Ranger Station Episode 3: Teamwork
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 get their weapons and we have an exclusive as we hear directly from a rather surprising actor who appeared in this actual episode!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 3: Teamwork
Director: Robert Hughes
Writer: Cheryl Saban
Original Air Date: September 8, 1993
Normally, this is where I'd offer up a rambling introduction, but today marks a special occasion. For the first time in Ranger Station --- for the first time, I think, in any ComicsAlliance episode guide --- I've been in contact with one of the actors in this episode, and I can almost guarantee it's going to be a pretty interesting surprise. So with that in mind, let's get to it!
We open for the first time at Angel Grove High, where Trini and Kimberly are collecting signatures to shut down a local dump site because it smells bad, a bit of activism that, while a little halfhearted, gets them a hearty congratulations from AGHS's extremely toupeed Principal Caplan:
Unfortunately, not everyone finds their sudden commitment to environmentalism to be quite as dandy as Mr. C. On the moon, Rita decides that, what with this being 1993 and all, she's going to commission Finster to make a monster that will turn humanity's own pollution against it.
And this, you might think, is a plan with some potential. I mean, we could get a smog monster out of this, or a living trash pile, or a big ol' leaky barrel of toxic waste with stumpy arms and legs that flooded everything with explosive (and extremely toyetic) goop! This is not what we're going to get. What we're going to get is a giant minotaur.
No, I don't know why either.
Back at the school, Kimberly and Trini attempt to enlist the other Rangers to their cause, but since pollution isn't something that can generally be defeated in five minutes by a giant robot , it doesn't go well:
They all have prior commitments that make for pretty solid excuses, except for Zack, who claims that he has to go teach a robot how to do a hip-hop dance, which, depending on your point of view, may in fact be the most solid excuse of all time. Either way, Trini and Kimberly are left with the pretty daunting task of cleaning up the Earth all by themselves.
But to their credit, at least the other Rangers are concerned. Angel Grove's less environmentally conscious students couldn't care less about their hometown being turned into a nightmare of industrial waste. And by that, I of course mean Bulk, Skull... and Punk #3?!
Punk #3, played by a sadly uncredited actress, only appears in a couple of episodes, speaks in none of them, and seems to be a leftover remnant of the original pilot, where the kids hung out in a bowling alley instead of a youth center and were menaced by a gang of five bullies instead of the duo that we ended up with. Still, it's nice to see her when she shows up.
But amazingly, despite her rarity, Punk #3 is not the most notable bit player in this scene.
After Bulk throws a can on the floor --- and after Skull chucks one at Trini's head in one of his more violent outbursts, something that the characters would move away from pretty quickly as they settled into their comic relief role --- an AGHS student picks up the can, throws it away, and then is promptly held in place by Skull as Bulk dumps the trash can out over his head.
And that student... was IDW editor-in-chief Chris Ryall.
Ryall reached out to me after the first installment of Ranger Station went up, and he had this to say about his appearance in this episode:
One of the episodes I was there (I was also in the original pilot that got scrapped.), Bulk invited everyone to come see him do a one-man show of him performing Shakespeare, and then a party at his house. I lived in Orange County at the time, and had no money even for gas (even doing these episodes was almost a break-even thing for me with the gas money and paying parking), so I didn’t go, but I wish to hell I had. Bulk performing a one-man Shakespeare show? God, I wish there was video of that.
I would pay literally all the money I have to see Paul Schrier do a one-man Shakespeare show and then go to a party at his house. Not even close to kidding.
On the Moon, Rita is watching as Kimberly and Trini make their plans, and, in one of the more interesting moments of the episode, she refers to it as her dump site, implying that she has actually been buying industrial property in Southern California and using it to house industrial waste. Even beyond the question of just where all that waste is coming from --- I think it's safe to assume that Finster's monster oven is probably putting out some pretty heinous stuff --- you'd think that a witch from space who spent most of her time trying to murder teenagers with giant monsters would have a tough time purchasing real estate.
The plan, according to Goldar at least, is to ambush Trini and Kimberly with Putty Patrollers and then send in a monster to finish them off, and to that end, Finster cooks up another pretty unimaginative monster, the Minotaur.
But instead of, you know, going after Trini and Kimberly, which was the plan, they just beam it down to the planet to start stomping around the desert with Goldar, sending Jason, Zack and Billy into action.
At the dump site, Kimberly and Trini finish off the Putties by dumping them into oil barrels. It's a technique that mirrors this week's instance of public humiliation for Bulk and Skull, which is a nice touch except for the fact that mayyyyyybe Power Rangers shouldn't have been sending its young viewers the message that the best way to defeat monsters like your heroes is with stuff that you can do to your classmates at school. But, y'know, that's probably nitpicking.
When they join the bigger fight, though, the Rangers quickly find themselves with their hands full with what Zordon calls "the toughest situation they have faced." Considering that this is episode three, that's not saying much, but he still thinks that the situation is dire enough that they need to be granted some new powers. So, in the middle of a fight with the Minotaur after Rita has blown him up to giant-size, the Rangers are teleported back to the Command Center to be given their new weapons.
While the American version of Power Rangers involves Zordon just pretty much casually handing out the Power Weapons, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger takes a much more dramatic route in the two episodes that provide this week's source material: "Fight in the Land of Darkness" and "Reawaken, Legendary Weapons."
You might recall that in their last adventure, Zyurangers had their regular, non-magical weapons destroyed in the battle against Dora Skeleton. The good news is that their powers are so great that they're simply too strong for normal weapons, which shatter even when they're being used in training. The bad news is that, as strong as they are, they're still no match for Bandora's forces without weapons. Clearly, they need an edge. Preferably several edges.
Convenient, then, that the history of the Five Tribes includes a set of Legendary Weapons that were found in the neck of a five-headed dragon.
The problem is that they're being held in the Land of Despair, a particularly bitter section of the underworld with the rather unusual geographical feature of turning its visitors into stone statues if they ever feel sad, and they have to get in and out in a single day. And if that wasn't bad enough, Bandora Skypes in via magic to let them know that she has kidnapped a young boy named Hiroshi and his mom and sent them into the Land of Despair too.
Naturally, the Zyurangers split into groups, with Geki, Goushi and Dan going after the weapons while Mei and Boi search for Hiroshi --- and both teams promptly get lost. It seems that the Land of Despair does not follow linear geography, causing those who try to explore it to wander aimlessly until they eventually give into sadness.
And just in case that wasn't dire enough, Pleprechaun cooks up a new monster: Dora Minotaur, who shows up and clubs the living bejeezus out of the Red, Black and Blue Rangers while Grifforzar menaces the Pink and Yellow Rangers right after they find Hiroshi. It's a traumatic enough experience that Hiroshi starts bawling and promptly turns into a statue.
When Dora Minotaur is grown to daikaiju size, it proves to be too tough for the Guardian Beasts to handle, trouncing the floor with both the Triceratops and the Tyrannosaurus. Fortunately for the Zyurangers, they're able to hold on until nightfall, when Bandora calls for the Minotaur to retreat so that it won't freeze to death in the sub-zero temperatures that descend on the Land of Despair when the sun goes down.
With Hiroshi turned to stone and the clock ticking before they're trapped in the Land of Despair themselves, the Zyurangers finally stumble across an invisible wall, and when they break through it, they finally find themselves in the castle that houses the Legendary Weapons. After facing a few D&D-esque challenges, including a door that opens on a flamethrower (suitable for a party of four third-level adventurers) and an evil sword that briefly turns Dan into a vampire...
...they finally discover the Legendary Weapons, just in time to realize that their time is up and they're turning to stone. So rather than physically claiming the weapons, they start talking to them, pleading with the weapons themselves to aid in the fight against Bandora.
The weapons are evidently moved by Geki's plea, and fly off of the pedestal into their hands so that they can set about stabbing Putty Patrollers to death. And when they transform, the weapons do, too, becoming the Power Weapons that we recognize from the American version --- Power Weapons that can be combined into the Howling Cannon, a five-barreled laser bazooka that blows Dora Minotaur out of his hooves and into a smoking crater.
And for both teams, that is pretty much that. The Zyurangers rescue Hiroshi and his mom, the Power Rangers use the Megazord to defeat the Minotaur, and the Industrial Dump Site is never mentioned again.
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: I'll admit that I'd be pretty freaked out if I ever met an axe-wielding half-man cow monster, but also that is something a bunch of people came up with four thousand years before Nintendo existed. You can do better, Power Rangers. 1/10
- Deviation From the Source: Having Zordon just hand out the weapons when the Rangers are already in the Megazord --- weapons that are significantly less powerful than the Megazord --- is way less exciting than the goofy D&D adventure about how being sad about things is going to turn you into a rock. 8/10
- Bulk and Skull Friendship: In one of the show's more disappointing moments, there's a bit at the top of the show where Bulk and Skull end up hugging each other and then recoil, disgusted. 2/10
- '90s Fashions: For a man who teaches a robot how to dance, Zack's outfit is nowhere near as rad as you want it to be this week. 4/10
- Moral Lessons: Pollution: Just Don't Do It! 7/10
Total For Episode 3: 22/50