Ranger Station Episode 5: Different Drum
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, the Rangers learn a very special lesson, and also sign language!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 5: Different Drum
Director: Jeff Reiner
Writer: Julianne Klemm
Original Air Date: September 10, 1993
Okay, before we get into the episode this week, we have something to settle. It's probably the most pressing question that will ever be posed in this column or, quite frankly, on this website: Just what the heck is Goldar?
Ever since our discussion a few weeks ago about how all of Bandora's monsters were originally meant to be based on traditional Western monsters, we've been trying to pin him down, but he's harder to classify than you might think. One reader has suggested that he's a Manticore, and another told me he's supposed to be a Griffon. The latter probably makes more sense given that his Japanese name is "Grifforzar," but at the same time, Pleprechaun --- better known to American viewers as Finster --- doesn't really look like a leprechaun, and I don't think I've ever seen him guarding a pot of gold.
Personally, I am sticking with my original theory of Dog-Man With Wings, but if you can shed some light on this subject and get us a definitive answer, then by all means leave a comment below. Now, for this week's episode!
We open in the Angel Grove Youth Center, where Kimberly is leading a dance aerobics class that has most of the gym moving to the beat, including Ernie, who looks for all the world that he has just gotten the spirit and is about to lay hands on a sinner.
Of slightly greater importance, though, is Kimberly's friend Melissa, a deaf girl who, incidentally, is not named until 17 minutes into a 19-minute episode. She's been following along with Kimberly's instructions in sign language --- Kimberly knows ASL, the truest sign of a teenager with attitude --- but when Kimberly forgets a sign, she bumps into another dancer and feels bad about being different.
Kimberly, however, turns out to be a teenager with a very kind and compassionate attitude, and reassures her that everyone makes mistakes.
It's at this point that Bulk and Skull show up, and since Billy took a header onto a utility cart and ended up in a heap of rags and toilet paper earlier, you might think that we'd be done with the physical comedy portion of the show. We are not. As it turns out, Bulk is so incensed by the very idea of people dancing and listening to music that he challenges Zack to a dance-off.
Zack, who invented a new martial art based on dancing.
It does not go well for Bulk.
All this dancing and music annoys Rita, who can apparently hear it from the moon, and so she decides that this week's monster should be musically themed, abandoning Finster's initial plan for a "firebreathing hedgehog" who "eats cars and smells like a fish." You know, just in case anyone out there needed new business cards.
What she settles on instead is the Gnarly Gnome, an accordion-based take on the Pied Piper that I would swear was voiced by Paul Schrier in the first of many instances pulling double duty on the show --- he'll go on to direct a handful of episodes up through 1999 --- if I hadn't gone to check it out myself. He's actually voiced, according to the IMDB, by Steve Kramer.
Since we're already nine minutes into the episode, the Gnarly Gnome quickly sets about kidnapping the girls from Kimberly's dance class, hypnotizing them with his accordion and leading them to a nearby cave.
Except, that is, for Melissa, who of course can't hear the music and is therefore immune to the hypnosis. She follows the other girls to the cave, where Squatt and Baboo are cooking up a meal for the Gnome while the girls are line dancing with the Putty Patrollers, and, having confirmed that this is something unusual even for Angel Grove, she runs off to get help. There's just one problem.
It turns out that despite Zack's cheerful reference to it later as "a whole new world of rapping," Kimberly's the only one of the Rangers --- and quite possibly the only one in the entire Youth Center --- who knows sign language. Everyone else just kind of treats her like they're guesting on an episode of Lassie.
Eventually, she grabs a pen from Ernie and writes it down, and the Power Rangers are on the case. Melissa leads them to the cave where, conveniently forgetting Zordon's Rule #3, they just send her behind a nearby bush and immediately transform into the Power Rangers.
The fight itself is pretty formulaic --- probably a given at this point --- but it is notable for having a slight variation from other episodes. When the Rangers form the Power Blaster (or the Howling Cannon, for you purists out there), they usually just refer to their weapons as the "Power X" where X is the kind of weapon. You know, Power Axe, Power Bow, et cetera.
This time, though, they're given slightly different names --- the Power Axe becomes the Cosmic Cannon, Billy's Power Lance becomes the Mighty Mace, and the Power Bow becomes the Double Bow, despite the fact that there is very clearly only one of them.
I'm not sure if this was just a quirk from screenwriter Julianne Klemm --- who, by the way, is the only Power Rangers writer so far who also wrote for the X-Men cartoon --- or just an example of the show shaking out in its early days, but either way, it didn't stick. But it still does the job of blowing up the Gnarly Gnome but good, and after he grows to giant-size, he doesn't last long against the Megazord, despite shooting lightning out of his rake.
With that done, the Rangers return to the Youth Center and Melissa asks Billy for a dance.
Given that they've already had a couple of two-part episodes to get things set up, you might be tempted to think that Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger has gotten in the habit of screwing around instead of getting right to the adventure. To be honest, there's a case to be made for that in some episodes, but in this one --- "I Can See, I Can See?" --- well, hold on, folks, because we are not wasting time.
We open with this week's monster, Dora Goblin, already in action luring children to to their doom. Or, in this case, to a bus driven by Totpat and Bookback:
Two big wrinkles to this problem. First, only children can see Dora Goblin, meaning that nobody believes them when they start talking about how there's a weird accordion viking trying to abduct them with the power of song.
Second, despite what you might expect, Bandora isn't driving this bus full of children off a cliff. She's not doing any kind of physical harm, in fact. Instead, she's returning the children, apparently unharmed, to their parents.
After extracting their souls.
If you take nothing else away from this column, please let it be that Bandora does not eff around.
Fortunately for Michiko and all the other children, there's a boy named Toru who saw the whole thing go down as he was trying to give Michiko a caterpillar that will turn into a beautiful butterfly. The downside, though, is that the Zyurangers are not children, so when they try to save Toru, they end up fighting an invisible enemy. Which, y'know, basically means they have to throw themselves around the quarry for a change.
They do, however, have a plan. Mei has heard that if you make a goblin wear his shoes on the wrong foot, it will no longer be invisible. So while Dan goes to help Toru with his romance problems and hears the sob story about how the caterpillar came from his father who found eggs in prison after he "got drunk and stole something," they launch their plan to do just that.
And they should probably hurry.
When they arrive at Dora Goblin's cave, though, he hears them before they've switched his shoes, but Geki's able to trick him into thinking that they've already switched the shoes, and when he swaps them back, he's instantly visible --- and an almost-instant target for the Howling Cannon and Daizyujin, and its truly amazingly named finishing move:
Actually, that was a lie: That's the name of the sword. The move is called Super-Legend Lightning Cut.
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: An accordion viking who eats children is pretty weird to begin with, but I want to note that the rake that shoots lightning isn't explained on either side of the Pacific. 7/10
- Deviation From The Source: You'd think that the idea of an invisible enemy would've been the easiest thing to adapt, but alas. Oh, and no souls get eaten either. 7/10
- Bulk And Skull Friendship: They're barely in this episode, but it's worth noting as always that Skull has absolute faith in Bulk's ability to beat Zack in a dance contest. Believe in your dreams. 5/10
- 90s Fashions: They should have sent a poet. 9/10
- Moral Lessons: I applaud the show for featuring a lesson about how deaf people are no different from anyone else as early in the run as they did, but also, you kind of drop the ball on not actually giving her a name for the first half of the show. 8/10
Total For Episode 5: 36/50