Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers Time Force


The final season to be produced by Saban, Power Rangers Time Force is the ninth season of the PR franchise and was adapted from the Super Sentai series Mirai Sentai Timeranger. Time Force is held in high regard among Power Rangers fans, and often praised for its darker, more mature storyline.

In the year 3000 a police organisation known as Time Force has tracked down and cryogenically frozen every criminal bar one - Ransik, a powerful mutant created in a chemical accident. Bent on crushing humanity in the name of mutant-kind, Ransik hijacks a prison full of convicts and escapes to the year 2001 with the intention of altering history, but not without taking down the Red Time Force ranger (Alex) before he leaves. The remaining 4 rangers - team leader Jenn (Pink), Trip (Green), Lucas (Blue) and Katie (Yellow) follow Ransik into the past. There, much to Jenn's initial dismay, they are joined by Alex's ancestor Wes, son of a rich industrialist. Wes is the only one who can take the mantle of the red ranger, due to the morpher being locked to Alex's DNA signature.

While protecting the city from Ransik's attacks, they are also faced with the problem of Wes' father Mr Collins, who has created his own for-profit protection group known as the Silver Guardian. After discovering his son to be the red ranger he offers him a place on the Silver Guardians as team leader, to which Wes declines, believing he should create his own destiny. Not only to the rangers have to struggle against Ransik, they also face the problem of Mr Collins' team of scientists making scientific breakthroughs early (thus upsetting the course of time) and the Silver Guardians own Time Force Ranger - Eric, who claims the Quantum powers and becomes the Quantum Ranger.

To start with, Time Force boasts one of the best lead casts in Power Rangers history. Each of the 6 rangers have very different personalities and interact with each other and the secondary cast well. Unlike other shows, each member of the cast receives ample screen time (while Lucas, Trip and Katie's development is overshadowed by the relationship between Jenn and Wes, they still feel like completely fleshed out characters). Eric's relationship with the main 5 Time Force Rangers is particularly of note because it isn't quite like anything that came before it - Eric is never presented as an evil or formerly evil character, he just initially belittles the rangers, choosing to work alone because he feels he can do a better job. His gradual acceptance of the Time Force team is one of the series' main strengths and cements his place as one of the best 'extra' rangers on Power Rangers. Jenn's grief over the loss of Alex (they became engaged at the beginning of the series and prior to his death) and growing relationship with Wes also comes very naturally and not forced unlike other Power Rangers relationships. On the subject of Jenn, she is a VERY different breed of pink ranger to anything that came before her - acting as the team's leader and a strong, determined woman. As the last pink ranger to appear until Power Rangers SPD four seasons later, she left a mark on what is usually considered the cliché 'girly' member of the team.

The antagonists I'm a little more mixed on. Ransik is widely considered to be a more sympathetic villain, and while this can be considered true there are also many reasons not to feel sorry for him in the course of the show. While its true that humans feared and shunned him due to his appearance, when he was finally shown kindness by a human he in turn murdered them in cold blood (this character would go on to become Frax, who I will get onto in a moment). While the cycle of hate is a prominent theme in the series (especially in the 3-part finale), Ransik's attitudes toward those trying to help him make him a character very hard to feel sorry for. That being said, he is a very different breed of main villain - more of a thug than all-powerful super villain. He is a very active villain, often actively participating in combat with the rangers and was also shown at times to be quite the calculating villain. Other than being there to be shown as the one thing Ransik truly cares about (which is actually critical to the plot), his daughter Nadira is a lot less interesting - a character often used for light hearted scenes and not particularly interesting until her excellent development in the finale.

Frax, a former human who saved Ransik's life by creating a serum keeping him alive after being fatally bitten by another mutant, is the stand-out 'tragic' character of the show. His origin is perhaps one of the darkest moments of Time Force - after being left for dead by Ransik, Dr Louis Ferricks turned himself into robot in order to save himself and worked alongside Ransik, eventually planning to take his revenge. Even when working alongside Ransik he is treated poorly, and plans to get rid of both humanity and mutants to create a world where robots rule. Following his eventual defection from Ransik he becomes a main villain in his own right, eventually being captured and meeting a particularly tragic ending.

The show's aesthetic is another thing I felt mixed about - while the ranger suits are excellent (and the only team to have visors in the ranger colour rather than black) there is very minimal difference between the red ranger and Quantum ranger suits. While from a narrative point of view the similarities do symbolise the rocky relationship between Wes and Eric, visually it can be confusing when the two appear onscreen together. And the less said about the Mega Battle and Battle Fire modes the better, as they are among the worst battlizers to come out of the franchise...and that's facing some stiff competition.

The main zords of the season are also particularly lackluster. While its quite interesting to have a megazord that has two different battle modes (blue for speed/projectile weaponry and red for power/physical weapons), the uniform colour scheme makes the Time Force Megazord seem like one robot rather than a combination of five (the uniform colours worked better in Power Rangers Zeo, where it was clearly made up of 5 different components). The addition of the Time Shadow (which looks excellent as a standalone zord, and perhaps should have been utilised more) to create the Shadow Force Megazord improve the overall look better and boast some excellent finishers, but it still feels a little underwhelming. On the other hand, the Quantasaurus- Rex (or Q-Rex) is an excellent zord - boasting both a dinosaur mode and a Megazord mode.

Finally I'd like to take a look at the claims of Time Force being a 'dark' series, which I feel are somewhat over-exaggerated. Certainly the series had some very dark themes present (such as the origins of both Ransik and Thrax) and the show still has some extremely light-hearted and goofy moments. The treatment of mutants by humans is never really fully explored (and mutants are shown to either be good or have worked for Time Force a number of times) and Ransik is never portrayed as some masterful villain. Episodes like 'Movie Madness' (which is a good episode nonetheless), 'The Legend of the Clock Tower', 'Beware the Knight' and 'Nadira's Dream Date' are all examples of Power Rangers cheese at its finest, and the latter episode also turns Ransik into a complete comedy relief character. Alex's death at the beginning of the show also loses a lot of impact after his miraculous recovery later in the series (a point which I feel should still have been down to the rangers altering the time line). A more mature Power Rangers series? Yes I'd agree there but darker? Not so much.

So while I think some fans may oversell Power Rangers Time Force a bit much I can't deny that it is an excellent series, and one of the best in the Power Rangers franchise. It has a gripping story, interesting and diverse characters, and some the best acting in the franchise to boot. However some of the design choices (I admit this is mostly down to the Sentai footage used) and odd balance between light and dark themes make Time Force just lose out on full marks. An absolutely brilliant series yes, but not a flawless one.


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