Episode Title: Day of the Dumpster
Original Airdate: August 28, 1993
Our adventures with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers begins where many superhero stories start…an origin story. There’s no radioactive spiders, parents being killed, or interplanetary refugees, though. It’s just a simple story about a few average California teenagers in the nineties recruited to fight a space witch with giant robots. Get ready for Day of the Dumpster!
We begin on an unspecified planet where a couple of astronauts in extremely non-airtight looking suits land their space shuttle and begin exploring. They encounter something strange that looks like “a giant space dumptster” and stupidly decide to open it up. Come on guys, NASA training 101 says you don’t just open giant space dumpsters. Anyhow, their stupidity ends up releasing Rita Repulsa, who has been imprisoned for 10,000 years and her minions Goldar, Finster, Baboo, and Squatt. Rita decides immediately that it would be fun to destroy the nearest planet…Earth. Now, wait…I don’t know what planet she’s on, but Earth looks about as close to it as Minneapolis is to St. Paul. She’s clearly not on the moon…so apparently there’s a planet out there that we haven’t discovered yet that’s about 35 miles away.
We now head to Angel Grove, California and the hippest place for teens to hang out, The Angel Grove Gym and Juice Bar, which is run by the rotund Ernie. There we meet Jason, Trini, and Zack who are practicing their martial arts moves while their friend Kimberly does some of her gymnastics on the balance beam. The last member of the gang, young genius Billy, comes in for his first karate lesson just as local bullies Bulk & Skull also arrive to crash the class. All of the sudden a strange earthquake hits…of course, it’s Rita attacking the planet. At a strange mountain command center the giant floating head Zordon tells his robot assistant Alpha to summon five “overbearing and overemotional humans.” How those particular traits are essential to defeating Rita is a bit of a mystery, but whatever. So, our five heroes get teleported to Zordon’s fortress. As Kimberly remarks, it’s “not exactly the mall, is it?”
Zordon explains the situation with Rita and then gives them the Power Morphers that will allow them to morph into their superhero selves by calling out the name of the dinosaur assigned to them. We went over who gets which dinos last time, so we won’t go through all that again. They are also told all about the Zords they will pilot and how they can come together to create a Mega Zord. The teens end up thinking this all sounds silly (which it is) and walk off. But when Rita sends her Putty Patrollers to attack them there’s only so much they can do before they decide to try this morphing thing after all.
Immediately, Zordon teleports the team into the city as Goldar has just been sent down by Rita. The battle is going well for our heroes, but then Rita pulls out another trick. She throws her magic wand down to Earth which causes Goldar to grow to supersize. This is something that happens a lot on the show…so get used to it. Of course, the Power Rangers summon their Zords which immediately come together to form a tank so they can battle Goldar. After a few good hits, they change into the Mega Zord and duke it out with Goldar in hand-to-hand combat. Of course, they manage to defeat Goldar and the five commit to a life of being teenaged superheroes.
Now, an important thing to remember as we go through these episodes is that they are made for kids. If you’re looking for gritty, no-nonsense Christopher Nolan superheroes you’ve come to the wrong place. A show like this is about fun characters kids will like, goofy humor, and plenty of monsters fighting robots action. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. Ultimately, there’s not a lot of time for seriousness. Most of the episodes of this show only clock in at about 20 minutes long. You need lots of time for toy and cereal commercials, after all.
This episode does move pretty quickly. There’s an awful lot to try and cram into this origin story in a very short amount of time. We get a little bit of a look at the personalities of our five heroes, but I wouldn’t say they get equal time. Most of the focus ends up being on Jason and Kimberly. Jason is clearly set up to be the leader of the group. He’s the one with the most karate expertise; enough that he teaches a class at the gym. He’s also the one member of the group who seems a bit more onboard with Zordon’s initial offer of making them superheroes. When trouble strikes, he’s the one that suggests they morph and see what happens.
Kimberly, on the other hand, is actually presented more as the comic relief of this episode. She’s made out to be more of the California Girl type…though not ditzy or dumb. She’s the one who makes a comment about the mall when they arrive at Zordon’s fortress. Later, when the team first lands in the driver’s seats of their Zords, her comment is, “Hey, nice stereo!” Kimberly ends up being a very spunky, energetic character, and does have some funny moments. From this first episode alone, it’s easy to see why many guys who grew up in the 90’s consider Amy Jo Johnson (who played Kimberly) to be one of their first crushes. We don’t really learn all that much about Trini, Billy, and Zack…but they’ll get their chance.
One thing I did appreciate about this episode were a few of the stylistic approaches. There were a couple of moments where they employed a Dutch Angle for the shot. That’s that strange sort of tilted camera angle. It reminded me a bit of another famous superhero series where this technique was often used…the 1966 Batman series. I guess I saw it as a subtle reminder that, like Batman, this is not a show that is meant to be taken seriously. Of course, when I was a kid, I thought Batman WAS serious. I’m sure many 90’s kids felt the same way about this show.
In the end, I say this is a really fun start to this series. Next time we will see Trini step to the forefront as she must face her fears as the team battles a skeleton monster called Bones in High Five.