BOOM! Studios has announced that, due to the unmitigated success of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, they will begin a series of spin-offs, with the first focused on Kimberly Hart, the original Pink Power Ranger. Set some time after she left the show in the middle of Season 3, Zordon brings her back from retirement for one more adventure. Over the course of 100+ episodes and appearances in all three movies (as a Ranger in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie, as a supporting character in Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, and played by Naomi Scott in the upcoming 2017 film), she’s an iconic heroine and one of the longest-serving Rangers. Written by Brenden Fletcher and Kelly Thompson with art by Daniele Di Nicuolo, the series premieres in May. In anticipation, here’s a look at Kimberly’s biggest moments.
There’s a litany of reasons why this storyline is interesting. You’re given the first time both a Pink Power Ranger has lead a team (Jen Scott of Time Force was the theoretical leader, if not much so in practice) and a woman has lead the team (for minimal screen time, both the evil A-Squad Red Ranger and true Red Samurai Ranger lead their respective teams), alongside an American-only team of Rangers… even if it boils down to sending the Ranger suits to a western gear shop and decking them out in cowboy stylings.
If you’ve never seen it, this three-part storyline finds Kimberly back to the 1880s Wild West, a time where all of her current Ranger allies ancestors all lived (and things weren’t odd for the racially diverse members, since 1800s California was totally cool with all sorts of things like that, historically, right?) and the Command Center was a giant barn. For some reason, a routine transportation to their base ended up with her in a “time hole located at the lockers of the Youth Center.” Forced out of time but still having to handle Goldar, Putty Patrollers, and even a monster of the week, (all while wearing a crop top and skort that, once again, nobody would bat an eye at in the 1800s) Needlenose, a walking/talking cactus. His Japanese equivalent, General Cactus (as seen on Gosei Sentai Dairanger by Shout! Factory), was a monster that stung girls with it’s needles, paralyzing them, so he can dress them up like dolls. If that’s not horrifying enough, the actor who portrayed General Cactus became the mentor of Denji Sentai Megaranger, a team completely comprised of teenagers.
So, you know, you want THAT guy heading up some high schoolers in their free time.
By virtue of being experienced and from the future, the time-displaced “Calamity” Kimberly quickly makes her plea this era’s Zordon to deputize some of her allies’ ancestors in the fight against these monsters. At no point does Kimberly particularly bemoan her fate or decide to do anything but “beat the monster and get home;” she basically rolls up to this wizard and his robot, states that she’s from the future, and she needs some help.
The designs of the 1800s Rangers has fun with the budget, largely adding cowboy flair to the suits, but they do turn the Blade Blasters into six-gun shooters, so that’s an attempt at something, even if Kimberly retains her modern suit (and Tommy’s ancestor as “The White Stranger” doesn’t ever transform), and it’s one of the stronger heavily-American stories, only really dipping into Japanese footage for a sadly-requisite Megazord fight that also delivers a clean victory from a Kim-led team to one won by Tommy’s command of Tigerzord in Battle Mode. The two episodes go by in a blink and are nicely self-contained, so if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic, it’s not a bad little bit of Netflix.
If Wild West Rangers was the breakout time that Kimberly lead a team of Rangers on her own, A Friend In Need is the time she saved the city on her own without support of the rest of her team. Nominally memorable for the crossover with Saban’s Masked Rider (and actually the only legal way to own any footage of that series in the Americas), the b-plot of the episode isn’t exactly forgettable.
Kim’s sidelined with the flu, so while the rest of the cast get to travel to Cross-Promotion World, the Pink Ranger is sidelined… and actually largely absent from the first two parts. Bedridden in the first part, she jumps into battle against Repellator, the monster Rita and Zedd send out to take advantage of Angel Grove while the heroes are away.
She also sneezes in her helmet, which is probably all sorts of horrifying.
In a one-on-one battle with Repellator (which would be singularly impressive if she was at full strength, but even mores heavily sick) where she’s attacked by Bad Photoshop Filters, Kimberly effectively wins the fight the same way Tom Cruise defeated aliens: simple Earth germs.
Once again, like Wild West Rangers, the story fumbles at the finish line (that’s an appropriate sports term, correct?). Kim announces that she’ll (bravely) fight the now-enlarged monster on her own until the other Rangers can return from their Contractually-Obligated Adventures… and proceeds to not even appear on screen until the Zords are called to fight. Seriously, it’s somewhat odd, and feels like there’s a scene missing where Kimberly either tries to fight the monster from the ground or alone in her Firebird Thunderzord. Still, the Megazord fight isn’t without notoriety, as it’s one of the few primarily American-only battles… which explains why every single possible stock footage clip is used in the lead-up to it. Amy Jo Johnson doesn’t even physically appear after the promise that she’ll defend Earth until the others arrive, remaining suited, and Kimberly’s never even referenced in the final scenes.
Amy Jo Johnson may have only been on set for one day of filming in this three-parter, and yet it’s still one of the strongest character pieces in her limited time on set: sure, you’re bedridden with the flu, but you’ll go out and fight a monster one-on-one and, despite protestations from your boss, hold him off until your allies can arrive.
Sadly, one of Kimberly’s biggest roles would be her swan song for the series as a regular and as a Ranger. It’s rather impossible to pick one of these adventures over the other, given that this was the rare opportunity that the franchise gave for an ongoing plot line, especially this early. Over the course of this arc, the Rangers are introduced to an evil cat by Rita Repulsa that turns out to be a human, Katherine Hillard… or maybe she turned a human into an evil cat? It’s actually only made clear over flashbacks, and once it’s forgotten, nobody ever even brings up “that time the new Pink Ranger worked for evil as a cat.”
Still, that’s all about Katherine, not Kimberly. For the iconic Ranger, her leaving of the franchise was teased and stretched out over nearly a dozen episodes, unlike previous Rangers’ slow death-march towards abandoning the franchise and set. For Kimberly, you’re given a plot of inadequacy, of confusion of her role in the team and in the world at large. Should she have to give up on lifelong dreams to help save the world on a weekly basis, or can the team survive without her? To follow her dreams, she’ll have to leave her home of Angel Grove, which means straining–if not outright ending–her relationship with Tommy, the bad boy of the series that quickly became the lead of the team and the star of the franchise.
What resonates most about this storyline is that it actually worked for many of the fans, establishing aspects of life they may have had happen to them. It’s hard to emotionally connect to a story where your giant robots were destroyed by a skeleton in camouflage paint or a fish-man playing fish-nunchucks like a flute, but having to leave home for your dreams? Having to leave a love to pursue your own goals? Fearing that your friends may not get along without you, or worse, get along better without you?
Katherine was a great replacement for the character, occasionally tackling new plot points, such as being a foreigner in a foreign land, body-shaming, and being the only one in the entire Turbo movie to remember that, hey, we still had functional Zeo powers, but her entrance is completely overshadowed by the exit of the one that defined the role.
One aspect that helps understand these episodes is that Kimberly has not had a Power Coin for many episodes. While she can transform, it’s a draining experience that relies heavily on her body’s strength, and Rita having the Coin has been a major win for their side. Beyond Amy Jo Johnson’s likely desire to leave the series at this point, this was precipitated by the the fact that the Japanese series, Kakkuranger, didn’t have a Pink Ranger (for the most part, the adaptation split the female White Ranger’s powers/Zords between the Kim and Tommy). It leads to a lot of creative (pardon the pun) gymnastics to make the plot work with the changes, which is where Power Rangers strives in the face of Sentai adversity.
If you couldn’t tell by being The One Thing Kimberly Does, Kimberly’s all about gymnastics. When Gunthar Schmidt (“the famous gymnastics coach,” Tommy expositions) arrives in Angel Grove, offering Kim a chance to train her for the Not The Olympics Pan Global Games, on the requirement that nothing come between her and her training. Having discussed the possibility with her teammates, she’s encouraged to go full-forward, straight into a montage with Gunthar (who, since they were Detectives are something now, Bulk and Skull think is an international spy).
Naturally, Kimberly has to leave training to fight not once but twice, but quickly realizes she’s overworking herself. After a battle that doesn’t particularly go anywhere but drive Kim to the point of exhaustion, she arrives back at the gym/juice bar/one of three regular sets, and asks to train late and lock up.
Take a guess what happens? A teenager, not knowing her limits, trains overnight at a place with nobody else around, and naturally wrecks herself so bad that Kat (spying on Kim/having flashbacks to training for the Pan Global Games/flirting with a guy that turns into a horrifying bird man thing) has to break free of her spell and rush her to the hospital after a bad fall. Amy Jo Johnson has to get some recognition for, being such a good gymnast, portraying a “good gymnast who’s not doing well,” almost as if she’s some sort of… actress?
(For someone who “hit their head,” I question the fact that Kimberly’s allowed in a hospital bed with a ponytail hairband and no sort of actual head protection, but that’s a whole ‘nother deal.)
While the Rangers take care of a monster of the week, Katherine comes out to Kim about how she’s been a driving force on attacking them recently, including actively pushing Kim to her limits. At no point does Kim blame her for her actions (thanks, mind control magic!), and even equates it to what her boyfriend went through (Tommy, if you somehow missed the most-important event of 1993, was a bad guy that turned good). In a crisis of confidence, Kim gives up gymnastics up for committing to her Ranger duties. Before that plot point, the Rangers are confronted with an ultimatum: return Katherine to the forces of evil, or they’ll lose their ally Ninjor, who had been captured by the bad guys earlier this season. The Rangers are conflicted and go to Zordon for help, who effectively shrugs, telling them “you guys figure this one out; you’ve got the wisdom and the force that you’ve never seen before…”
Naturally, things work out for the best; Kat ends up in the grips of Rita, but she manages to steal the Pink Power Coin. Once she has it, Alpha 5 can teleport her back to the Command Center. With Kimberly re-powered and the villains defeated, Kimberly is granted with another pleasant surprise: Gunthar’s so amazed by Kimberly, he wants to invite her to his Florida facility to train her full-time for the gold medal. After talking it out with her team, she options to pass her powers to Katherine, give her her time of redemption, and continue on her own path.
Your sense of loyalty and responsibility speak well beyond your years. Although becoming a Power Ranger sometimes means you must make sacrifices, it was never my intention to deprive any of you a life experience such as this.
It wasn’t the first time a Power Ranger left the series, and it would not be the last. By Season 3 of the series, the producers were more capable of having long-running storylines, with most characteristics of the heroes having been settled early on. Having a storyline spread out over this many episodes was groundbreaking for the franchise, which mainly kept things contained to single-episode or multi-episode arcs, not having a running plot in the background over multiple arcs. Dedicating an ongoing plot to one Ranger that wasn’t the lead or extraneous Ranger still remains a rarity, with most stories being dedicated to the Red Ranger or the extra (and even at this point, Mighty Morphin’ was largely The Tommy Show).
Looking at the original cast of Rangers, it’s clear that Kimberly was a strong choice for her own miniseries. Zack and Trini’s time was all-too short, and Jason’s most unique plot line only comes from his return in Zeo. The most-likely choices for stories otherwise were Tommy (who’s popularity has made him the clear lead in the main book) and Billy, who, like Jason, really comes into his own in Zeo. Factor in a bit of girl-power good will, and Kimberly’s upcoming miniseries looks to be outstanding. She’s got a good history of being a hero, after all.