Episode Title: Happy Birthday, Zack
Original Airdate: September 16, 1993
I’ve watched an awful lot of TV in my life…more than what is probably healthy. So, there are certain plot devices that I recognize as the old standbys, so to speak. You know, those story elements that we see over and over and over again. One of those would definitely be having a character think that everybody else on the show has forgotten their birthday. Well, that’s just what happens to Zack in today’s episode, Happy Birthday, Zack.
As our story begins, Ernie has left the youth center open late so that Jason, Trini, Billy, and Kimberly can get the place ready for Zack’s surprise birthday party. There are some problems, though, with the Cake-o-Matic machine that Billy has invented to help Ernie prepare a cake for the occasion. More trouble hits when Bulk and Skull wander in and start messing up all the decorations. Skull even hits on Trini in the process, which is something we’ve never seen before.
Meanwhile, the ever watchful Rita decides that the best birthday present to give Zack would be to create a monster to take him out. She decides on an evil black knight. The next day at school, Kimberly has to fake forgetting about Zack’s birthday so as not to let on about the party. The others don’t acknowledge the big day either, so Zack becomes seriously bummed. As he wanders around a secluded area, Rita sends the “Nasty Knight” to attack. Zack holds his own in hand-to-hand combat with the creature for a while, but when things get rough, Zordon teleports the other rangers to help him.
The rangers have all sorts of trouble with the knight. His sword has the power to rust all of the rangers’ weapons until they’re useless. When Rita makes him grow, the zords are summoned, but there is still trouble. Even when the Mega Zord attacks with the Power Sword, the weapons becomes rusted over. Eventually, it is Zack who figures out that the knight’s weapon reflects energy back at the rangers. So, if they reverse things, they can give him a taste of his own medicine. The idea works and the knight is quickly defeated. Of course, our episode ends with the gang successfully surprising Zack with his birthday party.
This episode does succeed in giving us a bit more menacing villain than we had with Mr. Ticklesneezer last time. The knight is menacing looking, not to mention a bit more agile than many of Rita’s rubber-suited monsters. The gimmick of having him be able to rust our heroes’ weapons is also pretty effective. I’m not sure that I’m totally down with the solution Zack comes up with to defeat the dude, though. It just seems to come about a bit too easily for my taste. Still, the monster provides some good action, especially in the one-on-one battle with Zack.
To the episode’s detriment, it takes more than half the episode for us to get past all the setup of the birthday part of the story before we finally get to Morphin’ time. That only leaves about seven minutes to battle the monster. Even then, there’s an awful lot of padding in the second half of the story. When the rangers summon their zords they each do it one and at time and we get long drawn out shots of the robots lumbering around. It becomes pretty obvious that the script was pretty thin for this episode. I mean when you have trouble filling a measly 20 minutes, that’s not a good sign.
I do feel like I need to comment on Bulk and Skull’s role in this episode. Apparently these two just wander Angel Grove at all hours looking for people to pick on. I mean, it’s past closing time for the youth center and yet these two just show up and start blowing their noses on the birthday banner that Trini is working on. We also get a somewhat creepier window into Skull’s mind in this episode. After Trini complains about what they did to her banner, Skull takes her by the hand and says, “Hey, tell ya what babe…whadya say I help you paint another one, after we’re done having a little (wink wink) fun.” This is probably the most suggestive moment we’ve seen so far on this show created for kids. I guess Skull is the real monster of this episode.
Ultimately, there’s just not a lot going on in this episode. The monster is cool, but the story is weak. Next time, though, we have something very scary…at least for some people. How do you feel about clowns? Brace yourselves for our next episode, No Clowning Around.