Ranger Station Christmas Special: Alpha’s Magical Christmas
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, well, there's no sense in putting it off any longer. We're finally watching Alpha's Magical Christmas.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Alpha's Magical Christmas
Writer: Cheryl Saban
Director: John Stewart
Original Air Date: October 19, 1994
This week, Christmas is well and truly upon us, and when it comes to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, there's really no way to get through that without talking about Alpha's Magical Christmas, no matter how much we'd rather avoid it.
Like I mentioned in last week's column, Alpha's Magical Christmas wasn't actually an episode of the show. Instead, it was released on VHS exclusively to members of the Power Rangers Fan Club, thus proving that membership had benefits that went beyond a pair of shoelaces and a reminder to not use drugs. Because of that limited release, it's probably one of the least-watched pieces of MMPR, to the point where it's probably best known for being included on Internet listicles about the worst and weirdest Christmas specials of all time. I think it even made it on mine.
Really, though, that's a reputation that it doesn't quite deserve. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not exactly what you'd call good, but when you compare it to something like the similar and utterly mystifying We Wish You A Turtle Christmas from the same year, AMC actually ends up comparing pretty favorably.
The big problem, of course, is that it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Well, that and the fact it's a special about Alpha 5 singing Christmas carols which, despite some genuinely impressive commitment from voice actor Richard Horvitz, is not exactly something that I think a lot of people were really clamoring for. It does, however, have its interesting points, and we get the first one right at the beginning.
We start off with an intro where Alpha 5 breaks the fourth wall to let all of us viewers know that while he's doing all right now, he was having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. The reason? He and Zordon are all alone, and it's just not feeling quite as festive around the Command Center without the Rangers around.
This raises the question of just where the Rangers are, and that's where things get amazing. As Zordon explains, the Rangers can't be there because they are helping Santa Claus load up his sleigh with toys. I was always under the impression that this was something the elves handled, but no: It turns out that along with fighting off monsters sent to Earth by Moon Witches, sleigh-loading duty is one of the Power Rangers' responsibilities.
Two things about this: One, it's the first big problem with the special, in that it introduces something that's really interesting (the Power Rangers going to the North Pole to meet Santa) and then shows us something else entirely.
Second, and on a more positive note, this is the start of exactly the thing I loved about "Race to Rescue Christmas," which is that Power Rangers just pretty consistently treats Santa Claus as just another fact of life. Of course Santa knows them, and if he's having trouble getting all those toys on the sleigh --- toys that I'm guessing are coming straight from Bandai and involve your favorite tokusatsu heroes --- then who else is he going to call?
Unfortunately, that duty has left Alpha and Zordon alone. That shouldn't be much of a problem when you consider that Zordon's been trapped in that tube since he sealed Rita Repulsa away in a space dumpster 10,000 years ago, so this is pretty much how it's been every Christmas since there was a Christmas, but I suppose it's always tough to be alone at the holidays. If you've gotten used to having some teenagers with attitudes around after so many centuries by yourself, it probably stings if they end up being busy elsewhere on Christmas Eve.
Alpha decides that the best thing to do at this point is to put up decorations and a Christmas tree so that Santa will be encouraged to stop at the Command Center and bring the Rangers with him. Zordon even helps by providing a tree, which levitates into place in a shower of glitter in what might be Zordon's finest moment ever.
But this is where things go off the rails. After a quick rendition of "O Christmas Tree," Zordon decides that since Alpha's big problem here is loneliness, then they should just start teleporting random children from across the world into the Command Center to have a Christmas party. Considering the emphasis that Zordon places on the Rangers' keeping their identities secret, this seems like a pretty dubious idea, but here we are, with a bunch of '90s kids singing songs with a robot.
The songs are about what you expect, although there are a couple of things worth noting:
- The first song after the kids arrive at the Command Center is "Here We Come A-Caroling," a uniquely American version of the more familiar "Here We Come A-Wassailing." It seems a little weird to go with the less common variant, but then, this is definitely a show for babies so it probably makes sense to feature the one that referenced singing cheery songs instead of the one that referenced getting liquored up from a communal bucket of cider.
- At one point, Alpha 5 asks a child, "Do you know how to sing 'Jingle Bells?"" which is so hilariously awkward that it loops back around to being kind of adorable.
- According to RangerWiki, these songs represent the only time in the entirety of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that God and Jesus are mentioned. That's less notable in and of itself than the fact that verifying this required someone to check every episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for a mention of Jesus.
For the record, Mary and the Child Jesus actually appear onscreen on the Viewing Globe during "Silent Night."
Eventually, the party runs its course, and after a surprisingly melancholy rendition of "I'll Be Home For Christmas," the kids depart, leaving Alpha alone in the Command Center once again --- but only for a moment. Before long, the Power Rangers themselves show up to offer up some Christmas greetings!
Or at least, y'know, half of 'em do. The Yellow, Red and Black Rangers --- who at this point in the series were Aisha (Karan Ashley), Rocky (Steve Cardenas) and Adam Park (Johnny Yong Bosch) --- make a pretty purfunctory appearance on the viewing globe, but Tommy, Billy and Kimberly make an appearance in person.
It's one of the few times that we get to see the actors in-uniform, but it's even more remarkable for getting the Rangers' Christmas wishes to both Alpha and to us. After Tommy tells Alpha that he hopes he "will always have a smile in your heart" --- a kind of weird thing to tell someone who has neither heart nor mouth --- they once again turn straight to the camera and offer us some good tidings:
KIMBERLY: We hope that the new year will bring happiness and harmony to you and your families.
BILLY: And a safe world where you'll be free to grow into the best person you can be.
TOMMY: And for all of us, may this be the year we have peace on Earth.
It is, despite the goofiness of literally everything that surrounds it, a nice sentiment that actually does feel heartfelt. Billy's line in particular about becoming the best person you can be, is surprisingly resonant, something that specials like this don't really get to that often.
Could've probably used more Bulk and Skull, though. Merry Christmas, everybody!
Check Out Some Power Rangers Facts You May Not Know