Picture this: It is 1993, a twelve year old me has arrived half an hour early to his sister's house to watch the latest episode of The Simpsons as she was the one who had sky. I sit down and settle in, and I am greeted by the announcer saying it's time for a brand new show. The screen flashes, the guitars kick in and I given my first glimpse at what would become a lifelong obsession: The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers burned their way into my consciousness in a way few shows have before or since.
I remember immediately running round to my best friends house and when he opened the door being like “Did you see that show before The Simpsons!?” It had everything I loved: Martial Arts, superpowers, deep lore, giant robots and hot girls. I was twelve, so yeah that was becoming a thing.
I remember everyone was talking about it at school for months and years, some pretended it was stupid and funny due to the budget and acting level, which, if I am being entirely honest, is probably a fair thing to level at the show even now. For those who ‘got it’ though, it was a revelation, fueling imaginations and martial arts studio sign ups for years to come.
Fast forward nearly 25 years and Power Rangers is still going strong. There have been eighteen different ranger teams across twenty four seasons with quality raising and falling throughout it’s run. Still though, I keep coming back to series I missed, waiting for the new ones to hit Netflix and each time it's like I am visiting a long lost friend and we have just settled back into the same old routine without even thinking.
That's the thing about the rangers, the format is almost exactly the same season to season, the acting quality varies from ok to ‘makes soap opera actors look good’ levels and it is clearly a show designed to sell toys, but it is enduring. It promotes good vs evil in a way few shows do. Each ranger is righteous, embodying the ‘all-american hero’ and never wavering in their dedication to destroying the forces of evil, no matter the series. They might have blips in confidence, but they have overcome it a few minutes later and destroyed the threat.
It’s this that I like on the most base level, especially given the current world political climate. The Power Rangers represent something rare in the real world: the black and white of good vs evil. There is no shades of grey here, the monsters want to destroy the world and rule the universe with an iron fist, while the rangers must protect life, love and all that is righteous. Through strength, courage and teamwork they will always prevail, and what better message to send out in these dark times?
Getting into the nuances of the show though, I really love the lore of it all. Tapping into the morphing grid, a force like energy field that permeates the universe, allows the rangers to morph. Sure it’s a bit of a rip off at a point, but it is a cool concept. I love the fact that the suits mean they cannot really be harmed, and even when fighting not morphed they have enough skill to defeat the grunt level enemies they face.
That brings me onto another bit of lore I really like, the three rules of being a ranger: Never use your powers for personal gain, never escalate a battle unless forced to and never reveal your identity as no one must know your ranger. It is very cool as they are sensible but provide enough room to work around, and are easily understandable. These were laid down in the very first episode of Mighty Morphin, and every series since has followed them even if they don’t expressly re-hash them.
It’s everything I like on the this side of things, from what the rangers have to say to activate their powers to things like having to go into mysterious caves to retrieve ancient artifacts to grant new abilities, it’s all just cool to me, but the main thing I love is those giant robots, the Zords.
I was a Transformers fan long before I was a Rangers fan, so the fact that these six teenagers could call on colossal fighting machines that could merge into a bigger and even more badass robot was the coolest thing the show ever did. Each series had various zords the team could use, ranging from the original Dino-zords to cars, jets and even trains. When required they could merge, combining into the mighty Megazord, probably one of the most iconic robots ever created, at least the Mighty Morphin Megazord.
The zord transformation sequences always set my pulse racing, it was an escalation of the battle that resulted in such cool fights. To be fair, it got stupid, the city was wrecked every episode (literally entire skyscrapers were blown up!) and perfectly fine with little to no construction work the next, but it worked, providing a sense of scale that kids could get behind without having to deal with silly things like collateral damage.
My absolute favorite thing out of all the power rangers craziness though? The Green Ranger. The five episode arc of Mighty Morphin, Green with Evil, gets two awards: The award for cheesiest name of all time and the award for the greatest set of episodes across so many seasons of a single show.
The main big bad of the original show, Rita Repulsa, has a power coin that can turn someone into a power ranger. She chooses Tommy Oliver, the new kid in town, makes him evil and gives him the power coin, turning him into the Green Ranger. The other rangers have never faced a threat like this, here is someone who can enter their command centre, even their Megazord and attack them at their very core.
Of course they beat him, and when Tommy becomes good again, joining the full ranger team, it was iconic for both myself and big fans of the show. It is a moment that has yet to be beaten in the other series, and the shows creators know it, because Jason David Frank who plays Tommy keeps popping up in other later series, always as Tommy and on more occasions than not, the Green Ranger.
I will watch Power Rangers for as long as it keeps going, I already know that. Some of the series are absolutely stellar for what they are, with highlights being Jungle Fury, SPD, Light Speed Rescue and of course, Mighty Morphin. It’s a show that promotes the good in people, and that working together means we can overcome even world ending threats.
Over the years many criticisms have been leveled at it though. The level of violence, out of reality story lines, bad acting, the fact no one tries a diplomatic solution. To be fair, and as I have pointed out already, the acting can be really bad. Fan’s know and understand this, and I for one count it as part of the charm of the show, but some series it is bad even for Power Rangers. Megaforce and Super Megaforce have some of the worst acting of any series, coupled with poorly developed back stories for the main cast. Conversely, Jungle Fury had some of the best, so it really does swing to either side of the pendulum.
On to the subject of violence. Yes, the rangers provide a violent response to a violent and destructive enemy, but it's not like they haven’t tried to talk and not fight before. There was even a couple of episodes that it worked and the monster helped the rangers in the end, admittedly they are few and far between but still.
What people fail to understand is that the Power Rangers are a last line of defence. The only hope against creatures too powerful for conventional weapons and military forces, they don’t really want to fight, but they will protect the planet from the threat. Besides which, the monsters almost always show up with the intention to fight, and once someone’s mind is made up, it is very hard to change it.
Finding a diplomatic solution is nice but against the monsters depicted in the show, it just won’t work, plus it’s boring. One thing no one seems to level at the show is that is boring. The music, the explosions, the fighting, the weapons, everything pops off the screen with bright colours, flashes zings. You can almost smell the burning after a particularly large explosion, and it is cool as hell.
That's the thing about Power Rangers: it's so cool. Even nearly 25 years after its debut, it remains true to its roots, guitar heavy soundtracks mixed with martial arts, giant robots, laser weapons and explosions galore. Is it cheesy? It’s worse than a stilton factory. Is it stupid? Hell yes, five teenagers are the best hope to defeat an army of evil monsters, I mean come on!
Is it great in spite of this? Why yes, yes it is. Sit down, turn off your brain and watch a few episodes. You certainly won’t be bored, and might even come out of the experience a bit buzzed. I know I do every single time.