Ranger Station Episode 41: Rita’s Seed Of Evil
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, the "Zyu2" era begins, as the Power Rangers learn about seeds for what seems like the very first time.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 41: Rita's Seed of Evil
Writer: Stewart St. John
Director: Robert Hughes
Original Air Date: February 7, 1994
By all rights, last week's episode should've been the season finale of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. As I mentioned, it marks the point where the show had essentially exhausted the footage from the original Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, and completed the arc for the characters from that show. There was just one problem: Power Rangers was a huge success.
Clearly, there were going to be a whole lot more Power Rangers episodes released over the course of 1994, but, as you might imagine, it's awfully hard to put together a show when you don't have all of the footage to drive your plot. The thing is, rather than just adapting one of the other Super Sentai shows and giving the Rangers new weapons, costumes, and Zords when the series came back from its two-month hiatus --- something that would later become the franchise's standard tactic --- Saban decided that the best way to round out the first season would be to commission new fight footage from Toei, the show's Japanese producers.
All in all, 25 episodes worth of monster fights were created for the "Zyu2" era of Power Rangers --- the fan-created term for the shows using footage from this weird limbo of fights that have the Zyuranger costumes but don't actually connect to anything in that era --- but not all of it was used. There are only 15 more episodes in the first season, and of those, there are a few, like this week's offering, that just recycle existing Zyuranger footage, and as a reader pointed out to me last week, there's only one that uses the full fight footage.
And that in itself is pretty surprising, considering that Toei tailored the new footage to Saban's requirements, making Billy's Blue Ranger the smart one rather than Goushi's Black Ranger, and adding a little bit of romantic tension --- such as it is --- between the Green and Pink Rangers. Uh, spoiler warning for episode 49, I guess.
But while you might think that making new footage without having to adapt anything from a Japanese show with a completely different plot would mean that Power Rangers didn't have to be quite so weird anymore, don't worry. If you go in knowing that, it's somehow even weirder.
Which brings us to this week's episode, in which the Rangers reaffirm their halfhearted commitment to ecology by learning --- as high schoolers --- about how trees are grown from seeds.
As part of a school project, Mr. Caplan --- who has apparently gotten over that whole thing where he thought they were juvenile delinquents who needed to be imprisoned in a school that, by all rights, should've been evacuated due to a monster attack --- has asked the Rangers to take the "baby trees" that they've grown and plant them in a local park.
Thus, after a brief encounter with Bulk and Skull --- in which our favorite dimwitted duo attempt to pass plastic trees off as the genuine article so that they can beat the Rangers at... something? --- everyone heads out to the park for a truly amazing guitar-squealing musical number.
This is actually something that I think marks the Zyu2 era more than anything else, even the incorporation of semi-original footage: The show gets a bunch of new songs. As far as I know, they're all products of musician Ron Wasserman, who composed the theme for the show --- and, incidentally, the famous X-Men animated series theme with that church bell everyone loves. The thing is, while some of the songs are new fight scene themes that are meant to pump up the battles between the Rangers and the Putty Patrollers, there are others, like the one here, that apply that same hard-rock approach to things like gardening. I highly recommend going to watch it, because it is truly amazing.
Wasserman's songs would eventually be compiled into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers the Album: A Rock Adventure. I've never actually listened to the whole thing in that format, so if anybody feels like requesting a bonus column...
While the Rangers are doing their action gardening, Rita Repulsa is starting up another evil plot to conquer the world. This time, it involves a monster called the Octoplant, and unlike most of her minions, it's not one that needs to be cooked up in the oven by Finster. Instead, it also grows from a tiny seed, which is why she sends Squatt down to handle the planting.
After a quick scrap with the Putties that keeps them from dealing with Squatt immediately, the Rangers find themselves summoned to the Command Center. It's here where Zordon, in all his disembodied floating head wisdom, tells them about the Octoplant, showing them footage on the viewing globe of earthquates and cracked pavement that herald the arrival of a new monster --- footage that Kimberly refers to as "a temper tantrum." Kind of underselling it a little there, Kim, but I guess when this is the sort of thing that happens literally every weekday, you get used to it.
To deal with the situation, Jason heads back to the park alone to see what Squatt was doing and if --- if! --- it has any connection to the monster. It seems like it might be a tough task, considering that he's literally trying to find a single handful of seeds in a garden in a park, but fortunately, the ones he's looking for are the sort that crackle with evil lightning, which makes them pretty easy to spot.
Unfortunately, it's a little too late to, ahem, nip this thing in the bud. When Jason touches the energy field protecting the seeds, the ground is rent open and the Octoplant starts attacking with its tentacles. Clearly, Jason's in trouble:
Before long, though, the other Rangers show up to free him, and in what is becoming Mighty Morphin's typically underwhelming fashion, we discover that while you can't touch the seeds, you can just get a shovel and dig them up.
The introduction of common gardening tools forces Rita's hand, and she sends down a gang of Putties to stall the Rangers while the Octoplant finishes blooming. Apparently all this monster planet needed was ten minutes in the soil to reach its full potential as a giant monster that's 0% Octo and only about 30% plant.
The Rangers are quick to summon the Megazord, but it turns out that the Octoplant is surprisingly adept at fighting. With the help of a vine that's wielded like a morningstar, she gives the Megazord a pretty sound thrashing, pushing it all the way to reserve power.
But, as we've already learned in previous episodes, all danger to the Megazord is merely an illusion crafted of the finest gossamer. The Octoplant, you see, has a flaw. She's a bit of a narcissist, and when she's distracted by her own reflection in a nearby skyscraper, the Megazord is able to heroically stab her to death in the back with a giant sword.
With the monster disposed of, the Rangers head back to school to find out that Mr. Caplan --- who is a teacher now in addition to being the principal, I guess? --- is very pleased with the saplings that they planted one day earlier.
Oh, and then he passes out because Bulk and Skull walk in literally covered in human feces.
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: If you're going to call something "Octoplant," think we can agree that it needs to either be eight plants or one plant that's half-octopus. This thing is neither. 7/10
Radness of the Music: Since we're moving out of Zyuranger territory, I think now is the time to talk about Ron Wasserman (aka The Mighty RAW) and his musical contributions to the show. And seriously? I do not know if it's going to get better than a hard rock pump-up song about gardening. 9/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: Bulk and Skull spend almost the entirety of this episode trapped in a portable toilet. The fact that they can even make eye contact after that is a testament to how strong their bond is. 7/10
Moral Lessons: Plants are amazing! They used to be tiny! 6/10
'90s Fashions: The last thing I want to do is be rude to a Power Ranger, but while Kimberly is supposed to be the team's resident fashionista, she has cleary been usurped by Trini's new love of cute skirts and jean jackets. Seriously, what is that weird pajama pantsuit going on, Kim? What even is it?? 7/10
Total For Episode 41: 34/50