Ranger Station Episode 2: High Five
With almost 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, Trini conquers a fear of heights that, for some reason, has never stopped her from piloting a 200 foot-tall robot. Go figure.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 2: High Five
Director: Adrian Carr
Writer: Steve Kramer
Original Air Date: September 7, 1993
In retrospect, it probably shouldn't be that surprising that Power Rangers settled into its formula so quickly. I mean, even though it might've been new to America, its Super Sentai counterparts had been trucking along for 16 years at this point, and while there are certainly ups and downs, they definitely figured out a pattern that let them knock out weekly giant robot adventure with maximum efficiency.
The thing is, Power Rangers had a formula that was completely different than Zyuranger's. And when you think about it, that makes sense, since Zyuranger had a lot of explaining to do about how these five teenagers were actually descended from mystical tribes that lived alongside dinosaurs, something that doesn't really apply if your show's about five more typical teenagers. Well, typical except for their unwavering positivity and commitment to studying karate, I guess.
Point being, with just a vague connection to the Sentai formula --- and with only about 10 minutes per episode that they needed to fill up before they could just cut to the Megazord --- Power Rangers just started throwing in the beats of American children's programming, putting an emphasis on Good Moral Lessons. Which is how Trini developed and cured a fear of heights in about twelve minutes on a Tuesday afternoon.
We open in the Angel Grove Youth Center, where Jason is performing a feat of strength that would probably be a lot more impressive if we weren't already seeing him literally karate fight monsters until they exploded every week: Climbing a rope to the ceiling of the gym.
This is how we find out that Trini is afraid of heights. So afraid, in fact, that she's nervous about her extremely athletic pal Jason being about eight feet off the ground, holding onto a rope, with padded mats underneath him. It is, I think you will agree, a pretty severe case of acrophobia, or as Kimberly calls it, "height fright." But not an entirely unfounded one: When Billy walks in, excited about his latest invention, he wanders under the rope just as Jason descends, and ends up being swung around the gym.
You know, like would actually happen in similar real-life circumstances.
Yeah, listen, I don't know why that's the thing that's bugging me for not being realistic on a show about giant dinosaur robots and a moon-witch that's going to try to kill everyone with a living skeleton in a few minutes, but here we are. I suppose what really matters is that this will actually influence the gang's fighting style by the end of the episode, so it's all worth it.
It's at this point that Bulk and Skull enter, and when Jason responds to Bulk's aggressiveness by calmly stating that Bulk could never make it to the top of the rope, Skull steps up to defend his best friend's honor.
I mean, yes, he does immediately back down, but still. It is a moment of true friendship in this sea of people throwing each other around gymnasia by their thighs. Either way, Bulk tries to climb and falls, and is quickly surrounded by the mocking laughter of our heroes while plaster falls from the ceiling.
At least he has Skull. At least we all have Skull.
So, remember that new invention Billy was talking about? It turns out that he has handmade a set of five color-coded metal watches that are capable of working both as wireless (and presumably encrypted) communicators and of teleporting the Rangers to the Command Center.
That's a pretty solid feat of engineering --- the machine tooling for the bands and faces alone is impressive for a high schooler, and that's way before you get to the fact that he accidentally invented teleportation --- but to be fair, this is the same kid who's going to build a Volkswagen capable of supersonic flight in a couple weeks, so magic watches are pretty much de rigueur.
In other news, the Alpha Insufferability Index hit an all-time high this week.
On the moon, Rita is hatching another sinister plot, and for the first time, she mentions what's actually going on with Zordon. It seems that while he was trapping her in the space dumpster on the moon, she was trapping him in a "time warp" that has left him entubed in another dimension --- and she plans to do the same to the Power Rangers.
To that end, she rigs up what appears to be a remote-control space shuttle, with Squatt and Baboo promising that it will open up a hole in time wherever it lands. All she needs is someone to lure the Power Rangers to the Time Hole and shove them in, and since Goldar was a five-star flop last week, Finster pops back to the oven to make a monster with the very imaginative name of Bones.
Before we get too harsh on the name, though, I would like to point out that his name in Japan is literally "Dora Skeleton."
As the toy shuttle streaks through a section of Angel Grove that looks suspiciously like Tokyo, the Power Rangers are sent into action to fight not Bones, but a gang of Putty Patrollers, which raises a question of just why Rita needed to send out a custom monster when she could just throw a bunch of generic grey dudes into action and get the Power Rangers into position that way. And, on top of that, why she doesn't bother to send them anywhere close to the Time Warp, but instead to a slightly rocky area out in the middle of nowhere.
With the gang surrounded, Billy and Trini try to lead a few of the Putties away to give Jason, Zack and Kimberly a chance to fight back, and Billy of course decides that the best way to do this would be to climb up on a cliff and then back up all the way to the edge.
Trini does not take this well.
Fortunately, she is able to conquer her crippling fear of heights in record time, basically just saying "I'm afraid of this!" as she climbs up the mountain to help Billy. So, you know, that should be helpful for any kids out there dealing with their own fears. Solid advice.
With that unpleasantness taken care of, the Rangers decide to fight back using the most brutal tool in their arsenal: The Human Chain. Zack jumps on Jason's shoulders...
...then Kimberly grabs Zack's legs, and Jason starts spinning around...
...and then, I assume, evil is defeated forever and we spend the next 700 episodes on martial arts practice and half-hearted tips for conquering your fears.
Alas, the Human Chain is only effective against lower-level villains. No sooner are the Putties disposed of than Bones goes into action, terrorizing a local amusement park. And when the Rangers arrive, he immediately transports them, with absolutely no explanation, into a very purple pocket dimension.
For "High Five," Power Rangers is still drawing on the second episode of Zyuranger, the back half of the opening story that was stitched together with some other footage for these first few episodes. That's where the "toy space shuttle" comes from --- as we rejoin the Zyurangers, Bandora is still holding Satoru and Yumiko, the two junior astronauts hostage, having shrunk them down and carted them off to her headquarters on the moon.
The shrunken shuttle is used to lure the Zyurangers into action so that Bandora can crush them with Pleprechaun's latest monster, Dora Skeleton. When they try to catch up with the shuttle, Dora Skeleton hijacks their (super-sweet) motorcycles and teleports them to the amusement park for an attack, blasting them with eye-beams and chopping up their sub-par, non-Ranger weapons.
And when I say "eye-beams," I actually mean "explosive eyeballs that shoot out of his face."
Since they can't defeat him with their normal weapons, the Zyurangers transform, which is when Dora Skeleton's skull spins around hard enough to send them into a very purple pocket dimension of their own, where Bookback and Topat (Squatt and Baboo for those of us on this side of the Atlantic) set a cartoonishly huge bomb next to the shuttle to murder the kids.
As you might expect, that's not what happens. At the last minute, Geki, the Red Ranger, cuts the fuse to keep the bomb from exploding, and when Dora Skeleton tries to reform after being destroyed, Boi, the Yellow Ranger, grabs his head and casts it into a chasm to the depths of Hell, where it explodes.
That's awesome. And, in a kind of surprising move, the same thing happens in the American version, although Trini isn't quite as emphatic about Bones being condemned to eternal torture as Boi is. She prefers, "So long, bonehead."
In Japan, that's the end of Dora Skeleton, and the rangers are left to fight the massive Dora Titan alongside the Guardian Beast Tyrannosaurus. In America, though, since we haven't seen the Dora Titan yet, Rita casts a rarely seen magic spell to send him down to Earth: "Moondust, soft and pliant, send to Earth a giant!" And again, if she can just talk giant monsters into existence with bad poetry, how come she has to bother with Finster and his monster oven?
Much like in Zyuranger, the Tyrannosaurus Zord alone is enough to defeat the Giant, but since we've already seen the Megazord, it feels like a bit of an anticlimax. Either way, the day is saved, and back at the Youth Center, Ernie starts talking about how he heard about the Power Rangers on the radio.
You'd think they'd at least make TV.
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: All things considered, a skeleton in a hat and cape with the power to teleport you into Prince's sitting room isn't that strange for this show. I mean, he doesn't even have any sinister raps and rhymes. 2/10
- Deviation From the Source: Not having the kid astronauts means that Rita's just sending a toy space shuttle with a Japanese flag on it down to terrorize Earth for no reason, but to be fair, that's not entirely out of character for her. 6/10
- Bulk And Skull Friendship: However briefly, Skull stepped to Jason, who has the power to combine with two of his friends to form a spinning killing machine, even without his super-powers. His bravery is an inspiration to us all. 8/10
- '90s Fashions: The champion this time around is definitely Zack, who rocked a tank top over a t-shirt with purple striped Hammer pants. 7/10
- Moral Lessons: Conquering your fear by just not being afraid of things anymore is pretty dubious to begin with, but let's be real here: The fear of heights is literally the most logical and useful fear that it is possible to have. 1/10
Total For Episode 2: 24/50