When it comes to our childhoods many things are seen through rose tinted glasses. I don’t remember a single summer that was not baking hot, very few that didn’t involve waterfights. I remember being rather good at school, yet the grades I received don’t attest to that. I remember going on adventures with friends- such as epic bike riding trips through a place called Piggys Hollow and going ghost hunting for a ghost train through a park where once was a train track where no train actually derailed but we told each other it did. I remember going “fishing” for sticklebacks as a yearly tradition. I remember that the summer of ’99 was my Summer of ’69. And of course there are the kids TV programs. I was recently staying in a hotel and it was early Saturday morning, well early for a now grown up me. 10 am. I flicked through the channels and found morning chat shows, programs about cooking and the news. Not a single episode of Going Live to be seen. What the hell happened between the early 90s and today that has meant children are bereft of their Saturday morning cartoons! Its PC gone mad! David Cameron is to blame! Thanks Obama.
Looking at the TV schedules it does seem the traditional Saturday morning kids TV entertainment has gone. ITV still seem to have some shows, but BBC 1? “Breakfast” which the Radio Times informs me is a round up of news and sport. Where is Philip Schofield?!? I WANT MY GOPHER!
These days childrens television is different. In the UK we now have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles instead of the “safer” Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Because mutated aquatic life forms with swords, blowing up monster robots and a young female reporter with more cleavage on show than a very enthusiastic porn star are all parts of good wholesome childrens TV but heaven forbid kids see the word “Ninja”. The backlash against the Turtles was such that when the second movie was released every effort was made to obscure their weapons and Michelangelo even fought against one villain with linked sausages. Complaints were common regarding violence in kids shows, and there is one television show that received constant barrage for being unsuitable for children, and that show was The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Before we go any further, please enjoy the intro, because NOSTALGIA!
Like that? Yeah, so did I. That is now going to stay in your head all day. There are a few shows that I remember the origins of, South Park, another was The Simpsons. I remember being pretty pissed off that Bart was taking attention away from my beloved Turtles. But a show that trumped both was MMPR.
Originally airing in 1993 MMPR started a trend of Power Ranger themed shows that continues to this day. MMPR ran for 3 seasons and a whopping 155 episodes, the longest run of any of the Power Ranger shows, the rest of which have run a single season before switching to a new theme. In fact, we could probably add a fourth season as in 2010 the original shows were butchered… sorry, my spell checker is informing me that word is Re-mastered, not butchered. Same dif. I don’t want to touch on the Re-butchered versions here, I have seen parts of the episode one re-master and it’s just trying too hard to be new. It tries to emulate comic books to some degree, having… well… look:
Why yes. That is a little sick you’ve done in your mouth. No. I wont judge you. I did the same. Why don’t they just go all out and add Jar Jar?
But lets go back, all the way to 1993. Saturday morning kids TV was at its best because we all think kids TV was best when we were kids. I’m sure in 20 years time todays kids will fondly remember sitting down on a Saturday morning excited and eager to watch BBCs Breakfast news show.
When revisiting the past I think we all look with rose tinted glasses. We remember the good, or at least we remember thinking things were good. The Turtles show from the 80s/90s does not hold up well. In fact its bordering on unwatchable. But MMPR is different. It actually holds up really, really well. So, after a rather long winded introduction, lets crash headfirst into our review for the first episode-
The Day of the Dumpster.
It is worth noting a slightly longer pilot episode exists that didn’t air in the original run, so I wont be looking at that. I will be focusing on the original broadcast run. The show does indeed hold up rather well. Yes it is cheesy, yes there are some cringeworthy moments and yes there is a fair amount of “hilarious” (sarcasm filters to maximum) early 90s racism coming through at times (look at the black guy. Look at him dance. Look at him be the black Ranger. Look at HIM!).
The show starts with the heavy guitar and boy what an introduction. The first thing we see in the titles is Rita emerge from her space dumpster and declare “After 10,000 years I’m free. It’s time to conquer Earth”. Wait, you failed to conquer Earth the first time? 10,000 years ago, when humans were still emerging into parts of the world? Before many of the great civilisations emerged? You are a super powered witch and you couldn’t conquer fucking cavemen? A time when humans were hunting mammoths and you couldn’t conquer us? Christ on a bike. That has always bugged me. If it was a thousand years, or even 2000 years I could at least say there were powerful empires on earth to at least pose some resistance. But 10,000? And why would you want to? In that space of time humanity has changed so much that it is a completely different world. Man, Rita is a fucking idiot.
So to the episode itself. A couple of astronauts walk across a light sandy planet. At first it seems like Mars, indeed we can see what looks like the moon alongside Earth. A few things about this opening are a bit annoying, the gravity on Mars seems to be identical to earth but whatever, we can forgive that. So these two astronauts find a space “dumpster” and like all good scientists decide to study it without interfering, they just observe and decide the best course of action is to not mess with it… of course they don’t. They say “Hey. Lets check it out” and proceed to open it releasing Rita and her minions – Finster the monster maker, Goldar the second in command, Baboo an effeminate monkey man and Squatt, a short blue sex toy.
Now where exactly are we? I say I assume it is Mars but if that is the case how do they get from there to the Moon in the next scene they appear in? And if it is so easy to go from Mars to the Moon then why go to the Moon in the first place? And what about the two astronauts? We never see or hear from them again. Did Rita straight up murder them?
Next we are introduced to Zordon and Alpha Five. They live in the Command Centre, situated on Earth near the Star Trek Rock (you know the one). Zordon is an interdimensional being trapped in a time warp. I wont criticise that idea too much, although in the movie it is revealed Zordon is just lying there in the beam. Upon learning of Ritas escape Zordon orders Alpha to find 5 teenagers with attitude. Because fuck the army. Why nuke Ritas moonbase when you can get five kids in spandex? It is worth noting here that MMPR isn’t one show. It is comprised of newly filmed American footage mixed in with scenes from a Japanese show- Super Sentai. This explains why sometimes scenes will take place in one location only to magically shift to another, they had to work with the footage they had. This is similar to what happened with the original Godzilla movie. For an American audience several new scenes were filmed and inserted so it became about an American journalist, ultimately losing around 30 minutes of the original Godzilla movie.
One part where it becomes obvious the people in the costumes are not the same as our American heroes is with the Yellow Ranger. There are two women in the Power Ranger line up. The Pink Ranger who wears a skirt over her spandex, and the Yellow Ranger who wears a dong under hers. Yep, in the original Super Sentai the Yellow Ranger is played by a male actor.
We are then introduced to the five Rangers in their pre morph lives. Jason the Red Ranger is a karate expert, Billy the Blue Ranger is a geek and therefore cant fight for shit. Black Ranger, African American Zac, is a dance fiend because black. Kimberley our Pink Ranger does gymnastics because girl. And Yellow Ranger Trini is just… kinda… there. And shes East Asian because of course the Yellow Power Ranger is. Something that has always bugged me about Morphin. Morphin gives these kids powers and abilities they do not have yet we see Jason especially does have these abilities with his fighting ability, but Billy doesn’t and completely fails Jasons kung fu tutorial. So what does morphin do? Does it give power and abilities to people who don’t have them? In which case does it matter Jason can do karate? If their starting abilities don’t matter then why these five kids? Why not five others? And if the morphin ability doesn’t enhance them then why chose Billy? In fact why chose any of them again? Whichever reason it is, it seems that these five are a purely arbitrary choice because they happen to be in the same area.
We then have the two bullies. Bulk and Skull. These guys are clearly outcasts and at every opportunity they are ridiculed. They are supposed to be bullies but are actually the victims more often than not. They never succeed in bullying anyone, they are the comic relief in a Stan and Ollie kind of way. They try to engage in karate but fail, they always fail. It is clear by the time the movie comes out they have gone from being bullies to simply being outsiders who even help the Rangers to the best (worst) of their abilities. Bulk and Skull have giant egos and sense of self importance but never really come out on top. Not that we would expect bullies to in a kids show, but they are clearly more outsiders than any credible threat to anyone. At one point Bulk (the fat one, because of course that’s his name) says to Kimberley and Trini “What about that double date we talked about?” to which Skull (the skinny one, natch) responds “yeah” and proceeds to giggle like a fucking Looney Tune character on crack.
There is then an Earth quake caused by Rita who now has a Moon palace. Because. And during this Earth Quake everyone but our heroes flee and Billy utters a line that is so inexplicable that it almost makes one think he is in it with Rita. He says, during what is clearly an Earth Quake “Something tells me this is no Earth Quake”… what I want to ask is how the hell did he know that? There is absolutely nothing to indicate this is anything other than an Earth quake. What did he think it was?
Zordon now orders Alpha Five to find him some kids and he chooses our heroes, Zordon specifically says “Transport to us five over bearing and over emotional humans”. To which Alpha responds “Not Teenagers!”.
So, does Zordon do this a lot? Enough that Alpha is concerned about his decision?
The soon to be Rangers are teleported to the Command Centre. The effects aren’t great but for the time they were pretty damn good for a childrens TV show – in fact they are not really any worse than most modern effects on kids shows. Upon arriving in the Command Centre they meet Alpha Five who, despite Billy’s insistence on being advanced, has the visual ability of a Sega CD.
One interesting thing about the Rangers is they are all dressed in colours that will be their Power Ranger colours. Now, are the colours their Rangers become because they like those colours? Because the uniforms just decided to base themselves on these colours?
Zordon welcomes them all and explains the situation and that he wants them to become the Power Rangers. He informs them that they will take on the power of creatures they call dinosaurs. Now this is the part where palaeontologists the world over cringe at. Look at this list of creatures the Rangers take on the powers of- I’ll include both of Tommys too for completions sake despite him not appearing til later in the series.
Tyrannosaurus. Okay, fine. Dinosaur.
Triceratops. Fine. Dinosaur.
Pterodactyl. Not a dinosaur.
Sabre Tooth Tiger. Not a dinosaur and not its actual name.
Masterdon. Not a dinosaur.
Dragonzord. Not a thing.
White Tiger. Not a dinosaur.
Of the seven different types of creature the Rangers embody only 2 of them are actually dinosaurs. But that doesnt matter too much when we’re dealing with a millennia old Moon witch and a giant head in a time warp like a slightly less confused Holly from Red Dwarf.
The soon to be Rangers are given their morphers but ultimately decline Zordons request for help and leave. Step outside and the first thing anyone says is Jason complains that “Great he could have sent us back in to town” except you guys just walked out and didn’t bother to ask. You guys don’t even know where you are. It is at this point that Rita decides to build her Putties. Finster rolls up some clay and puts it through a machine which creates the Putty patrollers. Rita sends them to Earth to battle the Rangers in the desert. At first they try to fight them off by themselves. Well I say fight them off, Zac just dances at them. Because black.
Ultimately they cannot defeat the Putties and decide to have a go with the morphers. A truly excellent scene takes place where they each call out the name of their not-dinosaurs-but-two and become the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. All of Ritas scenes are from Super Sentai, but here we have the first time that show really inter-cuts with our own. It isn’t noticeable (except Yellow Dong). It’s a pretty fun scene and great to see the Rangers in action, even if it isn’t the actual actors. Rita decides to send down Goldar, all the way from the Moon and he appears instantly. As soon as he does they decide to relocate to Angel Grove for no reason whatsoever. It is at points like this it becomes really apparent that this is a patchwork of different shows edited together. They all appear on a rooftop in the Rangers home town of Angel Grove/ Japan and fight. The Rangers get the better of Goldar at which point Rita does the one thing we all waited on tenterhooks for every Saturday- she launches her staff all the way to Earth (how did she get it back) and makes Goldar huge.
Its time for the Zords! Each of the Rangers has large robotic vehicle called a Zord, shaped like their animal. An odd thing about this scene is that all the Zords come from different places around the globe but all arrive at the same time. Maybe they have the same abilities as Ritas magic travelling staff. Everyone loves the Zords. But before we have a chance to see what they can do individually they morph together to form the Megazord. I remember the megazord- where they all combine, was the must have Christmas gift of the year. You think the craze for Furbies was bad, you never lived through Zord-ageddon. You can actually pick up a Megazord on eBay for around £40-£50 so not as much as I was expecting.
The Rangers are still not a great match for Goldar and call upon the Mega Zord power sword… that has never been mentioned once before. Clearly the Morphin ability gives them new memories about what they can do, indeed Billy remarks that he knows how to pilot the craft- they all do. So again, what exactly does Morphin do to the people who Morph? Is it still really them? Why does it give them extra memories? Why does it re-gender one of them? Why can’t I stop thinking about the Yellow Rangers cock?
From here it is fairly simple, they slash at Goldar who retreats in defeat and the Rangers are successful. The Rangers reappear back at the Command Centre and they all agree to help and stay on as Rangers, except Kimberley who complains the helmet messes with her hair. Because girl. But its alright, she is just kidding. We know that because she does the most 90s thing ever and after saying how she wont get involved ends with “noooot!”. So 90s. So Borat. Nice.
The Power Rangers is a great franchise, the show was amazing fun. The pilot, though suffering slightly from early 90s social attitudes, does stand up rather well and is a joy to revisit. I had to watch the show several times for this write up and in all honesty I was never bored. It really is a timeless classic and there is a reason it was so popular amongst kids. The show has endured and there have been almost 20 incarnations of Power Rangers from Zeo to Galaxy to Dino Force, but it is with the Mighty Morphin variety that the show first hit the airwaves and holds a special place in the heart of anyone born between the early 80s and early 90s. I was lucky to see it on its first run. If you’ve never seen it before but have a hankering for retro television you must check it out.
There were troubles of course, and it was rocky at times. There is rumour that the Blue Ranger actor- David Yost- left the show due to homophobic behaviour from the production staff. And whether intentional or not the show will find it hard to escape the accusations of racism thrown at it – Zac is such a stereotype in both the way he speaks and acts that it is hard to see it as anything other than deliberate. It was pretty good with showing strong female characters for the most part. At one point in the pilot I got a little worried when Bulk and Skull were about to attack the girls and for a moment it seemed like one of the male rangers was coming to their defence because they couldn’t handle it themselves. Thankfully a moment later the guys White Knighting was not needed as Kimberley and Trini stood their ground and easily took on Bulk and Skull. So that is something positive on a social level.
But despite its flaws it still stands the test of time and the 2010 remastering was really not necessary. The show was such a success that a movie was made after a really short period of time, this time all the footage featured the American cast and they got new zords and costumes. The movie sadly doesn’t stand up as well as the TV show. We accept the limitations of television budgets and the show did a lot with what it had but the movie SFXs look terrible, so bad it makes the final battle between the Rangers and Ivan Ooze almost unwatchable. Like the Turtles cartoon. There is even a new movie coming out in 2016 which I am really excited for. But nothing will ever replace the joy and excitement I felt as a kid sitting down to watch this show every weekend. And the pilot episode – The Day of the Dumpster – is one of the shows greatest episodes, it’s only contenders being the Green with Evil story arch that introduced Tommy as the Green Ranger and the later White Light two parter which reintroduced Tommy as the White Ranger.
So sing it loud- Go, Go Power Rangers. You Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangeeeeeeeeeeers!
NOTE: All images are used under Fair Use for the purpose of review and criticism
Group shot: digitalspy.co.uk
Yellow Ranger Penis: funnyjunk.com
All other images Screen Shots from episode The Day of the Dumpster, copyright Saban