Season: Power Rangers in Space
Episode: “Silence is Golden” (Episode 35)
Power Rangers in Space is a special season for me. Though my Mighty Morphin nostalgia is reserved for season 2 of that show, in Space was the season I loved above all others. It was, in a word, epic. The stakes were huge this season, both in- and out-of-show. In-show, this was the conclusion to what fans call the Zordon Era of the series. All the plots from the first six seasons of the program came down to this one series, and the finale, “Countdown to Destruction,” served as a coda to everything.
Behind-the-scenes, this was a make-or-break season for the franchise. The plan was to cancel Power Rangers in the face of flagging ratings. In addition, the producers misinterpreted the source series, Denji Sentai Megaranger, as being a space-based series. (It was actually about the Internet and video games.) Their answer? Blow the budget and film a bunch of new footage! It was supposed to be the final season, after all, so who cares?
The result was an amazing season with real standout episodes. “Silence is Golden” is one of the best of them all. Let’s take a look at it!
After the Power Chamber was destroyed by Divatox at the end of Power Rangers Turbo, four of the Rangers (minus Blue Ranger Justin, Blake Foster, who stayed behind on Earth) took to space to find Zordon, now being held in captivity. They met Red Space Ranger Andros (Christopher Khayman Lee), who gave them new powers. Pink Ranger Cassie (Patricia Ja Lee) and Yellow Ranger Ashley (Tracy Lynn Cruz – geez, lots of triple names this season) kept their colors, while former Red Ranger TJ (Selwyn Ward) became the Blue Ranger, and Carlos (Roger Velasco) switched from green to black. Their main base was the Astro Megaship, seen above.
The Space Rangers fought Astronema (Melody Perkins), princess of evil and subordinate of overlord Dark Spector:
Astronema is also Karone, Andros’ sister. She was brainwashed by Darkonda, another of Dark Spector’s villains, at an early age, and the two were separated. Karone made the choice to betray evil and join the good side, but she was reprogrammed using cybernetic technology and forged into pure evil. That decision backfired on Dark Spector, though, when unbeknownst to him, she started draining his powers using her own Psycho Rangers.
The Psycho Rangers were incredibly powerful and hell-bent on destroying the Space Rangers, but the more energy they exerted, the more they drained from Dark Spector. Cyber Astronema was a magnificent bastard, manipulating the hell out of everyone. In other words, the best kind of Power Rangers villain.
Back to today’s episode! Two Psycho Rangers down, three to go, as Andros and TJ note. These two are interesting, because while Andros is the leader, he was also the newest Ranger to everyone else early on. So former leader TJ took a bigger role than a Blue Ranger traditionally did. (Complicating this was the fact that Mega Black, the Black Ranger’s Megaranger counterpart, was the de facto leader of that team, so the source footage made it look like he was leading. The struggles against the source footage were real this year.)
All this to say that Andros’ strategies against the Psychos haven’t been particularly effective – it was TJ’s idea that destroyed Psycho Blue, and Cassie and Ashley teamed up to destroy Psycho Pink. This doesn’t get addressed in the show, but it’s interesting to note because of a later plot point.
Cassie, who got such short shrift of a focus episode in Turbo, gets a great one here. She’s shopping at Angel Grove Mall. Unbeknownst to her, the Psycho Rangers have changed into human form and are listening for the Rangers’ voices.
The voice recognition power almost works, as they overhear Ashley in a phone booth (which I LOVE, how ’90s is a phone booth?) and go to fight her.
Luckily, she leaves before they get there, and manages to overhear their plan to listen to their voices. She gets back to the Megaship, but Cassie’s still out there!
The Rangers are strapped for a way to alert Cassie without using the familiar tone of their communicators, so they send her a page I’m sorry I cannot. Oh my God I love the ’90s. No one uses a pager anymore! So wonderfully outdated.
Credit where it’s due, though: Cassie calls the Rangers, and the tension of the one-sided conversation is really gripping. Maybe it’s just from the perspective of someone who talks constantly, but the idea of not being able to say a word is terrifying to me.
After a couple close calls, a baby carriage nearly falls down a staircase. Cassie sees it, but no one else does, so just as the baby’s about to go overboard, she screams, “LOOK OUT!” And the Psychos immediately ID her. So naturally, she RUNS.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t quite run fast enough, and the Psychos catch up to her. Then, a clown:
The clown is actually Silver Ranger Zhane (Justin Nimmo, easily the hottest Ranger this season), who manages to throw the Psychos off Cassie’s tail. The other Rangers save her, and it’s really touching how well the Rangers play the reunion scene. This is my favorite team from the seasons I remember, largely because they all have such a natural, loving rapport with one another. It’s a relief to see Cassie safe and with her team.
Anyway, the Rangers actually manage to beat the Psychos, who take on their monster forms (which, ew, not pretty) and grow. The Rangers call their Megazord, the Mega Voyager.
The Mega Voyager is one of four Megazords this season (two others, the Mega Winger and Delta Megazord, join the fight later on), but it’s the only one with separate Zords for each Ranger. It’s one of my favorites of the early seasons, but I hate the only weapon it has being a giant missile. What happens if it misses? Are they just shit out of luck?
The Rangers put up a good fight, but the Psychos fake them out and steal the Mega Voyager. Andros refuses to abandon the Megazord for a long time, even as every other Ranger comes to the conclusion that they need to evacuate. It comes to a point where Carlos has to knock Andros out just to get him out of the Megazord. (More in the analysis.)
The Rangers immediately start searching for the Mega Voyager, and Astronema unveils her plan to the Psychos of exactly how they’ll use the Megazord to destroy the Rangers for good. While sucking a little bit more of Dark Spector’s power, of course.
Analysis: As an adult, I don’t love “Silence as Golden” as much as I did, say, “Another Song and Dance.” Yet when I was a kid, this episode was awesome, and I can still see why I loved it now. An episode where a character had to remain silent for fear of her own life? Such an original conceit for a kids’ show, convincingly sold by the actor involved. Ja Lee is, in many ways, a worthy successor to QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson’s pink mantle, and this episode does so much better expressing that than the last one.
It also serves as a worthy continuation of the Psycho Rangers saga, which was excellent as well. There had never truly been a great team of evil Rangers, but the Psychos were menacing, powerful and beyond threatening. They remain fan-favorite villains, and their inability to keep from destroying each other is a great parallel to this group’s awesome teamwork.
If there’s one complaint I do have about in Space, though, it’s the power vacuum issue. As I mentioned, Andros hasn’t had a major strategic win against the Psychos, and his inability to make the necessary sacrifice with the Mega Voyager speaks to an overemotional, unstable leader. Even in the next episode, “The Enemy Within” (a great end to the Psycho saga), the best ideas are Zhane’s and Ashley’s. Andros has good moments throughout the series, but this stretch highlights his general ineffectiveness as a leader.
Yet Carlos doesn’t make a very good leader, either. The only reason he looks like a leader is because the source footage demands he look like a leader. Those traits are, on the whole, inconsistent with his character.
No, the character who displays the most leader attributes is actually TJ, and it makes the reason he was demoted all the fuzzier. Why the need for a new Red Ranger? Did Tommy (Jason David Frank, finding his way in here long after his departure) have to go down to Blue Ranger from Zeo to Turbo? Of course not. TJ’s demotion always bothered me as a kid, and the racial implications behind it that I see it now (it would be a stunning five seasons before the Red Ranger wasn’t a white male again) make it even worse.
This is a minor quibble, though. The season on the whole was really great, and had moments that were even spectacular. Despite having my favorite team, however, it isn’t my favorite season. It is the best season we’ll be seeing for some time, though, as we’re about to hit choppy waters. The next season in particular makes Mighty Morphin season 2 look problem-free with all its behind-the-scenes drama. We’ll go into some of them next week as we enter the Lost Galaxy.