Power Rangers in Space was a revolutionary entry in the Power Rangers franchise. The show had certainly evolved over the previous five seasons but In Space was a quantum leap forward. Airing in 1998 on Fox Kids, the series featured serialized plots, character arcs with depth, and gifts for longtime fans in the form of returning Rangers and villains. Nearly 25 years later, the series remains highly regarded, many elements of it even making their way into the current Power Rangers comics.
But it all could have been so very different. Imagine a version of In Space where Astronema wasn’t the big bad, Red Ranger Andros didn’t exist, and Power Rangers Turbo’s Justin is a a main character! At one point in time these were real possibilities.
To discuss all this we need to go back to May 1997, back around the time the second half of Turbo was beginning to be written. As production continued on the current season, preliminary plans for the next season were already in motion. The producers had access to half of the source footage they’d be working with, Denji Sentai Megaranger, and memos were going back and forth on how to utilize it for Power Rangers.
Amongst these was a pitch for a season concept by executive producer Shuki Levy, a proto version of In Space. The pitch was in part intended for the production team so work could begin on designing sets and those designs could later be sent off to toymaker Bandai to start work on playsets. This pitch and accompanying materials were acquired by a fan from a production staff member at Power Morphicon in 2010. This is what we’ll be taking a deep dive into.
The Turbo Set-Up
In the show as aired, In Space was set up in Turbo’s finale where the Rangers’ base was blown to smithereens. Discovering their old mentor, Zordon, had been taken captive by the forces of evil, Rangers T.J., Cassie, Carlos, and Ashley all blast off into space without their powers, with Justin staying behind. In Space’s premiere has the four Rangers join up with Andros, the In Space Red Ranger, and gain new powers to fight against the evil Astronema (replacing Turbo’s main villain, Divatox.)
The proto version of In Space would have set up events for the season across the final four episodes of Turbo. A running subplot would have featured the Phantom Ranger (a mysterious ally to the Turbo team) investigating a meeting called by the evil Dark Specter. The Phantom Ranger would have discovered that a group of past villains, including Divatox, Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd, and more were being ordered by Dark Spector to kidnap Zordon.
Dark Specter’s plan is to drain Zordon of his good energy and turn his powers evil, in the process making Zordon cease to exist. The Phantom Ranger is discovered and just manages to get a signal to the Rangers before he’s captured. The villains combine their powers and use the energy to capture Zordon in front of the terrified Alpha-5. With Zordon gone, the Rangers are faced with their toughest challenge yet. Traveling into deep space.
Fans of In Space will recognize that this plot was dramatically condensed and used as the opening scenes of the first episode of that season, “From Out of Nowhere.” That episode gave us the big meeting of evil and introduced Dark Specter to the audience, but instead of the Phantom Ranger it was the new Red Ranger Andros that observed the meeting. Unlike the Phantom Ranger, Andros was able to escape.
It’s a shame more of this didn’t make it into the show, especially the sequence of Zordon getting captured. This never made it to screen in the final version of either Turbo or In Space, relegated to an off-screen event the characters simply talked about.
The Lost Arc of Power Rangers in Space
The proto In Space begins with the entire Turbo team intact, Justin included. At night the team meets Dimitria, still the team’s mentor, “upon a flat mountain top” called The Power Dome. This would be the team’s base of operations for the season, the dome floating in space not too far from Earth. Within it was “a giant pyramid made of silky material” that would be the entire set. The Rangers would also be given a space station that would be “floating further in the dark deep of space.” In the show that aired that space station would be called the Astro Megaship.
In what seemed to be a set up for a typical episode, the Rangers would use their “Power Gliders” (an early name for the Galaxy Gliders) to travel from Earth to the Power Dome to the space station. The Rangers would also pilot “flying machines” across space but they have a major drawback. They have limited power and can only be “re-energized” by “the Command Center on Earth.” This probably meant the Power Dome or the space station, since later documents state the set for the command center would be repurposed as sets for the space station.
Each Ranger would need to watch the energy level of their vehicle closely as they searched for Zordon. They’d discover clues along the way but the journey wouldn’t be a straight line, since they’d continually have to be racing back to Earth to re-energize not only the flying machines but their weapons as well. Occasionally they’d have to stay and defend Earth all while “the clock is ticking on Zordon’s destiny.”
It’s unclear what the “flying machines” were intended to be. Perhaps they were supposed to be the Galaxy Gliders but considering the documents alternatively refer to them as vehicles? Maybe the plan was to create all-new machines that weren’t from Megaranger. While these machines never made it into the series, an echo of the idea lives on in the subsequent season, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, where the Rangers piloted the American exclusive Jet Jammers.
As the Rangers are off in space the Earth would be unprotected… except for Bulk and Skull, the loveable bumbling duo. They announce to everyone in Angel Grove that they’ll lead a group of volunteers and form a “Citizen Force Group” to protect the city. Eventually this was whittled down to just Bulk, Skull, and new character Professor Phenomenus investigating aliens.
While In Space eventually had episodes where the Rangers searchedfor Zordon, this early take on the arc features it far more prominently. The season also would have had more of its episodes set in outer space. In Space as aired did feature the team traveling to different worlds but the team ended up on Earth far more than what the proto version planned.
This probably came down to budget; it was simply more effective to shoot scenes set on Earth than to stage locations as various alien planets or try to explain away the Earth-bound Sentai footage. It also makes more practical sense to just have the Megaship and scrap the Power Dome. Why have two bases?
A lot of Turbo’s core cast remains in place, including Dimitria as their mentor and Justin as the Blue Ranger with T.J. continuing on as Red Ranger. In the series Justin left and T.J. went from being the Red Turbo Ranger to the Blue In Space Ranger.
This marks one of the bigger changes from the aired season. There’s no mention of Andros. In Space was largely defined by the new Red Ranger, an alien from KO-35 whose back-story formed the core arc of the season. Without that, would In Space have featured as strong a character arc for say, T.J.? He is the best Red Ranger of all time, at least according to us, so the thought of him getting even more screen time would have been welcome.
On the other hand, having a season set in space but none of the Rangers are aliens feels like a missed opportunity. Sure Andros was human (remember, not all humans are from earth in the Power Rangers universe) but functionally he was an alien. His presence not only broadened the scope of the Power Rangers universe but gave the team a guide through the galaxy. Justin gets a lot of overblown flack from fans, being a kid Ranger, but we have to admit that Andros was a far better character than Justin ever was.
Perhaps the Silver Ranger could have been an alien, just like Zhane was in the finished season, but curiously the production team wasn’t even sure they’d use the Silver Ranger! In response to the question of whether the Mega Delta Zord (an early name for the Delta Megazord) “belonged to” to the Silver Ranger, it was stated, “we should also discuss whether to bring the Silver Ranger in at all.”
Not bring in the sixth Ranger? How could they even consider that? To understand this line of thinking, at the time this proto concept was being written, the Power Rangers production team only had access to 27 episodes of Megaranger, a little over half the season. Mega Silver was introduced in episode 24 with the handicap of a short morphed time limit. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why the producers considered not including him. We can assume that once the producers saw more of Megaranger they realized they had enough footage to make him a worthwhile inclusion.
Justin and Dimitria weren’t the only carry overs from Turbo. In the bio for Ecliptor, a major In Space villain, he’s described as “Divatox’s new second-in-command.” Divatox would have carried over as the main villain of In Space! In the series as aired Divatox made a few guest appearances but was quickly phased out in favor of a new villain, Astronema.
This, like T.J. being the Red Ranger instead of Andros, removes a core element of the series. Spoiler for a nearly 25-year-old show, but part way through the season Astronema was revealed to be Andros’ sister! With Divatox in place, In Space would have lost a major part of what made it so memorable to fans.
How would Divatox have fit into things? We know she would have been working for Dark Specter but her over the top personality might have clashed with the more powerful leader of evil. Maybe the character would have gotten a new lease on life, especially if her supporting cast of villains were jettisoned. Ecliptor being called Divatox’s new second-in-command seems to imply that Elgar, a general in Turbo and Divatox’s nephew, would have been jettisoned from the show. At the very least, he would have played a minor supporting role as he did in the final version of In Space. Without a wacky supporting cast, Divatox might have lost some of her comedy and played a bit more serious. As interesting as that would have been, Divatox’s humor is what made her so memorable so it’s for the best that Astronema was brought in.
The documents also lay out a new group of henchmen that would have joined the season, “purple putties.” These were undoubtedly a temp name for the “Kunekune” foot soldiers from Megaranger. At this point it looks like the production had planned on utilizing them more extensively than In Space eventually did, where they were mostly dropped in favor of the US original Quantrons.
The biggest big bad of the season though is Dark Specter. While the outline for the episodes makes him appear similar to his final version, he would have featured a very different appearance. The character as aired reused the Maligore villain suit from Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie with a quick lampshade by Divatox to explain away the similarity. The proto version of the season lays out that the suit they planned to use was that of the lead villain from Carranger, the previous Sentai season. Exhaus.
The documents describe Dark Specter as, “the Monarch of Evil is an enormous floating head. It is bigger than the platform, bigger than the whole mountain. His breath alone causes a strong wind to blow over the surface of the platform.” This is a fairly accurate description of Exhaus, further supported by a mention from production that, “his image is available on the Turbo footage (cars).” Ultimately the Exhaus monster suit would get used as Goldgoyle, the final villain that wiped out the Turbo Rangers’ megazords. More than likely the Maligore suit was used in its place because it looked more menacing.
An Unseen Megazord
This isn’t just an unseen part of In Space, it was unseen in Megaranger as well! Alongside designs for the other Megazords of the season, including the Cosmotron Megazord, an early name for the Mega Voyager, is a design for a Megazord that never made it past the development stage. The Stratoforce Megazord. A Megazord made of only one component Zord, this may have been an early idea that was most likely scrapped in favor of the Mega Winger, the Silver Ranger’s Megazord. The name was later reused for one of the Zords in Lost Galaxy.
Was All This Better Than What We Got?
No. As interesting as some of these ideas are, seeing Zordon get captured is the only major change that would have benefited the season. Divatox is incredible and Justin isn’t as bad as fans make him out to be, but their inclusion wouldn’t have made the season better. Andros and Astronema alone are two of the better characters Power Rangers has ever had. It would have been awful to lose them.
The best thing about this proto version is the peak it gives us into the production of Power Rangers. It lets us see just how far ahead they had to start planning a season and how only having a chunk of the Sentai footage impacted it. We get insight into how the demands of production and limits of budget forced these big ideas to get scaled down.
More than anything it makes you appreciate what we ended up getting all the more. Power Rangers In Space arguably helped foster the dedicated fan base the franchise still has today. It took everything that had come before and made it matter. It gave the series stakes and a broader canvas of stories to work with. It excited the imagination.
Maybe a giant silky pyramid could have done the same but somehow I doubt it.
Thanks to Project Hexagon: The Power Rangers Script Archive for providing the pitch and scans included here.