After the lukewarm response to Power Rangers Megaforce, Super Megaforce had to hit it out of the park. Badly. Megaforce had botched the 20th anniversary. Its episodes were filled not with development for its main cast but endless fights.
Still though, Power Rangers fans held out hope. Megaforce had already set up a war to take place at the end of Super Megaforce that would unite every single Power Ranger that had ever existed.
Super Megaforce would be adapting Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, the thirty fifth anniversary for Super Sentai. It was filled with footage of old teams returning and was clearly a love letter to the long history of the franchise. Fans speculated how this footage could be adapted to honor the legacy of Power Rangers.
Fans were hyped all the way to the M51 Galaxy. Everything seemed so simple.
Behind the scenes it was anything but.
“I knew it was going to be very tricky,” says story editor James W. Bates of the season’s development, “Super Megaforce had complications with some of the violence of the fight scenes with muskets and which footage could be used.”
The footage Bates referred to was one of great contention with fans when the series eventually aired. In Super Megaforce, the Rangers have the power to morph into any past Ranger team. The problem was that occasionally the Rangers would morph into teams that hadn’t ever been shown in America. Some fans lauded this as world building while others protested it as lazy and the footage could have easily been cut around.
“That was just a natural problem,” Bates explains, “There were some seasons that were easier to use, some seasons we couldn’t use at all for different reasons. It could be just that the episode that had a season that was in the Saban canon wasn’t very good.”
Other episodes that fans thought were no brainers for inclusion, like fights featuring the treacherous Basco, went completely unused. “Whether or not it was Mr. Saban didn’t like him it just wasn’t going to fit in with the story we were going to create,” Bates tells us.
Creating those stories would prove difficult. As had been the case with both Samurai and Megaforce, Bates attempts to breathe life into the show were blocked at every turn. It finally came to a tipping point when Bates got a script on his desk he had never seen. “Episode three was written without me knowing it,” he recalls. “Episode four the same thing. Imagine if you are a story editor on a show and you’re handed two scripts you didn’t even know about. You may wonder why I left.”
Bates felt that if he wasn’t able to do his job, he should gracefully leave the show. He departed as story editor just before the new sixth Ranger, Orion, was introduced but he wouldn’t be completely out of the picture. Bates still consulted on producer cuts of Megaforce and towards the end of Super Megaforce’s run, executive producer Jonathan Tzachor came to Bates for help writing the footage heavy two parter, “Vrak is Back”.
“(Tzachor) flattered me enough to say, ‘There’s no one who’d I’d rather hire to do this than you.’ Well, guy has to pay his mortgage and I hadn’t moved on to too many other projects at this point so I came back.”
Vrak had been the only villain to escape destruction at the end of Megaforce and hadn’t been seen since. If Bates had stayed on as story editor, Vrak would have returned every three episodes or so and functioned as a lone wolf. Now, Bates would have to wrap the character up in two episodes. Two episodes that would use five episodes of footage from Goseiger. Five episodes that Bates had originally excised from Megaforce.
“On Super Samurai, Serrator has a plan to split apart the Earth by putting these wedges in,” Bates explains. “Well in Goseiger, Vrak has a storyline where he puts in wedges to split the Earth. I was like ‘we gotta skip these five episodes. Yeah there’s some cool stuff in there but we can’t have the season after Serrator have Vrak do the same thing.’”
Despite having to work with these episodes, Bates is very happy with how the two parter turned out. In it, Robo Knight returns after being missing in action for most of the season and ends up sacrificing his life to save Orion.
“Boy am I happy with what we were able to do because you aren’t creating a bunch of new footage. To be able to come back with Robo Knight who I love and to give him that noble goodbye.” Bates pauses and then quickly adds, “In my mind that’s how he says goodbye.”
In the season finale Robo Knight briefly returns for one shot where none of the Rangers seem all that overjoyed that their dead friend has returned.
“I know it’s not something (writer) Seth Walther would have chosen to do,” Bates says. “To be honest it’s more of a shake your head thing where somebody thought the footage was good enough that it had to be in there or cutting it would have been too jarring or they thought it was a great idea. I don’t know. I just choose to think Robo Knight left the series in episode seventeen.”
When Super Megaforce was finally broadcast the show did not live up to the hype. It certainly fit the anniversary better than Megaforce, with returning characters such as Casey from Jungle Fury and Jayden from Samurai, but the pacing still suffered. Endless fight scenes with barely any investment in the characters were the norm.
The final episode, which featured a whole team of past Rangers, was badly rushed and was a huge waste of potential. While the Super Megaforce Rangers catchphrase was, “Super Mega Rangers, that’s a super mega win!” fans began to refer to the finale and the season as a whole as a super mega letdown.
Looking back on his strained involvement with the season, Bates is diplomatic. “I left for more than just creative differences, so I can’t tell you if I had been there the show would have been much different than it was.”
Thankfully Bates’ time on Power Rangers didn’t have to go out on a low note. The next year he was invited by Chip Lynn, who had taken over for Tzachor, to write a freelance episode for Dino Charge. He was amazed how different the series was handled compared to his time on the show.
“I remember I got five scripts to read to get caught up on the show and going, ‘He’s… really doing that? Where’s all the footage? He’s gonna build that set? CGI of a cave and a caveman? No he’s not.’ So I applaud that. I don’t know if I’ll ever work on anything else with Chip again but I wish him the best of luck.” Bates also ruefully adds, “While being bitter that he was able to tell stories about things I wasn’t allowed to.”
Bates sums up his five-year involvement with the franchise by identifying what he thinks makes the series work,
“On the outside people can think it’s a silly show and a cheesy show. But just like Superman works best when he’s pure Superman, not feeling angst and not being in the grey world of ugliness, Power Rangers works on the same level in that they’re aspirational characters. With my personal political beliefs, we’re approaching what may be an ugly time and an ugly world. We need good guys sometimes to just be good guys. Let’s aspire to work hard with friends to do good things. And that’s what I think the show should be and it mainly is and that’s why it works. That’s what Mr. Saban wants. Mr. Saban is on your side.”
No matter what you feel about the work Bates has contributed to the series, I think we can all pretty much agree with that.
Shamus Kelley will never get over Troy’s love for Robo Knight. Follow him on Twitter!