If you’re even a few years younger than me, you probably grew up with the Power Rangers franchise in one incarnation or another. It’s been going on for decades without any forays into quality. But to me, this is an utterly baffling concept and so I was completely unprepared for the Christmas episode of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers – “I’m Dreaming of a White Ranger”
Original airdate: November 25, 1995
Wow. OK. This is maybe the first piece of Power Rangers media I’ve made it through and it’s hot garbage. Even with the remit of entertaining children on the cheap, it’s an astonishingly shoddy endeavor. I have some base knowledge of the property from working at a comic shop in the 90s and what little I picked up from my younger brother and sister and also my friend Tim Wolma who went through a phase would leave school and go to my house in the afternoon and watch Power Rangers and nobody ever knew until we were a Nielsen family for two weeks and he logged in his viewing.
What little I know is already out of date by this third season episode – most of the Power Rangers from the first season have already been replaced and high school bullies Bulk and Skull are cops now. (And all of their scenes are scored with wacky trombones, including a wacky trombone version of “Silent Night”.) But in the event you know even less than I do, here’s the basic idea as I can glean it. Teenagers get superpowers and also maybe motorcycles and robots, some of which combine into a big robot, and fight monsters. The action scenes and anything with the Power Rangers in costume comes from a Japanese series with the voices redubbed. Then there are these scenes with American actors going to high school and sometimes interacting with a floating head. Also, in the opening credits they have two different costumes each, one of which is clearly the Japanese version and then also what might be a cheap knockoff shot on the American sets. It’s extremely confusing. And almost none of it comes up in this episode because they never put on their costumes.
So, there’s a guy named Lord Zedd who looks like a person without skin and a woman named Rita Repulsa and they are married and dubbed and they hate the Power Rangers. Rita’s brother is a skeleton with a sword and an army helmet named Rito Revolto because naming conventions dictate that siblings have similar but different last names. Also, one can be a lady and the other a skeleton. Anyway, they have a plan to force Santa to make hypnotic tops to make children follow Lord Zedd. Good way to mobilize the least useful members of society. And also, Santa Claus is real and none of the characters are at all surprised to learn this.
Rito and a winged werewolf (?) named Goldar go to the North Pole and capture Santa, forcing the elves to make hypnotic tops. Meanwhile, the Power Rangers are making small children sing Christmas songs for some sort of unspecified program. I can’t determine where this is or what connection the Rangers have to this group of children. One girl, Becky, is sad because her father won’t be there. Kimberly, the Pink Ranger, is sad because her parents also won’t be around for Christmas and no explanation is offered.
Then they’re summoned by floating head Zordon to go save Santa. They are informed that their powers won’t work at the North Pole, so at no point are we going to see Power Rangers or the central premise of the show. And this is very confusing because Rito and Goldar directly interact with Santa and at least one elf. That elf, who is not Japanese but is also dubbed, interacts with the Rangers. As near as I can figure, they shot new footage with the Japanese monster costumes but also the Power Rangers never touch the monsters and every shot they share looks like a composite. Basically, they seem to have gone to a lot of effort to make this look as bad as possible. Anyway, the Rangers, still in their school clothes, throw snowballs at the monsters until they run away and the elves trip them with ribbon.
Then the Rangers help Santa and the elves load the sleigh and return to a mystery building for the Christmas show. Santa brings the hypnotic tops back to Lord Zedd so there was no point to the tops and they could have just ruined Christmas rather than plugging in that dumb MacGuffin. The kids sing, Becky’s dad shows up and it’s implied that the Rangers have somehow facilitated this with no explanation. Then Kim’s parents show up because they cut their trip short. OK. They planned a trip over Christmas and then realized it was Christmas, I guess. Kids sing directly into the camera and the episode ends and I’m twenty minutes older and sadder.
Best Line: “Because of a combination of the North Pole’s unique polarity and a cross-current of holiday magic, your morphing powers will not work there.” – Zordon, expecting you to just accept it
Christmas Decorations – The mystery building is decorated with all the Christmas cheer a minuscule production budget can afford.
Trimming the Tree – Tommy the Ranger gives Becky a lift so she can put the star on top of the tree.
Christmas Carols – The children sing several carols, and we get two versions of “Silent Night”, one sung by small children and the other a wacky trombone version.
Hanukkah Shout-Out – The kids sing a song about Hanukkah that I assumed the show made up because it rhymes “menorah” with “horah”, which sounds like somebody with limited understanding of Judaism trying to put a song together. But that turned up in another episode I watched this year and it’s actually a song called “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah”. I learned something!
Santa Claus – The real literal Santa Claus appears and the Power Rangers don’t even have to be told that he’s a real guy. They’re not even especially impressed by him. It feels like maybe they’ve been hanging out with Santa for years and don’t really like him. Also, Bulk plays Santa for the mystery gathering and has candy cane pieces hanging from his beard, which made me feel sick.
Gift Exchange – Rito gives Goldar a present that is never unwrapped because the suits aren’t articulated enough for that kind of movement.
Holiday Cheer-O-Meter – This is maybe the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen and it made me sad that kids had to watch this and they grew up with nostalgia for it. I guess people are happy at the end of it and for that reason, I can stretch it to a 2 at best.