Power Rangers: My Journey
Part 9: The TIck Tock of the Clock is Painful
By: Ben Taylor
Let me start by once again by thanking Brian for stepping in with last week’s column where he talked about ToQger. We’ve been on quite a roll recently going through eight seasons of Power Rangers, and in this column we’ll be covering civilian powers, paradoxes, motivation, and above all, the difference between a leader and a protagonist. Get ready because it’s time for TIME FORCE!
Power Rangers: Time Force (aka – A series that doesn’t stand up too well on a rewatch)
The Ninth Season of Power Rangers is Power Rangers: Time Force (Probably just Time Force form here on out), a series about four time travelling cops, a super mutant villain, his obnoxious heir, and a couple of very rich people. Considered by many to be the best of Power Rangers, Time Force was a name I had heard bandied about quite a lot. As such, I was very excited to see it, especially coming off the back of Lightspeed Rescue, which I had loved, and people held Time Force in even higher regard.
Based on Mirai Sentai Timeranger (Future Squadron Timeranger) we, at this point, seem to have gotten past the miscommunications between Sentai and Power Rangers when it comes to when and were seasons of the sentai will happen, forcing Power Rangers to write on the seat of it’s pants. While we’re talking about production, it is worth discussing a few other things. First, since its original airing, Time Force has been altered. Given the time it was released and then into reruns (the original series ran from February to November or 2001) it was decided for sensitivity toward the World Trade Center attack that footage of skyscrapers being under attack and people panicking as a result, would be edited out of the reruns.
The other major production note that is worth covering, is this was the last season officially, wholly produced by Saban Entertainment Group, as it and the network it was airing on, was sold to Disney (Saban would reappear as Saban Brands about 10 years later With Power Rangers: Samurai). Whenever we discuss this, My Voices from the Grid co-host, Mike, insists that at Power Morphicon one year, Daniel Southworth, the actor who played Eric (we’ll get to him in the character section), said that there were Disney folks all over the place during recording. I’ve not seen that elsewhere, but it does make sense. If I were buying into a major franchise, I’d want to do my due diligence.
So onto the season itself. In the year 3000, crime has been nearly expunged thanks to the efforts of a military-esque police force called, Time Force (it is never established in Power Rangers why it’s called Time Force or why they have the ability to travel through time. In Sentai, the plot is that they police time travel, so it makes sense). The only criminal left at large is the mutant, Ransik. The pilot opens with Time Force hunting down Ransik. A single member of Time Force, Alex, infiltrates a building while the rest of Time Force surrounds it. In the confrontation with Ransik, Alex morphs into the Red Time Force Ranger. We don’t actually see most of this fight, but Alex manages to arrest Ransik, who is taken into custody and is put on trial. While Ransik is on trial, Alex proposes marriage to Jen Scotts, another member of Time Force, who joyfully says yes. After being found guilty, Jen’s squad is charged with escorting Ransik to the Cryoprison. The convoy is attacked, Ransik is freed, and Alex survives. He morphs and is beaten horribly, dying in Jen’s arms as Ransik escapes, and with his daughter, Nadira, other lieutenants, and a Cryoprison full of mutants to the year 2001 and arrives in the town Silver Hills. Defying orders, Jen and her team, Trip, Katie, and Lucas, steal a time ship (which travels through time by being basically YEETed by a giant robot) and give chase. Once there, they discover that the Chronomorphers are DNA locked, and the Red one must be unlocked in order for any of them to morph. The issue is that the Red Morpher is still keyed to Alex’s DNA.
Enter Wes, a young man who lives with his incredibly wealthy father in a giant house and wants for nothing, but is looking for something deeper. Wes is unhappy in his life as his father is pressing upon him his own beliefs, his own values, and is utterly insistent that Wes will take over the family corporation. He is also the spitting image of Alex. As you can imagine, when Jen first sees Wes she freaks out a little bit in a moment of excellent acting by Erin Cahill. Jen then hits on the idea of giving the Red Chronomorpher to Wes on the hunch he shares DNA with Alex, and luckily enough, she’s right.
After a few trials and tribulations, Wes manages to ingratiate himself into the group, find them a place to live, and join them there after he moves out and cuts ties with his father. His father then uses his immense wealth to build a giant tank called Raimei that basically gets one shot. He establishes a private military force called the Silver Guardians with which he provides protection to the citizens of Silver Hills, but only the citizens that can afford to pay for it. One member of the Silver Guardians is Wes’ childhood friend Eric, our future Quantum Ranger, who resents Wes because he sees Wes as privileged due to his family’s wealth even though Wes is doing everything he can to prove otherwise to Eric.
That is the basics of the story. I’m not gonna go into too much detail about everything that happens afterward, because well, you should watch Time Force. Hell, you should watch every season, yes, even Turbo. I’ve been told by people more knowledgeable than me that Time Force sticks very closely to the Sentai from which it takes its footage, though with certain changes due to American context and their changes within the narrative, but mostly it’s very close to the source. I’ve not seen Timeranger but I am willing to take the word of those who told me.
So, let’s start our usual character breakdown by looking at our villains. There are three villains of note in the season; first is Ransik, second is his daughter Nadira (both of which I mentioned before), and third is Ransik’s robot sidekick Frax. There is also a fourth villain called Gluto, who only really has a single trait, which is that he has a crush on Nadira and it never goes anywhere. It was just a cool way for Power Rangers to use the suit of the sentai villain from Timeranger in Time Force.
Ransik is both earth’s mightiest mutant and its final free villain, in the year 3000 at least. Ransik’s creation story is that in the future parents have the ability to specifically choose the genes and traits that they want their child to have, and this causes waste, from which the mutants arise. Rasiks mutations give him the ability to form swords out of his own bones, and clearly has energy projection abilities and above normal strength. He also, while being the most human looking mutant, has a large disfiguration on one side of his face that spends most of the season covered in a Phantom of the Opera-style half mask. Ransik’s hatred for humans stems from the fact he claims they all rejected him. Even though it is shown that after Ransik is assaulted by another mutant that poisons him and makes one of his mutations run out of control, a human doctor, Dr. Fericks, takes Ransik in and treats him with kindness and gives him the serum Rasik is seen drinking all season that controls the rampant mutation. Instead of being thankful, Ransik is disgusted with the Doctor’s kindness and his fascination for robots (a running theme with Ransik this season is he treats robots with the disdain he claims humans showed him, treating them as nothing but slaves and objects), and brutally murders him. One thing that overrides all other things with Ransik is the love of his daughter Nadria, going so far as to mentor a Power Ranger when Nadira falls for him, and Nadria is ultimately the reason that Ransik calls off his quest of revenge against humanity. MASSIVE props have to go to Vernon Wells, who played Ransik, whose only direction at any time was “be as over the top as possible,” and he really goes whole hog with it, a real nice hammy, but threatening bad guy!
Nadira is less revenge focused, but has been raised to believe all humans are trash because she has been instilled with the values of her father. However, she takes a more… materialistic approach to power, believing that in 2001 in order to rule what you need is money, and she sets about acquiring as much of it as she can. Often seen performing bank or jewelry heists, displaying mutant powers like the ability to teleport, super strength, and the ability to grow her fingernails into deadly weapons, Nadria is clearly a mutant, but also human looking like her father (there is never really any mention of her mother). She’s always dressing in tight form fitting leather or other such sexy clothing. Despite her horribly grating personality, Nadira is the one who fulfils the now all too familiar trope of “hot female villain who turns good,” as at the end of the season, between feeling bad about how her father treats Frax and helping Trip (the Green Ranger) deliver a baby in a crisis, she starts to see that hate is a cycle and that she really doesn’t hate humanity. In the final battle between Ransik and the Rangers, Nadira risks her life to protect a baby, causing her father to injure her, his love for her overriding his hatred, and he turns himself in.
Frax is Ransik’s robotic general, creator of this season’s foot soldiers, the robotic Cyclobots, and secondary antagonist. Starting the season as Ransik’s trodden underfoot lackey, he and his Cyclobots suffer Ransik’s ire and rage, having to listen to Ransik loudly proclaim how inferior and worthless robots were, soon Frax comes up with his own schemes to take over 2001 behind Ransik’s back and even destroys the stock of Ransik’s serum in a attempt to end Ranisk. It turns out that Frax’s hatred of Ransik doesn’t just stem from his view about robots, but that Frax is in fact Dr. Fericks, who had managed to download his personality and thoughts into a robotic body when Ranisk left him for dead and has been plotting against Ransik the whole time.
Time Force’s Red Ranger is, for most of the show, Wes. I described above how Wes is the only son of a very wealthy father. The thing is, Wes is not a spoiled brat or someone who sees himself as above others. If anything, he wants to move away from the trappings of his family, given that his father is so oppressively trying to force Wes to learn so that he can take over the business from him. His father broaches no other options. When Wes initially meets the crew, he doesn’t believe their story until he encounters Nadira, and after a false start or two, he is granted the Red Chronomorpher and joins the squad. Not long afterward, Wes not only gets the crew an old clock tower to live in and run a business out of, but after a disagreement with his father, he moves in with them and has to start adapting to life with them. Later in the season, Alex (yes, Jen’s until then thought dead fiance from the future) arrives and takes back the Red Ranger powers and reprimands the rest of the Rangers for becoming too carefree. No, it is not really explained how he is alive. Alex also says that time is running out for Wes’ father and it’s his father’s destiny to die, as in the future he knows what happens. One thing comes to another and destiny is avoided. More than once, as at the end of the season, Alex foretells that Ransik is stopped, but at the cost of Wes’ life, but this too does not come true. The season ends after Wes and Jen have a teary moment on the beach with the pair admitting their feelings for one another with Wes joining the Silver Guardians. His father, having turned over a new leaf, reforms the organization for good and Wes leads it alongside Eric.
Jen Scotts, Time Force Pink Ranger and the LEADER of this Ranger team, is at first a no-nonsense, by the book timecop, who brooks no questions and is utterly hellbent on revenge for Alex, going so far as to be on the verge of killing one of Ransik’s mutants rather than re-cryofreezing them. Over time, Jen mellows a little, taking her unwavering trust of Alex and applying it to the team. She stands up to Alex when he shows up to strip Wes of the Red Chronomorpher. The transferring of her feelings from Alex to Wes raises some interesting questions, but it is clear that the attraction is further than skin deep. It’s also worth noting that a lot of people talk about Jen being the first female team leader, forgetting that Delphine of the Alien Rangers exists, but regardless of how Shout Factory boxes the DVDs, I don’t personally see the Alien Rangers as a separate season, so Jen is the first season-long female leader of a Ranger team. Once she mellows out, while remaining focused on the task at hand, she is much more willing to indulge in 2001 and it’s joys. After the team set up their cover and method of income, ‘Nick of Time’ which is an odd job firm she often spends time happily just lost in doing odd jobs. Fun fact: outside of next season’s cross-over, when (SPOILER!) Jen returns, this is the last time we’re going to be talking about a Pink Ranger until the SPD column, as in the three seasons between then and now there isn’t one.
This season’s Yellow Ranger is Katie. Always wearing her feelings on her sleeve, Katie is an open book, a very nice counterpoint to the controlled and conservative Jen. Katie is gifted with super strength, and is often seen displaying it in private and struggling to not display it when trying to blend into 2001 Silver Hills. She has a playful, teasing friendship with Lucas and is very protective of Trip. Of those who travel back in time, when it is revealed that the Time Force Ranger’s presence in 2001 could be altering the future (for example, there are no records of the Silver Guardians or the Raimei tank), Katie is worried about never getting to see her family again. While I’m sure that the other Time Force members had the same thoughts, Katie is the only one shown to be dealing with it in an episode.
Our Blue Ranger is Lucas who can be described in a single word; vain. His vanity is centered on two things: his looks and cars. In the year 3000, he’s the squad’s transport specialist and is a former race car driver. His deadpan sense of humor and “cool guy” attitude make him quite a hit with the ladies, Nadria especially. Nadira fixates on him when she thinks he wrote a poem for her (it was for a car) and there is a whole episode of them going on dates and Ransik giving Lucas dating advice. It’s clear that there are reciprocated feelings as after the season ends, Lucas clearly helps Nadria avoid jail time.
Suiting up in Green this season is Trip, an alien from the planet Xybria who has telepathic abilities focused through a jewel on his head. The Xybrian society is one without secrets and deceit, and as such, Trip often finds himself being a little too gullible for his own good, which is weird given he can read minds and should be able to tell when someone is lying. Then again, I guess he doesn’t use it all the time, so it’s fine. Probably the least martially skilled of the Rangers, Trip is definitely the tech whiz of the group. He invents and repairs technology way in advance of 2001 standards. Between his bright green hair and gem in his forehead, he has probably the hardest time blending into 2001 Silver Hills, but the addition of a simple hat seems to fix that. Also, at one point Lucas puts a huge bandage over Trip’s gem and he can’t seem to read minds when it’s covered. Trip has more than one crisis of faith across the series, thinking himself not as good as the other Rangers, but they resolve themselves when he sees what he does bring to the team. Trip is also responsible for Circuit.
Circuit is the robotic owl that the Rangers use to communicate with the future and helps do things like summon the Megazord, scan for mutant activity, and more. Seemingly a fully fledged AI, it’s an interesting counterpoint to how the Rangers treat this mechanical owl. He helps Trip by running equipment diagnostics and other things.
Then we have Eric. Eric is a big issue with this season for me. As I discussed earlier, Eric shows up as a low ranking part of the Silver Guardians, but has designs for a command position. When an archeology team near Silver Hills digs up a strange power source, Eric overhears the Time Force saying that it is Time Force Tech. He resolves to take it for himself to prove his worth to Wes’ father. What ensues involves a trip to prehistoric Earth, a fight with a T-Rex, no one actually listening to Wes, and finally Eric becoming the Quantum Ranger and Claiming the Q-Rex Zord as his own. The first thing to discuss here is how similar the Quantum Ranger outfit is to the Red Ranger outfit. I’m sure this was done to show that Eric and Wes are more alike than they are different, or some other nonsense, but all it really does is make quick visual parsing of the group complicated. For 90 percent of the season, Eric works as an antagonist to the Rangers, and frankly, his reasoning is stupid. First, he thinks Wes is a spoiled brat so he hates him, then Wes gives up his lifestyle to live with the Rangers, so Eric hates him for walking away from what Eric never had. Then, Wes moves in with the other Rangers so Eric hates him for having friends when Eric doesn’t. The others try to befriend Eric, so Eric hates them because they… tried to include him? Eventually he comes round, but it takes wayyyyyyyy too long.
This is the core of my biggest issue with Eric. When it comes to the sixth Ranger, there are two types. Those who start as antagonists to the team and those that don’t. So far, I’ve only watched through the end of Mystic Force, and every sixth Ranger that has started out as an antagonist to the party (Tommy, Magna Defender, Titanium Ranger, Eric, Merric, some people count the Thunder Academy brothers from Ninja Storm, thought I guess Cam is technically the sixth, and Trent), every single one of them was not in control of their own actions or thought their actions were correct. EXCEPT ERIC. Eric isn’t under Rita’s spell. Eric had not been raised by demons for 16 years, thinking his father abandoned him. Eric has not been told by the villain that the Rangers killed his entire ninja academy. Eric is just an asshole.
One thing to note here; If you ask a lot of fans about later seasons (starting in Dino Thunder, I think) we see the surfacing of what is known as “Civilian Powers,” abilities granted to the Rangers in non-morphed form. However, I think Time Force is the first time we see that, with Katie’s super strength. Admittedly, the strength isn’t granted to her because she’s a Ranger, it’s a product of DNA tampering, but I feel it applies. Come to think of it, I would be very surprised if Jen and Lucas didn’t have some DNA manipulation too, just less obvious traits. Lucas probably had heightened reflexes to help with his race car driving, Jen likely had some kind of leadership or tactical alteration. Trip, of course, had the ability to read minds. It’s not a big deal but I thought it was worth bringing it up.
So there we have a summation of the major characters of the season. There is no real mentor this season. Alex oversees a bit from the future, as does another captain, but mostly the Rangers take care of themselves, being trained adults.
The Morphing sequence this season was pretty tight. I really liked the Morphing call and Movements – “Time for… TIME FORCE!” and the gestures they do follows on really well and looks very… Police-y. When it comes to Zords, it’s a mixed batch. The Time Force Megazord (made up of the five ‘Time Flyers”) has 2 forms, “mode red” and “mode Blue,” though they are never really that specific about what the differences are between the two, which is a shame as it could have really been interesting to have the two act differently or have different powers. Which is not something they shy away from starting next season. A little while into the season, the Shadow Winger shows up, which… is basically Batman, the robot. It even hangs upside down to recharge. And then there is the Q-Rex or Quantumsaurus Rex, which is the Zord of the Quantum Ranger. That’s kinda it for Zords. This wasn’t a season where more and more Zords got added. It wasn’t a season where techbloat happens. It was quite nice actually.
The major themes of the season are sacrifice and destiny. The constant harping about how Wes has never had to try for anything in his life and how he’s never sacrificed anything while other people have sacrificed everything, gets pretty old, pretty quickly at the start of the season, but thankfully it goes away until it is brought back from the dead by Eric and his unwillingness to not be a douchenozzle. Destiny is prevalent. Several times someone was told that something was destined to happen because that was the way it happened as recorded in the future, but then that doesn’t happen. It’s possible that the person saying that was saying it to get an opposite reaction, but nothing is ever made of that. The biggest subtheme was probably family. Between Katie’s worry she’ll never see hers again because of changes to the timeline (that, by the way, have no effect on the future at all), Wes’ issues with his father, and the Time Force discovering that they are a family.
Time Force is also where special effects started to be used a bit more in fighting, moving toward wirework and dialing up the fight scenes. It really was cool that it did, as not only did it open the door for seasons going forward, it really fit the themes they were going for. Seeing bullet time dodging, wire work, and more, was just great. Also, Time Force wanted to be the Matrix SO HARD, right down to sound-alike music, bullet time, and more.
This season’s crossover is “Time for Lightspeed,” in which Vypra returns and wants to steal a special amulet to summon a “Super Demon.” This crossover doesn’t start off well, as after showing her displaying cat burglar like skills, Vypra is thwarted by a pane of glass when trying to take the amulet out of its case, having magically phased her hand, but not the amulet (but somehow, the forearm armor she is wearing phases easily). She enlisted Ransik’s help to get the amulet and stuff happens until the Super Demon gets summoned and it’s an all round good time. It’s great seeing the Lightspeed Rangers again, but I’m horribly biased here, and while it’s not the best crossover, it’s way better than the Lost Galaxy/Lightspeed crossover was.
In conclusion, Time Force is beloved by many, but it just doesn’t hold up for me. Yes, it has some great moments and plots. I love that for the first time the leader of the team (Jen) and main protagonist (Wes) are not the same. Until now, when there had been a focus character, they had tended to be the leader of the team as well. I really enjoyed this season’s comedy episodes (the one where they do rapid costume changes on a movie set is brilliant). The crossover was good fun and the season’s ending is super different, making it stand out.
But the bad outweighs the good. The unnecessary battering of the sacrifice theme is a detriment to the series, Eric in general is just not good, and well… time for a bit of a controversial opinion… Time Force is often regarded as one of the seasons of Power Rangers with the best acting across the board. Sadly, it just isn’t true. Jason Faunt (Wes) and Erin Cahill (Jen) provide absolutely immaculate performances, but everyone else on the show is just not a great actor, with the exception of Ransik, who could be great but is having far too good of a time being over the top (which is VERY OKAY). The other three Rangers suffer and it kicks a lot of the momentum of the season down the stairs. I’m sure it’s fine watching it the first time, but on a rewatch, it all stands out.
Again, Time Force is very good, but not as brilliant as many people make it out to be. And that’s okay. If you love Time Force, I’m not telling you that you are wrong, hell enough people don’t seem to understand why I love Lightspeed Rescue so much, but I do. Anyway, join me next time as we look at one of the most divisive seasons of Power Rangers and the true start of the Disney era, as we arrive on The Animarium and look at… WILD FORCE.
SEASON POWER RANKINGS
- Lightspeed Rescue
- IN SPACE
- Time Force
- Mighty Morphin’ Season 3
- Mighty Morphin’ Season 2
- Lost Galaxy
- Mighty Morphin’ Season 1
If you want to discuss things more or 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. I also do Twitch streams over at twitch.tv/321_tv, which we announce on Twitter beforehand. Speaking of Twitter, we just got a Twitter for VftG, which can be found at @VFTG_PR.
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!”