Friday, April 19, 2019

Power Rangers Reflections #21: A Friend In Need

It's A Friend In Need! It's the Season 3 premiere of Mighty Morphin! It's a 3-parter! It's the first time we're introduced to The Masked Rider before his eventual short-lived television show! It's the first crossover between Power Rangers and Masked Rider, long before Super Sentai and Kamen Rider would do such a thing decades later! It's... not worthy of a full write-up.

So we're doing the points system here... but a bit differently, because this multi-part episode has three different plotlines going on and the points system is the way to go since we can focus on each of these plotpoints separately.

1. The Primary Plot: Rangers Go To Another Planet
The main plot is that trusted robot assistance and horror icon to children everywhere ALPHA 5 is concerned about his creator, King Lexion of Edenois, who is in the midst of fighting a civil war to free his planet from the evil Count Draegon. The Rangers, concerned for their buddy, decides to venture to this strange new world and check up on Alpha's buddies. When they get to planet, they find themselves in the same rock quarry we've seen multiple times, except now everything is sepia-tinted to give off the illusion of an alien world... something they pulled off before with the Power Transfer episodes.

So the Rangers are ambushed by locals, one of whom transforms into the Masked Rider, a green bug-like superhero who does Rider Kicks and HaiYas a lot. After a brief misunderstanding that is cleared up when Draegon's ship fires on all them, the heroes flee into a cave where they introduce each other and we get backstory regarding Draegon conquering this planet of peaceful people whose greatest acheivement was a robot that went "Ayaiyaiyaiyaiyaiyai." After a bit of exposition that leads us to Part 3, we get the Rangers and the Masked Rider (based on one of the older Kamen Rider series, if I recall, so the stock footage appears to be older than even the stock Zyuranger footage) team up against Draegon's Plague Patrol, who are eventually defeated. Our heroes soon part way and we move on to our second point...

2. The Secondary Plot: Kimmy Has A Cold And Fights A Snot Monster
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Kimberly has caught a little cold and is stuck in bed. This explains why she doesn't go with them to the other planet. She only gets a small scene in the first part, but then gets a little more action when she's forced to contend with the latest Monster Of The Day; the snot monster known as Repellitor, who is essentially a green-painted Silver Horns. The battle is less than stellar, owing to the fact that it's American footage with little in terms of special effects. The battle is split between Parts 2 and 3, where Repllitor catches Kimberly's cold and flees. He gets better far more quickly than Kim does thanks to Finster's Tummy drops and all this means is that outside of a brief Command Center scene, @atothedoublej is mostly done for this episode.

When the other Rangers return, they immediately summon their zords and fight the monster. For what seems like the second time since "Best Man For The Job", we have a fully American-produced zord battle of somewhat modest proportions; few special effects, not as many explosions, and clunkier zord movement. Despite these setbacks, it's actually pretty cool to see the local crew put together a battle with giant robots and makes me wish they could have done more of these along the way... but alas, it was not to be.

3. The Tertiary Plot: Bulk & Skull Cosplay As Rangers To Impress Some Girls
Season 2 saw Bulk & Skull come up with whacky schemes to find out the Rangers' true identities and more often than not, these plans fail miserably. Then one day, overhearing a couple girls' conversation, they decide that they've already found the Rangers: themselves. Giving them directions to a quarry somewhere, the girls eventually make it to the location, only to find our hapless duo dressed in really awful costumes that look nothing like the actual suits.

Ultimately, in what may be the only status quo altering plot point in this entire story, this whole ordeal puts an end to Bulk & Skull's quest to find out the Rangers' secret IDs. Their next plan; let's join the Junior Police Patrol so we can impress the girls... well, that didn't quite work out in the long run, but god bless them, they tried. You know, I'm happy they did this, since having Bulk & Skull do the same shtick over and over again would've been tiresome, but at the very least, they gave that whole angle a conclusion rather than let it be forgotten and never brought up again.

4. No New Status Quo Established In This Three-Parter
So this is the Season 3 Premiere of Mighty Morphin... and yet instead of using this three-parter to establish the new status quo in order to justify the change in source footage, we're using it as a pseudo-pilot or backstory for the upcoming Masked Rider series. Instead, you had to wait until the next episode, the four-part Ninja Quest storyline, to establish the new status quo. However, there are subtle hints here and there. For example, we've already brought up the conclusion of Bulk & Skull's obsession over finding out who the Rangers really are, but then Finster suddenly has a bigger role than usual compared to Season 2, where he was basically background noise if they even bother to mention him.

Kimberly's role is diminished here, beginning the process of slowly phasing her out before trading places with the other girl. Later episodes, unless she was the focus, would feature less Pinky than usual.

5. A Vehicle For The Other Guy... How Did That Work Out?
It's funny going back to this multi-part long after the Masked Rider show failed miserably to the point of killing off any chances of further Kamen Rider adaptations in North America until the Dragon Knight show came along in 2008. And considering that series hasn't seen the light of day since its initial airings, it's interesting to be that kid who is watching these old episodes long after the fact and wondering about this Masked Rider fellow. Sometimes, these episodes that are used to promote another property feels a bit awkward - especially if it was a failing property. Even now, my memories of the Masked Rider show are few and far between since I've seen little of it even when it aired prominently, but I remember the show being turned into a corny sitcom-type deal and there was a muppet involved or something... I don't know.

Interestingly enough, that one crossover episode between the Space Rangers and the Ninja Turtles seemed to exist for the express purpose of reminding folks that there was a new Turtles show on Fox... which was also of somewhat questionable quality. But that's another story.

For many folks, A Friend In Need was their first sampling of any semblanced Kamen/Masked Rider action... unless one were to have played the Sega CD game that came out some time prior. And looking back, it did a good job of providing the basic plotpoints for a potential Masked Rider series that they never bothered to follow up on because we needed more FERBUS in our lives or whatever it was called. As a season premiere, it was nothing special. As a curiosity piece where you saw a Kamen Rider and Super Sentai hero-types in a crossover that took place in an episode of Power Rangers and was conceived by Americans, this was perfectly acceptable fare. No complaints in this regard.

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