This interview contains massive spoilers for the final episodes of Power Rangers Beast Morphers.
In 2009 Power Rangers RPM ended with a shot of main villain Venjix trapped in one of the team’s morphers. It was an ominous cliffhanger to end the season on, one fans have hoped for years would get some kind of resolution. Well, over 10 years later, it finally happened. The last two episodes of Power Rangers Beast Morphers not only brought back Venjix but also revealed he was actually Evox, the Beast Morphers’ main nemesis, all along! Along the way we even got the return of RPM mentor Dr. K and Col. Truman!
When most shows are wrapping up their seasons, the first thought isn’t, “hey, let’s resolve a cliffhanger from 10 years ago” It’s even harder when you’re a director coming in who’s never seen the season that cliffhanger was from. Still, Simon Bennett rose to the challenge and, especially in the episode “Source Code,” delivered a fantastic tribute to RPM.
We sat down with Simon just before the finale aired in America to discuss bringing this long awaited story to screen.
DEN OF GEEK: In these last three episodes of Beast Morphers you had a lot of returning elements from RPM. Venjix, Dr. K, and Col. Truman. What did you do to brush up on these RPM elements and make sure they were brought to screen in a way that respected this beloved season?
SIMON BENNETT: I dipped into and watched some episodes of RPM, mainly so I could find out who Dr. K was and how she operated within the show. I’ve worked with Olivia Tennet on a lot of other shows and I know her work well, but I wasn’t familiar with RPM as much as I needed to be. I immersed myself on Netflix with a whole lot of RPM episodes. Also Andrew Laing, who voiced Evox and Venjix, is a good friend of mine so he had some stories to tell as well as I was in prep.
Was there ever any effort to get more of the RPM cast, or was it always just going to be those few?
I don’t know the answer to that because I was delivered the script that was completed. I know that the planning of this had been going on for a very long time, and it’s very much a Chip (Lynn) question. It’s not something I know the details to. It was great to work with James on that one scene, and he had a fantastic gravitas that he brought to proceedings.
There were a lot of standout performances in these last few episodes, but the scenes with Abraham Rodriguez and Olivia Tennet were especially fantastic. Can you talk about working with those two actors for those scenes?
We had luxury with those scenes, and also there were a couple of scenes in the finale, where we actually had significant dramatic two headers, and that’s a very rare thing for Power Rangers. Usually you’ve got up to 10 actors in a scene and it’s all about running in, confronting a monster, starting to fight, and it’s action-based.
Whereas these scenes were very much character scenes and linked to the inner life of the characters. And they had to learn a lesson through experience rather than simply being told something. One of the challenges with Power Rangers is that you only have 22 minutes per episode, in which to tell the story, and you don’t often get the chance to go into depth on an emotional level with a character because you also have to have your three fights, two comedy beats, your Megazords, your monsters.
There are a whole number of ingredients that get shoved into those 22 minutes. So having the luxury of being able to rehearse and spend a bit of time with the actors on shaping and crafting significant character scenes was a luxury. That’s kind of the material I’m more used to. Prior to Beast Morphers, I’m very much a drama director, so I had to learn a huge amount about action and visual effects coming aboard with Beast Morphers. But working with actors on crafting a dramatic scene is something I’m very familiar with and enjoy doing a lot.
What was it like for Olivia Tennet to come back to set after all these years?
I think she really enjoyed getting back into the wig, because some actors, it’s a physical thing that can help trigger the memory of a character if they’re reviving a character they’ve played from a long time before. You put her in that wig and there’s Dr. K.
She’s a lovely actor to work with. I did a show called Maddigan’s Quest many years ago where she was 14, she was a child actor back then. She’s also a accomplished choreographer. She choreographed the ‘It’s Great To Be Human’ musical number in an earlier episode.
Yes, that was her. I’ve done a whole stage musical that she was the choreographer for. What I loved about what she brought to (Dr. K in Beast Morphers) was that the character was still so clearly recognizable, but older, but it’s still the same character. So you could believe that Dr. K had experienced life between when we last saw her and now.
How much of that was in the script, how much was that the direction, and how much was that Olivia putting in her performance for that?
I’d say it’s 95% Olivia. She’s one of those actors who’s so experienced that all a director can do is just nudge ever so slightly from time to time, because she knows exactly what she’s doing.
Going back a bit, you also directed the episode ‘Making Bad,’ which was a clip show. Typically Power Rangers clip shows are Christmas and Halloween episodes, but this season it wasn’t. Do you know why it was changed up to bridge the team-up episodes?
I’m not entirely sure what the rationale behind that decision was. Other than it was maybe a, lets shake things up a bit, and see if we can find a different story reason to trigger the clip shows this time around. Which I suspect may have been the case.
When you’re shooting or directing a clip show, it’s a lot of people standing around, a lot of people talking, reacting to a thing on a screen. How do you make that interesting as a director?
Well, luckily that was all second unit because it was all the monsters standing around the monster base looking at a monitor. So I didn’t have to actually deal with that. It’s particularly hard when you’ve got people in rubber suits who can’t hear you very well, and you can’t hear what they’re saying.
The few occasions I’ve worked with second unit, there’s a language challenge because the performers are Japanese so it is an interesting experience. But in this case, I got to shoot the interesting bits, which was all the diamonds heist stuff, and Ravi’s detective work, and the Ranger pieces.
So I got to do what, for me, is the fun side of things. One of the tricky things with that material was that the footage that we used was old. So it was four by three format, standard definition. And we had to shoot it within a frame on a monitor because the resolution wasn’t good enough to actually be able to blow up to fill the screen. So there’s that kind of frame within the frame device.
Obviously the team behind the scenes had to redub a lot of that. Do you know why some of the things were redubbed or why you didn’t use the original audio?
I’m not entirely sure of the reason why. I suspect it’s to do with the fact that we needed to edit the footage. We actually didn’t have editable masters. So the music would have jumped obviously at the point that you make those cuts.
From a technical production point of view it was necessary to rebuild the audio tracks from the start. I also suspect that the quality of what was available, which would probably have been just the consolidated mix, that was not up to modern technical specifications.
If you want to hear more from Simon Bennett check out the first part of this interview where we discussed his new role as the executive producer of the upcoming season, Power Rangers Dino Fury.