Ranger Station Episode 68: The Power Stealer
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 from Gosei Sentai Dairanger in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, the Power Rangers take on their deadliest threat yet: Banksy.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 68: The Power Stealer
Writer: Tony Oliver and Barbara A. Oliver
Director: Terence H. Winkless
Original Air Date: September 20, 1994
Okay, real talk: Lord Zedd is rad as hell.
Of all the villains in the long and storied history of the franchise, I don't think there's any other bad guy who has kept the threatening mystique that he has. I mean, there are plenty of villains that I personally like more --- Rita, Divatox, Venjix; I'm even the guy who likes Lothor from Ninja Storm --- but nobody has the presence that you got from Zedd over his tenure. Probably because nobody else was a terrifying skinless monster with a rictus grin.
And that means a few things. For one, when that dude inevitably shows up in the post-credits sequence of the 2017 Power Rangers movie, which is one million percent going to happen, it's still going to be pretty thrilling, even if the rest of that movie ends up being... well, a dark and gritty 2017 Power Rangers movie reboot. And second, when he says that he's going to unleash a monster that even he thinks is hideous, that's the kind of thing that gets your attention.
Seriously: That dude is a mass of raw, wet muscle with an exposed brain held together by chrome and spite. If he's going to drop the worst creature he can imagine, the mind boggles at what it could be. Surely it's going to be the kind of unknowable horror that makes Mutitis look like Pudgy Pig; a monster with dripping viscera that drags along behind it as it shambles, not quite living, at the Rangers; or some melting, mewling horror that you can't bring yourself to look at because you know you'll carry the sight to your grave.
Or, you know.
That could work too, I guess?
So with Goldar's encouragement, Zedd cooks up The Octophantom, a monster who's half-elephant, half-octopus, and, I guess, half Tom. And, y'know, he's pretty gross...
... but he's not actually that bad. I mean, he's basically just an octorok from Legend of Zelda who didn't skip leg day.
While all this is going on, the Rangers, in their civilian identities, are dealing with a sudden rash of graffiti being spread around Angel Grove by unnamed ne'er-do-wells, because apparently that's a problem that's on par with actual giant monsters smashing up buildings.
Much like their brief and forgettable time in the Clean-Up Club, this seems like a sudden interest in public beautification that won't ever come up again, but this time, there's a twist: They're trying to get the public involved by staging it as a big publicity stunt, complete with a rumor that the Power Rangers will be there.
And when they're asked about that, Low-Key Best Ranger And Fashion Icon Trini gives the best possible answer:
This might seem like a lot of time to spend talking about what would usually be a pretty forgettable B-Plot, but this actually comes into play in a really interesting way. When the Rangers head out to clean up graffiti --- in what appears to be an empty field in which there are zero surfaces that would take to any sort of paint --- Zedd launches an attack by Putty Patrollers. Which, incidentally, interrupts one of my favorite Tommy scenes ever:
The much more important element, though, is that because it's all a publicity stunt, the local news is filming the whole thing. When everyone scatters to get away from the monsters, the cameraman runs for it, but he leaves the camera rolling the entire time. He gets the fight between the kids and the Putties, and while it's pretty easy to explain why do-gooding black belt Jason is able to take out a handful of them, there's also footage of them morphing into Rangers and then talking about each other using their shoot names.
Combine this with Bulk and Skull's season-long plot of attempting to uncover the Rangers' identities, and you've got the makings of something interesting.
Under normal circumstances, this plot would be way more interesting than the monster fight, but honestly, this episode does a pretty great job with that stuff, too. Despite being framed through the lens of graffiti --- which seems like the kind of plot point that came up when the writers tossed a dart at a board covered in societal ills --- the monster's real threat is that it can suck your body into a jar, where Lord Zedd will appear in spectral form to make fun of you.
Which of course is exactly what happens to Tommy.
With Tommy trapped, it's up to the Rangers to figure out how to stop the Octophantom, and Billy comes up with a truly amazing idea. He's going to build... "a device." That's all he says. And when Trini, Zack, and Kimberly end up being taken out of action, too, it's finally time for him to show off his ingenuity.
So what is this device that will allow him to prey on the monster's vanity? Well, at first it, it appears that he's just gone ahead and "invented" his rarely used trident so that he could stab that dude directly in the face.
It turns out that what he actually invented was... a mirror.
To be fair, it's a spring-loaded mirror in the shape of a shield, but I'm pretty sure that all of those things have been invented, even in combination. It's certainly not what I'd expect form the ominous announcement of... a device.
But whatever. It works.
And as good as this episode is, you pretty much know where it goes from here. There's an enlarging bomb, the Thunder Megazord shows up, and we get a fight scene that mysteriously does not involve the robot actually interacting with the monster, and that's pretty much that.
The real good stuff comes back at the Youth Center, when Bulk and Skull show up loudly announcing that they have proof of the Power Rangers' secret identities --- in VHS form! This raises the question of why they didn't just take the tape back to one of their houses, or just watch it in the camcorder that they found it in, but I'm willing to write that off since it's very easy to believe that they'd want to share this moment of triumph with the same hated classmates that have publicly humiliated them at every opportunity.
Unfortunately for them, the Rangers are able to switch it with a different VHS tape --- and if you weren't around in 1994, I can assure you that just having random-ass VHS tapes lying around is maybe the most believable thing that's ever happened on this show --- and Bulk and Skull treat the Youth Center to a weird off-model cartoon that I swear looks just like the Burger King Kids Club instead.
I promise you that eventually, there's going to be an episode of Power Rangers that actually uses stuff from Gosei Sentai Dairanger, but with the show still using "Zyu2" footage, we're free to continue our own journey into Episode 8: "Father!!"
And that's a good thing, because if you thought last week was leaning into Star Wars, then cousin, you ain't seen nothing yet.
As you might recall, last week's episode introduced us to the villainous Iron Face Chouryu, a black-clad villain with devastating telekinetic yo power, who served at the pleasure of the evil lightning-casting Archbishop Riju. He effortlessly takes out the Dairangers, but when he turns his saber on Ryo --- the Red Dairanger --- Kaku reveals his terrifying secret. Chouryu... is Ryo's father!
This, obviously, raises a lot of questions, since Ryo has been laboring under the impression that his father died when he was five, but after Chouryu is shaken enough to retreat, Kaku fills him in. It seems that for some reason, Chouryu --- who once betrayed the Dai Tribe by turning on the previous Dairangers six thousand years ago --- betrayed the Gorma by briefly living as a human 20 years ago before returning to the fold.
Now, though, he's back in the service of Gorma for good, and Riju is not happy that he left the Dairangers alive rather than finishing the job.
So while Ryo questions Kaku about why Chouryu left the Gorma, got married, had two kids, and then faked his death to go back, the rest of the Dairangers are left to sit around looking concerned and wonder how this is going to affect their crime-fighting.
Sidenote: it's kind of weird that Shoji and Kazu both primarily wear blue, right? I mean, I get that it'd look weird of Kazu was just running around in a mustard yellow suit instead of just incorporating his color into another outfit, but believe me, Super Sentai has made weirder fashion choices over the past 40 years.
Anyway, with Ryo deciding that denial is the best way to deal with this news, and Riju no longer trusting Chouryu to get the job done, the Dairangers are forcibly teleported into battle against a new opponent: Riju's monster form, Archbishop Saw.
And this, I think, is where the Super Sentai Bros' theory about the monsters all being things you could find in an average lady's purse starts to fall apart. I don't know, though, maybe there's more impromptu construction going on than I think.
Either way, Archbishop Saw is both powerful and brutal, and takes out the Dairangers almost effortlessly before turning back into his human form and unleashing more Force Lightning at Ryo, literally lifting him and dragging him around.
I'm going to assume y'all have seen Return of the Jedi and can probably guess where this is all going.
They even have the ghosts show up at the end.
Yes, at the last moment, Chouryu steps up to the Emper--- uh, the Archbishop, and betrays him, saving Ryo and Force Pushing Riju into the Death Star's reactor core --- er, behind a nearby rock. Then, in approval of his change of heart, the spirits of the Diarangers from 6,000 years ago show up, and, along with Chouryu, they unlock the true power of the Heavenly Treasure Lai-Lai Balls.
You remember those, right? The mystic gems that power the Mythical Ch'i Beasts and allow the Dairangers to control them? Well, you're not going to believe this, but there's a secret ability they have. They can combine into a new form, Gosei Fusion Dairen'oh!
Didn't see that coming, did you?
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: For being the most hideous thing Lord Zedd can imagine, the Octophantom is pretty basic. He's not even a ghost elephant octopus! 5/10
Deviation From The Source: 10/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: While it doesn't always get the focus that it should, I do appreciate the show's attempts at giving Bulk and Skull a season-long arc that constantly reinforces that they can only rely on each other in a world that constantly gaslights them and/or attacks them with giant monsters. And/or turns them into chimpanzees, but we'll get to that later. 8/10
Moral Lessons: Graffiti: Literally As Bad As Conquering Earth With Monsters. 4/10
'90s Fashions: This episode is notable for being the debut of Zack's braids, which he'll be keeping for the rest of the season. It's not quite as '90s as a hi-top fade, but it's definitely a solid look. 8/10
Total For Episode 46: 35/50