Episode Title: The Wanna-be Ranger
Original Airdate: September 13, 1994
Now that the rangers have a whole new set of zords, it should be smooth sailing from here on out, right? Well, except for the fact that Lord Zedd and his minions are still in the business of creating all sorts of weird monsters…such as a giant shape-shifting white baboon. That’s just what we have to content with this time in The Wanna-be Ranger.
As we begin, the rangers are playing basketball when they are interrupted by Zack clowning around in a white gorilla costume. It’s something he was doing for a birthday party. They all have a good laugh when he frightens Kimberly, but soon the rangers are called by Zordon and told to report to the command center. It would seem that due to a “galactic imbalance caused by the linear alignment of the planets in your solar system” Zordon needs to temporarily de-ionize. That basically means that Zordon is going to lose his powers for a short bit, leaving Alpha to look after the command center by himself. It’s not that big a deal really, except that Alpha is easily distracted and ends up abandoning the command center when he spots a lost little boy in the park. At the same time, Lord Zedd zaps the gorilla costume left behind by Zack, turning it into a creature called the Primitor. The creature also happens to be able to shape-shift to mimic anyone, including the rangers.
A short time later, the creature encounters Alpha and the little boy, while disguised as Billy. Luckily, Alpha manages to spot that this is an impostor. He’s no match for the Primtor, though, who demands that he be taken to the command center. In a last ditch effort, Alpha activates his self-destruct function. The beast then disguises himself as Zack and goes off to tell Kimberly and Trini that Tommy is being attacked by putties. The two ladies head off help, but of course can’t find Tommy. They are soon attacked by putties anyway, who they quickly eliminate. Remember, all they have to do is punch the Z’s on their chests and they blow up. Later, though, they are surprised when none of the other rangers know anything about what happened.
They all head off to the command center for a briefing by Zordon, who is back to full strength, They are informed about the Primitor’s shape-shifting abilities and head off to fight. Of course, the big white baboon keeps switching into copies of the various rangers throughout the fight. It’s too much for the rangers to handle, so they head back for more advice from Zordon. He informs them that if the Primitor sees his own reflection, he will change back into his true self. Luckily, Kimberly always has a mirror with her. They use this to stop all the shape-shifting, but then lord Zedd makes the monkey grow to giant size. That means the zords are summoned and it’s time for a giant monster vs giant robot battle. Of course, the monster is taken down and our heroes make it back to the park in time to stop Alpha’s self-destruct sequence.
This episode has a lot going on. Many episode are pretty simple in their premise, but this one gets a bit complicated with all the shape-shifting. I’ve gotta give the episode credit for giving the young fans of the show something a bit more complex to deal with. At the same time, there are several things in this episode that remind us of the show’s young demographic. Chief among them, Alpha’s short lecture about how the best thing for the lost little boy to do is to stay put. The little boy waving to the sky and telling the rangers how he’ll never forget them at the end of the episode is also a bit too cheesy.
The best thing about this episode, though, is getting a truly goofy monster. Primitor is a big white baboon, complete with a bright blue nose. For some reason he also wears a yellow helmet with spikes. It’s performed in an over-the-top, cartoonish way which is a lot of fun. The American cast also are a lot of fun when they play themselves as being impersonated by the creature. If you recall, last season we had a few episodes where we got evil versions of the rangers, and the actor’s ate up those opportunities as well. The cast really seems to get a kick out of playing evil twin versions of themselves.
An interesting note about this episode is that we don’t get much of the typical Bulk and Skull comic relief. They make a very brief appearance when Alpha first teleports to the park, but that’s it. I know that as the season progresses, Angel Grove High’s two most notorious bullies will be trying to discover the identity of the Power Rangers, but in this installment they aren’t quite putting in the hours yet.
Overall, though, this is a satisfying episode. If all of Lord Zedd’s monsters are as wacky as Primitor is, we’re in for some good stuff as the season continues. Next time we see what happens when two of the rangers start to see their friends as enemies in Putty on the Brain.