Saban Entertainment was always looking for another series to complement their Power Rangers franchise; which repurposed re-edited footage from Toei Company’s Super Sentai Series and intermixed it with new American footage. In 1994, they tried adapting Toei Company’s Metal Hero Series into VR Troopers. Despite its success, stock footage from the original Japanese series quickly ran out and it was cancelled after only two seasons. In 1995, they tried again with Toei’s Kamen Rider. The Kamen Rider franchise was created by manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori and typically featured a motorcycle-riding superhero with an insect theme. The franchise began in 1971 and its popularity led to the increased popularity of masked heroes over giant monsters, known as the “Henshin Boom”
|Dex with a fellow Edenite.|
Much as they did with the Super Sentai Series Saban took the original concept and heavily reworked it to be lighter and more comedic. Renamed Masked Rider, the series focused on Dex (Ted Jan Roberts), a prince from the planet Edenoi who came to the fictional town of Leawood on Earth in order to stop his evil uncle, Count Dregon (Ken Ring), from enslaving the populace like he had on their home planet. He was taken in by the Stewart family—Hal (David Stenstrom), Barbara (Candace Kita), Molly (Rheannon J. Slover) and Albee (Ashton McArn II)—and tried to blend in (poorly) as a typical teenager while secretly protecting the city. In the original unaired pilot, Edenoi was going to be totally destroyed and Dex was going to be guided by the spirit of his grandfather, King Lexian (Ralph Votrian), in a manner reminiscent of Superman.
|Dex armored up as the Masked Rider.|
Dex was in possession of the power of the Masked Rider, which was passed down amongst members of his family. By saying “Ectophase activate”, he was able to don powerful armor that amplified his already naturally enhanced strength and super-speed, as well as gave him access to his Electro Saber. Dex could also generate light waves and, through the crystal in his forehead, utilize telepathic and telekinetic abilities as well as scan, x-ray and detect nearby dangers. With him was Ferbus (played by Verne Troyer & Paul Pistore), Dex’s small furry alien friend, Magno (Wendee Lee), Dex’s ant-like talking car, and Combat Chopper (Jason Narvy), his grasshopper-like sentient motorcycle. Dex’ close friend, Donais (Winston Story), came to Earth two times to give Dex an upgrade for his powers. The “Super Gold” changed his armor to black and yellow and gave him a powerful heat laser known as the Ecto Ray. “Super Blue” made his suit red, silver and blue and gave him access to the powerful Blue Saber.
|Count Dregon's definitely not getting invited to the next family reunion.|
Over in Dregon’s camp was Nefaria (Jennifer Tung), a human-looking armor-clad woman whose primary weapon was her helmet feather, which also served as a pen. She rarely engaged in battle, but did provide Dregon with many of his plans. Cyclopter (Steve Kramer) was a one-eyed robot biker who could detach and operate his head independently. Double Face (Michael Sorich) had two faces and typically favored swords and daggers in combat. Gork (Michael McConnohie) was a constantly hopping and rhyming alien creature who proved a coward in battle and an annoyance to all of Dregon’s forces. Fact (Julie Maddalena) was a small robot that provided statistical data and probabilities for Dregon’s plans before he finalized them. The chief cannon fodder of Dregon’s army were the humanoid Maggots and the Commandoids. As with Power Rangers, most episodes dealt with Dregon sending a monster, known as an Insectovore, after Dex or the citizenry of the town. Insectovores were stored in jars in Dregon’s Spiderbase until they were launched.
|Dex with the Stewart family.|
Other characters included Patsy Carbunkle (Libby Letlow), the resident “mean girl” of Leawood High School who disliked the Stewarts but had a thing for Dex; Herbie (Matthew Bates), Patsy’s nerdy friend who often ends up roped into her schemes; Principal Henry Chalmers (Don Yanan), the principal of the school who was interested in Dex’s odd behavior; and Moon Dude (Tom Ayers), the owner of the arcade where the Stewart kids frequently hung out. Dex’s Masked Rider predecessors also made an appearance to help him once against a powerful threat. This was accomplished via footage from their guest-appearance in the final seven episodes of Kamen Rider BLACK RX.
|Masked Rider with the Power Rangers.|
Masked Rider actually began as a spin-off of Power Rangers. The concept and characters were introduced in the season 3 premiere of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, making it the first non-Ranger crossover in the franchise. The three-part “A Friend in Need” saw the Rangers traveling to help Edenoi since it was the place where Alpha 5 (Richard Steven Horvitz) was made. The Rangers helped the Masked Rider battle Dregon and his forces before returning to Earth to deal with their own bad guys. Dregon, tracking them, decided to follow and enslave the Earth the way he did Edenoi, prompting Dex to follow Dregon and help prevent it.
The Masked Rider series officially began the following week on September 16, 1995 as part of the Fox Kids programming block on FOX. In light of the declining popularity of Power Rangers at the time, it was decided to completely distance Masked Rider from it and have it stand on its own. As a result, there was no mention of the Power Rangers at any time during the show, and the 2-part pilot episode, “Escape from Edenoi”, featured different events leading up to Dex’s arrival and the conflict on Earth. Masked Rider did encounter the Power Rangers again in the pages of the only Masked Rider comic published by Marvel Comics before they lost the rights to the Saban properties.
|Pounding on monsters in new Super Gold armor.|
The series was written by Shell Danielson, Clifford Herbert, Joseph Kuhr, Shuki Levy, Mark Litton, Jane MacIntosh, Glen A. May, Margo McCahon, Peter Meech, Kati Rocky, Michael Ryan, Steven Sessions and Diane Sherlock. Levy also composed the series’ music along with Udi Harpaz, Yuval Ron and Jeremy Sweet. Masked Rider heavily used re-edited stock footage from the ninth Kamen Rider series, Kamen Rider BLACK RX, and the films Kamen Rider ZO and Kamen Rider J (footage from the films meant the Rider sometimes appeared in unexplained new suits during some battles). However, due to budgetary concerns and an inability to acquire all of the suits from the show like they had with Power Rangers, new American footage couldn’t be shot with the Insectovores as needed. Roborider (a brainwashed version of Donais) and the first form of Hydrasect were the only Insectovores to appear in new footage. Suits for new characters created specifically for the show were made by Chiodo Bros. Productions.
While early episodes featured a strong Power Rangers vibe, the show steadily settled into a tone comparable to a sitcom. Masked Rider ended up being a flop in both the ratings and sales for Bandai’s toy line. As a result, it only ran for a single season of 40 episodes, as well as syndicated reruns beginning that September. Saban would go on to recycle the show’s background music for their dub of Digimon: Digital Monsters and Digimon: The Movie. In 1996, Saban Home Entertainment and WarnerVision Family Entertainment released two VHS tapes collecting both parts of “Escape from Edenoi” and “Super Gold”, respectively. A third containing “Ferbus’ First Christmas” and “Ferbus Maximus” was planned and advertised in the other releases, but was cancelled. In 2005, FOX Kids International, Jetix Europe and Maximum Entertainment released “Escape from Edenoi” and “License to Thrill” onto DVD in the United Kingdom.