If you were a kid who grew up in the ’90s, or even in the early 2000s, you probably watched reruns or VHS tapes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. This high-energy kids series united a group of “teenagers with attitude” (as if there were any other kind) to fight against alien invaders, otherworldly monsters, and intergalactic demons who threatened to destroy our world. More than anything, it was a fever dream for kids that only heightened their desires for their own Megazord or Morpher so that they too could battle evil. Everyone wanted to be a Power Ranger, especially after the introduction of the original Green Ranger.
Played by Jason David FrankTommy Oliver had a complicated Power Rangers history, one that ultimately led to him becoming a recurring fan-favorite who somehow stuck with the franchise through countless buyouts, reboots, and incarnations. Tragically, Frank died this November, but although the Mighty Morphin star is gone, the Power Rangers legacy of Tommy Oliver still remains. Frank himself was a constant advocate for the character and starred as Tommy in four different incarnations of Power Rangers as well as the out-of-continuity Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. Including his guest appearances on others Power Rangers seasons (most notably his final appearance in 2018’s Power Rangers Super Ninja Storm), Frank appeared in over 200 episodes as Tommy Oliver, a character who never quit and always gave his all.
Of all the characters to frequent the world of Power Rangers, none are more developed than Tommy. Not only did he star in multiple seasons and incarnations of the hit show, but he’s the only Ranger to change his color scheme four different times throughout his character’s run. Beyond that, Tommy’s resilience, his fighting skills, and his character have made the original Green Ranger a larger-than-life hero. To this day, fans all over the world still consider Jason David Frank’s Tommy the greatest Ranger (a title he often shares with Austin St. John‘s Jason Lee Scott, the original Mighty Morphin Red Ranger), which has kept Tommy in the Power Rangers spotlight for nearly three decades..
Beginning in the five-part “Green With Evil” arc in the first season of Mighty Morphin Power RangersTommy Oliver was abducted by the villainous Rita Repulsa (Machiko Soga) with the sole intention of using the teen to infiltrate the Power Ranger’s secret base and destroy the source of their power. As the villainous Green Ranger, a brainwashed Tommy was given the powers of the Dragonzord (not to mention his magical flute), and used his newfound abilities to destroy the Power Ranger’s Dinozords and attack their Command Center. That’s right, Tommy single-handedly defeated the original and most iconic team of Power Rangers in his first appearance, and that’s a big deal.
Of course, the Rangers broke Rita’s hold over Tommy, revealed their identities to him, and recruited him to fight back against the one who enslaved him in the first place. Although he didn’t feel worthy, Tommy eventually earned the trust of the other Rangers and their leader/mentor Zordon. Over the next season and a half, Tommy would fight alongside the others as a heroic Green Ranger, and while the original Mighty Morphin Power Ranger series itself only touched on Tommy’s struggles with being brainwashed, the critically acclaimed BOOM! Studios comic books (namely their Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series) dive even deeper into Tommy’s struggles with self-doubt and how he overcame them.
Sadly, Tommy’s time as the Mighty Morphin Green Ranger would eventually come to an end. Although there were a few moments where Tommy feared that he’d lose his Green Ranger powers for good, he eventually did after the evil Lord Zedd used the Green Crystal to drain him of his powers. Sadly, the villain’s plot worked, and Tommy lost his Green Ranger powers. But, Zordon and Alpha 5 had a plan to restore Tommy as a Power Ranger…
Becoming A Leader
As Zordon and Alpha 5 developed a new set of powers for Tommy, abilities that would come from the incorruptible White Light of Good, Tommy returned to Angel Grove to reunite with his friends. Becoming the new Mighty Morphin White Ranger, Tommy was chosen by Zordon to be the new leader of the Power Rangers. For the next nearly two years, Tommy led the Power Rangers in his White Ranger identity, fighting hard against Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd, and other villains who continued to arrive in Angel Grove.
Yet, after Rita’s father Master Vile arrived and de-aged the Rangers back into children, they were forced to find remnants of the fractured Zeo Crystal that would restore their power. Once they did, a new series — Power Rangers Zeo — was born, which saw Tommy take on the role of the Zeo Ranger V aka the Red Zeo Ranger. Continuing to lead the Power Rangers against villains such as the Machine Empire (who would also attempt to brainwash our hero), Tommy only grew into a more confident and willing leader. No doubt, Jason David Frank’s cool aesthetic, handsome features, and genuine karate abilities (he ran his own dojo for crying out loud) only helped make Tommy a more exciting character week in and week out.
After Zeothe Power Rangers were relaunched yet again with Turbo: The Power Rangers Moviean in-continuity feature film that kickstarted the racing-themed Power Rangers Turbo series. Tommy continued his role as the team’s leader yet again as the Red Turbo Ranger as his team faced new enemies and familiar challenges. Naturally, Tommy’s leadership skills only excelled, but they weren’t bound to last.
Passing The Torch
All good things must come to an end, and that was certainly true with Tommy’s original tenure on Power Rangers. After playing a Power Ranger for five seasons, Jason David Frank (and many of the other recurring Rangers who had been around since the Mighty Morphin days) left the series about halfway through Power Rangers Turbo. Tommy handed his Red Turbo Ranger alter-ego over to TJ Johnson (Selwyn Ward), who would continue with the series through the next epic incarnation Power Rangers In Space, and set off to enjoy a post-Ranger life. But, although Tommy left the show, he didn’t completely leave his duty as a Power Ranger behind.
In the Power Rangers Wild Force episode “Forever Red,” which reunited the majority of the Red Rangers from every previous one Power Rangers incarnation, Tommy returned as the Red Zeo Ranger to lead both the Wild Force Rangers and the old Red Rangers against the Machine Empire, who had returned after years of rebuilding post-Power Rangers Zeo. Known at this point as “the greatest Ranger ever,” Tommy was a legend in the eyes of the young Wild Force Ranger, although the Red Zeo Ranger made it clear that his time in the spotlight was over.
Although Jason David Frank had left his role as a Power Ranger behind, he was still considered by fans to be the pinnacle of the series. The character with the most love behind him, Tommy Oliver was a Power Ranger who could never be fully replaced, and “Forever Red” served as a stark reminder of that. Around this time, Saban sold the rights to Power Rangers, which were acquired by the Walt Disney Company. Under Disney, Tommy would return once more, but this time in a different role than we’d ever seen him before.
A Mentor For A New Generation
In Power Rangers Dino Thunderwe learn that Tommy Oliver is actually Dr. Tommy Oliver now, with a Ph.D. in paleontology from MIT That’s right, after leaving the Rangers, Tommy got himself a college education, and used it to develop new dinosaur-based weaponry, which would eventually be used by his former friend-turned-enemy Mesogog. Ashamed of what he’d helped create, Tommy worked on the Dino Morphers, which would soon be found by three of his Reefside High students, Connor McKnight (James Napier), Ethan James (Kevin Duhaney), and Kira Ford (Emma Lahana).
Tommy would soon recruit these three as the new Dino Rangers, with McKnight serving as the Red Dino Ranger, James as the Blue Dino Ranger, and Ford as the Yellow Dino Ranger. Mentoring these new heroes, Tommy would guide them as they battled Mesogog’s forces, that is until he became a Ranger yet again. This time, Tommy took on the Black Dino Ranger powers, which allowed him to become invisible, alongside his other Power Ranger abilities. With his new Dino Thunder team, Tommy faced his own demons — including past versions of himself in the fan-favorite episode “Fighting Spirit.”
After finally defeating Mesogog, Tommy returned to his average life as a high school science teacher, hoping to escape the superhero business for good. But, with a moniker like “the greatest Ranger ever,” it seems almost impossible to escape being a Power Ranger. Dino Thunder marked the final season that Jason David Frank would star in as Tommy Oliver, and though the character would make an appearance in the following season Power Rangers SPDit would be without Frank behind the Black Dino Ranger mask.
The Legend Continues
Since Dino ThunderFrank continued to return as Tommy Oliver in different Power Rangers storylines, such as the web-based RPG Power Rangers Hyperforce, where he returned as the Black Dino Ranger. For the 20th anniversary of Power Rangers (owned once again by Saban), Frank returned as Tommy once more in the Power Rangers Super Megaforce special “Legendary Battle,” where he showed off his original Mighty Morphin White Ranger sword Saba and his original Green Ranger uniform and powers to help the Megaforce Rangers in their war with the Armada.
In 2018, for the 25th anniversary of the franchise (which is currently owned by Hasbro), it was revealed that Tommy now owns a Master Morpher, which allows him to switch between all five of his previous powers and Ranger identities, including the original Mighty Morphin Green Ranger. In Jason David Frank’s final live-action appearance as the character, the Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel episode “Dimensions in Danger” brought Tommy back with a host of other Rangers to keep the multiverse from being destroyed. And, in true Tommy fashion, it also meant that he needed to face off against an evil version of himself, one last time.
Outside of Power Rangers continuity, Jason David Frank made an effort to return to the character quite often. Be it his duels against Mortal Kombat now Street Fighter characters in the online web series Super Power Beat Down, or as the evil Lord Drakkon (a villainous version of Tommy from an alternate world) in the trailer for the “Shattered Grid” event within BOOM! Studios’ Power Rangers comics, Frank always knew how to keep Tommy in the game. In fact, the very last Tommy Oliver story, a comic book written by Kyle Higgins entitled Power Rangers: Soul of the Dragonwas created in part by Jason David Frank himself, who desired to tell an “Old Man Logan”-style final tale for the world’s greatest Power Ranger.
Whether you loved Tommy as a kid or if you’ve followed this character throughout the past nearly 30 years, there’s no doubt that his legacy is both notable and impressive when the entire history of Power Rangers is considered. Not only did Tommy inspire countless children over the course of his time with the series, but he’s sparked a whole host of material including action figures, comic books, video games, and Jason David Frank’s final film, the Power Rangers– inspired Legend of the White Dragon.
No matter if you haven’t watched Power Rangers in ages, or if you’re still a die-hard fan, the truth remains that there was something unique and special about Jason David Frank’s Tommy Oliver. With a vastly colorful history like this, there’s absolutely no doubt that he was the greatest Power Ranger of them all.