Power Rangers Zeo is the third incarnation of the Power Rangers franchise, and the fourth season overall. This series was a direct continuation of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and began the Super Sentai practice of annual Ranger suit changes.
|Alpha 5 appears to be caught in the destruction of the Command Center.|
Although Power Rangers was still performing well in the ratings, there was a noticeable decline from when it started and in merchandise sales. Saban Entertainment decided that a major shake-up needed to happen to the status quo to reinvigorate viewer interest. They ultimately settled on cosmetic and casting changes, allowing them to use new Sentai footage—which would cut their costs substantially—and generate a new range of merchandise.
|Goldar and Rito become maids for all their efforts.|
Zeo picked up right from where Mighty Morphin left off, with the Command Center having been destroyed by Rito Revolto (Bob Papenbrook) and Goldar (Kerrigan Mahan) during their theft of the Zeo Crystal. However, they dropped the Crystal in the chaos and lost their memories as a result, ending up the personal slaves of Bulk (Paul Schrier) and Skull (Jason Narvy)—who were now bumbling police officers—for half of the season until their memories returned.
|The Rangers and Alpha speak with Zordon in the new Power Chamber.|
The Power Rangers discovered a second subterranean Power Chamber where Alpha 5 (Richard Steven Horvitz) and Zordon (Robert L. Manahan) retreated. The Command Center rebuilt itself while the power of the Crystal was used to restore the Rangers’ lost powers, turning them into the Zeo Rangers. However, since the power could only be split five ways, original Blue Ranger Billy Cranston (David Yost) opted to remain in a support capacity in the Command Center, where he felt he was the most useful, and allowed Tanya Sloan (Nakia Burrise) to take his place on the team.
|The Zeo rangers with the Zeo Crystal.|
The team gained some new colors, with Tommy (Jason David Frank) becoming the Red Ranger, Adam (Johnny Young Bosch) the Green, and Rocky (Steve Cardenas) the Blue, while Tanya became the Yellow (who was actually a female this time) and Kat (Catherine Sutherland) remained Pink. The Rangers’ helmets featured a visor whose shape was reminiscent of the numbering Zordon gave them in their first transformation; from 1-5. Instead of Morphers, they now used Zeonizers to transform, which would materialize on their wrists when needed. With these new forms came new weapons: a sword for Tommy, hatchets for Adam, axes for Rocky, double clubs for Tanya, and a disc for Kat, as well as Zeo Laser Pistols and Blades. They could also combine their powers for a powerful attack from the Zeo Cannon. Along with new Zords, Billy and Alpha 5 developed Zeo Jet Cycles for additional transportation for the team, and a Defender Wheel that Tommy could launch from his Zord for a strong attack.
|The Royal House: Klank, Orbus, King Mondo, Prince Sprocket and Queen Machina.|
Meanwhile, in space, the dreaded Machine Empire was making its way towards Earth. They were a massive race of mechanical beings led by the Royal House of Gadgetry: King Mondo (David Stenstrom), Queen Machina (Alex Borstein), and Prince Sprocket (Barbara Goodson). Later, when the House is in upheaval, the other son, Prince Gasket (Douglas Sloan), and his wife, Princess Archerina (Melora Harte) arrive to take over and continue the family’s work. The Empire had already conquered an entire chain of galaxies, with the Milky Way being the final link. Aiding them were Klank (Oliver Page) and Orbus (Goodson), their top henchmen who oversaw many of the monsters’ missions. To quell any competition, they first assaulted Rita Repulsa (Carla Perez & Goodson) and Lord Zedd’s (Edwin Neal & Robert Axelrod) moon base, driving them and their minions into hiding with Rita’s father, Master Vile (Tom Wyner). The Machine Empire constantly attacked the Rangers with their endless supply of monsters and Cogs, the minor minions that took the place of Rita’s Putties. Rita, Zedd and their crew would return to plague the Rangers and the Machine Empire both as the series progressed.
|Skull, Bulk and Lt. Stone.|
Other returning characters included Ernie (Richard Genelle), the owner of the Angel Grove Youth Center; Lt. Jerome Sloane (Gregg Bullock), Bulk and Skull’s supervisor on the police force who ended up fired because of their antics and opened his own detective agency; and Sam Trueheart (Frank Salsedo), the Native American who helped Tommy locate his piece of the Zeo Crystal as well as raised his long-lost brother, David Truehart (played by his real brother, Erik Frank). The Alien Rangers from season four also made a return appearance, marking the first time two incarnations of the franchise interacted with each other. These kinds of crossovers would become an annual event as the franchise continued.
|The Machine Empire approaches Earth.|
In the weeks preceding its debut, a serialized series of shorts aired along with reruns of Mighty Morphin season 3 and Alien Rangers taking the place of the episode teasers. The shorts depicted the arrival of the Machine Empire to Earth and how the citizens of Angel Grove, as well as the previous villains, dealt with that and the fact that the Rangers were suspiciously absent. However, the shorts were rendered non-canon after the first two episodes of the series proper depicted the very different arrival for the Machine Empire. Following each short, more of the Zeo title was slowly revealed.
Power Rangers Zeo debuted on FOX as part of the FOX Kids programming block on April 20, 1996. It utilized footage from Chouriki Sentai Ohranger, the 19th season of the Super Sentai series from Toei Company, Ltd., combined with original footage filmed with the American actors. In place of episode teasers, Zeo used cold openings for each episode. Ron Wasserman reworked his theme for Mighty Morphin to include the new Zeo aspects of the series, while Shuki Levy, Kenneth Burgomaster, Jim Cushinery and Jeremy Sweet contributed to the show’s overall soundtrack. Sloan, Jackie Marchand, Stewart St. John, Al Winchell, Brett D. Born, Mark Hoffmeier, Gilles Wheeler, Mark Litton, Richard Goodman, Steven Melching (as Buzz Alden), Charlotte Fullerton, Ron Milbauer, Terri Hughes, Joseph Kuhr, Tony Oliver, Barbara A. Oliver, Shell Danielson, Jim Suave, Colleen White, and Levy served as the series’ writers. International airings and the original intro for the pilot used an alternate logo that simply read ZeoRangers with the helmet visor shapes below it. Following the episode “Brother, Can You Spare an Arrowhead?” the Zeo intro would be shortened for the majority of the remaining episodes.
|Jason as the Gold Ranger.|
Although the ratings were initially high, the show stumbled as it progressed. To combat this, Saban sought to lure in older viewers by bringing back one of the original five Rangers: Jason Scott (Austin St. John). St. John had previously left the series over a monetary dispute, leading to his eventual replacement by Cardenas. Jason’s return was tied into the story arc featuring a mysterious Gold Ranger (who was actually the Black Ranger in the Sentai series, marking the first time a color was changed from the source material and predating the first actual Gold Ranger by 9 years) that would appear to help the other Rangers. The Gold Ranger’s identity was kept secret, with clues being laid out to his identity being either Billy, Skull or Tommy’s brother. Initially, plans were to use the Gold Ranger to link the Power Rangers franchise to Saban’s other Japanese/American hybrid series, VR Troopers, by having his identity be Trooper Ryan Steele; which is why the morphed Gold Ranger’s voice was provided by Steele’s actor Brad Hawkins. Steele was also previously going to be integrated into Mighty Morphin as the White Ranger (later changed to Tommy).
|Trey of Triforia.|
Plans were changed at the last minute and instead he became Trey of Triforia, the ruler of an alien planet who came to Earth seeking Zordon’s help. Along the way, Trey had ended up split into three different beings representing his aspects of Courage, Heart and Wisdom (played by triplets Ted, Tom and Tim DiFillippo, with Tom being the one inside the suit), which is what Triforians are made up of. Because of this split, they could no longer control their power and needed to transfer it to Jason until such time that they could reconstitute themselves into a single being. They also gave Rangers access to new Super Zeo Zords through the Super Zeo Gems, which were instrumental in the initial defeat of King Mondo and his monsters that had become enhanced with near-indestructible armor. Unfortunately, the powers proved incompatible with human physiology and eventually needed to be transferred back to Trey.
|Cestria helps an elderly Billy.|
Zeo ultimately came to an end with Rita and Zedd being the ones to successfully take out the Royal House, sending the Machine Empire into disarray. At 50 episodes, it marked the third season where Power Rangers exceeded the number of Ohranger episodes (in this case, by two). It also marked the departure of Billy, ending his stint as the longest-serving original Ranger. During production of the show, David Yost was having difficulty coming to terms with his homosexuality and was constantly harassed by the crew on set because of it. Yost left before the end of the season and his absence was filled by stock footage and voice actors. The character of Billy was written off as being rapidly aged by the regenerator he used in Alien Rangers to change himself back from a kid, necessitating his having to travel to planet Aquitar, the home of the Alien Rangers, for a cure. Falling in love with the Aquitian Cestria (Steffanie Malanga), Billy opted to remain there. This was also the final appearance of Rito as the costume for the character fell apart after filming and was never replaced.
Like with Mighty Morphin, Zeo had a line of figures and other merchandise primarily produced by Bandai. Bandai had also released two video games in 1996: Battle Racers by Natsume for the Super Nintendo (which was essentially a Super Mario Kart clone using Ranger sprites) and Full Tilt Battle Pinball by Kaze for the PlayStation. In 2007, Disney Interactive Studios released Power Rangers: Super Legends for PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS and PC, which featured a blend of various Rangers from various incarnations including the Red Zeo Ranger. In 2017, Kat and Jason became playable characters in nWay Games’ Power Rangers Legacy Wars mobile game.
|Image Comics' sole Power Rangers comic.|
Image Comics acquired the license to produce an ongoing comic series for the show in 1996, but it only ran for a single issue before Image lost the license. Four issues in total were written by Tom and Mary Bierbaum with art by Todd Nauck, and a proposed crossover with Image property Youngblood was advertised and partially drawn. The Zeo Rangers returned to comics as part of BOOM! Studios’ “Shattered Grid” event in 2018 and were depicted as being from an alternate universe. Following the event, Tanya was announced to be a member of a new team of Rangers that included the Ranger Slayer (an alternate Kimberly), The Magna Defender, the Red Space Ranger, the Green Samurai Ranger and a mysterious Dark Ranger.
Saban Home Entertainment released the two-part pilot episode to VHS as Power Rangers Zeo: Zeo Quest, followed by It Came From Angel Grove featuring the titular episode before it aired on television and a music video. In 2002, Walt Disney Home Video released Power Rangers Holiday Special which contained three holiday-themed episodes, including “A Season to Remember”. In 2012, Time Life Entertainment released Power Rangers: From Mighty Moprhin to Lost Galaxy containing the complete span of those shows over 40 DVDs. In 2013, Shout! Factory released Zeo as part of the Power Rangers: Seasons Four-Seven box set, and later independently across two volumes. They also released Power Rangers Legacy, which contained seasons 1-20 in a collectible Red Ranger helmet package.