The Power Rangers are a true phenomenon of children's entertainment. What started out as a cheesy kids' show with bad action sequences has turned into a multi-million dollar industry with a true cult following. The original kids this show was aimed at are now in college which just goes to show what some clever marketing will do. When the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers show aired, much like the Cabbage Patch doll craze, there was a shortage of action figures, which caused panic among parents everywhere and brought even more visibility to the show. Over 500 (!!) episodes later, it's still going strong.
This show has seen many variations, including three seasons of the Mighty Morphin series, Wild Force, Ninja Storm, and Dino Thunder, just to name a few. Despite a rotating cast of actors, the characters are distinguished by their colorful fighting gear and their karate chopping fighting moves. They have also become more politically correct as time has gone on; in the first seasons the Black Ranger was played by a black actor, and the Yellow Ranger was played by an Asian actress. (The Green Ranger, however, as far as I know, was not played by an Irish guy). It may have been lost on the kiddies, but thankfully times have changed since then.
On SPD, which stands for "Space Patrol Delta," the Rangers police officers, tasked with protecting Earth from alien invaders. They are led by Commander Doggie Cruger, who looks like, well, a dog. Except he's blue. The Rangers experience the usual trials and tribulations but in the end find that sticking together is the best line of defense against the evildoers.
This disc features a generous five episodes which clock in at just under 2 hours, which is rare for a children's disc. The included episodes are:
"Messenger Pt. I" and "Messenger Pt. II" – Morgana is out to destroy the world, and it's up to the SPD Rangers to stop her! The Power Rangers receive some help from the future at the hands of the Omega Ranger.
"Zapped" – A magician with a magic wand from Morgana becomes the Rangers' newest nemesis, and in a subplot, a strained relationship develops between the Rangers and Commander Cruger.
"Reflection Pt. I" and "Reflection Pt. II" – Sky recalls his brave father's death and vows vengeance against Merlock, who was responsible for his death.
I may catch hell for this, because I know the fans of this show are pretty rabid, but SPD is one of my least favorite variations on the Power Rangers franchise. It is too complicated to follow, thanks to the terminology and the very involved plots, and while this may be great for older science fiction fans, let's keep in mind that this is a show aimed at kids. If my 5-year-old is any indication, my line of thinking is on target. He watches the show, but he is not as excited by it as he was by the Dino Thunder series, or even better, the Power Rangers Generations shows featured on the Disney Channel, which uncovers many of the original episodes.
Zapped! is the fifth volume in the series, and it picks up directly where Volume 4, Boom! left off. Although this show has always been good about keeping viewers in the loop in the event they are watching the episodes out of sequence, I do recommend watching the season from the beginning since the storyline is often carried over from one episode to another. Even when this is not the case, characters occasionally reference information revealed in a previous episode, which can also create confusion.
Parents will enjoy the fact that the action is pretty tame in comparison with what runs on cable. Yes, there is fighting, but it truly is part of the plot rather than just thrown in there for shock value. Also, it cannot be denied that the Rangers are truly trying to do the best they can for the galaxy. And that's a good thing.
Like most Disney releases, the video quality is very good. Presented in 1.33:1 full screen, the picture and colors are sharp and vivid, and it is a vast improvement over what it looks like on television. The overall experience is very exciting for kids to view, especially on the gigantic television screens of today. Well, gigantic may be too strong of a word, but I can remember when color wasn't even a given. Or any screens over 13".
The sound quality is also very good, especially during the action scenes, which will thrill small children and impress many of the adults in the audience. The score is heavily guitar-driven, and that too helps to create an overall atmosphere of energy and determination for the Rangers.
I have a complaint about the bonus episode on this disc, as it is also featured on Volume 4. Did the people at Disney think this would be overlooked? This episode, "Wormhole," is just as good as the others featured on the main disc, and fans will be excited to see a return of the Rangers from the Dino Thunder years, but if you already own Volume 4, this won't be anything new. Instead, it would have been nice if Disney had included one of the older episodes from the original Mighty Morphin series.
There is also a game called "Delta Squad Runner Simulator," in which kids can attempt to pilot the squad runner, but the directions are difficult to understand, which appears to be an unfortunate hallmark of the games on many of the Disney releases. One good thing about it is that it is Level B, which is different than the Level A version of the game found on Volume 4.
Finally, there is a Back Stage Disney short which features some nice background on the philosophy behind the SPD series. If you are buying these discs out of sequence, be sure to watch this first. Kids probably won't care, but this segment helps viewers to catch up on what the show is all about. It is hosted by Jack, where on Volume 4, this segment is hosted by Z Delgado.
The Power Rangers are strangely irresistible, both to parents and kids. With their newest incarnation, Mystic Force due out in 2006, they're here to stay, people, so get used to it. Although the SPD series is not as good as some of the previous series, kids will still enjoy it. And you might just find yourself enjoying it as well.