Any TV producer with the gall to name his pilot episode “Day of the Dumpster” is pretty overconfident in his ability to keep the show un-canceled. Sure paid off, I guess, but I don’t think that’s what I would name a pilot. Two hapless astronauts walking on an as yet unidentified planet floating in earth’s orbit, find what looks like “some kind of space dumpster” (hahahaha), open it, and out jumps several Tim Burton rejects and their Japanese grandmother who promptly start hopping around and talking at 400 mph. This sequence is one of those “you can’t make this up” moments so incoherent and awesome that it has to have been conjured by a very specific admixture of stimulants and hallucinogens.
Rita Repulsa, the leader of the bunch, then pops out of the capsule and announces her “coming out party” (ummmmm…) to the fleeing astronauts and says that she’s going to destroy the ‘nearest planet’ which is earth, making this planet’s location particularly ambiguous. Maybe Billy can sort that one out for us.
By the by, this show is one of those blessed cooperations between the USA and Japan. Some characters are dubbed, some aren’t. It’s all awesome.
We then cut to “Angel Grove Youth Center Gym and Juice Bar” which is sort of like a healthier and more ethnically balanced version of The Max in Saved by the Bell. It also has its own radio station and theme song, making it irresistible to the flocks of unsupervised, non-jaded teenagers
From there we meet Jason and Zack sparring. Kimberly is a gymnast and Trini…sort of…moves her arms while wearing a crop-top. Jason takes every opportunity imaginable to establish how much better he is than all others at Karate and everyone cowtows to him. Billy is new to the Karate class and is having trouble because he’s a nerd and wears glasses.
Enter my two favorite characters, Bulk and Skull, a bullying twosome that look a bit like Penn (sans Teller) and Seth Green. They’re my favorites because they’re just acting like fools from the beginning. If my life was such that I had nowhere else to go but a juice bar to get my kicks, I too would elevate my personality to match the senselessness of my existence.
Then the kids are, by all accounts, kidnapped and inducted into a cult by Zordon, “an interdimensional being caught in a time warp”. (Side effects of the time-warp include one’s speech not matching up with lip movement and permanently floating in a bong). He and his robot companion Alpha 5, then attempts to explain that the planet is under attack and that he needs their help. The kids are really not on the same page. There are half a dozen smash cuts to Kimberly, Zack and Trini with very confused faces. If Zordon was a mortal man and not so interdimensional he definitely would have ended up screaming at them like a divorced gym teacher. “SHUT THE $&#@ UP AND LISTEN TO ME YOU LITTLE PIECES OF—” Instead, Zordon’s religious overtones win out over profanity. When Zack reacts with disbelief, he calls him a ‘nonbeliever’ (cult!) and refers them to images on a glowing ball behind them as if that will make everything clear.
He then explains that they have been given ‘power morphers’. When in danger must point them up to the sky and call out their name, social and debit card number which will call down the ancient power of their respective dinosaurs and will make them eligible for a $1000 cash back rebate on their next charge purchase–I kid, of course.
Zordon then assigns character traits and dinosaurs to each teen. I have gone on to rate the uniform colors assigned to each and flag them for unfortunate racial/gender stereotyping.
Jason, bold and powerful – T-Rex – Red
Zachary, clever and brave – Mastodon – Black (oh dear)
Kimberly, graceful and smart – Pterodactyl – Pink (strike 2)
Billy, patient and wise – Triceratops – Blue
Trini, fearless and agile – Sabertooth Tiger – Yellow (oh sweet mercy, make it stop!)
Just say what you mean, Zordon, you racist bastard.
Jason, dominant and entitled!
Zachary, street-wise and hard!
Kimberly, hot and going to college!
Billy, privileged and naive!
Trini, born with the ability to perform martial arts and probably some kind of freaky contortionist!
Also, may I point out that a Sabertooth Tiger is not a dinosaur? Did anybody else pick that out? They roamed the earth some 45 million years later. Hello? Am I right? Am I right guys?
I should note that by this point, Kimberly’s ‘smart’ trait is not entirely accurate as evidenced by her reaction to Zordon’s lucid explanation: “Umm, could someone like come down to earth and tell me what’s going on?” Also, she didn’t know what metamorphosis meant. Even Trini whose first language is definitely not English knew what that meant. What a ditz.
It doesn’t work. the teens react poorly. Zordon’s lucid explanation make them angry and indignant. They walk out. Zordon retaliates passive aggressively by not offering to teleport them back to earth. “Ummm, okay, well bye now, good luck walking back to your own planet.” The kids then sustain their first putty attack. They’re sort of beaten somehow (it’s unclear how since the putties just sort of creep up to them and touch them a lot). Not even Zack’s Hip Hop Kido can stop them. Yeah, I didn’t believe it either. Check it out:
Anyway, everybody finally forgets their pride, wises up and morphs for the first time, kick the puttys’ gray asses in what amounts to, surprisingly, a pretty good fight scene (smartly edited) and then they get teleported back to earth only to face more putties and Rita’s giant blue tiger gladiator. From there, everything seems to work out like Zordon said it would. The Zords form up and form the Megazord and take to fisticuffs. They even figure out how to get a pretty sweet looking Masters of the Universe sword at which point, curiously, the blue tiger gladiator decides to leave even though he also has a sword. That part perplexed me. I didn’t really see that coming.
Then the kids return to the time bong and slap hands. Then Kimberly does the unthinkable for someone of her mental caliber: tells a joke! Well, it’s not really a joke. More like a false statement followed by NOT! (A 90s staple that I was very happy to revisit) This causes Alpha 5 to shortcircuit, probably due to the shock of seeing Kimberly harness the ancient power of irony.
Anyway, you can check out the whole thing here. Note the moral overtones throughout (See mom? It’s about teamwork! How else am I going to learn about teamwork?):