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Mighty Morphin

1993-1996
Based on: Kyouryuu Sentai Zyuranger
                (Also: Gosei Sentai Dairanger and Ninja Sentai Kakuranger)
Airdates: August 28th, 1993 ~ February 16th, 1996
Rangers:
            Jason Lee Scott (Red, 1993-1994)
            Billy Cranston (Blue)
            Zack Taylor (Black, 1993-1994)
            Trini Kwan (Yellow, 1993-1994)
            Kimberly Hart (Pink, 1993-1995)
            Tommy Oliver (Green 1993-1994, White 1994-1996)
            Rocky DeSantos (Red, 1994-1996)
            Adam Park (Black, 1994-1996)
            Aisha Campbell (Yellow, 1994-1996)
            Kat Hillard (Pink, 1995-1996)

The series takes place in the fictional town of Angel Grove, California. On expedition, unwitting astronauts opened a dumpster and inadvertently released a witch, Rita Repulsa, from 10,000 years of confinement. Upon her release, she set her sights on conquering the Earth. When word of Rita's release came to sage Zordon, he ordered his robotic assistant, Alpha 5, to find five "teenagers with attitude," who would defend the Earth from Rita's attacks.

The series started off with five Power Rangers (colored red, blue, black, yellow, and pink), a sixth, the Green Power Ranger (who was evil in his debut), joined later on in the episode arc "Green with Evil." The Green Ranger appeared on and off throughout the series through various story lines until he was converted into the White Ranger, who remained a permanent fixture from "White Light" until the end of MMPR.

Cast changes were as much a staple of the original series as the skilled karate moves. The original actors' contracts were abysmal, and when Austin St. John, Walter Jones, and Thuy Trang (Jason, Zack, and Trini, respectively) refused to return without a raise, they were unceremoniously written out and replaced, not long before the first of two feature-length movies was filmed. Later, to explain the impending departure of Amy Jo Johnson (Kimberly) from the cast, the character of Katherine Hillard was written in a not-entirely-subtle attempt to recapture the magic of the uber-popular original Green Ranger arc. She was eventually named the substitute pink ranger, who replaced Kimberly in all respects, including the relationship with Tommy. Many fans of the first-generation rangers strongly resent the usurpation of their characters by these replacements, particularly Kimberly fans who blanched at the way Katherine and Tommy became the "new couple" with very little buildup.

The series' villains, too, evolved over time. Following several defeats, Rita's fortress was invaded by Lord Zedd. Disgusted with her failure, he took over and sealed her away again, launching his own campaign against the Power Rangers. After this arc ended, Rita returned with a love potion that enabled her to return to power as his wife. For the rest of the "Morphin'" series, she and Zedd worked as a villainous, oftentimes comical, team.

Alien Rangers

1996
Based on: Ninja Sentai Kakuranger
Airdates: February 5th, 1996 ~ February 16th, 1996
Rangers:
            Delphine (White)
            Aurico (Red)
            Cestro (Blue)
            Tideus (Black)
            Corcus (Yellow)

This is more of a miniseries to bridge the gap between the original series and the one that replaced it, Zeo. The forces of evil have turned the Power Rangers into children, and aliens from nearby planet Aquitar are recruited to maintain peace while the Earth Rangers journey out to find the shards of a "Zeo crystal" that can return them to their natural ages.

Zeo

1996
Based on: Chouriki Sentai Ohranger
Airdates: April 20th, 1996 ~ November 27th, 1996
Rangers:
            Tommy Oliver (Red)
            Rocky DeSantos (Blue)
            Adam Park (Green)
            Tanya Sloan (Yellow)
            Kat Hillard (Pink)
            Trey of Triforia (Gold)
            Jason Lee Scott (Gold, substitute)

With the Zeo crystal recovered and the rangers returned to their proper ages, this new series barges in with a bang. In Zeo, Tommy takes a more "natural" spot leading as Red Ranger, bumping Rocky down to Blue. Former Blue Ranger Billy chooses to take a backseat from this moment on, abstaining from Rangerhood entirely in favor of a more supportive role at home with the Rangers' mentors. David Yost, who played Billy, was also well past being able to act the part of a teenager, and left at the end of this series. It was explained that Billy left the planet Earth to live with his girlfriend on Aquitar. Additionally, Aisha was replaced as the Yellow Ranger by Tanya Sloan, another impromptu casting move stemming from off-camera problems (this time, Karan Ashley, who played Aisha, complained of the long work days).

Interestingly enough, the battles of the past weren't enough to keep all departed cast members away. In this series, Austin St. John, who played the original Red Ranger, returned to reprise his role as Jason, this time in the form of the Gold Ranger. Much of the arc focusing on him was a mirror of an earlier Green Ranger arc in 1994, again recycling old ideas and perhaps revealing a dire need for the major overhauls that happened in the following few years.

Turbo

1997
Based on: Gekisou Sentai Carranger
Airdates: April 19th, 1997 ~ November 24th, 1997
Rangers:
            Tommy Oliver (Red, first half)
            Justin Stewart (Blue)
            Adam Park (Green, first half)
            Tanya Sloan (Yellow, first half)
            Kat Hillard (Pink, first half)
            T.J. Johnson (Red, second half)
            Carlos Vallertes (Green, second half)
            Ashley Hammond (Yellow, second half)
            Cassie Chan (Pink, second half)

Many Power Rangers fans abandoned the series with Turbo. Steve Cardenas, who played Rocky, left the franchise during the film precursor to this series, and reports vary in explaination. Some say he left due to an injury while filming stuntwork for the conclusion of the Zeo series, and others say his exit was over arguments about the unbalanced salary scale paid to the actors. The latter strikes me as the more plausible, considering how many other rangers before him left citing their impossibly low pay as their reason. To replace him, writers introduced the character of 12-year-old Justin as the new blue ranger (who would grow to adult height while in Ranger form). Fans balked at the year of the little boy ranger, and labeled this year as the season which spelled the impending doom of the Power Rangers empire.

Unhappiness was a plague that spread through the cast: Jason David Frank and Catherine Sutherland (who played Tommy and Kat, respectively) became vocal about wanting a release from their contracts. The decision was made to write out the entire veteran cast as being "released" after graduation from high school. This coincided with an overhaul of the writing staff, leaving Turbo in an odd position trapped between the new and old, uncomfortably blended with drama and comedy. The original Carranger was a parody of the Super Sentai formula, a year-long joke that remained lost in translation. The series teetered on the edge of cancellation.

...in Space

1998
Based on: Denji Sentai Megaranger
Airdates: February 6th, 1998 ~ November 21st, 1998
Rangers:
            Andros (Red)
            T.J. Johnson (Blue)
            Carlos Vallertes (Black)
            Ashley Hammond (Yellow)
            Cassie Chan (Pink)
            Zhane (Silver)

As much as fans hated Turbo, they loved Space. Since it was originally slated to be the final Power Rangers series, it was planned out as an extravagant climax that tied all remaining loose ends and provided a proper conclusion to each character. This series had everything the previous few lacked: a stable cast, characters who grew over the span of several episodes, and genuine heart and pathos. Fans who had grown up into late teenagerhood could feel comfortable returning to this series, with its soft underbelly of darkness.

This adventure begins with the complete obliteration of the Rangers' home base. The team (sans Justin, who had been written out at the earliest possible moment) flee to an intergalactic adventure where they team up with a friendly alien, Andros, against the strongest of all space evils. However, the term "evil" doesn't necessarily apply to all this series' villains. The initial major enemy, Astronema, is soon revealed to actually be Andros' sister, who was kidnapped several years before the series' opening. Her hesitation and confusion at this revelation is heartwarming, and crushing when it is snatched away as she is returned to the hands of the dark forces, to eventually meet her demise at the hands of her brother. Death is an ever-present shadow over this series, which ends in a nearly biblical rapture: the sacrifice of the Rangers' first guardian leads to the purification and/or destruction of all the universe's dark forces.

Ratings soared with this season, and Power Rangers was renewed after all.

Lost Galaxy

1999
Based on: Seijuu Sentai Gingaman
Airdates: February 6th, 1999 ~ December 18th, 1999
Rangers:
            Leo Corbett (Red)
            Kai Chen (Blue)
            Damon Henderson (Green)
            Maya (Yellow)
            Kendrix Morgan (Pink, first half)
            Karone (Pink, second half)
            Mike Corbett (Magna Defender)

With the slate wiped clean, Power Rangers was now free to slide into the the formula that had been used all along by its Super Sentai counterparts: each year would instead be a self-contained story with its own characters, quirks, and arcs, thus preventing a resurgance of the cast outgrowing its roles as had happened several times in the past. This season features teenagers who live on a space colony protecting an alien world from malevolent beasts.

If Space was the franchise's first foray into the dark side of children's programming, Lost Galaxy sets up camp there. Death is omnipresent. Two rangers die (Kendrix and the Magna Defender), along with a host of supporting characters and villains. It remains the only Power Rangers series to require a body count to keep up with the corpses.

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