Ranger Station Episode 40: Doomsday, 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, Kyuoryu Sentai Zyuranger, in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, the Zyurangers face their most important battle as the fate of the world hangs in the balance, but for the Power Rangers... it's just Tuesday.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 40: Doomsday, Part II
Writer: Stewart St. John
Director: Terence H. Winkless
Original Air Date: November 30, 1993
Of all the weirdness that crept into the show in the process of Americanizing Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the structure of this week's episodes might be the weirdest --- assuming that you're comparing it to the original, anyway. See, this week marks the end of Zyuranger, the series finale that, as you'll see in the second half of the column, is both world-shattering and completely bananas.
For Power Rangers, though, that's not exactly the case. Despite the ominous episode title and the fact that Rita Repulsa has somehow kidnapped the entire population of Angel Grove, this doesn't feel like the kind of dramatic conclusion to the Power Rangers' first run of daily episodes --- which is not only what it should feel like, but what it actually is. As for why that is, well, you can actually pinpoint the moment that it happens. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
When we last left off, Titanus had been destroyed after Lokar, a great and ancient evil, returned to Earth to do Rita Repulsa's evil bidding. And what's worse, he resurrected Cyclopsis, a "War Zord" piloted by Goldar, that only Titanus and the power of the Ultrazord had been able to defeat.
And on top of that, the Rangers' Zords have been severely depowered from that first battle against Cyclopsis. According to Billy, they'll be fully recharged in 12 hours, but with Rita currently in the process of destroying Angel Grove before moving on to finally conquering Earth, they don't really have time to wait. If the Rangers are going to fight --- and of course the Rangers are going to fight --- they'll need to take the Zords at half power.
And honestly? For all my grousing, that's a pretty compelling setup! The Rangers' greatest weapons have been taken away from them, which eliminates the possibility of going right to the formulaic finish that we've come to expect over the past forty episodes, and forces them to fight back from a disadvantaged position. It's everything you want for one of those darkest-before-the-dawn moments, especially with Billy's concern that taking the Zords into battle at half power could cause them to become permanently damaged, or even destroyed. Even Zordon himself tells them that what they're doing is just too dangerous, and that the Rangers "and everything in the Morphin Grid" could be destroyed! There's a lot of potential for drama, right up front.
But then it all goes wrong.
It starts out well enough, with Goldar and Cyclopsis making good on Billy's worries about "severe damage" almost immediately by chopping off the Megazord's left arm in a shower of sparks. Even the Dragonzord loses its tail (and with it, its finishing move) when Jason summons it to help. The Zords are left devastated, and as Lokar encourages her, Rita blasts them from her palace, obliterating them piece by piece.
Awesome, right? The destruction of the Megazords! The very thing that we were warned about has happened, and now the Rangers are at an even bigger disadvantage! How are they going to be able to defeat Lokar, Cyclopsis and Rita herself without their Zords?!
Well, don't worry. It turns out they're fine.
Quoth Billy: "That was actually the new security system that Zordon designed for the Zords. See, if they lose in battle, they automatically disassemble and return to the secret hiding place to re-energize."
And with that single line of dialogue, all of the drama is immediately removed, not just from this episode, but from every single fight for the remainder of the series. And the most frustrating thing about it is how unnecessary it all seems. I mean, given the way the rest of the show goes, you'd think that this would be the exact moment that they'd go ahead and blow up the Zords for real. Not only do they not have any more source material featuring those designs, but at the time this episode was made, they had seventeen other shows they could've drawn from to bring new robots in. I'm not saying they should've gone back all the way to Battle Fever J or anything, but like, Jetman was right there, they could've dropped in those and claimed that they were even more powerful robots that Zordon had been working on all this time.
But that's not what they did. I mean, that actually is exactly what they did once they got to the end of the series and brought in the designs from Gosei Sentai Dairanger, but here, in episode 40, they decided to go a different route, both with this episode's climax and the remaining 20 episodes of the first season. As for what that was, we'll get into more detail later, but suffice to say that it involves keeping the "original" Zords around for as long as possible.
And that raises the question of why? Why not just move on to new Zords right here? I don't know, and I might just be thinking cynically here, but I do think it's worth noting that "Doomsday" aired in late November as the last new episode of Power Rangers until February. Considering that it was already a smash hit, and that there were plenty of kids who wanted nothing more than Power Rangers toys under the Christmas tree that year, I have to think that at least part of the decision came from wanting to make the most of the Megazord toys that they already had on their way to stores.
Again, that's just a guess, but you probably don't want to introduce a bunch of new toys three weeks before Christmas when you won't have any more new episodes to get kids excited about 'em.
Regardless of the reasons behind it, though, the whole thing feels like a massively anticlimactic copout. With 12 minutes left in an episode that's only 18 minutes and 42 seconds long --- including the credits! --- it's pretty clear exactly how this is going to end.
There are a couple of wrinkles worth mentioning, though. First is that Goldar shows up at Billy's house, which is theoretically so that he can kill the Rangers himself, but as he mostly just stands around laughing at them for a long few minutes while Billy furiously fixes the communicators, that's pretty anticlimactic as well. Second, and far more hilariously ridiculous, is that back at the Command Center, Alpha 5 has taken advantage of Rita's palace being in Angel Grove by hacking into her database, giving Zordon "access to her files of spells and secrets."
I have literally watched every single frame of two different versions of this show, and I have never once so much as heard Rita or any of her minions mention a word that was within three steps of anything that has to do with computers. Now, 40 episodes in, and she's keeping all of her spells on a hard drive hooked up to the Internet.
After Goldar stands around, obligingly not killing the Power Rangers for a full 90 seconds of screen time, the Rangers are able to teleport back to the Command Center and learn about the secret weak point in Cyclopsis that Zordon found out by hacking Rita's Gibson. All they have to do is just... keep on hitting it with their Zords. The zords that are now fully powered up again, despite the fact that we were told seven minutes ago that they'd need twelve hours to get back up to full strength.
I love you, Power Rangers, but you have a pretty bad habit of changing the rules of your own damn show about halfway through an episode.
After what feels like the most routine fight scene in the history of the show, the Rangers destroy Cyclopsis and sends Lokar back to the depths of space, which somehow fixes literally everything.
The Angel Grovians are returned to the park, Rita blasts back off to the moon, and the Rangers make a public appearance in front of a crowd that now sees them as the greatest heroes their city has ever known --- and they even get a visit from an old friend.
Before we're done, though, there's one more piece of the episode to get through. For some reason --- and I have no idea why, since Rita's still out there trying to conquer the Earth --- Zordon tells the Rangers that it's time once again to choose whether they'll stay on as Rangers or return to their regular lives (and presumably let the world be consumed in fire next February). Naturally, they decide to stay. They are the Power Rangers, now... and forever. Or at least until there's a contract dispute in a year or so.
I don't want to fall into the trap of always being the "well obviously the original Japanese version is superior," because I genuinely do love Power Rangers on its own. But that said, if you were wondering where all the intensity missing from "Doomsday" was, I'm pretty sure you can find it in the final two episodes of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, "The Gods Lost!" and "Long Live The Dinosaurs!"
As you may recall, the Zyurangers were in pretty bad shape when we left off last week. Beast Knight God King Brachion and the last two dinosaur eggs it was carrying had been apparently destroyed by quicksand --- quicksand! --- and Daizyuzin and Dragon Caesar were in rough shape after being thoroughly beaten by Dora Taros, powered by Great Satan and piloted by Bandora's dead son, Kai. It's a huge loss, ending with Bandora using her magic to cause the powerless Guardian Beasts to "disappear into darkness." It's so bad that even Daizyuzin Himself --- who I would like to remind you is canonically God in the universe of Zyuranger --- utters His final words.
Now that's some high stakes.
The Zyurangers manage to escape the destruction of the Guardian Beasts, but they're left even more powerless than their American counterparts. Without them, they can't even use the Dino Bucklers to transform into their Zyuranger forms, leaving them almost completely at the mercy of Lamy and Grifforzar:
Even Satoshi, the sick child they were trying to inspire, has given up the will to live. Things are grim.
But while this might seem like a moment of triumph for Bandora, who has been waiting 150 million years to get her revenge on the dinosaurs (and the rest of the planet, I suppose) for the death of her son, it's actually pretty bittersweet. As much as she's doing this for Kai, his resurrection at the hands of Great Satan has left him even further away from her than his death. He tells her that he's not even her child anymore:
But out of all this darkness comes a ray of hope. It turns out that the Guardian Beasts aren't actually destroyed. Instead, they've been transported to the Magic Realm, a pocket dimension created by Bandora.
On the surface, this sounds exactly like the frustrating copout of the American version of the show, but there are a few key differences. For one, this is information handed down by Burai, who shows up as a ghost, and not by someone just going "um, actually." But second, and far more importantly, the Guardian Beasts are still in danger, and the Zyurangers are going to have to do something very dangerous to get them back: Traveling through a mysterious doorway to rescue them, with the knowledge that if they're lost, they'll never find the way out.
With that in mind, Geki, Goushi and Dan tie themselves together with one end of a rock-climbing rope, while Mei and Boi secure it to a tree on the other side before venturing into the unknown. But once they're in the Magic Realm, they find themselves fighting the spirits of all the Dora Monsters they've defeated, causing the rope to come loose and possibly doom them forever as the first half's cliffhanger.
Fortunately, Great Sage Barza shows up at the last minute and blocks the doorway to the Magic Realm with his staff, finally remembering the spell that will turn it into a tree trunk and secure the Zyurangers' escape route:
This is played as a big, triumphant moment of Barza finally remembering how to cast a spell, the payoff of a recurring bit, but I honestly can't remember whether this is actually something that's a part of his character. And since I've watched and written about every single episode of the show --- albeit not in the proper order --- I think it might just be a weird moment.
Either way, it keeps 60% of the team from being lost forever in a foggy Hell full of dead monsters and bubbly fishbowls that have trapped the three forms of God:
I think the idea here is that the bubbles are meant to be similarly impenetrable spheres floating ethereally through the air, but in practice, it just makes everything look a little festive.
But despite all the bubbles (and Lamy and Grifforzar showing up), Geki is able to free the Guardian Beasts from their spherical prisons. Once they escape the Magic Realm, something that happens entirely off-screen, they're back in action for the final battle with Dora Taros and Great Satan. And again, it's a little bit perfunctory, although the drama is heightened quite a bit by the fact that they're battling against a machine piloted by a 150 million year-old dead child. Even so, Daizyuzin, Dragon Caesar and BKGK Brachion unite to form Ultimate Daizyuzin, blowing up Dora Taros and exploding Great Satan's head in the skies over Tokyo with the Grand Banisher:
That's how you do it.
As you might recall, this means that they also just blew up Kai, who staggers back to Bandora Palace just in time to collapse into his mother's arms, robbed of Great Satan's sustaining power and dead for really reals this time. With that Bandora sheds tears for the first time in 150 million years, and in doing so, she loses all of her power as an Evil Witch. Because, you know, magic.
With that, Bandora has been rendered vulnerable for the first time, and Daizyuzin takes advantage of that, trapping the entire Bandora Gang in a bottle and sending it out to float aimlessly through outer space forever. So, uh, good job on murdering that lady's child, I guess, Zyurangers?
Since their enemy has been defeated, the Guardian Beasts return the dinosaur eggs to the Zyurangers, who bring them to Satoshi just in time to restore his will to live. Then, having completed their mission, the Zyurangers turn the baby dinosaurs over to a bunch of random children (not a great idea) before hopping onto the nearest cloud and riding off to Heaven, or possibly a school play about Heaven:
But we're not quite done yet. In the best possible epilogue this series could have, we cut to the sealed space jar where Bandora and the gang are performing yet another musical number about how much Bandora hates children. But what's this? The pitter-patter of little scorpion/manticore feet? Yes: Grifforzar and Lamy enter the room (this space jar has multiple rooms which turns out to be very handy) to show off their newborn baby:
Oh don't worry, Bandora comes around, and everyone lives happily every after. So long, 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: I think Great Satan only qualifies as "weird" in the sort of old-school Lovecraftian definition of the word, like how Batman is a "weird figure of the night." But, y'know, he's Great Satan. He can get away with a lot. 6/10
Deviation From the Source: Considering that this is the last-ever time we can explore this category, it's nice that there's so much deviation that it thoroughly ruins the structure of the American version. Also, maybe Tommy should've been a ghost. 8/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: Sadly, our boys are barely in this episode, but they do share a solid hug. 7/10
Moral Lessons: If someone bugs you enough, it is probably okay to murder their child with a robot. 0/10
'90s Fashions: We've talked about the Rangers' fashions so much that I don't think we've ever quite gotten around to discussing the Zyurangers, whose Dinosaur Times Royalty costumes are somehow perfectly suited for 1993. 7/10
Total For Episode 36: 28/50