Ranger Station Halloween Special: Carlos And The Count
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 journey to 1997 for a story where the Rangers fight... A vampire! Yes, again.
Power Rangers Turbo Episode 40: "Carlos and the Count"
Writer: John Fletcher
Director: Lawrence L. Simeone
Original Air Date: November 13, 1997
Today is Halloween, which means that rather than continuing on with the normal Power Rangers timeline, it's time to shift the focus to something a little spookier --- and since we already got through the Pumpkin Rapper and that abysmal game show that he interrupted, we might as well look at one of the episodes of the show where someone becomes a vampire. Which, believe it or not, happen kind of a lot.
I mean, there's the one where Tommy becomes a vampire (not to be confused with the one where Tommy becomes a Frankenstein), the one where the Carlos from Turbo becomes a vampire, and the one where Vida from Mystic Force became a vampire. Admittedly, three times over the course of 800 episodes isn't quite enough to be overwhelming, but still. It's three more times than they've done it on Grey's Anatomy.
Anyway, since we've covered the other two entries in the Power Rangers Vampire Trilogy, we might as well look at the third, even if it means watching an episode of Power Rangers Turbo.
Even though the second half of Turbo is generally regarded as a high point for the series --- and even though it has one of the show's greatest arch-villains in Divatox, Fashionista Pirate Queen of Outer-Space --- I have to admit that I'm not really a fan. The first half of the season is just so bad, and a lot of it comes from the fact that this is the part of the series where they thought it would be a good idea to idea to have one of the rangers be a precocious little kid who Shazam'd up into a grown-up body when he morphed.
This isn't something that came out of nowhere, of course. Not only is it a pretty easy idea to get to if you want to keep the attention of your show's young audience, but it's something the franchise had already had a little success with in Japan. In Gosei Sentai Dairanger, the White Ranger, who would eventually form the basis of Tommy's second identity over here in in America, was actually a little kid named Kou who took his orders from a talking sword and sold a whole lot of toys in the process. So in theory, there's nothing wrong with giving that idea a shot in America, too.
In practice, though, Justin is not very good as a character. No disrespect to young actor Blake Foster, who is genuinely doing a pretty good job while struggling under the weight of one of the worst hairstyle the mid-'90s had to offer, but the show shoots for a precocious Billy Batson and ends up in full-on Poochie territory.
There's also a weird issue with the tone of the series, and believe me, that's as weird for me to type as it is for you to read. The thing is, while Turbo was just a standard-issue Power Rangers series --- and a high-profile one at that, considering it launched with the franchise's second theatrical movie that saw the return of Jason and Kimberly --- its Japanese counterpart, Gekisou Sentai Carranger, was a comedy. As the 20th installment of the Super Sentai series, it was meant as a parody that focused on a bunch of super-powered auto mechanics fighting an intergalactic biker gang, which I imagine is probably why the most famous image of the series is the Rangers being baked into a pizza.
Unfortunately, Carranger has yet to see a wide release here in America, but now that we've gotten Zyuranger, Dairanger, Kakuranger, and Ohranger from Shout Factory, it should be the next one in line.
Anyway, the good news here is that "Carlos and the Count" comes towards the end of the season, and it's actually whole lot of fun.
We open, as ever, in the Angel Grove Youth Center, where Bulk and Skull --- who have graduated from high school and into a series of get-rich-quick schemes --- are putting on a film festival made up entirely of horror movies. The thing is, while they're raking in the cash --- and entertaining Justin and Carlos, the Blue and Green Rangers --- Divatox is watching through a periscope that pops up in a punchbowl, and she's getting inspired.
Since her headquarters is currently infested with Lunar Bats, she turns one into a monster called Count Nocturne and sets it loose. It attacks Carlos as he makes his way home through a forest and bites his neck, but rather than finishing him off, the Count flees into the night as Bulk and Skull arrive to watch.
Bulk and Skull are, needless to say, pretty freaked out by this, and immediately leap to the (correct) conclusion that Carlos is a vampire and that they should probably stake him through the heart before his reign of terror can spread across Angel Grove.
You know, I did not have those two pegged as Tsui Hark fans.
Sadly, "Bulk and Skull try to murder the Green Ranger" does not become the plot of the rest of the episode, as they mainly just lurk around in the background looking terrified and occasionally passing out gigantic cloves of garlic. We do, however, get a pretty great scene where they follow Carlos to Angel Grove High, where Mr. Caplan puts them in detention despite the fact that they graduated the previous year.
What does happen is that Carlos shows up to school next day in full-on Lost Boys mode, rocking a leather jacket, a pair of sunglasses that hide his Thriller Eyes, and even a couple of fangs. Since none of the other Rangers were with him after the movie, though, none of them notice anything wrong, and instead just keep telling him about the AGHS blood drive and setting him up for all the usual puns.
The only one who does suspect a problem is Justin, especially once he sees how freaked out Bulk and Skull are about the whole situation. After seeing Carlos flip out and swat a clove of garlic off a desk with a textbook, Justin starts reading up on vampires and their weaknesses. What he doesn't do is share his suspicions with any of his teammates just yet, presumably because he assumes that until he can prove it, they're just going to make fun of him.
Which they do!
As soon as Justin tells them that their friend has become a vampire, they immediately start telling him to calm down because vampires aren't real.
And look. Cassie, you're great, one of my all-time favorite Rangers, and seeing you back for Super Megaforce was a true and genuine delight. But are you seriously going to stand there and tell someone that vampires aren't real, in a world where the biggest event in human history was when a witch showed up on the moon and used her magic to make giant monsters to attack California!? By all rights, you and TJ should just be like, "Oh, is Carlos a vampire? We should probably deal with that, then."
Instead, they just wait around until incontrovertible evidence literally shows up and starts yelling at them.
That, incidentally, is exactly what I hope the last line of the next Fast & Furious movie is.
After a brief scuffle with Count Nocturne, the Rangers track Carlos to the AGHS blood drive, and pretty much drag him back to the Power Chamber. Once he's there, Alpha 6 --- who makes me long for the charm and subtlety of Alpha 5 --- is able to synthesize an antidote made from lunar bat enzymes, but it's only a stopgap. If they want to really cure Carlos, they're going to have to destroy Count Nocturne. With that, they head back into action, and before long, Divatox launches her torpedoes and blows the monster up to giant-size, leading the Rangers to call in the Rescue Megazord.
This is usually the part of the fight I skip over since it tends to be pretty formulaic, but here, the big fight actually has a lot going for it. I mean, on the one hand, it's kind of a missed opportunity to have this thing take place in the standard broad daylight instead of setting itself apart by happening at night, but on the other, I think this might be the only episode of Power Rangers where a Megazord gets straight up crucified in the middle of downtown Angel Grove.
The reason? Merchandising! With the Rescue Megazord chained to a giant cross, the Rangers call in the Turbo Megazord and start swapping around the parts to make an even more formidable robot. One that just cold shows up to the fight with a pair of truly gigantic guns.
Again, kind of a missed opportunity. It's not that I have trouble believing that the Turbo Megazord's forty-foot canon could dispose of a monster, but it would probably be fun to see them fighting a vampire by using entire trees as wooden stakes, or, I don't know, throwing a church at him.
Either way, Count Nocturne is defeated, Carlos is saved, and Bulk and Skull decide to take their film festival in a bit of a different direction.
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: Count Nocturne isn't just a bat who was turned into a vampire, he's a bat from the moon who was turned into a vampire. That's the kind of extra touch I can get behind. 7/10
Radness of the Music: As grumpy as I might be about Turbo in general, I will not deny that it has one of the best theme songs of the Zordon era, especially that part that goes "Oh-oh-oh-oh-OH-oh-oh-oh-OH-oh-oh-oh-OHHHHHHH" You know the part. 8/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: It's always worth remembering that those two became business partners (and cops, and chimpanzees) together once they graduated high school. True friendship lasts. 8/10
Moral Lessons: If you think someone has become a vampire, they almost certainly have. 4/10
'90s Fashions: Justin's haircut in general would push this thing into the stratosphere, but Cassie fighting Piranhatrons in a pastel pink peasant blouse and JNCOs should never be overlooked. 10/10
Total For Episode 46: 37/50