The Power Rangers Project – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Season 3

Season: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, season 3
Episode: “Another Brick in the Wall” (Episode 26)

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was, for quite some time, the only series within the greater Rangers series that had more than one season. Perhaps as a direct result of viewer fatigue, season three was the last of the original Mighty Morphin era, and the team would gain new powers and, for the first time, new suits in Power Rangers Zeo. Because of this, a lot of this season serves as set-up for the change-over. One of the biggest examples of that is the introduction of Katherine Hillard (Catherine Sutherland) as the second Pink Ranger.

I mentioned in the season 2 write-up that I think Katherine can’t hold a candle to Kimberly (QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson). So let’s confront my Kat issues head-on with an episode that features her and Blue Ranger/last original team member Billy (David Yost) heavily. Good thing I like Billy!

First, some background: Kat was an accomplice of Rita’s when she was first introduced, but, like White Ranger Tommy (Jason David Frank, still rocking that middle name), was merely brainwashed and brought over to the good side. It was just in time, too, as QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson had asked to depart the series and was in need of a replacement Ranger. Fortunately, because she gave notice, she was given a nice, long sendoff arc. Unfortunately, we got Kat in exchange. Of course, because she is QUEEN, Johnson still got a spot in the opening credits after her departure:

Bow down to the QUEEN, peasant.

Bow down to the QUEEN, peasant.

Kat is doing some work in underserved neighborhoods, and wants to recruit the guys to help. The guys, who know a pretty girl when they see one, jump at the chance. Rita, who’s married to Zedd now (and subsequently, being played by an American actress), is disgusted with her goody-goody tendencies.

evil

The new evil team of Rito and Rita (with Zedd and Goldar in the background).

Rita teams up with her brother, Rito Revolto, to ruin Kat’s plans. Rito was an addition to the stable of villains who initially proved useful by destroying the Thunder Zords, then almost immediately became a giant joke when the Rangers got their new Ninja Ranger powers. He proves himself no more useful in this episode than in the past.

Kat is apparently the kind of asshole who wears a “TEAM LEADER” shirt and pink helmet:

Oh, you suck.

Oh, you suck.

Anyway, she and her team clean up a construction lot (the single cheesiest musical montage ever), but what’s really important in this scene is the moment we all realized exactly how hot Billy got all of a sudden.

Hello, Blue Ranger.

Hello, Blue Ranger.

The others leave after a job well done, but Kat gets attacked by Rito and the foot soldiers for the season, the Tengas. She morphs into her ninja form, a new power this season that acts as a middle ground between unmorphed and morphed battles. It’s worth wondering exactly how ninja-esque a big pink suit really is, though.

SO DISCREET.

SO DISCREET.

She calls for backup, but during the scuffle, an attempt by Rita to repossess Kat misfires and creates a monster from a segment of the brick wall she hits. Said monster traps the other Rangers besides Kat and Billy in colored bricks. There’s a hilarious moment where Kat has a Debbie Downer moment and says it’s all her fault. Zordon basically tells her to stop bitching and come up with a solution. It’s refreshing for reasons we’ll get into in the analysis.

Luckily, Billy comes up with a solution: eroding the bricks away! Kat stays behind to help create a pollution machine to break the bricks while Billy goes to fight the wall monster solo.

billyzord

Side note: If Billy’s Ninja spirit animal is the wolf, why is his helmet still modeled after a triceratops?

This season is unique among the Mighty Morphin seasons in that the Rangers each get two Zords: the initial Ninjazords, and the human-shaped Shogunzords. Billy uses his Shogunzord to destroy the monster in big form, too, effectively scoring two solo wins in one episode.

Billy teleports back to the Command Center, where the pollution machine works and the Rangers are saved. Zordon immediately congratulates Katherine, which is complete and utter bullshit seems a little unfair, considering Billy just destroyed a monster alone. To her credit, Kat shares the love with Billy – something no one else does.

Back at the construction site, everyone can’t help but tell Kat how amazing the work she did is with the construction lot. She’s even getting an award from the mayor, which seems more than slightly ridiculous. But hey, everyone loves Kat, right? Of course you do.

"You must love me."

“You must love me.”

Analysis: So have you caught onto the issue with Kat yet? Everything she does is wonderful and marvelous and oh thank Zordon that we have such a beauteous creature in our presence. Even in an episode where Billy destroys a tough monster alone – and comes up with the solution to reversing the Rangers’ predicament – everyone can’t shut up about how much they love Kat.

This is frustrating for so many reasons, not the least of which is that Kat was just turned from the dark side a few episodes prior. Not only that, but she doesn’t show a whole lot of qualities, even when not brainwashed, that indicate she’d be a great Ranger. There’s something to this episode’s plot that could have worked – she’s rehabilitating her image – but even from the get-go, there’s no indication that anyone even questions how wonderful and amazing Kat is. It’s all a bit nauseating.

Besides Kat’s introduction, however, season 3 has some major good points. The whole season is much more arc-focused, with a record-low 13 of 33 episodes not being part of a multi-part episode. Even some of the standalones served the greater arc. Unfortunately, the arc obsession resulted in the single least memorable “season,” Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers.

As I mentioned in the intro post, I’m not bothering with Alien Rangers, because it was only 10 episodes long and served as part of this season. However, it saw the Rangers aged down to their younger selves and put the focus on a cast of Rangers from another planet. While this gave the creators the chance to use suits and more footage from this season’s source Sentai, Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, it weighed down the series considerably, and pulls what could have been the best Mighty Morphin season down into a firm third place of three.

Speaking of weighing down the series, the next season, while a change of pace in many ways, took out a lot of the camp qualities in the original Mighty Morphin seasons, but not for the better. Luckily, the episode I’m examining, a musical episode, has camp in droves. Come back tomorrow to read all about Power Rangers Zeo.

UP NEXT: Power Rangers Zeo: “Another Song and Dance” (Episode 45)

The Power Rangers Project – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Season 2

Season: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, season 2
Episode: “Forever Friends” (Episode 37)

Amy Jo Johnson judges you from the foreground of this shot.

QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson judges you from the foreground of this shot.

Though I watched – and loved – the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers back in the day, season 2 is where my love for the series really lies, and on a pure nostalgia level is my favorite season I’ve watched in the franchise. How fitting, then, that my favorite LadyRanger, Kimberly (QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson), is a focal point in the example episode from my favorite season!

The story this week revolves around Kimberly competing at a gymnastics competition against a former friend of new Yellow Ranger Aisha (Karan Ashley). When Aisha transferred to Angel Grove High from rival city Stone Canyon to become a Power Ranger, she left behind best friend Shawna, who is, like Kimberly, a gymnast. Unlike Kimberly, she’s basically a raging bitch.

"And yellow is a TERRIBLE color on you." – Raging Bitch Shawna

“And yellow is a TERRIBLE color on you.” – Raging Bitch Shawna

Raging Bitch Shawna is all “you left me behind, you ho.” Aisha’s like, “This is my new best friend Kimberly.” Kimberly is like “you suck, Shawna,” because QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson speaks for us all.

Anyway, Aisha drags Raging Bitch Shawna to lunch with her and Kim, where Shawna gets super passive-aggressive, but can’t get too many bitchy quips in before they’re attacked by Goldar, a former minion of Rita’s who now serves Lord Zedd. As I mentioned in the last post, Season 2 brought a lot of changes for the Rangers, including new members of their team and, more importantly, new villains. I’ll get into this more in the analysis, but suffice it to say, Zedd was so much more menacing than Rita. I mean, look at him:

zedd

Something happened to his skin, because it is not there.

Anyway, Goldar kidnaps Kimberly and Shawna, and Aisha basically has a panic attack. She goes to find the boys, who are embracing their butchness:

boys

Lookin’ hot, fellas!

As you can see, Tommy (Jason David Frank, having found his middle name) and Billy (David Yost) have new friends, too! In a previous episode, the former Red, Black and Yellow Rangers (Austin St. John as Jason, Walter Jones as Zack, Thuy Trang as Trini) went to an international peace conference and were replaced by these guys. Along with Aisha, we have Black Ranger Adam (Johnny Young Bosch) and Red Ranger Rocky (Steven Cardenas). All the characters’ colors were mixed up so things would be a little less racist than before, and Rocky was the series’ first Hispanic member of the team. The real reason for the switch is another thing I’ll get into in the analysis.

So Aisha storms into the woodshop class and has this beautiful line of dialogue:

"Guys, something horrendous has happened!" – Aisha

“Guys, something horrendous has happened!” – Aisha

Played totally straight, of course. Power Rangers never met an earnest line of dialogue it didn’t love. Things Power Rangers also loved: filler morphing sequences, updated for the new cast!

The Rangers split up, with Tommy going to save the girls and the rest of the team off to fight a new monster, made from the saw in the woodshop into this:

The Jaws of Destruction. Despite having no jaw.

The Jaws of Destruction. Despite having no jaw.

Zedd’s monster creation strategy was different from Rita’s – instead of Finster creating beasts from clay, Zedd zapped real-life objects with his staff. Much more resourceful and environmentally-friendly, Zedd!

There’s a quirkiness to this battle: the Rangers never fight the monster! Instead, they just fight Putties (the foot soldiers, redesigned for Zedd’s reign). The real-life reason for this was because at this point, Power Rangers was using stock footage from multiple different Super Sentai series, and the costumes weren’t always available to be used in American footage. More for the analysis section.

Zedd makes the monster grow (by throwing a bomb at it) and it fights the Rangers’ season 2 megazord, the Thunder Megazord. I loved the Thunder Megazord. I like a good dinosaur, no doubt, but these were based on mythical beasts like the Eastern dragon and the griffin. Much more interesting to young Kevin.

Badass.

Badass.

Meanwhile, Tommy saves the girls because Kim can’t morph – the Rangers all have secret identities, and cannot reveal them to non-Rangers. Note that Tommy is the White Ranger this season. He switched colors after his Green Ranger powers ran out. So he looks like this now:

Tommy 2.0.

Tommy 2.0.

Tommy is kind of the Patron Saint of Power Rangers – to date, he’s had five different sets of powers over six seasons, easily topping any other Ranger.

Raging Bitch Shawna grows some respect for Kimberly (even she knows to bow down to the QUEEN), and they get back to the gymnastics competition in time for the two girls to tie. Everyone wins!

Analysis: So much to unpack on this one! This is, like “The Yolk’s on You!” a very basic episode, though not necessarily indicative of the season on the whole. Season 2 was way more arc-based, including Tommy’s departure mid-season after his powers ran out, his return a few episodes later, the change-over from the original Red, Black and Yellow to the newbies, etc. This trend would continue into the next season, which was almost nothing but arcs, but I’ll get into that next time.

As I mentioned repeatedly, season 2 featured a ton of changes, and subsequently a lot of issues. The introduction of Rocky, Adam and Aisha was necessary when, after demanding more money, St. John, Jones and Trang walked off set. There’s a whole set of episodes in the middle of the season where the original trio are still present in stock footage and in their suits, but not unmorphed, because the actors were already gone! Super awkward.

Also awkward was keeping the original Ranger suits from the Zyuranger Sentai series, but using the Zords and monsters from the follow-up series, Gosei Sentai Dairanger! There were literally so many issues with this – too many to touch here – but suffice it to say that most of the second season was pure copy-and-paste.

Finally, while Lord Zedd was a great addition to the series (and a totally American creation!), he was deemed too scary by parents, and was toned down somewhat. Rita was also brought back later in the season, and the two were married, making Zedd much goofier (though actually much more successful against the Rangers).

Despite all those issues, season 2 of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers works. In fact, it works really well. It was the season that embraced the camp factor the most, including pretty funny wordplay by the monsters and generally a goofier vibe. “Forever Friends” isn’t the strongest episode of the season, but it’s a solid one.

It is, however, a nice showcase for Kim – appropriately enough, since this was the season that was so dominated by QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson.

MMPR2_Kim_S2

Johnson was invaluable to Power Rangers. She was clearly the best actress on the show, but didn’t shy away from embracing the camp. Kimberly was likable, a strong female role model who showed boys that girls can kick ass, and along with Tommy (her romantic counterpart) and Billy (the only other original kept around), she kept the series afloat despite all the tumult.

Unfortunately, this is the last time in this project we’ll be seeing QUEEN Amy Jo Johnson. I’ll talk about her departure from the series – and her clearly inferior replacement, Katherine – next time, when we look back on the last season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

UP NEXT: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Season 3: “Another Brick in the Wall” (Episode 26)

The Power Rangers Project – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Season 1

"Behold the giant snow globe!" - Zordon, Professional Talking Head

“Behold the giant snow globe!” – Zordon, Professional Talking Head

SeasonMighty Morphin Power Rangers, season 1
Episode: “The Yolk’s on You!” (Episode 33)

The Power Rangers Project starts where it all began: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the original Teenagers with Attitude recruited by the original Talking Head, Zordon! As soon as the opening theme begins, the nostalgia rush is on full blast as original villainess Rita Repulsa croaks, “AH! After 10,000 years I’m free! It’s time to conquer EARTH!”

The episode is #33, “The Yolk’s on You!” (Best title.) Angel Grove High School, the primary setting for the series’ first few seasons, is hosting a talent competition. We first see Red Ranger Jason (Austin St. John) and previously-evil-now-reformed Green Ranger Tommy (Jason David Frank, going just by Jason Frank in this season because he had lost his middle name at the time, I’m guessing). The two are performing martial arts for their talent, because apparently that’s all they can do, but the others are all doing different things. It’s unclear what talent Blue Ranger Billy (David Yost) is doing while wearing this hat, though:

Considering David Yost came out of the closet years later, this could be seen as a very ahead-of-its-time Brokeback Mountain joke.

Considering David Yost came out of the closet years later, this could be seen as a very ahead-of-its-time Brokeback Mountain joke.

Finster, Rita’s minion (who I LOVED), turns one of his pervy clay figures into an even more pervy monster named Fang. Just look at this thing:

Gross.

Gross.

Fang’s also got the most stereotypical Hispanic accent. Then again, this was a series with an Asian Yellow Ranger and African-American Black Ranger, so, y’know, par for the course.

Fang is a present for Rita’s birthday (gift cards weren’t around back then, so buying presents for loved ones was always a chore). Rita sends the rest of her minions to help the monster. I had forgotten this, but Rita was a character on the original Japanese series (Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, part of a greater series called Super Sentai, which is where almost all the Rangers unmorphed fighting footage comes from), and as such, was merely dubbed over by an American actress (Barbara Goodson). This led to some ridiculously bad lip-dubbing – an indication of exactly how low budget this whole operation really was.

Back to the story: Tommy is ambushed by Rita’s foot soldiers, the Putty Patrol, who trap him and steal his morpher. The other Rangers are informed of his plight by their mentor and giant talking head, Zordon, but are told to go after Fang (Billy about Fang: “An absolutely atrocious beast!”). Pink Ranger Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson, also known as QUEEN) wants to help Tommy, because she wants some Green Ranger real bad (Spoiler Alert: she gets some later in the season), but Zordon sees right through her and sends the Rangers to battle Fang. Off to fight a monster – you know what that means!

Hee! I love the morphing sequence so much. (Full disclosure, I totally wanted to be the Blue Ranger back in the day.)

The Rangers’ fight against Fang doesn’t go particularly well – they get knocked around before Rita makes the monster grow. To fight the giant beast, the Rangers summon their Dino Zords and form their Megazord. The giant robot gets trashed easily, though, until Tommy (recently self-rescued from his trap) comes to help with his Dragonzord. If you recall, the Dragonzord lived in the ocean, and every single time it was summoned, it had to slooooowly emerge from the water and stomp on over to the battlefield. It was pure filler, like most everything in Power Rangers, but it was awesome.

Anyway, after the five years it takes for the Dragonzord to get to the battlefield, they change Zord formations twice, finally combining into the Ultrazord and destroying Fang in just enough time to get back for the talent show. The day is saved!

Analysis: This is your total cookie-cutter episode of the first season of Power Rangers. The Rangers participate in a school-sponsored activity, but have to first fight one of Rita’s monsters. Rita makes said monster grow, they call the Zords, and are back in time for their activity. Very fun and sweet, easy to enjoy quickly, but a limited pleasure – kind of like the kids television equivalent of Fruit Stripe gum.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers wasn’t too deep in its first season because it didn’t need to be. Everything about it was awesome on its own merits, from the theme song (“Go Go Power Rangers,” an epic rock track composed by Ron Wasserman) to the Zord battles (giant robot fights giant monster? I’m sold!).

Around this time, Power Rangers was enjoying peak popularity that it wouldn’t see again until the In Space season. However, the stock footage from Super Sentai was running out, and would be totally depleted by Episode 40. True #firstworldnetworkproblem: A series is too popular.

To compensate for the lack of footage, the creators commissioned a whole new set of footage (called Zyu2 by fans, referencing Zyuranger) that would be used for an additional 20 episodes, plus some episodes in the next season. But that season had its own issues with a new villain, cast departures and troubles trying to splice together footage from two different Japanese series. I’ll get into all that next time.

UP NEXTMighty Morphin Power Rangers Season 2: “Forever Friends” (Episode 37)

The Power Rangers Project: Revisiting a Childhood Obsession After 20 Years on the Air

Photo Credit: Saban Brands

Photo Credit: Saban Brands

We all had our obsessions growing up. Some were Trekkies. Some collected a lot of Beanie Babies. Some wanted to be a Pokémon Master and catch ’em all.

Me? I was obsessed with Power Rangers.

Yes, the Power Rangers! The candy-colored superhero teams who fought bravely to save the world from evil witches and monsters. The series that featured earnest lessons about public service and staying in school in the same episode as a fight between a giant dragon mecha and a sphinx beast. Power Rangers was cheesy, earnest and awkward, and it was The Best.

Then I saw the above photo somewhere online, celebrating the Rangers’ 20th anniversary with a collection of every Red Ranger in series history. Said discovery made me feel a wave of emotions: “Why am I so old? Wow, I can’t remember the last time I watched an episode of Power Rangers. God, I’m really old. Some of these suits look ridiculous. Wait, there was a female Red Ranger? I’m SO old!”

Then I started doing some digging, and wow, this show has been through some production struggles. Originally a Saban Entertainment property, Disney bought the rights to produce and air the series during the Wild Force season, then moved production to New Zealand because it was cheaper. They also tried to cancel the series at a couple different points. After  Power Rangers RPM, Saban bought the rights back, and since then, the show has been airing on Nick. During all that drama, there were tons of teams, tons of Rangers and so much I missed out on!

Inspired by the series’ 20th anniversary, and the presence of every single episode on Netflix Instant, I’m going to spend the next month-plus revisiting the Rangers, one season at a time. Some of these seasons I know well – Power Rangers in Space was my absolute favorite back in the day – while others I never saw (basically everything past when Disney took over producing the show) or can barely remember (apparently I watched Lightspeed Rescue? I’ve no idea what that was about).

To do this, I will be watching one episode of each series and doing a write-up on it. I’m hoping the commentary will be in the same spirit as the series: fun and goofy, but with heart and a sincere enjoyment of what I’m watching. Couple things:

  • I’m gonna try to stick to very typical episodes – nothing with new Rangers being introduced or battles with major villains. This isn’t going to be easy in later seasons, since I don’t really know what’s important or not, but I’ll be going off episode descriptions.
  • I’m not treating Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers as its own season. It was 10 episodes long, it was basically a miniseries in the middle of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers season 3 and I remember hating it when I first watched it.
  • I won’t be publishing on any sort of schedule – expect a lot of posts early, then petering out as we get into seasons I don’t know.

All that said, I’ll also update this post with links to all the others as I go. This should be fun – I love a good blast of nostalgia, and I hope y’all do too.

With that said…

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers S1: “The Yolk’s On You!” (Episode 33)
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers S2: “Forever Friends” (Episode 37)
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers S3: “Another Brick in the Wall” (Episode 26)
Power Rangers Zeo: “Another Song and Dance” (Episode 45)
Power Rangers Turbo: Cassie’s Best Friend” (Episode 38)
Power Rangers in Space: “Silence is Golden” (Episode 35)
Power Rangers Lost Galaxy: “The Blue Crush (Episode 8)
Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue: “The Fifth Crystal” (Episode 21)
Power Rangers Time Force“Time Force Traitor” (Episode 26)

UP NEXT: Power Rangers Wild Force: “Three’s a Crowd” (Episode 20)