From humble beginnings as an ultra-low-budget splice series that no one thought would take off, all the way to present day success, it’s easy to imagine Power Rangers going the way of The Simpsons and just never ending. We’ve had dinosaurs, ninjas, magicians, kung-fu masters, dinosaurs again, post-apocalyptic defenders, samurai, dinosaurs for a third time and soon, ninjas again. This Power Ranger train isn’t stopping any time soon.
But there’s one who stands out as the greatest, most long-lived Ranger of all time. He’s cycled through a few colors, but few nineties kids would fail to recognize Tommy Oliver as the Green Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, the one who started evil and became a legend.
Not much has been said on Tommy joining us for Saban’s new movie series, but until then, here are some Green Ranger facts you may not have known…
15. He Was the First Ever Sixth Ranger
The addition of a sixth ranger is as old as the hills in Power Ranger lore, being present in every series in some form and pretty much (poorly) lampshaded into oblivion during Megaforce. You’ve got your core team of five, after which the sixth ranger enters the fray, gets their own special storyline, becomes so hyper-competent for a few episodes that he/she makes the rest of the team look like incompetent chimps, and then just sort of settles in for the rest of the series. With some slight variations, that’s your basic Sentai/PR formula, with the only exceptions being Ranger-ish characters who hang around the main team and do most of the same stuff (a la Magna Defender).
Except in Zyuranger (the series that spawned the American Mighty Morphin’ counterpart), the Green Ranger was a ground-breaking event. While the very first for worldwide viewers, Zyuranger came in at number sixteen overseas, yet it was also the first to feature a sixth ranger. What’s more, it was a rogue ranger who tried his best to destroy the main team before converting to the side of good. The end result was the same in both English and Japanese: a breakout character who proved popular enough to become the face of the series, return time and time again, and also start a sixth ranger tradition that’s been going strong ever since.
14. His Sentai Counterpart Died
Like Tommy Oliver, the Sentai Green Ranger is considered one of the most iconic and enduring characters of the series, to the point where many would tune in for the character alone. Sadly this wasn’t to last, as while the PR version simply lost his Green powers, Tommy’s Sentai equivalent Burai straight up died.
Yep, Japanese kids are apparently made of sterner stuff than the rest of the world — or at least, the censors seem to think so — because they didn’t shy away from having a Ranger die on-screen. Twice, in fact. With his powers dwindling, Burai was confined to a cave for most of the time, resting in suspended animation when he wasn’t sorely needed. He eventually ended up being crushed in a cave-in, which as far as Power Rangers deaths go is right up there in terms of childhood trauma. This explains Tommy’s lack of appearances in Power Rangers, mostly handwaved as him being off doing karate, or sleeping in, or forgetting his communicator, or some other excuse that makes him a terrible defender of the Earth.
Later briefly resurrected, Burai was able to last a while longer before his powers were finally exhausted and he died again, this time for good. That was until one of the many, many specials in which he was brought back, because nostalgia mixed with merchandising profits is a combo potent enough to literally wake the dead.
13. That Awful Dragon Shield Replica
Speaking of differences between versions, of which there are many, let’s talk about that Dragon Shield. It’s perhaps the main reason you can recognize the Mighty Morphin Green Ranger a mile away, because without it he’s just another member of the team in ill-fitting spandex. It also just looks really great…except when you switch from grainy Sentai footage to any of the original American stuff, when it turns into a floppy paper nightmare that couldn’t defend you from a particularly antagonistic stiff breeze.
Saban either had their props shipped over, made them in-studio or just tried to splice together footage to make it look like…well, yeah, the American suit actors and that monster are TOTALLY fighting each other, you guys, come on. The monster fired a thing and the Rangers fell down. Flawless editing.
The iconic Dragon Shield was unfortunately damaged in transit, leaving Saban to hastily cobble one together for their future cash cow and his original footage scenes. What we got was a sad, floppy bit of fabric that had no place drooping wearily around the neck of a planetary defender. They’d make their own, more solid version for future seasons, but for the Green Ranger’s actual career, he had to wear a shield that even the four-year-old demographic thought looked trashy. Things really got awkward when Tommy solemnly passed the shield onto Jason, who had to employ all of his acting chops to pretend that this was a great honor and not the equivalent of receiving a knitted jumper from your myopic grandmother.
12. Green Became White (with some stock footage trickery)
Whether you were totally into him hogging all the screen time or raging at how all of Rocky’s focus episodes were passed over (because we all wanted to know more about that guy, right?), Tommy quickly established himself as the most popular and profitable member of the team. Even with all the Sentai footage exhausted, he was just too much of a fan favorite to be written out; thus, a costume from another series entirely was shipped in for Tommy to continue as the White Ranger, stock footage be damned. The White Ranger became the leader (because again, merchandising trumps everything) and Tommy managed to hold onto this position for a good few years until halfway through Turbo. By this time, he’d been through five Ranger suits (ninja, Zeo and Turbo on top of Green and White) and even then, the character wasn’t quite done.
Jason David Frank would return as a Power Ranger veteran in Forever Red, and later in Dino Thunder as a Black Ranger, before again donning his original Green suit for the Legendary War.
The final tally? That’s six Ranger powers, six Zords, four different colors and a grand total of 234 episodes. Thus far, anyway. It’s pretty safe to say this guy is the face of Power Rangers, even if most people only remember him as the long-haired guy in green.
11. Evil Green Doppelgangers, Everywhere
If there’s one thing Power Rangers loves, it’s flashy, ineffective high-kicks. Second on that list is stock footage. Third are storylines where the Rangers are either turned into wacky things or put under spells to make them act weird, and in fourth place is reusing plots.
Running with that last one, we’ve seen countless versions of Rangers having to fight evil doppelgangers of themselves, spawned from one evil source or another. Tommy being the marketing poster child, this tends to happen to him a lot, particularly in regards to the Green Ranger. In MMPR alone he tussles with evil versions of himself several times, be it either dark illusions or actual clones brought to life by dang-nasty magic. The trend continues in Dino Thunder, where a comatose Tommy has to engage in mental warfare with Zeo Ranger Red, the White Ranger and finally the Green Ranger, which sort of makes sense. Green is his greatest challenge, since he had his origins in being Rita’s brainwashed flunkie and it’s probably been a sore point ever since.
Tommy wasn’t alone in this, of course; the other Mighty Morphin’ Rangers had their fair share of evil clones, ranging from transformed putties to creepy stalker statues brought to life (Billy had a very tangled love life). Still, with so many pretty colors and powers to choose from, Tommy always seemed to get hit with this the hardest.
10. The Green Ranger Was Never Meant to Last
Fun fact: Power Rangers was only ever meant to get one season before wrapping up. It’s a bizarre thought, looking back at how it’s still going strong on both TV and soon the big screen two decades later, but that was always the deal. Saban was adapting a bizarre Japanese series and splicing footage to try to make something that kids would want to watch, for a little while at least. It wasn’t a fool-proof plan. Then Power Rangers would just become another, brief relic that people from the internet age would one day dig up and laugh at.
Obviously things didn’t go to quite the way they were expecting, and the series became mega-hit and a merchandising juggernaut. And what of the Green Ranger? His story was meant to end pretty early on as well. Footage for the character was limited, given that he was kind of sporadic in the original, meaning that he was always planned to be a character who came, went, came, went and finally lost his powers before returning to a normal life of street karate and morning hair-brushing sessions.
Cue the popularity explosion, and it’s really not hard to see why he became the star of the show. The Green Ranger saga shook up the tired formula like nothing else, marked a huge shift in the mythos and introduced the mother of all breakout characters. When the footage ran dry, it was purely down to Tommy’s popularity that he was dragged back into the fray in a costume that never quite fit the aesthetic. The kids didn’t care, buying up White Tigerzord toys in droves and ensuring that Rocky never got any decent focus episodes. Yeah, screw Rocky.
9. Jason David Frank’s Achievements in Breaking Stuff
Jason David Frank hasn’t done a huge amount of acting outside of Power Rangers, but he’s certainly kept busy in the intervening years nonetheless.
Originally auditioning for the role of Red Ranger Jason at the age of 17 (yes, they were actually teenagers — just about) before later returning as Tommy, Frank was continually kept on in Power Rangers due to his popularity with the viewers, which eventually ran out around the middle of Turbo. This led to him focusing on mixed martial arts, which was one of the reasons he scored the role in the first place.
Though only debuting on the pro scene in recent, Frank has done pretty well for himself in terms of accomplishments and records broken, with even a Guiness World Record under his belt for ‘Most pine boards broken in freefall’. It’s likely that most of us have no idea what that is or what it entails, but it’s nearly impossible not to think of Jason David Frank swooshing through the air, yelling one of Tommy’s famous “kiai” (preferably the one that sounds like ‘woodzeep-YUAAH’) and smashing a load of boards in glorious slow motion.
8. Zyuranger: Not Quite the Same
Tommy Oliver’s Japanese counterpart as the Green Ranger was Burai, or more accurately ‘Yamato Tribe Knight Burai’, because it’s Japanese television and everything has to be eight times as long. It’s really impossible to understate how different Zyuranger and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers really are, because aside from coloured suits and Zords, you’d never even think that one spawned the other. For example, the Blue Ranger is kind of an idiot, the Yellow Ranger is a guy, and there’s no Zordon or Alpha; just an old guy with a staff.
The team from Zyuranger are all from prehistoric times and are reawakened to fight evil in the modern era, hence why they hang out with dinosaurs and have wacky, fish-out-of-water adventures when not piloting their gigantic mechs. The Green Ranger saga has a few similarities, with Burai carrying out a vendetta against the team and working alongside Rita (or ‘Witch Bandora’), but things otherwise run a lot deeper. Burai has a serious grudge against Red Ranger Geki going back millennia, which is far too complicated to explain (again: Japanese television) but basically drives all of Burai’s actions.
After coming to his senses, Burai joined the team, but since his powers were tied to the green candle, he could only fight for short periods of time and when the team needed him most. Afterwards, he’d return to a cave where time was stopped, preserving his life. He eventually died for good after his cave was destroyed, prompting a furious letter-writing campaign from fans to bring him back to life.
Naturally, as in Power Rangers, the writing staff relented and Burai was…wait, no, they didn’t. They left him good and dead as a lesson to all the kids that sometimes, heroes die. So either that scarred an entire generation or taught them a valuable lesson. Perhaps both?
7. Tomberly Shippers on Deck
Ever since Tommy came on the scene, the show started to revolve around his romance with Pink Ranger Kimberly (which here means ‘they occasionally kissed each other on the cheek and stuff, because censors’). The two remained an item even after Kimberly left the show and passed her powers onto Katherine, even if it never really went much further than your typical high-school dating.
Things would all come to an end during the course of Zeo, when Tommy received a breakup letter from Kimberly so devastating he could only cope by walking alone on the beach while thinking of all the sweet cheek-kisses they’d shared and how one day they were going to move onto lip stuff. If shipping was even a thing back in the nineties, fans were surely outraged (much like they currently are over the budding Jason/Kimberly romance in the new film).
The former Green Ranger’s love life has scarcely been revisited since then, though one episode of Zeo featured a possible version of the future in which Tommy is married to Kat and their grandchild is a Power Ranger. This opened up a ton of plot holes and once again didn’t go over too well with fans, thus causing it to be scrapped. Nowadays, Tommy is apparently just an ordinary science teacher, single and thus free to go off to save the world at a moment’s notice.
6. All of Tommy’s Suits Are Different Sentai Characters
Super Sentai has always had a slightly stronger continuity than PR, with multiple crossovers and guest appearances to really solidify the madcap Japan in which these people live and pilot giant, monster-stomping robots. Still, the team rotations have been a staple from the start, starting pretty much every time with a team of fresh faces.
That’s the state of Power Rangers at the moment, but in the early days, the same characters moved through powers like they were just switching clothes, with Tommy sticking around the longest. With even Billy jetting off to an alien planet to hook up with a telepathic fish-girl (don’t ask), Tommy continued into Turbo and became a sort of relic of the old times, at least until he passed the powers on. Years later, he’d be back as the Black Dino Thunder Ranger…which at this point meant he’d technically played five different people. MMPR Green, White, Zeo and Turbo Red, Dino Thunder Black; the Sentai versions were all different characters from completely separate seasons, most of whom had never even met each other.
Footage-wise, they managed to get away with this by casting Jason David Frank as roles that were either leaders or mentors (so the folks in the suits acted more or less like he would), but it’s most telling in his role as the White Ranger. The original had an actual child in the role who grew to full size when morphing (don’t ask), meaning that Tommy could often be seen bouncing up and down like an excited toddler or generally emoting in ways that didn’t really suit him. Ah, the perils of meddling with stock footage.
5. Tommy Almost Headed a Global Organisation
Fun fact #2: we got pretty close to having a Power Rangers series titled ‘Hexagon’, and it would’ve been awesome. An ambitious project from the start, it would’ve focused on a central, public organization of hundreds of Power Rangers that protect the world from global threats. Think S.H.I.E.L.D., but with more colourful spandex outfits. The series would’ve focused on new recruits, tied up loose ends from all the seasons that came before, featured appearances from many past villains and cameos from a ton of past rangers, including Jason as the leader of a group of renegade rangers.
Tommy would’ve been in the mix, of course, this time as the director of the organization and pretty much Zordon with limbs and hair. The series was meant to adapt Hurricaneger, which eventually became Ninja Storm after the Hexagon plans fell through. Remember Cam, the Green Samurai Ranger? As in the first one, not the other one? Had Hexagon gone ahead, this would’ve been Tommy’s Ranger form, as it resembled the original MMPR Green Ranger in aesthetics, and we couldn’t have a series featuring Tommy Oliver where he isn’t right on the front lines, hogging the glory for himself but instantly being forgiven because he’s Tommy Oliver.
Sadly, Hexagon was dreamt up at a time when the future of the series was in flux, and the plans were abandoned in favor of another conventional series. Still, it’s spawned no shortage of fan-fiction over what could have been.
4. The Green Ranger and the Legendary Battle
The more recent Megaforce was intended as homage to all that came before, with the team using Ranger powers from all seasons and the whole thing culminating in a massive battle with every past Ranger fighting to save the Earth from an alien invasion. Yes, even Rocky.
Tommy was right in the thick of things, naturally, only this time he was using the powers of the Green Ranger. If we’re sticking to continuity, the only powers he should’ve had at this point were those of the Red Zeo Ranger. The original Power Coins were definitely destroyed, because new toys had to be sold and it was getting really hard for Zordon to keep coming up with reasons to give the Rangers new tech. Meanwhile, the Green Ranger powers were long gone by that time, having been drained away and rendering Tommy an ordinary human.
But hey, this is Power Rangers. Screw continuity, right? It shouldn’t have been possible, but the Green Ranger form was just too iconic not to use for the Legendary Battle. Thus we had Jason David Frank once again donning the green suit, now with a Dragon Shield that didn’t look like it was made of soggy cardboard and a few modifications to his helmet. Possibly allowing us to overlook this was the fact that almost every single Ranger in history showed up for the fight, including those who’d lost their powers, or the ones who were in deep space, or in another dimension, or the ones that shouldn’t even be there because the person who wore the suit is right there next to them. Yeah, continuity is a pain like that. Doesn’t matter, it looked cool.
3. Doctor Oliver’s Suspicious Credentials
The recent trailer for the 2017 Power Rangers movie may have only been a teaser, but it did give us a few hints as to the major changes fans are in store for. We see at least one actual parent, Rita is apparently several degrees more competent than her TV counterpart, and night-time actually exists within this universe. Also, personalities.
The original characters had their quirks, sure, but a few suffered from an overarching blandness. Trini in particular always just seemed like she was there to fill a yellow suit, Zack was a walking stereotype, and this team of ‘teenagers with attitude’ were actually the sweetest so-and-sos around. Meanwhile, perhaps by virtue of sheer screen-time, Tommy was fleshed out more quickly. We knew that he loved karate and Kimberly, had a memory like a colander and was a bit of a doofus when it came to academics. Any school subject that wasn’t ‘spin kicks’ seemed to leave Tommy baffled, which is why him resurfacing years later with a hastily-acquired PhD had many a long-time fan confused.
Cue the fan theories as to how he pulled this off, ranging from batting his perfect eyelashes at the professor all the way to gaining advanced intelligence after having his brain scrambled. PR villains mess with the Rangers’ heads so often you’d expect Zordon to schedule regular psychiatry sessions, but at one point during Zeo, Tommy was kidnapped and brainwashed into thinking the Rangers were villains. This seems to be the incident that many have latched onto to explain Tommy’s sudden scholastic excellence. Though we’re honestly not discounting the eyelashes thing.
2. Rita: The Former Green Ranger?
Speaking of Rita Repulsa, she seems to be one of the most hotly anticipated parts of the upcoming movie, which is par for course when we’re talking about giving Elizabeth Banks a role where she gets to be creepy and weird. She’s like the second coming of Johnny Depp in his prime.
We’ve been tossed snippets of information about the character, with one being particularly interesting: she has a complicated history with the Power Rangers. There have obviously been previous teams, and as confirmed by Rita herself in the teaser trailer, she’s had great fun killing them in the past. But has this been as a straight antagonist? As many noticed with the release of both the Rita and Ranger suit images, there’s a striking similarity. Take a suit, color it green and it starts looking a lot like a more whole, less-broken version of what Rita’s wearing. Plus, there’s the whole ‘green power ring in her staff’ thing.
This leads to the obvious theory: Rita used to be a Power Ranger, and something caused her to become so disillusioned that she turned against the group and became their greatest enemy. The color would make her the previous Green Ranger, which makes perfect sense considering her connection to the Green power in the series. TV Rita held the Green Power Coin for reasons never explored, but if the movie version used to use its power as a force for good, this would perfectly explain why she has it lying around. And speaking of which…
1. The Future of the Green Ranger
With Saban ambitiously planning seven movies in their new saga, the chances of us NOT seeing the Green Ranger cropping up at some point are sitting at a hearty 0%. Seriously, one of the very first promotional images hinted at Rita’s connection to green, even if her outfit is just a coincidental design choice. The Green Ranger is perhaps the most iconic of the original MMPR team, the one who established the sixth ranger trend and the most famous Power Ranger of all time. Expect serious hints towards the existence of the Green Ranger, if not an outright appearance in the first movie.
As for solid evidence, there’s not much beyond the image of Rita and a lot of fan speculation. Jason David Frank has stated that he’s hopeful for a Green Ranger spinoff series, something similar to the current deal with Wolverine with more color and probably less stabbing. Given that the first PR movie is still yet to be released, it’s not exactly something to get your hopes up for, but it remains an interesting bit of future speculation. In any case, the future coming of the Green Ranger to the movie universe will be a momentous occasion, perhaps enough to warrant a film all by itself. There are a lot of Power Rangers storylines that should never even be touched with a ten-foot pole — Ticklesneezer, looking at you — but Green with Evil is movie material already.
Do you know of any other fun facts about Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger? How soon do you think he’ll show up in the new film series?Let us hear your thoughts in the comments.
Power Rangers hits theaters on March 24th, 2017.