It's the first day of school in Reefside, and three students have already run afoul of the Sadist Teacher and are given detention. Thankfully, the new biology teacher doesn't want to be stuck with watching them, so he tells them that if they go out and bring back something prehistoric for his paleontology studies, he'll call it off. During their search, they stumble into a secret lab and decide to swipe some ancient-looking gemstones to fill the requirement.The good news here is that the gems were infused with energies from the impact that wiped out the dinosaurs, and have already "bonded" with the students, giving them superpowers. The bad news is that a saurian Mad Scientist wants their power to start a new age of dinosaurs and is coming after the kids. The really bad news is that the gems are Clingy Macguffins, and taking their power requires killing the current hosts.The really, reallygood news is that the new bio teacher is none other than Dr. Thomas "Tommy" Oliver, and he's had alittle experiencewith this kind of thing.Doug Sloan, Ann Austen, Jackie Marchand, and Jason David Frank all return in season 12 of Power Rangers, based on Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger. The dinosaur theme apparently made everyone nostalgic and as the season also boasted the 500th episode (a clipshow episode where the show recapped each incarnation of the franchise in a condense manner) and a rarity in the form of an episode of Abaranger, which was given a gag dub as far as being a show within a show.The series is generally considered to be one of the stronger seasons of the Disney Era, with fun, strong characters and a wonderful team dynamic between them. It was far from free of problems, though: due to contract issues, Jason David Frank only really appeared in half of the season, with the character spending most of the season frozen in amber or invisible/only visible in morphed form.But, Come on, everyone knows Tommy is the most morphinomenal Ranger EVER.(Offended Jason fans are invited to take this opportunity to rewatch Forever Red, and revel in his clearly-displayed badassitude).Also of note is that this is the secondPower Rangers season to only have one female Ranger. She more than made up for it, though, and appeared in the Milestone Celebration episode "Once A Ranger" as representative of this season.Succeeded by Power Rangers S.P.D.Has a character sheet.Dino Thunder was the last season of the Disney Era to have full team ups with the preceding and succeeding seasons.
Mecha Expansion Pack: The Parasaurzord, Cephalozord, Dimetrozord, and Ankylozord (the Stegozord is also an expansion for the Thundersaurus Megazord, but mostly used as a main component for the Dino Stegozord).
Law of Chromatic Superiority: The Red Ranger usually gets most of the cool toys, but Conner gets a power-up by taking power from the rest of the team (at least at first) to become the Triassic Ranger, and then the Triassic Ranger has its own Battlizer. Plus not only does his Tyrannozord form the bulk of the main Megazord, but his Triassic-mode "Mezodon" (Styracosaurus) zord forms a Megazord in itself.
Funnily enough, the one time an upgrade goes to someone else (Ethan's Hovercraft Cycle), you have Conner commenting that he wants one of those.
Limited Wardrobe: After Tommy gets the Black Ranger powers, he notes that he's going to have to go shopping for black clothing. It's the first acknowledgement of the Ranger tradition of color-coordinated civilian outfits and a massive Lampshade Hanging.
Interesting note: before this, we see him wearing nothing but BLACK. Also of note is that despite the themed coloring, there is variation in what outfits each ranger is wearing. Also, some of their friends like Haley utterly subvert this.
Dinosaurs Are Dragons: Trent's mecha is called the "Dragozord", despite clearly being a pterosaur (specifically, a tupuxuara).
Stock Dinosaurs: At least most actually were dinosaurs, unlike the last time... (note we said "most"; if you want to get technical the pterosaurs and dimetrodon aren't true dinosaurs. It's still better than a mastodon, pterodactyl, sabertooth tiger, and whatever the Dragonzord was supposed to be). The "stock" part is averted with the "Dragozord", which is a lesser-known pterosaur with a large head crest called a Tupuxuara.
Stock Footage: There are the usual issues in recycling footage from an entirely different show, but this season clashed with some intended story beats and forced the creators to find workarounds: the White Ranger Clone was created to keep in step with the fact that AbareKiller remained an enemy throughout Abaranger, and plans to make the Triassic Ranger a proper Sixth Ranger had to be scrapped because it clashed with AbareMax-as-powerup footage too much.
Plus little things left over from Abaranger being Japanese. In "Beneath the Surface", Conner tries to justify some especially Japanese-flavored footage with "It's attacking Little Tokyo!" "A Ranger Exclusive" has a TV station control room staffed by all Asian guys. And one use of the Triassic Dimension leaves a character plummeting to Earth - over Japan.
Adapted Out: The Raptor Riders weren't cut out of the show entirely like some Sentai elements have been, but they were upstaged only a few episodes after their introduction by the Raptor Cycles and only made a few minor appearances. The same goes for the Triptoids, who made a couple token appearances but were otherwise replaced by the Tyrannodrones.
Aliens in Cardiff: The location of the Abyss of Evil was revealed to be somewhere in western Fresno County in California (which is the perfect place to put a secret ninja academy).
All-Natural Gem Polish: Averted, at least somewhat. All the Dino Gems are brightly colored and not dirty at all, but only the White Gem that Mesogog specially prepared is cut. Tommy obviously never bothered with the ones he found.
Bowdlerise: Jason Frank wasn't allowed to use his trademark Kiai ("Aiyah! Si-aiyah!") because Disney was convinced he was swearing.
Boxing Kangaroo: The Cephalozord is used as a dinosaur version. It even gives the Megazord, more or less, a superpowered punch.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Lothor somehow has the means to do this to the Wind Rangers after he escapes from the Abyss.
This happens to Kira in "The Missing Bone", courtesy of a MOTW with mind control powers.
The finale reveals that Elsa was a case of this all along.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the end of one episode, Tommy thanks the Rangers for hanging in with him. Because of camera set up, he's looking directly down the camera while talking to them. His lines from memory:
Tommy: I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for hanging in there with me. I know it's been a while. It means a lot to me.
The Cast Showoff: Kira's band, the actress Emma Lahana is a singer with several albums.
Clip Show: Two: "Legacy of Power", the 500th episode that recapped every previous season; and "A Test of Trust", which recapped Trent's actions throughout the season.
Cool Teacher: They don't come any cooler than Tommy Oliver the previously Green, White, and twice Red Ranger who takes on the Black Dino Thunder Ranger this season. This is the man who, it has been noted, could now make an entire team of rangers just from past powers.
Continuity Nod: Tommy and Kira find a photograph of the original team. Kira laughs at his long hair.
Tommy's Dino Morpher works differently than the others. His is activated by inserting a key and turning it. You know, like the last one he used.
A subtle one to Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Zordon mentioned that two identical Pink Rangers at the same place and same time would be dangerous. When there are two White Rangers with exact same powers existing at the same time, it begins to make one breakdown completely, forcing a battle to the death between the two.
Contractual Genre Blindness: Tommy, for not suggesting that the Rangers check for somebody who has started wearing white once the White Ranger shows up. Especially bad considering his Lampshade Hanging earlier in the series.
Like Tommy though, Trent already wore a lot of his Ranger color before he ever became a Ranger.
Dark Secret: Trent, the White Drago Ranger, is the adoptive son of Anton Mercer, a.k.a. Mesogog.
Dating Service Disaster: "A Star Is Torn" sees Ethan sign up for a dating service site. To no troper's surprise, he's set up with Cassidy. What is surprising is that they go with it for the next few episodes, leading directly to her Character Development.
Death Glare: Tommy gives Trent one when the rest of the team finds out the above.
Evasive Fight Thread Episode: The first time the Dino team fights the brainwashed Wind Rangers, it's an aversion — the Dinos lose badly. The second time (unmorphed) is a little more even, and the other Ninja Storm Rangers interrupt before they can morph.
Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: As above, but also used literally as a plot point: Mesogog believes this to the point where his master plan is to turn the entire human population into dinosaurs.
Fantasy Helmet Enforcement: While the helmets on their suits don't count, safety helmets are used a lot to the point of Fridge Logic. There's one instance of a helmet appearing out of nowhere between shots, when Tommy has to drive a barely-conscious Elsa out of the area on an ATV. Earlier, Tommy also makes a point of fastening his seat belt before driving off even though the freaking Tyrannosaur chasing him seemed to be the greater safety hazard.
Lampshaded by the man himself: "Yeah, lock the door, Tommy. Real good."
Follow in My Footsteps: A point of contention between Dr. Mercer and Trent, as Mercer wants to groom Trent for the business world and thinks his drawing hobby and afterschool job at Hayley's are beneath him. In Mercer's defense, some of his lines suggest that he's preparing Trent to handle being on his own in case he loses his internal battle with Mesogog.
Gag Dub: "Lost and Found in Translation", obviously.
Gilligan Cut: Blake gets one in the second part of the Ninja Storm crossover when they return to the Abyss of Evil to get their Ranger powers back.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: Elsa has a scar running from her lower lip to the bottom of her chin, painted black with just-visible stitches. Ironically, it acts like a 'good' scar, staying hidden and not detracting from her looks, but denotes her as a villain. The marking disappears in her mid-season redesign.
Happily Adopted: Dr. Mercer took Trent in after his biological parents died at an archaeological dig. Their relationship may be strained most of the season, but Trent still has no problem calling him "Dad".
Improbable Age: In the beginning of the franchise, Tommy was a moderately good student grades-wise that was forgetful to the point that fans claim he has Swiss cheese for a brain. Come Dino Thunder, he's managed to get a PhD in six years or less, among other things (such as the whole "mad scientist, then got teaching license" thing, plus whatever he was doing during "Forever Red").
Leitmotif: The Brachiozord. Just... the Brachiozord.
Last Villain Stand: After his base is destroyed and his plan to transform everyone on the planet into reptilian creatures is foiled, Mesogog appears before the rangers for a final battle and uses the energy he absorbed from the Dino Gems to take on a One-Winged Angel form. It takes all the rangers' power to destroy him once and for all.
Let's You and Him Fight: With the Ninja Storm Rangers. For years this was the series's only teamup episode to do this, until the Red RPM and Samurai Rangers had a brawl.
Tommy is usually the culprit. He keeps Sentai logos and MMPR publicity pictures on file and before suiting up as the Black Brachio Ranger, the Rangers found him suspiciously familiar with how all this stuff works. He even said at one time "If there's something I've learnt by being a Power Ranger is that everything is possible."
The biggest gag is probably when the Power Trio spent all of "Lost And Found In Translation" watching a dubbed episode of Abaranger (bad Hong Kong translations and all!)
And Connor says his twin brother went to the Wind Ninja Academy. It was really funny in context.
Not Himself: All the teens have an attitude adjustment in "Leader of the Whack": Conner's the nerd and Ethan's the jock, Kira's a prissy girly-girl, Devin's a ladies' man and Cassidy's a Shrinking Violet.
Not Quite Dead: Mesogog shows up for one more fight at the end of the season, causing the Rangers to lose their powers.
Percussive Maintenance: Played with in "Legacy of Power", as Conner accidentally kicking the computer makes it look like it crashes at first, but ultimately seems to help. Then in "Game On", Conner being thrown into another computer serves to pull Ethan and Kira out of the game world they were trapped in.
Power Incontinence: Tommy gets encased in amber just as he's about to tell the others that Trent is the then-evil White Ranger. When the Rangers manage to free him, he's stuck in Ranger mode. Then when he gets out of that, he becomes invisible. Then he falls into a coma. Four Is Death, indeed (he finally gets better in "Fighting Spirit").
Put on a Bus: Zeltrax disappears and is presumed destroyed after a climactic battle with Tommy in "A Star Is Torn". He reappears in "The Passion of Conner" and "Isn't it Lava-ly", but as he's now gone rogue from Mesogog's forces he then lies low until the finale.
Readings Are Off the Scale: When Tommy first detects the White Dino Gem, he explains that his power readings were so high his equipment couldn't measure it.
Rival Turned Evil: Zeltrax is actually Tommy's old colleague/friend Smitty, who is never mentioned until the episode where Zeltrax is unmasked).
Role Reprisal: To start, Jason David Frank reprised his role of Tommy, and later, with the resumption of teamups, Pua Magasiva, Sally Martin, Glenn McMillan, Adam Tuominen, Jorgito Vargas Jr., Jason Chan, Katrina Browne, Katrina Devine and Grant Mc Farland all reprising their roles from Ninja Storm.
The Dino Thunder logo, designed by Tommy, is presumably awfully similar to a certain Dragonzord symbol that he once wore...
Dragon War, a card game that uses many similarities to both "War" and Yu-Gi-Oh!. Two notable ones are the Magic Arrow card, and the Ruby Dragon card. The former looks quite a lot like the Living Arrow card. The latter is the most powerful card, and happens to have the same coloring as Osiris/Slifer, one of the Egyptian God Cards (and just as powerful).
Something Completely Different: Rather than adapting an Abaranger episode, "Lost And Found In Translation" is an Abaranger episode, with the U.S. Rangers as a framing device (they even use snippets of the Abaranger theme in the background!).
Strapped to an Operating Table: Tommy in "Legacy of Power". Kira in the premiere. Trent, too, and even to himself (well actually, Anton Mercer) at one point. Don't forget Elsa in the finale. Mesogog really likes doing this to people.
Stupid Sacrifice: Sacrificing the Zords at the end of the season when there were still more options.
Such A Lovely Noun: Trent to Elsa in "House of Cards" after she blew her cover. She throws the fact that the other Rangers don't know that Mesogog is Anton right back at him.
Suspiciously Apropos Music: Pay attention to the end of "Beneath The Surface", just after Principal Randall shoots down Tommy's advances - you can hear the opening bars of "Where Is The Love" by the Black Eyed Peas in the background.
Technicolor Science: Mesogog's lab has entire racks of specimen jars with brightly colored fluids.
They Would Cut You Up: Before the kids learn just who Tommy is, this is the reason Ethan gives to Kira for keeping the gems a secret. Guys with super-powers often end up in labs with wires sticking out of their heads. Conner adds that even he knows that one.
Two-Teacher School: More like two teacher city. When one of the teachers was incapacitated, they had to hire a local millionaire scientist to teach his science class, rather than an, I dunno, substitute teacher or something.
Well, a lot of that was probably Randall's doing in favoring Mesogog's alter ego, but the point does still stand. Perhaps Anton was doing it on a discount For Science!.
Widget Series: When Hayley gets a satellite TV installed in the cafe, what is the first thing the three Rangers watch? Abaranger
"World of Cardboard" Speech: In "Fighting Spirit", Tommy underwent a dream sequence where he had to fight prior Ranger incarnations of himself. It was apparently a lesson that his true power was never with the Power Coins, Zeo Crystal or even the Dino Gems, but it was his will to survive. Of course, being Power Rangers, this metaphorical power allowed him to unlock his Super Dino Mode.
Written-In Infirmity: Jason David Frank couldn't be on set for the full season, so they worked around it by first "fossilizing" Dr. O in amber (at the end of "White Thunder, pt. 3"), then keeping him stuck in his Ranger suit (at the end of "Leader of the Whack", for 10 episodes), then turning him invisible (in "Disappearing Act") - for a total of 13 episodes (he came back in "Fighting Spirit").
You Look Familiar: Katrina Devine, who was Marah in Ninja Storm and Cassidy in Dino Thunder. Lampshaded in the crossover:
Both: That girl was so stunning! But I am so much prettier!
James Napier as Conner in Dino Thunder and wannabe ninja Eric in the finale of Ninja Storm. Lampshaded in "Legacy of Power", when Conner is the one who initially brings up Ninja Storm, and explains that he has a twin brother who briefly enrolled at the Wind Ninja Academy before dropping out. Strangely, the Ninja Rangers don't spot the resemblance.