Ranger Station Episode 30: The Rockstar
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, Jason's cousin Germy defeats the monster all by himself, which kind of makes me wonder why Zordon even needed five teenagers to begin with.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 30: The Rockstar
Writer: Peggy Nicoll
Director: Terence H. Winkless
Original Air Date: November 4, 1993
We are in a pretty disappointing stretch of Power Rangers, folks. Don't get me wrong, we're not going to get to another low point like "Island of Illusion" again for a good long while --- at least until Turbo --- but this episode has its own brand of letdown to bring us.
In all honesty, it's not actually the episode's fault. It's a very basic story in both versions, although there are certainly a couple of weird twists along the way, and it helps get us back on the right foot for the adventures that are coming in the second half of the season, when Power Rangers enters its weird little divorced-but-still-dating relationship witih Zyuranger.
No, this time, it's more because of the title. Honestly, when you have a show about teenagers with attitude and there's an episode called "The Rockstar," you expect that someone is at least going to try to form a band over the course of the next half hour. Here, though, it's just the name of the bad guy, and even then, he's just a guy made of rocks! He doesn't even have an evil guitar or nothin'!
In a finer world, we'd have an original song and the Power Rangers rocking out over the closing credits, but no. Not here. So as always, we must focus on the Power Rangers that we have, and not the Power Rangers that we want.
We open at Billy's garage, where the Rangers are loading up the RadBug --- and since this is its final appearance, I should say that I honestly kind of love how the RadBug has gone from a weird one-shot plot device in Zyuranger to just being this flying car that the Power Rangers have that they never talk about --- so that they can all go on a field trip. All, that is, except Jason, who is begging off in order to spend more time with his cousin Jeremy (Richard Lee Jackson).
Well, that's what the subtitles call him, anyway. Thanks to some weird fluke of accent, Austin St. John very consistently pronounces his name as "Germy," even when he's in dire peril of being murdered by Putty Patrollers.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. For now, the gang loads up with Trini's gourmet snail pie and heads off, leaving Jason to go on a good ol' fashioned fishing-and-martial-arts trip with Germy. First, though, they have to deal with two teenagers who definitely didn't get their permission slips signed: Bulk and Skull:
A couple of things about this scene. First of all, I'm pretty sure that Skull intoning "bum-bum-bum-bum-bum" when he reveals the pizza, in time to the music that drifts in and out of their familiar theme, marks the first time that the show has used diegetic music as a technique. Second, Bulk's "Sloppy Joe Pizza" is somehow way more gross than it would've been if it had been something way more over the top.
I've been thinking about this for way longer than I'm sure anyone has ever thought about Bulk and Skull's sloppy joe pizza before, but I think what it comes down to is that a Ninja Turtles-style weird pizza --- something like, say, a pizza with vanilla ice cream, bananas and hot sauce --- at least has this level of effort put into it. It's something studiously weird.
Sloppy Joe Pizza, on the other hand, is familiar. It's very easy to imagine Skull just eagerly ladling sloppy joe --- a gross term to begin with --- onto a pizza for his best pal, and that grounds it in a way that something more inventive would not. You know those flavors, and you can easily imagine how they'd go together, and the effect when Bulk just starts funneling manwich and pizza grease into/onto his face is that it all becomes frighteningly, grotesquely realistic.
Either way, he ends up squaring off with Jason, and the fact that Bulk's actually planning to throw down in a fistfight with the Red Power Ranger --- and that Paul Schrier plays it, at least momentarily, like Bulk thinks he's going to just beat the living crap out of him --- is actually weirdly endearing.
It will not surprise you that the scene ends with Bulk going facefirst into the remnants of his pizza. Such is life.
While all this is going on, Rita Repulsa is up on the moon hatching a new plan, and shockingly, it does not involve a monster made of fishing poles or sloppy joes. Instead, she has decided that she is done hecking around, and wants to find the Mirror of Destruction, an artifact that can blow anything it reflects into "a million pieces." It's been hidden on Earth for unknown (or at least unexplained) reasons, but with the majority of Rangers out of town, now's the perfect time to start searching for it.
That's what Rita says, anyway. I don't think she quite understands that "out of town on a field trip" doesn't mean "no longer on Earth." It's kind of a big planet, even if it looks smaller from the moon.
Not that it partcularly matters. As you might've already guessed, the Mirror of Destruction is hidden just outside of Angel Grove, California, on the exact stretch of the beach where Jason is giving Germy a lesson in how martial arts builds confidence.
I should probably note here that while Jason's accent is all over the map in this one, Germy himself is dubbed for every single line of dialogue by Brianne Brozey. It's especially weird because he's in scenes with Jason where Austin St. John appears to be talking normally. Considering what gets let into this show sometimes, it really makes me wonder why they had to go back and get someone else for his lines.
Regardless, they're attacked by Putty Patrollers, and while Jason's able to fight them off pretty handily, it's not the only time they're going to to be a problem. Shortly after, Germy ends up finding a map that, because Power Rangers is an engine driven entirely by coincidence, leads to the Mirror of Destruction.
And if that's not enough of a coincidence, it turns out that the Mirror is like 50 yards away at best.
When Rita finds out that Germy has the map, she sends Scorpina down to get it, and she brings the Rockstar with her --- and again, I want to stress that there's not so much as a drumstick involved to justify that name. It's literally just a pile of rocks that shoots rocks at the Power Rangers. And when Jason gets buried under a pile of moderately sized boulders, Zordon calls the rest of the Rangers back from their trip to help out, and gives them the truly amazing instruction, "You must fight Scorpina and her Rockstar monster at the beach club."
Seriously, how is there not one rap battle in this entire episode?
They end up battling on the poolside, and since the Rockstar can magically attach a rock to your stomach and then throw you into the pool, the Rangers are at a distinct disadvantage. And hey, who's that guy dressed all in blue there in the background?
He seems like he might be a protagonist of some kind, right?
While the Rangers battle the monster, Germy escapes the putties and follows the map to find the Mirror of Destruction, literally "buried" under a piece of cardboard and a light sprinkling of dirt. Before he can look into it and doom himself, though, a Putty shows up, and after a brief kickboxing match, Jeremy "accicdentally" pops open the mirror, and the putty gets zapped. For the record, it does not burst into a million pieces. It's more like five or six.
More importantly, though, he's then attacked by the Rockstar, and the same thing happens, marking the first --- and only --- time in the series that the monster is defeated by someone other than the Power Rangers themselves.
Congraulations, Germy. You are Historically Significant, for certain values of both of those words.
Having rained hellfire and destruction down upon his enemies, Germy decides to throw the mirror away, and somehow manages to wing it all the way from the forest down to the beach, and right into the waiting arms of Scorpina. She grabs it and grows to giant size --- with the mirror somehow growing with her. The Megazord gets involved, and despite being double-teamed by Goldar and Scorpina, the good guys manage to destroy the Mirror with the Power Sword and save the day.
Germy gets to meet the Rangers, and after they congratulate him on his good work not being murdered by a space witch --- including a really nice bit of subtlety, where the Red Ranger never speaks to him, instead just giving him a thumbs up --- he heads back to the Youth Center to tell Jason and the rest of the kids all about his very eventful day.
Given that the last few episodes of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger that we've talked about have undergone some pretty intense rewriting --- what with being about Daizyuzin unleashing His Godly wrath on Satan and Frankenstein and all --- it might surprise you to learn that this week's episode of Power Rangers is actually prety close to its Super Sentai counterpart: Zyuranger Episode 36, "Smash It! The Mirror Of Death!" The only real difference is that the events are presented in a slightly different order so that they, you know, actually make sense.
Instead of Bandora just deciding that she should probably go looking for this all powerful death artifact, we open with a youngster named Tadashi on a fishing trip and the discovery of the map, a discovery so momentous that it causes an earthquake and a moonquake at the same time.
Bandora --- and the Great Sage Barza --- immediately recognizes this magic as being related to the Mirror of Annihilation, which is powerful enough to destroy even Daizyuzin Himself, should he look at it. So far, we're pretty on track with the American version, but the original actually improves on this in one important way. The Mirror of Annihilation isn't just a powerful ancient artifact, it's also Pirate Treasure!
That's right, y'all: It's booty.
With the ability to destroy even Daizyuzin hanging in the balance, the Zyurangers and Bandora's forces set off on a race to see who can track down the mirror first. It's the kind of quest that could take them to pretty much any exotic location, but rather than going for any of that, they instead wind up at Namegawa Island, a vacation resort and amusement park built in the '70s and stocked up with exotic birds as the main attraction:
Despite the prestige of appearing on Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger --- and its thriving popularity in the '80s and early '90s --- Namegawa Island would eventually close up in 2001. It's currently abandoned (and depending on who you ask, possibly haunted and definitely infested with leeches), with the tunnels that allowed access blocked by fences and barbed wire. If you're curious, though, you can see what it looks like today in this YouTube video, including a good shot of the pool where the Zyurangers fought Dora Ganrock.
Yes, Dora Ganrock. When Tadashi blows off the Zyurangers and starts following the map --- including through tunnels that were constructed in the 1970s, proving that Captain Kidd certainly had more foresight than the average privateer --- he's immediately set upon by Lamy and Dora Ganrock, a monster with the power to attach immovable rocks to its victims.
It gets Dan before he can even transform into his Zyuranger form, and for most of the rest of the episode, the poor guy's dragging around a rock that's stuck to his body, trying to help out his teammates. There's an admirable loyalty there.
Geki, on the other hand, is very quick to just straight up abandon the Zyurangers who find themselves attached to rocks, including leaving Goushi and Boi to fend for themselves after they're thrown into the Namegawa Island swimming pool. Admittedly, I think they're in the shallow end, but still. I guess when there's a mirror that can literally kill God out there floating around, it changes one's priorities.
Eventually, Tadashi discovers the Mirror by the very Myst-esque method of using a magic sundial at the Tower of Eternity, and I honestly don't know if that was a feature of the Namegawa Island resort or just some ominous structure that they built for the show. Honestly, at this point, it could go either way, but that's beside the point. What matters is that Tadsashi is immediately set on by Lamy and her forces, and with only two Zyurangers left to protect him, things are not looking great.
Until, that is, everyone remembers that Tadashi basically has the most powerful weapon that we've ever seen on the show, and he starts vaporizing Golem Soldiers like it's not even a thing. Even Dora Ganrock gets exploded when Tadashi just straight up throws the Mirror at him, letting it hover in the air as though it is possessed of its own will. But the downside to that is that he's thrown it straight at Lamy.
But without a Dora Monster to back her up, she's not much of a challenge for the Zyurangers --- even when her husband, Grifforzar, gets thrown into the fray too. Before long, Daizyuzin is formed, the God Horn shatters the Mirror, and Tadashi is free to go back to his life living in a bird-themed vacation resort that has a good eight years left in it. Fight on, Zyurangers!
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 :Still mad about there not being a single song in this episode, but that's beside the point. A rock monster who fights by throwing rocks at you is still about as basic as it gets. 1/10
Deviation From the Source: This is the closest adaptation that we've had in a while, right down to Power Rangers adopting Zyuranger's usual tactic of showing us a tween in trouble. Could've used more flamingos in the American version, though. 2/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: There is no way that Skull is not 100% responsible for preparing the Sloppy Joe Pizza so that they can share it on their outdoor lunch at a scenic overlook. It's even cut into halves already. 8/10
Moral Lessons: We actually do get a straight up moral in this episode, in the form of Jason revealing that when he was younger, he was very shy and insecure, and took to martial arts as a way to gain confidence in himself, which might actually be more relevant than Roadblock telling you not to play in a refrigerator. 8/10
'90s Fashions: Honestly, Jason's beach gear could probably pass for something you could wear today, sleeveless hoodie and all. 2/10
Total For Episode 21: 21/50