Ranger Station Episode 4: A Pressing Engagement
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, Jason fights alone and the Zyurangers meet Bandora's answer to the Riddler!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 4: A Pressing Engagement
Director: Adrian Carr
Writers: Jeff Deckman and Ronnie Sperling
Original Air Date: September 9, 1993
I've got a few friends that I talk about Power Rangers with pretty regularly --- because really, if we're friends, I'm probably going to start talking to you about Power Rangers --- and one thing that we readily agree on is it that we don't think we'd ever actually want to write for the show.
If you're writing for the original series in Japan, then it's a grueling task of figuring out new monsters and story arcs for 48 episodes a year, plus two or three movies, and if you're writing for the American adaptation, then you're tasked with figuring out how to make everything work with what might be a completely different set of characters and situations, and figuring out how to do it in about half the time. To be honest, it seems like a bit of a nightmare, and there are times when I'm honestly surprised that it's lasted as long --- and has been as successful --- as it has.
But as much as I'd never want to do it, I'm fascinated by the idea of finding out more about how it's done, especially the process of figuring out how and when to scrap as much of the source material as you can to end up with something completely different.
Take this week's episode, for instance, where the most pressing concern is Jason's attempt to break the Angel Grove Youth Center's bench press record.
I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here, but I can assure you that there is very little weightlifting in Zyuranger.
Unfortunately for Jason, every time he closes in on the record of 1,010 straight presses, something interrupts. First, it's a conversation with Kimberly that distracts Ernie (and his amazing track suit) from keeping count, and then, when Kimberly blows an improbably huge bubble with chewing gum that looks suspiciously like a balloon, Zack ends up running into her while skateboarding indoors and disrupts the whole thing.
A couple of things about this. First, Jason attempts to break this record three times in one day, and it's not like he's falling all that short, either. Even when he fails, he's still racking up over a thousand, and that's ridiculous. If Rita was smart, she would've held off on attacking Angel Grove until the next day, when Jason was completely incapable of moving his arms.
Second, it's not long before we find out who set the record that Jason was trying to break: Bulk.
This is our first indication that Bulk is meant to be strong --- very strong, in fact. It doesn't come up often, considering how many of his scenes end up with him face-down in a cake, but there's meant to be something there in these early episodes that makes him seem threatening, so when he eventually steps up and tries to get in a fistfight with Jason, it's actually meant to have an element of danger to it.
But, you know, that's slightly undercut by all the cakes.
Meanwhile, on the moon, Rita has decided that Jason's failure to do more than 2,000 bench presses in a row means that he is the weak link in the Power Rangers. With that dubious bit of logic in mind, she decides to send a monster after him: King Sphinx!
A quick word about the monsters: Several readers have written in to let me know that the original idea for the bad guys in Zyuranger was that they were meant to be based on classical Western monsters, specifically Greek mythology. That makes sense --- I still think of her as Rita Repulsa, so it honestly took me this long to realize that "Bandora" was a play on "Pandora" --- especially if, as one reader suggested, Goldar is meant to be a manticore.
That said, looking at the show as a whole, it's an easy pattern to miss. I mean, a sphinx and a titan definitely fit the mold, but keep in mind that it's not too long before we're dealing with a pumpkin that raps.
Anyway, after Skull pulls Bulk's pants off in the middle of the Youth Center in this week's installment of tenuously justified public humiliation, Rita sends --- hang on, why is the Youth Center decorated with a poster depicting the concept of obesity and a photograph of a nuclear power plant?
Zack appears to just be noticing this for the first time, too.
Once the Rangers morph, they confront King Sphinx and a gang of Putty Patrollers at a nearby amphitheater, but King Sphinx quickly uses his power to isolate Jason, blowing Kimberly and Zack all the way back to the Youth Center with a gust from his wings.
Fortunately, no one seems to notice that two teenagers (and their attitudes) were just teleported through color-coded light onto a balance beam in the middle of their aerobics class.
At the amphitheater, Jason dodges some suspiciously question-mark shaped bolts from King Sphinx's staff before being teleported to what appears to be a quarry to fight alone.
It is not, however, a one-on-one battle. Not only is King Sphinx quickly joined by Goldar, but Rita, having already gotten tired of messing around with this stuff after only three and a half episodes, immediately throws her staff and causes both monsters to grow giant-sized.
Fortunately for Jason, the Other Guys are on their way, rendezvousing at Billy's laboratory/garage so that they can teleport to the command center and be briefed on the action. You'd think that they since they're trying to keep Jason from being stomped on by one or both of the hundred-foot monsters that he's currently fighting, they could probably shave off a little bit of that time if they just used the communicators to, you know, communicate rather than just jogging out to the suburbs in the hopes that Billy and Trini are hanging out doing smart kid stuff, but, you know, whatever.
What really matters is that this is our first look at Billy's Lab, the fourth of the four major recurring sets --- although if we're being honest, "major" is probably pushing it a little. We're only going to see it a few more times over the course of the series, but it's eventually going to provide us with two of the weirder moments of the season.
You may be wondering why they bothered to teleport to the Command Center rather than just heading to the quarry to help Jason, and it turns out that there's a reason for that: They're not sure where he is. Fortunately, Zordon, having not tired of handing out new powers after last week, is here to provide us with some information on the Power Crystals, which can be summoned by... well, I guess you might call it a very slow reverse clap.
In addition to obscuring Walter Jones's missing finger and powering up the Zords, the Crystals also allow the Rangers to locate each other in a crisis, effectively nullifying Rita's plan to separate them.
Zordon sends the Crystals to Jason by causing them to shoot out of his sword as a bolt of lightning --- an awesome if inefficient way of delivering packages --- and since we've already learned the value of teamwork in last week's episode, "Teamwork," you can probably figure out how this one is going to end.
The Rangers form the Megazord, Goldar beats feet (and manticore wings) back the moon, King Sphinx is destroyed with the Power Sword, and Jason finally gets the chance to beat Bulk's record fair and square, meaning that he did over three thousand bench presses and did karate at two giant monsters in a single day.
Oh, and then Bulk goes face-first into a cake, but I think we all saw that one coming.
So remember how I mentioned that King Sphinx's laser-bolts were shaped like question marks? Well, there's a reason for that: The monster of the week in Kyoryu Sentai Zyranger's fifth episode, "Scary Riddles," isn't just sphinx-shaped, he's also sphinx-themed. Or possibly just Riddler themed, but, you know, close enough.
You might have already caught on to the fact that, unlike Rita Repulsa, who seems pretty hell-bent on a somewhat generic form of world domination, Bandora just really, really hates children. There were the two junior astronauts that she tormented in the first episodes, Hiroshi, who was sent to the Land of Despair last week, and now, she's pitting the children of Japan against this guy:
That, friends, is Dora Sphinx --- or at least, the human form that he uses to lure children into a bizarre little quiz show involving riddles. When they fail, which they inevitably do, he calls them losers, turns into a monster, and uses his wings to blow them away to parts unknown.
And just why is Bandora trying to kidnap all these children? You might not think of her as the sentimental type, but it's all because she made a promise to someone.
In retrospect, I probably should've mentioned that Bandora worships Satan. Oh well, now you know.
With the sudden rush on kidnappings, the Zyurangers try to get to the bottom of things --- or at least, Dan and Boi do, Geki's busy having weird hallucinations about being trapped in the desert.
Unfortunately, Boi is terrible at riddles and ends up being blown away, and Dan, who feels bad that he didn't do anything to stop it, fails his test on purpose in order to find out where all the children are going. And, as you've no doubt guessed by now because it is of course the most obvious answer, it turns out that the missing children have all been turned into trees.
And here's the best part: They're not just trees, but they're trees in an area that has been slated to be turned into a golf course, which means they're about to be chopped down any day now. You know, as soon as the zoning permits go through, I guess? Listen, it's kind of a long-term plan.
WIth the Blue and Yellow rangers out of action, it's up to Mei, Goushi and Geki to sort things out by facing Dora Sphinx's challenge at a local amphitheater. Needless to say, the Pink and Black Rangers do not fare well, leaving Geki to fight alone. When the final riddle turns out to be a rather philosophical question about whether Good or Evil is the one absolute in the world, though, they decide that it's probably best to stop asking questions and just settle things with punching and robots.
Dora Sphinx, joined by Grifforzar, quickly grows to giant size, but when Geki tries to use the Tyrannosaurus Guardian Beast to fight them, he's thrown out of it, seemingly by the Tyrannosaurus itself:
He winds up in the desert that he's been having hallucinations about, but --- to make an already long story a little bit shorter --- he ends up discovering a set of legendary crystals (sound familiar?) that allow him to combine the Guardian Beasts into the massive Daizyujin --- or as we'd call it, the Megazord.
See what I meant about the Sentai shows taking a while to get there?
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: King Sphinx is just sort of there, but Dora Sphinx's penchant for riddles actually makes a bit of sense, even if blowing children away with his wings and turning them into trees is getting a little bit out there. 4/10
- Deviation From The Source: No riddles, no quiz show host, Rita's not quite as interested in mass infanticide, and the Rangers are already a month into their term of Megazord ownership. 8/10
- Bulk And Skull Friendship: After Bulk takes a header into the cake, he also smooshes a handful of it into Skull's face, which is basically having a wedding right there at the end of the episode. 8/10
- '90s Fashions: Nothing all that out of the ordinary this week. I mean, aside from Kimberly walking around for the entire thing in her gymnastics leotard, but that's not really "'90s." 2/10
- Moral Lessons: Don't give up, and stick up for your friends, and you too can destroy your arms in pursuit of a bench press record that will all but confirm that you have peaked in high school. 5/10
Total For Episode 4: 27/50
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