“May the Power protect you always” – Zordon
The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (MMPR) is a television hit from the 90s and one of the most memorable television series during my childhood. It was never intended to be a TV sensation. The basis for the Power Rangers franchise is Japanese superhero TV series, Super Sentai, where a group of people gain the ability to transform into superheroes with special costumes, extraordinary abilities, a repertoire of weapons, and giant robots [mechas] that they can summon to fight. In fact, much of the footage of the villains and Rangers fighting in Season 1 is taken straight from Super Sentai dubbed with English dialogue and adapted to fit a modified story. Accordingly, MMPR is a splicing of Super Sentai source material with scenes with English speaking actors living out their lives as teenagers and dealing with teenage problems (e.g. high school) while saving the world in their spare time. Honestly, I did not even notice the splicing when I watched the show as a kid. Re-watching it as an adult, the differences in the source material and the original scenes filmed for MMPR are obvious. For example, the movement of the lips of the Japanese originated villains never match up with the words they speak on the show. In addition, the show takes place in Angel Grove, which is supposedly somewhere in California. I have been to California and it looks nothing like the locations of any of the battles, which have obvious Asian looking landscapes and architecture. Of course, the whole premise of the show is silly when you reflect on the series as an adult. Why would anyone recruit teenagers to fight an alien threat that could destroy the world? Next, you want me to believe they have morphers that transform them into superheroes with the ability to summon robots out of the ground that resemble dinosaurs [and all of them are not even dinosaurs]? However, Power Rangers is a child’s story. It is meant to inspire kids to believe they are capable of anything and encourage them to dream big.
Naturally, the superhero powers and summoning giant robots to fight monsters is why I fell in love with the story as a kid. It is funny to think the show was also controversial in its day because parents felt it was too violent for children. For today’s standards, the action sequences are pretty innocuous. The original cast of MMPR is also iconic: Jason Lee Scott/ Red Ranger (Austin St. John), Trini Kwan/ Yellow Ranger (Thuy Trang), Zach Taylor/ Black Ranger (Walter Jones), Kimberly Ann Hart/ Pink Ranger (Amy Jo Johnson), and Billy Cranston/ Blue Ranger (David Yost). In addition, they are joined by Tommy Oliver/ Green Ranger (Jason David Frank) during the first season so he is also considered one of the original Power Rangers. Like most kids in the 90s, Tommy/ Green Ranger was my favorite Power Ranger and I had a schoolboy crush on the cute girl next door, Kimberly. Since Power Rangers is a kids’ show, there are obviously a lot of cheesy moments and dialogue. Nevertheless, it is a fun cast who play their characters as corny as they are intended to be. Another strength of the Power Rangers lineups are that they are diverse in terms of race and types of personalities (e.g. jocks, cool kids, nerds, etc.). It is an aspect that is consistent and maintained throughout the life of the franchise. Although the show is meant to be silly and fun, it does provide those types commendable societal principles, diversity and inclusion, in the themes of the show. In addition, individual episodes also embed important life lessons (e.g. overcoming fears, self-confidence, etc.) into their plots. Re-watching MMPR, the quality of the plots and dialogue do not necessarily hold up as an adult. Nevertheless, the nostalgia and mythology of the series is still very much “Morphenomenal”.
The first season and a substantial amount of the Power Rangers universe is setup in the pilot episode, “Day of the Dumpster”. The event that triggers the beginning of the series occurs when two astronauts find a dumpster on a nearby planet and open it. They unknowingly release the evil space witch, Rita Repulsa and her henchman. In the first season, Rita is portrayed by Soga Machiko via footage taken straight from Super Sentai. In the English dub of the footage, she is voiced by Barabara Goodson. Rita is the primary antagonist in the first season and the most recognizable villain in the franchise. She is dressed like a cartoonish witch with a long magical wand featuring a circular tip. It gives her various powers. The most featured power is her ability to enlarge her monsters as she hurls it to Earth and screams a variation of “Magic wand, make my monster grow!” She also has a skull that she uses to cast spells. Moreover, she sometimes pedals a bike that flies through the air. It resembles a witch riding on a broom stick. She plans to celebrate her freedom after 10,000 years trapped in a dumpster by destroying the nearest planet, which happens to be Earth. She immediately teleports her and her henchmen to the moon to establish her palace, which serves as her base of operations for her assault on Earth. Her most famous minion is her second in command, Goldar, voiced by Kerrigan Mahn. He is a griffin in gold armor. In the first season, he is a great secondary villain and very scary in appearance and action. However, he becomes totally silly as the series progresses. His character regresses to comic relief. He also sports wings that inexplicably appear and disappear throughout the series. Rita’s henchmen who are comic relief from the start are Squat and Baboo. Squatt is completely dimwitted. He is like a blue goblin with knight armor. Baboo is also silly but much smarter than Squatt. Baboo is much taller and looks like a mix of a bat and a monkey. In the first season, they have episodes when they scheme against the Rangers and summon or create a monster. Of course, their plans never succeed. They may start well and impress Rita with their initiative but they always ultimately fall apart and draw her ire. The final character on Rita’s team is Finster. He is basically Rita’s scientist. He molds putties (clay but brainless humanoid fighters who speak with garbled noises) and monsters with clay then cooks them in his Monster-Matic machine. After the first season, his talents mostly become obsolete and are not needed anymore. Nevertheless, he is the primary source of the monsters in season one.
After we meet Rita’s team, the episode quickly shifts to the Angel Grove Youth Center Gym and Juice Bar. The establishment is run by recurring supporting character, Ernie. It is the Power Rangers’ primary hangout spot to congregate, workout, and eat when they are not at school or saving the world. It is here where we meet our team of superheroes. First, we meet Jason teaching Zack karate. Jason is strong, confident, reliable, and decisive. He is the clear leader of the group that everyone looks up to and commands the team very well. It is a team of “Goody Two-Shoes” and Jason is the lead boy scout. Zack is also strong and adds a lot of fun to the group. In addition to training for karate with Jason, he is a great dancer who flashes his spectacular dance moves throughout his time on the show. The next member of the team is Billy. For lack of a better term, he is the nerd of the group. In the pilot episode, he is joining Jason’s karate class for the first time. While he is very confident when it comes to his intelligence, he is hesitant and doubts himself when it comes to physical activities like karate. He is still book smart when it comes to knowledge about karate. When Jason asks the class for the purpose of martial arts, Billy quickly and affirmatively answers “Courage, kindness, integrity, fitness, loyalty, and discipline”. Not surprisingly, he exhibits nervous energy that makes him awkward in social situations. Throughout the character’s time in the series, he goes through a tremendous story of personal transformation as he becomes a strong and confident leader among the group. Of course, his greatest contribution to the group is his intelligence. He invents or creates a lot of critical items the Rangers use and need throughout the character’s time on the show. In the second episode, he creates and builds communicators. They are similar to watches worn around someone’s wrist. His communicators allow the Rangers to talk to each other and Zordon remotely instead of teleporting to the Command Center all the time. In addition, they serve as a teleportation and tracking device. Another one of his innovations is the Radbug. It is a Volkswagon Beetle that can fly. It is very useful when they need to go to the Command Center but cannot teleport there because it has been compromised due to the villains’ schemes.
To round out the team, we see Trini watching and rooting on Kimberly as she performs gymnastics on a balance beam. Although they have different personalities, the girls are very good friends. In real life, Thuy Trang and Amy Jo Johnson became very close friends. Tragically, Thuy Trang passed away in 2001 in a car accident. In terms of her character, Trini, she is reserved, sweet, and very intelligent. She displays a strong ability to problem solve. For example, the team fights Pudgy Pig during the season. As one could assume, it is a monster that eats everything. It even eats their weapons. In the episode, Trini observes what he did not eat and realizes that he does not eat spicy radishes. Based on her assessment and recommendation, the team uses the radishes to make the Pig sick and defeat him. In instances when Billy is unable or not around to handle a technical issue, Trini typically steps up and takes care of it. In regards to Kimberly, she is the [California] Valley girl next door. She has a cute personality and figure. Kimberly is sassy but sweet. She also has a lot of spunk. Although the entire team uses 90s vernaculars, no one on the team uses them more than Kimberly. The list of 90s terms she uses includes “So gross”, “No way”, “Totally”, “Totally far out”, “Get real”, “Eww”, “Get a life”, and “Dream On”. In addition, she is ridiculously athletic and an extremely gifted gymnast. Interestingly, Amy Jo Johnson actually had a background in gymnastics which gave her an advantage during the fighting scenes. Like most boys in the 1990s, I had a schoolboy crush on Kimberly. For better or worse for Amy Jo Johnson, she will always be known as the Pink Ranger. Although she went through a phase when she expressed that she will never live down the role, she has learned to accept and embrace her iconic status.
In the Youth Center, we also meet a Bulk (Paul Schrier) and Skull (Jason Narvy). Their full names are Farkas Bulkmeier and Eugene Skullovitch. Bulk is the alpha leader of the two. Skull is his cheerleader and has an extremely irritating laugh. They are intended to be bullies. However, they are not really good at it. In one of the episodes, Billy observes the duo and calls them “Neanderthals”. It is the perfect description of the two. They are definitely mischievous and troublemakers but they are not all that formidable or intimidating to be considered real bullies. In the pilot episode, they try to ask Kimberly and Trini out on a double date. Throughout the series, Skull continues and constantly tries to hit on Kimberly even though he knows she will never say yes. Back to the pilot episode, they try to run at the girls after they reject their advances. As will be the norm with a lot of their antics, it fails as the girls flip them over on to a mat. In another one of the early episodes, Trini and Kimberly are launching an effort to clean up litter. In response, Bulk and Skull throw trash at the girls. Next, they dump trash on a Good Samaritan who tries to pick up the mess they are making. Even then, they ultimately fall into trash cans when Kimberly confronts them. Bulk and Skull are also delusional about their prowess and generally unaware about the dangerous world they live in. Later in the season, they actually think they are more important than the Power Rangers and can upstage them on Power Rangers day by dressing up as superheroes. Of course, they are laughed off the stage. Another example of their misunderstanding of their abilities occurs when they join Jason’s karate class in the pilot episode and look like complete fools. When Bulk claims he can do anything Jason can, Jason pulls out his “Tornado kick” that features multiple spins. Naturally, Bulk falls all over himself when he tries to replicate the move. In another episode, Bulk challenges Zach to a dance off and falls over a counter trying to keep up with him. Throughout the series, they similarly fall victim to their own pranks as they are often at the receiving end of falling onto or hit by cakes, smoothies, etc. They are mainly in the show for comic relief. They are fools with accompanying clown music whenever they enter the scene. Nevertheless, they do have some shining moments later in the series. They are also a part of the storylines that take place at the Rangers High School. The scenes at the High School have a “Saved by the Bell” feel to them. The school is run by Principal Caplan. He is a typical principal in a kids’ show. He is stern yet supportive but definitely aloof at times. There are also a lot of gaffes related to his toupee. We are introduced to him and the Rangers’ sweet teacher, Ms. Appleby, in the early episodes as the Power Rangers world is built for the season.
Once Rita attacks the planet, we are introduced to Zordon (David Fielding) and Alpha 5 (voiced by Richard Wood) who are based out of the Command Center. Zordon is basically a floating head in a tube. The explanation is that he is an interdimensional being trapped in a time warp so the tube is some kind of interface that allows him to interact and communicate with Alpha and the Rangers. In the series, Zordon is depicted as the ultimate force of good. He is a wise and supporting father figure and teacher to the Rangers. Alpha 5 is his sentient robot assistant and beloved sidekick of Zordon and the Rangers. He has a disc as a head with a visor as his eyes. He has a red body with a yellow thunder logo in the middle. His catch phrase is “Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi”, which he uses often when something goes wrong. He also does and says a lot of things for comic relief. He is the Power Rangers version of C-3PO from Star Wars. When Rita’s presence and invasion is announced via an earthquake, Zordon immediately commands Alpha to “Bring us five overbearing and overemotional humans.” Alpha understands but dreads that he means teenagers. It is totally a meta moment for the show as it breaks the fourth wall to admit that its premise is completely ridiculous. When Jason, Zach, Billy, Trini, and Kimberly are teleported to the Command Center, they are confused about being teleported and wowed by the advanced technology in the base. Naturally, Billy totally geeks out at the sight of it and Alpha: “Whoa! A fully sentient, multifunctional automation.” Obviously, the group has questions. Zordon asks them to look at the Viewing Globe, which is what they will also use to see and assess the threats Rita throws at them in the future. Zordon explains who Rita is.
He also notes that he has given the team power coins and morphers that allow them to go through a metamorphosis which equips them in suits that empower them with superhuman abilities. The power coins and morphers are activated when they call the name of the “dinosaur” on the coin each Ranger is given. In actuality, not all of them are dinosaurs. Prehistoric animals is a more accurate term. In addition, the Rangers can call on a fighting machine, “Zords”, shaped like their respective dinosaur. The Zords can combine to form the Megazord when needed, which is most of the time. It is also interesting to watch Zordon explain why each team member has been assigned his dinosaur. Jason is bold and powerful so he gets the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Zachary is clever and brave like a Mastodon. Kimberly is graceful and smart like a Pterodactyl. Billy is patient and wise so he gets the Triceratops. Finally, Trini is fearless and agile like a Sabretooth Tiger. As one could see, the Mastodon and Sabretooth Tiger are from the Ice Age and definitely not dinosaurs. Technically, the Pterodactyl is a pterosaur. They lived during the same time as dinosaurs but are not considered the same classification. Again, giving teenagers such extraordinary power is absolutely reckless and nonsensical. However, Power Rangers is a kid’s show. What young child does not want to believe he can transform into a superhero and be able to call on a Zord to fight the forces of evil and monsters? These bases for the show may seem ridiculous for an adult but they are the same reasons it is a hit among kids.
Naturally, any rational person will assume everything Zordon is saying is completely crazy. Even though the Rangers experience being teleported and in the Command Center talking to a floating head, they still believe it is all nonsense. As Zach responds, “Power Morphers? Megazords? This is just too weird for me”. Jason stays for a moment to look up at Zordon to ponder whether everything might be true. Nevertheless, he joins his friends as they storm out of the Command Center into the middle of the desert. Even though the gang of teenagers initially reject Zordon, he still wish them well by stating “Let the power protect you”, which is the Power Rangers version of “May the force be with you” from Star Wars. Zordon says it often before he sends the Rangers off into battle. Despite their doubts about being Power Rangers now, they are quickly given a dose of reality when Rita sends down a putty patrol to attack them. Overwhelmed, they try and successfully morph as Zordon instructed them. Immediately, Alpha teleports them to engage Goldar who has arrived on Earth. Shortly after, Rita throws her wand and shouts “Make my Goldar grow”. Usually, she says “Make my monster grow” but Goldar is a special exception. When the Rangers morph, they obtain superhuman physical abilities and knowledge of how to fight. Similarly, the metamorphosis enlightened them with the knowledge on how to summon and control their Zords. Once Goldar grows, the Rangers raise their right arms in the air to call out the name of their Zords. The entrances of the machines as they emerge from their hiding places to aid their Ranger are awesome. The Tyrannosaurus Rex comes out of lava as the ground opens up. The Mastodon comes out of ice. The Sabretooth Tiger runs out of a forest. The Triceratops emerges from a desert. Of course, the best is saved for last as the Pteradoctyl flies out of an erupting volcano. Moreover, the Rangers say something different and cheesy each time they enter their Zords each episode. The most famous line is when Kimberly enters the Pteradoctyl for the first time and notes “Hey, nice stereo”. The Rangers also come up with some funny lines and puns. For example, Kimberly says “Let’s jinx this Sphinx” when they face off against a monster called King Sphinx in another episode. Every time they enter their Zords, Jason also instructs them to “Power up crystals”. Accordingly, all his Rangers responds “2. 1. Power up”. It is like putting a key in the ignition. Eventually, they form the Megazord to fight Goldar. At first, they use the tank mode to shoot at him. When it is not enough, they switch to battle mode which is the standing form of the Megazord with the red head that is most recognized. When the Rangers call on the Power Sword, Goldar quickly flees before they can use their finishing move. In the series, Goldar has the instincts to always flee before the Rangers can finish him off. In most other instances, the Rangers will use the Sword and charge it into some kind of energy sword to destroy a monster. When the tide begins to swing in the Rangers favor, the song “Go Go Power Rangers” normally plays. Consistent with the corny nature of the show, all the Rangers swing their right arms in unison and shout “hiya”. After Rita is defeated, she is always in a bad mood and her minions cower to avoid her wraith. Sometimes like the pilot episode, she will hold her head and say she has a headache. This above formula is how a fight between the Rangers and a monster usually occurs.
After their victory in the Pilot, they return to the Command Center to talk to Zordon. He explains that there are three basic rules of being a Ranger: “first never use your power for personal gain; never escalate a battle unless Rita forces you; and finally, keep your identity secret.” In my opinion, they are great rules. The first two deals relates to a similar lesson from Spider-Man lore that with “Great power comes great responsibility”. Obviously, superpowers can be addicting so there needs to limits on when they can be used. The third rule is so they can live their regular lives as teenagers. It is also normal operating procedure for a superhero. Of course, most of the team accepts immediately. Again, what kid or teenager would turn down such phenomenal powers? Nevertheless, Kimberly is hesitant as she notes “The outfits are cool and everything but my hair gets all tangled inside the helmets.” Her friends actually buy that she is serious and are concerned she is going to turn down the opportunity. Finally, she completes her joke by saying “not”, which is another typical 90s vernacular that she and the team like to use in the show. With all friends in the fold, they embrace as one loving, happy team. There is a lot of cheesiness in this scene that is representative of the series as a whole. Again, it is totally a part of the formula for the show that makes it work as a kid’s show but seem silly to adults that know better.
The early episodes of the season build the Power Rangers universe as the weapons and arsenal available at their disposal is explored. In addition, it is a kid’s show so some very important life lessons are embedded in the themes and monsters of the episodes. Of course, there are plenty of silly and fun episodes too. In the second episode, “High Five”, the Rangers flash their Blade Blasters that double as a small sword and a gun that fires off laser blasts. In Episode 3, “Teamwork”, the Rangers are given their power weapons. Billy has the Power Lance, Kimberly has the Power Bow, Jason has the Power Sword, Trini has the Power Daggers, and Zach has the Power Ax. When you watch the show, it is obvious that they are plastic toys. In addition, they can combine their weapons to form the Power Blaster that unleashes a deadly blast that destroys many monsters. Since Power Rangers is for children, there are a lot of embedded messages for them. The obvious ones are diversity and teamwork. The lineup of the Power Rangers is comprised of very different team members in terms of race, personality, etc. Nevertheless, they are able to work in unison and are stronger together. Teamwork is also critical for the Rangers as they often work together. Even their Power Weapons and Zords combine to form stronger weapons. Again, it emphasizes the point that they are more potent as a team than as individuals. Moreover, many episodes have themes that reflect valuable life lessons. In “High Five”, the episode teaches kids to face and overcome their fears. For Trini, she has a fear of heights. Nevertheless, she confronts and gets past it to climb a cliff to save Billy against putties after he drops his morpher. In “Teamwork”, there are dual teachings regarding teamwork and cleaning up litter to fight pollution. Trini and Kimberly are working on a project to clean up the waste dumpsite. However, each of their male Rangers make up excuses to avoid joining them. When the girls head to the dumpsite alone, Rita naturally attacks them with putties who are later joined by Goldar. At the same time, their male counterparts engage a Minotaur monster. Separated, the two groups have trouble with their opponents. As a team, they have a much easier time. Accordingly, they learn that working as a team is crucial. Pollution also is the theme of another episode at the end of the season when the Rangers form the Clean-Up Club to pick up litter. In Episode 4, “A Pressing Engagement”, the lesson is to not be a quitter. Jason’s goal during the episode is breaking Bulk’s bench press record at the Youth Center. He faces some setbacks along the way. First, Ernie loses count so Jason needs to start over. Next, he also faces distractions that force him to lose focus as he nears the record, such as Zach running into Kimberly as she is blowing a big bubble with her gum and bursting it all over the two. When Rita sees Jason’s frustration, she sends down the King Sphinx to blow away his teammates so he has to fight the Sphinx alone. Only when he learns to believe in himself is he able to overcome the monster. Similarly, he does not quit with his weight lifting goal and perseveres.
In Episode 5, “Different Drum”, the episode teaches children to accept people for who they are and be cognizant of inclusiveness. The show features a deaf girl, Melissa. During Kimberly’s aerobics class, she forgets to use sign language in addition to her vocal directions so one of the participants gets mad when Melissa is unable to follow and bumps into her. Afterwards, Kimberly apologizes to and bonds with Melissa. The moment showcases the importance and power of including others despite some of their physical or social limitations. Later in the episode, Rita unleashes a monster who uses an accordion to control kids with the sound of the music. Since Melissa is deaf, she is immune. Additionally, she is brave, follows her peers to the villains’ hideout, and returns to the Youth Center to bring Kimberly and her friends, who unbeknownst to Melissa are the Power Rangers, to save the kids. It is a great story that shows how people with disabilities can still overcome it and contribute mightily to a group. If you do not include them, you may never know or benefit from their gifts. On the other hand, there is still plenty of episodes for the show to just be goofy and just fun. For example, there is an episode when Squat and Baboo hit Billy and Kimberly with a potion that makes them act like punks. In another episode, Billy’s experiment goes wrong and he and Kimberly switch bodies. It allows them to see life from the other’s perspective. As they both find out, it is not so easy to be the other person. Another fun and wacky episode is when Rita sends Putties to impersonate the Rangers to ruin their reputations. You can really tell that he actors have a fun time playing their bad doppelgangers. Their evil versions cause some chaos. First, their Kimberly accepts a date with Skull. Next, they rig a water fountain with detergent so that Principal Kaplan gets soaked with a soap volcano that erupts. While the Putties impersonate the Rangers, they wear sunglasses to hide their red eyes. The pranks land the real Rangers in detention with Bulk and Skull. It is another opportunity for Bulk and Skull to provide comic relief. Defying the laws of geometry and physics, Bulk pulls out a gigantic food spread from within a small lunch box. When the evil doppelgangers attack the city as the Power Rangers, the real Rangers need to morph and teleport to the scene without the two noticing. Bulk and Skull are easily tricked as they cover their eyes and ears and the Rangers leave to save the day. For its children audience, the first season is great because it builds the Power Rangers universe, teaches some important life lessons, and has plenty of silly and fun moments.
Without a doubt, the episodes centered on the Green Ranger is the best of the series. He is definitely my favorite Ranger. Tommy Oliver is introduced in the five part miniseries “Green with Evil”. His first appearance as the new kid at school is at the Youth Center in a martial arts tournament. He spars with Jason and fights him to a draw. At the same time, the tall, dark, and handsome Tommy immediately catches the eye of Kimberly who cannot stop herself from ogling him. She thinks out loud as she utters out the words “really cute” while she lustfully bites her lip. At school the next day, Tommy shoes away Bulk and Skull when Skull pointlessly tries to hit on her yet again. Tommy scares them away with an array of crazy spin kicks. It cements Kimberly’s crush on him. He is clearly attracted to her as well. They have great chemistry from the start and have a sweet, innocent romance you would expect in a kid’s show. He is a complete gentleman and she is a love stuck schoolgirl. She obviously likes him a lot but still wants him to chase her and earn it. Tommy is really sweet and caring to her throughout their romance. In a later episode, “The Spit Flower”, Kimberly is distraught when she works hard on her flower float that is destroyed by a squad of Putties Rita sends down. In response, Tommy quietly takes her design and flowers and works tirelessly, with the help of Alpha, to reconstruct the float. In another episode, he immediately offers to fix her grandmother’s wheel when she loans it for the school play, Rumpelstiltskin, and Bulk recklessly breaks it during rehearsal. In general, Tommy is always willing to help and genuinely cares about her. He also takes the effort and time to just be friends with her before asking her out. Even though Tommy is a really confident character, he still has a lot of fear that she may not have the same romantic feelings for him that he feels for her. For all these reasons, it is a cute story of young love.
Again, Tommy gets our immediate attention when he battles Jason to a draw. For this reason, he also garners the focus of Rita. She gets the idea to recruit a teenager, Tommy, to beat her teenage foes. First, she sends a squad of Putties to fight and test Tommy’s worthiness to take the 6th Power Coin and obtain the power of the Green Ranger. After he passes the test, she abducts him and puts him into a cocoon to transform him into the Green Ranger. The “Green with Evil” saga is probably the most beloved Power Rangers storyline and provides a lot of epic moments with an evil Green Ranger. As a Ranger, Tommy has a power coin that allows him to enter the Command Center. As a result, Rita instructs him to enter and put a disk into Alpha 5 that gives him a virus and destroy the control panel to cut Zordon off from the Rangers. Throughout the miniseries, there is an obvious feeling of uneasiness from the absence of Zordon when they need him the most in order to overcome their greatest test. During the events, there is a moment that the Rangers’ morphers short circuit because of the immense power drain the Command Center uses up in the search to locate and relink up with Zordon in his dimension. There are a lot of other amazing evil Green Ranger moments. For example, Tommy jumps into the Megazord and knocks all the Rangers out of the cockpit. He also has a Dragonshield, which is a gold triangle shield around his chest that protects him and can deflect some projectiles such as the other Rangers blasters. As a minion of Rita, he also uses powers he only has through her power. For instance, he can throw an energy orb with his hands. He also sports the Sword of Darkness, which is a uniquely shaped sword that is powerful and keeps him under Rita’s control. He shoots an energy blast from the Sword at the Megazord in a moment in the miniseries but the Rangers use the Mastadon head as a shield to deflect it. Naturally, she also makes him grow with her wand at another point in the saga to engage in an epic battle with the Megazord. The Green Ranger also commands the Dragonzord. He summons and controls it with the Dragon dagger based on a couple of different tunes. When the Dragonzord attacks with its primary weapons of missiles from its hands or its tail that also has a drill, the red lights on its chest light up and sounds. The Dragonzord is designed after Mechagodzilla from the Godzilla franchise. I did not need another reason to love the Green Ranger as a child. Nevertheless, I was a Godzilla fan too so controlling a Zord shaped like him puts the Green Ranger over the top for me.
In addition to the absence of Zordon, there are a lot of other memorable moments and cliffhangers in “Green with Evil”. One noteworthy event is the entrance of Scorpina. She is a beautiful Asian woman in gold armor with a powerful sword shaped like a scorpion’s tail. She fights a lot with Goldar during the first season. When Rita makes her grow, she turns into a grotesque and scary, giant scorpion. In terms of cliffhangers, the first major one occurs when Tommy uses his powers to teleport Jason into the Dark Dimension, which is a green room, to face off with Goldar as a human. Obviously, Jason is not much of a match for Goldar without his powers and his doom appears certain. At another point, an actual cliff is involved when Bulk and Skull try to escape Rita’s path of destruction on a bus and Goldar picks them up to put them at the ledge of a cliff. At the same time, Rita unleashes a solar eclipse to cut off the Megazord from its solar power. The problem with the “Green with Evil” miniseries is all these misfortunes and cliffhangers amount to nothing or resolved with little to no explanation. Scorpina is a badass looking villain but she ends up being a very childish character. Goldar toys with Jason too long. Then, the Green Ranger also draws it out rather than finishing Jason off. Of course, Alpha eventually locks on to Jason’s communicator and teleports him out of the Dark Dimension in the nick of time. In terms of Bulk and Skull hanging over a cliff, it makes sense that the Rangers save them because killing them would be too dark for a kids’ show. On the other hand, the Megazord is defeated after the deployment of the eclipse. Nevertheless, the Zords magically reappears with no damage the very next time the Rangers need them. Moreover, the eclipse is absolutely devastating. It makes no sense that Rita would not use it again. In terms of the story, it would have been stronger if the Rangers figured out a way to counter the use of an eclipse. Of course, it is the nature of a child’s superhero show. The villains get the heroes on the ropes then pulls back to give enough time for the heroes to recover and rally. If these storylines were developed and resolved better, the show would have a much better chance of holding up now that their original fans are adults.
In addition, the drama of the Rangers trying to figure out the identity of the Green Ranger is a bit silly. Tommy is a cordial, polite young man when they first meet him. As soon as he is turned to the Green Ranger, his personality completely changes. He is dressed in all green and snaps at Kimberly when he notes she is not the “center of the universe”. If those subtle hints do not do it, it is perplexing that they do not immediately deduce his identity when Putties attack Kimberly and Zach but leave Tommy alone. When Tommy is finally revealed as the Green Ranger near the end of the miniseries, the Rangers have an “ah-ha” moment piecing together all the obvious signs. Nonetheless, the conclusion of the “Green with Evil” saga is satisfying. Jason breaks the Sword of Darkness to break Tommy from Rita’s control. Naturally, the team accepts him as a Ranger instantly. Although Tommy is upset at himself for succumbing to Rita’s magic, they reassure him that it is not his fault because he could not have resisted. When they return to the Command Center, Tommy obviously accepts Zordon’s three rules for being a Ranger. In addition, Zordon acknowledges that we are “watching history” as the “6th Ranger is now one of us”. It is a fist pump moment when the team immediately moprhs to test their new combined powers. Tommy summons his Dragonzord to combine with the Mastadon, Triceratops, and Sabretooth to form the Dragonzord in fighting mode. As we will also see in later episodes, it can merge with the Megazord to form the Dragon Megazord. Furthermore, when the Rangers also summon Titanus (a brachiosaurus looking carrier Zord), they form the Ultrazord. When this ultimate Zord completes its formation, giant explosions immediately go off in the background to signify the overwhelming firepower it yields. Shortly afterwards, it unleashes a massive arsenal on its targets. Of course, all these extra modes and toys only adds to the awesomeness of the Power Rangers.
As a fan of the show at the height of its popularity, one of the biggest debates at the time was Jason vs. Tommy as everyone’s favorite Ranger. Everyone respects Jason because he is strong, reliable, decisive, courageous, virtuous, and the leader of the Power Rangers. However, Tommy also possesses those qualities. In fact, it is why Tommy is the natural leader of the Rangers once Jason steps away later in the series. Tommy has an advantage because he is similar to Jason but with an edge. First, he has a darker complexion, long hair, and a cooler voice. He also has more spectacular fighting moves and more badass grunts in battle. Retrospectively, Tommy’s legend is further enhanced because Jason David Frank became a MMA fighter after his time on the Power Rangers. Next, Tommy has a run at being a primary villain fighting the Rangers. Of course, he is only evil because he is under a spell. During the Survivor season, Blood v. Water, contestant Vytas Baskauskas provides a great quote about himself that works well in describing Tommy’s run as a villain and how it helps his street cred: “the only thing women love more than a bad boy is a reformed bad boy”. Fans generally gravitate to a hero who is also a bad boy at times. For example, who do comic book fans choose when it is between Cyclops and Wolverine from the X-Men? Wolverine. Who do fans pick if it is between Captain America and Iron Man? Iron Man. Personally, I choose Cyclops and Captain America. Nevertheless, I still go with Tommy over Jason in the Power Rangers. When I was in the third grade, my classmates and I were given earthworms to raise. Naturally, one of my friends and I had an argument about who could name their worm Tommy and who had to be stuck with Jason. My friend did not want to fight too much about it so I got Tommy. Of course, Tommy also gets the girl and the Ranger every young fanboy is in love with, Kimberly. For all these reasons, the argument is one that Tommy wins easily with most fans.
Since Jason and Tommy are both alpha males, it is surprising that they do not clash more. There are a couple of minor hiccups but nothing major or chronic. In the episode “Gung Ho”, the two have trouble meshing for a karate tournament. Accordingly, the theme of the episode is centered on Jason and Tommy building chemistry as teammates. When Rita sends down a group of super Putties, the Rangers are overwhelmed and need more powerful weapons. As such, Jason and Tommy go on a quest to find the Thunder slingers that will destroy the Putties. Before they can get to the weapons, Titanus appears for the first time and attacks them. Of course, we know it is an ally. For the purpose of testing the pair, it provides a challenge to overcome. Naturally, Jason and Tommy come together. Since Jason is better at making the climb to the Thunder slingers, Tommy transfers his Dragonshield to Jason and provides cover fire. Consequently, they succeed as a pair and pretty much work together perfectly as partners going forward. The only real conflict between the two is caused by a spell from one of Rita’s monsters. In the episode “On Fins and Needles”, the Slippery Shark’s fin is used to infect Jason and Tommy and turn them into enemies. They immediately argue. Tommy is resentful that Jason is the leader instead of him and annoyed he needs to take orders from him. In addition, Tommy perceives that Jason thinks he is better than everyone else and they are helpless without him. He is also agitated that Jason is showing off all the time during their joint karate class. On the other hand, Jason also thinks Tommy shows off. Moreover, he notes that the Power Rangers were fine before Tommy ever joined and do not need him. In order to break the curse, Zordon sends only Jason and Tommy against the Shark at first. Tensions are so high that they have a wager on who can defeat the shark by himself first. If Tommy does it, he will assume command of the Power Rangers. If Jason wins, Tommy turns in his power coin. Obviously, they eventually realize they need to work together and break the curse. It instantly becomes a bromance again as they embrace as partners. I misremembered that there was more of a rivalry between the two. However, I could just be remembering them fighting for my affection. In actuality, the story of the show would have been stronger if they played more on the natural conflict between two alpha males. In general, they could have included more tension among the teammates and teambuilding. Great teams just do not happen in real life. It takes time and effort to work through the differences and idiosyncrasies of the team members. In my opinion, it is another missing element in the show that prevents it from holding up over time when you re-watch it as an adult.
Another reason fans love the Green Ranger is that he only fights with the Rangers with his full powers for a very short time in the series, 12 episodes. It is like taking a child’s favorite toy or not letting him eat his favorite junk food (e.g. ice cream). If you do so, you will just make him want it exponentially more. In the two part “Green Candle” story arc, Rita utilizes a Green Candle to drain Tommy’s power. Since he was under her service for a short while, he touched a magical wax that allows her to make the candle. Once the candle fully melts, Tommy’s Green Ranger powers will be completely drained and transferred to Rita. At the same time, Tommy is nervous about finally asking Kimberly out and to the school dance. When he takes her to the park alone to ask, they are attacked by Putties. Goldar abducts Tommy and takes him to the Dark Dimension to tell him about the Green Candle and fight him. Eventually, Tommy outmaneuvers Goldar, and takes his sword to teleport back to Earth. Upon his return, the team gathers at the Command Center and is informed about the candle. Accordingly, one of the Rangers must go to the Dark Dimension and get the candle to save Tommy’s power. First, Billy invents molecular decoders, goofy looking poles, which can create a portal to the Dimension. Naturally, Jason goes through because he has been there before in the “Green with Evil” saga and is the leader of the group. The major plot hole in this story is that Jason does not morph and only fights Goldar as a human. At the same time, Rita has been using her Cyclops monster to engage the Rangers. Cyclops has the ability to shapeshift and changes into various Zords and the Megazord. Although Tommy tries to fight Cyclops himself, he is overpowered. As such, Jason is forced to disengage from the fight against Goldar for the candle to save Tommy’s life. Nevertheless, Tommy is able to prevent Rita from gaining his powers by transferring his power coin to Jason. For a stretch in the season, Jason has the powers of the Red Ranger and Green Ranger. It is fantastic to see Jason summon the Dragonshield over his red suit. His ability to yield the Power Sword and Dragon dagger at the same time is awesome. Moreover, the weapons are stronger when wielded by the same Ranger. It is also great to see him summon and control the Dragonzord with the dagger from the comfort of the cockpits of his own Zord or the Megazord. Of course, Jason is still not Tommy. In a kids’ show, it is obviously unlikely that it will kill a main character. Consequently, I think it is brilliant move to strip Tommy of his powers because it is a G-rated version of killing the most beloved character. In a show where the Rangers practically run around invincible with nothing really at stake, the loss of Tommy as the Green Ranger simulates the gut wrenching feeling that there needs to be serious sacrifices in the fight against evil. On the bright side of the end of “Green Candle”, Tommy does finally come around to asking Kimberly to the dance. Before doing so, he actually successfully kisses her when she speaks about missing him on the team. Although he thinks it will be easy to ask her to the dance after the kiss, she purposely turns around at first to make him wait. While she is turned, she is secretly grinning with joy and turns back around to say “I didn’t want to make it too easy for you” and “Of course”. Much to our excitement, Tommy lifts her off the ground as they officially become an item.
Outside of the epic Green Ranger story arcs, the best episodes in the first season feature Lokar, who is an extremely powerful demon that manifests as a giant floating head in a dark sky. He makes his first appearance in two part “Island of Illusions”. There is something about a massive, evil head in the sky mocking and firing blasts at you that screams intimidating and frightening. First, Rita unleashes the grotesque Mutitus, who resembles the Balrog from Lord of the Rings. During the fight between it and the Megazord and Dragonzord, Rita summons Lokar who enhances Mutitus. Once they get the upper hand on the Zords, Rita sends them to the Island of Illusion. Goldar’s head appears in the sky to mock them by saying “Nothing is real except the danger”. True to its name, the island uses illusions to prey on each Ranger’s insecurities. As each Ranger loses his confidence, he fades away. Since they do not have their communicator, morpher, or power coin, they only have and need their confidence to overcome the illusions. Since Zach is already facing confidence issues at the beginning of the episode, he is the first victim when the island manifests a fake snake to scare him. Although he is close to fading away, his memory of defeating one of Rita’s monsters, Knasty Knight, gives his confidence back and he survives. In addition, the Rangers are aided by a dwarf named Quagmire. He plays a flute and sings a quick tune with rhymes and advice for how each Ranger must overcome their fears. Zach’s experience plays out with each member of the team. One illusion is totally silly and the others are serious. The silly one is when Kimberly has visions of Bulk and Skull acting like angels and being nice. She hilariously concludes that it is hopeless if Rita could make the two goofballs do that. The rest of the Rangers have serious fears to overcome. Tommy sees putties everywhere and fights them. However, he is actually fighting his friends. Trini is stricken by her fear of heights again. Billy feels helpless because all of his scientific knowledge is not enough for him to come up with a way off the island. Finally, Jason’s illusion is seeing his friends fade away. He feels like a failure as a leader and that he should have figured a way out to save them. Nevertheless, they each rediscover confidence in themselves when they think of a time they defeated one of Rita’s monsters or her minions. It is like a greatest hits playback of the season to date. Of course, part of the reason I believe “Island of Illusions” are great episodes is that it teaches children very important lessons about self-confidence and believing in oneself. There will be times when there will be challenges and the odds of success look bleak. Nevertheless, you need to face them with a positive attitude and faith in yourself. Afterwards, Rita is frustrated and turns big to try to destroy the island with the Rangers on it. Of course, these episodes are also awesome because of the epic fight scenes. After the Rangers teleport to safety before she can smash the island, they form the Mega Dragonzord to use a big energy ball with the letter Z to destroy Mutitus. Next, they summon Titanus and form the Ultrazord to unleash it on Lokar. Nevertheless, Lokar flees before they can finish him. “Island of Illusions” is definitely one of the better written story arcs.
The other two episodes featuring Lokar is “Doomsday”. The city of Angel Grove decides to honor the team with Power Rangers Day. For the occasion, Rita sends the residents of Angel Grove to another dimension. In addition, she lifts and lands her palace on Angel Grove to amplify her power. Accordingly, she uses it to summon her Zord Cyclopsis. It is piloted by Goldar. The Rangers eventually summon the Ultrazord to unleash on Cyclopsis. Rita’s Zord is the only thing to survive a direct hit from the Ultrazord’s primary weapons. It is a clear indicator that Cyclopsis is one of the most deadly and formidable adversaries the Rangers ever face. The head remains and Lokar returns to reconstruct it. Moreover, Rita uses her wand to sink Titanus. Due to their defeat, the Zords need time to re-energize. However, Jason makes a difficult decision to fight at half power when Rita attacks the city again. The Cyclopsis is an extremely powerful foe. It adapts to each time the Rangers switch their Zords to a different fighting mode. Cyclopsis also has blades, like Edward Scisorrhands, that it uses to cut off one of Megazord’s arms and the tip of Dragonzord’s tail. Cyclopsis seems unbeatable until the computer at the Command Center hacks into Rita’s palace and procures information that Cyclopsis cannot keep up with the changes in battle modes of the Rangers’ Zords if they constantly keep changing. They execute the plan to perfection and then use the Ultrazord to finish it off for good. Lokar flees again and for good. The dark tone of the episodes with Rita disappearing the residents of Angel Grove combined with a trying battle with Lokar and Cyclopsis make the episodes very epic. Cyclopsis’s weaknesses is not a typical cheesy villain weak point either. It is a clever one that turns its own strength into its Achilles heel. In addition, the episodes are the only time Rita flies her palace to Earth. Since it is such a difficult fight, Zordon actually asks the Rangers if they want to continue on as Power Rangers or return to their normal lives. Of course, none of them believe they have a real choice to be make. They will absolutely remain Rangers. Again, it is another key moment in the season that injects and emphasizes a seriousness in the sacrifices and responsibility of being Power Rangers in an otherwise silly child’s tale. At the beginning of the first episode of “Doomsday”, Kimberly remarks Tommy might not show for Power Rangers Day because he probably feels left out without his powers. Although he had not appeared in the season since the “Green Candle”, he makes a heartwarming return at the end of “Doomsday” to support his friends and high five them as they walk past him. In response to a kid who notes he is having trouble choosing his favorite Ranger, Tommy naturally comments that they are all great [so there is no need to choose]. For all these reasons, it is one of the best received and one of my favorite story arcs.
Nevertheless, the best episodes still revolve around the Green Ranger. Tommy’s cameo in “Doomsday” is foreshadowing hat he is not be done with the show. He makes his triumphant comeback in the two part “Return of a Friend”. The setup and conclusion to the storyline is perfect. The episode begins with Parents Day at the Youth Center. Naturally, we meet the Rangers parents. It is funny that most of their parents wear the same color as the suit of their respective Ranger. Jason’s parents wear red clothing. Trini’s wears yellow. Billy’s father wears a blue suit jacket and bow tie. Kimberley’s mother wears a pink outfit. The only exception is Zach’s parents, who wear purple. A serious story line is Kimberly waiting outside the Youth Center because she is upset about her parents. Since they are divorced, she is afraid that her dad will not show up. Her subplot touches upon a serious issue faced by many children. When Trini tries to console her, Kimberly blames herself for the divorce. It is not an unusual notion that children of divorce note they feel the same way as Kimberly. As such, the show actually does a good job explaining to kids that it is not their fault if their parents get a divorce and that they still love them. Kimberly understands this point once Trini informs her that both her father and her mother are waiting inside for her. Unfortunately, Rita sends Putties down to attack the two girls before they can get inside. It also forces the other Rangers to help them. While they deal with the Putties, Rita sends her Dramole monster to the Youth Center. It has the ability to use hypnosis on it victims. As such, it hypnotizes everyone inside, including the Rangers parents, and simultaneously teleports them to the Dark Dimension as Rita’s hostages. In addition, Billy unknowingly stumbles inside the empty Youth Center. Consequently, the Dramole monster also uses its hypnosis to mind control Billy so he teleports into the Command Center to steal the Dragon Dagger and hand it over to Goldar. Afterwards, Goldar offers the Rangers an ultimatum: hand over their power coins for their parents. Although the Rangers try to fight Goldar, he defeats them by summoning the Dragonzord. The Rangers ask Zordon for guidance but he obviously cannot tell them what to do when it comes to their parents. Again, Power Rangers is a child’s show and killing a Ranger is not going to happen. As a result, the next most horrible thing that can occur is putting their parents in jeopardy. The loss of a parent or both parents is absolutely terrifying. As such, the show really takes the stakes to the max at a G-Rated level for this two part saga.
Obviously, the Rangers hand over their Power coins when the lives of their parents are on the line. Naturally, Goldar does not honor the agreement and keeps their parents hostage anyway. Without their powers, the Rangers are not a threat and without hope until Jason holds out the Green Ranger Power coin. Of course, it signifies the return of Tommy. He makes an epic entrance at the end of the first episode. First, we see only his feet as he walks into the Youth Center. Then, we see a little green. Finally, we see his face and he wonders out loud where everyone has gone. Moreover, his personal Power Ranger theme song, “Go Green Ranger Go” plays as the episode ends with a “To Be Continued”. In the second episode, Zordon notes that he can infuse his power into Tommy so he can used a diminished amount of the Green Ranger Powers. However, it will be dangerous for Tommy. It is a risky maneuver and his powers can still fail at any time during a battle. As one could guess, he agrees instantly to help his friends. Tommy fights valiantly against Goldar and Scorpina. When they grow, it is awesome when he summons the Dragonzord and says “Come on old friend. One more time”. Although he has just enough power to finish the fight and barely survives, he succeeds in getting back the power coins. Consequently, his friends are able to morph and eventually summon the Ultrazord to destroy the Dramole monster, which releases their parents. “Return of a Friend” only strengthens the legend of the Green Ranger. Although he is a team player, he also has a Lone Ranger feel to him with his heroics to save the Rangers. In addition, Zordon’s energy does not totally restore Tommy’s power. They can falter at any time and it is only a matter of time when they are gone forever. For the rest of the season, the Rangers try not to ask Tommy to morph into the Green Ranger unless they absolutely need him so they can ration out the last of his power. As a result, it forces fans to appreciate and savor all the remaining time we have left with the Green Ranger. It just gives another reason why he is most fans’ favorite Ranger. With the stakes of the Rangers’ parents and the magnificent return of Tommy, “Return of a Friend” is easily two of the best episodes in the series.
There have been many subsequent seasons to the Power Rangers franchise. However, most of the fans drawn in by the first season progressively outgrew the franchise after each subsequent season. As a result, the first season of MMPR is the only that holds sentimental and nostalgic value to most fans. In my opinion, it is clearly the best season. It is the only one with the benefit of the novelty of teenagers transforming into superheroes who can summon Zords to face the forces of evil based out in space. We instantly fell in love with Kimberly, then Tommy, and finally Kimberly and Tommy together as a couple. The first season also builds most of the mythology of the series. Of course, it features the majority of the Green Ranger story, who is generally considered the most popular and greatest Power Ranger.