Tuesday 5 July 2011

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers Lost Galaxy

Power Rangers Lost Galaxy is the seventh season in the Power Rangers franchise, succeeding Power Rangers in Space and preceding Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue. It is memorable in that it was the first season to bring along a whole new cast and setting for the series (a tradition that has been followed with every PR series since), although it did keep a few links to the older seasons as a point of reference.

Four teenagers (Leo, Mike, Kendrix and Kai) have left Angel Grove upon the space colony of Terra Venture, bound for a new world for humanity somewhere in space. When joined with a mechanic named Damon (who works on the Astro Megaship from In Space) and an alien girl named Maya - five of them (bar Leo) are chosen to pull the legendary Quasar sabers out of a stone on the planet Miranoi (Maya's home planet), becoming Power Rangers. In a battle with one of Scorpius (the main villain for the first half of the series)' generals, Mike falls into a crevasse, presumed to be dead, and passes his Quasar saber (and red ranger powers) onto Leo.

Later, Mike is found to be alive, his body taken over by a being known as the Magna Defender - a warrior in search of the mystical Lights of Orion. The Magna Defender seeks this power in order to take revenge against Scorpius and avenge the death of his son. After clashing with the Rangers several times, the Magna Defender is eventually redeemed and returns Mike to Terra Venture, bestowing the powers of the Magna Defender upon him. When the rangers finally defeat Scorpius, his daughter Trakeena takes over his role, vowing revenge upon the rangers for killing her father.

That's the overall story for Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, but you'd be wrong in thinking that the "Lost Galaxy" has very much to do with the actual series. The Lost Galaxy is in fact a dropped plot point that was barely expanded in the series (instead covering a 7 episode mini-arc) that has very little relevance on the overall plot. What's worse is that the little problems that plague every Power Rangers series seem to be amplified here. Sometimes the Sentai footage never gels well with the American, but here the footage (taken from Seijuu Sentai Gingaman) seems more obvious than ever. The location changes are erratic, and the footage is significantly more dated than the American side of the show. Random powers and plot points are regularly pulled out of nowhere (especially in the first half of the series) and the rangers don't even have any form of introduction to their morphers (in the first episode, they morph via the Quasar sabers). Finally, Power Rangers physics takes a whole new level in ridiculous here. I can get past moons with breathable atmospheres, but when characters are seem floating in the cold vacuum of space without any sort of protection things do become a little bit jarring.

The characters aren't much better either. None of the main cast are particularly memorable, which is a complete shame given some of the things this series went on to do with that cast. Power Rangers Lost Galaxy was the first series to properly kill off a ranger (that ranger being Kendrix, the Pink Ranger), which was (and still is) a pretty bold move. Her moment of sacrifice is really powerful, but I found it really hard to care when her character had had wafer thin character development beforehand. Her replacement, Karone (also known as Astronema from In Space) was a lot more likeable as a character, and was by far my favourite ranger in the series - despite her role being minimal.

The villains aren't much better either. Scorpius just looks frankly ridiculous, and its hard to take him as a credible threat (which is especially apparent in the rangers' battles with him, where he just sits there flailing his tentacles). His daughter, Trakeena, has apparently been praised by the PR community for her character development throughout the series - which, granted, is there, but is so horribly rushed. Its not gradual whatsoever - she just jumps from spoilt princess to seeking vengeance to batshit insane. Her goals fluctuate from merely seeking revenge against the rangers for her father's death to taking over Terra Venture (how taking over a space colony is a logical first step for universal domination I don't know) episode by episode. What I will say about Trakeena though is that her final form in the series finale is the stuff of nightmares. Definitely one of Power Rangers' darkest moments. The secondary villains, such as the treacherous Deviot and the honourable Villamax, are a lot better - but both are underused. Villamax moreso, but Deviot starts off very promising and then his backstabbing actions seemed to get sidelined until he meets his very anticlimactic end.

And the zords? Not so great either. A first for the series, the Galactabeasts are in fact "real" animals that have the ability to turn into robot zords. Only when they are in animal form they look like rejects from a low budget Godzilla film. The Galaxy Megazord isn't terrible, but its hardly memorable either (although the Lights of Orion upgrade version looks significantly better) - and I really miss the unified cockpit of the megazord formation. The extra megazords, the Centaurus and Stratoforce Megazords, confuse me, as they're repeatedly shown as being made up of 5 separate vehicles yet are never actually piloted once in the show. Showing that seemed just a bit unnecessary, even if it is Sentai footage.

I also think linking it to past Power Rangers series' was a bit tenuous at times. Sure it was nice to see Alpha 6, the Astro Megaship and Bulk again - but all of these had very minimal roles and weren't that necessary to the plot at all. Karone's return and her taking up the mantle of the Pink ranger in order to atone for her actions as Astronema was the only thing that really worked for the series in terms of throwbacks. I know that the writers had bigger plans for Lost Galaxy, including linking Zordon to the Quasar Sabers and the Galaxy ranger powers, but the end product we got would have probably been much strong as a stand alone thing.

Moving on from the bad, let's talk about the good for a second. When Power Rangers Lost Galaxy does get around to having strong episodes, they are really strong. The best example of this is To the Tenth Power/The Power of Pink, which is still probably the best 2-team crossover episode in Power Rangers history. The return of the Space rangers and Psycho rangers provide that jolt of energy the series so desperately needed, and the synch between the Space and Galaxy rangers during the fight sequences are excellent. Other strong episodes to look out for are Loyax' Last Battle and the three part finale, Journey's End. Journey's End had the difficult task of following the explosive end to Power Rangers in Space, but it was a task that it handled magnificently. The stakes are much higher than most Power Rangers' finales, and the three part format means the story develops at a nice pace. It almost makes sitting through 45 episodes worth it. Almost.

I'm well aware of the writing problems that plagued Lost Galaxy, and I'm also aware that Valerie Vernon (Kendrix)'s departure from the series was due to some pretty serious circumstances, but as it stands the majority of the series is a mess. If the whole series had been up to the calibre of some of the better episodes (such as To the Tenth Power, The Power of Pink and Journey's End) then it really could have been something special. But for now, I think Lost Galaxy is best remembered for the change it brought to the Power Rangers franchise rather than its actual content.


Myriad said...

any plans to review Gingaman?

Alex said...

Eventually! Plan is to get through the last couple of Rider series I have this year and then get back to Sentai reviews.