ComicsAlliance Reviews the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Christmas Episode
Chris: Hello, everybody! Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been taking a look at the Japanese Spider-Man show, but in this special holiday season, we thought it might be fun to fast forward a bit.
Caleb: Into the future!
Chris: That’s why today, we’re skipping ahead to 1995, and a Very Special Christmas Episode… of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.Caleb: In a season full of holiday specials, this one is the most morphenomenal by far.
Chris: Normally, this is the part of the column where I’d launch into a bit about the background of the show with “In case you’re not familiar with it,” but I don’t think that’s encessary. I honestly can’t imagine anyone who was a kid from the early ’90s to today who doesn’t already know exactly who these guys are and what their deal is. I mean, I was 11 when this show started, and I was completely obsessed with it for a couple years. But you, Caleb…
Caleb: I can’t let go. I may have a problem.
Chris: Did you watch it as a kid, or is this like how I got super into Jem at the age of 29?
Caleb: It’s weird, I watched maybe every series through my elementary school years, and some episodes off and on through ninth grade. Then, around the time my skin cleared up and I could grow awesome sideburns, I gave the series a break for some reason for a few years.
Chris: “For some reason.”
Caleb: Saying “chasing babes” sounds so shallow, Chris. Crap, I guess I just said it. Anyway, one day in college I caught a few eps from new series and my obsession began anew. I started catching up on everything I’d missed and I kind of just stayed with both the sentai and Power Rangers shows since and expanded into various Kamen Rider series.
Chris: For me, it was one of the many bright-but-brief obsessions that I had as a kid. That said, I’ve gone back and watched a few since the entire series is on Netflix Instant, and this is far and away my favorite episode of the series.
Caleb: I don’t disagree, although when people ask me what my favorite episode is, I usually just say, “All of them.”
Chris: It seems completely bizarre for a number of reasons, but mostly because there’s a maguffin that keeps the characters from turning into the Power Rangers or summoning their giant robots. It’s definitely unique in that it does away with what, when you think about it, is the entire purpose of the show, and that makes for a nice surprise. It’s fun to see the cast for more than five minutes at a time, and instead of just hammering a particular monster into a framework, they actually get to build a story. Well… sort of, anyway.
Caleb: What’s always impressed me about MMPR and subsequent series is that the writers are mostly just problem solvers and have to figure out what to do with seemingly random footage and situations in a way that makes sense. This episode does a really good — if, seriously corny — job of filling in a complete and utter Christmas gap and actually building characterization (as such as it is in this show) for these “teens with attitude.”
Chris: We may be dragging out this intro too long, but man, that whole “Teenagers With Attitude!” thing has always been hilarious to me. How much attitude do these kids really have when they are volunteering at their local youth center all the time?
Caleb: In this episode, particularly, they have the best attitudes of any teen in the history of teendom.
Chris: And with that, Caleb, let’s get started with today’s selection, the amazingly titled “I’m Dreaming of a White Ranger!”
Caleb: IT’S CHRISTMAS/HANUKKAH TIME!
Chris: Before we even get to the episode itself, this one kicks off with the still-pretty-awesome guitar-heavy theme song. Like I said, this was after my time as a Power Rangers fan, so I’d completely missed out on these new characters.
Caleb: It’s the best Holiday song, ever, really.
Chris: I’m not going to lie: It’s probably one of the five best songs to only use six different words.
Caleb: “Got My Mind Set on You” is my #2.
Chris: So, since you’re the expert, is there anything we need to know going in about why they’re all wearing weird, creepy Cobra Commander hoods?
Caleb: Those costumes kind of served as weird filler and were a holdover from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, which introduced elements of Ninja Sentai Kakuranger into the series, since MMPR basically tossed a handful of different Sentai shows into a blender and fit them all into one continuity.
Chris: We can both agree that this show would be a million times better if Zordon was Destro though, right?
Caleb: Of course. You realize you’d have to change your increasingly creepy Twitter avatar if that were the case, though, right?
Chris: Never. So as the episode begins, the Power Rangers are hanging out in their civilian identities in the Angel Grove Youth Center and Juice Bar, presumably because it is one of three locations that exists in the world of the show. They’re gearing up for a holiday celebration, as evidenced by the fact that Aisha, the Yellow Ranger, is conducting a chorus of children in hilarious Christmas sweaters.
Caleb: They’re pretty good, too. Except for that sad girl. She’s really lousing up the place.
Chris: That’s right: One girl is not merry at all, even when Tommy and his magnificent hair offer to let her put the star on top of the Youth Center’s tree.
Caleb: I wish Tommy would let ME put the star on the tree…
Chris: Quick question: Does your love of the Power Rangers extend to following Tommy’s current career as a Mixed Martial Arts cage-fighter?
Caleb: Absolutely. It’d be awesome to fly out to his gym sometime.
Chris: You do know that he doesn’t win matches by summoning a giant robot dinosaur, right? That’s really what’s keeping me from getting into MMA.
Caleb: …what? I-I don’t even know what to believe anymore.
Chris: Afraid so. But anyway, the little girl is sad because he father has to work on Christmas Eve, and won’t be able to attend the concert. And just in case that wasn’t enough pathos for you, Kimberly (the Pink Ranger) is also sad about her family, which we know because someone actually wrote the line “I’m really sad” and had her deliver it to another character. Subtlety is not this show’s strong point.
Caleb: Chris, your family isn’t in Paris this year, right? You going to be okay, man?
Chris: Yes, the reason Kimberly’s sad is because this is her first Christmas without her mother, and up until the end of this episode, I was absolutely convinced that there had been one where sh*t got real and Rita and Lord Zedd killed Kimberly’s mom. But as it turns out, she’s just off on vacation or something.
Caleb: The Power Rangers have the most boring families ever, which I love. Like, they may as well not exist.
Chris: We also get an appearance by my favorite cast members, Bulk and Skull, who I guess are policemen now?
Caleb: Yeah, junior cops. Just as Spider-Man inspired Flash Thompson to become a soldier, the Rangers inspired Bulk and Skull to be police. They’re still kind of jerks, though, trying to smooch Kimberz beneath the mistletoe. Tommy shows remarkable restraint by not clobbering them, which is why he’s such a hero.
Chris: But that’s not being a jerk, Caleb. That’s the actual thing you’re supposed to do underneath the mistletoe! At the very least, it’s nowhere near the level of the diabolical plan we see once we cut to the bad guys:
Chris: You know, I’d forgotten how actually frightening Lord Zedd looks, especially when you see him next to the other characters on this show. I mean, Rita and her henchmen look goofy at best — she’s got the makeup and the crazy hair and her boys include a talking monkey with a monocle — but Zedd? Zedd is a skinless horror with an exposed brain. That’s pretty scary.
Caleb: Yeah, he’s basically Freddy Krueger-meets-Shredder with a cool staff.
Chris: And speaking of scary bad guys, one of Zedd’s henchmen is this dude who is very clearly the skeleton of a soldier, with half of his body painted camouflage and the other just plain bone.
Caleb: He’s Rita’s brother, Rito!
Chris: I had never seen this dude before, but he looks like he should be on an Iron Maiden album cover, or a political cartoon about the horrors of war. It’s a pretty big step up from, say, Finster, who looked like a muppet shoe-maker.
Caleb: He’s the perfect guy to kidnap Santa and enslave elves, if you ask me.
Chris: Right. Zedd announces that he hates Christmas for no other reason than that he’s a villain, and so he’s going to take over Santa’s workshop. Because, you know, why not? If fighting teens isn’t getting things done, maybe try beating up the elderly and see how that works out for you.
Caleb: I love that he just kind of pulls out this total MacGuffin — a hypnotism toy that will make all the world’s children obey him — for the elves to build and for… Santa to distribute on Christmas? They kind of gloss over who will be delivering these things with Santa out of the picture.
Chris: I think the plan is to hold the elves hostage and force Santa to do the delivering, which is still a pretty terrible idea.
Caleb: It’s kind of like the bad guys on this show stop planning ahead after awhile because they’re so used to losing.
Chris: To that end, after we get a bit more of Sad Little Girl being completely unenthused about singing Hanukkah songs, Rito shows up at the North Pole to harass Santa and his #1 Elf, who has the most annoying overdubbed voice ever. And in a show with Alpha 5, that’s saying something.
Chris: Fortunately, Zordon is on top of the whole North Pole situation, for reasons that are never discussed. Does Santa Claus have a silent alarm that goes straight to the Power Rangers Command Center? Because that would be pretty awesome, like how Santa used to have a radio that went directly to Golden Age Superman.
Caleb: If you can dream it, Santa can do it!
Chris: So Zordon calls all the Power Rangers to the Command Center and… Can we just talk for a minute about how awful Zordon is?
Caleb: He’s the worst.
Chris: THE WORST.
Caleb: Not just from an aesthetic standpoint. He’s basically omniscient and still sends a bunch of child soldiers on potentially deadly missions. I’m pretty sure he could just get a cloudy Game Boy in that tube of his and use it to control the Megazord on a suicide mission to Rita and Zed’s moon base. Boom! Problem solved.
Chris: I’m more concerned with the fact that he never sounds like he’s not reading his lines off a piece of paper while seeing them for the first time. And also the fact that he is an intergalactic space wizard who can’t stop slipping into his Southern accent when he says things like “Command Center.” Or “Commayund Center,” as the case may be.
Caleb: I believe the voice of Zordon is done by, like, whoever was around that day.
Chris: Like, originally or every time they shot an episode?
Caleb: I think it just goes in spurts. IMDB lists three dudes. Also, don’t forget, his full name is Zordonicus.
Chris: Well, whoever it is in that dumb tube tells the Power Rangers about the takeover at the North Pole and that they have to save Santa. The catch: because of “a combination of the North Pole’s unique polarity and a cross-current of holiday magic,” their powers won’t work and they’ll have to settle things the old fashioned way. I. Love. This.
Caleb: In my opinion, Tommy could still have taken them head-on and won solo. But that wouldn’t be good TV, would it?
Chris: You’d think Rita and Zedd would just send down one of their giant monsters and have it stomp on the Power Rangers until they were a thin red paste with attitude, but, well, they never have been all that bright. Seriously, though, I love this, especially Tommy’s emphatic “that’s a risk we’ll have to take — Santa’s way too important!” Also, the fact that a bunch of people dressed for “winter” in Southern California just zap on up to the North Pole with no problems at all.
Chris: I think Aisha takes the time to put on a sweatshirt.
Caleb: Their sweaters are enough to keep them from dying. It’s a cold, but magical place.
Chris: The Powerless Rangers sneak up to Santa’s workshop — and by that I mean that they casually saunter up while talking amongst themselves — and Tommy peeks in to see Santa being bondaged and menaced by a Nerf bat, courtesy of Rito.
Chris: The Rangers are outnumbered and the bad guys have Santa and the elves held hostage, so clearly, it’s time for a clever plan!
Caleb: Remember kids, fighting is always a last resort. Or as the TMNT said in 2003, “Never fight unless / Someone else starts.”
Chris: A last resort that you will be forced to turn to on a weekly basis.
Caleb: Seriously, quit school and start training at your local dojo today. You aren’t going to learn any clever plans, just social studies.
Chris: After sneaking in to confer with the #1 Elf and her awful voice, the Rangers enact their clever plan, which is, and I am not kidding, walking into the workshop and telling Rito to come outside.
Caleb: But wait, there’s more!
Chris: Once Rito’s outside, he quickly discovers that the cross-current of Holiday Magic is also putting the kibosh on his powers, because, as Billy says “This is a place where only Good can win!” With that established, they launch into Phase 2: SNOWBALL FIGHT!
Caleb: This unusually long-range attack might seem super wimpy, but remember, this is magical snow. I imagine it feels like getting hit by a clump of dead pixies.
Chris: It’s also worth noting that while everyone else looks like they’re having fun with it, Tommy is insanely focused. He looks like he’s trying to murder someone, and I truly believe that, if he chose to do so, he could throw a snowball through a human body with very little trouble.
Caleb: Not just a human body — a skeleton body!
Chris: After a few volleys, the bad guys basically say f*** it and go back inside, only to find that in their absence, the elven proletariat has geared up for revolution! Seize the means of production, Crumpet!
Caleb: If you get frustrated trying to untie a bow on a Christmas present this year, don’t feel lame. The sh*t they use at the North Pole is monster-slaying strength.
Chris: Thus, Santa’s Workshop is liberated.
Chris: But for some reason, instead of keeping Goldar and Rito as their prisoners, they send them back up to moon. Which… I mean, I guess it’s part of the Christmas spirit and all, but they do realize that these guys try to kill them every Saturday, right?
Caleb: I’d like to think it’s more of a threat. “See how bad we f***ed these a-holes up with just snowballs and ribbon? What of it?”
Chris: #1 Elf tells Santa that the invasion from the bad guys has put them way behind schedule and that they’ll need a miracle to get things done in time, so Santa Claus quotes Alan Rickman’s character from Die Hard on an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and we all try to figure out whether we were dreaming or not when that happened. As it turns out, the “miracle” they needed was to have six teenagers show up and help out for an hour.
Caleb: It’s basically the difference between bagging groceries yourself and having a 15-year-old kid working for tips do it.
Chris: And so, generally speaking, Christmas has been saved. But there’s still one Christmas in particular that’s having trouble: Sad Little Girl back in Angel Grove, who doesn’t want to sing about Hanukkah if her dad’s not there to see her.
Caleb: The first time I saw this episode, I was seriously hoping Santa would drop him off, but the next best thing happens, and the dude shows up!
Chris: I love that he just shows up out of nowhere, apparently having decided that he shouldn’t be working on Christmas Eve when he could be spending time with his daughter. My theory is that he had his own It’s a Wonderful Life / Christmas Carol type adventure that we just never saw.
Caleb: There’s also the distinct possibility that she mopes around like that ALL THE TIME and he’s really just “working late” by drinking away his sorrows at the local bar. Could you blame him? Mopey kids in Angel Grove must be especially bothersome.
Chris: What do they have to be mopey about? They have a Youth Center with its own juice bar, free karate lessons, and comic relief delinquent junior cops! They even have their own fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt! Seriously, if you have to be an underprivileged child, Angel Grove is the place to do it.
Caleb: Not to mention… actual Santa toys from the North Pole on delivery from (secret) Power Rangers. It’s like your dream Christmas. AND mine!
Chris: As established right here on ComicsAlliance last year, my dream Christmas is that Batman plays Tonka Trucks with me on Christmas Morning. Has been for almost thirty years. The point is, Sad Little Girl is now Happy Little Girl, and the change is contagious: Bulk sees what Christmas is all about and cheers up, Kimberly and Tommy finally get their kiss under the mistletoe, and then her mom and her French boyfriend (?!) and his hilarious turtleneck show up out of nowhere.
Caleb: “We decided we give a sh*t about you, sweetie!”
Chris: There’s even a gift exchange on the moon between Goldar and Rito. It’s all very nice, even though we don’t see what’s actually in the box. I guess it could be something horrible. “I eviscerated that elf who humiliated us! I kept her tiny skull for you!”
Caleb: All elegant possibilities. I just love Zedd saying he’s got the “willies.”
Chris: And with one final fourth-wall breaking “Merry Christmas” to the TV audience, our story comes to a close.
Caleb: Sadly, they never got around to singing the episode title’s namesake. But “White Christmas” probably costs money to broadcast or something.
Chris: And that brings us to our usual metric for tokusatsu shows: Caleb, what’s your pick for The Craziest Thing About This Episode?
Caleb: Initially it was Kimberly’s guitar playing, but as anyone who has seen Felicity knows, Amy Jo Johnson can totally jam!
Chris: In the spirit of Christmas, I’ll let your endorsement of Felicity slide.
Caleb: That said, I guess it’s the North Pole’s unseasonably survivable climate.
Chris: It’s definitely pretty temperate for the Arctic. Maybe that cross-current of Holiday Magic is like El Nino, and it just blew in a warm front from the Heat Miser‘s lair.
Caleb: Oh Chris, you’re TOO MUCH!
Chris: I had a hard time figuring out my pick, since there’s so much that’s crazy about this thing. I mean, the very fact that it’s an episode of Power Rangers with no actual Power Rangering is weird enough, but I think I’m going to go with one of the scenes where Bulk and Skull are playing Santa and a Reindeer. There’s so much great kookiness about this, including the fact that everyone seems to think Bulk is the real Santa, even though Skull is just standing there in his crazy fursuit, but the best is when this one kid shows up to ask him for presents, and he unrolls this gigantic scroll.
Chris: It is the goofiest visual gag ever, but it’s even better because the kid starts “reading” it, and the things he’s asking for aren’t even on the list, which includes stuff like “puppy” and “red ball” and “blue super hero.”
Caleb: He also asks for Power Rangers merchandise, which is hilarious. I wonder if Zordon has been licensing all of it through some shell companies and raking in the dough.
Chris: Well, Caleb, I hope you realize that us watching this episode totally counts as my Christmas present to you.
Caleb: Right back atcha Simsoclaus. Just wait until I dig up a special New Year’s episode.