Welcome to the Morphing Grid, Rangers! In anticipation (or possibly dread?) of the brand-new Power Rangers movie releasing this March, the Joy of Geek is proud to present a new series to the site, with noted super-fan Jordan taking a look at the long-running series from as many angles as possible. Check back here every week for a new article in this series discussing giant robots, rainbow-colored spandex, and an endless army of crazy monster suits.
And since this is the first entry in the series, I figured why not start with one of the biggest lists possible: the best Power Rangers seasons of all time. A foolhardy, inherently subjective task? For sure! But also a fun list to write coming on the heels of a full series re-watch. As such, take a look below for the Joy of Geek’s definitive list of the Power Rangers seasons you should check out before the new reboot hits theaters!
HM. Power Rangers Operation Overdrive
Though generally maligned by the fan base, I’ve got a lot of love for the ambition and general sense of fun that Operation Overdrive exudes. It’s a season overstuffed with too many villains and woefully incapable of delivering on its globe-trotting narrative – much of the world apparently resembles the woodlands of New Zealand – but it makes up for it with plenty of goofy storylines, a solid supporting cast, and one of the best Red Rangers in Mack. Most importantly, it has a clear acceptance and embrace of just how deeply silly Power Rangers can be, making for a downright joyous season of the show.
HM. Power Rangers Mystic Force
Maybe it’s just how darn good Power Rangers look with capes, but the overall magical aesthetic goes a long way towards setting Mystic Force apart. Though Nick’s family drama becomes a little overpowering by the end of the season, the overall plot remains one of the most satisfying, with plenty of twists, multipart episodes, and fantastic villains along the way. All that, plus a great comic relief character in the form of genie cat Jenji, help make Mystic Force a spell worth falling under.
5. Power Rangers in Space
Though Mighty Morphin gets by on nostalgic memories, there’s no qualifiers necessary to enjoy the very best year of the original Zordon era. The season that saved the series from cancellation, Power Rangers in Space brought six years of storyline to an epic conclusion, taking the Rangers off Earth to bring the fight against evil to the cosmos. From the Psycho Rangers to Andros’ tragic backstory, there’s so much to love in Space, with the season showing all that the series had learned and refined over the past five years.
This season earns its place just on the strengths of the finale, “Countdown to Destruction,” alone, which not only brought the Rangers’ story to an end, but gave longtime comic relief characters Bulk and Skull their most heroic moment. The rest of the season isn’t to be dismissed, however, with fantastic villains Astronema and Ecliptor standing as the deepest and most intriguing the show had offered up so far. It’s just a masterful outing for the show, and one that proved how well the show could undergo the now-standard yearly transformations.
4. Power Rangers SPD
Much like Mystic Force, it certainly doesn’t hurt just how striking the SPD suit is, with a great use of black space to denote each member’s team number on the outfit itself. Beyond just aesthetics, though, following the ragtag members of the B-Squad Rangers makes for a solid season that reimagines the team as a government-sanctioned organization of galactic peace.
What really stands apart for SPD is how well the season manages to highlight and develop the conflicts between the different Rangers. They’re little more than novices at the beginning of the season, and watching the team grow as both warriors and friends under the tutelage of their commander Doggie Cruger is a joy. It also allows for one of the most satisfying season enders as the team face a challenge – which I won’t spoil here, just watch it – that allows them to prove that they’ve become the definitive SPD squad.
3. Power Rangers Dino Charge
The Neo-Saban era of Power Rangers had brought the show back a year after it seemed it may have been done for good, but the first four years on Nickelodeon (Power Rangers Samurai and Megaforce) had failed to capture the same spark as some of the earlier years of the show. Fortunately, third time proved to be the charm, with Dino Charge reviving the goofy spirit of the show’s beginnings while keeping plenty of modern sensibility.
A lot of this success can be credited to executive producer Chip Lynn. The man responsible for one of the show’s best runs – in Space through Time Force – returned to the show after a long absence and brought the magic back with him. From the delightful, scenery-chewing villain Heckyl to the time-displace antics of Sir Ivan and Koda, Dino Charge strikes a near-perfect balance between silly and serious. Helped along by some of the series’ best performances, Dino Charge was a true triumph, and Lynn’s continued involvement with the series has me just as excited to see what’s in store for Ninja Steel.
2. Power Rangers Lost Galaxy
The first season to feature a clean cut from all that came before – a few returning characters notwithstanding – Lost Galaxy had a lot to prove. The question was whether or not the show could continue to find success with a completely new cast and concept, one that saw Terra Venture, a giant space colony, travelling the cosmos searching for an Earth-like planet.
As it happens, there was no reason to worry; not only was Lost Galaxy a high point for the series, it immediately proved that the new model of an annual refresh could provide an endless opportunity for fresh storytelling. The heroes, from Red Ranger Leo living in his brother’s shadow to the enigmatic Magna Defender, were compelling and engaging. The villains, from the nefarious, yet noble Villamax to the constantly evolving – literally and figuratively – Trakeena, were among the series’ most complex.
More than anything, the new limited-series model gave the chance for the show to churn through a great deal of plot and character development without having to worry about a second season. Down the road, this model would make for some off-kilter seasons, but everything was pitch perfect here. Throw in the serious threat of character death – two major characters died during the season – and you had a season that was firing on every cylinder.
1. Power Rangers Time Force
Two short years after Lost Galaxy, Power Rangers delivered a season that not only equaled the first year of the post-Zordon era, but one that managed to add an entire extra layer of depth and complexity. In just about every conceivable way, Power Rangers Time Force is a perfect season of the show, one that the series has yet to even come close to topping.
All of the strengths of Lost Galaxy are on display in Time Force. Team leader Jen, Red Ranger Wes, and Quantum Ranger Eric – the best sixth Ranger of all time; fight me, Tommy fans! – are all complicated characters that develop a lot over the course of the season. Main villain Ransik, meanwhile, far surpassed early expectation, with a dark backstory and a loving relationship with his daughter Nadira making him surprisingly easy to relate to.
But where Time Force truly managed to exceed all expectation is in just how many deeper themes it set out to explore. From the racist parallels of how mutants like Ransik are treated in the future, to Wes’ struggle with the conflict of free will vs. destiny that comes from knowing how his life is supposed to go, to the entitlement vs. hard work rivalry between Wes and Eric, Time Force goes to a lot of interesting places. And while yes, it explores these themes at a kids’ show level, it’s still fascinating to see just how dark and honest the season is willing to get.
Of course, it wouldn’t work if the season didn’t also offer plenty of lighthearted fun, and Time Force does that in spades. There’re heaps of great comedic moments throughout, with perhaps no funnier or bizarre episode in Power Rangers history than Ransik forcing a Ranger, who he hates, to date his daughter, just to make her happy. Throw in an Old West time travel episode and an episode of Blue Ranger Lucas attempting to get his license, and there’s plenty of classic Rangers cheese to enjoy this year.
Time Force is the perfect balance, a season that manages to show off everything that’s great about one of the longest-running kids’ shows out there. Not only that, it’s just a solid piece of children’s entertainment that can legitimately be enjoyed by kids of all ages. Not bad for a show built around reworking Japanese Sentai footage.
What did you think of our list? Which season were we fools to not include? Why is that season clearly RPM? Let us know in the comments!