We’re back! For you, it’s been 7 days, for Ethan and Justin, a mere few seconds. That’s the beauty of time travel. We hope you enjoyed last week’s recommendations. This week we’ll be closing out our beginner’s guide to Doctor Who by giving you a look at adventures from Doctors 9 through 13. These stories will encompass what is considered the modern era of the show. After a hiatus of 16 years, barring one exception as mentioned last week, the show returned in 2005 and has since taken the world by storm.
We’ll give you two stories from each Doctor’s era. One chosen by Ethan, one by Justin. These will be a look at the kind of stories that encompass the era they’re from. We want to give you a distilled experience of what each Doctor is like so you can decide what best fits your tastes. So here we go. Let’s take a trip into the Vortex!
The 9th Doctor – Christopher Eccelston (2005)
“Well, you can stay there if you want. But right now, there’s this plasma storm brewing in the Horsehead Nebula. Fires are burning ten million miles wide. I could fly the TARDIS right into the heart of it, then ride the shock wave all the way out, hurtle right across the sky and end up… anywhere. Your choice.” – The 9th Doctor (World War Three)
Dalek (Ethan’s Pick) – When Doctor Who returned in 2005, showrunner Russel T. Davies spent the first 5 episodes establishing the characters, both Christopher Eccelston’s war-ravaged Doctor, and Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. But then, in the sixth episode, Davies, and scriptwriter Robert Shearman, introduced a whole new generation to the Doctor’s greatest enemies, the Daleks. What makes this episode so effective in bringing the terror of the Daleks to the screen is that there’s just one, just one Dalek, in an underground bunker, rampaging through dozens of helpless people. We also get an incredible scene between the Doctor and this lone Dalek in which he unleashes a diatribe of built-up rage that shows just how well-cast Eccelston was as the Lonely God.
The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (Justin’s Pick) – When people tell you that Steven Moffat is a big deal, this episode is usually the reason why. Tracking a mysterious object through the vacuum of space, the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler are transported to London at the height of the Blitz. But the city is under siege by more than just bombs as a creepy “gas mask plague” has swept through the war wards and bombed-out neighborhoods, freezing the populace in terror. While plenty creepy and packed with scares, this two-parter also displays Moffat’s cunning wordplay, dynamic characters (like Captain Jack Harkness, making his debut here), and tremendous episode hooks positioning it as the first real “standout” episode of the reborn franchise. Just this once, dear readers, everybody lived and it’s just as powerful today as it was then.
The 10th Doctor – David Tennant (2005-2010)
“I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old, and I’m the man who’s gonna save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below.” – The 10th Doctor (Voyage of the Damned)
The Girl in the Fireplace (Ethan’s Pick) – Possibly the most emotional episode in the show’s history. We see David Tennant’s 10th Doctor at his most romantic, before being utterly devastated come episode’s end. A ship in the 51st Century lies deserted, only its robotic attendants remain. They believe that to repair the ship, a brain must be acquired. To achieve this, they open a window into the past, specifically the life of one Madame de Pompadour. The Doctor must save her. From here, the episode only gets better. To get the full effect of the episode’s magic, it must be experienced. Prepare to cry.
Human Nature/The Family of Blood (Justin’s Pick) – Though the Doctor loves humans, he rarely gets a chance to live as one. That was until Paul Cornell’s seminal Seventh Doctor novel Human Nature, which he later adapted into one of the best episodes of David Tennant’s tenure. Doggedly pursued by an interstellar blood cult, the Doctor and Martha Jones (a tremendously underrated modern companion) are forced to go “undercover” in pre-WWI England, moonlighting as staff of a boy’s school. For Martha, that means just getting a new job, but for the Doctor, that means changing everything about himself. Down to his very DNA. What follows is an emotionally charged, immensely creepy, and thunderously sad exploration of the Doctor as a heroic archetype and the chaos that touches the towns and peoples he comes into contact with. Basically, you come for the bloodthirsty scarecrows, but you stay for the bravura performances of Tennant, Freema Agyeman, and guest star Jessica Hynes (she of Spaced fame).
The 11th Doctor – Matt Smith (2010-2013)
“There’s something you better understand about me, ‘cause it’s important and one day your life may depend on it. I am definitely a madman in a box.” – The 11th Doctor (The Eleventh Hour)
The Doctor’s Wife (Justin’s Pick) – The Doctor has often claimed that the TARDIS was alive, but what happens when that becomes explicit? One of the best episodes of the Matt Smith era that’s what. Scripted by British Invasion icon Neil Gaiman and containing one of the most skin-crawling performances from Micheal Sheen, The Doctor’s Wife just feels instantly special. A message from a long-assumed-dead Time Lord brings the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory outside of normal space to a junk planet called House, filled to bursting with the wreckage of ships past. But House carries with it the power to steal the TARDIS’ soul, transporting it from its shell into the patchwork body of a woman who lives on the planet, Astrid (an angelic Suranne Jones). From there the Doctor and his companions must learn to trust this woman while learning the true meaning of “being bigger on the inside”. A towering achievement for the show as it starts to hit its peak of popularity, on both sides of the ocean.
The God Complex (Ethan’s Pick) – A seemingly endless 80’s hotel. Groups of people plucked from space and time. Every room is filled with a person’s fear. One of those rooms is yours. If you find it, you will praise Him. if you praise Him, you will die. This is what the Doctor, Amy, and Rory find when the TARDIS brings them to the hotel. Throughout the history of the show, there have been many so-called “almost-companions”, those characters who the Doctor takes a shine to, who he offers the chance to travel with him, but for one reason or another, they don’t. This episode contains the best of these “almost-companions” in Rita. She’s delightful and you’ll love her. Oh, and the episode also contains perhaps the best examination of faith the show has ever done.
The 12th Doctor – Peter Capaldi (2013-2017)
“Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone – or because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone… I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all it’s kind! It’s just that. Just kind.” – The 12th Doctor (The Doctor Falls)
Listen (Justin’s Pick) – Arguably the Rosetta Stone of Peter Capaldi’s tersely entertaining Twelfth Doctor. Newly regenerated and left to his own devices in the TARDIS, the Doctor has a theory. That a set of creatures can be so silent, so imperceptible by other creatures, that they can evolve to have flawless camouflage, blending into the background of a thousand worlds. And what would they do with their evolutionary superiority? LISTEN, naturally. Pulling the thread from 80s Leeds to ancient Gallifrey, the Doctor and Clara discover that “fear is a superpower” and set up one of this era’s most affecting leitmotifs. One that stretches all the way into both Clara Oswald’s and the 12th Doctor’s final moments.
Under the Lake / Before the Flood (Ethan’s Pick) – The Doctor and Clara arrive at a deserted base. There they discover strange goings-on and a terrified crew. This is the premise for numerous “Base Under Siege” episodes of Doctor Who. A lot of the episodes we’ve recommended fit into this sub-genre, but they all had other qualities that made them perfect starting points. But what makes this two-parter incredible is it is the perfect distillation of the “Base Under Siege” story. The scares are high. The supporting cast is delightful. It does something unique with the structure of the show. And you get wonderful performances from both Peter Capaldi’s very Scottish Doctor and the ever incredible Jenna Coleman’s Clara. My personal favorite TARDIS team, and one of my favorite episodes ever.
The 13th Doctor – Jodie Whittaker (2017-Present)
“You want the whole universe. Someone who has seen it all, and that’s me. I’ve lived longer, seen more, loved more, and lost more. I can share it all with you, anything you want to know about what you never had.” – The 13th Doctor (It Takes You Away)
The Woman Who Fell to Earth (Ethan’s Pick) – We’ve strived throughout these beginner’s guides to avoid regeneration stories as best as possible, but this is, on top of being an excellent story, the cleanest fresh start the show has had since it was brought back in 2005. Jodie Whittaker takes over the role of the Doctor, becoming the first woman to play the part, and she is incredible right out of the gate, nailing everything the Doctor should be, no matter what you may hear from idiots on the internet. We’re also introduced to the Doc’s new companions. Ryan and Yaz are fun and well-rounded characters, but you will fall in love with Bradley Walsh’s Graham, the fourth person in this TARDIS quartet. Just wonderful stuff.
Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror (Justin’s Pick) – Though it doesn’t have quite the personal resonance of Jodie Whittaker’s first “historical” episode Rosa, the Fam’s later dip into history is still one for the record books. Materializing in 1903, the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions connect with the great inventor (played with an understated grace by Goran Višnjić) after rescuing him from stranded alien spider-monsters looking to return to their home planet. Ya know, that old chestnut. My attempt at levity aside, this episode really makes wonderful use of both it’s time period and historical guest star, providing yet another high class drama that only Doctor Who could really provide.
And that’s that! We hope you’ve enjoyed our three-part beginner’s guide to the greatest show on TV. We’ll back in the future with more recommendations from the world of Doctor Who. Or maybe we’ve already given those recommendations. Time travel, it;s a tricky business to get right…
We’re back! For you, it’s been 7 days, for Ethan and Justin, a mere few seconds. That’s the beauty of time travel. We hope you enjoyed last week’s recommendations. This week we’ll give you a look at adventures from Doctors 5, 6, 7, and 8. We’ll give you two stories from each Doctor’s era. One chosen by Ethan, one by Justin. These will be a look at the kind of stories that encompass the era they’re from. We want to give you a distilled experience of what each Doctor is like so you can decide what best fits your tastes. So here we go. Let’s take a trip into the Vortex!
The 5th Doctor – Peter Davison (1981-1984)
“When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal? For some people, small, beautiful events are what life is all about!” – The 5th Doctor (Earthshock)
Earthshock (Ethan’s Pick) – One of the most famous stories of the classic era. Chiefly for showing the Doctor actually lose. How and what does he lose? Well, I’m not telling. You’ll need to watch to find out. What I will tell you though is this is where Peter Davison comes into his own as the Doctor, showing he has the steely nerve of an action hero behind the brave heart he wears on his sleeve. Assisted by an unusually large TARDIS team, the Doctor comes up against his old enemies the Cybermen, returning to the show for the first time in 7 years. They are plotting to wipe out the Earth, but what else is new? For an action-packed ride of a story with a heartbreaking ending, this is the one for you. Just make sure to bring some tissues.
The Caves of Androzani (Justin’s Pick) – The platonic ideal of a “regeneration episode”. Landing on the backwater planet Androzani Minor, the Fifth Doctor and companion Peri Brown are just looking for a little galactic R&R. But when they are mistaken for a pair of gun runners, arrested, and exposed to a deadly toxin native to Androzani, the Doctor must sacrifice everything to save his friend and Androzani Minor. Displaying a ticking dread and tension the classic era never really displayed before, and only in a couple instances after, viewers are forced to watch arguably the noblest Doctor basically die across the whole serial, fighting the effects of the toxin while still attempting a brave face for his friends. A fitting (and very in-character) end for Peter Davison while also delivering a stirringly contained example for “regeneration” episodes for years to come.
The 6th Doctor – Colin Baker (1984-1986)
“Planets come and go. Star perish. Matter disperses, coalesces, forms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing can be eternal.” – The 6th Doctor (The Mysterious Planet)
Vengeance on Varos (Justin’s Pick) – Do ya like Doctor Who? Do ya like 2000AD? Well, what if I told you there is basically a whole ass 2000AD prog ABOUT the Doctor? That’s basically Vengeance on Varos in a nutshell. Freshly regenerated, the Doctor is looking to repair his TARDIS. And the only place he can find a rare element to do so is on the planet Varos, a grubby little world that is obsessed with its televised state executions framed as reality TV. Alongside providing the show one of its weirdest cult favorite monsters, Vengeance on Varos is a nasty bit of future shock that feels right at home during the Colin Baker era.
Revelation of the Daleks (Ethan’s Pick) – The Doctor and Peri take a trip to the planet Necros to visit the funeral home Tranquil Repose. There they discover Daleks doing some truly horrific experiments on the dead for their creator, Davros. A dark, brooding tale full of death and destruction that stands as Colin Baker’s only on-screen encounter with the Doctor’s greatest enemies. Check this out if you’re looking for a story that encapsulates the Doctor’s relationship with the Daleks during this era of the show.
The 7th Doctor – Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989, 1996)
“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on Ace. We’ve got work to do.” – The 7th Doctor (Survival)
Battlefield (Justin’s Pick) – A stone-cold classic of an episode. Materializing in the English countryside, the Doctor and Ace find a UNIT convoy in trouble. While transporting a nuclear weapon for disposal, the convoy comes under attack from the forces of Morgane Le Fey, who is after more than just the convoy’s payload. Complicating matters is the body of King Arthur in the lake and why does Le Fey keep calling the Doctor “Merlin”? That’s just the TIP of the iceberg for this jam-packed episode.
The Curse of Fenric (Ethan’s Pick) – A unique story in the history of the show, this was filmed entirely on location, giving the events that transpire a rather cinematic feel unlike any other from the show’s original run. The Doctor and Ace arrive at a seaside village during the height of World War 2 and quickly become embroiled in a tale of vampires, Russian heroes, and corrupted British soldiers. But in the shadows is an old enemy of the Doctor’s, looking to finish a game centuries in the making. For a story that shows the Doctor at his most Machievlian, you can’t go wrong with this.
The 8th Doctor – Paul McGann (1996, 2013)
“You feel that pounding in your heart? That tightness in the pit of your stomach? The blood rushing to your head do you know what that is? That’s adventure. The thrill and the fear, and the joy of stepping into the unknown. That’s why we’re all here, and that’s why we’re alive!” – The 8th Doctor (Storm Warning)
The TV Movie (Justin’s Pick) – the thought of “American” Doctor Who might be dubious, to say the least, but that doesn’t make the TV Movie any less interesting. Produced as a co-production between the BBC and American studio Fox, the TV Movie was intended to be a brand new relaunch for the show. While transporting the ashes of the Master back to Gallifrey, the Seventh Doctor is killed by an errant gunshot, regenerating under the care of a Dr. Grace Holloway. Unfortunately, the Master too gets another life and new Doctor Paul McGann and his new American companion must defeat the Master and recover the Doctor’s TARDIS before certain doom. Cheesy, sure, but immensely charming thanks to McGann’s infectious energy and a stately new take on our favorite Time Lord. After this adventure, Paul McGann only got one more televised story as the Doctor, which will be mentioned below. However, what he, and we the audience, did get was a slew of incredible full-cast audio adventures from the good folk over at Big Finish Productions. We’re planning a much more extensive look at these in a future article. But for now, if you do find yourself enjoying these couple of stories with the 8th Doctor, then rest assured there’s much more out there than first appears.
The Night of the Doctor (Ethan’s Pick) – Nearly 20 years since his first appearance, Paul McGann got to return to our screens to close the loop on his Doctor’s life. Bringing along the experience of hundreds of audio stories he’s performed in the meantime. McGann’s Doctor is very different, war ravaged, beaten down, alone, but still the same man at heart. He packs a hell of a punch in less than 10 minutes, showing he deserved many more adventures on our screen than he got.
And that’s it for now. Let us know if you check out any of our recommendations, and make sure to come back next week for even more!
With the recent announcement of Shin Kamen Rider, a question I’ve been hearing frequently is, “How do I get into Kamen Rider?”. It’s a fair question to ask, as unlike other Tokusatsu series and movies like Ultraman, Power Rangers, or Godzilla, Kamen Rider isn’t as readily accessible to a western audience . I don’t mean this as a matter of the content being difficult to get into; it’s tough to find all the various television seasons, movies, and manga in English. I hope that with this guide, I can explain why the current state of Kamen Rider’s presence in the West is the way it is, and make it easier for you, the reader, to get into this wonderful franchise.
What is Kamen Rider?
Kamen Rider is a tokusatsu (lit. “Special Filming”, a term used to describe the genre of live-action films and TV shows that use special effects) franchise created by manga creator Shotaro Ishinomori. Ishinomori originally intended to adapt his manga series Skull Man for television but ultimately opted for a grasshopper-esque design for the hero instead, as Skull Man’s content was deemed too dark for the show’s intended 7-13 year-old audience.
The first series in the franchise, the suffix-less Kamen Rider, first aired in 1971 and followed the adventures of college student-turned-cyborg Takeshi Hongo as he fights the terrorist organization Shocker. Since then, the franchise has undergone many iterations, with roughly 40 main riders and over 100 riders in total at the time of this writing. While themes and plots vary, at its very core, the franchise will always follow a singular motorcycle-riding masked hero who fights against monsters (or Kaijin, as they’re commonly referred to) and evil organizations.
The Kamen Rider franchise’s many seasons can be categorized by the eras in Japanese history within which they aired in: The Shōwa Era (Kamen Rider – Kamen Rider Black RX, 1971 – 1989), the Heisei Era (Kamen Rider Kuuga – Kamen Rider Zi-O, 2000 – 2019), and the Reiwa Era (Kamen Rider Zero-One – Kamen Rider Saber, 2019 – Present). The show took a break from 1989 to 1999 (the first ten years of the Heisei era), but during this time the series was kept alive through movies and stage shows.
While the bulk of the Kamen Rider franchise is its long running TV show, there are also movies, V-Cinema (direct-to-video releases), web-series/net movies, novels, manga, and stage shows that expand on the series’ many seasons. As of the second half of the Heisei era (Every season after Kamen Rider Decade and before Kamen Rider Zero-One), each season of Kamen Rider has had at least one crossover movie with either the previous season’s rider or a variety of previous riders (often referred to as “Movie Wars”), one Summer movie which typically introduces a new movie-exclusive villain, and a set of post-show V-Cinema movies, usually focusing on other riders from the show.
Kamen Rider has been adapted for American audiences twice. The first was in the mid-90s, when Saban Entertainment, fresh off its roaring success adapting Kamen Rider’s sister series Super Sentai into Power Rangers, was trying to adapt other Toei properties to recreate that success. Kamen Rider received an adaptation from Saban Entertainment similar to Power Rangers with the Masked Rider series, which adapted Kamen Rider Black RX into a 40-episode series. The character also appeared in a 3-part crossover with Power Rangers. Unlike other Saban Entertainment adaptations like V.R Troopers and Big Bad Beetleborgs, which both ended as the company ran out of Japanese Footage to adapt, Masked Rider was canceled due to low ratings and paltry toy sales.
However, the Kamen Rider franchise would see yet another American adaptation in 2008 with the CW’s adaptation of Kamen Rider Ryuki, Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight. The series managed to win a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Stunt Coordination, and even got two video game adaptations, but had received neither a second season, nor a follow-up.
At the time of this writing, Kamen Rider is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a number of recent announcements including a remake of Kamen Rider Black titled Kamen Rider Black Sun, an anime adaptation of the Kamen Rider W sequel manga Fuuto Detective, Shin Kamen Rider, directed by Hideaki Anno and slated for a 2023 release, and two new American localizations of Kamen Rider Ryuki and Kamen Rider Zero-One done by TokuSHOUTsu. The latest season, Kamen Rider Saber, began airing in August of last year, and is slated to end later this year, before the next season, presumably celebrating the series’ 50th anniversary, is released.
Why is it difficult to find Kamen Rider media in North America?
While there’s no concrete reason for the lack of Kamen Rider content in North America, some possible reasons include the slightly more mature material not being appropriate enough for younger audiences familiar with Power Rangers, as well as there being a lack of interest in the material. As mentioned above, both attempts to adapt Kamen Rider for Western audiences proved to be commercial failures at the very least.
But the world has changed significantly since the release of Masked Raider and Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, and the advent of the internet has made it far easier for Western audiences to become more acquainted with the series. Despite a rapid increase in interest in the series overseas, Toei’s acknowledgement of said interest has progressed at a snail’s pace. The amount of localized Kamen Rider content that Toei has licensed for the west is far outnumbered by fellow production company Tsuburaya with their Ultraman series. Will things change with the 50th anniversary of the series? Only time will tell.
What is being done to make Kamen Rider more accessible in North America?
While Toei has been rather averse to localizing and translating Kamen Rider for Western audiences, it doesn’t mean that there haven’t been attempts to bridge that gap. Currently, through legal means, North American audiences can watch the original Kamen Rider series, Kamen Rider Kuuga, and the Heisei anniversary movie Kamen Rider Heisei Generations Forever on Shout Factory’s TokuSHOUTsu channel, as well as Tubi TV for free, with ads. (NOTE: KR Heisei Generations Forever, as well as most, if not all Kamen Rider movies, are not good entry points into the franchise). The 2001 season Kamen Rider Agito can also be streamed with a subscription to the TOKU streaming platform.
To celebrate the series’ 50th anniversary, Toei has been releasing subbed versions of the first two episodes of variousseasons of the franchise, as well as movies like Kamen Rider ZO and Kamen Rider J to their Toei Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel, though there’s been no explicit mention of how many episodes they will be uploading to the channel in total.
On April 3rd, 2021, the anniversary of the premiere of the first episode of Kamen Rider, it was announced that Kamen Rider Ryuki (2003) and Kamen Rider Zero-One (2019) would be localized for North American audiences by Shout Factory, with the two seasons streaming on their TokuSHOUTsu platform, and the latter receiving a blu-ray release, making it the first season of Kamen Rider to ever receive a physical blu-ray release in North America.
How to Access Kamen Rider currently
There’s a harsh truth to be acknowledged in regards to getting into Kamen Rider in that, as very little of the franchise has been legally localized in North America, and even less so in Europe and other regions, accessing Kamen Rider involves a significant amount of piracy. Pearls be clutched, gasps be had, but it’s true. But the very fact that people outside can access so many seasons of Kamen Rider outside of Japan is thanks to the work of subbers & scrubbers.
While piracy should never be suggested as a glowing recommendation, when it happens to be the only method of accessing a certain piece of media in a certain region of the world, it should be considered. Nevertheless, as a viewer, you should support official releases whenever and wherever possible. A common practice in the Kamen Rider/Super Sentai fansub community is taking down subbed versions of shows that get official releases, in order to support those releases. In showing interest for official releases, it signals that there is a significant interest in the series outside of Japan, and could push Toei to localize more seasons of the Kamen Rider franchise.
A Primer on Kamen Rider Subs and Scrubs
In order to localize Kamen Rider for english audiences, the content needs to be translated and subtitled. So who is responsible for doing this? Fans; amateurs putting professional-quality work (most of the time) into not only translating the content, but encoding the video as well. As the internet became more and more connected over the years, fansubs became more proliferant, with more and more subber groups popping up to handle subbing various series and seasons. Here are some common terms you might want to know when looking for fansubs:
Sub: A subtitled, translated/localized video
Subber: Someone who translates/localizes raw Japanese video
Scrub: An edited Sub, usually with subtitle errors fixed
Scrubber: Someone who goes back and fixes mistakes in fansub scripts and/or adjusts them to better fit the story
Raws: An untranslated, unsubtitled video, often ripped from streaming sites and DVD/Blu-Ray releases, or recorded from TV
Encoder: Someone who encodes subtitles into video files
Scripts: The raw translated text with timecodes mapped to video timecodes, but not attached to a video
Softsub: A subtitled video in which the subtitles are not hardcoded into the video’s encoding, and can be turned on/off in a video player, or switched out for another subtitle track (often associated with files ending in .mkv)
Hardsub: A subtitled video in which the subtitles are hardcoded into the video’s encoding, and cannot be changed or turned off/on (often associated with files ending in .avi or .mp4)
Where to Start With Kamen Rider
While the answer to this may vary depending on where you look online, most seasons of the Kamen Rider franchise are structured as standalone stories that don’t require any knowledge of previous seasons’ story or lore. At most, previous storylines and characters will be referenced in crossover movies, which in turn don’t have much impact on the season’s main storyline. The biggest exception to this would be Kamen Rider Zi-O, which celebrated the series’ 20th Heisei-era season by bringing back riders from previous seasons. As such, Zi-O should not be recommended as anyone’s entry into the series.
The franchise’s many movies are often not good entry points into the series either, as they assume the viewer already has a significant amount of knowledge of who the characters in the movie are. These movies take place either midway through a season, or after the season has finished, so it’s not recommended to use them as jumping-on points.
As for a personal recommendation, I would recommend Kamen Rider Was any new viewer’s first season, as it’s not only a fantastic season, but also a season I’d consider to be the platonic ideal of what Kamen Rider as a franchise is. It’s Kamen Rider done as detective fiction, and the bond shared by the two protagonists exemplifies the spirit of the Kamen Rider franchise at its purest. Beyond that, you’ve got a fun transformation gimmick in the form of USB Flash drives, a sinister crime family with hidden ties to our heroes, and fantastic action choreography. After that, just choose whichever series piques your interest, and jump on in.
A List of Kamen Rider Seasons and Recommended Ways to Watch Them
Kamen Rider (Shōwa, 1971-73)
College student Takeshi Hongo is kidnapped and turned into a cyborg by terrorist organization Shocker. He manages to escape before being brainwashed and vows to fight against Shocker to stop their reign of terror as the eponymous Kamen Rider (later known as Kamen Rider 1/Ichigo). He is later joined by Hayato Ichimongi, who fights alongside him as Kamen Rider 2 against Shocker and its successor, Gel Shocker.
Scientist Keitaro Jin is able to transform his son Keisuke Jin into a cyborg before being killed by the terrorist organization known as G.O.D. Fighting as Kamen Rider X, Keisuke vows vengeance upon G.O.D for the death of his father.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber:Order of Zeronos (eps. 1-6), The Masked Subbers (eps. 7-35)
Kamen Rider Amazon (Shōwa, 1974-75)
Orphaned from a plane crash in the Amazon forest, Daisuke Yamamoto grows up amongst an Incan tribe as a wild child. His village is massacred by the demon Gorgos and the evil organization known as Geddon. He is given the GiGi armlet and is given the ability to transform into Kamen Rider Amazon, as he heads back to Japan to put an end to Geddon.
Shigeru Jo finesses the evil organization Black Satan into giving him cyborg powers, which he uses to become Kamen Rider Stronger. Alongside Tackle, another cyborg warrior given powers by Black Satan, he fights the organization to avenge the death of his friend and bring peace to the world.
A kidnapped scientist is forced by the terrorist organization Neo Shocker to create superpowered soldiers for them. Instead, he gives injured camper Hiroshi Tsubaka extraordinary powers, allowing him to fight as the high-flying Skyrider.
Kazuya Oki undergoes a cybernetic surgery to prep himself for space travel, but before he can head for the stars, the International Space Development Program’s base is attacked by the Dogma Kingdom. After training under a martial arts master, Kazuya fights the Dogma Kingdom as Kamen Rider Super-1.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Bereke Scrubs (over SXIG)
Kamen Rider Black (Shōwa, 1987-88)
Two stepbrothers are kidnapped by the Gorgom cult and undergo surgery to become candidates for the next Gorgom Creation King. One of the brothers, Kohtaro Minami, escapes and vows to save his brother. He becomes Kamen Rider Black, and fights to defeat Gorgom.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Bereke Scrubs (over Century Kings Subs, encoded by Bunny Hat); First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official
Kamen Rider Black RX (Shōwa, 1988-89)
A direct sequel to Kamen Rider Black, Kohtaro settles down after defeating Gorgom, but is kidnapped by the Crisis Empire and flung into space. Morphed and evolved by the sun’s radiation, Kohtaro fights the Crisis Empire as Kamen Rider Black RX.
The first of three Kamen Rider films released during the Heisei era hiatus period. Doctors experiment on Shin Kazamatsuri, a motorcycle racer, in hopes of finding ways to strengthen the human body against diseases. Unbeknownst to them, their research is funded by a crime syndicate who seek to use the research to create their own genetically-enhanced super-soldiers. Kazamatsuri is fused with grasshopper genes and is turned into a humanoid grasshopper.
The second of three Kamen Rider films released during the Heisei era hiatus period. Lab assistant Masaru Aso is experimented on and given the ability to turn into a grasshopper-like being called Kamen Rider ZO. He uses his power to fight the “perfect being” known as the Neonoid.
The third of three Kamen Rider films released during the Heisei era hiatus period. Reporter Kouji Segawa sacrifices himself to save a little girl, but is resurrected by spirits of the earth as Kamen Rider J. J is known for being the first rider to grow in size to fight large kaiju.
Seen as a spiritual successor/sequel to Kuuga, an amnesiac named Shouichi Tsugami transforms into a powerful warrior in the presence of monsters known only as “The Unknown”. Meanwhile, the police force create their own man-made Kamen Rider modeled after Kamen Rider Kuuga, titled G3, to fight against the Gurongi, known here as “Unidentified Life Forms”.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release; TOKU streaming service (paid). OR Gomen Rider Scrubs (over TV-Nihon); First two episodes on Toei Tokusatsu World Official
Kamen Rider Ryuki (Heisei, 2002-2003)
13 Kamen Riders in possession of 13 respective card decks form contracts with monsters from a mirror world and fight for survival in the Rider War, a battle royale that ends with only one rider standing. Journalist intern Shinji Kido finds himself sucked into the mirror world and enters the Rider War as Kamen Rider Ryuki to protect the real world from the mirror world’s many monsters.
The Orphnoch are seen as the next evolutionary step in human evolution. The Smart Brain corporation tries to use the Orphnoch to take over the world, developing Rider Gear to help them find the Orphnoch king. The Rider Gear is stolen, and one of the gears, the Faiz Gear, ends up in the hands of Takumi Inui, who must now fight against Smart Brain and the Orphnoch as Kamen Rider Faiz.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Agony Subs
Kamen Rider Blade (Heisei, 2004-2005)
52 demons known as the Undead fought to the death in the past in an event known as the Battle Royal, and have been uncovered in the present by archaeologists, setting in motion the next Battle Royal. The BOARD organization equip Kazuma Kenzaki and Sakuya Tachibana to fight as Kamen Rider Blade and Kamen Rider Garren respectively against the Undead.
A young man named Soji Tendo trains his entire life to gain access to the Kabuto Zecter and get his revenge on the human-imitating Worms walking amongst humans.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Earthly Subs
Kamen Rider Den-O (Heisei, 2007-2008)
High School dropout Ryotaro Nogami finds himself possessed by four benevolent Imagin, wish-granting demons from the future, who have come to the present to gain corporeal forms through making contracts with humans. Ryotaro and the four Taros fight together as one against the other Imagin as Kamen Rider Den-O, travelling through time on the time-travelling bullet train, the Den-Liner.
In 2008, a reclusive young man named Wataru Kurenai fights against the Fangire race as Kamen Rider Kiva. In 1986, Wataru’s father Otoya Kurenai fights the Fangire race alongside Fangire hunter Yuri Aso using the Kamen Rider Ixa module. A season with two concurrent plotlines in the past and present, weaving together to reveal the truth behind the Fangires and Kiva himself.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Railler Subs (encoded by OZC-Live)
Kamen Rider Decade (Heisei, 2009)
Nine worlds, each representing the first nine seasons of the Heisei era, are merging into one, causing catastrophe across the multiverse. Amateur photographer Tsukasa Kadoya uses his powers as Kamen Rider Decade to travel to each of the worlds and eliminate the anomalies that lie within them in order to protect his own world.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Rider-Time Subs
Kamen Rider W (or Double) (Heisei, 2009-2010)
In windy Fuuto city, hard half-boiled detective Shotaro Hidari and the mysterious genius Philip fight as Kamen Rider Double, the two-in-one Kamen Rider. They investigate crimes committed by Dopants, criminals who use thumb drive-like devices called Gaia memories to become superpowered monsters.
The medal-based monsters known as the Greeed awaken after an 800-year slumber. Traveler Eiji Hino is given the OOO (pronounced Oh-z) Driver as well as three medals by the disembodied hand of one of the Greeed, and uses them to become Kamen Rider OOO and fight against the Greeed.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs
Kamen Rider Fourze (Heisei, 2011-2012)
Transfer student Gentaro Kisaragi finds that his high school is the hotbed for paranormal activity. Along with his friends, Gentaro finds himself able to teleport between his school and a lunar base on the moon, within which he finds the Fourze Driver. Using the Fourze Driver to become Kamen Rider Fourze, Gentaro fights against the monstrous Zodiarts attacking the city.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs
Kamen Rider Wizard (Heisei, 2012-2013)
A mystical ritual unleashes the monsters known as Phantoms into the world. Haruto Soma, a survivor of the ritual, finds that he now has powers and uses the Wizardriver to become Kamen Rider Wizard in order to protect the world from Phantoms.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs
Kamen Rider Gaim (Heisei, 2013-2014)
In the corporation-run Zawame City, dance crews try to bring joy back to the city, competing in dance battles and using the mysterious lockseeds to battle creatures called Inves from another dimension against each other. Portals begin opening up across the city and Inves come through, rampaging throughout the city with no one to control them. Ex-dancer Kouta Kazuraba finds a Sengoku Driver and transforms into Armored Rider Gaim to fight against the Inves and the Yggdrasill Corporation. Rival dance crew leaders gain access to similar powers, which leads to a Sengoku period-like war within the city.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Aesir Subs
Kamen Rider Drive (Heisei, 2014-2015)
Recently-demoted beat cop Shinnosuke Tomari works with the Tokujo Special Investigation Unit and inventor-turned-sentient-belt Krim Steinbelt to fight against the time-shifting cyborgs known as Roidmudes as Kamen Rider Drive.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs
Kamen Rider Ghost (Heisei, 2015-2016)
Aspiring ghost hunter Takeru Tenkuji is killed on his 18th birthday by members of the monstrous Gamma race. He’s brought back to life on the condition that he must find 15 Eyecons, representing the spirits of 15 historical figures, within 99 days, or else he will cease to exist. As Kamen Rider Ghost, he fights the Gamma not only to save himself, but to protect the world.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs
Kamen Rider Amazons (2016-2017)
A gritty reimagining of the original Kamen Rider Amazon series, produced by Amazon for Amazon Prime Video.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release; Amazon Prime Video
Kamen Rider Ex-Aid (Heisei, 2016-2017)
A mysterious virus called the Bugster Virus causes monsters known as Bugsters to emerge from its victims. With the help of gaming corporation Genm Corp’s Gamer Drivers, medical intern and gaming genius Emu Hojo fights on behalf of the Cyber Rescue response team as Kamen Rider Ex-Aid to get rid of the Bugster menace.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Excite Subs (encoded by OZC-Live)
Kamen Rider Build (Heisei, 2017-2018)
Ten Years after a mysterious box from Mars split Japan into three regional factions, amnesiac inventor Sento Kiryuu uses the Build System to fight against the evil organization Faust as Kamen Rider Build, and bring unity to Japan once more.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs (encoded by OZC-Live)
Kamen Rider Zi-O (Heisei, 2018-2019)
High Schooler Sougo Tokiwa has dreams of one day becoming a king. When two resistance fighters from the future come to the present to warn Sougo that he’ll one day become a world-conquering Demon King, Sougo’s life is thrown into disarray. As Kamen Rider Zi-O, Sougo fights against Time Jackers seeking to disrupt the fabric of space and time, while travelling through time to meet the Heisei Kamen Riders who came before him.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Over-Time Subs (encoded by OZC-Live)
Kamen Rider Zero-One (Reiwa, 2019 – 2020)
A failed comedian inherits his grandfather’s A.I/Android company and fights both as a Kamen Rider against rogue androids corrupted by an anti-human terrorist organization, and as Hiden Intelligence’s CEO against corporate rivals.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: Official release incoming; TokuSHOUTsu, Tubi TV
Kamen Rider Saber (Reiwa, 2020 – 2021)
A young novelist fights against mystical creatures from a magical alternate world alongside an ancient sect of sword-bearing Kamen Riders.
How to watch it/Recommended Subber: GenmCorp Subs
Kamen Rider as a series is very easy to get into; you pick a season that interests you, and you hop in. However, Kamen Rider as a media is extremely difficult to source legally, which is a barrier that needs to be traversed in order to engage with the franchise. With time, it will become increasingly more accessible for North Americans (sorry Europe, you’re still left in the dust here), and by supporting official releases like the upcoming Kamen Rider Ryuki and Kamen Rider Zero-One localizations, that progress can hopefully come faster. Until then, salute to all the subbers, scrubbers, and encoders translating and localizing this series without any financial compensation, as without them, Kamen Rider’s presence wouldn’t be nearly as big as it is today.
Netflix has once again traversed the stacks of the library to adapt its next big-budget fantasy adventure. They’ve set their sights on Leigh Bardugo’s New York Time’s bestselling trilogy series, Shadow and Bone – as well as incorporating her later books, the Six of Crows Duology. If you’re like me, then the book was better. Yes, I know I haven’t actually watched the series yet (and believe me, I’m excited!) – but I’ll fall on this sword. The book is ALWAYS better. If you’re a newbie to Bardugo’s Grishaverse, and you’re looking to catch up on the book series before devouring the TV adaptation, then this is the article for you. I’m here to help you understand the magic system, and figure out which order you should be reading the books in (because yes, there are quite a few of them at this point).
To understand Shadow and Bone’s world, one must first understand The Grisha. The Grisha are a group of people born in the countries that inhabit the world of these books. They practice The Small Science, which is essentially being able to manipulate elements and the human body, depending upon which order you belong to. In Ravka, one of the countries within the series, children are tested for Grisha abilities. If they’re identified with a capacity for The Small Science, they are are sent to The Little Palace to live and train under the direction of The Darkling, eventually joining Ravka’s Second Army (the first Army is for non-Grisha). Being a Grisha sounds great on paper, but they’re often outcasts. Ravka is one of the only countries that trains Grisha to reach their potential, though the power-free population is weary of them. In other countries outside of Ravka, Grisha are hunted, sold, or experimented on; often hiding their power for fear they’ll be discovered. The Grisha are broken up into three groups: Corporalki, Etherealki, and Materialki. And dear reader, just to make things simpler for you, I’ve made a handy chart explaining what each group specializes in:
What sets Bardugo’s universe apart from other YA fantasy fare is the Russian/Eastern European inspired settings. Her imagined countries within the Grisha books are characters themselves. You can feel the grit of war-torn Ravka, the permafrost of Fjerda crunching under your boots and the limitless possibilities available in a city like Ketterdam, found in prosperous Kerch. All roads to these places begin at Shadow and Bone. This is the first book in the series and introduces us to our heroine, Alina Starkov, a refugee orphan of Ravka’s endless wars. Alina finds kinship in Mal, a boy living in her orphanage and the story follows them further into young adulthood. Shadow and Bone is the setup; we watch Alina go from a nobody with nothing to… well… without ruining the story, somebody. We are also introduced to one of my favorite fantasy villains – I’m keeping this spoiler free, so no names! But I can say Bardugo writes such a multi-faceted baddie, that you find yourself empathizing with them. To complete the arc of Alina’s story and see if she succeeds in aiding the Grisha, you should follow up Shadow and Bone with Siege and Storm and close out with Ruin and Rising.
I enjoyed the Shadow and Bone Trilogy; they lay some exceptional ground work for future books. And while I strongly suggest that you start at the beginning, I’d be lying if I told you I began my Grisha journey there. I’d heard a lot of hype around a book called Six of Crows. Naturally, I picked it up and oh my, it was EVERYTHING. Six of Crows is a separate story taking place in the same world as Shadow and Bone. You do not – I repeat – DO NOT have to read the first trilogy before picking up Six of Crows. Nevertheless, you will have to make peace with the fact that the ending of the Shadow and Bone trilogy will be ruined for you. Six of Crows is to this day one of my favorite books. It’s a rag tag team pulling off an unthinkable heist – gleefully blowing stuff up and taking down oppressors. This story is a two-parter, so when you’re finished make sure you pick up Crooked Kingdom for dare I say it – an emotional and action-packed finale? I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing, but you can tell that Shadow and Bone is her first series. I suggest reading it because it is a worthy tale that is interesting and really immerses you into her unique magic system and world, but Six of Crows is where lightening strikes. It’s a five-star page-turner that I recommend to almost everyone I meet.
In 2019, Bardugo returned to the Grisha Universe to continue the story of Prince Nikolai, a fan-favorite character from the original trilogy. The first book is King of Scars. In it you will find excellent humor, monsters, and an ending that will SHOCK YOU. The follow up, Rule of Wolves was released in March of 2021 and includes a satisfying ending to Nikolai’s story with the possibility for more tales on the horizon.
There we have it folks. Leigh Bardugo has created a magical world where the lives of the Grisha hang in the balance. There are riveting villains, politics, humor, and a coming-of-age cautionary tale on the balance of power. So pick up a book and get a head start on Bardugo’s Grishaverse and don’t forget to stream Shadow & Bone on Netflix April 23rd, 2021.
Adventures in time and space sound like a lot of fun, and no one has done that better than the BBC series Doctor Who. However, it’s been going on for nearly 60 years and can be a daunting task when looking for a good starting place. There are over 850 episodes totaling nearly 300 stories. It’s a lot.
But that’s where we come in. The GateCrashers Doctor Who extraordinaires, Ethan and Justin! A quick rundown on how this is going to work: Over three articles covering Doctors 1-4, 5-9, and 9-13 respectively, we’ll give you two episodes from each Doctor’s era. One chosen by Ethan, one by Justin. These will be a look at the kind of stories that encompass the era they’re from. We want to give you a distilled experience of what each Doctor is like so you can decide what best fits your tastes. So here we go. Let’s take a trip into the Vortex!
The 1st Doctor – William Hartnell (1963-1966)
“Have you ever thought what it’s like to be wanderers in the Fourth Dimension? Have you? If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?” -The 1st Doctor (An Unearthly Child)
The Mutants (Ethan’s Pick) – While not the first episode of the show, Doctor Who as we know it today would not exist without it. It may have not even made it past its first season. This is the episode that introduces The Doctor to his arch-enemies, the Daleks, and they are terrifying. It’s easy to see how these villains gripped the public consciousness. Set on a distant planet, The Doctor and his companions have to find a way to defeat the metallic drones or risk losing their lives. For an excellent early episode of the show full of great moments with both Doctor and companion, you can’t go wrong with this.
The Romans (Justin’s Pick) – Not the first “historical” episode of the show, but certainly one of its most fun. Waylaid slightly in the time of the Romans, The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki are forced to take refuge in an abandoned estate on the outskirts of Rome while the TARDIS repairs itself. But mistaken identities and historical intrigues gather them all to the ancient city, where Emperor Nero is tuning up his fiddle. Though optically kind of dicey in parts, The Romans shows a real cheek and historical detail for the show and proves that even the early days had some knack for charming hijinks amid real settings and eras.
The 2nd Doctor – Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
“There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything we believe in. They must be fought.” – The 2nd Doctor (The Moonbase)
The Invasion (Ethan’s Pick) – Moving on to the 2nd Doctor, a much more personable, quirky incarnation than his predecessor. This story sees The Doctor, and his companions Jamie and Zoe, coming up against some of his greatest foes, the Cybermen, in then-present day London. A great entry in the canon, it introduces one of the most important aspects to the series, UNIT. The military force tasked with protecting the planet from extraterrestrial forces. And with this comes The Doctor’s greatest ally, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Arguably the most beloved recurring character in the show’s history. If you want a truly epic story, that features some of the most evocative imagery in the show’s history, this is the one to watch.
The War Games (Justin’s Pick) – This was the moment that, as the kids say, shit got real for Doctor Who. Co-written by the absolute powerhouses of Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks, two names that would become synonymous with Doctor Who, this mammoth serial finds The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe locked in a war that doesn’t make sense. A megalomaniac known as the War Lord has been kidnapping and brainwashing soldiers from across time, sweeping them up and depositing them into a grand conflict for their own amusement. But beyond that incredible setup, The War Games finds The Doctor facing his own people, The Time Lords, for the very first time, explicitly naming his race and setting the show up for all sorts of mind-bending Time Lordy insanity for literal decades to come. A true watershed moment for the show, early even, in its own run.
The 3rd Doctor – Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
“Courage isn’t just a matter of being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” – The 3rd Doctor (Planet of the Daleks)
The Dæmons (Ethan’s Pick) – The Doctor’s third incarnation, having been stranded on Earth by his own people at the start of this new life, has set up shop as UNIT’s scientific advisor, assisted by the ever loveable Jo Grant. Also on Earth, concocting plots in the shadows is The Master, The Doctor’s old friend from his home planet, now a suave, maniacal bad guy. He’s been causing a fair amount of trouble for The Doctor, Jo, and UNIT. This story sees him attempting to awaken an ancient demon beneath a church in an old English town. The UNIT family, as they’re lovingly known, all come together to put a stop to this latest nefarious scheme. It’s some of the purest fun ever had in the show. If you’re looking for a story where the cast is just having a grand old time, this is the one for you.
The Green Death (Justin’s Pick) – The Third Doctor, having regained his ability to travel in space and time, faces a personal metamorphosis in The Green Death. A mine in South Wales has been poisoning the populace of the town. Making matters worse, large insects have been plaguing the workers as well, causing the Doctor and UNIT to leap into action. But while The Green Death is a wonderful example of the sort of eco-conscious, grounded storytelling the Pertwee Era excelled at, this serial also marks the final appearance of Pertwee’s companion, Jo Grant, as played by actual ray of human sunshine. Katy Manning. Though bittersweet, The Green Death provides a wonderful send-off for Jo, and sets the blueprint for the show’s always affecting take on the exits of companions for years to come.
The 4th Doctor – Tom Baker (1974-1981)
“The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common – they don’t change their views to fit the facts. They change the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs changing.” – The 4th Doctor (The Face of Evil)
Terror of the Zygons (Ethan’s Pick) – If The Invasion was the beginning of the UNIT era of the show, and The Dæmons was that era’s high point, then Terror of the Zygons is its grand finale. Having been away from Earth for some time, The Doctor, now in his fourth incarnation, along with his companions the iconic Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and the loveable idiot Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), return to help UNIT investigate strange goings-on in the Scottish Highlands. A major portion of Tom Baker’s run was very much immersed in the horror genre, and this kicked that off. Featuring treks through foggy forests, shapeshifting aliens, and a constant sense of unease, this is the story to introduce you to the darker side of Doctor Who.
City of Death (Justin’s Pick) – Probably the closest Doctor Who has ever gotten to a “party episode”. Fresh off the regeneration of Romana (passing from iconic actress Mary Tamm to the equally iconic and inhumanly adorable Lalla Ward), the Doctor and Romana II find themselves in “present-day” (read: 1979) Paris thanks to the TARDIS Randomizer. But not content with sightseeing, the pair are swept into the dangerous time experiments of a roguish count, played by Julian Glover who is absolutely playing to the rafters here. Funny, breezily performed, and more than a little goofy, this episode is perfect for a rowdy Sunday screening for your non-dork friends to show just how it can sing during this iconic run with Baker. Also of note, this episode carries with it a tremendous BritCom cameo and a script co-written by Douglas Adams (using a pen name made up of his name and the names of two other writers). Watch while having a stiff double ice water!
And that’s it for now. Let us know if you check out any of our recommendations, and make sure to come back next week for even more!
Power Rangers as a franchise has existed for almost 30 years now, and has been adapted into a variety of formats, including comics. With the Boom Studios comics adaptation of the series having recently relaunched with two new #1s and my own impromptu revisit-for-nostalgia-turned-series-rewatch, I must ask: what’s the secret sauce to making a season of Power Rangers? What common themes and episode archetypes do each new season have? With comics taking a recent bent into tokusatsu subgenres (Ultramega with kyodai, Radiant Black with henshin), what should someone looking to make their own sentai analogue look out for?
A Brief History of Super Sentai and Power Rangers
You can’t talk about the history of Power Rangers without talking about the history of Super Sentai first. Sentai (Japanese for “Squadron”) is a subgenre of the Japanese tokusatsu (“Special Filming”) genre. With origins in Japanese kabuki theatre, the first real progenitor of the genre was in 1957’s Super Giant, which brought forth a boom in interest in masked hero stories to Japan. This reached the next step in its evolution with 1971’s Kamen Rider, created by the late Shotaro Ishinomori. It was the first show to use the term Henshin (Japanese for “Transform/Transformation”), something that the eponymous Rider would shout before transforming into a masked hero.
A few years later, Ishinomori would go on to create what is now known as the first two Super Sentai shows, Himitsu Sentai Gorenger and J.A.K.Q Dengekitai. The shows featured a team of five heroes who would transform into masked heroes to fight crime around the world. The latter of the two shows ended up being a commercial failure, which led to Ishinomori dropping the project altogether after J.A.K.Q ended. The shows weren’t actually considered a part of the Super Sentai line until 1994 when Toei retroactively included the shows to their roster.
But the story of the Power Rangers actually starts with Spider-man, just not the Spider-man you might initially think of. From 1978 to 1979, Toei and Marvel worked together to produce a Japanese tokusatsu Spider-man television series. The show lasted 41 episodes, with the final episode airing March 14th, 1979, a month after the first episode of Battle Fever J. It’s an interesting thing to note, because, while BFJ can categorically be considered the third Sentai show, it was the first to use the Super Sentai moniker. But going back to Supaidāman, it was a monumental milestone for the tokusatsu genre thanks to the inclusion of Leopardon, the giant robot that Spider-man’s spacecraft The Marveller would transform into. Leopardon was groundbreaking because it was the first example of a transforming mech in the tokusatsu genre, something that would be riffed on in Battle Fever J, the first Super Sentai season to regularly feature a piloted transforming mech. So it’s no surprise that Battle Fever J was also a joint venture between Toei and Marvel (with the last collaboration between the two being Taiyou Sentai Sun Vulcan in 1981). Marvel would then (unsuccessfully) try to create an American adaptation of Super Sentai in 1985.
In the mid-80s, during a business trip to Japan, producer Haim Saban found himself in a hotel room watching Super Sentai. It inspired him to bring the show over to American audiences, with him pitching the show as Bio-Man in 1986 (adapting Choudenshi Sentai Bioman). His pitch was finally accepted in the early 90s by Margaret Loesch, CEO of Fox Kids (and former President of Marvel’s TV and film subsidiary). But as Super Sentai had moved on since Saban’s first pitch, the most recent series at the time, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, was chosen to be adapted into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers debuted in August of 1993, and was a monumental success, to say the very least. The first three seasons adapted the aforementioned Zyuranger, as well as parts of Gosei Sentai Dairanger and Ninja Sentai Kakuranger. Subsequent seasons of Power Rangers would adapt each new season (and by extension, team) from the Super Sentai series year by year. The franchise was sold to Disney in 2001, then back to Saban in 2010, then to Hasbro in 2018, which currently releases the show through Nickelodeon. Since the show’s reacquisition by Saban in 2010, the show has opted for a two-season structure for each series, leading to the show falling behind on adapting recent Super Sentai seasons (This is a gripe for a whole other article, I swear). The latest iteration in the series, 2021’s Power Rangers Dino Fury, is set to adapt 2019’s Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger.
Every Ranger team has three to five core members, each dressed in their own specific colour, all of which morph into Power Rangers through the use of a morpher. The specific colours vary, but there’s always a Red and Blue ranger at the very least. Members also tend to dress up in their respective colour when not morphed. Red Ranger? Red plainclothes shirt. Morphers vary in format (the two most common types being wrist devices and cell phones) and are accompanied by a morphing call and action (“It’s Morphin’ Time!”). There’s always one Big Bad who ends up being the season’s final villain, who’s responsible for sending each episode’s Monster of the Week (MOTW, as I’ll be referring to them for the rest of this piece). The Big Bad also has an army of indistinguishable mooks to be used as cannon fodder against the rangers. After defeating the MOTW, it grows to kaiju-sized proportions, forcing the Power Rangers to get into their respectively-coloured mechanical Zords, which subsequently combine to form the team’s Megazord, a mech they use to fight the monster.
The team might have a mentor figure to help guide them on their journey (Zordon, Dimitria, Gosei, etc.), with some even becoming rangers themselves later on in the season (Doggie Cruger, RJ, Kendall Morgan, etc.). Each season will also have extra rangers join the team midway through the season, with the circumstances for joining varying from season to season. Each season has its own theme to unify the team’s costume design, arsenal, and zords. While it varies from season to season, common themes have been dinosaurs (4), ninjas (3), cars (2), and animals (2). Though not always the case, episodes have a moral or lesson that’s taught through the story, more on this later.
What Not to Do
Whatever the fuck Power Rangers Megaforce and Power Rangers Super Megaforce did.
Okay, but Really Though
Power Rangers Megaforce and Power Rangers Super Megaforce are widely considered to be the worst seasons of the series, the latter being the worst of the two. There are a variety of reasons why, including a less-than-stellar cast led by a wooden Red Ranger, and completely botching the process of adapting Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger for Super Megaforce, but that’s a topic for another article. Long story short, these two shows are textbook examples of what not to do with your show.
Other than that though,
Try not to opt for a car theme when choosing your team’s overarching theme.
Both times that Power Rangers did a car theme (Turbo, RPM), viewership and toy sales TANKED hard. Kids apparently didn’t like cars that transformed into robots (unless they were that other franchise with transforming cars).
Don’t put too much focus on one ranger over the others.
The term “Tommywank” was established to refer to Power Rangers’ seeming obsession with Tommy Oliver, better known as the Green Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The character went from being a bad guy-turned hero to leader of the team, to the leader of the team (again), to the leader of the team (again), to “the greatest ranger ever” (as per the 10th anniversary special), to mentor, to “the greatest ranger ever” (again). While the overexposure of Tommy (no thanks in part to audiences loving the character) is a great paycheck for actor Jason David Frank, it came as an impediment to future ranger teams as they were forced to live in his shadow. Tommy Oliver isn’t the only character that’s guilty of this either, as some other seasons also tended to focus on one ranger over the others (looking at you, Mystic Force). There may be an I in Super Sentai, but there definitely isn’t one in Power Rangers.
If you’re going to adapt a season that’s deeply established in Japanese culture and heritage, don’t make your main characters white, then keep the Japanese surname.
This isn’t a joke; when Saban adapted Samurai Sentai Shinkenger into Power Rangers Samurai, they adapted it almost to a T, even going as far as adapting Shinkenger writer Yasuko Kobayashi’s scripts for Samurai. There’s just one problem with that. Shinkenger dealt heavily with Japanese Samurai culture, and when protagonists Takeru and Kaoru Shiba were adapted, their race changed….but not their last name or history. Enter Jayden and Lauren Shiba, two blond-haired, blue-eyed Red Rangers who we’re told to believe are Japanese. So yeah, maybe don’t do that?
But Let’s Talk Specifics
So you’ve got your rangers, you’ve got your theme, and you’ve got your zords. Now, all you need is a story. Don’t worry though, it’s a lot easier than you’d think. After having watched almost every single episode of the series over the course of two months, the recurring themes in episodes really begin to stick out. This isn’t exactly a bad thing; in fact, it’s probably a boon if you’re not looking to fix what (apparently) isn’t broken. Let’s go through and take a look at some of the recurring episode themes in the Power Rangers franchise.
In this episode, one or more of the rangers are put to sleep by the MOTW and must either fight their way out of a twisted dream or destroy the MOTW in the real world to break the spell. The hand-to-hand combat occurs in the dream, and the Megazord battle occurs outside of the dream.
Rock-a-Bye Power Rangers, Zeo
Silent Sleep, Lost Galaxy
Dream Battle, Lost Galaxy
In Your Dreams, Dino Thunder
The Dome Dolls, RPM
Broken Dreams, Samurai
Dream Snatcher, Megaforce
Nightmare in Amber Beach, Dino Charge
Bully for You
Bullies sure do suck, right? In this episode, the rangers must help a child (or in the case of Bully for Ethan and Alarmed and Dangerous, one of the rangers themselves) deal with a bully, all while dealing with a mean MOTW themselves. At the end of the day, the child is able to stand up to the bully, or in rare cases, even become friends with the former bullies.
Alarmed and Dangerous, Turbo
Bully for Ethan, Dino Thunder
Tigers Fall, Lions Rise, Jungle Fury
Who’s Crying Now?, Megaforce
Tuba Triumph, Beast Morphers
An episode theme that was weirdly prevalent in the late 90s, and died off until rearing its ugly head again in 2013, this episode pits the two female rangers on the team against each other, because uh….they’re women? They get back together at the end of the episode, and their strife is brushed away without any further mention. Maybe this episode is best left in the 90s after all.
Bloom of Doom, Mighty Morphin
The Rival Rangers, Turbo
A Rift in the Rangers, In Space
Orion Rising, Lost Galaxy
In the Limelight, Lightspeed Rescue
United We Stand, Megaforce
Being a ranger is hard, and sometimes a ranger needs to leave the team to forge their own path- oh what’s that? They go back to being a ranger by the end of the episode? They learn how important being a ranger is, and that convinces them to return to the team, all within the span of one twenty-two-minute episode? Alright.
Always a Chance, In Space
Fight Against Fate, Time Force
Wave Goodbye, Dino Thunder
One Gets Away, Operation Overdrive
Forest for the Trees, Samurai
A classic MOTW tactic: switching bodies with one of the rangers, or switching two rangers’ bodies. In the former’s case, the MOTW tries to infiltrate the team and learn their secrets but ultimately fails, exposing themselves. In the latter’s case, two rangers with diametrically opposed personalities are put into the other’s shoes and forced to walk a mile in them. Real sappy stuff, but they both learn to appreciate their fellow ranger a bit more. Oh, and there’s a MOTW that they have to deal with.
Switching Places, Mighty Morphin
Invasion of the Body Switcher, In Space
Sensei Switcheroo, Ninja Storm
Trading Places, Samurai
The Grass is Always Greener… or Bluer, Megaforce
Monster Mix-up, Ninja Steel
The Silva Switch, Beast Morphers
Bad Best Friend
This one isn’t really a common episode, but an interesting one worth noting nonetheless. One of the rangers has an old friend come back into their lives, which throws their dedication to being a Power Ranger for a loop. Ultimately, we learn that their friend is secretly a MOTW working for the Big Bad, and the rangers need to defeat it to save the day. The now-friendless ranger learns that they still have friends amongst their fellow rangers, and end the day having strengthened their bond.
Memories of Mirinoi, Lost Galaxy
A Face from the Past
The specifics of this episode tend to vary wildly, but the basic gist of it is that one of the rangers has someone from their past, be it a former mentor or family member, return into their lives (except this time around, they’re not evil). They either need to prove to this person that they’re not a complete failure and are doing good through their role as a Power Ranger, or get help from this person to solve a problem that they’re currently stumped with.
Inner Spirit, Zeo
The Chosen Path, Lightspeed Rescue
The Tornado Spin, Wild Force
A Father’s Footsteps, Wild Force
Eye of the Storm, Ninja Storm
One Master Too Many, Jungle Fury
Blue Ranger, Twin Danger, Jungle Fury
Ranger Yellow, RPM
He Ain’t Heavy Metal, He’s My Brother, Samurai
Breaking Black, Dino Charge
Golden Opportunity, Beast Morphers
Lest You Come Down From Your Ivory Tower
No one likes a pretentious brat, and sometimes, the rangers find themselves having to navigate around someone that’s just too posh to be rabble-rousing with miscreants. The episode ends with the pretentious asshole punk learning a lesson in humility and caring for others. Isn’t teamwork great?
The Curve Ball, Turbo
Double Duty, Lost Galaxy
Diva in Distress, Dino Thunder
Ocean Alert, Dino Thunder
Break Out, Dino Charge
When you’re a teenager with attitude, you have to juggle your responsibilities as a ranger with your responsibilities as a not-ranger. Sometimes things veer in one direction much harder than the other, leading to problems for our rangers. This episode follows one of the rangers reconciling with their role as a Power Ranger in face of their regular life. Tough decisions are made, but in the end, they stick to their duty as a ranger.
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire, Mighty Morphin
A Different Shade of Pink, Mighty Morphin
Song Sung Yellow, Zeo
In the Limelight, Lightspeed Rescue
Looming Thunder, Ninja Storm
Lights, Camera, Dax, Operation Overdrive
Kevin’s Choice, Samurai
Recipe for disaster, Dino Charge
A Date With Danger, Dino Charge
Ace and the Race, Ninja Steel
Car Trouble, Ninja Steel
Taking Care of Business, Beast Morphers
Boxed In, Beast Morphers
Power Rangers, Powered Up
Not a specific episode, but a power-up for the whole team. Sometimes, the MOTW is just too powerful for our daring rangers, and they need a power boost to deal with the threat. Every member gets access to this power-up, which they use intermittently in subsequent episodes whenever they need a boost.
Metallic Armor, Mighty Morphin
Lights of Orion, Lost Galaxy
Super Dino Mode, Dino Thunder
SWAT Mode, SPD
Legend Mode, Mystic Force
Defender Vest, Operation Overdrive
Jungle Master Mode, Jungle Fury
Super Samurai Mode & Shogun Mode, Samurai
Ultra Mode, Megaforce
Dino Steel & Dino Drive, Dino Charge
Ninja Super Steel, Ninja Steel
Beast-X Mode, Beast Morphers
Gee Red, How Come Your Mom Lets You Have Two Power-ups?
Oh, but it wouldn’t be a Power Rangers season if the Red Ranger didn’t get an exclusive power-up, with an entire episode dedicated to how they get that specific mode. After all, they are the leader, and only they are capable of wielding the incredible power of a Battlizer (yeah, that’s what they’re called).
Mission to Secret City, In Space
Facing the Past, Lost Galaxy
Web War, Lightspeed Rescue
Beware the Knight, Time Force
The Wings of Animaria, Wild Force
Shane’s Karma, Ninja Storm
The Passion of Connor, Dino Thunder
The Hunter, Mystic Force
Things Not Said, Operation Overdrive
Roar of the Red Ranger, Dino Charge
The Royal Rumble, Ninja Steel
Sound and Fury, Beast Morphers
Who me? A Ranger?
It sure would suck if someone with the superhuman powers of a Power Ranger were to lose all memory of them being a ranger, huh? That’s what happens in this episode, as the MOTW makes one or more rangers lose all memories of being a Power Ranger. It’s up to the remaining rangers to try and remind the rangers of who they are before the MOTW gets away with their dastardly plans.
When is a Ranger Not a Ranger?, Mighty Morphin
The Last Ranger, Lightspeed Rescue
TJ’s Identity Crisis, In Space
Secrets and Lies, Wild Force
Forgive and Forget, Dino Charge
Attack of the Galactic Rangers, Ninja Steel
Rewriting History, Beast Morphers
Boys will be Boys
In this episode of Horny Hormonal Power Rangers, male rangers on the team are put under a spell, falling head over heels for the (female-coded) MOTW. If you’re really daring, put them all under the same spell, forcing them to fight one another for the adoration of the MOTW. Don’t worry though, the rangers get a nice lesson with some tough love by the end of the episode.
Lovestruck Rangers, Time Force
Heart of Blue, Operation Overdrive
United We Stand, Megaforce
Love at First Fight, Dino Charge
Tough Love, Ninja Steel
Love Stings, Ninja Steel
Woe, our identities
One of the toughest parts about being a superhero is maintaining your secret identity. Well, unless you’re a Lightspeed Rescue ranger or an Operation Overdrive ranger, in which case your identity as a Power Ranger is public knowledge, but I digress. What happens when a member of the public accidentally uncovers the rangers’ secret identities? To what lengths will the rangers go to protect and hush that information? Will they be dealt the benevolent hand of kindness, and have their identities protected by this Peeping Tom? Oh, and there’s a MOTW to fight during all this.
Carlos on Call, In Space
Full Exposure, Time Force
Ranger Reveal, Beast Morphers
Enter the Sixth Ranger
Considered one of the most important parts of any given season, the sixth ranger’s entrance marks a dynamic shift in the season’s team hierarchy. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers got lucky in that the season of Super Sentai it adapted was the first to include a sixth ranger as a part of its regular cast. The circumstances behind the sixth ranger’s arrival change from season to season, be it a bad ranger turned good (as you’ll see below in “Going Good”), or an ancient ranger awakened to help the team, or a supporting cast member picking up the suit to join the main team. Given how commonplace a factor it is, here are some exceptions to the rule.
Turbo (The status of the Phantom Ranger being a Power Ranger is contested and yadda yadda yadda)
Lost Galaxy (The status of the Magna Defender being a Power Ranger is contested and yadda yadda yadda)
Dino Thunder (Started with three, got two extra)
Jungle Fury (Started with three, got five extra)
Beast Morphers (Started with three, got two extra)
Nothing like a good redemption arc to flesh a character out, huh? Sixth/extra rangers who start evil (or in Eric Myers’ case, an asshole), but become good has been a recurring theme since Mighty Morphin’s Green With Evil. With a few exceptions here and there, the rangers are introduced in a multi-part episode where they manage to hand the main team’s asses to them, before ultimately overcoming the influence that’s making them evil (or in Eric Myers’ case, an ass- actually, he’s still a bit of an ass even after he learns to play nice.).
Tommy Oliver, Mighty Morphin
Kat Hillard, Mighty Morphin
Astronema/Karone, In Space & Lost Galaxy
Ryan Mitchell, Lightspeed Rescue
Eric Myers, Time Force
Zen-Aku/Merrick Baliton, Wild Force
Hunter and Blake Bradley, Ninja Storm
Trent Fernandez-Mercer, Dino Thunder (Technically, he started good, turned evil, then good again)
Koragg/Leanbow, Mystic Force
Tyzonn, Operation Overdrive
Spirit Rangers, Jungle Fury
Jarrod and Camille, Jungle Fury
Heckyl, Dino Charge
Going Good, Villain Edition
Who says bad guys can’t go good? In these episodes, the MOTW either isn’t actually evil, to begin with (being forced into doing dirty work for the Big Bad) or are a villain with a strict moral code, which puts them at odds with the Big Bad’s goals. It’s up to one of the rangers to reach out to the MOTW’s soft side and solve things by talking it out.
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Mr. Ticklesneezer), Mighty Morphin
Green No More (The Dark Rangers), Mighty Morphin
The Wasp with a Heart (Waspicable), In Space
Loyax’s Last Battle (Loyax), Lost Galaxy
Trip Takes a Stand (Notacon), Time Force
It’s a Mad, Mad Mackerel (Mad Mackerel), Dino Thunder
Samurai (Katana), SPD
The Return (Matoombo), Mystic Force
Mystic Fate (Itassis), Mystic Force
The Spirit of Kindness (Whiger), Jungle Fury
Rico the Robot (Rico the Robot), Megaforce
Us, But Evil
The Power Rangers’ greatest enemy is themselves. No, I mean literally, duplicates of themselves. Big Bads love creating clones of the Power Rangers to fight against them. These episodes usually have the rangers matched in skill, until they figure out how to turn the odds against their doppelgangers (which usually just means that the color matchups end up getting mixed and matched). The Psycho Rangers are the most famous example of the clone matchup, showing up in not one, but two separate seasons, facing two separate teams.
The Evil Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (A Bad Reflection on You, Mighty Morphin)
The Evil Mutant Rangers (Mighty Morphin’ Mutants, Mighty Morphin)
The Dark Rangers (Green No More, Mighty Morphin)
The Shadow Rangers (Shadow Rangers, Turbo)
Crash and the Creeps (The Song of Confusion, Turbo)
The Psycho Rangers (Rangers Gone Psycho – To the Tenth Power, Space & Lost Galaxy)
The Cyborg Rangers (Cyborg Rangers, Lightspeed Rescue)
The Evil Time Force Rangers (Trust and Triumph, Time Force)
The Shadow Rangers (The Master’s Herald, Wild Force)
The Evil Ninja Rangers (The Wild Wipeout, Ninja Storm)
The Evil Mystic Rangers (Light Source, Mystic Force)
The Evil Overdrive Rangers (Red Ranger Unplugged, Operation Overdrive)
The Evil Beast Morphers Power Rangers (Game On!, Beast Morphers)
The Mandated Halloween/Christmas episode, or, How I Learned to Love the Clip Show Episode
According to TVTropes, a Clip Show episode is “An episode which consists mainly of fragments (clips) of previous episodes.” In a series where a lot of the budget goes towards the effects, props, and monsters, sometimes you need a clip show to pad the season out without having to do a ton of legwork. These episodes, which take place near the end of a season, involve a loose framing narrative that allows the team to reminisce on their journey, be it near, or right after the end of their journey. So why bring up Halloween and Christmas? Ever since Saban regained the rights to the franchise from Disney, the clip show episode has been relegated to the season’s Christmas and Halloween Special episodes. It’s also worth noting that a regular Christmas/Halloween special every season was never a thing prior to the Neo-Saban era.
Party Monsters, Samurai
Christmas Together, Friends Forever, Samurai
Trickster Treat, Samurai
Stuck on Christmas, Samurai
Raising Spirits, Megaforce
The Robo Knight Before Christmas, Megaforce
The Ghostest With the Mostest, Dino Charge
Race to Rescue Christmas, Dino Charge
Trick or Trial, Dino Charge
Here Comes Heximas, Dino Charge
Grave Robber, Ninja Steel
Past, Presents, and Future, Ninja Steel (An exception, this one had no reused footage)
Hypnotic Halloween, Beast Morphers
Scrozzle’s Revenge, Beast Morphers
Clip show episodes (Non-festive):
Crystal of Nightmares, Mighty Morphin
Until Sunset, Lost Galaxy
The Last Ranger, Lightspeed Rescue
A Calm Before the Storm, Time Force
Legacy of Power, Dino Thunder
A Test of Trust, Dino Thunder
Koragg’s Trial, Mystic Force
Way Back When, Operation Overdrive
Don’t Blow That Dough, Jungle Fury
If Venjix Won, RPM
Party Monsters, Samurai
The Mandated Team Crossover
For anyone that’s followed Power Rangers for more than a season, this is one of the most highly-anticipated episodes of the season. A previous team gets another chance to shine as they team up with the current team to defeat a threat that takes two teams to handle. These episodes also offer some closure to plot threads from previous seasons. It’s heartwarming to see Joel and Ms. Merriweather married in Time Force, or Wes and Eric chumming it up as best buds in Wild Force or seeing what Jason Scott’s been up to since that terrible Turbo movie. Sadly, the franchise has been pretty inconsistent with these types of episodes, be it due to behind-the-scenes logistics or whatnot. In some cases, you’ll get just one or two members from a previous team meeting up with the current team. It’s something, I suppose.
Rangers of Two Worlds, Zeo
Shell Shocked (It counts, even it’s a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover), In Space
To the Tenth Power & The Power of Pink, Lost Galaxy
Trakeena’s Revenge, Lightspeed Rescue
Time for Lightspeed, Time Force
Reinforcements from the Future, Wild Force
Forever Red, Wild Force
Thunder Storm, Dino Thunder
History & Wormhole, SPD
Once a Ranger (On a technicality), Operation Overdrive
Legendary Battle, Super Megaforce
Finders Keepers & Grid Connection, Beast Morphers
This isn’t an episode specifically more so than it is a location. Ever since the franchise’s inception, there’s always been a particular quarry that shows up at least once every season. It’s hard to tell if it’s the exact same quarry each time (except for the obvious change when the show moved its filming to New Zealand), but there’s always a quarry. Why the quarry? Sometimes there’s plot significance, but most of the time, it’s because it’s the easiest place to get away with large, bombastic explosions.
Too many to count. Trust me, when you see it, you’ll know.
Some Final Thoughts
You’ve got your rangers, you’ve got your plot points, and you’re ready to write about the adventures of your spandex-clad heroes. None of what I mentioned above should be taken as gospel for creating your own tokusatsu story. Power Rangers RPM, considered by many to be one of the best Power Rangers seasons, took the happy-go-lucky goofball adventures of Engine Sentai Go-Onger and turned it into a story about post-apocalyptic rebellion. The comparisons between Super Sentai and Power Rangers warrant a conversation for another day, but they’re both series that are full of heart (with the exception of Megaforce and Super Megaforce). They’re meant to represent the best of us, a team of heroes fighting against the end of the world for the betterment of humanity. Your story should inspire people to be better, to morph the world into a better place.