You should always keep childish things and childhood memories close by as a barometer of who are you as you get older. I’ll give you an example inspired by one of the year’s best DVD sets, the massive, comprehensive Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Complete Series, which stretches from the beginning of the children’s television phenomenon up to 10 episodes of Alien Rangers, first revived by Time Life, and then ably presented to the general public by Shout! Factory.
Until I learned of the complete origins of the Power Rangers in “Morphin’ Time,” featured on one of two impressive bonus discs, I’d forgotten that the show aired Monday through Friday afternoons, and on Saturday morning. But I could have sworn that “The Power Transfer,” part 1 was a new episode on the Saturday morning that I went with my dad to his job at Southern Bell in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, deposited in the employee lounge while he was at work, where I had a TV all to myself and vending machines to look over with great interest, including the chicken-soup-and-coffee vending machine with cups that had individual playing cards on the bottom, so you could see, depending on how much coffee or chicken soup you had, if you got a royal flush.
“The Power Transfer, Part 1” was in response to Austin St. John (Jason, the Red Ranger), Thuy Trang (Trini, the Yellow Ranger), and Walter Emmanuel Jones (Zack, the Black Ranger) deciding to leave the show, and in that same aforementioned featurette, Tony Oliver, writer and supervising producer on the series. talks about how they had to scramble to not only come up with a story that made sense for their departures, but also find three new cast members to replace them. It’s always been meaningful to me because of Serpentera, Lord Zedd’s (voice of Robert Axelrod) dragon Zord designed to defeat and destroy the Power Rangers, especially in this episode, as they all had to travel to the Deserted Planet to retrieve the Sword of Light, which allowed Jason, Trini, and Zack’s powers to be transferred to Rocky (Steve Cardenas), Adam (Jonny Yong Bosch), and Aisha (Karan Ashley), who were the only ones to see the true identities of the Power Rangers after having been kidnapped and imprisoned by Zedd’s minions.
The end of the episode has Zedd triumphing over the assumed end of the Power Rangers, given that he mashed a red button that has Serpentera fire on the Deserted Planet, beginning its destruction. I was sitting at a table directly facing that TV in the Southern Bell employee lounge, the TV wedged in a corner of the ceiling, already in awe of Serpentera’s size and power, but just amazed at how truly evil Lord Zedd could be. I was 10 years old and this, along with those vending machines, was big enough for me.
Now I come to this 19-disc set, with that episode on there, me 28 years old and still very much into the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but not as it is today. I stick to the old times, when the Zords were models, but at least they were real, not the computer-animated paint splatters that serve as the Zords today on the latest incarnations. Rewatching “The Power Transfer, Part 1” today, I’m still spellbound by the menacing size of Serpentera, which is far bigger than even the Red Dragon Thunderzord, which appeared later on in the series after the original Zords were replaced with more powerful ones to combat Lord Zedd’s monsters, which were more dangerous than anything Rita Repulsa ever created. But Lord Zedd’s evil doesn’t impress me anymore. These days I’m more interested in watching again how the Power Rangers get out of his clutches, how they defeat him.
When I was obsessed with the Power Rangers, I owned bed sheets, pillow cases, coloring books, trading cards, and my mom was the one who took me to see the first movie in the summer of 1995, since Dad was working. Last year, I picked up a set of action figures of the original Power Rangers, but gave it up before we moved. This DVD set is now all I have of anything to do with this important part of my childhood, and it’s actually all I need. This is a shrine for those who don’t have a massive memorabilia collection. They can have it just by this set alone. Here are Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson) and Bulk and Skull and Rita and Goldar and Squat and Baboo and Finster, Rita’s monster maker, and the Dinozords and the Thunderzords and the list goes on and on of the joy of reliving all this, including the general cheesiness of the series, which is fine with me. It’s especially interesting to watch the pilot episode, and see Kimberly as an obnoxious Valley Girl-type, and then evolve quickly into the strong, determined girl she was.
Of course, I couldn’t go through this set without watching the origins of Tommy Oliver (Jason David Frank), the Green Ranger and the new guy in town who’s shanghaied by Rita to become her own personal evil Ranger, who battles the Power Rangers and, after Tommy breaks free of her clutches, he joins the Power Rangers, and, later on, becomes the White Ranger after the Green Ranger’s powers weaken considerably and then cease. Rather appropriate for preteens soon to change too. Tommy was my favorite character precisely because he was different from the others. He didn’t fit into the preconceived molds that made the show relatable to so many, that kept them watching, besides the Zords and the action and all of that. That worked to the series’ great advantage and helped it remain a mega hit. It’s what kept me hooked all the way through to Power Rangers Zeo until I decided by Turbo that it was no longer as imaginative and as entertaining as it had previously been.
But now, here we are. Here is this DVD set. And there I am, not entirely enthralled by the action anymore, not as amazed by the Zords coming together to become one giant paperweight on Lord Zedd’s plans. These days, I’m thinking more about those never-explored story questions that can never be answered. Rita throws down her magic wand every time she wants her monster-of-the-episode to become a giant. How does she get it back? When the Zords sustain damage, how long do repairs take? How are they repaired? Does Zordon’s power include simply generating spare parts for the Zords? These are the sort of questions that probably inspire lots of fan fiction, but not by me. But I appreciate Mighty Morphin Power Rangers even more for it, because with the series not revealing every single detail we fans could ever want to know, since Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger in Japan, from which footage of the Rangers and the Zords and Rita Repulsa and all that is taken to use in the show, cannot be altered, we can imagine all that we want, putting in details of our own and giving more depth to the series that way. Certainly we revere our childhood shows more and more as we get older, but some just improve with age, like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
What helps that improvement are the two bonus discs, the first of which offers “Morphin’ Time!” and “A Morphenomenal Cast: A Look at Becoming a Power Ranger.” Not only does Haim Saban himself give insights about how he came up with the idea for the series, but everyone interviewed looks back fondly and with great detail. There are some DVDs and DVD sets in which audio commentaries and documentaries complement one another, picking up where the other left off or adding more information to what you’ve heard. These two documentaries alone show that audio commentaries weren’t necessary for any of the episodes, not least because some former cast members admit to not quite knowing what they were shooting at the time because they worked so fast, until they had to record dialogue as the Power Rangers in post-production. Chances are they might not have remembered today what certain episodes were about. Even so, these documentaries are a fan’s dream and these actors and executives and the creative team on the series know that the fans will be watching this closely and they give everything you can imagine. The biggest surprise is Jason Narvy, who played Eugene “Skull” Skullovitch, sidekick to the equally idiotic Farkas “Bulk” Bulkmier (Paul Schrier). He’s a Wil Wheaton type, appreciative of his past, but not above poking a little fun at it. His insights make you wonder why he hasn’t written a book yet. I would read anything he writes, and out of the entire original cast of the series, he would be the one to write about it. There is a sense in both these documentaries that even though so many years have passed, everyone is still floored by its success. They’ve never taken it for granted.
Also on the first bonus disc is “Lord Zedd’s Monster Heads” which rejiggers a particular Halloween episode into a vehicle for Lord Zedd to reminisce about his favorite monsters; “Alpha’s Magical Christmas,” which finds Alpha 5 a bit lonely at Christmastime; and “The Good, the Bad, and the Stupid! (The Misadventures of Bulk and Skull)” which shows off how actually creative Bulk and Skull’s exploits were, how much fun they were to watch.
The second bonus disc has the only disappointing extra feature in the entire set, that of “The Fans Power Up! A Peek Inside the Power Rangers Fandom.” There are ample comments by a few fans, namely those in charge of Power Morphicon, the Power Rangers convention, and this featurette is directed and edited by an obsessive collector of Power Rangers memorabilia, but there’s not enough about the convention, about the people who attend, about the events that happen there. To see more of it than just the brief clips would have been a great addition to an already-strong set.
One major surprise remains on the second disc. Not the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Fan Club Video,” which is a remarkable find, not “The White Ranger Kata,” which was a karate video hosted and led by Jason David Frank. The surprise is “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Live: The World Tour,” which is, in full, the entire show at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, which gives you the chance to see the old 7UP logo, as they were the sponsor of the tour, and a Goldar costume that makes him look like he got into some drugs backstage before the show. Understandably, the costumes have to be flexible enough for performers to move around in them, but a few of them, like Goldar, get the bare basics of the character down, and ignore the rest. The Lord Zedd costume kind of looks like what’s seen on TV, but only just. However, it doesn’t matter to the sold-out crowd, and to be reminded of the incredible reach of the series makes this worth watching.
Time Life and Shout! Factory have done my childhood a great honor. Even though I’ve gotten older and perceptions change, my love of the Power Rangers has not changed. This is half of my childhood successfully resurrected. Now I ask Shout! Factory this: Could you please put the entire run of Beakman’s World on DVD next? Even though Mark Ritts, who played Lester the Rat, died in 2009, Paul Zaloom (Beakman) is still around, and so is Alanna Ubach (Josie), Eliza Schneider (Liza), and Senta Moses (Phoebe). Sit them down, let them talk, and record it all. And find the production designer of Beakman’s World because those sets are an exact replica of the inside of my head. Please, please, please consider it. No episode of Beakman’s World ever gets old or wears out. It’s funny every time, and most importantly, educational without being boring. If this is ever done, I can consider the resurrection of my childhood complete. But so far, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers alone shows that Shout! Factory is still a major force in bringing pop culture history back to life, and has only grown stronger with this release. It’s the kind of release that keeps you glued to what they’ll come out with next because it’s bound to be just as interesting.