Ranger Station Episode 22: ‘The Trouble With Shellshock’
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, Squatt and Baboo literally throw a turtle, baseball bat, stoplight and cannon into the oven and end up with the weirdest monster ever!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 22: The Trouble With Shellshock
Writers: Stewart St. John and Julianne Klemm
Director: David Blyth
Original Air Date: October 11, 1993
Whether or not it stuck the landing, I think we can all agree that "Green With Evil" was a high point of the show. It had a great bit of forward momentum going into it, and even though the Dinozords ended up just kind of showing up after being completely destroyed with "they got better" as the halfhearted reason, it marked a huge change to the status quo. We got a new Ranger, we saw that Zordon could be vulnerable, and Rita came closer to winning than she ever had --- or ever will, really.
With all that said, though, calling it a "turning point" in the series isn't quite right, because this episode takes us right back to where we were when we started, and does it in the most completely bonkers way possible. And that's not a complaint, even if there's a lot about this episode that's a bit of a letdown.
We open in the way that so many great superhero stories have in the past: With our heroes playing basketball. Specifically, Jason and Zack are going at it one on one, while the other Rangers cheer them on from the sidelines.
As it turns out, Zack has an incredible skill for basketball, including a special move called the "slamma-jamma, double-whamma, hip-hop it 'cause you can't stop it, big disgrace 'cause it's in your face, long shot," a title that the person typing out the subtitles for Netflix just straight gave up on halfway through. Admittedly, it does seem a little ridiculous, but let's be honest here: Is it any stranger than referring to your best move as the God Horn Super Legend Lightning Cut?
While the Rangers are Shutting Up and Jamming, the real action is up on the moon. It's not from Rita, though --- she's going to spend most of the next 20 minutes sleeping in a rocking chair, and I actually love that. She is so worn out from the events of "Green With Evil" that she's going to take a day off before she gets back to trying to conquer the Earth.
Squatt and Baboo, however, see this as their chance to show some initiative and get in Rita's good graces by doing a little bit of the conquering themselves. To that end, Baboo has thought up a new monster: A turtle that he sticks a traffic light onto for no discernible reason, and then throws in the oven with a baseball bat.
And again, this is great. Rita's monsters are super weird and don't always make a lot of sense, but there is a certain logic to them --- especially if you're counting Bandora's string of variations on classic mythology --- and if nothing else, we always see Finster carefully sculpting them. Squatt and Baboo, on the other hand, are almost completely useless in all respects, and their lack of craft when it comes to making monsters is hilariously appropriate. They're literally just throwing in whatever they have laying around, and the result is a monster that defies any understanding.
While it's cooking, they decide to keep the Rangers occupied by sending down a gang of Putty Patrollers to attack them at the basketball court, and this is where we get our only major misstep of the episode:
Despite the fact that five Putties show up on a basketball court occupied by five Power Rangers --- Tommy went off to karate practice at this point --- this scene somehow never turns into the Ranger vs. Putty game of Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball that I think everyone really wanted it to. Instead, it's just a fight scene with a couple of weird uses of the Basketball as a weapon, and Zack just inexplicably running down the court to dunk on the Putties. That is admittedly great, but it's also just enough to make you realize what it could have been in a finer world.
Shortly after being dunked on, the Putties vanish, and --- after a quick appearance by Bulk and Skull that ends with the two of them going headfirst into an entire hot dog cart's worth of condiments --- that's when Squatt, Baboo and their new monster, Shellshock, announce their presence by using Shellshock's Stoplight Ray to blow up a basketball.
Now, this is probably as good a time to talk about this as any, but the episode is a little inconsistent on how the Stoplight Ray works. I think you can pin the blame entirely on the yellow light --- the red light causes its victims to freeze in place, and the green light makes them go uncontrollably, and those are pretty logical. Yellow, on the other hand, is all over the map. I guess when basketballs are exploding, that's a pretty good reason to drive with caution? That might actually be the connection.
Either way, the Rangers morph, and Shellshock immediately blasts Trini with the green light, causing her to just turn around and run into the distance for the entire length of the scene, which is hilarious. The other Rangers manage to avoid that particular fate, but after a brief battle that takes place in the shadow of Angel Grove's famous Tokyo Tower...
...everyone but Jason gets blasted by the Red Light, and the Rangers are forced once again to retreat to the Command Center.
According to Zordon, the only way to cure them is for Trini to somehow direct her uncontrollable running to the Mountain of Hope, where the mystical Deandra flowers grow. And, just as I'm about to ask whether Trini is actually going to run from suburban California to whatever mystical dimension the Mountain of Hope is in, Zordon mentions that he has transported her there. Now, all that Jason has to do is singlehandedly stop Shellshock from destroying Angel Grove, and he promises Zordon that he's going to do just that.
Once again, the person writing subtitles for the Netflix version of the show has taken us to the world where the Rangers are led by Zordan, who just needs to crash on your couch for another few nights 'til his scratch-off winnings come through. But that's not the only weird subtitle in this episode.
I mentioned before that this week's subtitler gives up halfway through Zack's basketball finishing move, and that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the episode. At one point, Alpha 5 mentioning the monster's "Stoplight" becomes "Stuff like," a "not!" joke is just written as "[yelling]," and the Dinozords become "Dinosaurs." And, okay, that last one's pretty understandable, but yeesh.
Anyway, it's at this point that you might be wondering why Jason has to fight alone. There is, after all, another Ranger in the mix now, so you'd think that he maybe should've been involved with this whole monster fighting thing.
I've always wondered about that myself. The next little stretch of episodes is full of Tommy just making convenient excuses for not being around, and while I'm not sure if I even noticed that was weird when I was a kid, it's definitely something that I picked up on when I did a big rewatch of the entire franchise a few years ago. Now, of course, we have our answer --- it all has to do with Zyuranger and Burai having to stay in his little candlelit pocket dimension apartment lest his life candle burn out --- but in these episodes, it's just a string of weird excuses.
In this case, as mentioned above, it was karate practice, which brings us to a (legitimately impressive) scene of Tommy doing a kata with a bo staff and just screaming "SICK-IYAHHHs" while everyone else at the Youth Center quietly tries to work out.
Seriously, JDF looks like he's about to straight murder that Zack Morris lookin' emeff in the back.
Eventually, he checks his communicator and, since Rita woke up from her nap long enough to upsize Shellshock, realizes that the Dragonzord needs to join the fight. The Tyrannosaurus alone isn't enough to stop it, especially once Shellshock uses his red light to freeze it in place.
This, incidentally, is when Shellshock says the most amazing line of the episode: "Wait'll those teenage mutants see what a full-grown turtle can do!"
Fortunately, that's right about the time that Trini makes it to the Mountain of Hope to find the Deandra flowers. Since she can't stop movin', you'd think there might be a little drama with Trini having to make sure she gets the flowers before she runs of the mountain or something, but no. In a completely inexplicable copout, she suddenly develops the entirely new super-power of telekinesis, levitating a bouquet straight into her hands by invoking the name of her Zord:
And with that, our adventure is pretty much finished. The Tyrannosaurus and Dragonzord take out Shellshock, Rita decides to go back to bed, and, as a strange little button on the episode, Billy manages to win a loser-buys-lunch bet by dunking on Zack after an even more verbose finisher.
Believe it or not, as weird as this episode is in America, it's actually a pretty close adaptation of its source material, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger's 24th episode, "Hope Springs A-Turtle." There are only a few differences, and they mainly spring from the fact that the Zyuranger episode isn't about basketball --- it's about dodgeball instead.
Also, it's a little more intense.
But it starts the same way. Bandora's asleep, and Bookback and Totpat want to make a monster of their own. The thing is, they're not just doing it in the hopes of getting into her good graces. They specifically want to show up Lamy, who has apparently become Bandora's new favorite lieutenant despite not appearing at all in this episode.
To that end, they cook up Dora Tortoise, throwing in the same bizarre array of leftover accessories. But rather than striking directly at the Zyurangers, they go after children --- because of course they go after children, this is the Bandora Gang we're talking about --- and only stumble across Boi, the Yellow Zyuranger, by accident. It seems that he's spending his day off playing some dodgeball with the kids, including one youngster, Wataru, that he befriended when Wataru was sick in the hospital.
Needless to say, when Dora Tortoise unleashes his Traffic Light beams on the kids, Wataru is one of the ones who gets stuck dodgeballing himself to death, while Boi is sent running across Tokyo. With the exception of Geki, the rest of the team gets zapped too, frozen in place by the red light.
So the good news is that there's a cure, although the logic of it is like a five year-old making up a magic trick: Since Dora Tortoise is over 20,000 years old (they seriously say that, even though we watch them create Dora Tortoise in Pleprechaun's oven that morning), he has to be defeated by the pollen of a flower that's at least 20,001 years old, and that can be found on the Espoam Mountain. The bad news is that Dora Tortoise cursed the mountain to turn it invisible (when?!) and it can only be seen by a person who has also been cursed. Someone like, say, Boi.
All of this, incidentally, is explained to Boi as he runs as fast as he can, with Geki just casually driving beside him on his Tyrannosaurus motorcycle.
It's pretty great.
Anyway, as Boi beats feet to the mountain and Geki tries to hold off Dora Tortoise, Watru and the other children continue to dodgeball even while they're in the hospital:
But just when things are looking dire, Boi finally makes it to the mountain and, after having a conversation with the spirit of his Guardian Beast, Sabertiger, manages to get the flowers and literally do a dance on Dora Tortoise's head while shaking out enough pollen to give a giant turtle monster an allergic reaction.
Then, everyone plays dodgeball. Fight on, Zyurangers!
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: Does it count if the monster is purposefully weird? Seriously, Squatt and Baboo just throwing whatever they have in their pockets into the oven and ending up with a monster who has one pirate hook hand, a baseball bat, and a cannon head is great. It's like they were sweeping up the floor of the toy factory and just went with it. 9/10
- Deviation From the Source: This is about as close as I think we're ever likely to get to having the episodes sync up. 1/10
- Bulk and Skull Friendship: I glossed over it earlier, but there's a part where Bulk and Skull are just laying on top of each other, covered in mustard and eating hot dogs, and that is truly a relationship goal. 7/10
- Moral Lessons: I feel like "sometimes nerds can play basketball so be careful when you make lunch bets" is one thing, but also let's be real here about Billy just full-on lying about not being any good at sports for the past six months. 2/10
- '90s Fashions: At one point, Jason is wearing a pair of shorts that are two different kinds of plaid. One on each leg. 8/10
Total For Episode 21: 27/50