Power Rangers Dino Fury Season 2: How The Show Broke All The Rules
Power Rangers: Dino Fury executive producer Simon Bennett goes in-depth about breaking the rules of show, those big twists, and the late stage switch that doubled the season’s length.
Power Rangers Dino Fury has been a triumph for both the franchise and its longtime fans. Power Rangers on television has seemed to be in a holding pattern for a long time. Though there was quality to be found it never felt like it was living up to its potential. That all changed with the start of Dino Fury, a series which has brought back much of the magic that Power Rangers has been missing.
Characters have engaging arcs. Villains have depth. The wider Power Rangers universe is regularly acknowledged and utilized. The stories are fantastic and the recent drop of the first half of the second season on Netflix is the shows strongest yet. We sat down with Dino Fury executive producer Simon Bennett to discuss the big developments of the season, how the show was finally “let off the chain,” villain fashion sense, and so much more.
DEN OF GEEK: You had discussed on Twitter that Dino Fury was originally written as a 22-episode single season. Then, when it became 44, additional episodes were written to “plug the gaps” while the overall storyline remained the same. Tell us more about that process because it’s unusual even for Power Rangers.
SIMON BENNETT: Writing Power Rangers is challenging. The starting point, as always, is the Japanese footage. Which bits we’re going to use as well as an overview of what the character arcs are across the season. What the villain plot is across the season. The writers always have a clear idea of those things.
When we found out that it was going to be 44, rather than 22 episodes, we’d already written probably two thirds of the season at that stage. We have little cards for each episode with a working title, which bits of footage, which monster, which Ranger is the focus character of the episode, and what the kind of key thematic idea for each episode is. Those cards got shuffled into 44 rather than 22, leaving gaps. And then, obviously, we needed a finale for the end of the first 22, which we had to create from scratch because that was never part of the overall scheme, which left (more) gaps to fill. We didn’t want them to see too much like filler so we took various key serial aspects and sprinkled them through the holes, and then plugged new stories into those holes, hopefully, keeping the plates spinning that were the serial threads that we were very keen on being clear.
Obviously, things heat up in the second season and intensify. A lot of the first season was about getting to know the Ranger characters and getting to know the villains and understanding what makes them tick and what they want so there was some standalone episodes in there. But there was always a ticking heartbeat because we knew where we were going. We knew what the end of the 44 episodes would be. We knew what the trajectories were, which I think is one of the strengths of Dino Fury, which is that we are allowed now to do serial threads.
Previously, episodes had to be standalone. The only time we could have “to be continueds”, was the last two episodes of the season, or the first two episodes of the season. With the first two episodes of the season that’s because there’s so much stuff you have to cram in at the start doesn’t fit in one 22 minute episode, so it tends to be spread across two. It was great to have the license to have strong clear arcs and episodes that linked. Most of those episodes that have just appeared on Netflix are linked, particularly with regards to Tarrick (Void Knight) and Santaura (Void Queen.) I’m really enjoying how that villain plot is unfolding and how it’s being received because I do read Rangerboard, and Twitter.
When the season was split I assume the writers went back and made some changes to what was written already? Was most of the “filler” added into what became season one of Dino Fury? There’s a lot more establishing episodes there.
To answer the first question, yes. And to the second, yes, because it’s easier to shoehorn in standalone stories when you’re in you’re setting up mode then it is when everything is paying off. Those stories where there isn’t a strong forward momentum will interrupt the (later) through lines because the stories gather momentum, and they hurtle towards the (season 2) finale. The people who’ve watched the first 11 episodes will have a sense that that things are definitely happening and unfolding and there are very strong questions still to be answered.
Let’s go back to the fact that you’re allowed to create serialized stories now. Is that something that Hasbro has been more encouraging of? Or is it just a new model now that Netflix has come into the picture?
It’s something we wanted to do. And when I say we I’m talking about the writing team. No one stopped us. When the show is destined for Netflix, where the mode of consumption is binge watching, as opposed to one episode dropping a week, the arguments that little kids can’t remember what happens, week on week, becomes much less relevant. So episodes don’t need to be standalone when we’re in the environment now where people watch episode after episode after episode. Serial threads are much more palatable now.
I think that’s part of the reason why the change has been accepted. I also think that, there were a lot of leftover rules about how the show should be written and what its formula should be that were part of the (original show creator) Haim Saban bible of what makes a Power Rangers episode and it was very rigidly followed for a long time. I think under Hasbro there’s a strong sense of, let’s make the show a little bit more modern. Let’s make it work for audiences who are used to watching more sophisticated fare because there’s a danger if something doesn’t change or evolve, and it was originally originated in the early ‘90s, if you don’t adapt that formula then it can look like a museum piece if you’re not careful.
Let’s talk about the Void Knight plot. I love what the writers have been able to do with turning a character that seemed to be the big bad of the season into someone much more complicated. When Void Queen blew up the ship Tarrick had built for them I was really taken off guard. This plot is very different from what we’re used to with Power Rangers.
There’s nothing like a good reversal and there’s nothing like actually subverting audience’s expectations in a way that they go, “wow, that’s amazing” rather than, “oh, I feel cheated.” So I think that (plot) is a successful example of that. We knew that Tarrick’s objective was always to get enough energy to pull the handle on his jukebox machine and bring Santaura back to life. That’s his motivation, which is actually a noble goal. But the way he goes about doing it, because he’s single minded, and a little bit ruthless, obviously has damaging and dangerous side effects for the Rangers and people in the city.
But we also knew that we wanted to change things up in the second half (of the series.) Basically, to raise the stakes and having Santaura fueled by vengeance. We don’t know quite yet why she wants revenge, but all will be revealed in due course. So Tarrick’s motivation was to heal his wife. Her motivation is to have revenge on humanity. Tarrick can’t buy into that, because he’s not essentially vindictive. He just wants to leave Earth with his wife and start a new life.
That’s why when she blows up the spaceship and closes the door on that possibility, it’s a huge moment for Tarrick, his entire future is demolished. We don’t know at this stage how long she’s been in that tube and how long Tarrick has been trying to revive her, but you get the sense it’s quite a while. It makes him a sympathetic character, because we can understand what he’s going through and what he’s gone through. It also makes flipping an evil character into a good character, or a less bad character, a bit more plausible to you if you play that out on screen. I think that’s been one of the defining things about Dino Fury is that we have worked hard to give the villains strong and understandable motivations that are more complex than simply conquering the universe or destroying the Rangers or stealing the power coins, you know, which is a usual Power Rangers objectives for villains.
That leads into what I feel is an overarching theme for the season. That people can change. Of course change is a part of any drama but so many of the plots in Dino Fury deal with it, whether it be Javi’s hobbies and his dad learning to accept him, Ollie learning to respect Amelia’s ghost hunting, or Izzy’s mom taking time to respect the fact Izzy wants to wear suits instead of dresses.
(With Izzy and and her mom) you get the sense that there was friction in the past there and an uneasy truce. We discover that in the episode, and they are now reconciled, and there is a strong bond and understanding between the two of them. So I think you’re right, I think the idea or the theme of people can change is integral to the season. I know it was overtly a decision behind “The Hunt” episode, which, the temporary working title for that one was, “Tarrick’s Good.”
We always knew that we wanted him to reveal his true colors as not being evil as such. We wanted to place the Rangers, particularly Zayto, in a difficult situation. He had to struggle with the fact that his nemesis was not what he thought he was and the people were capable of being good.
Gray areas are a fact of life whereas Power Rangers traditionally is quite melodramatic and you’ve got good or evil and not much in between. We are in the season playing with gray areas, which may be confusing to some kids. Like, “I thought he was a bad guy. What’s going on?” I think that’s more reflective of life in the real world. For most people, from what I’m reading online, it seems to be paying off because it makes the characters more interesting if there are more layers to them.
I haven’t thought of (the theme) like that but you’re right. People being able to change does seem to be integral to the season but also, as you say, change is the essence of drama. If you create character arcs they’re all going to change because they’re going to learn a lesson or confront the obstacles that are holding them back in life and break through. A protagonist always changes, that’s the nature of story.
We’ve been given license to write serial threads and to have arcs in the season and because the writers are clever people who have been wanting to do this for a very long time it is rewarding. We have been able to plot out the character arcs and the changes for the characters across 44 episodes, which is, it’s a plus. It’s a great thing to be able to do.
Speaking of gray areas, what I found worked especially well for the kid audience is how Dino Fury portrays that parents aren’t always right. It was a major part of this season’s episode “Stitched Up.” Izzy’s mom couldn’t accept at first that Izzy wasn’t as girly as she was. That plot works on just that level but also, especially as a queer person watching, it also seemed like a kid friendly way of addressing parents not accepting you for who you are.
That’s exactly what was going on there. That was absolutely the intention behind it. But we use the, you know, mums, a dressmaker, and she wants wanted her daughter to look pretty and girly, and dress her up. That was never Izzy at all. She hated those clothes and rebelled and it created historical tension between the two of them. But now mom is accepting and appreciates Izzy for who she is and celebrates who she is. But the bruises of the past haven’t entirely gone away. So when it looks as of mum is behaving as she used to when Izzy was much younger, Izzy flies off the handle, because of learnt patterns of behavior.
There’s a bit of a lesson for both the mother and the daughter in that situation. And again, people can change. Mum doesn’t have those attitudes anymore, and is 100% supportive, and Izzy needs to learn, perhaps, not to be quite so defensive and be a little bit more trusting of them. So it works on both levels but it’s definitely an allegory of sorts.
We’re dealing with, you know, some of our audience is very young, and the stories need to work for a five or six year old as well as for older viewers. Then it can work on both levels and that’s great, because I saw some really moved responses to that episode from people who had experienced similar things in life and were really happy to see the depiction of a supportive parent with a gay child.
Let’s talk about the Blue Ranger, Ollie. In season one he came off as having a stick up his ass. Then this season he really turned around. Talk to me about creating a character like that because it can be very easy for a character like Ollie to be so unlikeable that when you try to redeem them some people just won’t accept it.
You’re absolutely right. He has to learn to be flexible and to appreciate that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in his philosophy. He has to see that there are many points of view. He’s very rigid and that he’s right, and he knows what’s best. So that is an unlikable quality. But it also gives them the start of a trajectory as a character for an arc, which is he needs to learn to be more flexible, and to appreciate that other people’s ideas have validity.
I thought it was interesting that the eventual switch for Ollie comes not from his friends, but a professor, a person in a position of power, pointing out his flaws. And then Ollie goes, “oh, man, I’m messed up.” That felt very realistic.
His mom is also a big influence in his life. His story is not finished by any stretch of the imagination. So there’s more to come for Ollie. But in terms of your original question, how do we keep a character like that likable? We have to see that there are good aspects or admirable aspects as well as the negative ones. Qualities like loyalty, teamwork, and putting himself in harm’s way to help others, those kind of Rangely values are still part of Ollie, he doesn’t distance himself from all of that. He’s just a bit pompous and a bit full of himself and he needs to grow up and he does. So there is an arc there.
Also. we’ve deliberately set Ollie and Amelia up with a sparky kind of relationship. They’re chalk and cheese. They have completely opposing views on life. And that’s always good fodder for people looking for romantic potential between characters.
That must come from yours years of working on soap operas.
Oh yes! It’s called “UST.” In soap language it’s an acronym for unresolved sexual tension.
I’m sure in Power Rangers its unresolved romantic tension.
Exactly, exactly. Because it’s not raunchy, Power Rangers, in the slightest.
In the “The Festival” we get a mini clip-show with the team looking at old weapons and vehicles from earlier seasons. It wasn’t a traditional flashback episode that only focused on the current season. It reminded me of the villain clip show from Beast Morphers where you showed lots of villains from the past.
The clip show has always been a part of Power Rangers, and it’s purely there for practical reasons. The reason we do clip shows is because a clip show can shave a day off the shooting schedule for that particular block of episodes and that day gets added to either the pilot episodes or the finale episodes, because they obviously are more challenging so they require more time and resources. So it’s about being able to afford to do the big stuff that we that we have a clip show or two. And traditionally, they were always kind of holiday episodes like Christmas or Halloween. And we did Halloween and Christmas in the previous season (of Dino Fury.) And this time around, we wanted to try and find ways to use the clips to advance the plot, rather than simply say, “hey, this is a clip show, let’s sit and watch a lot of flashbacks to previous seasons.” I think it was done with a reasonable amount of success.
With identifying the weapons, the characters went, “how can we make a weapon to combat the monster? Let’s look at the Ranger Database and see what was out there. I know let’s make a motorbike.” It’s fairly simplistic. In a way, that whole episode was about featuring the bike. We had to introduce the bike.
Last year when you did the villain flashback with all the old clips a lot of fans were asking, “why did you replace this actor in voice over?” “Why didn’t you use the old audio?” Obviously ripping old audio is not as easy as people make it out to be. This clip show seemed much better handled or you got very, very good alikes.
I think it was more salvageable for the clips that were used. And there was there was some sound alike in there as well.
I noticed that on Tommy specifically, which as a fan is very funny because that character has a history of being dubbed by people who are not that actor.
Well, it’s purely about what is technically achievable if you can’t separate the music and effects tracks from the dialogue, which is the case with all those old episodes. There is some software that allows you to filter music out, but the ending result is not really technically acceptable very often because it’s very warbly. But in this case, we were able to salvage some of the some of the original dialogue and we would always rather do that because we know we know fans hate the revoicing that happens. People who are avid fans of the show have watched episodes many many times and could probably recite some of them well. So if the cadence is wrong, it’s infuriating.
A fun Easter egg you had was to original Super Sentai creator Shotaro Ishinomori, when Ollie’s mom mentioned she was at the Ishinomori University.
That was just a (writers) Becca Barnes and Alwyn Dale easter egg. They know Power Rangers very well and they actually like dropping little Easter eggs for the fans to pick up on. And there was a poster in the background behind the professor in “New Leaf.” That was a little easter egg about the future. [Specifically to Power Rangers SPD.]
In “Stitched Up” you had Izzy talk about Steel Silva being an actor, which was great callback to Beast Morphers.
Those little things help create a sense of a wider universe that this season fits within. It also for the fans makes them feel appreciated and listened to and it’s a little reward for fan loyalty without it taking a lot of time. If it becomes something that takes away from drama, then it’s a problem. If it’s just a little pebble in the pond that delights people then I think it’s a really good thing to do.
Earlier you mentioned Tarrick was not in a good place after Santaura destroyed his ship. So does that explain his incredible fashion sense with the bandoliers and fanny pack? Is that to demonstrate he’s depressed? Or that he’s just a weird alien?
I must admit that I was staggered when I saw Tarrick’s artorial sensibility. I think it’s fun. I can’t say why because it’s stuff that is going to be revealed in the second half of the season. But I can’t say he has his own unique fashion sensibility and we do find out a lot more about Tarrick and Santaura’s history and back story.
I’m not going to guess that it’s because he goes to gay clubs all the time, but it defiantly had a vibe is all I’m gonna say.
What I found very amusing was that there happened to be someone who looked very like Tarrick who was wearing an identical shirt with the bandoliers.
RIGHT! When I saw that I said, “Wait. Did Tarrick dress that guy up? Did he takes his outfit?” Nope! Just another guy dressed like that.
When I first saw that, I thought, oh, no, that is just way too literal. I did consider changing the color of that shirt with a visual effect so it wasn’t quite such an obvious copycat thing, which looks incredibly contrived. And I thought, no, it’s funny, just roll with it.
That’s what I’ve loved about this season, honestly. It feels like everyone involved has just been let off the chain and having fun.
Well, that’s exactly right. I think the writers have been let off the chain. They were given permission right at the outset to write dialogue that was contemporary and snappy and funny. That was part of the brief when we started from Hasbro. Where traditionally, the perception was this has to be very clear and simple for the little kids. The lesson has to be articulated very clearly through dialogue. There’s a huge amount of exposition and dialogue because there was the belief that the younger members of the audience wouldn’t understand stuff so we had to tell them many times what was going on. Taking all that away is just fantastic for the writers, and they’ve really enjoyed the liberty they’ve felt in writing these episodes for sure.
At the end of “The Copycat” Mucus showed up and did that super wacky and incredible dance. Was that a moment of the team just seeing the wacky Super Sentai footage and going, “we have to find a place for this. We have to.”
Absolutely, absolutely. It really was. Back in season one there was an original Mucus dance routine in a dream sequence where she falls asleep and dreams that she pulls the handle on Tarrick’s machine. It makes her the greatest and all the Hengemen are singing her praises, and it’s a disco sequence. I just love that. There’s an aspect of that character who fantasizes and would love to be a song and dance mushroom. The fact that we were able to integrate that extraordinary Sentai footage was really good. And it’s completely arbitrary. It has nothing to do with story. It’s just so good that we had to fit it in somewhere.
I know comedic side characters like Jane and J-Borg get a lot of flack from some fans but I love them. They’re the best. Fans just have a kneejerk resistance to any comedy duo at this point.
I think they are so clever. Those two actors are great. They are really good. I can completely understand that (criticism) with characters like Victor and Monty or Ben and Betty. There used to be a requirement that there were two slapstick beats involving the comedy duos in every episode. And if people are watching the show, because they want to see the Rangers fight monsters, and they’re there for the action and then these things seem completely unrelated to the main plot? I completely understand that people get annoyed with them.
But this season we’ve tried very much to share the comedy around so it’s not quite so predictable. Jane and J-Borg aren’t in every episode. They appear sometimes and sometimes they’re contributing to the plot. And sometimes the comedy might be a Ranger beat, or it might be a monster beat. We’ve been allowed to actually break those kinds of very strict rules about the show. I think it makes us something that’s less predictable, and also more entertaining, and hopefully less annoying for people who are there for the Ranges.
So what is the future of Power Rangers look like for you? I know that you’re still in postproduction on Dino Fury.
The future for me that I can talk about looks like I’m working on the final finale episode and visual effects at the moment. And we’re due to do the final mix on that episode [at the time of this interview] next Thursday. And then a week later, it will be finished. So I will have finished 44 episodes of Dino Fury, which is an end of an era for me. It does feel like a good achievement. And beyond that, I can’t talk about what’s over the horizon, because confidentiality, all of that, but I’m going to take a holiday.
But there’s fantastic theories and speculation out there about what might be next. Lots to read online, if you’re interested.
We thank Simon Bennett so much for speaking to us. The first half of Power Rangers Dino Fury’s second season is now available on Netflix.