In the second part of my ongoing series to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise, I take a look at the second season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
As talked about in the previous part of my Power Rangers retrospective, the original season of the show was a lot more successful than the producers originally expected, and as such was extended beyond its initial 40 episode plans, augmented with new Japanese footage filmed just for Saban. But this posed a problem for the company, with no more Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger footage available, how was the series meant to carry on?
The solution: acquire the rights to another Super Sentai series and use this to make more Power Rangers. Whilst this would become a model that Saban would use for the next 25 years the second season of Mighty Morphin Power Ranger (and season three, but more on that next time) would be the only time when this did not mean a complete overhaul for the show.
Whilst in subsequent times a new Super Sentai series would be used it would mean the Rangers would get new powers and new costumes, the producers felt that children might not be able to identify with the series if the heroes suddenly looked different. As such, they began the process of combining together their own American footage of the Rangers with footage from the series Gosai Sentai Dairanger.
This meant a number of changes to the show, one being the introduction of new Zords, as they would need to use footage of the Gosai Sentai Dairanger Zord fights in the show. The iconic dinosaurs of the first season were upgraded by Zordon (David Fielding), transforming them into the Thunder Zords, based upon mythological creatures.
The biggest change because of footage restrictions, however, would be the departure of the Green Power Ranger, replacing him with the White Power Ranger. This storyline was teased across several episodes as the show slowly stripped Tommy Oliver (Jason David Frank) of his powers and eventually had him leave the series.
Whilst the intention was for him to leave the franchise and headline a new Saban project, VR Troopers, the outcry from fans meant that Saban had to scrap their plans to introduce a new character as the White Ranger, instead having Tommy return to take on that role. Commanding the White Tiger Zord and the talking sword Saba, the White Ranger quickly eclipsed the Green Ranger as children’s favourite, becoming an iconic part of the franchise.
As the show had stopped using footage from Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger the decision was made to remove the villain Rita Repulsa (played by Machiko Soga, dubbed by Barbara Goodson) from the show. A new American villain, Lord Zedd (Robert Axelrod), took over the role of atagonist; though the show soon received complaints from parents that the character was too frightening for children. Considering he’s a skinless man with a metal grill face and his brain showing, parents had a good point.
Over the course of the season Lord Zedd would be toned down a lot, and was tempered even more with the return of Rita, now played by the American actress Carla Perez thanks to Rita being deaged, who would go on to become Zedds wife in the latter half of the season.
The biggest change to the franchise, however, was the departure of half of the original cast. Thanks to the show becoming a huge success and earning more money than original thought, and due to the long working hours, a number of the original cast went to Haim Saban and asked for a rise in their pay.
Rather than attempt any kind of negotiation, or to consider paying his actors more, Haim Saban fired them on the spot. As such Jason Lee Scott (Austin St. John), Zack Taylor (Walter Jones), and Trini Kwan (Thuy Trang) needed to be written out of the series.
In a strange move the show didn’t remove the characters immediately, instead using older footage along with body and voice doubles to keep using the characters for several more episodes. In this time the series laid the seeds of their departure in the form of an upcoming peace conference that some of the local teens would attend, as well as introducing their replacement characters.
Whilst at the time children were unaware of these events, and would be completely fooled by the real actors being missing, it’s painfully obvious now which episodes don’t have the three of them in, as none of the stand ins are particularly convincing, and the older footage is very obvious.
Thankfully, once the new Rangers were introduced the series rose in quality somewhat, and led to an even bigger growth in popularity. Along with the new additions of Steve Cardenas as Rocky DeSantos the new Red Ranger, Karen Asheley as Aisha Campbell the new Yellow Ranger, and Johnny Yong Bosch as Adam Park the new Black Ranger, the remaining original cast would go on to star in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Movie, which would air just after season two.
The second season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was easily one of the most difficult for the show behind the scenes, but also led to a surge in popularity for the franchise, resulting in higher audience figures, increased merchandise sales, video games, and a big screen outing.
Whilst some of the episodes in the latter half of the season suffer in quality due to being filmed around the movie schedule, overall it’s a great season, with my personal favourite Megazord in the form of the Thunder Megazord, and my favourite Ranger in Johhny Yong Bosch’s Adam.