Power Rangers: My Journey
Part 10: A Most Divisive Season
By: Ben Taylor
Welcome to the 10th installment of “My Journey.” Before we get into the meat of the article, an announcement – This will be the last installment of the column that will stick to its strict once-every-two-week schedule. Frankly life happens and I’m just not able to consume 40+ episodes of Power Rangers in 2 weeks anymore. While I’m ahead in the seasons I have watched (I am currently one episode into Operation Overdrive), that lead will soon evaporate.
Instead, what will be happening is on the weeks that I would normally be releasing but am not (so there will still be new written content every two weeks), new column called “Musings from the Grid” will pop up. In this, the other hosts and myself will take turns writing about anything Ranger related that pops into our heads, be it specific episodes, character deep dives, or just news discussion, and more, providing a whole new dearth of content. I’m not guaranteeing that the musings will be as long as my seasonal review columns, but at least we’re going to be keeping up our regular content schedule. So, just to repeat, there will still be content every two weeks but it will alternate between My Journey and Musings from the Grid.
Okay, with that out of the way, onto why we are all here; Power Rangers. In this installment we will be looking at The Marmite of Power Rangers, a season that when it is brought up in conversation to 100 fans, 45 will hate it, 45 will love it, and 10 will say “It’s okay, I guess.” What I’m trying to say is that this is a very divisive season. The first season of the “Disney” era of Power Rangers, it has a great theme, excellent, well-formed characters, lots of action, and is literally drowning in Zords. This, dear reader, is WILD FORCE.
Power Rangers: Wild Force (aka the COLE TRAIN!)
Yes, the 10th season of Power Rangers is Power Rangers: Wild Force, based on the series Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger (which translates as Hundred-beasts Squadron Roar Ranger) and is a nature-based show. All the themes and things are based around the wilds and jungles and so forth. Much like Time Force before it, Wild Force sticks pretty much exactly to the plot of the sentai while changing up the villains to make them a bit easier to interact with throughout the overarching plot at hand.
As I mentioned in the intro, this was the first season of the Disney era of Power Rangers, which meant that partway through the season, when the buyout completed, the show show jumped from airing on Fox Kids to appearing on ABC Kids (and I think ABC Family). As such, Wild Force has a strange feeling to it. Parts of the season feel like what would become tropes of “Disney” Power Rangers and others feel like the 9 seasons that had gone before it. It was also the final season to be filmed in Los Angeles, after which, Ninja Storm production shifted to New Zealand.
Just a small warning, if you are even slightly burnt out on arguments about pollution and the environment, Wild Force references this A LOT. It gets SUPER PREACHY at times about it, so just be aware of that. Not that it’s a bad thing, but the parts where it is brought up are ham fisted and written poorly, to be honest. Yes, even compared to the rest of Power Rangers, these segments are poorly written.
One thing I very much appreciate about Wild Force is how easy it is to summate the plot. Wild Force follows the journey of Cole Evans as he joins four other people recruited by an ancient Princess aboard a floating island called The Animarium to become one with the Wildzords, a group of sentient animal-based Zords, and fight the villainous Orgs.
Yes, this season the villains are the Orgs. The exact origins of the Orgs is never 100 percent shown, but they were depicted as originating from pools of presumably toxic sludge and running amok some 3,000 years ago. They were defeated then by six ancient warriors, one of whom, Merrick, sacrificed himself and his Zords to defeat the Org leader Master Org. They returned due to the high levels of pollution allowing them to be born anew. There are four Villains of note this season; Master Org, Jindrak, Toxica, and Zen-aku. Certain things about Master Org are easier to understand if you know a bit about the Rangers this season. While I usually write about the Villains first, I’m going to let them wait until after I discuss the Rangers.
With the Rangers this season, we’re looking at the fairly standard six Ranger team with a “Mentor.” You’ll see why “Mentor” is in quotes when I discuss her. It will be the last series to have a five-person main team until SPD (Ninja Storm is in a weird spot there since the Thunder Academy Rangers are not considered part of the main team). There were also lots of little things about the Rangers this season that I will note on a Ranger-by-Ranger basis. So, without further ado, let’s jump into it.
Cole Evans – Blazing Lion. This season’s primary protagonist and leader of the Wild Force Rangers, is Cole. In a fairly unique turn on things, Cole is the last member of the group to join. The other four members already work together when the season begins. Our first glimpse of Cole is as a member of a tribe in the Amazon, kneeling at a fire, taking part in a ceremony, a ceremony where the tribal elders tell him him that while he has grown with them, he has come of age and they bequeath to him two items they found with him when he was a baby – a torn picture of his parents and a red jewel with a lion inside that looks a little like a Gatcha ball. The tribe had discovered Cole as a baby and raised him as one of their own but tell him to go forth and discover himself and his life’s path, aka destiny. Shortly after this, Cole departs for the city of Turtle Cove (named after the turtle shaped lake it is built around). Not long after arriving, Cole encounters the other Rangers and, quite frankly, is press ganged into service. He’s taken to the Animarium to meet Princess Shayla, The Red Lion, and accept his destiny as the leader of the Rangers. He made quick friends with most of the other Rangers, with the exception of the Yellow Ranger who had been leading the team until Cole was recruited and did not agree with his style, though they come to respect each other after a while.
Part way through the season, Cole finds his parents… but, they are dead. They died on an expedition to the Amazon, on which they took not only baby Cole but their work colleague Dr. Viktor Adler, who it turns out was responsible for the deaths of Cole’s parents. Cole is determined to find said Doctor, not willing to believe that he too has died.
Being raised by an Amazonian tribe, Cole has many tropes of a tribal character, much like Maya before him in Lost Galaxy. He is quick, agile, and empathetic and can read people’s hearts. He has a fondness for animals and can communicate with them, which is often used early in the series as a way for the Lion Wildzord to tell him to do things like combine weapons or combine the Zords. He’s headstrong and prefers improvisation and thinking on his feet as opposed to planning things out carefully, which puts him at odds with this season’s 2nd in command, Taylor.
Taylor Earhart – Soaring Eagle. In Yellow this season is Taylor. A strict by the books ex-Air Force officer who was the first of the Rangers to arrive on the Animarium when she was flying a jet and spotted the Eagle WildZord soaring in the skies and followed it to a floating turtle shaped island, aka, The Animarium. Quite frankly, in the early part of the series, Taylor has a similar issue to Eric from Time Force… she’s just kinda an asshole. Over time she relaxes a little, but is still very much seated in her training. Over the course of the season, Taylor has a rivalry with Jindrax, one of the Orgs. They often fight each other while ignoring everything else going on, and they have vicious battles, shown by the fact that Taylor’s Ranger suit is usually in shreds afterward, not something we’ve seen much of before (Jindrax’s hide suffers just as badly). Taylor is a great Second in Command, backing Cole’s plays when necessary and calling him out when needed. Fun fact: Wild Force would be the last season to Gender Swap the Yellow Ranger. All Yellow Rangers after would be the same gender as their Sentai counterparts.
Danny Delgado – Iron Bison. Danny is this season’s Black Ranger and the team’s powerhouse. While physically the strongest Ranger, the tropes are in full effect with Danny’s personality being kind, peaceful, and shy. He even shows a few child-like qualities, like sleeping with a teddy bear. In his life before the Rangers, Danny was a florist alongside his season-long love interest, Kendall. This love interest is probably the most development any of the Ranger gets outside of Cole, as it crops up several times over the season. Danny is best friends with Max, the Blue Ranger. Factoid: Danny is the first Black Ranger to be a part of the main team since Carlos, all the way back in IN SPACE.
Max Cooper – Surging Shark. The youngest of the Wild Force Rangers, Max is the Blue Ranger. He is very much considered the “kid brother” of the group, something he resents at first, but when he realises the other Rangers aren’t saying it to be mean, he relaxes a little. All we really know about Max from his time before the Rangers is that he was training to be a world class Ten Pin Bowler. As I mentioned before, he and Danny are best friends, but it’s unknown if they knew each other before their time on the Animarium. Max and Danny have a motto, “Never give up,” which they repeat all the time and it gets super annoying, honestly.
Alyssa Enrilé – Noble Tiger. Alyssa is Wild Force’s White Ranger. At the time of the show’s events, she is in the starting stages of her college education and is able to balance her education and her Ranger duties while somehow also maintaining a perfect grade point average. Alyssa is often seen tending to the wounds of other Rangers. She is seen at the end of the season telling the story of the Rangers to her class of kindergarten students (there has been a running theme that the Animarium is part of a fairy tale).
Merrick Baliton – Howling Wolf. This season’s sixth Ranger, Merrick was one of the six warriors who fought Master Org when he surfaced 3,000 years ago. While the other five wielded the Crystal Sabers that the Wild Force Rangers wield to help them control the WildZords, Merrick was the assigned protector of Princess Shayla and predictably they developed feelings for one another. Toward the end of the war 3,000 years ago, the six warriors defeated most of the Orgs but were unable to stop Master Org, who subsequently destroyed Animus, a Godlike Wild MegaZord, leaving little hope. Merrick took it upon himself to journey and find the Legendary Wolf Mask, which he bonded with and used to defeat Master Org. He gave into the evil wolf spirit within the mask, called Zen-Aku, and the other warriors sealed him away. That is until he was released by the Orgs during the course of the Wild Force story and clashed with the modern Rangers. They figure out how to defeat Zen-Aku and free Merrick, and after some hesitation, he joins them as a Ranger. Somehow, for a Ranger whose powers are rooted in nature and is from 3,000 years ago, his main attack is… playing pool. Yeah. The game with the cues and balls that are hit into pockets… Pool.
See? Yeah I don’t get it either.
And that leaves this season’s “Mentor,” Princess Shayla, who, and I really hate to say this, is just a waste of space. Existing only to be annoying, she’s a love interest for Merrick, who gets captured and perpetuates the fairy tale aspect of the story. She’s a complete waste of screen time. She has ONE scene where she does anything of worth, but it’s so late in the season, we’re left going, “WHERE WAS THAT THE REST OF THE SEASON?” Then she’s useless for the rest of the season again. She’s just… there.
That covers this season’s Heroes, so onto the Villains.
Toxica and Jindrax are lieutenants to Master Org. At times they fulfill a comedy role and at others are somewhat serious threats to the Rangers. Toxica is also the mechanic this season, helping the Orgs to do battle with the Zords. Given that they both have a face turn toward the end of the season, Toxica fulfils the “human looking female Villain who turns good” trope.
Zen-Aku is Merrick’s stoic, imposing alter ego for a large part of the season, and has a really well executed Villain story. It is difficult to know what to write as I really don’t want to spoil much of it in case anyone who hasn’t seen the season wants to watch it. It does go on a little long, but the story is very good and at the beginning, is very chilling. One of the best things about the story and how they tell it, is they don’t rush it or over reveal things. Yes it drags out a little but when they do reveal things it feels earnt. It’s definitely one of the better executed evil monster to sixth Ranger stories I’ve seen yet, and Zen-Aku has some complicated relationships with the Rangers.
That brings us to Master Org. A warning: do not judge Master Org too quickly. He has this weird accent that makes him sound a bit like Tommy Wiseau of The Room fame, and it can be a bit off-putting at first, but stick with it, it really works for him. Master Org is the leader of the Orgs and when the season begins, he has been gone for 3,000 years. When he initially returns, Toxica and Jindrax sense something is off about him. It is soon revealed that Master Org is in fact a human and the others shun him. After Master Org disappears for a while and is replaced by an utterly unnotable Org, he returns, a full fledged Org and takes over once more. He decides that it’s time to play a trump card. Master Org’s human vessel is Doctor Viktor Adler, the man who went on the expedition with Cole’s parents. It turns out that on that expedition, Cole’s parents and he found the remains of Master Org. Dr. Adler had it in for Cole’s father and embraced Master Org, then killed both Cole’s father and mother.
So that’s your character round-up. You will notice that Cole gets way more development than any other Ranger and that is okay. In other seasons, I would be begging them to put more development into the other characters, but here it works because they set out to tell a story very focused on Cole. In other seasons they weren’t doing that, but let many of the characters falter in favor of one character or just doing nothing with any of them. I really like the narrow beam focus on Cole this season.
Something else that needs to be addressed – for some reason Wild Force is one of two seasons (the other being Operation Overdrive) from which no actors have reprised their roles. Sure, an actor or two have shown up in other seasons as other characters, and the Wild Force Rangers showed up in the legendary battle, but we don’t see any of the actors. No-one knows why, it just worked out that way.
Morphing is a split bag this season. While I really like the morphing call – “Wild Access” with a simple gesture (I prefer simple Morphing poses) – I LOVE the Morphing Sequence, which for the first time is a direct translation of the Sentai counterpart. The Morpher on the other hand… The Growl Phone. It’s another one of those things that just doesn’t fit. I’m aware that it’s from Sentai, but it doesn’t work there either. Wild Force has these weird things that just don’t fit with a nature-based season. The cell phone Morphers, Merrick playing pool, football Zords…
Yeah. Zords. So, first thing of note when it comes to Zords, is that this was the first season to use primarily CGI for them. Which, after the unmitigated disaster that was Lost Galaxy/Gingaman’s Galacatabeasts, is probably the right way to go for sentient Zords. There are, however, WAY TOO MANY ZORDS, 22 in total (the most in any season of Power Rangers). They are used in so many different combinations, not just say, switching out the Shark Zord arm for the Giraffe Zord on a single MegaZord. There are so many Zords that they all get their own mix and match MegaZords and modes and it’s easy to get lost. To name but a few, there are the MegaZords, Predazord, Isis MegaZord, KongaZord. “Hundred beasts” is in the name of the Sentai, so we shouldn’t be surprised. I mentioned switching out one arm for another, and this season is the one that kinda kick started the concept of the modular MegaZord. We see it pop up in many future seasons.
While the season has Zords in abundance, the other thing it has a lot of is crossover episodes; three in fact. Two episodes out of the 40 in the season are dedicated to not really advancing the plot.
First is the two-parter “Reinforcements from the Future,” aka the best crossover I have seen yet. It starts out with Taylor having a run-in with Eric, who gives her a ticket for speeding and the two have a glowering flirt-stare off when three strange Orgs appear, which the Wild Force Rangers struggle with, because, as it turns out, they are Mut-Orgs – part mutant, part Org. During one of the fights, Eric and Wes are out on patrol together. Side note: when did the silver guardians become the police with the authority to give out tickets? They were a PMC, not law enforcement. I guess this also means Turtle Cove is near Silver Hills? Or the Silver Guardians are expanding their field of purview? If that is the case, where were Eric and Wes for the last 23 episodes?
Anyway, Wes and Eric see the Rangers getting handled and Morph themselves. Their experience with mutants helps, but it’s not enough. Wes uses a device to contact Trip in the year 3,000. It turns out that Jen is already in 2002 and is tracking the Mut-Orgs but is going Black Ops Style, so she shows up in one hell of an outfit.
The other Rangers arrive and bring Nadira and Ransik with them. It turns out that Ranisk has had a run in with the Mut-Orgs before, and they were the ones that gave him the ability to form swords out of his bones. “Reinforcements of the Future” is everything a crossover should be, celebrating the past season while highlighting the current season. There are many amazing character moments, the weird love/hate relationship with Eric and Taylor (that in my mind carries on past this two-parter even though it’s not mentioned), the resolution of the Lucas/Nadria story, the reuniting of Jen and Wes (it was never established if she returned to the future or not… I like to think not). Ransik even fully completed his face turn by seemingly sacrificing himself to save the Rangers, but it turns out he just… cures his mutant half… somehow… so he’s fully human… which is weird, but super feel-good, so I’m cool with it.
The other crossover, only nine episodes after the last one, is “Forever Red,” an episode made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Power Rangers, in which 10 Red Rangers team up to correct an oversight from the past. So it turns out a remnant of the Machine Empire (apparently the Z-Wave didn’t get them all at the end of IN SPACE) are digging up Serpenterra, Lord Zedd’s Super Zord, and are replacing the Master wheel it runs on with a decent energy source so ol’ Serpy-T will be an actual threat. Oh, and in this episode, the part of the Machine Empire will be played by the Beetleborgs, yes, the show that inspired the existence of Justin. They reused the costumes here… don’t question it… just go with it. Anyway, A fully functioning Serpenterra would be fad news, so Cole is recruited to join Wes (Time Force), Eric (Time Force), TJ (Turbo), Andros (IN SPACE), Aurico (Rangers of Aquitar), Leo (Lost Galaxy), Jason (MMPR) and Carter (Lightspeed Rescue), by Tommy Oliver (Zeo) and the 10 Red Rangers head to the moon and defeat the Machine Empire with some great fight scenes. I have to address the ending in which a frankly awful CGI Serpenterra is defeated by Cole… alone… on a motorcycle that flies in space. He just flies it through Serpenterra. That’s right, the mighty planet destroying Serpenterra is defeated… by a motorcycle. It has never 100 percent been confirmed why this happened, but the scuttlebutt is that this mostly comes from the fact that it was paid for. “Forever Red” contains nearly ZERO Sentai footage, and as such, was a very expensive episode to make, especially when you consider flying in all the actors and the fact they just DID that with “Reinforcements From the Future.” As such, Disney really put a limit on the budget and when it looked like the episode was gonna get cancelled, the folks who made it reached out to the toy company who agreed to fund the rest of the episode as long as it featured this one toy, so this was the ending we got. Also, it should be noted that one of the writers on “Forever Red,” Amut Bahumik, was responsible for producing the Power Rangers fan hoax called “Scorpion Rain” (Google it… or rather for the long suffering editor who hates Google… look it up on your favorite search engine. It would take too long to explain it all here), and has gone on record as saying he considered “Scorpion Rain” canon when writing “Forever Red.” It’s a great, fun episode right until the end where Cole explains how “Tommy really is the greatest Ranger ever.” It’s saved by all the other Rangers scoffing and saying why they are better. Also, TJ mentions being baked into a pizza and I love that episode
Man that was a long one. Here, have a picture of Taylor and Eric hate-flirting over his Q-Blaster.
Being such a character driven season there aren’t many thematic strings to pull on. The main ones are Teamwork, Compassion, and the Environment. This season is more of a character study of Cole and his history and it’s executed very well.
Overall, Wild Force is an enjoyable season for me, but it is easy for me to see why people would not enjoy it, especially if they don’t enjoy Cole as much as I do. I love the other Rangers (Taylor really feels like some of the pilots I knew growing up) and Danny is just adorkable. This is Cole’s season, though, and if you are not a fan of his or of environmental preaching, I can see why this season would be a miss for you. Also the Zord situation is a MESS and really detracts from any discussion from the season as you need one of those map boards with pins in it and little bits of red string to keep track of all the Zord combinations.
So that was Wild Force, rounding out the first 10 seasons and seasonal recaps. Remember that starting after this column, “My Journey” will be moving to a monthly format and will be joined by “Musings from the Grid” in the rotation. When “My Journey” coes return… It will come back with a… NINJA STORM!
SEASON POWER RANKINGS
- Lightspeed Rescue
- IN SPACE
- Time Force
- Wild 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, Awesome Mania, 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. Of course you can find episodes of Voices from the Grid at txhthockey.com/vftg and you can find us on Twitter @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!”