Back to action! Whether you just discovered them or grew up with them like us, Power Rangers have been introducing children and fully-grown nerds alike to the beauty of fictionalized violence, a multiverse where turning your enemies into action figures and combining guns into bigger guns can solve all of life's problems. The original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a testament to cost-effective editing. First, editors took the Japanese Super Sentai series, and adapted it into an entirely new show for Western audiences. Sometimes, footage from several seasons of unrelated Sentai shows were spliced together into a single Frankenstein of an episode, like that one episode where the Power Rangers fought Frankenstein.
Second, all of the adult humor from the Super Sentai series had to be edited out in favor of something appropriate for children. Despite this two sweep edit, however, some controversial parts of Power Rangers still remained. We've scoured all 25 seasons of Power Rangers, from Pudgy Pig to Madame Odius, chronicling 15 of the most controversial and/or questionable moments in Power Rangers history. Whether it made parents complain, actors walk off set or was just literally too cool for school, these moments made us question just how Morphinominal things truly were.
Let's address the Elephant Zord in the room. In the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the Black Ranger was played by Walter Jones, an African-American actor. Also, the Yellow Ranger was played by Vietnamese American actress Thuy Trang. Sure, the Red Ranger was played by Austin St. John, who is of partial Native American descent, but he was the best at karate and the Red Ranger was the best Ranger anyway.
This token casting was purportedly just a coincidence.
You know, like when Zack wore an albino monkey costume before Zedd turned it into a monster that could perfectly mimic the Rangers, resulting in Zack acting like a monkey. Regardless, it did take 14 years for a Black actress, Camille Hyde in Dino Thunder, to be cast as a Pink Ranger. Incidentally, an early draft of 2017's Power Rangers had Zack as the Pink Ranger.
In addition to beating villains with sick karate and backhand springs, the Power Rangers would gun down foes with laser pistols, or barring that, a gun made out of ninja weapons that required five people to compensate for the recoil. Parents complained about the amount of gun violence in Power Rangers, which is kinda like complaining about all the meth in Breaking Bad. Regardless, pistols were permanently holstered in the third season.
Jump ahead to 2001's Power Rangers Time Force, where not only do two Rangers regularly wield giant cannons, but Matrix-style gunfights reign supreme. Rangers execute bullet time dodges and information is downloaded into helmets. Heck, even their transport ship morphs into a Megazord gun, which is promptly used in homage to Neo and Agent Smith's subway gunfight. This fight-scene gets regularly used in the opening intro for Time Force. Speaking of Time Force....
Nobody kisses in the year 3000. Babies are genetically engineered to "perfection," outfitted with designer traits. The "evil" Ransik is born by accident, shunned by society for being a mutant. Ransik builds an army out of mutant outcasts, running away to the year 2001 with the prison that houses cryogenically frozen mutant "criminals" in perpetual life sentences, fully conscious the entire time. Newcomer Ranger Wesley wonders if Ransik is a sympathetic villain, before Jen barks out future propaganda: "He's evil! Through and through."
Basically, Power Rangers Time Force was a combination of Brave New World and X-Men.
Ransik faces the Power Rangers, who are essentially replicant chrono-cops – especially the Yellow Ranger engineered with super strength. Even the monsters of the week aren't truly monsters, rather mutants are reanimated and press-ganged by Ransik into facing certain explosion-based death at the hands of karate teenagers and their mecha. Basically, Power Rangers Time Force was a combination of Brave New World and X-Men.
Essentially a mash-up of Skeletor, Darth Vader and chrome Speedos, Lord Zedd was an original villain created specifically for Western audiences, unlike Rita Repulsa. In his first appearance, Zedd raids Rita's Moon-Base, turning her into an action figure before using a snake turned into a staff to turn a piranha into a fish-man with a fish-nunchuk-flute that grants control over technology. When his monster fails, Zedd one-shot kills the Dinozords with an orbital lightning strike that drags them into the fiery depths of Hell. Much like his exposed brains, Lord Zedd blew our prepubescent minds.
Like anything awesome in Power Rangers, Parents complained that Zedd was too scary. So, Zedd began to ham it up, due in large part to the "love potion" that Rita slipped him. Fortunately, Zedd gets one final fight with Tommy during "The Changing of The Zords."
During that Zedd/Tommy fight in "The Changing of The Zords," we were literally just talking about, Rita provided the obligatory monster of the week in the form of a See Monster. See Monster attacked by opening his "coat" to flash you, causing immense pain with the piercing eyes of a thousand perverts. See Monster's wrinkly, leather-like coat is actually comprised of nightmare-flesh meat flaps.
See Monster attacked with the piercing eyes of a thousand perverts.
When hit by its flash attack, red circles hover over the Power Rangers' heads as they kneel over in painful disgust, an apt description of the sensation one gets upon receiving unrequested nudie pics. Zedd squeaks out a "Make my monster grow," as we see firsthand that See Monster becomes a grower and a shower. Oddly, See Monster's attack works on the Megazords, which makes no sense since they're eyeless golems powered by ninja energy.
While adapting a series for an American audience can be a smooth transition, sometimes some plot spot-welding must occur in order to make the Sentai series fit into a specific motif. Take Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, which despite its name, didn't really take place in space. Wanting to build off the momentum generated by Power Rangers in Space (widely regarded as one of the best series due to its heavy space opera theme), the writers wanted to keep the Power Rangers in space. The problem was that the Sentai series to be adapted into Power Rangers Lost Galaxy had a heavy nature theme.
To "fix" this problem, the show merely explained that this "Lost Galaxy" primarily took place on a terraformed space colony that just looked exactly like Earth. To compensate, a ton of Starship Troopers armor ended up being utilized throughout the series.
Speaking of false advertising, despite the opening montage depicting different time periods, Power Rangers Time Force primarily took place in the year 2001, with the Megazords being needlessly taxied back and forth between the years 2001 and 3000 in each episode.
SPOILER: There is no time travel in Power Rangers Time Force.
Now, the writers of Time Force wanted to have some time travel story arcs, with the intent to utilize Sentai footage from woodland and nature-heavy settings to represent the past. Unfortunately, the writers soon realized that every single Megazord scene took place in modern Tokyo. Since Megazords make up the third act of every Power Rangers episode, Time Force was stuck in the year 2001, barring some flashbacks. Those time-period shots teased during the series' opening credits? They all contained in a two-part episode where the Rangers get stuck in different movie genres. To recap: there is no time travel in Power Rangers Time Force.
While most of the sexuality from the original Super Sentai series was edited out for American audiences, objectively "hot" costumes still managed to pop up, primarily for American-manufactured femme fatales. The standout is Nadira, the villainess of Power Rangers Time Force who armor consists of pink raver hair, an exposed midriff and a short, semi-transparent, glossy miniskirt despite her proclivity for high-kicks.
Also uncomfortably notable is Power Rangers in Space's Astronema, played by Melody Perkins. Wearing a shiny vinyl catsuit with a metal battle-corset and hyper-color wigs, Astronema delivers every line with a tone that straddles the line between manic pixie dream-girl and recalled pleasure-robot, all the while strutting through the space scenery on dominatrix style android stilettos. There's also the low-plunging bustier of Divatox, better known as the main reason to sit through Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie.
During a 2010 interview with No Pink Spandex, the original Blue Ranger David Yost revealed that he endured extreme amounts of homophobic abuse while on Power Rangers. Yost walked off the set during Power Rangers Zeo, "because I had been called 'f*****' one too many times."
Yost attempted to "cure" himself of his gayness with conversion therapy, resulting in a nervous breakdown before embracing his orientation.
Mind you, with the exception of one episode where Billy was turned into a kid, David Yost had appeared in every episode of the original run of Power Rangers. That's 194 episodes and one movie for a show that was often shot seven days per week. That's a lot of homophobia. You know what also probably didn't help? Being given the Unicorn Thunderzord, which was more of a horse-shaped foot than an actual unicorn. Oh, there was also that one time David Yost was lit on fire...
During the Season One Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episode, "Switching Places," Billy and Kimberly trade bodies, thanks to a machine Billy designed that was supposed to allow you to read another's person's mind, provided you were holding their hand in this apparatus. Despite Kimberly's claims, things would be far from "Morphinominal ."
Due to a pyrotechnic mishap, David Yost and Amy Jo Johnson were briefly lit on fire. This accidental immolation had a lasting effect on Amy Jo Johnson. During the filming of Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, the film that wrongfully assumes that trucks were cooler than dinosaur robots, there's a sequence where Johnson is carried on a slab around some fire stuff. Johnson had to specifically request that the actors carrying her be mindful of the pyrotechnics, as that one Freaky Friday knockoff episode ended up being a traumatic experience for her.
Despite being a children's show, the appeal of Power Rangers has always laid in its quasi-adult levels of action. So, when the Power Rangers straight up pulled a Robin and made 12-year-old Justin Stewart into the Blue Turbo Ranger during Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, fans were displeased. When the Rangers needed him for a final fight, a hospitalized Rocky deputized Justin as a Power Ranger, mainly because Justin was the only other person present.
Literally not even a teenager with attitude, the youngest non-robotic Power Ranger gained his morphing powers by just sorta being there.
Though he's not old enough for a learner's permit, Justin drives the Mountain Blaster Turbozord, which sounds like a body-spray flavor. Essentially, Justin was regarded as the Power Rangers equivalent of Scrappy Doo. Yes, we're well aware of Anubis Cruger, the Power Ranger that was also a dog.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was basically the most cost-effective childrens' show of all time. In addition to saving money by reusing and recutting footage from Super Sentai, Power Rangers was also made to sell action figures, which is why the Rangers always made sure to name drop their Megazords and weapons during every episode. These Megazords and weapons also combined into bigger Zords and ninja guns, because each toy was sold separately.
The second-most cost-effective stratagem Disney applied to Power Rangers was releasing a remastering of the original series in 2017. This "remastering" involved adding in ugly graphics and exposition-heavy title cards. Ultimately, these edits made it feel like you were watching a 90's show spliced with a Japanese show but also a comic sometimes. Also, every utterance of "God" is replaced by "Gosh."
Let's say you're a Power Rangers producer, and you've already reduced costs for fight scenes by editing pre-existing Sentai footage. How would you save money for the out of costume scenes? The answer is Sam, the original Omega Ranger from Power Rangers S.P.D. Sam was originally a psychokinetic child; however, due to a time-travel mishap, Sam's body was reduced to a floating ball of blue light.
Because Sam was a CGI effect, Disney didn't have to pay for an actor to portray Sam until his final appearance.
As double bonus, Sam doesn't get a morphing sequence – the sequence literally recycled in every episode – meaning even less work was poured into the Omega Ranger. Just as the word "Omega" is reserved for the worst (as in most dangerous) class of mutants in the X-Men Universe, Omega is reserved for the worst (as in, most terrible) Power Ranger.
Sometimes, a show will slip in an episode that is pure filler, oftentimes in the form of a clip-show. So, when Power Rangers – a show already made up of clips of shows – slack off, they slack off hard. During "Lost and Found in Translation" from Power Rangers Dino Thunder, the Rangers watch an episode of Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger, the Sentai series that was adapted into Dino Thunder. Incidentally, Dino Thunder brought back the OG Green Ranger. So, we're watching the Power Rangers with an original Power Ranger watch the original Power Rangers?
Don't dwell on it too much, because the American Rangers provide commentary on this nesting doll of an episode. In the episode within the episode, a composite bear-mushroom-ATM monster named "Ka-Ching" fights the Rangers by throwing money before mocking the proud, American tradition of idolizing overpaid athletes. It's kinda the best thing, ever.
In 2005 Joseph Khan released Power/Rangers, a gritty fan film focusing on the fate of the original Power Rangers, child soldiers weaponized to fight in an intergalactic war. Opening with a war zone reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan but with Megazords, Power/Rangers is framed around James Van Der Beek's Rocky interrogating Kimberly, played by Katee Sackhoff, on their former teammates' whereabouts.
Saban had the film taken down due to copyright infringement.
Filled with swears, blood-splatter and sparky swordplay, Power/Rangers gave us former fans the Power Rangers we've unconsciously always wanted: Bulk and Skull betray Jason for Machine Empire meth. Zach snorts some lines before HALO-jumping into a headshot filled John Woo gun/knife/hapkido/helmet fight. Angel Grove is super cyberpunk. Naturally, Saban had the film taken down due to copyright infringement. Regardless, in less than 15 minutes Power/Rangers made us wish it was Morphin Time for the first time in decades.
Ransik's actor Vernon Wells, who was also Bennet in Commando, claims that tons of innuendo was initially overlooked in Power Rangers Time Force. During "Something to Fight For," Nadira complains that she broke a nail. Ransik, her father, claims he can make it feel better. Nadira slowly proceeds to put her finger in her "Daddy's" mouth before slowly moving it around in the original cut.
Likewise, during the original cut of the Power Rangers Time Force finale, we finally hear this series' version of the Putty Patrol, the Cyclobots, speak. At first you think it's just random robot noises, until you play their lines in reverse. To quote one Cyclobot talking to Ransik, "You are the size of a f*****g condo." While another Cyclobot claims "That's too much money, b****." Disney would change these backwards lines, but we still consider Cyclobots to be the best robot minions, ever.