Season: Power Rangers Time Force
Episode: “Time Force Traitor” (Episode 26)
After Power Rangers in Space, the Power Rangers franchise hit a bit of a snag, first in trying to hew too closely to the In Space formula, then in trying to avoid series conventions altogether. The end result was two very middling seasons – and then the production team got their shit together for Power Rangers Time Force.
I mentioned last week that Lost Galaxy to some extent and Lightspeed Rescue to a greater extent killed any interest I had in Power Rangers. It wasn’t until about halfway through this season that I started watching again. Funny enough, this was actually the first episode I saw – and much like QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson got me to love Mighty Morphin Power Rangers back in the day, this season’s Pink Ranger, Jen (Erin Cahill), made me fall in love all over again.
As the episode starts, we see Jen and Red Ranger Wes (the insanely attractive Jason Faunt) baking (and flirting, as they often do this season). Jen is, along with the other three Time Force Rangers, from the year 3000, sent back to apprehend Ransik (Vernon Wells), a villainous mutant, after he murdered their former commander, Alex, and fled through time. (If you’re thinking “Boy, this got a lot higher concept than “teenagers with attitude,” just wait until we get to the magic and post-apocalyptic seasons.) Jen was engaged to Alex, but has since struck up a bit of a thing with her former fiancée’s ancestor – yes, Wes.
A funny note about these two: unlike in almost every other season, the Red Ranger doesn’t lead this team. He’s the main character, but he’s very much second-in-command to Jen, making her the first major female Ranger leader, and the only Pink Ranger to ever lead a team.
Anyway, Jen leaves the kitchen when she
can’t stand the heat breaks some eggs and goes to the store get more. On her way, she runs into an old friend! And by “friend” I mean her former robot partner, Steelix, who Jen turned in to Time Force after it was discovered he was selling secrets to Ransik! Suffice it to say, Steelix is not happy to see Jen, and the feeling is mutual.
You’ll notice some big names in this crop, including Golden Globe winner Edward Laurence Albert and the aforementioned Wells, known for his role in Mad Max 2. This was the first season that saw a major spike in acting quality across the board. Even the lamer characters (like Blue Ranger Lucas) had competent actors (Michael Copon), and it helped the whole thing feel much more legitimate. There were actually plans to turn Time Force into an adult primetime series, but Saban Entertainment allegedly didn’t want to damage the kid-friendly brand.
Back at the Rangers’ base, Jen reveals her history with Steelix, and that he stole her morpher. The Rangers form a plan of how to trap him in a public place, leading to Jen being used as bait. She looks terrified.
I really should note that Erin Cahill is a fantastic actress, even for Power Rangers. Jen was the first female Ranger with a great deal of complexities, not the least of which were her fiancée dying and attempting to lead her team in an unfamiliar time. Cahill always played her with respect, honesty and a real sense of gravitas. If I had one issue with Time Force, it’s that I feel the season focuses too much on Jen and Wes, but Cahill held up her end of things more than capably.
Unfortunately, Steelix is two steps ahead of the Rangers and avoids the trap. He instead leaves this really creepy Steelix-in-a-Box for Jen:
Steelix dares Jen to come to a warehouse in two hours alone so he can REVENGE! Jen lies to the team and says that the Steelix-in-a-Box didn’t say anything so that she could go to face him solo. She manages to fight him and regain her morpher.
Hey, how about a morph sequence?
I like this one a lot – though the DNA connection is dubious, the explanation makes sense (the Chrono Morphers are DNA coded to each individual Ranger, which is why only Wes could use the Red Ranger morpher, since it was linked to his descendant). Plus, the Time Force theme is just so good.
Unfortunately, Jen gets taken down and Steelix sprays her with something that gives her evil red eyes. The “Ranger becomes evil” device is always a little stretched to its limits, but the entire fight with Wes is entirely unmorphed. In a series that sometimes borrowed too much from its Sentai source material (Mirai Sentai Timeranger had several very similar plot threads, including a Pink Ranger leader), little breakaways like this really felt special.
Anyway, the unmorphed fight is awesome, and it’s easy to see why the creators chose to focus on Wes and Jen so thoroughly this season. Even when literally at each others’ throats, their chemistry is off the charts. Faunt struggled as an actor somewhat in his own plots (with Sixth Ranger Eric, played by Daniel Southworth, or with his father, played by Albert), but he was never better than when paired with Cahill.
Through a hug (because a kiss would clearly damage the young audience’s minds, ugh), Jen is brought back to her senses! Just in time, too, for the Megazord:
And the Rangers defeat Steelix. When monsters are destroyed in this show, they turn into figurines!
As the episode wraps, Jen bakes Wes cookies for his help (also, his love), but they’re terrible! Hahaha! Silly Jen, subverting gender stereotypes by leading a team and failing in the kitchen.
Analysis: All joking aside, Time Force is an awesome series that definitely puts forward a “Girl Power!” theme. In addition to Jen, who just plain rocks, Yellow Ranger Katie (Deborah Estelle Phillips) has super-strength, often making her the most physically impressive member of the team. (It also helps handwave the Timeranger footage wherein Katie’s counterpart was actually male. Whoops!)
Yet the boys don’t drag their feet, either. Faunt is good, though never quite as good as Wes is as a character, while Southworth and Eric are equally matched in impressiveness. This was a solid group of Rangers, appropriate for a well-written and smartly-conceptualized season.
Truly, though, Cahill was this season’s greatest asset, and like Johnson before her, was incredibly important for the series’ long-term survival prospects. Many female Rangers after Time Force – including at least one we’ll see next time – were clearly written with Jen in mind. This episode shows why she was so vital – after seeing so many weak female Rangers, to see one in such a strong position as leader was a refreshing change of pace.
That’s actually linked to one of my biggest frustrations about Power Rangers Wild Force – the next series we’ll examine. Wild Force is also the first season to be produced by Disney instead of Saban Entertainment, so Time Force in many ways marks the end of an era. In my mind, of the series we’ve seen so far, there are three major eras: the Mighty Morphin era, the Zeo to in Space era (often grouped with the Mighty Morphin seasons as the Zordon era, but there’s enough differences to make me separate them), and the Lost Galaxy to Time Force era.
Much like season 2 was the best of Mighty Morphin and in Space was the best of the middle group, Time Force towers above the preceding two seasons. We’ll see how hard the mighty can fall next time when Disney takes over and we get Wild.
UP NEXT: Power Rangers Wild Force: “Three’s a Crowd” (Episode 20)