Ranger Station Episode 14: Foul Play In The Sky
With 800 episodes over the course of 22 years, the Power Rangers television show is arguably the single most successful live-action superhero franchise of all time, and certainly one of the strangest. Adapted from Japan's long-running Super Sentai series, created by manga legend Shotaro Ishinomori, the Power Rangers combined the giant robots and monsters of their Japanese counterpart with a completely different set of secret identities and problems, and became a pop cultural phenomenon. That's why we're looking back with an in-depth guide to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, including its source material, Kyuoryu Sentai Zyuranger, in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, Rita tries to murder Kimberly with a plane crash, and all things considered, that's a pretty good plan.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 14: Foul Play In The Sky
Writer: Shuki Levy
Director: Shuki Levy
Original Air Date: September 22, 1993
Remember a few weeks ago when Mr. Ticklesneezer was running around bringing up the question of why Rita, who definitely knows all the Power Rangers' identities and has an endless supply of monsters, didn't just attack the Rangers in their homes while they were asleep, and how the show stumbled through sidestepping that with the reveal that it was all a dream? Well, apparently we weren't the only ones wondering why she didn't make a few more mundane tries at murder, because this is the episode where Rita tries to kill Kimberly with a plane crash and a flask full of poison.
Admittedly, it seems a bit out of character when you consider that her most recent attempts have involved things like, say, setting up and staffing an entire carnival on the off chance that she could turn a Ranger or two into a cardboard cutout, but I suppose when that doesn't work, you start to think outside the box. The murder box.
We open at the Angel Grove Airport, where Kimberly has met up with her uncle, Pilot Steve. If the name and the fact that we will never see him without his signature aviator shades didn't give you the hint, he's a pilot, and he's got a small private plane that he's going to use to take Kimberly up for a quick spin around the sky.
IMPORTANT PILOT STEVE UPDATE: According to sharp-eyed reader Chad Bonin, Pilot Steve is played by Doug Sloan, a longtime writer, director and producer for the series who stayed with the show up through Power Rangers Ninja Storm.
Unfortunately, he's also got what I can only assume is a crippling addiction to store-brand cola, which is going to cause a whole lot of trouble in a few minutes. But that's getting ahead of things.
For now, we cut to the Youth Center to see what the other rangers are up to, and as Jason and Zack are working out with the heavy bag, we finally get to meet one of the show's more notable minor characters: Angela, Zack's unrequited crush!
Angela, seen here cosplaying as a stained glass window, ends up sticking around a whole lot longer than Billy's crush, Marge, appearing in multiple episodes. Usually, she's the source of comic relief, deflating Zack's ego by turning him down and remaining firmly unimpressed by his dance moves.
Back at the airport, Rita comes up with a two-pronged plan, presumably because she's not entirely sure how to kill someone without sending a monster down from the moon to make trouble. In this case, the monster is the Snizzard, who is described as "half snake, half lizard," which I think is just, y'know, a snake. But it's the other half of the plan that makes for a more interesting conundrum: Rita has cooked up a sleeping potion and, taking advantage of Pilot Steve's crippling cola habit, sends Squatt down to dose him right before the flight, timing it so that he falls into a coma while he's a few thousand feet above Angel Grove.
Now, for Kimberly, there's an obvious way out of this situation, which is that her friend from high school invented teleportation a couple months ago. If she teleports her way out of the plane, however, that means leaving Steve behind to fall to a flat and fiery death. That's a good reason for her to stick it out, but for us viewers, there's really no attachment to Steve. Clearly, we need a reason to be emotionally invested in Kimberly not just teleporting out.
We need Bulk and Skull.
And fortunately for the sake of drama, they're just hanging out at the airport watching private planes take off with a pair of binoculars. You know, like so many teenage delinquents do for fun.
They spot Kimberly and Pilot Steve getting ready to board the plane and make a beeline to meet them on the runway, claiming to be friends of Kimberly's and asking if they could go along for the ride. Steve --- good-hearted, cola-addled Steve --- agrees, but Kimberly is very upset by the arrival of these party-crashers. Of the original five Rangers, Amy Jo Johnson is unquestionably the best at acting, and her facial expressions in this bit of the episode prove that pretty handily, as she silently goes from, "oh God oh God just pretend you don't see them" to, "what are you doing here I want to murder you but I can't because my uncle is here."
Also, either Pilot Steve is very tall, or AJJ is very short.
The plane takes off, and as they're flying over the mountains that house the Command Center, the potion takes hold, knocking Steve out and sending the plane drifting off course --- followed shortly by Bulk and Skull, who pass out in each other's arms from sheer terror. But for Kimberly, that's actually good news --- with everyone else unconscious, there's nothing to keep her from using her communicator to call Zordon for help.
As we enter the time tested "non-pilot has to be talked through the process of landing an airplane" portion of the story, the Snizzard strikes, leading the Rangers into a battle at the park that contains Angel Grove's collection of Easter Island Moai statues.
Wait, what? Yeah, amazingly, this is never discussed, explained, or even referenced. Truly, Angel Grove is a city of mysteries.
As is so often the case, this week's monster also has the ability to reflect the Rangers' own power back at them, which seems like it's gilding the lily when you're dealing with a monster that already has snakes for hands and who, incidentally, is voiced by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston. It causes plenty of trouble for our short-handed heroes, though, who get thrashed around the park until Kimberly finally and uneventfully manages to land the plane.
With that done, and with Bulk and Skull sufficiently traumatized that I think we can count this as the second major turning point in their relationship with the Power Rangers, Kimberly morphs, joins the fight, and promptly William Tells the apple on Snizzard's head, blowing him to bits and, once again, ending the episode without requiring the MegaZord.
For this week's source material, we're going all the way back to the 13th episode of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, "Fire! The Golden Arrow," which has one of the more bizarre openings that we've seen on the show --- and considering one opened with children following an invisible monster that led them to board a bus where their souls were removed from their bodies, that's saying something.
This time, the Zyurangers are out for ice cream when Mei starts playing hide and seek with a bunch of local children, and when she turns around to count to ten, she's handed an apple by a giant bunny rabbit.
None of this is metaphor.
The rabbit turns out to be Totpat, and the apple, of course, is poisoned. The question, then, is why bother poisoning Mei and not the rest of the Zyurangers, all of whom presumably enjoy apples just as much as she does. And the answer has a lot to do with this week's monster: Dora Ladon, named for the hundred-headed dragon that guarded the golden apples that Hercules was sent to retrieve for his 11th labor.
Zyuranger's version of the myth is, shall we say, a bit different. You may remember that each of the five Zyurangers is the last descendant of an ancient tribe from dinosaur times, and Mei's tribe, Lithia, is named for the great hero Lithiantheus. When Ladon attacked the Lithia tribe's crop of golden apples, Lithiantheus slew him with an arrow - and that arrow has been handed down through millions of years to become Mei's Ptera Arrow, the only weapon capable of defeating Dora Ladon.
With Mei out of commission, though, Ladon is free to wreak havoc all over Tokyo by shooting an arrow into the air that rains seeds down and causes children to sprout little apple trees on their heads.
If you've been paying attention, it will not surprise you that the apples will suck the youth out of the children and turn them into apples that Bandora will then eat to gain eternal life.
As the apples grow, Mei falls into a sickness from the poison, and finds herself wandering through the spirit world dodging metaphorical (and metaphysical) traps in order to pull through. At one point, she's in danger of falling into a pit of fire, but Barza prays to the Guardian Beasts to protect her, and a flock of butterflies descends to lift her to safety.
I promise this makes exactly as much sense when you're actually watching it.
Speaking of making sense, remember those Moai statues from earlier? I thought for sure those would be a plot point that would be explained once we got to Zyuranger, but it turns out that I was definitely wrong about that. Once again, they just sort of show up --- although this time, there's a spectral gigantic floating Bandora head to go along with them, so at least we have that.
Like their American counterparts, the Zyurangers take on Dora Ladon without Mei and find themselves outmatched, even as the children of Tokyo are fully turned into giant apples. But in the spirit world, Mei can hear the cries of the children, and with the courage that gives her, she leaps into the flames, conquering the poison and joining the fight:
In Ranger Station, each episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will be graded on a scale of one to ten in five categories, with a final score awarded with a maximum of fifty points.
- Weirdness of the Monster: The description of Snizzard as "half snake, half lizard" is way less impressive than if they just would've said it was a snake that had other snakes for hands. 4/10
- Deviation From the Source: Since Power Rangers is a little lighter on the mysticism than Zyuranger, it makes sense that they wouldn't send Kimberly on a mystic journey through the spirit realm, but I'd really like to know how they got from that to, "Oh, she should almost die in a plane crash instead." 5/10
- Bulk and Skull Friendship: When the stuff goes down, they hold each other and pass out in each other's arms. 9/10
- Moral Lessons: Don't get hopped up on "cola" and fly a plane, I guess. 7/10
- '90s Fashions: Shockingly, it's actually pretty tame this week once you make the necessary Bulk and Skull adjustments. 3/10
Final Score: 28/50