Thursday, August 30, 2012

POWER RANGERS WEEK PART 5: "Galaxy MAY Not Be 'Lost' "

 And now it comes and here we go, it's time for yet another installment in the frankly mystifyingly popular Power Rangers Week. Last time we witnessed the creative renaissance for Power Rangers and a serious attempt to push it into a little more thoughtful field of storytelling, and today's installment, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, continues in a like vein.

 Lost Galaxy was meant to usher in the new paradigm of Power Rangers, in that each season would be an entirely new story with a new cast and pretty much no explicit correlations to seasons past or future, and to an extent. . .it generally is. However, Lost Galaxy was one of the most ill-starred productions (no pun intended) in the history of Power Rangers, and so, in the name of papering over all of the problems with the production (and papering over the papering over.) And before we get started, I reckon we should talk a bit about those production problems.

 For one thing, after Power Rangers in Space, the producers of the American version were eager to continue in like vein with another space-themed series (hence, dropping "Galaxy" into the title) The problem is, the Super Sentai for that year, Gingaman, was an environmental/nature-themed sentai, which took place in cities and forests, and well, it was going to be hard to parlay that into "space." Sure they'd done with In Space, but they'd split the difference by going back to earth for a few episodes and filming a lot of American footage.

 But there were a few carryovers from the last season. They were generally kept in the background--Alpha-6 is still there, as is the mech from last season. It's probably for the best as it's nothing critical (well, yet) as last season culminated with a giant energy wave supposedly destroying all evil on the universe and that would probably limit your options vis-a-vis continuing your franchise. So, here's a few familiar things, try not to examine the joins too closely.

 The whole thing of how to match the footage was surmounted by deciding "Oh, it all takes place on a space colony" which is. . .one way to do it, and again, so long as it's not examined too closely, it just about  works. It does involve them filming a lot more American stuff, but that'll be a pattern going forward.

 Anyways, the plot. On the planet Mirinoi, there are five Quasar Sabers jammed into a stone. 5 worthy people will pull the Sabers out, and those people are--wouldn't you know it--YOUR 1999 Galaxy Rangers:

 LEO--In the best tradition of Shatner, Leo does his best work shirtless and yelling. He stows away aboard Terra Venture to follow his brother Mike into space, and "discover a new world.." Mike actually draws the Saber, but gives it to Leo when Mike falls down a crevice of plot convenience. Nominally the leader, but really, he gets nudged about as the plot demands.

 KAI--The straight-arrow of the team, Kai doesn't get much development, as he's meant to be the straight-laced rational yin to Leo's hellbent-for-leather yang, and so, exists more as a foil.

 DAMON--Basically gets taken along because Leo jacks the Astro Megaship to chase after Terra Venture, Damon, like Geordi LaForge is an engineering genius, and ultimately becomes chief mechanic of Terra Venture, which is a bit of a reach in that Damon had (so far as we know) only worked on one ship and I don't know how much of that knowledge carries over to big-ass space colonies.

 MAYA--A jungle girl from the planet Mirinoi, I'm sure there are plenty of 12-years olds in 1999 for whom Maya was their first crush. Maya's the spiritual one of the group, and the one most tuned into the mystical side of things, none of which explains why she turns into a dude when the Japanese footage started.

 KENDRIX--Kendrix is the girl geek of the group, who handles the exposition that they don't give Maya. Usually how that works is that Maya finds out something, then Kendrix elaborates on it. I have a bit more to say on the subject of Kendrix, but we'll get to that when we get to that.

 They're an agreeable bunch, and they all have their own character-centric episodes , they're really separate parts of a larger whole.

 Anyways, the plot: The Quasar Sabers are being actively hunted down by the forces of evil, as led by blobbly. . .er, blob-thing Scorpius (no, not that one.) and his daughter, Trakeena. Trakeena starts out as a bit of useless in the early episodes, but taken as a whole, the storyline is really about Trakeena's evolution from second in command to head villainess in charge, and after the first third of the series, she starts playing more of an active role in things.

 The other thing once notices about Lost Galaxy is that the villains aren't a set group through the first handful of episodes. Initially, our only villain is Furio, who is only there to get the ball rolling plot-wise. After that, there's a rotating cast of baddies led by Treacheron (and with a name like that, you're pretty much doomed to be evil, aren't you?), who is also materially tied into the plot of our Sixth Ranger (or closest analogue this season) the Magna Defender.

 The Magna Defender's an interesting character. He's not exactly an ally to the Rangers at first--he just wants to kill Scorpius because Scorpius killed his kid  (and we see this on camera, which is a bit of a taboo broken for this show) and isn't choosy about people getting caught in the crossfire of it (he pretty nearly destroys part of Terra Venture trying to make it happen) and doesn't really have a "then what" after the whole Scorpius thing, which makes him dangerous. The Rangers fight against him as many times as they fight alongside him. Ultimately he dies (or as much as one is allowed to on a show like this) saving Terra Venture (having been convinced to sacrifice himself for something rather than revenge) and his powers are transferred to Mike (who was saved thinks to him in a way that allows the show to have their cake and eat it too) who then functions as a more traditional Sixth Ranger for most of the rest of the series.

 Ultimately, Trakeena goes off to be trained in the ways of ass-kicking by Villamax, who, despite his name, is an honourable sort and functions in the "honourable second role" for the season. While all that's going on Deviot (our "treacherous second" for the season) ingratiates himself with Scorpius, who has woven a cocoon. Whoever enters it will gain tremendous power, and Deviot's all about the acquisition of power, which he proves by letting Scorpius be killed and blaming it on the Rangers, which guarantees Trakeena will do something stupid.

 But she doesn't yet, and so things achieve a bit of stability right up until the team-up for the season with the Space Rangers. It's pretty badass--Deviot resurrects the Psycho Rangers for a knock-down drag-out fight with both teams of Rangers and it's an awesome thing, and one of the best of the team-ups that will become something of a tradition for the next few seasons.

 What's even more interesting is the episode right after that. One of the Psycho rangers survives, and in trying to stop her, Kendrix has to give up her life. It's not stated outright, but for all intents and purposes, Kendrrix gives up her life. That's pretty heavy for Power Rangers (and, it should be mentioned, never happens again), and would have been unheard of six seasons ago for sure..

 Even more unheard of is the candidate to replace her--Astronema. Yes, the master villainess from last season (now depowered, obviously) gets to be a Ranger herself, which is pretty cool for something that came up at the 11th hour. It's kind a of a shame, given the overall arc of the season that it wasn't the plan to begin with--Astronema's trying to do the right thing and atone for being evil, Trakeena's becoming more evil as the season goes on. It makes for good parallel plotting, especially heading into the final stretch.

 After finally getting to the Lost Galaxy for a few episodes which ultimately don't amount to much, Deviot makes his move, merging with Trakeena in the cocoon and making Trakeena utterly merciless and homicidal. Trakeena unleashes her entire army on Terra Venture (already crippled) and uses them as a suicide bombers, forcing them to land on an unknown planet. Trakeena, having completely gone around the bend, kill Villamax, just to show she means business, goes back into the cocoon to complete her metaphorphosis, and has one last battle with Leo while she files the remains of Terra Venture into the planet below, planning to smash the remaining colonists that her suicide bombers didn't blow up in the initial assault.

 It's a pretty bleak finale, but this is Power Rangers, for God's sakes, so it can't get but so bad. Our heroes ultimately triumph, Kendrix returns to life because of. . .er, reasons, and it turns out Terra Venture has landed on Mirinoi, which kind of negates the need to go traipsing through the galaxy a little, doesn't it?

 Head-scratching questions aside, Lost Galaxy is a pretty strong season. If there's a flaw at all, it's the that central conflict doesn't really take shape until like a third of the way in, and what's in its place is not very interesting. The Magna Defender arc is pretty good, but the Lights of Orion stuff is pretty blah and seems to drag and drag and drag. But once things get into place (let's say the team-up with In Space) it starts moving with purpose and some urgency (that detour to the Lost Galaxy. . .not so much, but it's over soon enough) It's not as good as the season before it, or, I would say, the season after, but it's very good and a further sign that the producers of the show are spreading out some and taking more chances.

 And that's the end of my DVD sets, but not the end of Power Rangers Week. Join us tomorrow when I look over across the pond and take a look at the Japanese shows that started this whole thing. Join us Friday for a look at Super Sentai, won'cha?

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