A year ago, if you’d told me I would become a Power Rangers expert, I would have laughed in your face.
Then one day, while I was trawling Netflix for something to show my kid, he pointed and said, “I want to see that!” It was the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series.
Having been born in 1979, I was too old to be the target demographic for the series when it ran in America in the mid ’90’s.. I remembered how popular it had been though, especially with little boys, so I figured, “What the hell?” Little did I know the madness this snap decision would cause.
Since December I have seen at least part of almost every single Power Rangers series currently on Netflix (and don’t even ask how many times I have played bad guy to my son’s Blue or Pink or Red Ranger). There are 16 Power Rangers series so far (plus one miniseries and two movies). The 17th series, Power Rangers Megaforce, will be out later this year.
I figured I should put my newly-acquired knowledge to use and create for G&G a sort of abbreviated history of the Power Rangers in the U.S.
Read, my children, and learn.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993-1995)
Super sentai shows had been popular in Japan for some time (I won’t explain super sentai because really, if you’re reading G&G you should already know what they are) when American TV people suddenly noticed and were like, “Hey, these things are pretty popular in Japan, I bet American kids would like them too!”
Actually, what probably really happened was that American TV people said, “Hey, the Japanese are making loads of money off of merchandising for these shows, I bet we could make a shit-ton for ourselves too!” But that doesn’t sound as nice as the first version.
In the first series, some astronauts find an alien container and make the dumbass decision to open it, inadvertently releasing the villainess Rita Repulsa, who was locked up for 10,000 years for being a megalomaniac slag. With her army of evil aliens, she decides to conquer the closest planet, which of course happens to be Earth. Rita looks like an Asian version of that Tanning Mom lady who was accused of putting her toddler in a tanning bed or something (seriously, I saw a picture of that woman and thought, ‘She’s halfway to a pretty decent Rita Repulsa cosplay.’ Rita’s various henchmen are all scaled-down kaiju in wacky foam rubber suits.
Luckily, the good space wizard Zordon notices that all hell is breaking loose and finds ‘five teenagers with attitude’ to save the world. He gives these kids spandex suits and helmets, awesome kung fu and these Voltron-esque fighting vehicles that are all prehistoric animal-themed, called Zords, which can combine into a giant robot called a Megazord, thus hitting every Japanese trend ever (martial arts, spandex suits, rubber monsters and giant robots).
The team chosen by Zordon consists of three boys, two girls, one black kid and one Asian kid. This appears to be some kind of magic combination, because almost every five-member Rangers team since then has consisted of this exact racial/gender makeup, except in the last ten years or so some of the kids are also Hispanic.
But then Rita kidnaps another teenager and turns him into the evil Green Ranger, but later he breaks his programming and joins the forces of good (Jason David Frank, who played the Green Ranger, later became a boxer or an MMA fighter or something, so I guess his Ranger training was useful in all aspects of his life). There’s some incredibly complicated bullshit about Rita trying to take his powers away and then he sacrifices them anyway to save everyone’s kidnapped parents, but in the end the Green Ranger’s powers are temporary. He keeps fighting as long as he can because chicks love green spandex.
At some point Rita gets kicked out by the superior naughty guy Lord Zedd (who has a foam rubber six-pack going on), and the Green Ranger loses all his powers, but I guess the actor was desperate to stay on the show because he comes back as the White Ranger. Around the second season three of the other Rangers left and were replaced by new teenagers with attitude. Around the same time Rita escapes and ends up marrying Lord Zedd in a match made in freaky rubber suit hell. They spend the third season terrorizing the Rangers, who go through the whole ‘losing their powers only to get them back from another convenient space wizard’ thing. Rita’s gross brother and her dad show up and they turn back time so all the Rangers become stupid little kids again, and here’s where we end this entry because the story continues in a miniseries after this.
As everyone knows, when Power Rangers was brought over to the U.S., the only parts filmed here were the dialogue/drama parts. All the action scenes were lifted from the original Japanese show. And while I haven’t found confirmation on this, I think the evil villains on the moon scenes were lifted wholesale from Japan too- since Rita Repulsa is Asian, and all the other villains with visible faces are also Asian, and they never seem to directly interact with the Rangers, and all the villain scenes also appear to be dubbed. I am a regular Sherlock Holmes, y’all (actually, after all the fighting footage from the old show was used up, the American company commissioned Saban- who made the original show- to make more fighting scenes and new rubber suits for the later episodes).
But here is the absolute best thing about the original show: in the drama sequences, the Yellow Ranger is Trini, a girl. In the action scenes, the Yellow Ranger is >cough< obviously played by a dude (spandex: it hides nothing). So somehow cute little Yellow Ranger Trini mysteriously becomes a man when she fights, then transforms back into a woman afterwards- or the U.S. producers were hoping no one noticed that the Japanese version has four boys and one girl instead of two.
Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers (1996)
When I saw this on Netflix, I thought it must be one of those rip-offs of a hit movie (Example: Transmorphers, in which big alien robots turn into vehicles).
So, remember when I said I’ve seen almost all the Power Rangers series? Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers and the following series, Power Rangers Zeo, are two I haven’t seen. Since I can’t say much about them, I’ll give a quick plot summary:
So everyone is a useless little kid now. Zordon recruits some new Rangers from a different planet, who are conveniently humanoid (like all the aliens in the old Star Trek) but also partly aquatic. They defeat Lord Vile, but Rita Repulsa and this Lord Zedd guy stay behind to try to keep conquering Earth. Suddenly Zordon remembers that there is this thing called the Zeo Crystal that was broken into pieces and scattered across the universe, but if they get all the pieces together it can restore the real Rangers’ ages and powers etc. So they go off and do that while the alien rangers keep things together on Earth, but then somehow Lord Zedd manages to summon their archenemy from their own planet, Hydro-Hog, to come fight them (for some reason, Hydro-Hog makes me snicker uncontrollably). They defeat him etc. etc. and then all the Zeo Crystal pieces are found and the Earth Rangers get to be teenagers again, and they wave bye-bye to the Alien Rangers (under their costumes they look like people but with their brains sticking out, which is gross. A lot of the Power Rangers costumes are gross but usually it’s the bad guys) and then we finally get to the next series, Power Rangers Zeo.
Power Rangers Zeo (1996)
So at the end of the miniseries, Rito Revolto and his evil cohort Goldar turn out to be dumbasses and drop the Zeo Crystal for the Earth Power Rangers to find. They find Zordon in a magic underground Power Chamber (because that guy has his fingers in every fucking pie there is) and find out they now have to battle the Machine Empire, which is made up of bad guys who have nothing to do with the previous bad guys, there’s just tons of bad people in the universe who want to conquer Earth for some reason. Probably their long-range sensors picked up that Kardashian show and it pissed them off really bad.
Just as it looks like the Machine Empire is going to win, the mysterious Gold Ranger appears out of nowhere- I guess Zordon pulled him out of his ass- and helps them defeat the Machine Empire. The Gold Ranger is another humanoid alien or something. Instead of Zords they have Super Zeo Zords, which make up the Super Zeo Megazord. The Zeo Rangers also have new costumes, which look fine except for the helmets: the visor parts are in different shapes, and they’re stupid because the Rangers could never actually see well enough out of them to fight. Like the Red Ranger’s visor is star-shaped, and offers NO peripheral vision. I guess their awesome Ranger powers allow them to see through solid matter.
After the Machine Empire is apparently defeated, Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd pop back into the picture and try to use a creature named Louie Kaboom (this is surprisingly not taken as a porn star name, I searched IMDB and everything) to conquer Earth, but then he betrays them and tries to conquer Earth himself before being defeated by the Rangers. After that some other naughty guys from space try to take over Earth, but then the Machine Empire is all, “LOL we’re back!” and then they are defeated anyway so it all sounds pretty anti-climactic.
And then the Power Rangers said, “Fuck this Zeo shit, we’re going TURBO!”
Power Rangers Turbo (1997)
In which the Power Rangers get to graduate from high school. Although they actually made it in 4 years, it’s still worth noting that none of these people are teenagers, and they don’t look it either.
Turbo is kind of messed up. I was already confused a little with people coming and going (I’m not the sharpest crayon, if you know what I mean) but now four more Rangers call it quits, because it’s probably hard to hold down a job and fight endless hordes of aliens who want to conquer Earth. At this point the writers just threw together everything they had, so Lord Zedd, Rita Repulsa, the Machine Empire and something named Divatox who I think is a lady team up to conquer Earth together. The Rangers get help from the Phantom Ranger, who dresses like he got expelled from Judge Dredd School but kept the uniform.
Anyway, Divatox makes this awesome kaiju-thing called Goldgoyle, and it destroys all the Zords. As if that didn’t suck enough, Zordon (who had enough of this saving Earth crap and took off to his home planet) has been captured by this guy called Dark Spector, who looks like a Deep One with these Christmas runner lights strung around his face. With Zordon captured the Rangers lose all their powers, which would make them ordinary people and obviously won’t do, so they head off into space to save their benevolent Earth-loving space wizard buddy.
Power Rangers in Space (1998)
Power Rangers in Space is kind of awesome because it actually ends this long convoluted storyline that has kept right on truckin’ since the beginning of the first series. The Space Rangers actually have kind of goofy-looking costumes, the band across the chest and the white patches on the shoulders scream “80’s” to me, but at least they can see out of their damned helmets.
So Zordon is still imprisoned by Dark Spector, but luckily for him there is this random human kid from another planet who is the Red Space Ranger, because I guess Zordon likes to interfere all over the galaxy. Meanwhile four of the Turbo Rangers are flying around in a space ship looking for Zordon. They run into the Red Space Ranger, who thinks they’re pretty lame. But he comes to respect their determination and courage blahblahblah and gives them Astro Morphers so they can have some powers back. He is even nice enough to modify their space ship so it can merge with his space ship and create an Astro Megazord. The Red Space Ranger is sad because when he was a kid his sister was kidnapped and he hasn’t seen her since.
The Rangers keep searching for Zordon, and this evil space princess named Astronema keeps sending monsters and shit to attack them, because she works for Dark Spector. There’s a cryogenically frozen Silver Space Ranger too and he gets thawed and comes to help.
Then the Red Space Ranger finds out his sister is Astronema, who was kidnapped by evil aliens as a child and raised to be evil. He convinces her of the truth and she escapes to the good guy side, but it’s all pointless because she’s recaptured in about five seconds and re-brainwashed into being evil again. But they foolishly make her too evil this time, so she decides to destroy the Rangers AND her boss Dark Spector. To this end she turns loose the Psycho Rangers, these insane robots who actually look pretty cool. The Rangers defeat them (didn’t see that coming, did you?) but some of their Astro Zords are broken.
Dark Spector decides to just go for the gold and orders his legions of bad guys to attack the entire universe. A bunch of characters are captured in the process, including the Phantom Ranger and the Alien Rangers. Dark Spector and a naughty rival destroy each other, leaving Astronema to be the Queen of All Evil. The Space Rangers are totally outnumbered and retreat back to Earth. The Red Space Ranger tries to go talk some sense into his sister, while regular old Earthlings join the Space Rangers to protect their planet.
The Red Space Ranger finally finds Zordon, who was in Astronema’s custody the whole time. Zordon wants him to shatter his energy tube, which will kill our Friendly Space Wizard but also flood the universe with good energy to destroy all the bad people. And it works! All the space monsters turn to sparkly fairy dust and our old favorites Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa, as well as Astronema and Divatox, turn into regular nice people. With everything all hunk-dory, the Space Rangers settle into Earth life, joined by the Silver and Red Space Rangers and the now non-evil Astronema.
It was actually a little sad to watch Zordon go down like that. Even if it was a huge obvious deus ex machina.
Power Rangers in Space is the last series in the original Power Rangers universe. From here on out the shows share a name and a concept, but are otherwise unrelated.
Next Week: Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force and Wild Force!
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