Shortly after the 80s version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ended its nine-year run, the producers of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers created a live action series called Saban’s Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1997-1998). This series goes in yet another direction.
Originally Leo, Raph, Don, and Mikey are labeled to be 15 years old. Now the four of them are almost 18 and find out that there was a fifth mutant turtle, who is a female. A long time ago, after the five turtles were oozed, the female turtle got separated from the others. Luckily Shinobi master Chung-I (Chang Tseng) had found her. He named the turtle Mai Pai Chi and trained her in martial arts as Splinter had trained the other turtles.
The Shredder (Patrick Pon) is the turtles’ archenemy. However, he’s not featured as a reoccurring nemesis this time. The Shredder and the Foot Clan were completely defeated within the first two episodes. I guess that was meant to leave room for another major enemy, the Dragon Lord. The Dragon Lord and his dragon ninjas escape from a dreamscape realm and kill Chung-I. That’s why Mai Pai Chi joined up with the turtles and was renamed Venus. The turtles do get along with Venus, but because her martial arts discipline is different it tends to cause friction at times. Usually when it comes to how things are done.
Other new reoccurring archenemies include Dr. Cornelious Quease (Simon Webb) the mad scientist, Silver the mutant ape that is a mob boss, and Simon Bonesteel the loony hunter. The turtles like to call him Bonehead.
Voice actor Scott McNeil, who I met at BotCon 2010, plays Bonesteel. At his Q&A, Scott mentioned that if Bonesteel had been an animated character he would definitely be all for it because it’s much easier than having to come on set seven days a week.
Like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, much of the footage is reused, but with different audio. I don’t see the purpose of that. The most common is that whenever the turtles go out, Raph is always on his motorcycle and the others take the turtle van with Splinter telling them to be one with the night. Of course they never listen. What I remember best from the repeated footage of the streets of New York is the billboard for the Batman and Robin movie right above the police station. Man, that was a good film.
I like that the battle scenes use comedic dialogue like on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, but it tends to be overdone sometimes, along with the constant childish sound effects. It makes the show less edgy and exciting.
Ninja Turtles: the Next Mutation was a good series, but it could’ve done better. This is the first time that neither April O’Neil or Casey Jones were featured at all, which is a bit strange. Bottom line, I don’t know if this was a desperate attempt to keep the franchise alive or not, but you’ve got to give them credit.