Let’s Rocket! Again! Uncanny Fox here, continuing my look at the Power Rangers Team-Up episodes with a 2-parter that’s not really a team-up per se, but rather a culmination of all of the seasons up to that point. And that culmination is In Space’s epic finale, “Countdown To Destruction.”
Like I’ve said before, In Space was thought to be the final season of the show, due to the poor ratings of its predecessor, Power Rangers Turbo. As such, the writers went all out to wrap up the various arcs that had formed throughout the series. And this ultimately led to a big final battle with every villain from past seasons waging an all-out war across the universe against the forces of good. Fates were sealed, nothing was ever the same again, and if the show was to end, it would have ended with little left in the air.
Of course, In Space was able to re-gain the lost ratings of seasons past, and the show was uncancelled, continuing on past multiple changes in franchise ownership well into today. But that’s for later, let’s take a look into “Countdown to Destruction” to see the final conflict between good and evil… At least until the bug people start to terrorize a space colony. And the demons try to destroy a city atop their ancient burial grounds. And mutants from the future travel back in time to change the course of history. And the toxic demons attack. And the space ninjas. And the mutant dinosaur man. And more demons. And evil brothers looking for a crown. And an ancient Chinese dragon spirit looking to wage war on humanity. And even more demons. And an alien empire that just destroys planets for the fun of it. And the cast of an alien WWE rip-off. And a bunch of other threats in either the future or an alternate universe, like another alien empire, an evil computer virus, a bounty hunter trying to collect magic gems, and another evil virus…
The episode begins with the Previously On segment (showing a string of high-profile losses for the Rangers, not the least of which being the destruction of the Mega Voyager at the hands of an evil jeep monster named Tankenstein), then a cold open of Dark Specter telling Astronema (who, since the last episode I reviewed, has discovered her true identity as Andros’s long lost sister Karone… only to be recaptured by Dark Specter and brainwashed back to his side) on a hilltop that the time has come at long last to carry out his plan to conquer the universe. He orders her to summon all the evil forces at his command to wage an all-out assault on all that is good.
She then gives a rallying speech to her Qunatron legions in the Dark Fortress, declaring that when they are finished, there will be no good, or love or happiness left in the universe, only chaos, anger and greed. Man, the Superbowl Halftime show got really weird this year. The army then heads out of the Dark Fortress in Velocifighters to spread the wrath of Dark Specter.
Across the universe, the villains of past seasons receive their attack orders and it really feels like an all-out war spanning the universe. The Machine Empire launch their forces, Divatox looks to one-up Astronema by battling the Alien Rangers on Aquitar, and Rita and Zedd call Astronema up to asks who died and put her in charge of this whole endeavor. They change their tune when she mentions Dark Specter, then cut off while Astronema walks over to a covered-up tube in the middle of her main chamber.
Turns out this is Zordon, who was taken prisoner back at the end of Turbo, and is now being tortured by some lava at the bottom of his tube. Astronema brags that he now gets to watch as all he worked so hard to build in the universe is destroyed by the forces of evil, right before the last of his energy is drained (by the lava, I’m guessing) and he dies.
He tries to put on a brave face and give the “Evil never wins” speech, but Astronema turns her attention to her vidscreen to the planet Eltar (home of both Zordon and the Phantom Ranger – who, as a side note, was going to have his secret identity revealed in this episode, but the scene showing this was cut for time before it was filmed. Either that, or Judd Lynn didn’t want to out himself just yet – which is currently under siege by the Machine Empire. She then coldly tells him that his era is at an end (which, from a Meta perspective is technically true) and that hers is just beginning.
The intro finally hits, then we cut back to the invasion of the universe, already in progress. Phantom Ranger and Blue Senturion (pretty much the only time the two of them are onscreen together, despite both sharing a season) are getting their butts handed to them on Eltar, as Zordon and Astronema watch and the former tries to convince the latter to stop this, going as far as using her real name in the process. Meanwhile, Rita and Zedd are laying waste to the Gold Ranger (Trey, not Jason – the latter doesn’t appear in this at all) on the planet Triforia, and Goldar is just happy he can finally win a fight again. Oddly enough, they went back to using Season 2’s Z-Putties, instead of the Tenga Warriors they used throughout Season 3 and Zeo. Yeah, they’re using the grunts with the giant one-hit self-destruct buttons on their chests. Not a great plan.
The Machine Empire continues their assault on Eltar, and some of them have split off to attack Karone’s own home planet of KO-35. This last bit prompts Zordon to ask if Karone is really that far gone, but gets no answer.
On KO-35, the members of the resistance movement I mentioned last week form up in a tent to discuss a plan of counterattack, but things aren’t looking too good. It’s here that I can finally talk about Zhane, the Silver Ranger and Andros’s best friend, who was critically injured in a monster battle prior to the events of the season and placed in cryo-sleep until he awoke to help the Rangers. He’s since been switching back and forth between fighting on Earth and aiding the not-Rebel Alliance on his homeworld, where he’s currently at right now. He offers to go get the other Rangers to help in the battle.
He then heads off into deep space on his Galaxy Gilder (I’m sure there’s a Silver Surfer joke in there somewhere), with a squad of PS1-quality Velocifighters hot on his tail. He almost gets blasted off it, but right before one of the Quantons can finish him off with a slow, dramatic button press (hey, it’s not every day that a lowly grunt gets to take out a Ranger. Dude’s gotta milk the moment for all its worth), the Astro Megaship arrives to make the save. It take out most of the squadron, and Zhane soon returns the favor by shooting down the last one.
Once the Silver Ranger is safe onboard the ship, he explains the situation to Andros, who’s heard the reports of Dark Spector’s forces attacking all over. The other Rangers access the situation on a variety of planets and galaxies as Zhane states the obvious and tells Andros that the bad guys are trying to conquer the universe.
Carlos points out a swarm of Velocifighters heading for Earth, as the Rangers can see from their viewscreen. Andros sets course for the planet, and the ship hits warpspeed.
Over on Earth, everybody’s just going about their normal day when they start noticing the ships in the sky. A crowd soon gathers, and it isn’t long before an attack kicks off. Velocifighters open fire on the streets below, causing large explosions that send the civilians scurrying as stock footage of buildings being blown up plays around them and hordes of Quantrons and Pihranatrons flood the streets.
The Astro Megaship arrives in time for the Rangers to observe the ongoing destruction unfolding on their viewscreen. It’s so bad you can see the explosions from space, apparently. The crew raises the shields and crank the engines up to maximum speeds as Andros orders everyone to hold on tight: they’re going in.
They head down to the planet, dodging Velocifighters and their laser fire along the way. Andros orders Ashley to ready the ship’s Megalasers, and soon they return fire. Zhane offers to keep the enemy busy while the others head down to the planet, and takes the controls of the ship while they eject on their Galaxy Gliders.
Down on the planet, more explosions rage as Andros gives his team one last pep-talk, cementing his character development from a brooding loner jaded by the loss of both his sister and his Ranger partner into a capable leader and team player. The crowd of civilians cheer as the Rangers fly above them, diverting the invading forces.
Andros gets shot down, and does battle with the forces on the ground. The other Rangers land and join him, taking down enemy grunts and helping the civilians get to safety. Andros guns down a crowd of baddies with his Spiral Saber in Booster Mode (he attaches it to his blaster), before noticing that Ashley (who he’s developed a thing for throughout the course of the series) is under attack by Darkonda, the treacherous back-stabber who kidnapped Karone in the season’s backstory, in the streets below him.
He dives down and activates his Battlizer armor, which would go on to become a series mainstay and even spread over to Sentai in the years since. Once fully jet powered and muscled up (seriously, he pretty much turns into a Bandai figure or Rob Liefeld drawing), he flies past the grunts and fires a barrage at missiles, blasting the baddies and sending Darkonda into a pile of rubble.
Ecliptor (now with a cybernetic arm and patches due to being reprogrammed by Dark Specter at the same time Karone was) hears someone say “Red Ranger” and joins in the fight, shooting Andros down with his eyebeams and forcing him to return to Base Ranger Mode.
Ashley fights her way through the mob and joins up with him, only for the two Rangers to be blasted back and demorphed by Darkonda and Ecliptor, who have put aside their season-long rivalry (Darkonda thinks Ecliptor’s “too soft,” Ecliptor thinks Darkonda’s only in it for himself and not the cause, etc.) for the purposes of this invasion. These two may hate each other, but they hate the Red Ranger more. Ashely tells Andros to fall back, as they have to join back up with the others to come up with a new plan. Darkonda and Ecliptor try to chase after them, but they get away.
Up in the sky, Zhane shoots down some Velocifighters in the Megaship, but is soon hit. Not out of options yet, he runs out of the Bridge and calls for his personal Zord, the Mega Winger. The space shuttle/tank-like Zord flies out of its hanger on the moon, transforms to Warrior Mode, and lands in the city, where it goes to work swatting enemy ships down like flies. Did I mention this is all original, non-Sentai footage?
But the Velocifighters prove to be too many, and Carlos and Cassie can only watch from the ground helplessly as the Mega Winger gets barraged into submission, taking out yet another building as it falls.
Things aren’t looking so hot for the other Rangers either, as they find themselves outmatched by the hordes of enemies. They are soon forced to dimorph as well, and TJ orders a full retreat. Carlos and Cassie follow suit, and the team barely escapes with their lives.
After a commercial break, the remaining civilians are being rounded up. Meanwhile, the Rangers take refuge near some debris, soaking in what has got to be their greatest loss yet. Andros takes it the hardest, kicking a broken girder in frustration. You can just feel what’s going on in his mind at this moment. This was his team, his responsibility, and when they needed him the most, he… failed to see them through. It’s an issue every Red Ranger faces, dating all the way back to Jason’s greatest fear of letting his team down in “Island of Illusion.” Grace Sterling said it best in the comics: “The red helmet weighs the heaviest.”
Up in the Dark Fortress, Astronema and Ecliptor oversee the installation of a super-missile on one of the Velocifighters, one that Astronema plans to destroy Earth with. Maybe that’s what she had Lizwizard looking for last week…
But Darkonda has a different idea: given that he’s down to his last life (he apparently has a bunch of extra lives, as listed on a scroll he carries with him. Guess it’s a reference to how Megaranger was based on video games), he figures now would be the best time to kill Dark Specter and take his place as ruler of the universe. The trickster sneaks aboard the Velocifighter and hijacks it, setting out for Dark Specter in deep space.
Speaking of Dark Spector, the big lava demon appears before the Dark Fortress as Astronema and Ecliptor discuss attack strategies, telling them to finish the job of destroying Earth. However, Darkonda arrives with the missile they were planning to use, and takes aim at Specter.
He hits the evil monarch dead in the back, laughing sinisterly as Dark Specter starts to explode. Astronema watches in horror (uh, didn’t you try to kill him back in the Psycho Rangers arc? And now you’re suddenly back on his side again? That was the one part of that story-line that didn’t really make sense) as the villain dies, wondering how this can be and seeming conflicted about something.
Having taken out his primary target, Darkonda sets his sights on Astronema and Ecliptor, but Dark Specter still has enough left in him to pull a Galactus, devouring the traitor and his ship before finally going out in a blaze of glory.
Pieces of him rain down on Earth as the grunts on the ground look on in confusion. Even the Rangers are dumbfounded as to what just happened, and Alpha calls them with news of Dark Specter’s destruction.
Just as TJ asks who’s in charge now, Ecliptor announces via a giant hologram in the sky (which has me thinking of that one cowboy guy who does the “AHHHHHH” thing) that Dark Specter is dead, and that Astronema has taken his place as the ruler of evil, much to Andros’s horror.
He’s not the only one upset about it: Divatox starts whining the moment Astronema comes in view and all of her forces start bowing before their new leader. Typical. Back on Earth, a mother tells her scared child that the Power Rangers will save them, but the actual Rangers looking on aren’t so sure.
Back in the Dark Fortress, Astronema soaks in the fact that she’s now the Supreme Leader (and she didn’t even need to cut the old one in half), and Ecliptor drops his usual pet name of “my princess” in order to call her a Queen.
Zordon, who’s still a witness to all of this (but he’s no longer being drained by Dark Specter’s lava), urges her to use her newfound authority to stop this invasion and bring peace, telling her that she is a good person deep down. And for a moment, he seems to be getting through to her. But her brainwashing proves to be too strong, and just like Kylo Ren she doubles down in her assertion that darkness will rule over all. Part One ends with her ordering Ecliptor to move in; she is going to take over Earth once and for all…
Part Two picks up back on Earth, as the Rangers watch helplessly as civilians are being rounded up and the Dark Fortress descends onto a still-standing building. Astronema and Ecliptor beam down to the roof, and the later declares victory over the Rangers and Earth. But the Rangers are still hiding among the citizens of Angel Grove, so she tells them that they have 24 hours to turn the Rangers in, or she’ll destroy the whole planet.
Later that night, a group of said citizens are gathered around a campfire, discusses whether or not they should give in to Astronema’s demands. When the old guy from the music video to Eminem’s “Venom” starts to suggest that the Rangers have abandoned them, Bulk speaks up and tells the crowd that the Rangers have never let them down before, and they have to have faith that they’ll pull through in the end. This is a great moment for Bulk, as he finally sheds some of the bubbling idiot image he’s held onto for the past 6 seasons and shows some leadership. And there’s more where that came from, as we’ll see later on…
Ashely overhears this, and after the intro plays out, tells the other Rangers about how the people are counting on them. Zhane then arrives, banged up from having to battle his way back to them, to break more bad news: the Mega Winger is destroyed, and the rebels of KO-35 have surrendered. Which means the Rangers are on their own. Carlos suggests they gather up the still-free civilians and organize them in an army, but TJ points out that it’s too dangerous. You know, Justin and the Zeo crew are still out there, I’m surprised they weren’t at least mentioned here. I mean, you wouldn’t have needed to bring their actors back if you couldn’t get them, a mere line saying about how they’re off fighting elsewhere would suffice.
Andros then offers to sneak aboard the Dark Fortress, still hoping that he can get through to Karone and talk her into stopping the invasion. The others shoot this idea down, telling him that his sister is gone, and that Astronema would kill him on sight. But just like Luke insisting there was still good in Anakin, Andros isn’t ready to give up on Karone, and glares at Zhane for even suggesting that it’s too late to save her.
Ashley breaks up the tension by telling everyone that they still have time to save the world, that hope is still alive. The others agree, and sit down to hatch a battle plan while Andros slips away. Ashley notices, and follows him right as he’s about to take off for the Dark Fortress. She tries to talk him into staying, but he tells her that he has to try to get his sister back. The two Rangers share a brief romantic moment (where they don’t even kiss, but they do have the “If I die,” “No, you’re not, save the ‘I love you’ for when we win” exchange) before Andros morphs into his Battlizer Mode and blasts off for the bad guy’s ship.
I should note that this isn’t Ashley’s first fling with a fellow Ranger, as Tracy Lynn Cruz dating Johnny Young Bosch prior to her being cast in Turbo. From what I could gather, that relationship ended… poorly, to put it mildly.
The next morning, Astonema beams back down to Earth to announce that time’s up for the people of Earth. She calls the Rangers cowards for hiding like this, and demands one last time for the civilians to turn them in. The Rangers are getting ready to step forward, but Bulk speaks up instead, claiming to be the Blue Ranger.
What happens next is one of the greatest scenes in Power Rangers, as one by one, Skull, Professor Phenomenus, the new owner of the Juice Bar named Adelle (who sassily calls herself the Pink Ranger), and all of the civilians step up and claim to be Rangers in solidarity with their heroes, much to the wonder of the actual ones. After 6 seasons of the Rangers saving them week after week, the people of Angel Grove stand as one to return the favor in their darkest hour.
Astronema orders her minions to attack the crowd, but then the real Rangers announce themselves at last (much to the shock of Bulk and Skull), and morph, much to the delight of the citizens. After a roll call, they jump into the crowd and start fighting back the evil army, and Bulk – that’s right, Bulk, calls for the townspeople to join in.
It’s the final battle to save the Earth, and Bulk and Skull, the two bubbling morons who started the series as bullies, then myth hunters, then police, then detectives, then just running around doing odd jobs, the freaking comic relief characters, are not only taking part in the fight to protect their world, but are leading the charge! It’s a great scene of character development, showing just how far the two have come in the show’s run. Heck, these two have been through more growth and character development than many actual Rangers! And they did it all without a single fart joke (at least as far as I recall. They did get a lot of food dumped on them. But they did it with charm).
Up in the Dark Fortress, Andros sneaks past the guarding Quantrons, making a distraction the sends Ecliptor and the remaining minions running for the main Core Room by firing at a wall. Andros closes the door on them just as they notice he’s there, and sets off to look for Astronema.
He instead finds Zordon who, after a happy reunion that feels slightly empty due to the fact that the two were never on screen together before this, tells the Red Ranger that the forces of evil have already enslaved most of the universe. But there is a way for Andros to stop them: shatter Zordon’s energy tube, so his power will wash over the universe and destroy the villains. But this would kill Zordon, so Andros refuses, only being able to work up the nerve to raise his sword before breaking down.
Astronema walks into the room and offers to destroy him instead, leading to brother and sister dueling for the fate of the universe. Andros desperately tries to get through to Karone, but she won’t listen, and keeps attacking him relentlessly as she brags that the universe will soon belong to her. You can feel the drama as the fight goes on, and Astronema thrashes Andros all about the set, smashing him into every console and wire mesh fence in view. Eventually, she fires an energy blast at him with her Wrath Staff, which he reflexively bounces back at her with his Spiral Saber…
Which knocks her unconscious. Andros panics and runs to her side, worried that he’s killed his sister. Ecliptor then breaks open the door and runs into the room, chewing out Andros for attacking his own sister once he’s seen what’s happened, and the girl he helped to raise lying dead on the floor. The robot swats him aside and rather melodramatically begs Astronema to wake up, showing that even though he’s been reprogrammed to follow evil without question, he still loves her.
Enraged, he vows to make Andros pay and attacks him. An intense battle ensues, with Ecliptor beating the Red Ranger into submission until Zordon reminds him that destroying his energy tube will end all of this, saying that it is his duty as a Power Ranger to do this. Andros pushes Ecliptor back and reluctantly strikes at the tube, shattering it and sending a golden wave of good energy rushing through the base.
Ecliptor is the first one struck by it, dissolving into a mound of sand despite still caring for Astronema. You’d think that would have earned him a second chance as a human like the others get, but I guess it wasn’t to be.
The Z-Wave spreads from the Dark Fortress and washes across the stars, disintegrating all the villains (excluding all the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this review) who come into contact with it in a manner not unlike the end of Infinity War. All except for Rita, Zedd and Divatox, who instead turn into humans free of evil, with Zedd and Rita sharing a dance in front of a very confused Gold Ranger. An interesting side note here: the actor playing the human Zedd is Ed Neal, who was the man in the suit from the very beginning.
Alright, confession time: as a kid, this scene freaked me out (as in to the point of tears), simply because I thought the show was ending now that all the villains were dying. Silly me…
The Rangers are hit with the wave and are demorphed, even though they’re shown at a later date to still have their powers. The citizens celebrate their victory, but Ashley is worried about Andros. Cassie comforts her and assures her that he’ll be fine…
Just as the Dark Fortress lands in the middle of the city. Andros steps out, solemnly holding the still unconscious Astronema in his arms. Believing her to be dead, he sets her down as the other Rangers gather around them, and he cries over her.
Somehow, the tears dissolve her cybernetic implants, restoring her back to her original self. I guess crying in Power Rangers works the same way as Pokemon: The Movie. Either that, or Andros is secretly Chuck Norris. Karone wakes up and wonders how she got on Earth, but a relieved Andros just tells her it’s a long story. The other Rangers run over to embrace her, and they share in a moment of celebration of their hard-fought victory.
After one last commercial break, the Rangers make one last stop to KO-35, where they help deliver some relief supplies and the rebel leaders offer to let them stay for a while. But the Rangers just want to head back to Earth for some juice at Ernie’s… I mean Adelle’s.
Elsewhere, Andros and Ashley share a romantic walk, but it won’t last as Andros is presumably going to stay on his homeworld while the others leave. Ashley asks him to come with them, but KO-35 is his home, and he just got his sister back.
The Rangers from Earth say their goodbyes and board up the Megaship to take off for Earth. Ashley gives Andros one last longing look before closing the door and joining the others on the Bridge, still bummed about having to leave him behind.
Or not, as Andros has changed his mind and is going to Earth with them after all. So are Zhane and Karone, with the former joking about how his Zord is “in the shop” and he needs a ride. So, Alpha sets a course for home, and the episode, the season, and the storyline for the entire series leading up to this point, ends with the Megaship headed for Earth.
The credits show some outtakes from Andros and Astronema’s big fight, and Astronema breaking character at several points in the episode. This would be the last episode to have bloopers in the credits, as the proceeding seasons would play a Megazord scene, the ending of the episode, or just nothing.
So, now that we’ve finished talking about the story, on to Pros and Cons:
- Bulk and Skull’s scenes. All of them. These guys are awesome all throughout the 2-parter.
- The episode really sells the large-scale assault on the universe, with the Rangers pushed to their absolute limit.
- Zordon’s heroic sacrifice just felt like the right way to end his arc. He’s a wizard who gave all to protect the side of good, from his physical body before the series began to his very life at the end.
- Not even mentioning where the previous Rangers were during all of this.
- Ecliptor getting merely destroyed like all the other baddies. If freaking Divatox gets a second chance, I think he’s earned one.
“Countdown To Destruction” is one of the greatest Power Rangers episodes of all time, and a fitting end to the 6-season arc that had been going on beforehand. The action is great, the drama spot-on and everything really feels like it’s all coming to a head. The replacement Rangers, who fans hated when they were first introduced, finally ended this season having proven themselves to be capable heroes, and Bulk and Skull were shown to be just as brave and heroic as anyone to ever don a helmet. There were a few minor plot holes here and there (not all of the villains could return, Sentai suits weren’t made to last back then), but for the most part everything felt resolved. If Power Rangers were really to end after this episode, the series would have truly went out on a high note.
But, of course, that wasn’t the case, and the show has continued through 19 more seasons, three changes in ownership and four Eras. And next week, we cover the transitionary period between two of those Eras, in the next season, Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy, in the episodes “To The Tenth Power” and “The Power Of Pink.” From here on out, the crossovers take on the more traditional “Team from last year meets the team from this year” pattern, but this one is still unique because it not only bridges the gap between the two seasons, but also has major ramifications for Lost Galaxy going forward. ‘Till then, I’ve been The Uncanny Fox. Live long, stay gold, and remember: if your sister has been brainwashed into an evil tyrant, shooting at them and crying over their body probably won’t work out the same way in real life…