Power Rangers: My Journey
Part 4: Blander than before
By: Ben Taylor
While I have a lot to say and many notes, I’m finding this column difficult to start. Usually, one of these introductory paragraphs will give you some idea what to expect in the upcoming article. The strange thing is, you probably know most of what I’m going to talk about, and that kinda sums up ZEO (I don’t know why I always write it in all caps, but I do) in a nutshell. Anyway, this time we discuss Tanya, Kat, bad Zords, a non threatening Big Bad, and more in…
Power Rangers ZEO (AKA: The most forgettable season of Power Rangers)
Power Rangers ZEO. This is possibly the biggest risk taken in Power Rangers. As I said before, for a lot of people Power Rangers begins and ends with Mighty Morphin. At the time, changing the whole look, name, and themes of the show was a massive risk. Gone were the white diamond outfits, the familiar command center, the original villains. Sweeping changes touched nearly every corner of the franchise. However, this led to the writers doing literally nothing interesting with the actual episodes or characters themselves.
Okay, I gotta stop myself. Before I get on to the many negatives of the season, I want to cover some of the things I LIKED about it. The first one will be a bit mixed because it contains some good and some bad. But then, a couple good things.
Rita and Zedd – This one is a mixed bag. The negative is that as I pointed out in my last column, they won. Ultimately they BEAT THE RANGERS. Then the writers just decided that at that very moment would be when the Machine Empire showed up, not allowing Rita and Zedd the chance to follow up on their overall victory, but somehow Rito and Goldar dropped the Zeo Crystal? (I am aware that I capitalize the season, but don’t the crystal itself. It’s how I differentiate). WE SAW THEM TELEPORT AWAY WITH IT! HOW WAS IT IN THE RUINS? And I don’t know if there were some cut scenes or whatever, but this was NEVER EXPLAINED. Rita and Zedd were robbed by unexplained plot contrivances. The good, however? THEY WIN AGAIN. Ultimately at the end of the season, it is they, driving away in the Cosmic Campervan, that destroy the Royal Family and proudly declaring “WE’RE BACK!” until they are not. ROBBED AGAIN.
Another really cool thing is the finishing of the initial Power Source situation arc. When the Rangers were fighting Rita in the beginning of season 1, it was very much their tech against Rita’s magic. Over the next two seasons it very slowly changed, be it through powers changing or learning more about powers they already had, until with the Ninja powers, their powers became mystical and with Zeo, we fully flipped around where the villains, the Machine Empire, are technological and the Rangers power source is a magical crystal (even though their Zords are still technological and the Crystal apparently taps into the morphing grid).
I called ZEO the most forgettable season ever and, even with all the risks taken, I stand by this. I asked my Voices from the Grid co-hosts, Sasha, Brian, and Mike, to name their favorite episodes of ZEO and they couldn’t. They cited moments here and there, but no episode names. If I asked them for other seasons, they could easily do so. So what contributed to the overall malaise? The thing is, there isn’t a whole lot that is egregiously wrong with the season, a few small expectations to be detailed later, but the issue is that everything is just… there. It’s like Trini, made into a TV show. However, the parts that are bad are REALLY bad.
The number one thing that makes this season bland and uninteresting is the Machine Empire. This season’s Big Bad. The force so strong it made Rita and Zedd flee the moon. They show up and they have a quite literal invasion force at their disposal. Multi-atmosphere fighters, walking mecha-type tanks, unlimited foot soldiers, weapons of mass destruction. They show up and it’s a real difference from Rita and Zedd, who had a small elite team with a few replaceable foot soldiers. There’s the bombastic entrance and… nothing. The Machine Empire never EVER scores a solid win over the Rangers in ANY WAY. All those troops and combined arms that they could have used and they resort to the same monster of the week tactic.
The ZEO powers didn’t help either. Not that there was anything wrong with the ZEO powers, but they had established that the Zeo Crystal is kind of like a perpetual energy machine, they just keep getting stronger. This, while interesting in concept, left the Rangers’ power escalating while the Machine Empire ran around in a circle, going “WOOP WOOP WOOP!” like Homer Simpson. Between the ever increasing power and the villains refusal to actually utilise their army, the Rangers were basically in God Mode and didn’t have to try, sleeping through most of the season. The Machine Empire was never a threat and it is likely, had Rita and Zedd not blown up the Royal Family, the Rangers would have just ground them down.
The ZEO Zords don’t really fare much better. They’re just… lame. The Megazord has the cool hat swap thing going for it and the idea that changing hats changed who was sitting in the front of the cockpit was neat, but the alternate hats were introduced too late and looked kinda lame. By the time they were introduced, we were used to the silhouette of the Megazord and when the hats were used, they jarred that perception. It’s a cool idea, but the Megazord itself and the individual Zords were just lame. They had no consistent theming across them. Three were based on animals (the Bull, the Lion and the Phoenix) while the other two were based on INANIMATE STATUES (the Moai and the Dogu) and needed to be pulled into battle by the Bull and the Phoenix as they are stationary gun platforms! I know that apparently the theme of these zords in “OhRanger” (this season’s Sentai equivalent) is mystical beings and statues, but that’s never addressed in ZEO, so we just get this higgledy-piggledy mash-up of stuff. The Dogu and Moai Zords do NOT scan as such. I’m super familiar with both statues and didn’t see it until my co-Host Brian pointed it out. Pyrimidas was just a lump and the least interesting Zord yet. Say what you will about the Moai and Dogu Zords, they at least looked like gun platforms to keep them interesting. Do NOT get me started on the Warrior Wheel, which looked like it belonged in a Hot Wheels set!
Onto the two characters that I want to talk about in this column. Kat and Tanya. We’ll talk about Kat first. Out of the two, she’s the least in offensive, and I didn’t really discuss her when she was introduced. Kat is, for the most part, inoffensive. Why? Because she might as well not exist. By the time of her introduction, Rocky, Aisha, and Adam had joined the team and Aisha and Adam had started to actually develop things about them. Rocky was well. He was bland, but that was at least his thing. When Kim left and Kat took the pink power coin, she lost everything that made her interesting in her introduction arc and just became “I like dancing and swimming and I have a crush on Tommy.” The last one was super vague and those continued to be her only personality traits until she left.
I mention the Tommy thing because, not only was it yet more hero worship for him, but it never really went anywhere outside of them holding hands once (I have been informed that apparently they do it again in the Ninja Steel special) and a lame flash forward in a Christmas episode that is canonically questionable. The other hosts told me about a comic called Soul of the Dragon, which is set in the future, that has them married with a kid. The comic was released right after the Ninja Steel special. I often don’t count ancillary media as canon in much larger franchises, and I choose not to here either. Frankly, if all your fans don’t have access to it, it should not be considered required lore. Also, if that’s true, it paints Dino Thunder Tommy as a horrible human as the implication is that he and Kat are together at the end of their tenure as Rangers, and then again in Ninja Steel, and then in the middle, he moves into a shack in the woods, never mentions her, and flirts with a principal/villain. Also, forcing Tom and Kat into a relationship when the actors had zero chemistry with each other, was a waste. Not to mention if the writers really wanted her in a relationship, they could have done that with any number of people. It would have given Rocky something to do. Hell, they’d been trying to find Billy a love interest for 4 years at this point. Why not have him dating the hot one (and yes I’m aware of David’s sexual orientation, but I’m talking about Billy the character here). There was also a huge missed opportunity with a “but you’re not Kim,” arc where Tommy has to get used to not seeing his then still girlfriend in the suit. But none of that is Kat’s fault and as a person she is inoffensive and bland.
Then there is Tanya. Once again, personality wise, Tanya is pretty much a blank slate. She comes to 1990s Angel Grove from a 1980s, what seems to be native, African tribe. Think about that. She should have been marvelling at things like phone books and more. Let alone that the first thing she sees when she is dragged forward in time, is a giant floating space head and Alpha 5! When she looked at the viewing globe, it should have blown her mind and it’s highly unlikely that she would have spoken English as her first language. Whereas, what we get is that she adapts instantly, much like Maya in “Lost Galaxy,” who is absolutely comfortable with Terra Venture’s advanced tech-hand using a tablet-like device after spending her life growing up on primitive Mirinoi. The other thing that has always bugged me about Tanya (apart from Karan Ashley’s departure, which I covered before) was the fact that Zordon, Alpha, and the other Rangers turned over the ZEO powers to her within minutes of having met her. Remember, these are the strongest powers they have gotten to this point if the exponential thing is to be believed. Yes, I know Aisha had somewhat hand picked her, but they have had someone acting good to infilitated them recently in Kat, who they just blindly trusted as well. The fact it was at the expense of Billy, really never sat well with me and still doesn’t now.
Jason’s return was also a mixed bag. While it was cool to see the former Red Ranger again, the weird storyline with him reforming a biker woman named Emily and them seemingly dating there after, until the Turbo movie, which somewhat implied that he and Kim were together. Why, when he returned, were Kat and Tanya so happy to see Jason? They never met him.
That brings us to singularly my favorite and least favorite thing about ZEO all wrapped up in a single package. The moment that Tommy gets the letter from Kimberly breaking up with him. That’s right, the Dear John letter. Why is this my favorite moment in ZEO? Because I’m not a big fan of Tommy and it was nice to see him get kicked in the gut. Another moment here was Tanya being excited that Tommy got a letter from Kim, when they never met, but we can assume Tommy has talked about his long distance relationship. Why was this my least favorite thing of the season? I mean that much should be obvious. It comes out of nowhere, it’s not explained or expanded on, it’s an excuse for the stupid Tommy/Kat relationship, and oh yeah, THEY DID IT WITH A LETTER. The only relationship in Power Rangers history to feature actual kissing and they couldn’t even be bothered to secure Amy Jo Johnson for a cameo. It made for like one good scene in the Turbo movie, but that was about it. Regardless of my feelings about Tommy, the effort that the writers, and many fans, put into this relationship, it deserved better.
Remember back at the start of this article I called ZEO the most forgettable season of Power Rangers? Well it turns out that not only did I forget a whole series of Zords, but the fact that part way through the season they gained the help of a dude who popped out of a Tiki head. That was found by Tayna’s parents. So, she’s not an orphan? Anyway I wanted to point out that after this article was completed and edited, I had to come back, add this paragraph, and resend it to my editor. All because I forgot about Zords and Auric the Conqueror. I think this reinforces my point about how forgettable this season was.
So that was ZEO. Overall a completely skippable season. It doesn’t rank highly on my list, but there is no surprise there as I somewhat spoiled that in the last column. Is it the worst Power Rangers season? No. Is it the worst of the four I have reviewed so far? Well that’s the rub. The answer is no. I have to put it above MMPR season 1 just because of the risks they DID take. Join me next time as I cover Divatox, a child Ranger, and a mass changing of the guard as we SHIFT INTO TURBO!
SEASON POWER RANKINGS
- Mighty Morphin’ Season 3
- Mighty Morphin’ Season 2
- Mighty Morphin’ Season 1
If you want to discuss things more or just follow me, you can find me on Twitter @BobTGoldfish, or tune in to hear me co-hosting Voices from the Grid or VftG’s sister show, AwesomeMania, where Mike and I talk about things in the world of professional wrestling.
Until Then –
Guys, Gals, and Non-aligned Pals, in the words of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, “Be Excellent to each other and party on Non-gender specific honorifics!”