Power Rangers never gets enough credit for having a huge interconnected universe. It covers galaxies of worlds filled with aliens, wizards, robots, pirates, ninjas, and even a karate bug man.
For as much credit as Marvel gets for its superhero cinematic universe, Power Rangers was doing it for over a decade before them. In the early days the continuity was fairly tight, the cast carried over from season to season and new villains always seemed to out power the last. It was a beautiful sandbox universe where anything went and the world building was plentiful.
You want alien Power Rangers who come from a planet where they breathe under water? Awesome! A planet of flying purple bird monsters? You got it! A whole dimension just for having dramatic fights over candles and Green Rangers? BAM!
It had a real sense of majesty and the crazy thing was that they’d revisit these far out characters and worlds. There was even a planet that looked like an old west town. Because why not?!
As the years went on however, the seasons seemed to drift apart. More and more they were stand-alone. Outside of occasional team ups and a few nods to the old days, the PRU (short for Power Rangers Universe) didn’t seem all that connected anymore. New producers wanted to shy away from old continuity. They wanted their seasons to stand on their own. SPD and RPM are the biggest offenders there. And soon the PRU began to collapse in on itself.
Now I don’t blame the producers of these later seasons. I get it; Power Rangers has a long and very complicated history that for a newbie to jump in would be a daunting task. TV production is a grind and you don’t always have time to stop and think, “Hmmm, does this one line of dialogue contradict an episode that aired 17 years ago?” So mistakes in continuity will happen.Little continuity mistakes or questions are totally fine. I don’t need to know where Jason got his morpher in Forever Red. How did Tommy get his doctorate in such a short amount of time? How does Lost Galaxy only take place a year after In Space? What the hell was up with “And… Action!”? Those are areas where fans can fill in the gaps, whether it’s through fan theories posted around message boards or fanfic. They aren’t big leaps in logic and for the sake of storytelling; I get the need for those kinds of things to happen.
Look at the writers of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, who flat out admitted they changed the relative position of planets to suit the needs of a given episode. Is it annoying to some of the detail minded fans? Sure, but it doesn’t really impact the universe all that much.Power Rangers has gone way beyond little mistakes. After years of writers and producers ignoring past seasons they’ve finally started to slam into one another. What’s going to happen in 2025 when SPD is supposed to take place? Why don’t we see more aliens on Earth? What the hell was up with Mystic Mother? Why do some people STILL not know what a Power Ranger is?
It really came to a head in the “Neo Saban” era of the franchise with Clash of The Red Rangers. Before that, you maybe could have saved it. But once they flat out stated RPM took place in its own dimension? Things began to unravel. What was seen as the perfect prequel to Time Force was knocked out of continuity. While it wasn’t the total train wreck fans thought it would be (although it did feature a dimension hopping train) it was the first sign that something was amiss.
Then Power Rangers Megaforce and Super Megaforce. This is when the little mistakes you could write off became crazy leaps of logic that asked way too much of the audience. The Rangers visit to the RPM world was the biggest offender. For some reason Corinth looked like something out of F-Zero and seemed totally deserted. New teams of Rangers were introduced with little rhyme or reason. It wasn’t world building, it was lazy. They couldn’t even be bothered to pronounce Animaria correctly. And of course, the Legendary Battle.While I had fewer problems with this then most fans, it still boggled the mind. Where the hell did the Rangers go after the fight? Did they turn into energy? Did they die? Who knows?! Now can fans come up with ways around all these problems and a ton more I didn’t have space to mention? Sure! As I said before, fan theories and fan fiction do wonders but I have a problem when it’s REQUIRED to do that in order for the show to make sense. Someone shouldn’t have to make a whole webseries in order to explain away why so many things don’t line up in a post Super Megaforce PRU. More than that, Super Megaforce was just a waste.
The Power Rangers production team was given a gift with Gokaiger, a celebration of 35 years of Super Sentai. They had a real chance to do something with the Power Rangers universe. Fix some of the issues and maybe even bring out some old favorites. But instead they threw it away in favor of wacky episodes with their pet robot. I’m not being glib here, the executive producer of the show put more time into a one-off comedic episode then the actual finale of the season.
Even with the franchise back in the fandom’s good graces with Dino Charge, it still seems so divorced from Power Rangers history. That could change but it seems Power Rangers has adopted the Sentai formula of each season standing on its own. Fans could certainly draw their own connections, as I did above with RPM and Time Force, but they were still more or less separate.
As times goes on, the people behind Power Rangers don’t care to use the universe their characters supposedly live in. The world building was gone. One could argue this season or that season was the start of a new continuity, as many are now doing with Dino Charge. But with no on screen confirmation of that, we’re forced to take everything at face value and assume this all somehow takes place in a consistent universe. Except when they arbitrarily decide to knock a season out of continuity.
So really, with all the bungled continuity and the seasons being mostly divorced from each other, what’s the point? Can this universe be saved? Or should it all be chucked out?
To save the Power Rangers universe, you’d need to do a lot of damage control. You’d have to go out of your way to explain why certain things don’t line up or give some kind of correct timeline on screen, which for Power Rangers would probably mean a massive exposition dump and no one wants that. Again, Super Megaforce had the potential to string this throughout the season and had the footage to make it work, but now you’d be stuck with a random Sentai. You’d basically be taking away from the current season in order to explain past season’s blunders, and no season should be thrown on the fire like that.
Continuity nods should never turn into continuity porn. It should have a reason to be there or be a quick little aside for the fans. If you are going into continuity porn, give a reason why new viewers should care about it. Super Megaforce never really did this with any of its returning Rangers in the Legendary Battle. They were just… there.
As I’ve written about before, some writers have given pitches on how to unite the various seasons but it inevitably ends up being continuity porn that would never be greenlit. I understand the target audience for Power Rangers is five year olds. I get that, by all accounts, they think a kid will watch this show for two years tops before abandoning it.
Power Rangers is a business before anything else. The fact that it also has some interesting stories is a bonus. Continuity could be done, but it needs to be handled in a careful way. So, don’t just have whole teams showing up because the fans would like it. Don’t have the old teams fighting because it’s dark and edgy. Just utilize the existing universe. Have another season set in space where you can visit some of those alien worlds again. Check in on some old villains and see what they’re up to. Maybe bring back a cast member or two every so often. Slowly but surely bring the universe back together again and build towards something big. The first few seasons did this with Power Rangers In Space, which managed to not only bring new life to the franchise but also tie off years of build up.
Power Rangers isn’t interested in doing any of that. Power Rangers is perfectly fine going Sentai lite from now until eternity. It has no interest in fixing its problems or utilizing its own universe. It’ll just keep slapping on new things without thinking of what came before. Every so often it’ll try and throw in a little tribute to fans that it will inevitably bungle.
Bulk in Samurai/Super Samurai is a prime example. Sure, it’s an old cast member that everyone loves but his presence added nothing to the series. It’s the old standard for Power Rangers. Oh, we should do something for the fans! Let’s throw out a reference to MMPR! They love that! Remember Zordon? Let’s mention his name. That’s totally awesome continuity right?
You can talk all you want about how the asteroids in Dino Charge probably brought the Dino Gems to Earth but I doubt that will ever be confirmed on screen. If Power Rangers can’t be bothered to care about its own universe, why should I bother putting extra thought into it?
I’m not going to draw lines between the seasons when it doesn’t give me anything to work with. I’m not going to speculate if this team knows that team when it gives me zero evidence to go off. I’m not going to wonder if Prince Vekar was part of a new United Alliance of Evil because, guess what, they don’t care about world building anymore.
Does this mean Power Rangers isn’t enjoyable? Of course not. Even at its worst, Power Rangers is a fascinating piece of media. It’s a fun piece of escapist entertainment that empowers kids and adults alike. But it needs to stop pretending it’s trying to be something more. Power Rangers is not Doctor Who, as much as it has potential to be. It’s not Star Trek, as much as when Power Rangers did space opera for kids it was glorious. Power Rangers ultimate potential is to be a wild and crazy interconnected universe on the level of Stargate. It rewards long time viewing instead of punishing you for it.So at this stage, if Power Rangers refuses to fix its own continuity or at least do something with it, it needs to reboot itself. I don’t mean with the upcoming big budget movie, ala Star Trek. I doubt we’ll get a Leonard Nimoy type of cameo from Austin St. John or Jason David Frank that will explain away the continuity differences. They aren’t going to stop the movie for ten minutes and explain the difference between TV and film continuity. Even if they did, that still doesn’t solve the problems with the TV continuity.
So just chuck it out. Make some kind of indication on screen this is its own universe. Make it very clear so fans can’t find a way out of it. Do whatever you want with it. If you want to keep telling self-contained stories every two years? Go for it. If you want to start building towards something more, awesome. But stop trudging out the old continuity when you want fans to buy more toys. Let the past stay in the past and move towards a new future.
More than that, Power Rangers needs new blood. Sure, Dino Charge has brought some life back to the show and it has some fun characters but it’s nothing new or all that different. Power Rangers is stuck in a creative rut. We’re getting more of the same. I don’t blame Judd Lynn or anyone behind the show now for that. After four years of awful Power Rangers, a back to basics sort of season is fine. But when you bring in Judd Lynn, you know what you’re getting. A lot of fans love it and that’s fine. But I hope that they bring in some new creative energy to the show. Someone who can bring fresh ideas to the series while still respecting the past.
For all the faults Power Rangers SPD had, Greg Aronowitz made Power Rangers something new again. He brought a different take. He made it feel different.That’s what I want from Power Rangers more than anything. To really get me excited again. It’s been five years since Power Rangers RPM and in that time Power Rangers has at best been at a Lightspeed level of okay but not mind blowing. At worst? Some of the most boring television I’ve ever seen.
Power Rangers can be so much more. It just has to try again. Until it does? Let it burn. Let it all burn.