Season: Power Rangers Zeo
Episode: “Another Song and Dance” (Episode 45)
Ladies and gentlemen, Rangers and villains, we have now exited the Mighty Morphin seasons and are firmly into the one-season series. Near the end of the third Mighty Morphin season, a subplot was introduced involving the Zeo Crystal, a power source that the Rangers needed for new powers – and, for the first time in the franchise, new suits. After retrieving the scattered portions of the Crystal (and Yellow Ranger Aisha, Karan Ashley, swapping places with new Yellow Ranger Tanya, Nakia Burisse), the Rangers were given their new powers and Zords.
The Zeo powers were fine – a little vague and undefined, but still nice – and the male Rangers got new colors: Rocky (Steven Cardenas) went from Red to Blue, Adam (Johnny Young Bosch) went from Black to Green, and Tommy (Jason David Frank) went from White to Red. The team was rounded out by Tanya and my least favorite Pink Ranger, Katherine (Catherine Sutherland).
Zordon still advised the team, along with former Blue Ranger Billy (David Yost), who left midway through this season. At the time, it was assumed to be a financial dispute, but years later, Yost would attribute it to being bullied on set because of his sexuality. Before Yost left, Billy was a candidate for the sixth set of Zeo Ranger powers – the Gold Ranger – but instead, another Mighty Morphin alum was brought back: Jason (Austin St. John), the original Red Ranger.
Whew! I think we’re all caught up. Now let’s get to the fun stuff.
Tommy has to sing for his music class, and thus is practicing by shredding some mad air guitar and lip-synching alone. Tanya walks in on him and makes this face:
Tanya tells Tommy that “there’s more to singing than looking good,” and also judges him for being so white. (Unintentional point to make: around this time, the series played up Tommy’s Native American heritage so hard, then immediately made him the Red Ranger. Well done, Power Rangers.)
Tommy asks Tanya for voice lessons after she’s done judging him, and she agrees. This gives villainess and ruler of the Machine Empire Queen Machina an idea for a plan.
Machina is pinch-hitting while her husband, main villain King Mondo, is, erm, destroyed. Because the villains are machines, they can rebuild themselves, which allowed for a nice mid-season arc where the vacuum of power allowed for other villains to try to fill in. One such villain was Machina’s older son, Prince Gasket, and his wife, Archerina.
I liked Archerina and Gasket a lot. They were much sleeker villains than Mondo (who always looked a little doddering to me), and Gasket actually had some innovative ideas.
Anyway, Machina casts a spell and forces Tommy and Tanya to sing every single one of their lines. This is just as hilarious as it sounds. It’s helped by the fact that Tommy is a TERRIBLE singer. Plus, they have to sing things in rhyme, so Tommy asking “Are you all right?” is responded to by Tanya belting “Do not make light / I’ve had a fright!” It is wonderful.
The Rangers inform the others of what’s happened to them, leading to Rocky and Adam making these faces:
Additionally, according to Zordon, Tommy won’t be able to pilot his personal zord, the Red Battlezord, because his singing is ruining his telepathic connection with it. To which Rocky says, rolling his eyes: “The last thing we need is to be down a Zord.” Rocky is such a bitch in this season, and I love it.
Anyway, Angel Grove is under attack, so it’s that time again:
(I so wish the morph from this episode was online – Tommy and Tanya still sing when they morph, and it’s a great little continuity nod.)
Gasket and Archerina launch a full-scale attack with a caterpillar monster, while Machina uses her son’s plans to hit a bigger target – the Zord docking bay. In the Super Zeo Megazord and Red Battlezord (reconfigured so Adam can use it), the Rangers fight the caterpillar in the single most ridiculous looking fight:
Jason goes to the Zord bay and fights the foot soldiers, this season called Cogs, to drive them out. Meanwhile, the caterpillar monster divides, and the Rangers start to lose. Somewhere in here, Archerina, watching the battle, simply asks, “Is that singing?” It’s wonderfully underplayed and so, so funny.
Adam loses his connection to the Red Battlezord. “Reestablish the link / Or we’ll all sink!” Tommy sings. I laugh. This is followed up with both Megazords losing control and being forced to dance. Said dance includes shaking their asses.
The Zords go down, and it really looks like Gasket is going to win. They fight the Rangers on the ground, with Archerina kicking Tommy’s ass (“I’d stop that singing,” she advises. Tommy’s response: “I WISH I COULD!”) and the other Rangers getting knocked around by Gasket. During this scene, the show retains the continuity by having Tommy and Tanya sing their grunts. It is wonderful.
Jason saves the day with his carrier Zord, Pyramidas, and Tommy gets an A on his singing project. Rocky throws some shade on Tommy’s singing voice (alternate character interpretation: Rocky was the first gay Power Ranger), but Kat says she likes it, because Kat is clearly deaf. (She was also with Tommy romantically at this point – Kimberly sent a Dear John letter off-camera because the writers wanted to pair Tommy and Kat and also because life is terrible.)
At the end of the episode, we see King Mondo has revived himself! His return sets up the arc for the short remainder of the season – and a return to boredom.
Analysis: Power Rangers Zeo as a season is boring. It bored me as a kid and it bores me now. The heavy reliance on the Choriki Sentai Ohranger stock footage for battles (if not plot) and possibly my least favorite combination of Rangers in the seasons I’ve seen added up to a snooze.
That said, “Another Song and Dance” is one of the most enjoyable episodes of the series ever, and quite enjoyable on its own merits beyond being an episode of Power Rangers. It’s really good, embracing the campy sensibilities of the show in ways that a typical episode would never be able to reach.
Not only is it campy – “Another Song and Dance” is hardly a trifle of an episode. King Mondo’s return at the end was big news for the rest of the season, and seeing Gasket and Archerina get so close to success shows that innovative thinking on villains’ part achieves results. The Rangers are lucky most villains stick to the same tired methods.
Still, one episode does not a season make. While Jason’s return as the Gold Ranger was exciting, and this season did a good job of flushing out Adam, Rocky and Kat’s personalities, it was still a rough season.
In many ways, Zeo was a necessary season. There was no way to sustain continuing to use the Mighty Morphin suits, and the show’s tendency to cut-and-paste footage together (one Season 3 episode had footage from five different sources cut together) was untenable. This was a big ol’ reset button, and set the standard for the rest of the series. However, swapping to the Zeo powers marked a return to the status quo of season 1, and no one on set seemed to be having much fun. That is, no one besides Cardenas as Rocky.
I pointed out Rocky’s bitchy quips above, and they’re really indicative of how much more significant his personality shift was than either Adam’s or Kat’s. Sure, those characters got some new details added to their personas, but Rocky almost became a whole new character – hugely believable for a guy who was forced to take a demotion from Red Ranger to Blue Ranger with the seasonal changeover. In a lot of ways, he brought the fun even amidst the monotony, and the Zeo incarnation of Rocky has a special place in my heart.
Unfortunately, like QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson before him, Cardenas left the series before the rest of his team did the same. Cardenas sustained an injury while shooting Zeo that forced him to leave before the next season, Power Rangers Turbo. To say the solution producers came up with for filling his spot was “disappointing” is an understatement. Still, Turbo wasn’t all bad, and we’ll take a look at possibly its best character next time.