with the new Mighty Morphin episodes. Of course, I’d still love to see RPM and the series I missed in their entirety.
I suppose we’ll see with time. For now, I just want to thank all those involved in making Power Rangers for the work they’ve done. I don’t believe there will ever be another show like it, and it will always be remembered.
Thanks for reading, and “May the Power Protect You.”