Friday, May 25, 2018

Power Rangers Reflections Redux #07: Shell Shocked

Yeah, like you thought I'd go through life never talking about this.

The fourth episode of Power Rangers In Space featured the one and only official crossover story between the Power Rangers in any form and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in any form. And to say it was a disappointment would be stating the obvious. It's been a while since I've seen this episode, so let's give it a look and we can move on to better things... maybe.

The reason this crossover was possible is because during this time, Saban was putting out a live-action Ninja Turtles series called The Next Mutation, which had the Turtles fighting off not perennial villain Shredder or any of the familiar menagerie, but a monster called Dragonlord and his band of putties or grunts or whatever. And on top of that, we have a fifth (female) Turtle named Venus, who knows magic and stuff. Said female Turtle is said to be a controversial addition and I'll spare my thoughts on both the Turtle and the show for another time.

But the point is that when people like to visualize this particular crossover combination, they usually visualize the original Mighty Morphin team going up against the classic quintet Turtles incarnation (of which there are many, so take your pick.) What you're getting here is not the "colossal" event that it might've been or could've been; it's just a crossover between two shows that happened to be on the air at the time... and it's just another episode of Power Rangers overall, as there was no attempt to do a similar crossover on the Next Mutation show.

Of course, that would've been problematic to pull off since Next Mutation had a somewhat smaller budget compared to PRIS and also, both shows were filmed in different locations. It also explains why the Turtles here have different sounding voices and personalities in comparison to their show of origin. But I'm jumping ahead here... also, two paragraphs share the same first word... let's break that pattern now.

The episode begins with a recap from the previous episode, replaying the cliffhanger in which Astronema shoots a laser at a random New York sewer manhole that somehow manages to teleport the Ninja Turtles onto the street. One by one, they appear and pose for the camera before wondering how they got there. How Astronema would know that there are mutant turtles in New York is never explained when she hasn't been exposed to Earth that long, but don't worry; it's not the only thing.

The episode proper begins with the Turtles blaming Donatello for bringing them out to the streets before they are greeted by Astronema, Elgar, and a bunch of Quantrons. How new turtle Venus is able to recognize Astronema as the princess of evil when Astronema only made one attack on Earth thus far is never explained. Astronema wants the Turtles to help her destroy the Power Rangers, to which the Turtles laugh her off and claim they're nothing more than comic book characters.

Astronema then puts all the Turtles under a spell and their eyes glow. Oh goodie, this is going to be fun.

After the opening credits roll, we open up on the Astro Megaship, where Red Ranger Andros shows off the Galaxy Gliders to the former Turbo Ranger crew. For those who need a recap of the PRiS plot, the former Turbo Rangers went off into space to try and search for Zordon, only to find a space faring humanoid with telekinetic powers who offers them new shiny morphers and his own flying spaceship. I'll probably touch on PRiS in further detail at a later date, but I liked the idea behind the show, even if the execution ended being not quite on that.

With regards to the Galaxy Gliders; they're actually pretty nifty, allowing the Rangers to fly around all over the place much like Mega Man flies around with Rush Jet. It basically takes the idea of the MMPR's "jetting" ability from the second season (which has them flying around for no reason) and makes it less stupid. But I I digress.

Anyway, DECA, the ship computer, informs the Rangers that Astronema has sent a monster to attack the Angel Grove Power Plant. Because despite the fact that we now have a spaceship and it"s Power Rangers In SPACE, we still have monster attacks in Angel Grove every so often. It's one of those sticking points that always bothered me about PRiS, but I'll save that trope for another time.

Our monster of the week is Electrotop, a monster with a funny hat who is capable of stealing electricity. The Rangers confront this fearsome monster, but are taken down by his Energy Ball attack. Just as Electrotop is about to unleash another energy ball, five green teleport beams enter the fray to stop the action... wait a minute, the Turtles have FUCKING TELEPORT BEAMS?! Where did this come from?!

So our five Ninja Turtles show up and Ashley (yellow Ranger) is able to recognize them. This is funny, because earlier in the episode, Raph writes the Power Rangers off as comic book pretend stuff. I also find it funny that the Power Rangers who fight off monsters with big giant robots are written off as urban legends while the Ninja Turtles, who are supposed to be NINJAS, are seemingly well-known heroes. So much for the art of invisibility... which I'm guessing wasn't included in that abridged book of ninja fighting.

Anyway, the Turtles irritate Electrotop enough to have him shoot one of its electric balls, but the Turtles are able to bounce this ball around before deflecting it back at the monster, destroying him. It's an admittedly creative finish on a show that tends to stick with either the Rangers' Super Gun or Megazord to do the monster in. Of course, one could bring up the argument of how the Ninja Turtles are able to deflect this energy ball despite not being superpowered beings, but I could buy into this on the logic that the whole battle was staged to get the Turtles on the Rangers' good side.

The two groups of heroes greet each other and share niceys... except for Andros, who is suspicious about the Turtles' sudden appearance. One of the Turtles asks if it's true that the Rangers has a spaceship and could use a ride to New York. Andros then pulls the other Rangers aside and brings up his concerns regarding the Turtles' seemingly coincidental appearance. He does not, however, voice his concerns regarding the Turtles' ability to play with energy balls or their sudden teleportation ability that got them from New York to Angel Grove without needing a spaceship.

Despite his concerns, the Rangers tell Andros to relax; the Turtles are the good guys. Surely they wouldn't do anything to betray their trust like try to take over the ship and let Astronema and company on board. That would be unthinkable! And so the Rangers and the Turtles teleport onto the ship while Andros says this doesn't feel right before joining them.

So the former Turbo Rangers give the Turtles a tour of their ship, much to the disapproval of Andros, who still feels this whole thing is fishy. Once again, his concerns are brushed off by the Earthers. This is something that I just realized; Andros is not only the Red Ranger and defacto leader of the current team, but he's also the "captain" of the Astro Megaship. Shouldn't his word be gospel? If he doesn't want the Turtles on his ship, then they shouldn't be allowed on his ship. But, of course, his corcerns aren't taken seriously because the Turtles are the good guys and they wouldn't betray the Rangers' trust, right?

Meanwhile, in a twist nobody saw coming - and when I say nobody, I really mean everybody - the Turtles sabotage the ship, giving DECA a makeover, disabling ship systems, and allowing Astronema and company to take over the ship and capture the Rangers, except for Andros, who continues to be the smart person on this epiosde and eludes capture. He then uses his telekinetic powers to free the Rangers and they all flee into the Glider tubes, which somehow leads them into the Mega Shuttle, which they use to escape the clutches of the Turtlefied Megaship.

With the Turtles and Astronema in pursuit, the Rangers plot their escape, which includes an reversed polarized field, which apparently reverses the polarity. In a funny moment, Astronema asks Michelangelo what that energy field is and he replies, "You're asking a Turtle who lives in a sewer to explain a cosmic event?"

Unfortunately, the Astro Megaship enters the energy field, which not only causes the ship to malfunction via mild shaking and flickering lights (a classic Sci-Fi trope if there ever was one), but also reverses the polarity of the neutron flow, which kills the mind-control spell on the Turtles. Once the ship is out of the field, Astronema barks some more orders before the Turtles stand against her. Astronema then tells DECA to set the ship to auto-destruct before teleporting off. The Turtles celebrate the fact that they have their own spaceship before realizing that, "Oh shit! The ship's going to blow up if you don't stop that self-destruct!" They go to the circuit board where they cut the wires and fix the ship. I'd go into details, but it really doesn't matter.

Meanwhile, on some planetoid that's just a dusty field with a blue tint, the Rangers are ambushed by Astronema and her goons, who get the better of them. Just as the bad guys are about to deliver the final blow, the Turtles show up in the nick of time and the two groups of heroes make short work of the Quantrons. Astronema and crew then teleport off the planet, but not before promising vengeance. The Turtles and Rangers make peace with each and even managed to earn Andros' trust at long last.

And so the episode ends with the Ninja Turtles riding the Galaxy Gliders and letting out one closing credits summoning Cowabunga while I contemplate how the Turtles are able to breathe in space. Then again, this is the same universe where the moon apparently has an oxygen atmosphere, so what do I know?

Saban had a very rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at the time; to have two of the hottest childrens' fads of the time join forces for a momentus occasion. If something like that was done today, it would be treated like a really big deal. But this was done in 1998, when Power Rangers mania was winding down and the Ninja Turtles craze was fluctuating rather badly. And on top of that, this wasn't being treated as something of a big deal, but rather another episode of Power Rangers that really didn't add much to the overall story.

That was probably for the best, as Shell-Shocked is really nothing more than a rather bland episode of Power Rangers that just so happens to feature their would-be rivals to the childrens fad crown, so to speak. The story was half-hearted fare, it didn't really move the overall story forwards, and it really was just an excuse to feature both groups of heroes in a single, 20+ minute adventure, which did no favors to either side. It did little to enhance the lore of Power Rangers and it didn't exactly present the Ninja Turtles in a positive light.

It's unfornate that Next Mutation didn't get much exposure beyond its initial season run because for the longest time, the only time anyone would've seen this particular version of the Turtles would've been this episode and it's not the best representation of the show. Not to say that Next Mutation was a lost work of art or anything, but I did get to see it recently... and well, that's a thing. I don't know where I was going with that.

But next week, Once A Ranger... out of mothballs... oh boy.

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