Ranger Station Christmas Special: Race To Rescue 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, we're jumping ahead to the current series, Power Rangers Dino Charge, for a look at the "Race to Rescue Christmas," and the question of just how Santa Claus works in the world of the Power Rangers!
Power Rangers Dino Charge: "Race To Rescue Christmas"
Writers: Chip Lynn and Mark Litton
Director: Charlie Haskell
Original Air Date: December 5, 2015
In our regular Ranger Station timeline, we're just about to get into "Green With Evil." It's a major turning point of the show --- probably the major turning point, if we're being honest --- but it's also a five-part saga that's going to take up a pretty big chunk of time. So really, if we're going to talk about Christmas, and we are going to talk about Christmas, then we have to do it now.
But that leaves us with a question of just where to go on this, the most blessed of all Ranger-related holidays. The Mighty Morphin years did in fact produce a pair of Christmas specials, but there are a couple of problems with that. The first, "Alpha's Magical Christmas," is both terrible and, having been originally released as a special on VHS, isn't part of the actual series run that's on Netflix, and while "I'm Dreaming Of A White Ranger" is one of the highlights of the show, it doesn't seem quite right to use that episode to introduce our readers to Tommy before he actually shows up on the show.
As a result, I've decided to do what I did at Halloween and jump ahead to a later season, and while there are plenty of episodes that fit the bill, there aren't many better than this year's "Race to Rescue Christmas," from Power Rangers Dino Charge.
If you haven't been keeping up with it, Dino Charge is pretty fantastic. The first half of the season is on Netflix, but just so you know what we're dealing with today, here's the basics: Millions of years ago, an alien named Sledge, who has a spaceship that is also a jail for imprisoned monster crooks, was trying to get hold of a bunch of magical AA batteries called Energems. The keeper of the Energems, creatively named Keeper, escaped to Earth and gave them to dinosaurs, because who else are you going to give your magic batteries to when you're on Earth in the Cretaceous era?
After Keeper's escape, Sledge got sent off into space for the next 65,000 millennia, and as you might expect, he's a little testy about the whole thing. Now, he's back on Earth, and the Energems are defended by a group of young humans who operate out of a secret base (accessible only by playground slide) below the Amber Beach Dinosaur Museum.
Here's our cast:
- Tyler Navarro, the Red Ranger (Brennan Mejia): Friendly leader of the Dino Charge Rangers who is searching for his father, an archaeologist who disappeared under mysterious circumstances related to one of Sledge's generals, Fury. Despite this, he doesn't seem too terribly bothered by it most of the time.
- Shelby Watkins, the Pink Ranger (Camille Hyde): A sweet, somewhat naive aspiring paleontologist who secretly has a crush on Tyler. Her likes include the Triceratops and the N-Zed Boys, a boy band from New Zealand, which is definitely not where Amber Beach is.
- Koda, the Blue Ranger (Yoshi Sudarso): A literal unfrozen caveman with the super-strength and huge appetite that I think we all just kind of decided cavemen had back when cartoons were being invented. Survived 100,000 years frozen in a glacier thanks to his Energem. Illiterate, but tries his best.
- Riley Griffin, the Green Ranger (Michael Taber): Definitely watches sword videos on YouTube and writes one-star reviews of sub-par katanas on Amazon.
- Chase Randall, the Black Ranger (James Davies): The skateboarding Cool Guy of the team, who once made fun of Shelby for being into boy bands so hard that space monsters almost conquered the planet as a result. He did, however, feel bad about it. He is from New Zealand, where Amber Beach is definitely not located.
- Sir Ivan of Zandar, the Gold Ranger (Davi Santos): A 13th Century knight who was trapped inside Fury for 800 years. Per his Wikipedia description: "Ivan later tells his tale to the Rangers and gets familiar with the hamburger that is served to him."
- Kendall Morgan (Claire Blackwelder): The head of paleontology for the Amber Beach Dinosaur Museum and the scientist responsible for maintaining the Energems. A mentor figure who is not yet an actual Power Ranger but, c'mon, we all know how this goes.
Oh, and also
- Santa Claus (John Sumner): Jolly old 3rd century bishop turned gift-giving saint who resides on a very cold reindeer farm/toy factory, where he keeps track of children's behavior.
Okay, so Santa isn't exactly a Power Ranger either. He is, however, someone with a long history as an ally to the forces of good , and he is a known, super-powered quantity in their universe, as evidenced by how this week's episode starts:
Santa Claus is sitting in a gazebo getting lists of Christmas wishes from children when Poisandra, another one of Sledge's generals who also happens to be his fiancée, shows up with her own list of wants.
And make no mistake: This is the real Santa Claus, and it's never even hinted at that it might not be the case. And that, my friends, is great. Never forget that even at its darkest --- RPM --- Power Rangers is still a show for tiny babies. With 20+ years under his belt working on the franchise, Chip Lynn is aware of one simple fact that eludes a lot of other writers who work in kids' programming: Santa Claus quite simply does not need to be explained or justified. Of course he exists, and of course he's just hanging out in Amber Beach taking requests when a bunch of monsters show up to find out what they can expect on the big day.
Unfortunately, Poisandra and her fellow monsters aren't quite as aware of how Santa Claus operates as the average eight year-old, and when Santa checks Poisandra's stats on his Naughty-or-Nice Computer, we get a pretty predictable result:
Since she's not getting any presents, Piosandra decides that nobody will be getting presents, and makes off with Santa's computer. Without the ability tell the naughty from the nice, Santa won't be able to deliver presents to anyone, and Christmas... will be canceled.
Now admittedly, Santa could just deliver presents to everyone in the spirit of brotherhood and good cheer, reminding us that no one is all bad and perhaps inspiring a few people and/or space monsters to change their lives for the better, and the fact that this entire episode is basically about the Power Rangers restoring his ability to determine who doesn't get a present makes things a little less festive. But then again, I'm probably the only one around here getting paid to read that much into the Christmas episode of Power Rangers Dino Charge.
We're not quite up to that yet, though. First, we cut to the underground lab, where the Rangers are having a Christmas Eve feast. Chase, however, isn't eating, instead just stopping by to drop off presents for everyone before he catches a flight back to New Zealand to see his mom and sister on Christmas morning.
If you're savvy to the whole time zone thing, then you may have already realized that if Amber Beach is meant to be somewhere in America --- which, between the heroes' accents and this episode's insistence that it's definitely not set in the same country where Power Rangers is filmed --- then if it's Christmas Eve for the Rangers, it's already Christmas Morning in Auckland. But that's beside the point.
The point is, Chase needs to leave now if he's going to be able to spend Christmas with his family, which makes it a bit of a bummer when Santa Claus calls them on their Morphers to let them know about Poisandra's plot to ruin Christmas.
Because of course Santa has their number.
The reactions to Santa calling up are fantastic, by the way. Shelby is flipping out, Chase wants to know if Santa got his wish list, and while 13th century Ivan is suitably impressed and is the only one of the team to address him as "St. Nicholas," Koda the Caveman has no idea who Santa Claus is. It's delightful.
At this point, the episode becomes a clip show, which it itself something of a tradition. Super Samurai, for instance, had the classic "Stuck On Christmas," where they combined the clip show with the stuck-in-an-elevator trope and came up with a story where the Rangers had to spend Christmas trapped in the head of the Megazord. Here, though, the bad guys use Santa's computer to look back at their most evil, coal-deserving acts before shifting over to checking out the Rangers to see if they can use those clips to find the location of their hidden base.
Meanwhile, news travels fast, and Chase's mom and sister are not happy.
It's worth noting that Chase's relationship with his sister, Chloe, and how it's been strained by Chase being called away "for work" is a recurring theme on the show, so his attempt to get home is actually something that's been set up for a while.
Eventually, everyone watches enough clips that the Rangers recover the computer and deal with the monsters, and we are treated with an amazing shot of Sledge holding up a Santa hat that is clearly an attempt from the suit actor to get around the fact that there was no way that thing was fitting over the head of his costume:
It might be my favorite part of the episode.
With the monsters defeated and Santa's computer back where it belongs, there's still one more problem: Chase has missed his flight, and there's no way that he can make it to New Zealand in time for Christmas. Unless, of course, Santa Claus himself shows up right before the last leg of his journey and offers to take Chase directly to the house via reindeer sleigh. Which, fortunately enough, is exactly what happens.
Thus, everyone who deserves it gets a present, the villains get blown up, the Rangers unwrap Chase's presents to reveal that it's a puzzle of all of them together with a Merry Christmas message, and Christmas is saved for another year.
Isn't that nice?
Since it's mostly a clip show, "Race to Rescue Christmas" isn't actually based on an episode of Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, its Super Sentai counterpart, with the exception of maybe a minute of footage of the monster fighting the Megazord at the end.
There is, however, a completely different and unrelated episode of Kyoryuger that does take place at Christmas, in which this happens:
Hopefully they're saving that one for next year's special.