Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is a hit kids’ show in multiple countries. Still running in the United States today, roughly 20 years after its debut, there have been lots of different series featuring lots of different rangers battling lots of different monsters. But now, for the first time on DVD, you can see how it all began.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Season 1, Vol.1 collects the first 30 episodes, half of season one, onto a three disc set (sans bonus features, not that that matters to the target audience). These are the characters that started it all, and built the phenomenon. Each episode is about twenty minutes long, and features the first five teenagers to don the suits and call upon the robotic dinosaurs.
There’s Jason (Austin St. John), the leader and Red Ranger of the group, who loves his country and karate. Billy (David Yost), the Blue Ranger, is a sweet nerd who speaks a genius language all his own. Trini (Thuy Trang, The Crow: City of Angels), is the Yellow Ranger, as patient and spiritual as she is tough. Zack (Walter Jones, Space Cases) is the charismatic, energetic, dancing Black Ranger. Finally, Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson, Flashpoint, Felicity), the Pink Ranger, is a popular girl who loves gymnastics and shopping.
For those who don’t remember how it began, the evil Rita Repulsa (anime voice actress Barbara Goodson) escapes from her 10,000-year imprisonment in a dumpster on the moon. Her various creature minions rally around her, and they plan to attack the Earth. Zordon (sound guy Robert L. Manahan) taps five young people with just the right mix of moxy and heart to suit up and take on Rita. Thus, the saga is born.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers does not hold up well, sadly. As iconic as it may be, watching just the first episode will leave you shaking your head at the plot holes they got away with. There are not logical jumps in the story; instead, the characters just move where the plot demands they be, and, anxious to bring on the battle sequences, skips over the necessary character development to turn teenagers “with attitude” into heroes. Thus, not only is everyone flat, but they also suffer from a lack of distinct motivations.
This continues, most noticeably, in the battle sequences. The characters’ personalities completely drop out when they become the Power Rangers, becoming generic bodies and machines. Many of the scenes shown in this American remake are borrowed from the original Japanese incarnation, which is why that they might not quite match.
But kids don’t watch Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for the story. They watch it to see martial arts and giant monsters beating on each other. In that, there is plenty. There is also a good moral message about standing up for others, and doing what’s right. The danger is relatively harmless, not too scary for a young audience. The humor will also appeal to juveniles, with Bulk (Paul Schrier) and Skull (Jason Navy) always present to provide the slapstick, and Alpha 5 (Richard Steven Horvitz, The Angry Beavers) driving the energy level higher.
So even if the adults cringe at the gaping missteps in the writing, the children won’t notice, eager to jump up and mirror the fighting moves. They will laugh, and be totally engaged. Trust me. My little brothers were huge fans.
Now, admittedly, even though things begin quite rough, the tale does improve over time. By the point at which the Green Ranger, Tommy (Jason David Frank) is introduced, the arcs get longer, and the stakes get a little deeper. There is actually some movement in what drives a character, and an effort to change minds and hearts. It still isn’t high quality television, but it becomes not quite as terrible as it started out.
Overall, this is a good set to have if you have bouncing young boys in the house. But if you’re just someone looking back for nostalgia’s sake, you might want to skip it, lest you soil your fond memories of the series.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Season 1, Vol. 1 is available now.