Ranger Station Episode 27: Wheel Of Misfortune
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, Kimberly makes the mistake of leaving a priceless family heirloom around Bulk, and Bandora literally attempts to send a baby to Hell.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 27: Wheel Of Misfortune
Writers: Mark Ryan and Cheryl Saban
Director: Terence H. Winkless
Original Air Date: November 1, 1993
The School Play episode is a trope that shows up in pretty much every show that even vaguely involves a school, and I love it every single gosh-darn time it shows up. I love it in Saved by the Bell, where Zack Morris's production of Snow White and the Seven Dorks put the rap game into a chokehold, I love it in Sailor Moon where it's not even a school play and just a bunch of teens helping out their weird older friend, and I love it here in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, where even the costumes in the play are color-coded to the cast's Ranger uniforms:
But in this episode, the structure's a little different. Usually, we get a little bit of the auditioning process, wring a little drama out of who gets the lead role, and then keep up with rehearsals. On MMPR, though, all of that has to be cut out to make room for giant robots fighting monsters, so instead we jump right into the dress rehearsal and a truly bizarre conflict between Kimberly and Bulk.
The play is Rumplestiltskin, and Kimberly has been cast in the lead role as the princess whose stories about spinning straw into gold lands her locked up in a tower by Jason's mostly ambivalent Prince. Bulk, as Rumplestiltskin, comes to her aid. But of more importance than any of the casting is the show's one major prop: an antique spinning wheel that belonged to Kimberly's grandmother.
I realize this is all still pretty new --- we're only about two months into the show's original run, after all --- but at this point, the Power Rangers should probably realize that this is a terrible idea. Even if you think it's okay to bring your antique spinning wheel to a school function that also involves a pair of notorious juvenile delinquents --- and as someone who was in a lot of drama classes in high school, I can totally see how they built an entire play around "hey, Kimberly has an old spinning wheel we can use" --- you have you know that Rita is going to take this opportunity to build a monster out of something you love.
I mean, I'm not saying that the Power Rangers should bury their most prized possessions deep in the cold, cold ground and never speak of them out of fear that they will be used to create monsters that will destroy their city, but... Well, actually, yeah, that's kind of what I'm saying. Or at the very least, don't be surprised when this happens:
After sending Goldar and a few Putty Patrollers to steal the spinning wheel, Rita hits it with some magic lightning to turn it into the Wheel of Misfortune, a giant spiked wheel. As for the Rangers, despite the fact that they have been in this situation twenty-six times by now, they somehow don't realize that the bad guys who live on the moon and devote every waking moment to ruining their lives are responsible for this latest mishap.
Instead, Tommy and Kimberly launch into an investigation, and much like the episode with the parade float, it's another example of those two characters being paired up as a romance. Admittedly, it's a romance that is barely more than hinted at, but I can assure you that it was enough to spark plenty of fan-fiction back in the day.
And it also has the added benefit of giving us another scene where Tommy basically threatens to beat information out of Bulk and Skull like he's living in a Frank Miller Daredevil comic.
Like the scenes where we see him screaming and doing sword katas, it's something that gives Tommy a little bit of an edge compared to the other rangers, but it's also something that fits with his character as the new kid. Unlike the rest of the Rangers, he hasn't had the years in Angel Grove to get used to Bulk and Skull, and therefore has no patience for dealing with their guff.
Tommy's investigation leads to a fight with another gang of Putties that ends with the Green Ranger tied up in the park, while the rest of the Rangers head out to take on everyone's favorite power couple, Goldar and Scorpina:
It's been a few episodes since we've seen Scorpina, but she hasn't changed much in the interim. She's still the same mysterious lady who sometimes turns into a hundred foot Predator alien that she's always been. And when she grows, along with Goldar, the Rangers summon the Dinozords for the battle. The problem, though, is that Goldar and Scorpina trap the Tyrannosaurus Zord under a net, meaning that they can't combine and form the Megazord --- which is actually a pretty great strategy.
Back at the Park, Tommy gets the bright idea to lure in the Putties by pretending to be sick, which seems like a pretty terrible plan. I mean, they're Putty Patrollers. Judging by what we've seen in the show so far, they're not only barely sentient, they're also pretty dedicated to the singular task of murdering the Power Rangers. If Tommy gets sick while tied to a tree, they should be pretty okay with that.
Needless to say, it works.
Once he's freed, Tommy summons the DragonZord to help deal with the Wheel of Misfortune, which is now huge, flying, and shooting out fireworks:
For their part, Goldar and Scorpina have just kind of retired from the field at this point. They're still there, but they just sort of lazily harass the Dragonzord while the Megazord swings ineffectively at the Wheel of Misfortune. The whole thing starts to add up to more than they're capable of dealing with, until finally, Jason decides that he's had enough and oh snap decides to call on the power of Titanus and the Ultrazord.
As you may recall, last week's episode introduced us to Titanus, who is essentially a brachiosaurus made of cannons. When he combines with the Megazord and Dragonzord, they become the Ultrazord, which is so amazing that things just start to explode for no reason. It is the best.
Thanks to Titanus and Jason's command to lock on and fire all weapons --- all weapons, on a giant dinosaur made of weapons, carrying another robot made of dinosaurs that is wearing another robot like a hat that is also made of weapons --- the Wheel of Misfortune is destroyed forever, and along with it, Grandma Kimberly's spinning wheel. Or so it seems! When they find it back in the classroom at school, Zordon explains that when they defeated the monster, Rita's spell was broken and everything went back to normal. Or, to put it another way, they only had a 19 minutes for this episode and needed to wrap everything up without spending a whole lot of time on it.
Thus, the play goes off without a hitch. Except for the part where the Princess clearly refers to Rumplestiltskin by name in the middle of the first act, somewhat undercutting the drama of the part where she tries to figure out his name at the end, which, as you may recall, is the entire story.
So here's the weird thing about Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger's 34th episode, "Stay Alive, Burai!": Like its American counterpart, it's nominally based around a fairy tale that involves a spinning wheel. The weird part is, it's Sleeping Beauty, not Rumplestiltskin. Which, incidentally, is how I realized that there's more spinning-wheel-based literature than I thought.
Textiles aside, though, what matters right now is that Burai only has 13 hours left to live. As long as he stays in his foggy pocket dimension, the countdown is stopped, but since being left in a weird smoky room full of candles and a literal burning reminder of your own mortality isn't exactly the most comforting environment, he's been getting a little lonely. Finally, he can't stand it anymore, and he heads out to do what the Zyurangers always do when they get bored: They go and pester children until a monster attacks.
In this case, the children are Rie and her baby sister Miko, and the monster is Lamy, who kidnaps the baby and tricks the older sister into pricking her finger on a spinning wheel, with some pretty familiar results:
Unless Burai can give her a kiss on the cheek, Rie will sleep for a hundred years. Simple enough, except that Bandora has hidden Rie in the House of Thorns, a trap from which Burai will never escape if he goes to rescue her. It's quite a dilemma, and after finally explaining his borrowed-time gimmick to Geki and the rest of the Zyurangers, Burai agrees that he'll leave the rescue to them and just return to his pocket dimension to prolong his life.
But alas. Heroism gets the best of him.
The actual rescue goes pretty smoothly, but when Burai and Rie try to escape the House of Thorns, they find themselves in a seemingly endless cave complex, lost underground for hours. And as for Miko, she's been taken by Bandora, and is hilariously being carried around by Grifforzar, which means that some poor dude dressed as an armored manticore (or whatever he is) is trying to gently bounce an actual infant to keep her calm so that everyone can say their dialogue:
Eventually, Burai and Rie run across the spinning wheel, which undergoes a magical transformation to turn into a flying spiked monstrosity that chases them around. And while all that's going on, the rest of the Zyurangers have their hands full dealing with Grifforzar and Lamy, trying to rescue Miko from Bandora's moon palace by going to fight in a quarry.
Really, what else are they going to do?
After six long hours wandering around in the caves, Burai and Rie finally escape, joining in the fight and allowing Geki to summon Beast Knight God King Brachion, and save Miko from the fate that Bandora had planned:
Bandora: Still not effin' around.
Rie and Miko have been saved, but now, Burai only has five more hours to live --- and the Zyurangers know it.
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: I think my major problem with the spinning wheel is that it's just a spinning wheel, rather than some kind of spinning-wheel-themed monster. We've kind of had a theme going here, guys, keep up with it. 5/10
- Deviation From the Source: Okay but seriously, why swap out Sleeping Beauty for Rumplestiltskin? It's not like Sleeping Beauty is some obscure Japanese folktale that American audiences might not be familiar with, so I can only assume it's because it lacks roles for Bulk and Skull. 4/10
- Bulk and Skull Friendship: On the other hand, Rumplestltskin does not have a pal that follows him around repeating everything he says, so maybe they should've just gone with Snow White and gotten five more extras to form the Seven Punks. 5/10
- Moral Lessons: "Don't break your friends' most valuable belongings or Tommy the Green Ranger might show up and throw you off a bridge" is a tenet I live by to this day. 7/10
- '90s Fashions: I don't think I got a screencap of it, but rest assured that there is a shot in this episode that involves multiple Zubaz pants. What a magical time. 8/10
Total For Episode 21: 29/50