Great "Beginnings" for "Power Rangers S.P.D."
In the year 2020, Earth has opened its doors to alien life forms from throughout the universe. Ninety-nine percent of them are good and decent people. One percent are criminals. And then there’s Emperor Gruumm. Guess where he fits in. Luckily, there’s Space Patrol Delta to guard against Gruumm and his Troobian forces. Everyone looks up to the A-Squad Power Rangers and their Delta Squad Megazord.
But they’re not the focus of Power Rangers: S.P.D. B-Squad, the cadets at the Ranger Academy, is. Sky dreams of following his father’s path and becoming the Red Ranger, the leader of the team. Setting her sights lower, Syd just dreams of not being confused by Bridge’s questions.
Yep, if you didn’t know from the commercials, these young adults have supernatural powers. Bridge is psychic, Sky can create force fields, and Syd can turn her hand into any element she’s touching.
Despite their abilities, they can’t get a break and become Power Rangers, until the fate of the Earth is in jeopardy. Commander Crugger, the dog-human head of the Space Patrol Delta, gives the three their Delta Morphers, engineered by catwoman Dr. Katherine Manx and tested out on SPD Academy flunkee/Chief Gadget Tester Boom. With these Delta Morphers, the three can morph into the Green, Blue, and Pink B-Squad Power Rangers and go after criminals.
Three Rangers? While that was standard issue for Ninja Storm and DinoThunder, you know some must be missing from the line-up. And, sure enough, there are two more ready to join, though it takes a bit of work to bring them in. Jack and Z (whose abilities are reminiscent of the X-Men’s Shadowcat and Multiple Man) are modern-day Robin Hoods, living on the street and stealing so as to help out out-of-luck aliens. (Don’t ask me how poor aliens got to Earth, unless they’re “recently poor” after blowing all their money on the interstellar trip to get here.) The two are good kids, but yes, they’re criminals, and so they get arrested by SPD, even though they just helped the new Rangers fight off the Krybots, the Troobian foot soldiers.
The Commander gives Z and Jack an offer: while they are criminals, they also are very adept, showing themselves to be a match for the B-Squad, which has been training for years. Serve your time as Power Rangers, or go to jail, he offers. So, as you’d expect, the two become the Yellow and Red Rangers, much to Sky’s resentment, and the groundwork for the series is laid.
Harkening back to the days of Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue, and Time Force, S.P.D. offers up another team of “official” Rangers. They have uniforms, they have a base, they’re all young adults, and they exist in a self-contained world. While there’s no doubt that this happens in the same universe as the other series, these Rangers are on their own.
That’s not to say there aren’t sly nods to the past. They don’t have a two-decade older Carter Grayson to act as mentor (the way the DinoThunder Rangers had Dr. Tommy Oliver), but the A-Squad Power Rangers, an all-American creation, are definitely based on previous Generations. (There is a reason Power Rangers Generations is airing conveniently close to this premiere). But the fact that this twelve-year franchise exists in one world does mean it occasionally trips over itself. We’ve got our second, feline-based Katherine in the run, along with our second Delgado.
The references to the past come courtesy of new creative blood. Doug Sloan is gone from the series, having made his exit with the DinoThunder finale after multiple years of writing . Bruce Kalish of The Famous Jett Jackson makes his Power Rangers debut here as executive producer, along with Greg Aronowitz, who also supplies the teleplay for the episodes. The look of the series is completely revised. While you could tell that Ninja Storm and DinoThunder were by the same crew, SPD introduces some new style. The show even takes on a comic-book quality at times, with some footage in the intro and the exposition being done in comic book frames. Some of the sets and action in general are reminiscent of the Silverstone segments from Jett Jackson.
Speaking of comics, the series has much more humor than some previous iterations; compared to the deathly serious Time Force, in which people died and fate was questioned, SPD is the lighter side of government-sponsored Rangers. Boom seems to be the brunt of many jokes. Don’t ask me why there’s a need to include a laser in an arm cast, but Boom pulls it off well. The Rangers get some good laughs in as well. Bridge is constantly befuddled; Z’s got a Multiple Man routine going; and RIC (Robotic Interactive Canine, the cannon for the series) is in a permanently broken state.
Action fans, you won’t be disappointed. The scenes taken from Dekaranger, the sentai original, are filled with action. Sure, it involves shameless use of wirework and bullettime, but it’s still good. Unmorphed action is even more creative this time around, with two characters swinging off a crane, and the genetic abilities are inventively deployed. Introductory episodes are usually light on the Megazord battles, and “Beginnings” is no different. The two Megazord battles get short shrift: one lasts no more than a minute (but includes a shot of A-Squad in the Delta Squad Megazord) and the other is alluded to only in the cleanup scenes that come afterward. But trust me, we’ll be seeing more giant robots later.
It’s nice to see that these Rangers aren’t the Rangers; A-Squad gets first dibs to use the Megazord and gets sent on bigger missions. The humor is pulled off well, and the plot seems interesting enough at this point. It hasn’t the level of mystery brought off by “Day of the Dino”, but it’s looking fun right now. May the power protect them this season.
So, how’d it compare to Dekaranger, it’s base series? You can check out in Dekaranger vs. S.P.D.: Everybody Wins!
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Power Rangers: S.P.D. premieres on Saturday, February 5, at 8:30 am ET/PT on ABC Family; subsequent showings will be made on Toon Disney (Monday, February 7 at 7:30pm ET/PT; repeats on Tuesday, February 8 at 7:00pm ET/PT and Friday, February 11 at 7:00pm ET/PT) and on ABC Kids (Saturday, February 26 at 12:30pm ET/11:30 am CT&PT; Saturday, March 5 at 12:30pm ET/11:30 am CT&PT).
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