Back in 2009 Power Rangers was nearly dead but fans had every reason to celebrate. While the series had been shunted to airing at random times on ABC affliate stations but the current season, Power Rangers RPM, was astounding. Set in a post apocalyptic future, Power Rangers RPM was everything fans had wanted out of the franchise. Fun characters, engaging plots, throwing the Japanese footage from Engine Sentai Go-onger to the wind, it finally seemed like the show was taking itself a bit more seriously.
After the series went off the air, it looked like Power Rangers had finally finished its seventeen year run on TV. While some mourned the series, others were at least glad it ended on such a high note with RPM.
Then Saban, the original owners of Power Rangers, bought the show back. Fan hopes were high the new season would match the quality of RPM. Instead, Power Rangers Samurai‘s response was, at best, lukewarm. Many of the seasons plots were directly translated from its Japanese counterpart, Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and overall it seemed like it was aiming at an increasingly younger demographic. RPM was a tough act to follow and many fans quickly gave up on Samurai.
That didn’t last long, when it was announced out of the blue that the two seasons would be teaming up. At first all fans had to go on was this description.
The Clash of the Red Rangers: The Samurai Rangers team with the mysterious RPM Ranger Red and fend off the dual threat from Master Xandred’s Mooger army and a robotic super-villain from the RPM Ranger’s dimension. When something goes awry, the two Red Rangers turn on one another and the fate of the world hangs in the balance!
Fans freaked out, and not in a good way. Many feared the special would be a carbon copy of Shinkenger V. Go-onger. While Shinkenger’s characters were basically translated over into Samurai, Go-onger’s characters didn’t resmemble the RPM team in the slightest. For example, in Go-onger the Gold and Silver Rangers were stoic and refused to join the team when they were first introduced. In RPM, they were wacky and fun loving twins who enjoyed drawing in crayon and blowing stuff up.
It was assumed that if the RPM team appeared at all, they’d be written like their wacky Go-onger counterparts.
Even more worringly, the description sounded like it was drawing a line in the sand. The whole “RPM Ranger’s dimension” made it sound as though the special would actively cast off the previous season’s continuity. The previous season that had slotted so well into the Power Rangers timeline. It would all be just another universe.
How could this be done to what was hailed as one of Power Rangers best entries? What would this mean for the larger Power Rangers universe? What would be next? The twentieth anniversary was on the horizon. How else would the incredibly shaky Power Rangers timeline be tampered with?
With the special set to air on Thanksgiving weekend fans were on the edge of their seats ready for the entire fabric of the Power Rangers universe to come crashing down.
It… wasn’t actually that bad. It was actually the best outing for Samurai up to that point.
The plot was much like it was described in the intital summary, with Scott journeying from his dimension to stop the evil Professor Cog. Most of the Samurai team gets shunted into the RPM dimension, which we don’t see much of, while Jayden and Scott learn to work together. The two trick Professor Cog and defeat him with the returning Samurai Rangers. The team then fights another monster sent by Xandred before sending Scott back to his dimension.
The special was not an exact copy of the Sentai team up and Scott, the RPM Red Ranger, was more or less in character. For all that buildup of how this special would completly destroy the fabric of Power Rangers, it was fairly inoffensive. Fun but bizarre. How did it end up this way?
The special came about thanks to Executive Producer Jonathan Tzachor and Story Editor James W. Bates culling together all the footage they could to make it a viable project. Bates was not aware of all the fan baggage as he was writing the special. Instead, he was focused on the biggest stumbling block with the production. Eka Darville, Scott’s actor, wasn’t available to shoot. The whole script would have to be tailored to his absense.
“Whether or not it was a great solution it was kind of built into the story that he’s stuck in the suit because he’s worried about the environment,” Bates tells us.
At the start of the special Scott arrives on a dimension hopping train. Where did it come from? What was it for? Would it play some role in the future?
“The train was not an element I came up with but I think we wanted some kind of dramatic entrance,” Bates says. “When Jonathan mentioned the train, I had imagined an old timey train. I didn’t envision a subway. That was something Jonathan brought in,’ hey, we haven’t seen this on the show before and it’s an exotic way to bring it in.’”
Without a doubt the most bizarre and funniest moment of the special comes during the final Megazord battle. While the main Samurai team fights off the giant monster, Scott and Antonio ended up fixing a symbol-powered car. Why would they be doing this during a Megazord battle? Why would you need to fix a car that is made out of magical symbol energy?
”I thought it was a fun character beat. There was something that we could have maybe played up more with RPM Red where he’s all about cars and technology. He’s kind of a gearhead and we have these guys who are Samurai and do things the old fashioned way. It was just playing into that part of his character.”
But what about RPM being in another dimension? That was the biggest sticking point for fans. Bates confesses there just wasn’t enough time in the special to answer all the questions explaining away the differences between the RPM and Samurai timelines,
“If you look at when RPM is supposed to happen, it could have been a date that was already supposed to have happened (in relation to Samurai),” Bates explains. “You can ignore that and say we’re our own thing or you can fudge with it. Having it be in a separate universe maybe was an easy answer but I’m writing a special with a guy who can’t take his helmet off. I had other issues to deal with.”
Bates script for the special was originally far longer, clocking in at seventy five minutes. Material had to go. Deleted scenes include the Samurai team meeting the other RPM Rangers, although they all would have been voiceovers like Scott. Without them, Bates wrote a now infamous line of dialogue.
When the Samurai Rangers returned from the RPM dimension, Emily happy informed Scott, “Your team says hi!”
This line was has been repeated in years since as somewhat of a joke and a summation of fans complaints about the special, but Bates confirms it was a nod to those deleted scenes.
Looking back on “Clash of the Red Rangers” five years later, the worst crime it be can be accused of, from a hardcore Power Rangers fan, is setting RPM in another dimension. Is that kind of annoying? Sure, but with the new Power Rangers movie being in its own dimension and the timeline shattering travesty that was the finale of Power Rangers Dino Super Charge, “Clash of the Red Rangers” doesn’t look so bad.
It’ll certainly never rank as the top team up episode in the series history, but it didn’t kill the franchise. It was a fun adventure with some wacky elements that, if you’re willing to overlook a few nitpicks, is a solid if offbeat special. Bates is just happy the whole thing came together with all the hurdles they had to overcome.
“We had a lot of source material and that lead to a lot of different story points. Jonathan and I worked really well together on that. I’m very proud of Clash.”
Hold on, Shamus Kelley needs to fix his symbol powered car. Follow him on Twitter!
Read and download the full Den of Geek Special Edition magazine here!