Silver-clad astronauts on a strangely atmosphered-and-gravitied moon tip over what one of them terms a “giant space dumpster” – oh, NASA, you do send your best and brightest, don’t you? – and release the shrill and ruthless Rita (Soga Machiko) and her four most rubber-masked lackeys from ten thousand years of imprisonment. Of course, they speak (badly-dubbed) English. Nothing loath, Rita immediately writes up her To Do List. First: destroy the nearest planet. Because, naturally.
Down on Earth – oh yeah, that planet is us – Angel Grove, California, is the only town in the world in which apparently ALL THE TEENS hang out at a “Youth Center Gym and Juice Bar” on a Saturday morning. Let’s meet our heroes! First Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson), showing some flippy skill on the balance beam, while Trini (Thuy Trang) does some kind of Tai Chi-esque thing. Because she’s Asian, I guess? Elsewhere karate expert Jason (Austin St. John) spars with the very graceful Zach (Walter Jones), their mostly non-contact fight looking like a game of Street Fighter where no one knows how to use the controls. Meanwhile, Jason’s arms are distractingly toned. Were they always that toned? Should we be admiring the arms of the high school-aged Jason? Talk to me, IMDb.
Born 1974? Okay, all clear.
To return. The boys are joined by their earnest, bespectacled friend Billy (David Yost), there for his first karate lesson with Sensei Jason, who assuredly was not hired for his acting, unless the call out was for wooden and dead-eyed. If so, you nailed it, casting director! Moments later – everything is happening so fast! – archetypal schoolyard bullies Bulk (Paul Schrier) and Skull (Jason Narvy) arrive and ask our girls for a double date, then don’t want to take no for an answer, so they get slow-motion flipped onto some conveniently placed gym mats. And already, this show is setting us up for very low expectations when it comes to something as paltry as physics. Atmosphere on the moon is one thing. Petite Trini gently caressing Bulk’s wrist and sending his, er, bulk flying is something else entirely.
But yeah, girl power and all that. “You guys should definitely join Jason’s karate class,” Kimberly quips. Oh, Kimberly! Except that later they do, and with much bumbling and wacky sound effects, Bulk is humiliated utterly. Does no one understand that all they are doing is feeding into this poor boy’s feelings of loneliness and poor self-image? I think these Angel Grove kids could do with some sensitivity training.
Back in space, Rita orders minion Finster, the one who looks like a Dark Elf mated with a Luxan, to make some “Putty Patrollers,” and we discover that she has revised her plan from destroying Earth to taking it over. But when she attempts just that, with… er… an earthquake, or… *what? Suddenly there is a guy who is a giant head deducing that Rita is the source of this world-shaking, and ordering a wildly gesticulating android named Alpha to bring him “Five overbearing and over-emotional humans.” Alpha is appalled, and busts out his very first “Ayeyaiyai,” of sixteen million and counting. “No, not that! Not *teenagers!”
Yes, teenagers! The ones whose names we already know, as it happens – well, the attractive ones, anyway. (With apologies to Bulk and Skull. You just do you, okay?) With cries of “Oh, my gosh” and “This is too weird,” the fresh-faced quintet are whisked away to a pastel, twinkle-light strewn soundstage… I mean, Command Centre. “This place is magnificent!” Billy exclaims, clearly overcome by all the advanced technology that there is no way he knows a) is there or b) even works. Then, when Alpha shows up to chide him for touching stuff, he’s all “A fully-sentient, multi-functional automaton.” Ah, so Billy’s the brain of the group! The glasses clearly should have tipped us off. Although, how does he *know that Alpha’s fully-sentient, huh? How? All this automaton said was “Don’t touch that,” which could easily have been pre-programmed. Not so smart now, are ya, Billy? Are ya?
“Welcome, humans!” intones the suddenly-appearing giant head again, recalling *Mork and Mindy perhaps more than the show intended. Or maybe in homage? And why would he not have been there when they arrived, anyway? It’s not like he has literally ANYTHING else to do. “I am Zordon, an inter-dimensional being caught in a time warp.” Oh, well, sure. “I am totally confused,” Kimberly pouts, and it’s hard to fault her.
“It’s quite simple, my dear. This planet is under attack, and I have brought you here to save it.” He then presents the skeptical teens iron-clad evidence in the form of, er, video of bad cosplay, mostly by a woman on… a flying tricycle? Is that what we’re seeing? We learn that our would-be overlord is one Rita Repulsa, “an intergalactic sorceress bent on controlling the universe.” And the teens learn that they have been chosen – shanghaied, really – to fight Rita, with the aid of dinosaurs and the ability morph. “Morph?” Kimberly asks. “Metamorphosis,” Billy elaborates. “That means to change,” Trini patronises. Kimberly does not look happy.
They will also have “zords” to help them in their battles. “I don’t get it,” quoth Trini. Yeah, no kidding. And then comes the simultaneously worst and best part of not only this episode, but of the whole of *Power Rangers ever:
Jason bold and powerful. You shall command the Tyrannosaurus Dinozord.
Zachary, you are clever and brave. You shall command the mastodon Dinozord.
Kimberly, graceful and smart. The pterodactyl Dinozord shall be yours.
Billy, patient and wise, you shall command the powerful Triceratops Dinozord.
Trini, fearless and agile, the sabre-tooth tiger Dinozord will be under your command.
Yes, it’s awesome when the kids suddenly become masked superheroes and get bestrewn with both compliments and gifts, Leslie Knope-style. But the problem here? Teaching people really wrong stuff. One: only two of those zord creatures have anything “dino” about them. And two: Mastodons were clever and brave? Exactly how wise was a Triceratops? And if Jason’s Tyrranozord was even close to what it purported to emulate, it would never have been able to join the Megazord, with those tiny little arms.
Oh, yeah, the Megazord. Because the kids then learn they can basically form Voltron.
But it’s all “too weird” for Zach, and so they bail, Jason the only one bold and powerful enough to want to stay and chat with the giant head. But Rita’s final batch of Putty Patrollers (literally, ninja warriors made from clay – “Into the ‘Monster Matic’ they go. Ten seconds should do it.”) are ready, and so she sends them to Earth to take on our plucky band of curiously colour-coded teens. (Did Zordon choose their zord and outfit colours based on what they happened to be wearing that day, or was it all just happenstance? Ah, the burning questions this show conjures!) Kimberly squeals, Zach… hip hop fights them? Oh, Bulk teased him about being a dancer earlier. Now I get it. The kids hold out for a bit – Kimberly flips, Billy bumbles about and Trini barks “hai” a lot; because she’s Asian, I guess? – but when even Jason’s superior abilities are bested, it is time to bust out the power morphers, that they still have for some reason.
Then it’s all “Go go, Power Rangers! You Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers!” as they are teleported to Angel Grove to battle Goldar, the one of Rita’s minions who looks like a Na’vi dressed as She-Ra. The Power Rangers are kicking Putty ass, so then Finster suggests Rita make Goldar big to fight them, which feels like it might have been her go-to move a little earlier, no? But it turns out in order to accomplish this feat she has to throw her wand to Earth. From space. And look, I know she’s an intergalactic sorceress and all, but she throws her wand from the Moon and it lands in about four seconds. Light takes one second. Rita is badass, and the idea that these five neophytes can defeat her and her newly monstrous minion is ludicrous.
But they try anyway. They jump into their zords as if they’ve been doing it all their lives, and then they form the Megazord, again like it’s just another day at the office. Voiceover tells us “It’s almost second-nature” to them, so clearly the power morphers have messed with their heads. It’s all a little bit River Tam in *Firefly. Who knew Zordon was so sinister?
Then a giant robot – even if it is a badly animated/acted one – fights a giant monster, and all thoughts of logic are forgotten, because that is just fun, fun, fun. The Megazord is, of course, victorious, and Goldar returns to the Moon to face his Queen’s hysterical wrath. Meanwhile, the Power Rangers are sworn to secret identities – the first rule of Morphin’ club… – which shouldn’t be too difficult, since those identities actually are their identities, and then Zordon lays it all on a bit thick, consoling a doubtful Zach with the words: “The five of you have come together to form as fine a group of superheroes as there has ever been.”
“No way,” protests Kimberly coquettishly. “Really?” And then there is this horrible example of a “NOT” joke, the less said about which the better. Trust me on this one.
“Oh, humor. What a concept,” grouses Alpha, after some obligatory “aye”-ing. Let’s hope Kimberly gets a better handle on it next episode, shall we?
NEXT EPISODE: Trini is scared of heights! Full details on Thursday…
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
“Day of the Dumpster” (S01E01)
Written by Tony Oliver & Shuki Levy | Directed by Adrian Carr
August 28, 1993 | Fox Kids