Saban broke new ground when it shipped over a bunch of Japanese tapes and tried to splice it into a series about a rainbow-squad of teens fighting evil with dinosaur power. The result was an instant mega-hit that spawned everlasting sequels and firmly ingrained itself in pop culture, but ’90s kids looking back on the series today might end up with some mixed opinions on how the whole thing was churned out.
There’s a whole lot of good and a whole lot of awful in the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers — which will seemingly be a major influence on the upcoming Power Rangers reboot movie — so here are six moments of each. In the spirit of both being contrary and ending with a bang, we’ll start with the worst…
Best Moment #1 – Green Ranger Invades the Megazord
The introduction of Tommy the Green Ranger was a sign that the show was growing up a little, moving away from villain-of-the-week plots and finally trying something new. You’re reading an article about Power Rangers, so let’s not pretend you don’t know how it all went down: Rita had the green power coin, she turned Tommy evil, he became the Green Ranger and the green-clothed teen suddenly acting like a douche to everyone was still a HUGE TWIST, you guys, seriously. The entire “Green With Evil” arc was pretty great (except for part 3, where practically nothing happened), but one of the crowning moments comes at the end of part 1.
The Rangers are in the midst of some typical, daily business, taking on Goldar in the Megazord. That’s when the Green Ranger — displaying a stunning degree of genre-savvy, especially for this show — does something that no villain had ever done, or has (probably) done since: he attacks the Rangers inside their Megazord. The back door to the cockpit opens up (who even knew it could do that??), Tommy declares that he’s there to wreck their day in the name of Empress Rita, and he wastes no time punching Trini right in the face. We see sparks flying from the Megazord’s head, and seconds later it’s raining Power Rangers as the entire team is ousted from the cockpit and forced onto the ground. And then the Green Ranger curb-stomps the entire team, finishing them off with some sort of magical green hadouken.
Not only did this make the Green Ranger the smartest and most powerful villain faced to date, it also flipped the formula on its head and had the Rangers facing off against a mysterious one of their own…one who’d later become the most famous Power Ranger of all time.
Best Actual Moment – Jason: “You think you’re so tough? Take me on!”
Best Moment #2 – The Megazords are Annihilated
Power Rangers is so familiar to one-off gimmicks and villains, sometimes it feels like the show invented the concept. Rito Revolto seemed set to continue this trend with his first appearance in “Ninja Quest”: while his getup was threatening enough, he was still portrayed as a bumbling idiot who barely knew one end of his sword from another. The fact that he was the brother of Rita — herself a titanic, serial failure — was just the icing on the cake, so when he was zapped to giant-size to take on both the Thunder Megazord AND the White Tigerzord by himself, it seemed like Rito had blundered in without thinking things through.
Thus is comes as a bit of a surprise when Rito manages to land quite a few decent hits on both of them, apparently subscribing to the Goku school of acting like a doofus until it’s time to fight. He then reveals the full extent of his plan when Rita and Zedd enlarge a group of other monsters (once again, a bit of genre-savvy gives evil the edge), and their combined forces manage to wreck both Zords so badly that the Rangers are forced out and de-morphed. What follows is one of the most harrowing Power Rangers scenes of all time: the Rangers are forced to watch as their Zords explode, their heads rolling off as their bodies are turned into charred hunks of useless scrap. All this on a colorful kid-friendly show where the good guys always win. Well, not this time. There’s no remedy for the situation, either, and the Power Rangers are forced to find entirely new powers and outfits (specifically ninja ones). Meanwhile, Rito never does anything vaguely useful ever again.
Best Moment #3 – Tommy vs Jason
Speaking of “Green With Evil,” let’s fast-forward to the very end of the saga (and particularly past episode 3, because it’s 22 minutes of Jason rolling around in some smoke while the other four repeat some variation of “Where’s Jason, you guys?”). Tommy has managed to pick himself up a certified Sword of Evil™ which apparently made him slightly more unstoppable than before. He was already evil, he’d already wrecked the Rangers all by himself, but the stock footage demanded that he hold a sword so the writers shrugged and decided that this would be a convenient way to make him a good guy.
The saga ends with an epic showdown between Tommy and Jason, both armed with swords and fighting at their best. Sure, at least 40% of the fights in early Power Rangers episodes were ineffective high kicks, and Jason technically shouldn’t have stood a chance. However, the fight stands out because of the energy of the scene, the fact that both combatants are using the full extent of their powers and that Jason ends it by way of an epic, shiny Power Sword throw. You can really feel the rivalry of the two as they hack and slash at each other, even busting out some never-before-seen moves in their determination to win. Thus, Power Ranger history is made.
Best Moment #4 – The Rangers Save Zordon
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie might not be canon — it takes places in its own continuity — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome. The suits look amazing and the blocky-suited fights are replaced by sleek, early 20th century CGI, which is to say that it’s CGI that’s passable for any very young children watching. Nice score, too.
The movie is full of epic moments — the first morph, the summoning of the Ninjetti, the reveal of the Great Power, the debut of the new Zords, Ivan Ooze being defeated via knee to the groin — but one stands out in terms of sheer heart-warming goodness. The Rangers return from their final battle to find Zordon, their mentor and father-figure, most likely dead after having his life-support tube shattered. After a moment of sadness, they realize that they possess the “Great Power,” which means “all things are possible.” Fortunately they never made another movie in this continuity, since it would’ve involved all the Rangers joining hands and wishing evil out of existence (and then spending the next 119 minutes at some charity event), but that’s what they do here. Using the power they’ve gained, they manage to unleash it in a burst that fixes the Command Center and revives Zordon. There are smiles, lots of pretty lights and an incredibly uplifting score from Graeme Revell, creating quite the touching scene.
Best Actual Moment – Once again, Kimberly steals the scene with her genuinely overjoyed reaction to Zordon’s revival. Unsurprisingly, Amy Jo-Johnson seems to have had the most successful acting career outside of the series.
Best Moment #5 – You Don’t Mess With the Pink Ranger
Every now and then, you’ll get a villain-of-the-week who manages to be mildly more successful than most, putting several Rangers out of commission and forcing the few left to fight by themselves. The Terror Toad is one such monster, and he does so by eating most of the team. Despite morbid obesity and the approximate manoeuvrability of a heavily pregnant hippopotamus, he manages to take on three Rangers by himself, consuming each one in turn and leaving only Billy and Kimberly. Then Billy basically chucks himself down the thing’s throat like an idiot, leaving Kimberly to take on both the Terror Toad and (for some reason) Baboo alone.
So what does she do? Cower in fear? Teach kids a lesson about having courage in the face of adversity? No, because the Pink Ranger is about getting down to business, which here means painful murder. She immediately goes full-Legolas and uses her bow to turn the toad’s throat into a pincushion, releasing her teammates. There’s some dramatic posing before they all realize that Kim’s got this, after which she does possibly the coolest thing ever with a Power Ranger weapon: she fires an arrow that shoots through the trees, turning corners like a heat-seeking missile until it flies right down the Terror Toad’s gullet, exploding him from the inside so thoroughly that there’s nothing left for Rita to enlarge. No Megazord battle for him.
And on that day, children around the world learned to be very afraid of the Pink Ranger. It’s almost like Kim’s teammates were holding her back.
Best Moment #6 – Lord Zedd Arrives, Makes Parents Angry
The first season of MMPR had sixty episodes. A few were two-parters (or longer), but even many of those contained more than a single monster or plan. Rounding up, it’s safe to say that Rita Repulsa, empress of evil and the greatest threat the world had ever known, had been handed around fifty straight defeats by that point.
With this stellar record in mind, early season 2 saw the arrival of Lord Zedd, one of the most fearsome-looking Power Ranger villains of all time and leagues apart from Rita when it came to competency. His arrival is heralded by a whole lot of evil lightning and what seems like about thirty different scenes which purely involve him chewing Rita out for being useless, which at this point was totally justified and extremely satisfying. Acting as the villain that we’d always wanted to see, he has Rita and her glass-shattering screeches sealed back into her dumpster and flung into space, making it clear that this is a more permanent switch of leadership.
And sure, one of his very first acts is forming a new putty patrol that are even easier to destroy than the previous kind, but he gets better. So much better, in fact, that there was an outcry from parents who deemed Lord Zedd too scary. Also, Lord Zedd (despite his name) is an all-American creation, with no Sentai counterpart, meaning that scenes on the Moon Base were now stepping up to original footage instead of dubbing over the lips of an overacting Japanese woman.
Best Actual Moment – Lord Zedd doesn’t just walk in like he owns the place. He teleports in on his own chair, which then spins around to reveal him sitting there…like he owns the place. The chair is down, folks.
Worst Moment #1 – Rocky Just Wants to Have Fun
The character of Rocky wasn’t exactly set up for success. He took the place of Jason, the original Red Ranger, which instantly had him pegged as a poor replacement. On top of that, he became the only Red Ranger in the franchise who never got to lead the team; that honor went to Tommy for the entire run of MMPR. Thus, Rocky was just a blank slate filling a set of red pajamas, until he got his very own focus episode: “Rocky Just Wants to Have Fun.” And then everyone hated him just that little bit more. Mission accomplished?
The entire episode could be blended into one terrible moment, but perhaps the worst scene is when Rocky develops an unhealthy addiction to a game of pachinko. Lord Zedd would later zap him with a spell that makes him addicted to having fun — because writing is hard and this show could get very stupid — but Rocky was acting like a brain-dead junkie before this even happens. Afterwards? He starts to neglect his duties as a Ranger in favor of pachinko, hanging out on monkey bars and playing with his friends. By “playing with his friends,” the obvious double-meaning was that the pachinko machine was turned into a monster, which then turned the Rangers into pachinko balls…which Rocky played with. Because he just wanted to have fun. Again, very stupid.
The result was an episode where we learned nothing about Rocky, the gimmick was dumb and we’re left wondering if Lord Zedd had just stopped trying to be evil.
Worst Actual Moment – Rocky plays with the machine for about three seconds, then turns to the camera and declares “this is tooooo fuuun!” in a tone that suggests that the director was holding a gun to his head off-camera and ‘encouraging’ him to put in ‘more energy.’
Worst Moment #2 – Conspicuously Absent Actors
Saban found themselves in a bit of a bind near the end of season 1, as they were raking in masses of cash from both the show and toy sales, and the actors wanted to benefit from the profits. The exact details of the dispute are unknown, but it’s pretty common knowledge that portraying a Power Ranger didn’t pay as well as you’d expect. Austin St. John, Walter Jones and Thuy Trang (the Red, Black and Yellow Rangers) started suffering cuts to their screen-time, which eventually culminated in them walking out.
The problem there was that — short of opening the next episode with a discussion about how they all died in a freak triathlon accident — Jason, Zack and Trini were still characters on the show. The solution: a handful of episodes jam packed with bad dubbing and stock footage! Yes, Finster, it’s perfect!
The result is a nightmarish mess that uses every trick in the book to convince gullible children that their favorite Power Team hadn’t just been sawn clean in half. Sometimes the absent three only appear morphed, other times have their lines from previous episodes recycled, and sometimes Tommy, Kimberly and Billy have to act alongside back-of-the-head stunt doubles pretending to be their teammates. It gets particularly bad when the same reaction shots are used within the space of a single scene — as if they didn’t have literal scores of episodes to mine for footage. It might have been the only solution at the time, but it was also dragged out and not done all that convincingly.
Worst Actual Moment – The three leaving Rangers pass on their powers to their replacements, leaving them all in their conveniently face-wrapping helmets. Then the old crowd are shooed out of the Command Center with all the ceremony of leaving a Starbucks once you’ve got your morning coffee.
Worst Moment #3 – Kimberly and Billy as ‘Punks’
“Power Rangers get turned into things” is the plot of roughly 50% of MMPR episodes, so much so that you’ve just roll with it after a while. Turned into pachinko balls? Or giant fluffy dice? Yeah, whatever.
Unfortunately, “Power Ranger Punks” has the distinction of being one of the first, and most terrible, transformations in the series’ history. Kimberly and Billy are roofied with a potion that turns them into ‘punks,’ and it’s clear that dictionaries did indeed exist in the ’90s, making it unforgivable that the writing team didn’t make use of them to look up the term. The two turn into scenery chewers even worse than Rita herself, adorning themselves with supposedly-edgy clothing; this means that Kimberly is wearing a bizarre pink bodysuit corset and looks like her hair stylist was an electrical outlet, while Billy is dressed in denim and a weird head bandanna. And sunglasses, like all real punks. Edgy guitar music follows them wherever they go, and while Kimberly talks like an alien body-snatcher unfamiliar with the human tongue, Billy just yells a lot and peppers his sentences with “man.”
Perhaps if this was season 2, Amy Jo-Johnson and David Yost might have possessed the necessary acting chops to pull this off. As it is, the whole episode is sheer cringe until they’re inevitably ‘cured’ of being stereotypes for a culture that existed only in the writers’ mind.
Worst Actual Moment – Kimberly: “When we get out of here…we are gonna kick…your sorry…BUNS!”
Worst Moment #4 – Everything About the Ticklesneezer
Power Ranger monsters are usually pretty ugly, but only a few truly pass into “kill it with fire” territory. And on that note, here’s “Ticklesneezer.” He’s the creepiest doll in Trini’s creepy doll collection, and he becomes the focus of the episode when Rita Repulsa makes him into a monster (which is to say she makes him bigger and able to move).
You don’t expect much from the throwaway villains on the show, but this guy clocks in at episode nine. This is long before the writers should be running out of ideas and busting out the dusty, mish-mash costumes that are guaranteed to make children cry. The worst moment comes when we realize that Ticklesneezer, despite his forsaken visage, isn’t exactly into the idea of wanton destruction. He just likes to trap people and things inside bottles, like a psychologically disturbed hoarder with no concept of the human need for oxygen. We then get to spend a whole episode watching him stumble around with the only menacing part of the whole thing being his face, or perhaps the concept of how Trini could love such an abomination without some kind of severe trauma in her past.
Worst Moment #5 – The Longest Rescue in History
Padding is a necessary part of any show, because sometimes you just need to hit that golden episode mark and some clever footage manipulation is the way to go. MMPR is guiltier of this than most, and the worst example has to be during part 4 of “Green With Evil.”
Bulk and Skull have found themselves on a bus about to tip over the edge of the cliff, with the Power Rangers congregated at the bottom. Problem is, a bunch of Putties are nudging the bus over, leaving the Rangers in a bind as they decide what to do. Which is to say they squander the next few minutes of your life by doing jack-all, spouting meaningless, repetitive drivel such as “THE BUS IS GONNA GO OVER!” and “WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!” and “HAS IT BEEN 22 MINUTES YET??”
All the while we’re treated to Bulk and Skull’s hi-larious brand of slapstick comedy as they roll around in an empty bus, make weird comments about their mothers and pretend their lives are in mortal danger. Just as it seems like the scene is stretching into the heat death of the universe, the Rangers come up with a cunning solution: summon their Zords and form the Megazord! Like, that thing they should’ve done from the start. And it’s not a quick smash-and-grab operation, either; it’s the full summoning sequence, leaving you time to grab a coffee, brush your teeth, take a nap and maybe burn through most of The Fellowship of the Ring (but not the extended edition, you cocky scamp). The Megazord catches the bus just in time, forcing us to ponder what we could’ve been doing with those lost minutes of our lives.
Worst Actual Moment – When the writers had clearly run out of things for the Rangers to say. There’s an awkward pause, Trini very slowly lifts her hands to her helmet and cries out “OH NO.”
Worst Moment #6 – The Power Rangers Promote Education (for no reason)
It makes sense for the Power Rangers to be celebrities, since they save the world every other week (or at least Angel Grove), putting their lives on the line and never basking in any of the glory. One thing they really haven’t stood for, however, is education. They solve all their problems with martial arts and overgrown robot toys that shoot missiles. Harvey Garvey didn’t quite get the memo though, and somehow managed to contact the Power Rangers for an appearance on his talk show, the Harvey Garvey Show, which somehow exists despite its name.
So that’s what they do, all six Rangers awkwardly squeezed onto some very small sofas in the hopes that they aren’t conditioned child soldiers and one of them actually has something profound to say. Harvey Garvey, who apparently has absolutely no standards for who gets to be on his show aside from “can do Karate,” asks them vague questions about the importance of staying in school, and we get some dicey stock footage that tries to make it look like the Rangers solve their problems with intelligence week after week instead of an endless production line of deus ex machinas and lightning swords. Not that we’re begrudging them the lightning swords; it’d just be nice if the Power Rangers didn’t go on TV to blatantly lie to children worldwide.
Worst Actual Moment – Harvey Garvey attempts one of those high-kicks the Rangers are so fond of and ends up almost snapping his spine. That’s okay, because he’s a terrible person, but even professional wrestling is more responsible than his garbage talk show.
Honorable mention for this episode: Tommy announces that things are getting serious by spouting “Lights, camera, we’re morphing into action!” Maybe stick to spin kicks and leave the one-liners to someone else, Tommy.
And now, for some of the BEST moments…
Any great or terrible MMPR moments we missed? Let us know in the comments!