See This, Not That: Power Rangers

Morphenomenal or Monstrous?

Zordon:Rita has escaped. Teleport to us 5 overbearing and overemotional humans.”
Alpha 5:No! Not that! Not teenagers!”
Zordon:That’s correct, Alpha.
Alpha 5: I was afraid of that…”

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers “Day of the Dumpster” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Power Rangers has always been a goofy show. Martial arts, sitcom antics, and  giant robots fighting monsters blended into a pop culture phenomenon. Not bad for a show stitched together from Japanese superhero shows.

Power Rangers is always cheesy, but some seasons are flat out bad. We celebrate their 30th anniversary by telling you which seasons you should watch and which to skip. It’s morphing time.

The Good

#3 Power Rangers: Dino Thunder 

Best Episodes: Legacy of Power, Lost and Found in Translation, Fighting Spirit, Thunder Storm

[a giant monster has appeared]
Conner: “Dr. O, we may have a problem on our hands.
Tommy: [over a communicator] “Let me guess, there’s a thirty-story version of the guy you were just fighting?”
Ethan:You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”
Tommy:Once or twice.”

Power Rangers: Dino Thunder “Wave Goodbye” (Season 1, Episode 3)

It’s important to remember your roots. Where you began will always influence where your path goes. Power Rangers chose to honor their heritage and celebrate hitting 500 episodes.

Synopsis: Three high school students meet in detention. Their teacher, Dr. Tommy Oliver, assigns them to help with a paleontology expedition. The students discover the Dino Gems, containing power from the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. 

Unfortunately, the Gems are being hunted by Mesogog, a sapient dinosaur who wants to kill all humans. Tommy uses the Gems to power Morphers, allowing the teens to fight Mesogog’s monsters as Power Rangers.

Why This Season?: Power Rangers: Dino Thunder perfectly balances serious scenes with self referential comedy. They crack jokes about the Rangers’ tendency to wear the same colors as their suits and repetitive villain schemes. Silly scenes are contrasted with darker moments involving manipulative supporting characters and a no-nonsense villain.

This season draws from the first Power Rangers series, thanks largely to Tommy’s return. The White Ranger’s origins as a villain parallel the Green Ranger’s villainy in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Tommy is forced to fight representations of his past Ranger forms to unlock the black Dino Gem’s full power.

Fun Fact: One episode features The Rangers watching a dubbed episode of their source material, Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger. The writers poke fun at the differences between Power Rangers and Super Sentai, and skewer overzealous fans of one that disparage the other.

#2 Power Rangers in Space

Best Episodes: Always a Chance, The Secret of The Locket, Rangers Gone Psycho, Countdown to Destruction

Astronema:When we’re finished, there will be no good left in the universe, no love, no happiness! Only chaos, anger, greed! Fight strong and destroy all the forces of goodness, especially the Power Rangers! Go now and spread the wrath of Dark Specter!

Power Rangers: In Space “Countdown to Destruction” (Season 1, Episode 42)

No fad can last forever. After 200 episodes and three teams of heroes, Power Rangers was faced with cancellation. But the showrunners decided that if they were going down, it was time to pull out all the stops and finish their story. Revitalizing the series was just icing on the cake.

Synopsis: The Power Rangers have suffered a devastating defeat and venture into space to rescue their mentor. They meet Andros, a Red Ranger who gives them new powers and allows them to join his team as the Space Rangers.

Every villainous army has joined together to form the United Alliance of Evil. They dispatch a feared general named Astronema to conquer Earth and defeat the Rangers. As she struggles to defeat the Rangers, both sides gear up for the ultimate final battle between Good and Evil being waged throughout the universe. 

Why This Series: In Space used everything from the previous three series to build up the final battle. Team-ups with previous heroes, returning villains, and attempts to tie up loose plot threads abound. There’s an air of danger, but still some levity.

The villains are more dangerous than ever. Astronema is a ruthless general with an unknown connection to Andros. She is supported by noble warrior Ecliptor and treacherous Darkonda. This season also introduces The Psycho Rangers, evil counterparts stronger than the Rangers in every way. The Space Rangers are outgunned and must rely on strategy to prevail.

Fun Fact: Early in the season, Power Rangers In Space crosses over with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. The Turtles are brainwashed into trying to kill the Rangers, but break free to fight by their side. What were the writers drinking, and can I have some?

#1 Power Rangers Lost Galaxy

Best Episodes: Redemption Day, The Rescue Mission, Loyax’ Last Battle, The Power of Pink

Magna Defender: [mortally wounded] “Look at them, willing to sacrifice themselves for others. There was a time I would have done the same. But that was a long time ago, before I became obsessed with revenge.”

Power Rangers Lost Galaxy “Redemption Day” (Season 1, Episode 15) 

A brush with death can make you introspective. The same could be said with Power Rangers and cancellation. Their best season blurs the line of morality.

Synopsis: Earth has sent a space colony ship called Terra Venture to find a habitable world. Six inhabitants fall through a wormhole and are transported to the planet Miranoi. They find the Quasar Sabers, Excalibur-like swords buried in stone that transform them into the Galaxy Rangers. Alien conquerors Scorpius and Trakeena chase the Rangers back to Terra Venture to claim their powers.

Why This Season?: Series renewal in hand, Lost Galaxy offered many big ideas. Venture’s mission makes sense after the United Alliance of Evil’s war and is a clever way to adapt nature-themed footage into a space-themed show. The Rangers often run missions to resupply or repair the colony between regular monster fights.

The villains are cartoonishly evil, but given proper motivation. They fight for familial love, loyalty, vengeance, and friendship. One episode showcases a hero who turned evil after deciding that the forces of evil would eventually win. Lost Galaxy also introduces the first anti-heroic Ranger, The Magna Defender, who seeks revenge against Scorpius and will destroy anything to get it.

This is one of the darkest seasons. Many characters die, including a Ranger for the first time. There is also slavery, debates about redemption, and a child murdered in front of his father. The final episodes show Trakeena’s army being trained as suicide bombers. You could never get away with that on a kids show today.

Fun Fact: The writers must love sci-fi movies. The armor used by Terra Venture’s security are props from Starship Troopers. There is also a PG-rated adaptation of Alien, filmed without any footage from the Sentai.  

The Bad

#3 Power Rangers Turbo

Tolerable Episodes: The Millennium Message, The Phantom Phenomenon, One Last Hope, Chase Into Space

Blue Centurion: “The evil pizzas were no match for a simple stoplight.

Power Rangers Turbo “Trouble By The Slice” (Season 1, Episode 22)

Power Rangers has to work with the footage it gets from its Sentai counterpart. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always match with the story the writers want to tell.

Synopsis: A new villain named Divatox appears, leading an army of misfit minions in a campaign to conquer Earth. The Power Rangers are given new, car-themed superpowers. The teenaged Rangers must join forces with a new child hero to stop Divatox.

What Went Wrong?: Turbo’s footage came from a parody season called Gekisou Sentai Carranger. It’s difficult to tell a serious story when seasoned heroes are shown pulling out instruction manuals for their robots or being baked into a giant pizza. Moronic villains with repetitive plots make things worse.

Most of the cast leaves halfway through the season, leaving only kid hero Justin to lead the new recruits. Wise mentor Zordon is replaced with a needlessly cryptic sorceress named Dimitria and Alpha 6, a robot that sounds like a New York cabbie. Suddenly, we have random nobodies going up against a lousy villain. There’s a reason many fans accuse Turbo of almost killing the franchise.

Fun Fact: Power Rangers had a popular competitor called Big Bad Beetleborgs. That show featured children becoming Ranger-like heroes, inspiring the writers to add Justin to appeal to Beetleborgs’ viewers. Ironically, both shows crossed over in a comic.

#2 Power Rangers: Megaforce

Tolerable Episodes: Robo Knight, The Messenger, Silver Lining, Legendary Battle

Jake:Has anyone noticed I’m the wrong color?”
Gosei: [dismissively] “There’s a simple explanation for that.

Power Rangers: Super Megaforce “Super Megaforce” (Season 2, Episode 1)

An anniversary should be a celebration. Maybe you look back on where you’ve been or introduce a story to change everything. This season is how to botch an anniversary.

Synopsis: Five high school students are recruited by Zordon’s apprentice, Gosei. Earth is under attack by aliens and mutants, so they have been chosen to become the Megaforce Power Rangers. Stronger aliens invade after the first season and The Rangers are upgraded to Super Megaforce, with the ability to transform into any previous Ranger. Will it be enough to save the world? 

Why This Season?: Power Rangers Megaforce frankensteined together two seasons of Super Sentai, Goseiger and Gokaiger. This left the writers struggling to condense 100 episodes into two twenty-episode seasons while giving power-up after unearned power-up to the Rangers. Constantly changing villains didn’t help matters.

Producer Jonathan Tzachor wanted to use as much fight scene footage as possible and constantly vetoed other plots. This included footage from Gokaiger of Sentai-only teams with a lazy explanation that they’re “new modes that have never been seen on this planet.” These new powers have a wealth of potential to mine for stories, but nope! You get nothing. You lose. Good day, sir!

Megaforce turned Power Rangers into what so many parents have called it: a thirty-minute toy commercial.

Fun Fact: Many former cast members return in the final episode to take part in a battle featuring every Ranger. Several more were asked to appear, but wouldn’t fly to New Zealand to shoot,  refused the paltry paycheck, or weren’t contacted in time.

#1 Power Rangers Operation Overdrive

Tolerable Episodes: Kick Into Overdrive, Face to Face, It’s Hammer Time, Red Ranger Unplugged

Mr. Hartford: You’re sure this is what you want?
Dax: Yes, we are. We’ve decided to leave Operation Overdrive.

Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive “Once a Ranger” (Season 1, Episode 20)

I’ve been a Power Rangers fan all my life. The show has had highs and lows, but this season is why I stopped watching. It’s payback time. Magic wand, make my vengeance grow!

Synopsis: Millionaire archeologist Andrew Hartford discovers the Corona Aurora, a crown similar to the Infinity Gauntlet. He learns that multiple factions of monsters are coming to Earth to claim it and uses his wealth to create a team of Power Rangers. He recruits four skilled teenagers to join his son and travel the world to find the Corona Aurora.

Why this Season?: Hartford has the money to create a team of Rangers, yet recruits teenagers instead of soldiers, medics, or other adults. The show juggles four factions of villains, whiny Rangers, and atrocious acting. The theme song is one of the worst raps ever.

The Overdrive Rangers lost all respect during an anniversary crossover. Their Ranger powers are lost during a fight, but several veteran Rangers appear to shoulder the burden. Overdrive still has inherent superpowers and advanced tech from Hartford, so you’d think they’d keep fighting, right? No. They quit and return to their normal lives, their foes undefeated and the world still threatened.

No other team has given up. Not the Space Rangers overwhelmed by the United Alliance of Evil, not the Galaxy Rangers being chased across space, even Megaforce fought until the battle was won. The original Power Rangers once lost all of their powers in a crossover with the Justice League and Batman himself reassured them that they weren’t powerless. But the Overdrive Rangers? Morphers or no, they are powerless.

Fun Fact: Behind the scenes, Disney was trying to exert more control over the Power Rangers franchise. They wanted to tone down the violence and make an animated series. Toei, the owners of Super Sentai, refused both overtures.

What is your favorite season of Power Rangers? Is there one worse than these? Tell us in the comments.

Image: Power Rangers Cosmic Fury. (L-R) Tessa Rao as Izzy, Jordon Fite as Aiyon, Hunter Deno as Amelia, and Chance Perez as Javi in Power Rangers Cosmic Fury. Cr. NETFLIX © 2023 Image courtesy Netflix.

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