Ranger Station Episode 62: The Mutiny, Part 2
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 from Gosei Sentai Dairanger in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, the Angel Grove off-road rally continues --- and so does Biidoro Boodoro!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 62: The Mutiny, Part 2
Writer: Shuki Levy and Shell Danielson
Director: Shuki Levy
Original Air Date: July 29, 1994
I wrote about a lot of the weirdness of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Season 2 last week, but when you look at all of the differences between the original Japanese version and its American counterpart, and how much work they had to put in to Frankensteining the whole thing together into something that was more-or-less coherent, it's always really surprising to me that they never just went ahead and made a full-on American version of the show without relying on the source material at all.
I have to imagine that the big issue there was the cost, but still. I won't speculate on how much money the show was bringing in by 1994, because I have literally no idea how that entire industry works, but I think it's pretty clear that Power Rangers was at least turning a pretty tidy profit. If nothing else, it's a show that's still on the air now, and you don't get a run that spans three decades if you're not turning a profit. I'm sure it's cheaper to license the footage, because I doubt they'd do it otherwise, but it does seem like the kind of thing they could've tried if they wanted to.
And on top of that, from what I've read, it seems like the cast and crew actually like doing the episodes that are heavily --- or entirely --- built around original footage. It's easy to see why, too. From a writing standpoint, you're not working around someone else's plot and characters --- pieces that might not have anything to do with what you're normally working with, depending on how far afield the adaptation can get --- and for actors, well, I don't imagine you become an actor if you want to do less acting, right? It seems like it would've made sense for the series to at least give it a shot.
But that never happened, at least not with Power Rangers. As much as shows like Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad (based on Tsubaraya's Denkou Choujin Gridman), Big Bad Beetleborgs (cobbled together from a couple different "Metal Hero" shows), and the eventual and inexplicable Masked Rider followed the Power Rangers model, there were a handful of shows in that initial burst of Rangers-mania that gave it a shot. My personal favorite MMPR knock-off, the fantastically terrible Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills, was one of those, and while it's not good by any definition, it's at least interesting.
Power Rangers, on the other hand, never really went all out with it. There's always some tokusatsu source material to be drawn from, and while I'm certainly fine with it --- if nothing else, 62-odd installments of this column have shown that I'm pretty fascinated by the way it all comes together --- there's one question it's really hard to get away from: Wouldn't it just be easier?
I bring all of this up now because the storytelling gymnastics that the show has to get through to get to a version of MMPR that has the costumes from Zyuranger, the robots from Dairanger, and a new original villain, are pretty staggering.
As you might recall, we left off with all of the Zords frozen by a blast from the Prantishead (spellings vary, believe me, I looked), and as part of Lord Zedd's plan to destroy the Rangers with their own weapons, the Tyrannosaurus isn't just frozen, but taken over. With that in place, it's up to Tommy to defend them with the Dragonzord, because, you know, when you're fighting a monster with the ability to control machines, what you really want to do is just keep throwing progressively more powerful machines at him to see what sticks.
Needless to say...
Who among us could've seen that one coming?
With all six Zords on a rampage, the Rangers are pretty much screwed --- but it turns out there's hope! A very, very frustrating hope. See, it turns out that Zordon has another set of Zords that have apparently just been sitting down in the basement gathering dust this whole time, and they've got The Power of Thunder!
Yes, Tommy! New Zords!
And again, without the structure of Super Sentai behind it, where the yearly switch to a new series with a new theme is just part of the show, this raises a lot of questions that I don't think MMPR was ever really prepared to answer.
Like, why didn't Zordon start off giving the Rangers the strongest Zords he had, if Rita was really a threat to the entire world? Heck, why didn't he give them these new and more powerful Zords back in "Doomsday," when everyone thought the Dinozords were destroyed? There's not even an attempt to say that this is something he and Alpha have been working on over the past year; Alpha just leads them outside and points at the new toys.
So Jason gets the Red Dragon, Trini gets the Griffin, Billy gets the Unicorn, Kimberly gets the Firebird, and Zack gets the Lion, which is suspiciously green for something that's going to be piloted by the Black Ranger. And, because they still have the same morphers and costumes that went with the first season, all of these Zords are also identified by their pilots' patron dinosaurs, meaning that the full name of, for instance, Billy's, is the Triceratops Unicorn Thunderzord.
"Triceratops" and "unicorn" are literally words that describe a different number of horns! This makes no sense!
Tommy, by the way, gets jack, because it's going to be a while for Dairanger's sixth ranger to show up. When he does, though... Hoo boy.
The weird thing is, even after the new Zords are introduced, we don't actually get to see them in action. Instead, Alpha 5 stalls by telling us that they need to get control of the currently rampaging DinoZords before they can trade them in for the new models. so instead of getting the one thing that this show is really promising -- our heroes having to use their all-new giant robots to defeat their old and previously unstoppable ones --- we get... a fight with some Putties.
But on the bright side, one of the Putties busts out some pretty sick B-boy moves.
Step Up 2 The Streets of Angel Grove!
Sadly, since the Rangers have already discovered the Putties' new weak points, the fight is a pretty perfunctory offering, even if it does have some solid action. In the end, the Rangers find themselves being menaced by the Tyrannosaurus Zord and the Dragonzord, running out of time before the new models can be arbitrarily brought into battle.
As I mentioned last week, "The Mutiny" is pieced together from episodes 1, 6, and 8 of Gosei Sentai Dairanger, but for our purposes, skipping ahead to episode six isn't exactly helpful for getting to know the cast --- and since this episode only uses about two seconds of Dairanger footage anyway, it wouldn't help to explain anything we've got going on there.
So with that in mind, I'm proceeding instead with Dairanger's second episode: "It's Ch'i Power!!"
Last time, the Gorma returned to Earth and unleashed the terror of Baron String, a weird little tentacle monster that ended the episode by dropping an Enlarging Bomb and growing to Giant Size, which in turn prompted Ryuuseioh --- the giant red dragon robot --- to show up.
Now, normally, the monster fights happen at the end of the show, but for some reason Dairanger's second episode decided to load this thing up right here at the front. This thing opens with Ryuuseioh transforming into a humanoid battle mode called Mythical Ch'i Warrior Ryuuseioh, just beating the living heck out of Baron String:
Two things about this: First, we are once again treated to the soundtrack of a just-slightly-off-key version of the Imperial March from Star Wars. Second, Ryuuseioh appears to be controlled by the back wall of a Spencer's Gifts. Everybody's got one of those little plasma globes to channel their ch'i into him.
Eventually, with the help of the Flying Dragon Rod and a finisher called the Great Windmill Slice, Ryuuseioh defeats Baron String --- and we still have a solid fifteen minutes left in the episode. So hey, why not start in on a completely new story with a completely new monster? Purse Monk!
Remember how I talked about how all the "Zyu2" era monsters were really generic? Purse Monk is a humanoid coin purse who turns into a basketball player and kidnaps children for human sacrifice by dunking on them with gourds carved to look like human heads so that he can take them to a human sacrifice. So, you know. That's kinda what I was getting at there. But on the bright side, he is eventually going to show up in Power Rangers, when they finally get around to adapting Dairanger's second episode as Season 2's 19th.
So while Purse Monk is getting ready to wreak dunk-based havoc all over Tokyo, it's our turn to learn a little more about Your New Favorite Ranger, Shoji. It turns out that he's a boxer! Just, you know, not a very good one.
So not good, in fact, that he sadly fails to stop a local youngster named Kenbo from being dunked on by Purse Monk, who's disguised in his human form. To be fair, though, nobody else can stop him, either --- all told, PM ends up capturing four kids and the Pink Dairanger, Rin.
Shoji does get the chance to fight him, though, but even that gets him nowhere. Despite the fact that, as the Blue Dairanger, he can unleash an attack with the pretty brutal-sounding name of Heavenly Gravity Star Gravity Inversion Destruction, he cannot stop the power of the dunk.
It's gotta be the shoes!
Clearly, Shoji needs some remedial combat training from Kaku down at what the Super Sentai Bros. call the Murder Basement, and if you've ever seen a Super Sentai show before (or a Power Rangers show, for that matter), you pretty much know exactly how that entire sequence is going to go down. But while I think we're all sure that Shoji is going to eventually win, we have a much more perplexing question to ask: What do the Gorma want with all those children (and Rin)?
The answer... is Biidoro Boodoro! A demonic sacrifice that will give them power, performed by this guy!
I love that they had a guy in a robe with a scythe, and then thought "Hey, you know what would make this really scary? A hockey mask!" Also, shout out to Dairanger for making it two episodes before they got to ritual sacrifice. Bandora could learn a thing or two here.
Clearly, it's up to Shoji to stop Biidoro Boodoro, so taking the lessons he learned from Kaku about the finer points of gourd-head dodging, he finds the warehouse where the Gorma are having their fancy dinner/human sacrifice, jumps through a window, and just kicks everybody's ass.
With that --- and with Death-Jason revealed as Purse Monk --- the true battle against the Gorma Commanders begins. The other Dairangers show up, everyone Aura changes, and then our five stars shining in the heavens unleash their true powers.
And what weird powers they are. Like, at one point, Daigo just straight up Hadoukens a train at the bad guys.
Seriously. He does a Hadouken motion, and then a ghostly train comes out and runs over a bunch of Catpotros. I have no idea what this means or what it is. Also, it's revealed that Kazu can turn time backwards and re-fight some bad guys if he does the wrong thing, which would seem like it should be a pretty big deal.
In the end, though, it has to come down to Shoji, who has learned to dodge well enough that he can get in place for his new finisher, the Heavenly Gravity Star Revolving Kicks!
Purse Monk attempts to throw an Enlarging Bomb, but the Dairangers trap him and then take care of him with their group finisher, the Ch'i Power Bomber.
And with that, the day is saved, and Shoji goes back to road work so that he can become a better boxer.
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: Pirantishead is barely even a factor in this episode on the American side of things, but with Purse Monk, we have gotten to the second element of Super Sentai Bros' theory about the theme running through the Gorma's monsters. In the way that all of Bandora's monsters were based on classical mythology, the Gorma tend to favor monsters that are made from "things you might find in a lady's purse." Keep that in mind for next week. 6/10
Deviation From The Source: I'm tempted to give this one an N/A, as it barely used footage from Dairanger, but, you know. We're keeping it at ten. 10/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: What's this?! One of the subplots of this episode is that Bulk and Skull are arguing with each other about which way to get home from the desert, where they're riding historic on Fury Road, which evolves into a bet where the loser has to buy pizza! Could this be... the end?! 4/10
Moral Lessons: Watch out, or your ass gonna get dunked on!!! 8/10
'90s Fashions: One weird quirk about this episode: They're only ever in their Ranger uniforms, without any civilian clothes at all. I think Billy might wear a turtleneck once? N/A
Total For Episode 46: 28/50