Morphenomenal Memories: 25 Years of POWER RANGERS
Words By: Emjay Lapus
With the premiere of the Power Rangers remake drawing near, I couldn’t help but look back on how the franchise has evolved as an adaptation of Super Sentai while establishing its own mark in the eyes of fans across the globe. At one point, I even thought of becoming a Power Ranger when I grew up (and I still do to this day). Let’s take a look at how Power Rangers made an impact on my childhood.
The Zordon Era (Mighty Morphin to In Space)
Ah, yes. This was the Golden Age for me. It’s hard to argue that notion since aside from six seasons, the era also had two movies under its belt.
At first glance, you can tell that the Rangers were the ideal All-American teenagers. Whether or not they had that kind of attitude Zordon implied is up to your discretion. Compared to other ‘90s TV shows surrounding a group of teenagers, the Rangers’ angst was at about Level 3. The biggest challenge they primarily had aside from fighting monsters every week was balancing their school work, social life, and duties as superheroes. Unfortunately, that was pretty much it. Save for Tommy and Andros (the Red Space Ranger), there was a lack of true character development for each Ranger on the show throughout this period. Everyone was pretty much chopped liver in that aspect, but it didn’t take away the fact that they set the standard for future Rangers in terms of embodying qualities such as leadership, teamwork, and integrity, among others.
The roster changes during the Zordon Era had at least one holdover from previous seasons to establish some sort of continuity. The departure of previous mainstays weren’t always clean. Only Kimberly had a decent send-off out of the original five, seconded only by the ceremony in which the original Turbo Rangers (sans Justin) passed on their powers to worthy successors and Justin choosing to stay behind while the other Turbo Rangers set controls to outer space and joined forces with Andros to become Space Rangers. While a couple of departures were shown in passing, the rest composed of recycled footage, trick shots, and poor voice-over work to mask the fact that the actors playing Jason, Zack & Trini (and later Billy) were gone.
On the other side of the spectrum, the main villains each set of Rangers encountered were pretty much the same — beings of pure evil who were out to invade Earth and use its resources for their personal gain. Out of all the big baddies in this particular era, Lord Zedd scared the crap out of me the most when I was little. Just one look at him would give me nightmares for days. Rita may have been legit evil, but if Zedd managed to banish Rita out of her palace on the moon, you know he doesn’t mess around. But if I had to pick a favorite villain for this era, it has to be Astronema because she was the only primary villain that wasn’t inherently evil.
The side characters were pretty much used for exposition (Zordon and Alpha) and filler moments (Ernie, Bulk and Skull). Only a select few assisted the Rangers in battle (Ninjor and Auric the Conqueror). While Tommy had the most character development among the Rangers, I believe Bulk and Skull had the most character development in the entire franchise. They went from bullies to junior police officers to detectives to chimpanzees to everymen. The turning point for the two was during In Space’s season two-part season finale Countdown to Destruction, when they were among the first of civilians from Angel Grove to stand up to Astronema’s forces. Hey, if they were good enough to get their own background music during their screen time, they must have been doing something right.
This era also had theme songs for pretty much everyone and everything. They were admittedly catchy, especially Gold Ranger’s theme song. Again, much like Tommy’s character development, some of the songs were played out like there was no tomorrow. One song that gets played one too many times in my opinion was “We Need A Hero”. This song normally plays in the background as the Rangers battled Putties in the park. However, the producers opted for a more orchestral score by In Space which seemed to be a good move considering the more serious tone of the season.
Story-wise, this era was more or less one long arc that spanned over six seasons with occasional mini-story arcs thrown in between. Let’s look at the negatives first. Some arcs fell short of expectations. Prime examples are Rangers being turned to kids during the tail end of Mighty Morphin Season 3 (although it did introduce the Alien Rangers), The Gold Ranger revealing his identity and Tommy’s vision quest during Zeo. A lot of people have mentioned Turbo as one of the worst seasons in Power Rangers history, but I digress. I’d like to think that Saban was trying to make something serious with Turbo out of something silly, as its counterpart Gekisou Sentai Carranger was meant to be a parody of the Sentai series.
However, there were story arcs I enjoyed so much that they blew all the bad ones out of the water. Two of these were the Green with Evil mini-series and the Psycho Ranger saga. But the pièce de résistance of the Zordon Era for me was In Space’s two-part finale titled Countdown to Destruction. Countdown to Destruction not only served as a fitting end to In Space, but to the entire Zordon Era. Zordon’s sacrifice to prevent the United Alliance of Evil from taking over the galaxy had the same effect as Optimus Prime’s demise at the hands of Megatron. Ironically, what was meant to be the end of the Power Rangers as a whole turned out to be the jumpstart the franchise needed to keep going.
All in all, everything was pretty basic, from characters to storylines, but I loved this era nonetheless, especially when In Space rolled around.