Power Rangers has always been a bright beacon of diversity when it came to superhero TV shows. Ok, so casting a Black-American person to wear the Black costume and an Asian-American person to wear yellow may have been an oversight. However, we still had a multicultural team of teens beating gray goons like bongo drums every Saturday morning. But there’s one aspect of the show that always bothered me.
The sixth ranger (or “other” or extra ranger) is a trope every Power Ranger fan is familiar with: The flashy new hero that shows up about 10 episodes into the season to mix things up. They’re given a legendary introduction, with a super dramatic backstory to rope kids in and have them begging their parents to buy the toy. From the main villain creating their own evil ranger, to being cryogenically frozen in the back of a spaceship for years after falling in battle, to being kidnapped by the villain as a child and brainwashed into thinking his father let him die (Lightspeed Rescue was wild), It was always a special honor to be bestowed the title as the Sixth Ranger.
So why has the role never gone to a Black person?
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Black people in any color costume. When the casting news drops every year, it’s the first thing I look for. But to be perfectly honest, If the Black cast member doesn’t get to be the leader of the team that year, they usually don’t get a full character arc by the time the last episode rolls around.
Nakia Burrise, the Black actress that played Tanya Sloan in Power Rangers Zeo and Turbo has said in interviews that while being on the show was an inspiration to Black girls nationwide and beyond, she was relegated to a bit of a “yes man” position on the show where she basically just did whatever the leader said that episode.
Even TJ, who became the first ever Black leader as the Red Turbo Ranger, got kicked back to side character duty when he became the Blue Ranger during the following season on Power Rangers In Space. The next two seasons would have the sole Black characters in the show Reggie Rolle as Damon in Lost Galaxy and Keith Robinson as Joel in Lightspeed Rescue as the green rangers, a role that is often used as the comic relief character. Now Joel definitely had flair; he was a pilot (he referred to himself as the Space Cowboy) and a ladies man who eventually marries Ms. Fairweather, their weapons technician. Joel definitely radiated Sixth Ranger energy, but didn’t get nearly enough time to really shine.
Brandon Jay McLearen, the Black leader of the Power Rangers SPD team, got a full story as a street runner who stole from the rich and gave to the poor before joining SPD as a means of helping his community at a larger scale. He would constantly clash with the Sky, the Blue Ranger, because he felt like he deserved the position as leader more than him because he’d been training for it much longer. But over the course of the season, Jack fought through his personal hangups and earned the respect of all his teammates. At the end of the season, he chooses to leave the team to join a non-profit type organization that directly helped the homeless, something he was doing at the beginning of the season. His character came full circle, and it was exciting to see a Black character with so much agency in his role. And they even let him rock some dope ass dreadlocks.
Every season there are two rangers that always have their stories prioritized over everyone else: the red ranger, the leader, and the sixth or “other” ranger, who assumes first or second in command as soon as they step on the scene. Tommy acted as second in command as the Green Ranger until he lost his powers, but when he came back in “White Light,” Zordon didn’t hesitate to give him the corner office on the top floor. The sixth ranger gets to rock some of the dopest weapons and vehicles. Eric, the Time Force Quantum Ranger got a dinosaur shaped blaster that doubled as a sword that cryogenically froze its victims. Eric also got the QRex, a giant red and black dinosaur robot sent from the future that could transform into a Rocket launching Megazord all its own. He definitely deserved it. Watching the show as an adult, it hits a lot harder seeing a character of color born into a working class home that had to deal with a rich white friend who couldn’t possibly understand his struggle seize the Quantum power as his own in order to change his life trajectory.
Stories like this are why I would love to see a Black Sixth Ranger. Their origins are always legendary. Their first appearances are iconic. And having a character of color as the extra hero that comes to the rescue of the main heroes adds some extra flavor to the show. They wouldn’t just be a member of the team, they’d be the leaders of the team. Now we’ve already been blessed this year, as it has been officially announced that Black and Asian actor Russell Curry has been tapped to play the role of Zayto, the Red Dino Fury Ranger, but is has been rumored that another Black actor may play the role of the Gold Ranger. I just have my fingers crossed that this is true so when he finally drops on screen I can immediately replace his first appearance music with Trinidad James’ “All Gold Everything.”
A manchild can dream.