Monday, August 11, 2014

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Season 1, Episode 45: Crystal of Nightmares

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is based upon the Japanese series Super Sentai.  If you are reading this post, you should already know that.  I’ve mentioned it in previous posts as I have worked my way through the first season of the show.  If you want to get more specific, the first season is based upon the Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger season of the Super Sentai series.  Many of the fight scenes when the Power Rangers are in costume have been taken directly from that series and fitted with American dialogue and an American story to market it to American children.

The reason that I am bringing this up again is that I have now ventured into the tail end of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ first season.  I believe I said in the second Pudgy Pig episode that the show was reusing footage that it had used in the first Pudgy Pig episode.  There is a reason for that.  The first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is sixty episodes of television.  The season of Super Sentai that it takes clips from is only forty episodes long.  Since there are some major story differences between the two shows, a lot of footage is not used.  What is left is the fight footage.  That does not leave much to take from.

This all means that there are about twenty episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that must reuse footage from previous episodes.  From this point on in the first season, all of the fight footage is footage that has already appeared in various episodes.  Yet there are still sixteen episodes, including the one in this post.  That is sixteen episodes at the end of the season that use footage that has already been used in the series.  The first of those is right now.

Season 1, Episode 45: Crystal of Nightmares

Exams are coming up and Billy has a great idea.  He invites Jason, Kimberly, Trini, and Zack up to his uncle’s cabin for a study trip.  They will spend the whole weekend working together to learn everything that they can learn so that they can ace all of the exams.  Bulk and Skull follow them up to the cabin to try and steal their study notes.  If Bulk and Skull fail the test, they will have a lot of detention in their future.

This all leads to Bulk and Skull breaking into the guys’ room while dressed as maids to look for the study notes.  After a few minutes, they have to hide under one of the beds to not get caught as Zack, Jason, and Billy return.  Zack starts jumping on the bed and dancing.  It leads to a pillow fight between the guys.  Then they go to sleep.

Rita Repulsa takes the opportunity to send Goldar down to Earth to activate the titular Crystal of Nightmares.  The whole point of the Crystal is to take away any of the confidence that the Power Rangers have in themselves.  Much in the same way as the two part Island of Illusion episodes, the nightmares lead to flashbacks of each of the Power Rangers’ worst moments.  The moments that scared them the most or left some sort of emotional scar on them.  The nightmares bring this moment out and cause the Power Rangers to be much more worried about themselves than they were previously.  They lose their confidence.

The only way that the Power Rangers can regain their confidence is to destroy the Crystal of Nightmares.  It will be a tough thing to do though.  Since they have no confidence, the team cannot defeat a simple group of putties that has been sent down to guard the cave where the Crystal is.  Jason manages to flee, however, and gets into the cave.  It isn’t that easy though, since Goldar is guarding the Crystal.  Jason summons up enough courage to dodge the monster and shatter the crystal.  Then morph, Zord, fight, victory!

Back at school, Bulk and Skull fail the exam and get a lot of detention.  The gang passes with flying colours.  The end.

There wasn’t all that much actual fight footage in the episode that involved costumes or Zords.  That’s all the better really, as it does not bring too much attention to the reuse of previous footage.  What did bring attention to reused footage, however, was the fact that the story worked as a sort of clip show, bringing up some of the things that had happened in previous episodes.  It brought back Billy being eaten, Kimberly being trapped in a jar, and Zack falling down a hill.

The episode still had a new story, even with all of the old elements being reshown.  The Crystal of Nightmares was an interesting threat to the group as it turned them into fear-ridden cowards that didn’t have the skills that they were used to having.  It made for an entertaining experience as they tried to recapture their confidence and take out the threat of the episode.

Sometimes the threats in an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers can be too outlandish in that the monsters are goofy or the combination of every Zord is too overpowering for the side of good.  A threat that deals with the mental stability of the Power Rangers brings a grounded element to the conflict that is refreshing when so many battles come down to outmaneuvering the opponent in battle.  It was nice to have something that wasn’t a simple physical threat.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers might have to resort to reusing old footage at this point in its run, but the writers are still able to make a captivating half hour of television with the use of already shown Japanese footage.  I have faith in the other fifteen episodes because of how well done this episode was.  The faith does not mean that the next fifteen episodes will be good.  It means that I have hope that they will be.  Only will watching them let me know if they are good.  I hope you stick around for the rest of the episodes as I watch them.  I don’t know when I’ll watch them or when I’ll write about them, but I will.  At some point, I will.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Season 1, Episode 44: Lions and Blizzards

The writers of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers spent their time through the first season writing in recurring story elements and gags that would pay off in later episodes.  The romance between Tommy and Kimberly was established when Tommy was introduced, and the two would be seen together all the time throughout his first tenure with the show.  Jason is always working on becoming a better martial artist and leader for their group.  Bulk and Skull are always being hit in the face with food, falling in or on something, or trying to upstage the main characters.

In the most recent episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers the writers brought back one of the most entertaining recurring gags of the entire first season.  Zack once again tried to score a date with Angela.  He has attempted this various times throughout the season.  Once he even attempted to woo her to show Tommy how to get Kimberly.  Needless to say, it didn’t work that time.  Would it work this time?  The recap of the episode will tell you all that and more.

Season 1, Episode 44: Lions and Blizzards

Something is happening in Angel Grove.  It isn’t another attack by Rita Repulsa.  Oh no.  Not yet, at least.  The thing that is happening in Angel Grove is a competition that includes an obstacle course, wheelbarrow races, and a bunch of those kinds of things.  The winning team will earn the Noble Lion Trophy.  It basically ends up being Jason and the gang against Bulk and Skull.  And after a tug-o-war that sends Bulk and Skull into some mud, the gang wins the trophy.

Bulk and Skull don’t take the loss easily.  They want the trophy for themselves, so they steal it.  The gang wants it back.  Jason and Kimberly go one way, the other three go another.  But they aren’t the only ones who want the trophy.  Rita Repulsa has plans to turn the Noble Lion Trophy into a monster so she sends down some putties to fight with everyone.

Something about this fight against putties is different than any of the others.  A new song plays while the gang fights.  At least, I think it’s a new song.  I don’t remember hearing it before this episode.  The song is called Fight and is by Ron Wasserman.  It only plays during the fight against the putties and once the putties are defeated, the song ends.

Rita makes her move for the trophy when Bulk and Skull stop to wash mud off themselves.  The trophy turns into a bipedal lion with a goat’s face for a chest.  It attacks Bulk and Skull and sends them flying into the pond in Angel Grove Park.

Meanwhile, at the Gym and Juice Bar, Angela asks Zack out on a date.  Everyone is surprised.  Zack and Angela head out to the movie theater to watch something together.  That’s when a storm begins and everyone is told to go down into the basement in case a tornado comes through.  Jason, Kimberly, Trini, and Billy go to the Command Center instead and find out that the monster Goatan is attacking the city.  They try to get help from Zack but they can’t contact him.  They go to fight off Goatan without his help.

Eventually, Zack steps out of the movie using the excuse of getting popcorn.  He asks Zordon what’s going on then goes to help the rest of the Power Rangers defeat Goatan.  When they form the Megazord, Goatan covers them in snow and ice.  How do they get out of it?  They spin the Megazord around a lot and shake all that stuff off.  Then they kill Goatan.  Yeah, that’s what happens.

Zack goes back to his date with popcorn and acts like he didn’t disappear for a long time.  Angela doesn’t like this and throws the popcorn on him.  The rest of the gang is at the gym and juice bar.  Bulk and Skull get brought in by the police and put into the care of the rest of the teens.  The episode strangely ends on Bulk finding a frog in his clothes.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, the Zack and Angela gag is one of the most entertaining in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Usually it is due to the buffoonery of Zack trying to ask her out and her turning down his offer without a second thought.  The fact that they actually went on a date and Zack had to ditch her to save the world is a great punchline.  The part where he can’t even tell her he was doing that makes it all that much sweeter.  I appreciate that the writers spend the time sprinkling these details into the show.

Also sneaking into the episode were a couple instances of Bulk and Skull falling into things.  Bulk fell on the obstacle course, both characters fell into mud during the tug-o-war, and then they fell into the pond when Goatan attacked them.  I’ve said in previous posts how I like when they get more to do than this slapstick comedy, but when they go overboard with it, it works quite well.  Having them spend an entire episode falling into things is better than one scene of them falling into something and nothing else in the episode.  They’re being built into real characters between these moments which helps too.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is a show that is still very much episodic.  However, it is beginning to grow into something more than the simple episodic children’s show it began as.  It is forming characters and figuring out when to use recurring shtick.  I, for one, am glad to see it growing as I’ve been complaining through this entire first season rewatch that the show needed to build itself a little more.  I was hoping for a more serialized thing, but it’s a kid’s show so I can’t expect that.  It is better than it started out as though.  That’s a good thing.  It can only grow from here.  I’ll see you next time with an update on how much the show has grown between this episode and the following one.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Season 1, Episode 43: Something Fishy

An interesting thing to look at in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is how they translate the Japanese footage of the Sentai series for American audiences.  The story is surely not the same, but they need to find a story for the footage to work in.  Whether that turns out to be a character story or a simple action story, the footage needs to fit properly.  It is especially important in the character stories though, as the Japanese footage tends to have focus on one of the Power Rangers over the rest.

The most interesting character episodes at this point in the series are episodes focused on Billy or Trini.  Neither of them have been built up to any real extent yet.  Most of the series focus is on Jason and Tommy, with some on Zack and Kimberly.  Trini and Billy are mostly left in the dark in terms of getting their characters any realization.  It’s nice to see either character get the spotlight because it helps to showcase who they are.  The audience learns to care about the characters, if only a little bit more than before.  The viewers get to find out what makes the characters tick.

The episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that I am about to write about is a Billy-centric episode.  It helps to build his character into more than just that guy who fixes things for the group.  We discover more about his personality and what makes him the person that he is.  It’s a good thing that he is getting some layers, considering that he is the longest lasting continuous Power Ranger from the beginning of the show.  It’s about time I wrote about what this episode did for the character.

Season 1, Episode 43: Something Fishy

The gang is getting ready for a trip out to the beach to go scuba diving.  The problem is that Billy does not want to go.  So Kimberly stays behind with him to have a picnic at the park.  Bulk and Skull want to get in on the action and decide to go fishing at the park.  They interrupt the picnic to show off all of the garbage that they have caught.

During the picnic, Billy reveals a story about when he was a child.  He went to the park and was playing in the water.  One of the fish decided to grab onto his finger and bite it.  Ever since that time, Billy has been afraid of both water and fish.  This comes into play when Rita decides to send another monster down to Earth.

The monster this time is called Goo Fish.  It’s some weird looking fish thing with a fish for a head, but the rest of its body is also a fish.  It can shoot out goo from its mouth, and the goo can turn into a glue like substance.  When the Power Rangers go to fight it, it traps all of them except for the Blue Ranger.  Billy’s fear of fish is a problem though, and it is tough for him to overcome the fear.  Eventually, he pulls himself together long enough to free his friends.  That’s when Rita sends down her staff.

Goo Fish grows.  The Power Rangers get their Zords and make the Megazord.  Goo Fish shoots some goo and traps Megazord.  Whatever will the Power Rangers do?  Here’s what.  Zack comes up with the idea that they should convert the goo into energy.  Jason converts the goo into energy, gets the sword, and takes down Goo Fish once and for all.  Yeah, I don’t quite understand either.

Back at the Angel Grove Gym and Juice Bar, Bulk and Skull decide to show off the big fish they caught.  Skull pulls out a giant can of tuna and Bulk gets mad.  Then Billy and Ernie (the guy running the gym and juice bar) show up with their fishing prizes.  That’s right, Billy is no longer afraid of fish or water.  Bulk wants to see what Billy caught and gets attacked by a lobster.  The episode ends right there.

What we learned about Billy in the episode was a little bit of his childhood backstory.  Does it build up his character and give him some sort of skill that will propel him forward?  Not at all.  But knowing about his struggles with fish helps to make him more relatable and sympathetic.  That is something that you need for a hero.  It makes Billy better-rounded than he previously was.

Now, if only the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers writers could make Trini a little bit more interesting.  There are still a few episodes before Tommy returns to the group.  Hopefully one of the episode is Trini-centric and makes her more than just that fifth person in the group.  This would be especially nice considering that she, like Jason and Zack, will leave partway through the second season.  I would like to get to know the character before that point.  Right now, I have no idea who Trini is as a person.

Like I said, there are still a few more episodes before Tommy returns.  That’ll be the next multi-episode story.  Until then, we have a few more stand-alone episodes to get through.  I’ll be here to hold your hand along the way.  I’ll see you soon for the next episode.