Sunday, 10 March 2013

Top 10 WTF Moments in Power Rangers

I love Power Rangers. It's about a team of superheroes with laser cannons and giant robots who fight armies of monsters to save the world. They're the ultimate force of Good in the world, and they serve as an example for us all to live up to: Brave, selfless, noble, honest, kind, all the best qualities of humanity are present in this team of heroes...most of the time.

The idea for this list came up when I suggested that the Power Rangers would win in a fight with the Avengers. This will probably go down in history as the biggest landslide defeat I will ever suggest in the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny genre. NOBODY was with me on this one, and I had to admit they had some good points. I'm not going into it here, because that debate lasted days, and it's not the focus of this list.

While I was arguing, I realized that for all that awesomeness, there has been some really weird stuff going on in the Power Rangers universe over the years. And I'm not just talking about the one-off monsters who bake the Rangers into a giant pizza, or that time Chad dated a mermaid, or that time Lord Zedd spun the Earth to turn back time. Those are weird, but they're at least logically consistent. The following is my list of the Top 10 WTF moments in Power Rangers history.

10: Set The Bar Low (Mighty Morphin')
We're starting off right at the beginning of the franchise. Rita Repulsa, evil witch queen extraordinaire, is freed from her golden garbage can prison on the Moon and decides to conquer Earth. Meanwhile on Earth, ancient wizard Zordon and his robot assistant Alpha 5 detect Rita's escape. To stop her, Zordon tells Alpha to recruit a team of heroes. Well, that's not quite what he says. To quote him: "Teleport to us five overbearing and overemotional humans."
Make sure they're color-coordinated too!
Alpha deduces that he's talking about teenagers. I can't tell if he's joking or not, but he doesn't have much of a sense of humor in later episodes, so I'm inclined to believe he isn't. It's fair to point out that the pilot episode of a given show is usually a little different from the rest of the series, because the pilot episode and the first few after that is where the show starts to refine itself and figure out what works and what doesn't. But this is the foundational premise of the entire show, and it's baffling. Why teenagers, instead of adults? Why students instead of soldiers, or rescue workers, or cops? We'll see all of those in later seasons, so it's not like they HAVE to be teens for the powers to work. I have my fan-wank theories, but let's move on.

9: Time To Run (Time Force)

In the finale of Time Force, Ransik's forces are overrunning the city, and unstable time rips are threatening to destroy reality. To save his friends, Wes tricks them into entering their time-travel ship and triggers the autopilot to send them back to the future. They awaken in the year 3000 and are informed that Wes managed to save the city, but at the cost of his own life. Unable to accept this, the rest of the Rangers go against orders and race to get back to their time-ship.
I cannot IMAGINE how much those vinyl suits chafe while sprinting.
It looks cool and all, racing against time, but answer me this: Why are they running to get to their TIME MACHINE? Wes is already dead! He died a thousand years ago! Yes, you can save him, but it's not like he'll be any less dead a week from now! It's not like Bill & Ted where reality is running on San Dimas Time, you are specifically going back to change the future, so it doesn't matter when you leave! For that matter, why are you going back to save Wes the day AFTER he sent you to the future? It's a TIME MACHINE! You could go back to the exact moment you left with no consequences whatsoever! Hell, why not just go back to the first episode and stop Ransik from escaping in the first place! Sure, you could say it's going to screw up the space-time continuum and create paradoxes, but that's never been mentioned at all! History can be changed, and has been frequently. Seriously, you can walk. Maybe stop for lunch on the way. No rush.

8: Death in the Family (Lost Galaxy)
To say that Power Rangers are familiar with perilous situations is to say that the Atlantic Ocean is a bit moist. They fight monsters on a weekly basis, and losing typically means death for them, and by extension the human race, at the hands of whatever malevolent entity they're pitted against. This aspect of the job is downplayed most of the time, since the demographic for this show is pre-teen, and dark themes aren't common in kids shows. It's extremely rare for anyone to even mention death in the PR universe, let alone to actually die. If anyone ever does die, it's usually off-screen in the distant past, functioning as character development for someone else.

When the Lost Galaxy Rangers teamed up with the Space Rangers to fight the Psycho Rangers (yeah, I know...), Psycho Pink is the only survivor of the initial battle. To get the power to finally kill her counterpart, she seeks out an ancient sword to use to destroy the Rangers and the space station colony they inhabit (just go with it). The sword absorbs ambient energy to grow stronger, and after battling the Rangers begins to overload and threatens to annihilate the area. Kendrix, the Pink Galaxy Ranger, enters the energy storm to destroy the sword, despite the protests of the other Rangers. She reaches the eye of the storm, destroys the sword...
...and dies. No, really. Her body is obliterated by the resulting blast, and she's... dead. And you're thinking she'll come back next episode and this won't matter. As it turns out, the actress who played Kendrix, Valerie Vernon, had to leave the series to undergo cancer treatments. Thankfully, she fully recovered and actually did return for the season finale, but that's pretty dark for a kid's show. You might as well have told us Zordon is secretly a child kidnapper...

7: Zordon Kidnaps Children (Mighty Morphin')
Yeah, this happened. In the VHS special "Alpha's Magical Christmas", Alpha 5 and Zordon are alone in the Command Center on Christmas Eve. The Rangers are at the North Pole helping Santa get the presents ready for all the kids of the world, and Alpha is lonely because he's all alone on Christmas...which he says to Zordon, who must be a little offended, I would think. Anyway, Alpha decides to decorate the Command Centre in the hope of convincing the Rangers to visit, and to cheer him up, Zordon arranges for dozens of kids from around the world to be teleported in to keep Alpha company.
Weren't you in Rocky IV?
This is kinda sinister. Zordon takes kids from all over the world out of their homes and away from their families and sticks them in a dark room with a 4ft robot and himself, a giant floating head. Not one of these kids seem to have any problem with this, and actually know who Alpha and Zordon are, despite the fact that only the Rangers themselves are known to the public. They require no explanation for where they are or how they got there, they're instantly on board with this. Because they're from all over the world, naturally they're all wide awake and celebrate Christmas despite coming from different time-zones and nationalities. My best guess is that they're under some sort of spell (Zordon is a wizard, remember) to keep them happy and compliant while they do Alpha's bidding for the night. That's creepy enough, but they take it an extra step further when it's time for the children to go home...
Seriously, it even LOOKS like a death march.
...through this big myst-filled doorway. Why can't they just be teleported home if they were teleported here in the first place? You know what I think is happening here? I think Zordon's too cheap to spare the power required to run the teleporter again, so he's dumping these kids outside to fend for themselves in the California desert. They can't get back inside without a Power Coin, and they're miles away from civilization. Those kids never made it home. They all went "missing" on Christmas Day, the parents lost their minds, and the authorities were totally baffled. The whole thing ends up on "Unsolved Mysteries", or they manage to blame it on Lord Zedd. It's super unsettling. For a show aimed at kids, it seems like children often get the short end of the stick. The Rangers might as well pick up a toddler and use it as a weapon...

6: Bludgeon Baby (RPM)
AW COME ON! I wasn't serious!

Okay, here's the setup: A mother is taking her infant child to the park on a sunny afternoon. Suddenly, she's approached by a pack of Grinders, the robotic foot-soldiers for the season's villain, Venjix. Things look bleak before the arrival of Scott and Ziggy, the Red and Green RPM Rangers respectively. While Ziggy protects the mother, Scott leaps in bravely to protect the infant. Naturally, he'll try to get it to safety in it's stroller...
I really wish I could edit video.
...or he can totally swing the stroller around like a weapon with the baby still inside. At one point, the mother is crying out for her baby, and I don't think the killer robots are her primary concern anymore, it's the crazy man who's spinning her baby around in the middle of combat. At the end, one of the Grinders picks up the baby, and you can see that even IT is more gentle with the baby than our hero. And with the baby in the arms of his opponent, naturally Scott sweep-kicks the robot and sends the baby 20ft in the air. He catches it, but you can tell he just wants to spike it into the ground as part of his victory dance.

5: Surf Ninjas (Ninja Storm)
In this season, the Rangers are Ninjas with elemental affinities that allow them special powers. The Blue Ranger is water, and she can do crazy stuff with water. The Red Ranger is air, and he can fly and do stuff in the air. The Yellow Ranger is earth, and he can burrow underground and do ground stuff. Suspension of Disbelief is crucial to enjoying a show like this, but there are times that it gets stretched just a little too thin. As one of their battle tactics, when Red and Yellow are faced with a monster, we get this ninja technique:
REALLY wish I could edit video.
If it's not apparent from the slideshow, the Yellow Ranger is sliding around the ground like a skateboard while Red stands on him, and then leaps off so that both Rangers can slash at the monster. The reason they can do this? Ninjas are magic. Internal logic be damned, this is just silly. Though to be fair, Ninja Storm is the first Disney-produced season of Power Rangers, and this is hardly the silliest part of the season. The Rangers take their orders from a talking Guinea Pig, and their main villain is an evil ninja luchador. I went with this moment though because it's the easiest to explain. Sometimes though, there really is no explanation...

4: Take a DEEEEP Breath (Multiple Seasons)
The Power Rangers exist in a different universe than our own. Before you slap me, you need to understand that I'm not just talking about being fictional. I mean the laws of nature are fundamentally different. I could bring up the existence of alien life, or the mermaid thing, whatever. But the biggest and most obvious difference: We can breathe in space. It's hinted at in the first season, when we establish that Rita's palace is on the moon, which has an Earth-like atmosphere and gravity. And we see it in later seasons when the Rangers are walking around on the Moon with no difficulty, or riding a motorcycle in space.
He's skidding to a stop. In SPACE. This angers me.
But the biggest violation of science and biology occurs in "Escape The Lost Galaxy", an episode of Lost Galaxy where Mike's zord and powers are destroyed in order to keep a space portal open long enough for the Rangers to pass through it. In the resulting destruction, Mike is recovered floating in space, unconscious, and alive.
I will never stop hating this picture.
I don't have an explanation for this. Maybe being a Power Ranger makes you immune to asphyxiation? Hell if I know, let's just move on to another series.

3: Travel In Style (Lost Galaxy)
No! Bad list, bad!

After a spell is recited from an ancient book, the spaceship colony Terra Venture is transported through a portal into another galaxy. The colony is then approached by another ship for communication. This is another one of those moments that really has to be seen to be believed, but all I can do is describe it for you. Mike contacts the ship's senior staff and informs them of the situation.

Mike: Sir, there's a vessel approaching.
Captain: What kind of vessel?
Mike:'s a castle, sitting on a dinosaur, flying towards us.
Captain: ???
This was the plot of a Doctor Who episode. Several, even.
I got nothing.

2: Denial or Senile? (Lightspeed Rescue)
Lightspeed Rescue is unique among many of the other seasons for several reasons. For one, the Rangers are all adults, and rescue workers at that. There's a firefighter, a paramedic, a pilot, an athlete, and a lifeguard. For another, they're not operating in secret. The Rangers are government employees operating from a military base without secret identities. This makes a lot of sense. Monsters have been attacking the planet for years, so it's only natural for the government to put something in place to protect the people. Forming their own team of Rangers? Yeah, why not? But let's get to the point.

A little girl accompanies her mother to work in an office building (I assume it's Take Your Daughter To Work Day), where the mother is kidnapped by aliens. The little girl escapes and goes to get help. Apparently, nobody believes her. I know kids make things up sometimes, but given the nature of the series you'd think people would give her the benefit of the doubt. But the real crowner is this elderly secretary who delivers this gem: "You know there's no such thing as monsters."
Kids today, with their abduction stories...
The inspiration for me to do this series (and the two others I'd like to do later for Best and Worst moments) came from an internet review named Linkara, who does a History of Power Rangers video series. He's mentioned many of these weird moments in his videos already, but I still felt like giving my own little take on the series. I give him all the credit he's due, particularly now, because I honestly can't sum this stupidity up any better than he does: "You live in a city that is constantly under attack by monsters, and the Power Rangers are known public figures without secret identities, not to mention the fact that the Earth was invaded and almost conquered a few years ago by monsters. Lady, I officially declare you Dumbest Person In Power Rangers Ever." It's nice to know that by the end of this day, this woman will be forced to evacuate the building along with everyone else inside because of a monster attack. Of course, if she really IS that stupid, she'll probably think it's a parade or something.

1: Heroes In A Half-Baked Shell (In Space)
Prepare for the epic team-up that nobody asked for...
I refuse to believe this happened.
Astronema, the evil general in command of Dark Spectre's army, is attempting to conquer the universe. The only thing standing in her way is the Space Rangers. So how do you defeat the Power Rangers? Well, summon the Ninja Turtles, of course! She goes to New York to find the Turtles and brainwashes the five of them to work for her. Yes, five. Venus is here too. This is a crossover special with Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, which was also produced by Saban around the same time. It was a terrible show that was almost universally hated. Aside from the terrible production quality, it also introduces Venus, a fifth female turtle separated from the brothers at birth. Nobody likes Venus. Not even Peter Laird, the guy who co-created the Ninja Turtles. You wonder why nobody ever mentions Venus in the TMNT movie? That's a direct order from him. She's an un-person. Much like to me, this is an un-episode.

So, the mind-controlled Turtles save the Rangers from a monster as part of a ploy to get access to the Ranger's spaceship and take control of it for Astronema. When they first meet, the Rangers are flabbergasted that the Turtles exist at all. This is perplexing to me, because there are two possibilities at play here. Either the Turtles are fictional in the Ranger universe, or they aren't. If the Turtles are fictional, then it makes sense that the Rangers would know them because they'd have seen the comics, cartoons, video games, etc. If the Turtles are real, then how would the Rangers know them? It's not like the Turtles are world-famous in their own movies and TV shows, they live in secret. You know, like NINJAS. And all of this applies in the reverse too, when the Turtles insist to Astronema that the Power Rangers are fictional. All the evidence we see indicates that the Turtles and Rangers exist in the same universe, because Astronema goes straight to New York to capture the Turtles. So the fact that they're surprised by each other's existence is insane.

Eventually the mind-control is undone, everyone teams up to beat the bad guys, you get it. This probably seemed like a gold mine to Saban at the time. Kids like Power Rangers, kids like Ninja Turtles, let's put them together and rake in the cash! Ironically, the two series ended up going in total opposite directions. Ninja Turtles was riding a popularity wave in the mid 90s with the games and comics, but their popularity dropped with the horrible live-action show. Power Rangers was in decline after the previous season (Turbo suuuuucked!), but ratings skyrocketed during In Space enough to bring the series out of cancellation (this would become a recurring trend for the franchise). And while we still enjoy the adventures of the Power Rangers to this very day, that enjoyment comes along with some really messed-up stuff.

Editor's Note: I really wanted this to be a video list. I spent weeks working with different (free) editing programs to put it together, downloading specific episodes to get the footage I needed. Three things kept me from actually going through with it. 
One, YouTube is notoriously strict when it comes to using footage and audio from copyrighted sources, even if it falls under Fair Use laws. If the video gets flagged, YouTube takes it down. From there, I have to file a DMCA counterclaim, which forces the copyright owner to either let the video go back up, or officially charge me with copyright infringement. Legally I'm clear since this counts as criticism and/or review (, but I really don't need the hassle of a court case. This is why Blip is cooler than YouTube...
Two, I have a lisp and I hate it. I'd rather not expose you all to my slippery S sounds unless it's necessary (imagine if I had said that out loud...), so that settled things rather easily. Maybe I can pick up a book on lisps and do some exercises, who knows.

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