An in-depth look at the Power Rangers “Once & Always” 30th anniversary special


“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always” celebrates the 30th anniversary of the “Power Rangers” franchise. (Photo courtesy of Hasbro and Netflix)

Bryce West, Assistant News Editor

The Power Rangers are back for more. Released yesterday, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always” sees the Power Rangers’ triumphant return for a 30th-anniversary special on Netflix.

However, the Rangers really haven’t gone anywhere. Since the series aired in 1993, “Power Rangers” has had 29 seasons and nearly 1000 episodes.

The series is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. “Once & Always” is only the first part of Hasbro’s festivities, and it will be followed by “Power Rangers Cosmic Fury,” the 30th season, later this year.

The special stars David Yost as Billy, Walter Jones as Zack, Steve Cardenas as Rocky, Catherine Sutherland as Kat, Johnny Yong Bosch as Adam, Karan Ashley as Aisha, Barbara Goodson as Rita and Richard Steven Horvitz as Alpha. All reprise their roles from the original series.

The special features new and returning cast members. Johnny Yong Bosch, Walter Jones, David Yost, Steve Cardenas, Karan Ashley, Charlie Kersh and Catherine Sutherland pose for a promotional image for “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always.” (Photo courtesy of Hasbro and Netflix)

Notable missing cast members include Austin St. John as Jason, Thuy Trang as Trini, Amy Jo Johnson as Kimberly and Jason David Frank as Tommy. Johnson declined to return for the special, and St. John was unable to return due to legal troubles. The special was dedicated to Trang and Frank, who unfortunately passed away before its release. The Rangers who did not return were featured in archived voice recordings and footage.

The special handles these absences very well and gives satisfying enough explanations as to why some of the original Rangers don’t appear throughout the special.

I will be giving scene-by-scene commentary for this special, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, turn back now.

“Once and Always” starts with Billy, the Blue Ranger, being attacked by Rita Repulsa, who has mysteriously reappeared in a robot body. The other Rangers arrive to help Billy. However Rita is able to get him down and goes for the killing blow. Trini, the Yellow Ranger, jumps in front of him, saving his life at the cost of her own.

Barbara Goodson returns to voice Rita Repulsa in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always.” (Photo courtesy of Hasbro and Netflix)

Billy and Zack, the Black Ranger, debate how to tell Trini’s teenage daughter that her mother was killed in battle. Billy thinks they should reveal to her that they are the Power Rangers so she can have some closure. Here, we are introduced to Trini’s daughter, Minh, who walks in on the conversation.

Right off the bat, Trini’s absence is handled really well. There was no beating around the bush. They give a direct explanation, which serves as great motivation for the remaining Rangers and Minh down the line.

The special does a one-year time jump in which it is revealed that Zack has adopted Minh. She has been training in martial arts since we last saw her and wishes to avenge her mother. On the one-year anniversary of Trini’s death, the five Rangers and Minh go to visit her grave but are interrupted by Rita, who is still at large. Rita has also revived two of her former monsters, Snizzard (Daniel Watterson) and Mighty Minotaur (Ryan Cooper).

During the battle, Jason, Kimberly and Tommy are captured by the villains and turned into figurines, which explains why they don’t appear for the rest of the special. Billy and Zack retreat with Minh to the Command Center, the Power Rangers’ base of operations.

Charlie Kersh as Minh is a breakout role in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always.” (Photo courtesy of Hasbro and Netflix)

They are later joined by Rocky, the second Red Ranger, and Kat, the second Pink Ranger, to replace the missing Rangers. They also receive a call from Adam, the second Black Ranger, and Aisha, the second Yellow Ranger, who are in space and unable to reach them for the time being.

I thought the exposition here was decent enough but overly simple. This was only a 50-minute special, so I understood there wasn’t going to be a lot of time to explain things. However, I would have liked to have seen more of what the other Rangers were up to, considering it has been over 25 years since we have seen most of them. 

The Rangers continue to pursue Rita and her minions; however, it is discovered they are able to track them while they are using their powers. Meanwhile, Minh is frustrated that the Rangers won’t let her help avenge her mom and blames Billy for her death.

It is later revealed through a flashback that Billy was trying to revive Zordon, the Rangers’ former mentor. During this process, things went wrong and evil energy was released that consumed Alpha 8 and turned him into Robo-Rita, which makes Billy feel responsible for the death of Trini.

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are back for a nostalgic 30th-anniversary special. (Photo courtesy of Hasbro and Netflix)

This was actually a really cool set of scenes because it feels like the first time in “Power Rangers” where there were actually real stakes and characters could be killed. It also creates a fascinating dynamic between Billy and Minh that I hope they explore in the future.

Eventually the Rangers go to Rita’s moon palace to confront her and save the other Rangers. In the meantime, Minh is captured by Rita and her minions and brought to the moon palace.

During the fight, Billy is brought down again by Rita, who plans to finish what she started one year ago. However, as she goes to kill him, Minh blocks the shot just as her mother did. Somehow, she is saved by Trini’s power morpher and receives memories from when her mother was a Power Ranger.

Finally, she is able to morph into the Yellow Ranger and help the Rangers stop Rita, who is using the energy from the captured Rangers to travel back in time to before the Rangers got their powers.

Minh, the new Yellow Ranger leads the charge in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always.” (Photo courtesy of Hasbro and Netflix)

This is when the special truly screams “Power Rangers,” as we get one of the best fight scenes in the franchise’s 30-year history. The Power Rangers are more brutal than normal, which was cool to see. It still was definitely kid-friendly, but it was cool to see the Rangers take a fight seriously and finish off the monster promptly when they had the chance.

The megazord fight was also spectacular, with updated visuals for the first time ever. The fight was fully animated in CGI, but I think the animation was actually done pretty well.

The Rangers defeat Rita and her monsters once and for all (probably) and return to their daily lives.

At the Angel Grove Juice Bar, the Rangers’ hangout in the original series, Billy, Zack and Minh reminisce on everything they have been through. Minh and Billy are able to forgive each other for their differences as the special ends.

“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always” features an updated version of the Dino Megazord from the original series. (Photo courtesy of Hasbro and Netflix)

Overall, this was an adequate and incredibly nostalgic reunion for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The writers, Becca Barnes and Alwyn Dale, did a great job with aging up the special while also staying true to what “Power Rangers” is.

The special also does a great job of bringing back these characters in a way that makes it feel like they were never gone. All of the actors jumped right back into their roles after decades, and that is super impressive. The special doesn’t feel the need to reintroduce everyone. We are thrown right back into the swing of things as if they had never been gone. 

Power Rangers celebrates its 30-year anniversary after being created by Haim Saban and Toei Company Ltd. in 1993. (Photo courtesy of Hasbro and Netflix)

This is also the special’s main issue, however. Most of the characters are given little to no explanation of how they got to where they are today. Billy and Zack were given good backstories, whereas Rocky and Kat kind of just show up, and we don’t really get to learn much of what they’ve been up to. Rocky and Kat appeared most recently in the 25th anniversary special, but that special really didn’t do a good job of explaining what they’d been up to then, either. All we learn is Kat got married to Tommy, and they had a son.

What annoyed me the most were the characters of Adam and Aisha. Their appearances are pretty much cameos, and we learn they are part of a space organization known as the SPA. For hardcore fans of the show, it’s clear that the SPA is either a predecessor or an offshoot of Space Patrol Delta (SPD), an interplanetary law-enforcement agency that governs over large areas of space in the “Power Rangers” universe.

The special is dedicated to Thuy Trang and Jason David Frank, who passed away before its release. (Photo courtesy of Hasbro and Netflix)

Fans who fell out of the show after the first few seasons may be very confused, as it was not explained well in the special. Even I, as a hardcore fan of the show, am quite confused by the logistics of this reveal. Perhaps the upcoming 30th season of the show, “Power Rangers Cosmic Fury,” will explain some of these loose ends since it will see the current team of Power Rangers going to space to fight Lord Zedd.

If you are or were a fan of “Power Rangers,” you are going to love this special. If you are not a fan and have not been invested in these characters, I doubt this special will be for you. The special depends on the viewer’s prior knowledge of the franchise, which at times can be its disadvantage. However, the special was made as a celebration for the fans, and for that, it does its job almost perfectly.