Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Power Rangers Lost Galaxy | Review

Power Rangers Lost Galaxy – Magna Defender / Lights of Orion Arc

The hype surrounding Power Rangers Ninja Steel and the upcoming movie reignited my love for the long running series and I decided to re-watch a season at random. I decided to look back at some of my favourite season premieres and Quasar Quest, from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy has always been one of my favourites. Not only is it a fantastic episode of Power Rangers but it is also a great example of children’s television. It is ambitious, and well made.

In "Quasar Quest", we see the launch of the Terra Venture, a space colony in search of a new world, a rebellious young man we later come to know as Leo stowaway on the ship and the tragic death of his brother Mike. We also meet the other rangers; Kai and Kendrix are scientists on Terra Venture, Damon is an engineer whom we meet in the second part of the premiere, and Maya, a mysterious girl from the jungle planet Mirinoi. The episode is filled with emotion and high stakes as we see an evil villain named Furio travel to the planet of Mirinoi to try and gain control of the five mystical Quasar sabres (hence the title) which are submerged in a stone, waiting for the chosen ones to retrieve them.

Obviously, Furio is not one of the chosen five, and in revenge, he turns Mirinoi into stone.

While the season premiere is borderline perfection, the follow up episodes leave a lot to be desired. The third episode leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. We have yet to see the rangers (and Leo in particular) mourn Mike’s death nor do we see how Maya manages to assimilate into her new live upon Terra Venture. Here are some more questions I had while watching the next several episodes:

The Rangers also seem to receive upgrades and power-ups quite frequently in the initial episodes with minimal or no background explanation. For instance, Alpha and DECA just randomly decided to build the Jet Jammers for the rangers? Furthermore, I was also disappointed with the third episode; its only motive was to introduce the Zords, which it did very poorly.
·         Why can Maya hear the Galactabeasts?
·         What/Where is the planet the Galactabeasts are from? Why is it unnamed? (This is particularly aggravating for a space themed season)
·         What is the connection between the Galactabeasts and the Rangers' powers?
·         Why do the Galactabeasts transform into a “mechanical” mode?
·         Why is there no apparent connection between the Galactabeasts and the Quasar Sabres?
·         How are the Galactabeasts able to enter Terra Venture?
·         How do the monsters enter Terra Venture?
·         Why does the Torozord rise from beneath the ground… in Terra Venture?
·         How does the Megaship enter/exit Terra Venture without it raising any security alerts? Why can’t Scorpius’ ship do the same thing
·         Does the ship's captain not realise Mike is dead? If he does, where was his memorial service?
·         Where did the Quasar Launchers come from?
·         The opening episode dealt with Leo trying to find a way onto Terra Venture but we have yet to know how Maya has managed to go undetected. Furthermore, we had a whole episode about a boy sneaking onto Terra Venture but Maya remains under the radar. How did Maya assimilate so easily?
·         Why would Kendrix, a top scientist on the world's first space colony doubling for a diva actress? Why are there celebrities on Terra Venture?
·         Why did Leo seem perfectly normal after Mike's death and not mourn his loss until the sixth episode?

Eventually, Lost Galaxy regains traction once the Lights of Orion arc begins and we are introduced to the Magna Defender and his tragic backstory involving his deceased son Zika. During this arc, we also see a few Easter eggs regarding Trakeena’s upcoming transformation and her continuing to rebel against her father, Scorpious’ wishes.

Lost Galaxy is the first season to take place after the Zordon era and begins the tradition of Power Rangers having a completely new cast and story line each season. Despite this fact, Lost Galaxy has several connections to the previous season, In Space, some of which include the inclusion of Alpha, DECA and the Mega Ship as well as Bulk and Professor Phenomenus. The presence of this characters and the Mega Ship set seem like a cheap ploy to try and keep viewers from last season to carry on with Lost Galaxy. None of these characters serve much purpose; Bulk and the Professor disappear after "Quasar Quest" and are not seen again until Stolen Beauty, which aired after the summer hiatus in 1999. Alpha is and is some ways is not the ranger’s mentor and only appears sporadically, or when the producers need a quick way to introduce a new weapon into the ranger’s arsenal to keep up with the seasonal toy releases.

The first part of Lost Galaxy is fantastic at creating interesting and thought provoking plot lines but is not so good at explaining origins. The storytelling so far is quite erratic, and moves along swiftly without taking the time to give (simple) explanations. The season is good at posting pegs on a board but not so good at drawing a connection between the pegs. In contrast, RPM also had a very high concept but managed to take the time to explain the backstories of all of its core five rangers despite having only 32 episodes to do so. Maybe the season should be re-titled Lost Explanations because as of right now, there are more black holes plot holes than anything else.

On a side note, you know what would have made the first season good? Instead the awful filler episodes in which Kendrix doubles for a bratty actress, Kai falls in love with a roller-skater and Leo gets a job on the ship, FLASHBACK EPISODES TO NIGHT BEFORE TERRA VENTURE TOOK OFF!!!!! The ship is on a one way journey to find a new world, why not show us how the characters said goodbye to their loved ones? Flashback episodes can be great if used correctly, a la RPM. Rather than having a stupid filler episode like Double Duty, why not have a flashback episode showing us how and why Kendrix was chosen to have such an important position on Terra Venture!

Kendrix’s backstory according to moi: Kendrix was engaged to a top scientist whom she met at university. They both applied for a top position upon Terra Veture but only Kendrix was offered a job due to her superior knowledge and intelligence. Her fiancé BREAKS UP with her and they lose contact until he contacts her two days before Terra Venture takes off. After they meet up, Kendrix questions whether she should go on the adventure of a lifetime, or stay on Earth and have a traiditonal life with her future husband. Obviously, she chooses the former *cries internally*

Imagine seeing Mike and Leo sat around their parent’s dinner table discussing why Leo can’t go on the ship!

Leo: But I must go on Terra Venture!
Mike: No, bro you’re not cut out for this! You’re too irresponsible!
Leo: It’s my destiny!

The tension! The dramatic irony!

 The Fall of Scorpius and The Rise of Trakeena

In the unofficial second half of Lost Galaxy, we see the effect Mike becoming the Magna Defender has had on Leo. As we all know, Mike was the original chosen one to bear the Red Quasar sabre which he ultimately had to pass on to his brother when he fell into the crevice. "Destined for Greatness" is probably one of the better episodes of the second half of the season because we get to see the brothers bonding as they must come together to save the other rangers whom have been captured in mirrors. 

Throughout the episode, Leo is feeling down because he believes Mike should have been the Red Ranger and as a result, this episode (the 16th of the season) is the first to directly focus and address the feelings of guilt Leo felt as a result of him taking over the Red Ranger powers. However, in a rather odd and haphazard fashion, the ghost of the original Magna Defender comes back to give Mike the powers to become the new Magna Defender. This is yet another example of some of the plot holes in this season. We hardly have any explanation regarding how the rangers gain, harness and control their new powers which can be largely attributed to the fact they pretty much lack a central mentor (Alpha is usually MIA and the captain has no idea the rangers are in fact rangers). The rangers don't necessarily work hard or complete training to gain new powers, their powers seem to just fall into their hands by chance.

The second chapter of Lost Galaxy has several key episodes which although are not completely devoid of filler, are entertaining and intriguing. For instance, "The Rescue Mission" is one of the most unusual Power Rangers episodes because it features hardly any of the characteristics of a Power Rangers episode we have come to expect. In fact, its more akin to an episode of The X-Files (to be specific, it reminded me of the Season 1 episode "Ice") which works extremely well for this season in particular. In the episode, a rescue team led by Mike follow a distress call from an abandoned space ship which has been infiltrated by a spooky spider monster!

Lost Galaxy, like most seasons, truly flourishes when it ditches the boring filler episodes and becomes more serialised. Whilst mostly being a filler episode, "Stolen Beauty" is entertaining and gives us a greater insight into Trakeena's character and her inability to come to terms with her upcoming metamorphosis in the cocoon Scorpius has built for her. At the end of the episode, Trakeena runs away and disappears into outer space. The outer space setting really makes these episodes even more foreboding and exciting. Undoubtedly, the best part of the second chapter is the rise of Trakeena and the fall of Scorpius. We really get to delve into the murky world of intergalactic space insect politics as Deviot plots against Scorpius and the heir to his throne, Trakeena to take control of the infamous cocoon which will make its inhabitant all the more powerful!

In "Heir to the Throne" we see where Trakeena has ended up, on the planet Onyx which is filled with rogue monsters and of course and intergalactic monster pub which is always great to see in Power Rangers. In one of the best sequences in the season so far, Villamax trains Trakeena to be the tough rogue she needs to become in order to survive and assume the throne from her father whom is ultimately killed by Leo. The fall of Scorpius sets up a series of tumultuous events which includes an intense rivalry between Trakeena and Leo. 

"An Evil Game" is not just the episode from which the iconic scene of Leo ripping his shirt of his glistening muscular body to fight Trakeena takes place, we also see monsters plotting against other monsters in order to become more powerful. Monster politics have always been one of the more interesting aspects of Power Rangers and it is at this point Lost Galaxy uses its legion of villains wisely to point where their plot and their intentions become more interesting in comparison to the Rangers'.

Into The Lost Galaxy / Journey's End 

Now I have come to the final part of my re-watch of Lost Galaxy and I must say, so far the ride has been tumultuous. There have been many ups and many downs but ultimately, the series has always been interesting and maintained a "darker" and more serious tone in comparison to previous seasons (and future seasons hihi). 

The final arc for the Lost Galaxy rangers involves them actually entering the Lost Galaxy in which we meet Captain Mutiny who has enslaved dozens of humans who have also entered the Lost Galaxy. The rangers along with Terra Venture are banished into the Lost Galaxy after Deviot steals the Galaxy Book and uses it for his own personal gain. The first few episodes in the Lost Galaxy is this season at its best. When the show builds and establishes an arc, the writing, acting and story benefits. While some seasons are able to pull off strong filler episodes (see Ninja Storm's I Love Lother). Lost Galaxy cannot. "Enter The Lost Galaxy", "Beware The Mutiny", and "Grunchor on the Loose" are all examples of the quality Power Rangers can achieve when not completely focused on selling toys and talking down to its audience (this is a reference to the Neo-Saban seasons). It amazes me Chip/Judd Lynn who pioneered one of the most ambitious live action children's television programmes has resorted to toilet humour in his more recent seasons. The differences between the old and the new is made even more evident in the seasons final episodes. The colossal blockbuster "Journey's End".

I have previously said "Quasar Quest" is one of, if the best, premiere for any Power Rangers season and "Journey's End" has to be one of the best finales. In the three-part episode, Trakeena becomes consumed with revenge and finally enters the cocoon her father (the late Scorpius) made for her in order to undergo her final transformation. She is transformed into a green slimy bug creature devoid of all her beauty from her previous form. Terra Venture finally finds a "new world" and the useless Captain announces to the residents on Terra Venture the journey has been a success. Trakeena launches yet another attack on the space colony which is almost successful. Terra Venture is mostly destroyed apart from the main city dome which crash lands on the moon with most of its inhabitants safe.... for now. 

It soon becomes clear the dome is cracking and won't survive for much longer, so the useless commander orders a mass evacuation to the new world. The evacuation is successful although in order to save the innocent citizens travelling to the new world, the ranger's must self-destruct the Mega Ship in order to defeat a stingwinger invasion which sends Leo hurtling through space and crash landing on the moon. One of the finale's most interesting scenes is one in which Trakeena kills Villamax after he protests her orders to kill the innocent civilians travelling to the new world. Trakeena has been completely consumed by evil and nothing will stop her from seeking revenge on the rangers. Villamax's surprising display of humanity leads to his shocking end at the hands of his former comrade. In the final part of the episode, Trakeena and the ranger's engage in a nasty battle on the Terra Venture's city dome which is still located on the moon. It is at this point, she has made her full physical metamorphosis and uses her new powers to re-energise Terra Venture and send it on a crash course to the new world to kill everybody. Eventually Leo, and the other rangers manage to save everyone, and at the end of the fight, the ranger's travel to the new world. But the new world is not really new, in fact, we have been here before. Maya is drawn to a particular spot in the forest in which she and the other rangers discover the stones from which (only three of them) pulled their Quasar Sabres in the premiere. The season comes full circle as Maya realises TERRA VENTURE HAS LANDED ON MIRINOI aka THE NEW WORLD. The rangers place their Quasar Sabres back into the stone, completing their quest. Kendrix is revived and all the people who turned to stone come back to life. All the quests have been completed; both Terra Ventures, despite its demise, found a new world, and Maya saved her planet. 

"Journey's End" is a very fitting finale as it managed to give a great sense of closure for the characters we have grown to love. Their destinies have been fulfilled and there is a sense of all the ranger's returning home despite only Maya originally being from Mirinoi. Another reason why this finale works so well is because it manages to maintain a serious tone and impending doom throughout three parts which, all together, add up to well over an hour of television. For a show that is usually made up of mostly imported Japanese footage, the originality of this episodes gives it extra points.

The finale clearly takes some pointers from disaster movies and while a relatively small children's programme would never reach the same heights and sophistication of a blockbuster or even a network drama, it does a good job at trying. And that is what Lost Galaxy is all about. It is ambitious and most of the time manages to reach the lofty expectations it sets for itself. Lost Galaxy has some faults; plot holes, unexplained occurrences, terrible filler, but what season does not have at least one of these problems? Lost Galaxy is an always fun, always entertaining and always emotional season which starts strong and ends even stronger.

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