Episode Title: The Ninja Encounter Part 1
Original Airdate: November 2, 1994
Well folks, the time has finally come. It’s time for big changes for the Power Rangers, but it’s going to take a three-parter for that to happen. It’s time for the first of many passing of the torch moments for the Power Rangers. Buckle in for The Ninja Encounter Part 1.
This episode begins with, of all things, a runaway baby buggy. Inside is a youngster named Jacob, the infant son of Mr. Anderson, a teacher at Stone Canyon High. The buggy sails through the park, which must be built on one giant hill, at breakneck speeds. This catches the attention of several people, including Tommy, Kimberly, and Billy who begin pursuit. Also chasing down the infant are three teenagers on roller blades: Rocky, Aisha, and Adam. Even Bulk and Skull get in on the chase. The tot is eventually saved just before rolling off a steep cliff and everyone is introduced to one another. It seems that the three rollerbladers and their teacher are in town to check out the Ninja Competition being held at the youth center.
Meanwhile, Lord Zedd has his eye on one of the ninja teams in the competition, figuring they will make perfect soldiers for him. However, that plan falls apart a bit when the ninjas he is eyeballing are defeated by another team. Who could it be? Why Rocky, Aisha, and Adam…of course! So, Zedd just sends Goldar out to nab them instead. Even with Tommy, Kimberly, and Billy helping fight off putties, the three new kids and their teacher are swiped by Goldar. This leaves the infant Jacob all on his own. Luckily (or maybe not) he is picked up by Bulk and Skull who decide to look after the kid.
So, the rangers are zapped off to the Command Center and are joined by Trini, Jason, and Zack. They are all briefed and try to figure out what to do. Meanwhile, Goldar has his captives chained up in the Dark Dimension. However, they are already trying to find a way out as Aisha is trying to open her lock with a hairpin. Then, the words “to be continued” appear on the screen.
Just like last time, a lot of work is put into working around the three now-absent rangers, Jason, Trini, and Zack. Remember, Austin St. John, Thuy Trang, and Walter Jones were officially off the show at this point. Strangely, Trini even appears at the beginning of the episode (thanks to footage from a previous show) but does not join in the chase for the runaway baby cart. We do see the three missing rangers during the control room scene, and without their helmets on, but this is also thanks to footage from and old show. It appears that they made sure to use footage where Billy, Tommy, and Kimberly were on one side of the room while the other three were on the other side, so as to more easily separate the two groups. You can even tell this is older footage because Billy is wearing an older style glasses than what he has worn in recent episodes, Zack’s hair has reverted back to the Kid N Play style flattop, and Tommy is back to wearing green when in plain clothes (like he did when he was the green ranger). We hear no dialogue from the three departed rangers.
The structure of this episode is very different from most. Even in other first installments of multi-part episodes, we usually get some sort of monster action. Whereas in this episode, there is no big rubber monster. The only action is the Ninja Competition (which is actually quite good) and the puttie battle outside the youth center. Now, while we’re on the subject, what the heck is a Ninja Competition anyway? Did high schools in the 90’s have ninja teams that went from town to town competing? I remember when I moved to Colorado in the early 90’s I was surprised that many of the high schools at lacrosse teams, but I don’t remember any ninja teams!
We don’t get to see a whole lot of the three new kids in this first installment, but they come across as likeable enough. Fear not, spoiler alert, we’ll be seeing more of them (as if you haven’t figured that out already). I do need to give quite a bit of credit to Jason David Frank, Amy Jo Johnson, and David Yost, though. I mean, they were faced with a very difficult and awkward situation with this episode. Three of their cast members had exited and they had to keep things moving forward. They certainly seem to be putting their best foot forward, so to speak, and not letting the behind-the-scenes tension rub off on the show.
They certainly have their work cut out for them in our next episode, though. They’ve got three new friends and their teacher to save, and lest we forget that the baby is in the care of Bulk and Skull. That’s a more dangerous situation than any big rubber beast. So, join us next time for the next chapter…The Ninja Encounter Part 2.