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By Thomas Wheeler

One of the things that I always tend to say when reviewing any given year's crop of Power Rangers action figures is -- there's always a sixth Ranger. But there's something else that's true as well...they always have a Red Ranger.

Whatever other colors the core group of Power Rangers may adopt for their uniforms, which have generally tended to be four of the following: Blue, Black, Green, White, Yellow, and Pink, there's always a Red Ranger. And he's also generally the team's leader.

Does it surprise anyone that we're commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Power Rangers? It's not often that a pop culture concept manages to have this sort of endurance. Although often considered rather campy and silly compared to pop culture/toy concepts of similar longevity, such as G.I. Joe or Transformers, there is simply no denying the fact that the Power Rangers has found a place in pop culture, and doesn't look to be going anywhere anytime soon. It's also found a pretty steadfast place in the toy aisles.

One of the secrets, if it can even be called that, to the longevity of the Power Rangers, has been the fact that after the original concept, "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers", had run for several years, the producers of the show started overhauling the concept every year. Although the basic character premise -- five young people dressed in colorful costumes, each costume reflecting a predominant color with a pattern shared by the entire group -- remained the same, as did the martial-arts-ish stunt work, the background stories tended to change rather dramatically.

This allowed Bandai, the toymaker, to essentially create an entirely new line of toys every year, and yet that entirely new line of toys was nevertheless based, at its core, on a proven name and basic theme.

The main part, toywise, of this 15th Anniversary celebration of Power Rangers, has been the release of a special series of 15th Anniversary Red Rangers. Larger than the approximate 5" scale common to most Power Rangers lines over the years, although size has varied somewhat, these 15th Anniversary Red Rangers are over 6-1/2" in height. And there's one for every major Power Rangers concept that has ever existed, right up to 2007's "Operation Overdrive".

It is my intention, as I am able to acquire these excellent action figures, to review each one, as well as provide a background into the Power Rangers concept from which he is a part of. For this review, I'd like to review the Red Ranger from POWER RANGERS TIME FORCE!

Power Rangers Time Force was the 2001 incarnation of Power Rangers, falling between Lightspeed Rescue and Wild Force. Time Force was based on the Super Sentai series "Mirai Sentai Timeranger", running for 40 half-hour episodes from February to November of 2001.

Time Force is unusual among the Power Rangers series in that its story was significantly darker than those that came before, and in that it possessed stronger parallels with its Japanese counterpart Timeranger than its predecessors. Like Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue before it and Power Rangers: Wild Force after it, the Rangers are above 18 years of age and are considered adults, not teenagers.

A synopsis of the series concept is as follows: In the year 3000, mankind has developed a utopia, with a police organization called Time Force capturing all but one criminal. However, this criminal, Ransik, manages to hijack a prison full of cryogenically frozen convicts and escape back to the past in an attempt to change the future, but not before badly injuring Alex, the Red Time Force Ranger. Four Time Force officers attempt to pursue Ransik to the year 2001, but end up being stranded in the fictional town of Silver Hills. There, they meet Wesley Collins, who is the son of a rich industrialist and looks identical to Alex. With Wes' help, the four Time Force officers become the Time Force Rangers, helping the city of Silver Hills by capturing the various mutant criminals that Ransik releases from prison.

Being somewhat isolated from his father, the Power Rangers are unable to rely on Wes' wealth to get by - instead they operate a business out of the clock tower that the Rangers used as a base, aptly named "Nick of Time Odd Jobs," after an old company that had operated there. It is there that Wes also helps the other four Rangers adapt to life in the 21st century. Wes himself would later move in with them after his father refused to help him pay a ransom to Nadira, who kidnapped a bus full of school students, and decides to follow his own footsteps.

The Time Force officers knew that their presence would inevitably change the future, and indeed, it had: in an attempt to contain the mutant threat, Wes' father creates the Silver Guardians, a security force helping to secure the businesses of anyone who had the money, and a force that had not originally existed. Among one such member was Wes' childhood friend, Eric Myers. Unlike Wes, Eric was not rich, getting by on a scholarship as the two of them attended prep school.

When the Silver Guardians make their first attempt at taking care of a mutant, they are overpowered, and Wes is forced to save them, revealing his identity as a Power Ranger in the process. When Mr. Collins offers Wes to join his guardian team, he refuses, believing that he is only helping people out for the money (as he quoted: "People are getting hurt, all because you want more money" and "Time Force Rangers help everyone, not just those who can afford it"). The Silver Guardians, led by Eric, the Quantum Time Force Ranger, continued to hold a tenuous relationship with the Power Rangers.

As for the villains, Ransik would eventually surrender peacefully when he nearly kills his own daughter, Nadira, who was trying to protect an infant. Before, the Time Force officers return to the year 3000, Jen and Wes finally admit that they love each other. Mr. Collins makes another offer for Wes to join the Silver Guardians, saying that they will now help everyone free of charge. Wes accepts and wants Eric to become his co-leader.

This series also featured the cameo return of characters from Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue, when the demoness Vypra rises from the grave. When she teams up with Ransik and unleashes a Super Demon named Quargenon, the Time Force Rangers are forced to team up with their Lightspeed Rescue predecessors.

The show is notable for several unusual aspects. For starters, unlike most Power Rangers concepts, the Red Ranger is not the team's leader. Very unusually, this designation fell to the Pink Ranger, who might not have been all that qualified for the job, as she had turned rather cold-hearted after the apparent death of her fiance, the original Red Ranger.

It's also worth mentioning that because of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that year, many episodes were re-edited after their first airing to remove potentially offensive material, such as buildings being blown up. In one case, an episode titled Full Exposure was not shown again after its first airing for over five and a half years, re-airing on February 7th, 2007 on Jetix with the above mentioned re-edits.

(Power Rangers was not the only such series to be affected by this. Cartoon Network pulled its airings of Mobile Suit Gundam in short order, as well, since a forthcoming episode would have featured the destruction of an entire city. The series never returned to CN's schedule.)

As for the Red Ranger from this series, I suppose one needs to ask the question, "Which one?" Although both were played by actor Jason Faunt, you have Alex, the Red Ranger from the year 3000, and you have Wesley Collins, his 2001 ancestor who took on the role of Red Ranger after Alex was presumably killed. Alex, however, survived, and continued to work behind the scenes in order to assist the Rangers. Very highly ranked within the Time Force organization, Alex managed to stay hidden until forced to reveal himself in one episode because the timeline was getting thrown off too much from the Rangers' presence in 2001. He took command of the team from Wes, although ultimately returned it to him at a later time. For his part, Wesley Collins was originally brought into the team simply by virtue of being Alex's ancestor, and as such shared a DNA link that was needed for the Rangers to activate their "Chrono Morphers".

The figure is excellent. What Bandai has done for this special series of 15th Anniversary Red Rangers is they have created a basic body type, and an excellent one, that can reasonably accommodate any of the intricate uniform decoration patterns of any of the Power Rangers concepts. Of course, a unique head -- or perhaps the correct term should be helmet -- sculpt is created for each Red Ranger.

The articulation is excellent. The Power Ranger is poseable at the head, arms, glove tops, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops, and ankles. Additionally, there is a mid-torso articulation point that is so well designed you almost don't see it until you have the figure out of its package. This can be a particularly tricky articulation point to add to an action figure. Sometimes it can be worked very well into the basic design of the figure. The best example I can think of here is Star Wars Clone Troopers, where it can blend with the armor. It works fairly well on figures like Marvel Legends, where there is no great effort to conceal the articulation points. But I've seen it on some figures where it doesn't look very good at all.

On the Red Ranger here, it works and looks a lot better than it has any business, really, and kudos to Bandai for the design work.

There is one articulation aspect that should have been included, but wasn't. That would have been an upper-arm swivel. This does have the unfortunate effect of rather considerably curtailing the poseability of the arms on an otherwise supremely well-articulated action figure.

The Time Force uniform design is one of my personal favorites. It managed to combine a sort of super-hero look with something that also looks very sci-fi (in keeping with the theme of this particular series) and uniform-like. The bulk of the uniform is, of course, red. The helmet is unusual compared to well, really, every other Red Ranger in the series, in that it does not have a black visor. Father, the entire front of the helmet is mostly black, with a silver mouth area, and a red triangular visor with a vertical red stripe running up to the rest of the red helmet. The visor is outlined in silver and has a silver stripe in the center of the red stripe. It's a very unusual and impressive design.

The upper torso of the uniform is also white, on both the front and the back. The front has a red triangular area with a vertical stripe in the middle of it, essentially mimicking the look of the visor. The Time Force Red Ranger has a black belt with an ornate silver buckle (It's interesting how many of these Power Rangers have ornate belt buckles for some reason), red gloves with silver gauntlets running from the wrists to the top of where one would expect a glove to run, and red boots with silver bands outlined in black around the boot tops.

One additional detail is on the left wrist of the Red Ranger. This is the Chrono Morpher. Each Time Force Power Ranger had one. The Chrono Morphers can display holographic images and imprint the DNA of the wearer so that only the person in question, or someone with similar DNA, can use them to morph by calling "Time for, Time Force!". Well, no one ever said they were the greatest writers in the world... Obviously, given the ancestral link between Alex and Wes, the Chrono Morphers were a crucial part of the series.

Overall, this is really a spectacular figure, and part of a truly fascinating series. Despite a relatively common scale over the years, not all Power Rangers figures are really compatible across different concepts. This 15th Anniversary Red Ranger series is truly the first time that the main characters from all of the different Power Rangers concepts have been produced in a compatible format.

Honestly, I hope that Bandai finds some way to continue this particular series, as the Power Rangers concepts continue in the years ahead. Doubtless there will be more Red Rangers. And I'd like to think we wouldn't have to wait until the 20th Anniversary to get them in this format.

Meanwhile, the 15th Anniversary TIME FORCE RED RANGER, as well as all of his counterparts, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!