Top 10: Power Rangers to Return in Megaforce by Jerry Whitworth
With the latest series in the franchise’s history, Power Rangers Megaforce celebrates twenty years of Power Rangers. As the ten year anniversary was celebrated with the Power Rangers: Wild Force episode “Forever Red” (with ten red rangers) and fifteen year anniversary with “Once a Ranger” from Power Rangers Operation Overdrive (with five returning rangers), speculation is high how Megaforce plans to ring in the advent. Further, this will be the first time Saban Brands (the company’s Haim Saban, with Shuki Levy, originally brought Super Sentai to America with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) has an opportunity to produce an anniversary special as the two previous examples were handled by Disney (who acquired Power Rangers in its tenth year) as Saban recently regained the franchise with Power Rangers Samurai. With footage from Gokaiger Goseiger Super Sentai 199 Hero Great Battle (the film that celebrated the thirty-fifth anniversary of Super Sentai in Japan with almost every hero from the franchise) appearing in several episodes of Megaforce already, fans know at the very least they’re in for a treat. With rumors spreading that former rangers will appear in Megaforce‘s second season, lets take a look at some of the characters that could possibly return.
The second yellow ranger after actress Thuy Trang joined with Austin St. John and Walter Jones and left Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as part of a bid to increase their pay (among the original five main characters, the trio were martial artists and felt were necessary for the show to continue its success; Trang subsequently passed in a car accident), Aisha Campbell emerged in the second season alongside two other replacements for the leaving actors. Actress Karan Ashley would stay with the series as Aisha through Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie and until the MMPR series finale where she left unable to maintain the production schedule. Ashley would concede her role as yellow ranger to actress Nakia Burrise who portrayed the character Tanya Sloan from her emergence in MMPR through Power Rangers Zeo, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, and nineteen episodes of Power Rangers Turbo. Burrise would be let go alongside Johnny Yong Bosch (who replaced Walter Jones) and Catherine Sutherland (who replaced the pink ranger Amy Jo Johnson) when the Screen Actors Guild sought the actors to join its union, thus forcing an increase in their pay (the actors learning of their dismissal upon seeing an ad in the newspaper looking for new rangers). It’s likely showrunners for Megaforce will want to bring back a yellow ranger for the second season but it’s hard to determine which one to choose. Predominantly, Power Rangers have pushed red rangers and special rangers or allies as main characters which makes it challenging to select rangers that often fall in the middle like blue, pink, and yellow commonly do. Further, red and special rangers also tend to be white and male with yellow rangers often also being white and/or male. Considering all of this, the most logical choice for a returning yellow ranger is the original but again Thuy Trang tragically died over eleven years ago. So, this line of thinking brings us to Karan Ashley and Nakia Burrise who I simply can’t decide between choosing. Both were in around seventy episodes of Power Rangers, both starred in a Power Rangers feature film, and both have strong relationships with the fans through convention appearances. Ultimately, which one gets the call could come down to which one is available or the one fans rally the most for to bring back.
The Quantum Ranger of Power Rangers Time Force, Eric Myers was unique in the early Power Rangers seasons for being an ally to the heroes but also in conflict with them. To a degree, Myers was a villain who stole the powers of a ranger from Time Force and Ransik (who battled over obtaining its powers for themselves) for his own personal gain (which goes against some of the most basic mantra of the rangers). These qualities alone make the character distinct but even more than that is the relationship its actor Daniel Southworth has with the franchise. When the tenth anniversary special “Forever Red” was planned, actor Steve Cardenas (who replaced Austin St. John as the red ranger) was suppose to be included but when issues arose contacting him as he moved from one home to another, Southworth stepped in as the Quantum Ranger to round out the group of ten red rangers for the special. This contribution must have been remembered even today as when an image heralding the twentieth anniversary of Power Rangers with nineteen red rangers was composed, the Quantum Ranger was included even though other characters like Hunter Bradley, Leanbow, or Lauren Shiba could have easily been used instead (in fact, Shiba would’ve made more sense considering she replaced someone on the main team rather than being a special ranger like the other candidates named). Further, Southworth has an active relationship with fans and remains a working actor playing the English-language voice of Devil May Cry’s Vergil in various Capcom games and has just finished filming portraying the blind swordsman Kenshi for Mortal Kombat: Legacy.
At one time considered by fans to be the most despised ranger of the franchise, Blake Foster was a child actor who portrayed Justin Stewart in Power Rangers Turbo. Replacing Steve Cardenas who wanted to leave the show to pursue other interests, Stewart was a child who uncovered the Power Rangers’ identities and was given the Blue Turbo Ranger’s morpher to replace Rocky DeSantos who was injured in battle. Using the morpher, Stewart transformed into an adult when becoming a ranger and remained on the team for the rest of the season (later making a guest appearance in Power Rangers in Space). It’s hard to pinpoint why fans did not take to the young man. It could be he was a juvenile among actors who were portraying teenagers making for an odd grouping or perhaps the ways in which the character was used (early on, when Justin turned into a ranger, he had a very playful behavior likely to hit home he was a kid with the unique experience of turning into a hero with adult size and Justin would have kid problems against the backdrop of the serious problems the teenage rangers faced). More than likely, the real issue was that Turbo was the season Power Rangers mainstay Tommy Oliver left the show (when actor Jason David Frank wanted to pursue other interests), not to mention Rocky, Tanya, Adam, and Katherine leaving, and the ratings for Turbo dipped so much that the show was almost canceled. This itself may have led to the ire against Foster as a convenient scapegoat for everything wrong with the show. Regardless, Foster has gone on to become a mainstay at conventions where he has largely shed his position as a character people didn’t like to someone people are excited to see (a similar phenomenon occurring with Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame). Since Power Rangers, Foster has continued to study martial arts and has a black belt in Tang Soo Do.
The Phantom Ranger has an interesting story in and of himself alone outside of Power Rangers. Phantom Ranger’s Super Sentai counterpart VRV Master of Gekisou Sentai Carranger was a minor character in his series, certainly not one of the program’s heroes, and so his ascension as a ranger was the first time in the franchise’s history a non-hero became a ranger in the American version (it would be later that America created its own original rangers like Titanium Ranger and the Spirit Rangers). Further, not only was Phantom Ranger a sort of bonus ranger, he became integral to the plot of the series Power Rangers Turbo. When the ranger’s vehicles the Turbozords were destroyed, it was Phantom Ranger who supplied them with the Rescuezords so they could continue their fight against Divatox and General Havoc (in the base material, VRV Master’s sole role was to pass along these vehicles). Phantom Ranger would go on to also be important to the plot of the proceeding series Power Rangers in Space with his search for Zordon and helping the rangers obtain the Delta Megaship. However, the real reason Phantom Ranger is included in this list is that his character is essentially a living loose plot thread. The identity of Phantom Ranger is never revealed to the audience. While footage of who he is was filmed, it was ultimately cut from the final product for time constraints. Fans have speculated that the character could be the son of Zordon, Justin Stewart’s father, or even Billy Cranston. Even among the show’s writers there’s been conflicting reports what the Phantom Ranger is, from being a failed attempt at creating a power ranger (thus making him an incomplete ranger) or the embodiment of rangers who had passed on (a so-called “ghost robot”). Taking all of this into consideration, the situation almost begs for the return of the Phantom Ranger because of what he represents and the mystery surrounding him. The Phantom Ranger was voiced by Alex Dodd.
Sister of the Red Space Ranger Andros in Power Rangers in Space, Karone was kidnapped as a child and became a soldier for Dark Specter (retroactively made the grand leader of all the evil forces the various Power Rangers had faced up to that point). As an adult, Karone (now going by the name Astronema) would become the central antagonist to the Space Power Rangers until the season finale where she was restored to her good self through the love of her brother. Karone would emerge in the proceeding series Power Rangers Lost Galaxy where she took up the pink ranger mantle from Kendrix Morgan, the first ranger in franchise history to die on the show. Karone’s role as a ranger also marked the first time a villain would end up becoming a ranger (and the only time a primary antagonist became a ranger). Kendrix would later return from the dead and Karone returned her morpher to her. While these advents are interesting, another notable element is her position in the transition of the franchise. When Power Rangers Turbo saw its ratings plummet, Power Rangers in Space was suppose to be the franchise’s finale. However, ratings spiked for the season, near the levels of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. As the primary villain, Astronema must have at least in some part be an element of this success. Further, when the franchise’s format changed with Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Karone was a legacy character that emerged as a ranger in what was largely suppose to be a clean slate of new rangers. It is then with little doubt that Karone maybe the most notable pink ranger in the franchise’s history (despite how brief it was) and, as stated, considering the challenge in finding a notable pink ranger, Karone’s stock as a possible candidate for Megaforce rises significantly. Karone was portrayed by Melody Perkins.
One of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Billy Cranston is the second longest serving ranger in the franchise behind Tommy Oliver alone (and the longest running blue ranger, having been that color for three seasons). Portrayed by gymnast David Yost, Billy is the prototypical genius character that was repeated time and again in the franchise where even after hanging up his reins as a ranger, he remained with the show from its start until two episodes short of the finale of Power Rangers Zeo where he left Earth to live on the home planet of the Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers. Often when a mysterious ranger has appeared, fans have speculated it was Billy, from the Gold Ranger to the Phantom Ranger. But, in reality, Yost recently revealed he walked off the series when he simply grew tired of being harassed and called names by much of the production staff and showrunners for being gay. While Billy is certainly notable, undoubtedly the most established blue ranger and one of the faces most recognized with Power Rangers, casting Yost on the show can serve as a story of redemption for the franchise that made Yost famous but also drove him to a nervous breakdown. In reality, Yost likely wouldn’t want to do the show, working today as a television producer, but there’s little doubt that the fans would want to see him to return.
Often times, be it Power Rangers or Super Sentai, if there’s going to be a special with rangers returning, almost always the rangers of the last season appear. And if an entire team doesn’t appear, then often times a popular character from the season, generally its leader, will make an appearance. For the preceding series to Megaforce in Power Rangers Super Samurai, the primary protagonist is the first red ranger Jayden Shiba (portrayed by Alex Heartman). A highly skilled and dedicated martial artist, Shiba closely mirrors the red ranger for the current season in Troy Burrows. Jayden has an interesting story in that he was the first red ranger to appear in Samurai but was in reality a diversion against the villainous Nighlok as his sister Lauren prepared to replace her brother and lead the rangers to a final victory over their enemies. However, in the end, Jayden would defy the fate chosen for him and return to lead his squad in the final battle against Master Xandred as his sister lent him the strength she honed in a combined effort to triumph over evil.
The second black ranger following Zack Taylor, Adam Park joined Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in its second season and remained on the series until Power Rangers Turbo when actor Johnny Yong Bosch was released to avoid increasing his pay. Adam would reappear twice thereafter in the franchise, as a teacher in the following season Power Rangers in Space and to lead a group of veteran rangers in the fifteenth anniversary special “Once a Ranger” of Operation Overdrive against the son of MMPR villains Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd. While these experiences certainly make Bosch a favorite among fans, the actor reaches a much wider audience with his voice work featured in (often in a starring capacity) in dozens of anime series and about as many video games. The actor isn’t limited to voice work, however, applying his craft live in films. Undoubtedly, while Bosch is famous to Power Rangers fans, he maybe the biggest star to grow out of the franchise (rivaled by Amy Jo Johnson of MMPR, who has done extensive television work, and Brandon Jay McLaren of S.P.D. who has done a bit of television roles). So bringing back Bosch serves two purposes, first as for what he means to fans of Power Rangers and second for the audience he could bring with him.
The very first red ranger, Jason Lee Scott is about the only character in the franchise who rivals the fame of Tommy Oliver within the fandom. Portrayed by martial artist Austin St. John, the actor left the show when he tried to raise his pay seeing the success of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Following this, St. John has returned to the show to become the Gold Ranger for a time on Power Rangers Zeo, appear in the film Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, and donned his red ranger role again as part of a force of ten red rangers in the “Forever Red” episode of Wild Force. Whenever fans have been polled who the quintessential red ranger is, virtually every time the top ranked is Jason who set the standard for red rangers and lead Power Rangers. For many fans, it’s likely a celebration of twenty years of Power Rangers without Jason is virtually unthinkable. Today, St. John works as an EMT paramedic overseas.
Undoubtedly the most popular and well known Power Ranger (as well as the longest serving ranger), Tommy Oliver was introduced in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as the mind-controlled green ranger who joined the heroes upon breaking free of the villainous Rita Repulsa’s power. From there, Tommy became the team’s leader as the White Tiger Ranger (as Jason left the show) followed by the Red Zeo Ranger and then the Red Turbo Ranger. In the base material for MMPR in Kyouryuu Sentai Zyuranger, the green ranger died a hero and the American show had planned on following this storyline with plans for the character’s actor Jason David Frank to star in another series called Cybertron based on two separate series from the Metal Hero series (Superhuman Machine Metalder and Dimensional Warrior Spielban). However, with the unexpected hit MMPR became and with it Tommy Oliver as the show’s breakout star, it was decided JDF would remain on the show and Cybertron would eventually become VR Troopers. After four seasons of Power Rangers, JDF wanted to pursue other interests and left the show in the fifth season which could have played a part in the drastic drop in ratings for Turbo.
JDF would return to his familiar role in the “Forever Red” special as the Red Zeo Ranger but would go on to take a starring role in the series Power Rangers Dino Thunder. As the first season of MMPR had a dinosaur theme, the similarly themed Dino Thunder was a good opportunity to bring back the popular character of Tommy Oliver. However, the shooting schedule for the series and the production’s move to New Zealand (in order to save money, releasing most of the longtime production crew to much controversy) made it challenging for JDF to juggle the show with his busy schedule which often led to tricks where the actor didn’t have to be physically present and could dub his voice (being kidnapped/missing, stuck in ranger mode so another actor could be his body double, being turned invisible, etc). To celebrate the twelfth anniversary of Power Rangers, the episode “Fighting Spirit” saw Tommy battle three of his former ranger identities in the green ranger, white ranger, and Red Zeo Ranger. Also in this season, the show would return to its tradition of having the rangers of the previous season come back in the special “Thunder Storm.” The Dino Thunder Rangers would appear in two episodes of the proceeding series Power Rangers S.P.D. with the second appearance “Wormhole” featuring Tommy, but as JDF wasn’t offered the role (so that Disney didn’t have to pay to fly him to New Zealand) the character appeared in ranger costume only and was voiced by Jeffrey Parazzo (Dino Thunder‘s white ranger). Unfortunately, this would be the last team-up of two seasons of rangers until Saban bought back the show’s rights from Disney and returned to the tradition in Power Rangers Samurai with the film Clash of the Red Rangers. Since Power Rangers, Jason David Frank has become a professional MMA fighter and started the clothing line Jesus Didn’t Tap.