MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS (1993-1997)
NOTE: This being what I call “The Green Ranger Saga.” The next 6 weeks will focus on this saga alone, five episodes and one big closing post of analysis and thoughts. Subsequently, there will no closing commentary for each individual episode beyond the final thoughts.
Episode: Green With Evil
Director: Robert Hughes
Teleplay: Gary Glasberg & Stewart St. John
Cast: Amy Jo Johnson, Jason David Frank, David Yost, Walter Jones, Thuy Trang, Austin St. John, Paul Schrier, Jason Narvy, David Fielding, Richard Steven Horovitz, Richard Genelle, Barbara Goodman
Original Air Date: October 5-9, 1993
Reason for Inclusion: Introduction of the Green Ranger/Tommy, plus being a pretty epic 5-part series
When “The Green Ranger Saga” began in the fall of 1993, I was pretty vested in Power Rangers so the prospect of a five-part mini-series (the equivalent of a feature length film) that promised to be the most epic thing ever was intense. At the time, the show came on at 5p CST, so I remember being very antsy about the show starting from my arrival home at 3:45. Each day the tension grew and the fear that maybe the Ranger would be beaten, would get stronger and stronger. The ultimate pay-off was worth it. There was a new team member, a new Zord and all sorts of new possibilities for defeating Rita and saving the world.
It’s with those eyes that I look back on it now and feel some significant admiration for what they actually did in those five episodes. As much as I do like to mock certain aspects of the series, they really did out-do themselves in many ways. It certainly can’t have been an easy undertaking, but Glasberg & St. John really managed to make a very cohesive five part mini-series without drawing it out too long. It drags some during Part IV (just how many times can Green Ranger break into the Command Center?), and the ending is a bit…anti-climactic (Green Ranger is good, new Zord combo, the end! No big fight or anything). But over all, the mini-series keeps it moving and keeps you excited.
Right away, every single one of us knew that Tommy was going to be the Green Ranger. Not only did we learn it in the credits, but unless the vast majority of 8-10 year olds are living under rocks, we knew that the introduction of a new character was not coincidental. What we didn’t anticipate was how much of a challenge for Jason he would be. We also didn’t anticipate the sparks that would fly between he and Kimberly.
The Saga also brought in a few other things that didn’t normally happen. Bulk and Skull had their first major encounter with Rita’s henchmen. Scorprina arrives on the scene, which marks the first major female warrior (if you don’t count Madame Woe…which I don’t). We also see more of Rita’s castle as well as the alternate dimension (that will come back into play several more times).
The Saga also brings about one of the biggest changes they made during the first part of the series: they shift the balance of power from Jason to Tommy, making Tommy the new leader. In the original Japanese series, the Red and Green Rangers were brothers, and for complicated plot reasons (which sadly aren’t terribly clear on the websites for the original Zyuranger series), the Green Ranger has been in suspended animation (this is clearly visible in the first episode) and would have been the leader from the get go. Because the American storyline did not follow this, and all post-Green Ranger footage presents the Green Ranger as the leader, they were forced to write this into the series.
Unfortunately, this had some unforeseen ramifications backstage. According to cast members in the interview available on the box set, once Frank came in, St. John started to get restless and difficult to work with. While no one seems willing to go into details, most of the cast members refer to him as a bit “odd” and “strange,” and he is noticeably absent from the interviews. (Amy Jo Johnson declined to appear and Thuy Trang is dead and unable to appear). Presumably it was not too long after this that he began searching for reasons to leave, even though his departure is a good year or so away.
Overall, the acting across the episodes is pretty consistent and actually above the board. The cast had more to do with their characters and with their emotions, so they were able to actually get some development in…not a lot, no major revelations about anyone came out, but enough to make it seem like they were actually trying. The only one who isn’t a terribly good actor (unfortunately, given his status) is Jason David Frank. His line readings are stiff and he has the emotional range of a wet rag.
To be fair, none of the actors on the series are really spectacular in the acting department. It was a non-union children’s show that churned out episodes at an alarmingly fast rate, the actors were frequently having to voice-over themselves (due to outside filming locations) and honestly, it wasn’t a show that really revolved around the acting.
That being said, Frank is a notable exception. He has moments, but quite frequently he always seems like he’s there to fight nice and look pretty. It’s also nice to see Austin St. John given a run for his money for worst acting ever.
Time has been a fickle friend to the Power Rangers. Some episodes retain their original power and awesomeness. Some are downright bizarre and laughable. This segment definitely falls into the former category. While there are things to laugh at, overall they created one of the best arcs the series and the season have. They created an event in the lives of its fans, and they created something you can look back and and go “This. This is why I liked this series.” I have to say that it gets a really solid A+ from me, because despite its problems (of which there are few), it all works overall and all comes together in the end.