I like Power Rangers Operation Overdrive. Actually, it’s one of my favorite Power Rangers seasons.
But for… reasons, the season has been met with derision by a section of the Power Rangers fandom. A very loud section. That’s not to say everyone feels the same way though.
I honestly never understood the hate. Usually one would say “hate is a strong word” when discussing opinions on such a thing as a television show. But it’s absolutely apt to use here. There are Power Rangers fans that absolutely hate Operation Overdrive. The kind of hate that includes people hurling just pure vitriol at it and everyone involved with it. And honestly, I feel most of it is unwarranted.
Perhaps I come from a position of having always liked and enjoyed the season. And over the years, the incessant disdain for the season beyond just not liking it has only made me grow to actually love the season.
In trying to understand where people were coming from in their hatred of Operation Overdrive, one of the biggest things I noticed was that it was cool to not like the season. It was the “in” thing and the accepted opinion to have on the season. If you didn’t agree or God forbid you actually liked the season, you’d get the virtual sideeye of other fans.
The general sentiment I got was always “You’re not supposed to like it. And if you did, there’s something wrong with you.”
For many years, Operation Overdrive was always held up as the worst season of the entire franchise. It was apparently insufferable and downright offensive.
But when looking back during the year it first aired, I never saw those kinds of sentiments about the show. In fact, I only remember positive things. Especially during the final arc when the iMack revelation came as a shock to many fans.
However later on, the tides quickly turned negative. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read over the years that fans hated the season partly because “X said so.” Apparently fans formed their opinions on seasons based on the opinions of certain people who were somehow elevated to be authorities of all things Power Rangers. “So and so said this, so I must think this way.” “But so and so said it was like this and that means it’s the law of the land.”
Quick search any message board thread discussing people’s opinions of Operation Overdrive and you’ll see “X said this,” “I felt this way after seeing what X had to say.”
It might be a novel idea, but I don’t actually form my opinion on a television show based on what other people think of it or if it’s the popular, “cool” opinion to have. Or if some random person reviews the season and is suddenly treated as Morphin Grid gospel.
What follows isn’t a definitive courtroom defense of Operation Overdrive. And honestly, there is no need for one. Everyone has the right to like and enjoy what they want to like and enjoy. Just like everyone also has the right dislike and not enjoy what they dislike and not enjoy. One shouldn’t be pressured against or discouraged from liking and enjoying what they like and enjoy. Especially when we’re talking about one season of one television show.
Simply, I liked and enjoyed a lot of things about Operation Overdrive.
First off, I can say “You don’t see that anymore on contemporary Power Rangers” over and over again with respect to many things I enjoyed about Operation Overdrive. But after my just concluded rewatch and after ten years of Saban Brands and now Hasbro, comparing older seasons with current ones is unavoidable.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of Operation Overdrive was its serialized storytelling. There’s the argument that kids shows can’t be serialized and must only be standalone episodes. But that’s not a discussion to be had here. (If you want that discussion and more, you can click on over here.)
But Operation Overdrive‘s serialized nature is really one of its strongest suits. Having one cohesive story for 32 episodes might not seem like a unique idea. But compared to the last ten years of Power Rangers, it definitely is.
Operation Overdrive‘s premise, itself another great aspect, lends itself to having such a storytelling format. The Rangers and different factions of villains are on the hunt for treasured jewels that when gathered together will hold great power. The season’s endgame was set out right from the start. And the 32 episodes followed the journey toward that endgame.
The season was ambitious. And it needed to be executed on a declining Disney budget. But it still had a clear vision and the effort to make it work on less resources was still evident. That’s more than can be said of recent seasons.
Every episode, even those otherwise considered as “filler,” still held some kind of consequence to the entire season. Each episode ended with a cliffhanger that would directly lead into the next. In doing so, it helps encourage viewers to tune in next time. Keeping the audience engaged in this way feels so foreign now when large chunks of Power Rangers seasons are standalone episodes which have zero effect on the overall story nor contain any meaningful development or growth for the characters.
Though I do think they could’ve done more with the villain factions, it was a great concept. And what we did get still added a lot of excitement and interesting new dynamics that you wouldn’t get to see on other seasons.
Operation Overdrive‘s relatively high concept premise also expanded the series’ world. Literally. The season had Rangers traveling all over the globe. And the Rangers themselves were from all over the world as well. Rangers from different backgrounds becoming heroic globetrotting treasure hunters. That’s a big positive!
The season definitely touched upon the Rangers’ differences throughout. Including the fact that they were suddenly recruited by this mysterious rich guy. But the Rangers would come together, most especially in that final arc. If there were ever a group of Rangers who needed to learn what it meant to be a team, it was this one. Each of them had excelled in their own fields. And those fields were ones where they did so on their own. But now had to come together as a team. Which they did. Instead of the usual one-and-done Episode 3 teamwork episode, it would take several. If not most of the season. And again, that fits very well with the serialized format. Things won’t get solved in one episode.
To help bring those characters to life, we had a very good cast. And, as was the case for the Disney seasons, a very diverse cast as well.
Rhoda Montemayor, Samuell Benta, Gareth Yuen, Caitlin Murphy and Dwayne Cameron were great Rangers. Kelson Henderson was his usual fun self as Norg. Ria Vandervis was absolutely badass as Miratrix. They each brought to life very distinct characters. Each of them with their own distinct personalities.
But the best performances of the season were definitely courtesy of James Maclurcan and Rod Lousich.
The iMack storyline is still one of the best plot twists of the entire franchise. But not only just the big reveal, but the aftermath of that revelation as well. The fallout extended all the way to the final moments of the season. And in order for every emotional punch to hit in that final arc, the show needed to build a strong foundation between all the characters. Which they definitely did. That’s why I think the storyline is one of the best of the entire franchise.
Aside from the great writing that helped to make it happen, it was the excellent performances from James Maclurcan and Rod Lousich as the father and son Hartford that really delivered the story’s successful execution. And that’s during a season that already had a pretty solid overaching plot. It’s certainly a different kind of story than the ones usually seen on Power Rangers, but it absolutely worked thanks to the writing and acting working hand in hand.
And then there’s David Weatherley as Spencer. Spencer is absolutely one of the very best characters of the franchise, let alone one of the best mentors. Whether it was Spencer’s funny quips and witty retorts or his heartfelt advice and wisdom, David Weatherley effortlessly delivered in every scene he was in and elevated the season even more.
Production-wise, after years of bland Saban Brands and Hasbro action sequences, seeing all the Koichisplosions here on Operation Overdrive was quite amazing. There was a lot of original New Zealand footage and Koichi Sakamoto’s touch was definitely felt in the epic, exciting fight scenes.
After this rewatch, I also really came to appreciate the music. The original score and background music always fit the scenes and definitely helped give the season a distinct feel.
Operation Overdrive was the first season to be released entirely on DVD. And I did not hesitate to beg my parents to buy every single one of them as soon as they were released. And in the years following it, I’d pop those DVDs into the player and enjoy the season many times over.
But what do people really hate about the season? I recall several message board threads on the internets asking fans that very question. And surprisingly, there were almost as many “I actually liked the season” or “It’s not that bad” comments as there were “Worst season eVeR!!!11” comments.
But Operation Overdrive derision would regularly appear in other threads and elsewhere on the internets too. And by much louder voices. Everything from the actors’ accents to the special effects used for the Rangers’ civilian powers to the fact that they even had civilian powers in the first place to not filming in HD like Boukenger.
Those are as nitpicky as nitpicks can be. And like I said, everyone is free to nitpick as much as they want. I certainly do. But I don’t know that those nitpicks are objectively enough to deride the season as much as people do. Especially when there are far more substantial and egregious things to criticize about many a season, yet are hardly ever brought up only because they’re not Operation Overdrive.
Though it’s not even just nitpicking, but the total vitriol hurled at the season. I’m not here to counter every single critique of the season. But off the top of my head, I recall many fans despise the characters this season and dismiss them as selfish jerks unfit to be called Rangers or heroes.
Some point to the Rangers being “quitters.” Even though looking at the most prominent instance of “quitting” during “Once a Ranger,” it is written right in the story explaining how they grew to feel unneeded and feel more like a burden for the returning veterans who were having an easier time against the villain threat.
That’s just one example, but it seemed some of that hatred would bleed over into attacks on the actors themselves.
The other criticism or attack that stands out to me as it is regularly brought up are people putting some really nasty and creepy insinuations on Hartford and Mack’s relationship. Essentially implying Hartford built Mack to fulfill some kind of sexual desire.
Are these people serious?
Many of those same fans will counter anyone criticizing the show’s immature and dumbed down writing by saying “Remember it’s a kid’s show!” Well then, they should remember that here. This isn’t a 90s Nickelodeon gross out adult cartoon masquerading as a children’s show. It’s Power Rangers. The only people projecting something nefarious and disgusting on the storyline are grown-ups trying to find yet another bullet they can use to shoot at Operation Overdrive.
The mere suggestion of such an idea, jokingly or not, feels even more disgustingly absurd today.
Don’t like the characters? Fine. Think the cast can’t act? That’s a valid subjective critique.
Taking one of the franchise’s most interesting stories twisting it into something perverse? Well, considering it is possibly the season’s strongest positive, I’m not surprised it would be a target for attack. Regardless of how shamelessly outrageous it is.
Perhaps the most distasteful attack on the season and all because it actually attacks an actual person is the years-long demonization of Samuell Benta.
The season itself may be derided and ridiculed. But the vitriol hurled at Samuell Benta was relentless and hateful.
I always thought it was strange the way fans would always point to some alleged (keyword: alleged) incident at a Power Morphicon involving Samuell Benta as a way to invalidate Operation Overdrive.
Over the years I would never care about it because first of all, I wasn’t there. So I don’t know what actually happened. I wouldn’t judge something based on random posts. And I honestly didn’t care to dig. Because I always judged the season based on the 32 episodes I watched. Not based on something that happened in a hotel ballroom or wherever.
Which is why when Samuell Benta finally broke his silence last year, my initial reaction was “My God, this fandom is truly horrible.”
Samuell Benta breaks silence after 13 years to explain the events of Power Morphicon 2007 (link to his full uncut video below) #powerrangers #operationoverdive #powermorphicon pic.twitter.com/8Yb5d0UwhQ
— tabby (@thunderpunks) February 26, 2020
And I have no qualms saying that. It might be a generalization. Actually it absolutely is. But I don’t literally believe the entire fandom is horrible. It’s the same in any fandom. Power Rangers, K-pop, anime, whatever. There are always the loud minority of rabid fans who think everything they say is gospel.
You don’t have to believe Samuell Benta’s side of the story. But his side certainly paints a fuller picture of what could have happened. And I trust it more than an out of context video and hearsay. The attack on him even before details of the incident were ever fleshed out carry with it an uncomfortable undertone that reflects very poorly on large swaths of the fandom.
To be honest, in the years since that incident, if every person who kept bringing it up again as a way to slight Operation Overdrive or every comment pointing it out were equivalent to a dollar, you’d probably collect at least double, triple what an autographed Power Rangers banner would be worth.
It’s just such an irrelevant attack on Operation Overdrive and really exemplifies the unwarranted and sometimes baseless hatred for the season.
Before a CliffsNotes version of the above, let me just offer up a piece of advice to anyone: You are free to like and dislike anything you want. Don’t feel pressured into an opinion just because it appears like everyone else feels that way.
Especially when it comes to a children’s television show. For years, I’ve seen people try to passively embarrass others who might even merely think Operation Overdrive is just mediocre instead of being the worst thing evah!!!!11!!!
I think we should remember that I can like what other people might not like and vice versa. I’m not forcing anyone to like Operation Overdrive. And I would hope no one would force me or try to embarrass me into disliking it when I didn’t before. Being able to discuss pros and cons should help to perhaps see things in a different light. But that certainly isn’t what’s happened since this season first aired.
Anyway, Power Rangers Operation Overdrive will always be one of my favorite seasons of the franchise. It’s certainly one of my favorite premises. A creative, high concept idea that was executed as well as it could have been considering the resources available.
I love the serialized nature of the season. It fits perfectly with the idea of globetrotting Rangers searching for jewels. Villain factions offered something new. It has one of the franchise’s best stories which in turn provided the opportunity for some of the franchise’s best performances.
But really, it’s a season I just flat out enjoyed. And isn’t that all that matters? I enjoyed it. I loved it. I know other people might not like it. Some even hate it with a passion. I might not agree with the basis for those opinions, but I’m not here to try to dissuade them from feeling that way.
Again, people will love Power Rangers Operation Overdrive. People will hate it. But like Mack says, “I’m just fine with that.”