A perennial institution of children’s programming, the Power Rangers have stuck around for 25 seasons of punching rubber monsters in spandex and teaching us all valuable lessons about teamwork. Obviously, its longevity is at least partially due to how cheap it is to make, since every Power Rangers season is mostly repurposed from the long-running Japanese tokusatsu series “Super Sentai,” splicing Japan’s spandex fight footage and Zord fights and filming new stuff with English-speaking actors.
While most Power Rangers seasons can be more than a little formulaic, to say the least, never let it be said the show shied away from the surreal and bizarre. After all, this is a show whose basic plotline was that “teenagers with attitude” get in a giant robot made of dinosaurs to fight ghoulies sent by a witch who lives on the moon, under orders from a floating head in a tube. The Rangers have racked up more than a few morphinominal-ly weird moments in the quarter-century they’ve been kicking, so we decided to outline a few of our favorites. Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi!
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The Rangers Chase a Rampaging Baby Stroller
“Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers,” Season 2 Episode 22 – “The Ninja Encounter: Part I”
Screenshot via Netflix
When three of the original Rangers were summarily fired for wanting more money (the poor Rangers were paid peanuts, which didn’t change even after the show became a massive hit), the show had to work three new recruits into the mix – Rocky, Adam, and Aisha, three teens from neighboring Stone Canyon.
To prove their mettle to the remaining Rangers (and the audience), the show decided to give them a suitably XXX-treme Good Deed to perform: saving a runaway baby stroller loose in Angel Grove Park. Miraculously, the stroller manages to worm its way around the hills and sidewalks of the park for five laughable minutes, the new Rangers chasing after it on their ever-so-cool rollerblades. Questions abound as to why no one can catch the stroller, or how it’s managing to go fast enough to outrun three teens in perfect physical shape on rollerblades, or why the Rangers have to flip so many times just to catch up to it. Nonetheless, it’s a suitably strange introduction to the first iteration of replacement Rangers.
The Rangers Are Trapped in a Musical
“Power Rangers Zeo,” Episode 46 – “Another Song and Dance”
Screenshot via Netflix
Jason David Frank’s Tommy Oliver was a Power Rangers fan favorite for a lot of reasons — he was the bad boy of the team, had real martial arts experience, and oh, that beautiful ’90s mane of his. But one thing poor Tom can’t do is sing, as evidenced by the episode of “Power Rangers Zeo,” in which he and Yellow Ranger Tanya are hit with a spell that forces them to belt out everything they say in song.
It’s a bizarre episode from front to back, in no small part because Jason David Frank is a horrid singer. Frank never gave the most charismatic line deliveries in the first place, but turn his kid’s show dialogue into shouted, clumsily-rhyming patter (“Let’s fight this crime/It’s morphin’ time!”) and you’ll be running for the door. Just stick to shouting “Eyah-sit-eyah!”, buddy.
The Rangers Get Baked Into a Giant Pizza
“Power Rangers Turbo,” Episode 22 – “Trouble by the Slice”
By the time the remnants of the original Ranger crew had left halfway through their car-based season “Turbo”, “Power Rangers” was in trouble – the writers had trouble deciding whether to stick to the spirit of the Japanese Sentai footage (which was a silly parody of past Sentai shows) or keep it in the slightly more serious tone of the previous seasons.
This led to episodes like “Trouble by the Slice,” where the Turbo Rangers fought pizza-based beastie the Mad Mike Monster — an especially egregious case of the show just running with the Sentai footage for most of its runtime. In one scene, Mad Mike throws the Rangers in a giant oven, tosses ingredients over them, and starts to bake them into a giant pizza. With the help of their space cop friend the Blue Senturion, the Rangers’ lives are saved; their dignity, however, remains forever lost.
(Bonus weird thing: the Red Ranger delights in telling Mad Mike, “We’re here to toss your salad!”)
Bulk and Skull Get Turned Into Chimpanzees, Then Go Invisible
“Power Rangers Turbo”
Screenshot via Netflix
Two more casualties to the mass cast exodus of “Power Rangers Turbo” were Bulk & Skull — while audiences loved them, actors Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy took a little break to workshop a spinoff Bulk & Skull show. Their characters stayed in the show for “Turbo,” though; they just had to spend much of the season’s first half as chimpanzees (transformed by comic-relief baddie Elgar), with their former boss Lt. Stone forced to take care of them while he takes over Ernie’s Juice Bar. (Career paths in the Power Rangers universe are pretty wild.)
Of course, the Bulk & Skull show didn’t work out, and Narvy & Schrier eventually returned later in the season. A few episodes into chimp-hood, a random explosion turns them back into humans, but they remain invisible – it’s only a couple episodes later that they return to fully visible, in-the-flesh form. Their response when Stone asks them where they’ve been? “Just monkeying around.”
The Space Rangers Meet the Ninja Turtles
“Power Rangers in Space,” Episode 4 – “Shell Shocked”
In 1998, “Power Rangers” ran alongside the one-season wonder “Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation,” a fan-reviled live action version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that added a fifth female Turtle named Venus De Milo to the gang. Never one to miss an opportunity to sell more toys, Haim Saban (who produced both shows) quickly organized a crossover in which the two superhero teams met. And boy, is it not great.
First of all, the Turtles are the bad guys, hypnotized by the evil Astronema to betray the Rangers. After an awkward introduction in Angel Grove (“So the Mutant Ninja Turtles are real!” “Hey, we couldn’t believe there were really Power Rangers, either”), the episode devolves into a cavalcade of cheap jokes and awful slapstick, as the brainwashed Turtles try to take over the Astro Megaship, break the spell, then surf on the Rangers’ Galaxy Gliders in a particularly poorly green-screened finale.
It’s a shame, since “In Space” is commonly considered one of the best seasons of Power Rangers, the threat of cancellation giving the writers the freedom to toy with deeper characterizations and a darker tone. Too bad they had to get this cringeworthy crossover out of the way first.
The Rangers’ Nemesis Makes a Sitcom
“Power Rangers Ninja Storm,” Episode 20 – “I Love Lothor”
Screenshot via Netflix
While Power Ranger villains are never particularly scary or foreboding – except Lord Zedd, of course; the guy had no skin! – alien invader Lothor from “Ninja Storm” takes the non-threatening cake. A goofy, grumpy ninja master from space, Lothor is convinced by his two bratty nieces that, in order to win the hearts and minds of the people of Earth, he should star in his own sitcom.
And what a sitcom it is: Lothor struts on set wearing a knit sweater and slacks over his leather outfit, his director is a robotic rat, and one of his nieces plays…his wife? In the end, his general Zergane speaks for all of us after the first episode airs to terrible reviews: “Looks like the magic of television can’t make him likable.”
Tommy Roundhouse Kicks a T-Rex
“Power Rangers Dino Thunder,” Episode 1 – “Day of the Dino: Part 1”
“Dino Thunder” is notable for a number of reasons, chief among them the return of beloved fan favorite Tommy as the new team’s mentor – he’s older, wiser, and he somehow went from high school graduate to having a Ph.D. in paleontology in the space of about eight years. (I guess piloting robot dinosaurs in high school counts as an AP course.)
Still, we’re willing to ignore his dubious credentials, especially since he stares down a huge, CGI T-rex in the opening episode and gives him a hard, flying roundhouse kick in the face. Some Rangers may get older, but they still have it where it counts.
The Power Rangers Watch the Japanese Power Rangers
“Power Rangers Dino Thunder,” Episode 19 – “Lost and Found in Translation”
Screenshot via Netflix
Jason David Frank giving a Tyrannosaurus Rex a taste of his karate-kicking boot isn’t the end of “Dino Thunder’s” campy experimentation. One special episode sees Dino Rangers Conner, Ethan, and Kira sit down for some late-night channel surfing, when they suddenly find a Japanese show about the Power Rangers, complete with Japanese actors, bad dubbing, and silly props.
Naturally, this is just an episode of the Sentai series “Dino Thunder” was based on, “Abaranger” – but as strange as it is, it actually ends up being quite charming, with some of the Rangers rankling at how much of a mockery the show seems to make at their expense and others loving the tribute. Also, for Power Ranger fans who don’t watch the Japanese originals, it’s a fun look at how the show operates on the other side of the Pacific.
The Red Ranger Finds Out He’s a Robot
“Power Rangers Operation Overdrive,” Episode 25 – “Things Not Said”
Screenshot via Netflix
There’s not a lot to like about “Operation Overdrive” — the Rangers are annoying, the hip-hop theme song is atrocious, and it makes little use of its globe-trotting, Indiana-Jones-Rangers concept in favor of repetitive fights and too many villains.
Even so, one of the weirder, braver decisions the show made was to reveal more than halfway into the season that Mack, the Red Overdrive Ranger, was actually a robot – built by his father (and Ranger mentor) Andrew Hartford after he found out he couldn’t have children of his own. In a better show, this might’ve made for some intriguing drama in a kid’s show like this; as is, it’s just more example of the season’s wasted potential, as the end of the series allows him to be magically turned into a real boy.
The Rangers Become Completely Self-Aware
“Power Rangers RPM,” Episode 10 – “Ranger Blue”
In another example of cancellation giving Power Rangers license to take risks, “Power Rangers RPM” took a much darker, more complicated tack than its predecessors, taking place in an alternate mix of “Mad Max” and “The Terminator” where an evil robot virus named Venjix has wiped out most life on Earth, with the remnants of humanity hiding in a domed city that the Rangers protect.
The deconstruction of Power Rangers didn’t just extend to the darker tone, though; at the beginning of “Ranger Blue,” the Rangers are given the chance to ask their mentor Dr. Z about every trope longtime Ranger fans have picked up on over the course of the series: Why do their Zords have “big, googly anime eyes”? Why is there always a giant explosion behind them after they morph? It is absolutely necessary to scream “RPM, Get in Gear” at the top of their lungs before they morph?
It’s a great bit of cutesy self-awareness that even becomes useful later in the episode, when the Blue Ranger chooses to morph with his back turned to the baddies, using the aforementioned explosion to blow them up. As one of the later seasons in this already long-running kid’s show, it’s refreshing to see the characters finally realize the “Truman Show”-esque farce they were living in.