Plenty of TV shows make a pilot that fails but still impresses the network enough to call for a rework or a whole new pilot. Star Trek is rather famous for that, when the pilot episode “The Cage” was rejected but NBC asked for changes and we ended up with “Where No Man’s Gone Before”. We also saw a pilot for Justice League yesterday that ended up not being used. Well, add to that list Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, the kids series that somehow has managed to last through three owners (one of them twice) and numerous incarnations. Owing a lot to the “super sentai” series in Japan where the action footage and most of the costume design (and when possible actual costumes and props) came from, the show has gone through numerous changes but not only keeps members of the audience who grew up with it but drawing in a new generation of kids. Usually without chasing off current fans, so stop acting like that isn’t possible to keep old fans and create new ones. If kids shows can do it and adult shows can’t, maybe the kids show is the better product, you snobs!
Tonight we have a rare treat for Saturday Night Showcase. From a fan posting as the original pilot did air once on Fox Kids as a special event, and from a posting of the actual episode on the official Power Rangers YouTube channel, we can compare both versions of the first episode, both titled “Day Of The Dumpster”. While a number of beats and even dialog remains intact, there are also a lot of changes and it’s worth talking about. Enjoy.
I think they would have had to redo a few scenes anyway. The stretch when the future Rangers first teleport, and the effect when “Zoltar” is talking just look like an early render. There could be better effects. (I think someone also forgot to record one of Zoltar’s lines and had to have someone else speak for him.) The Putty Patrol costumes leave a lot to be desired as well. They look like cheap versions of what we ended up with. As for the morphing sequence…just no.
Also, according to the Ranger Wiki, Audrey DuBois had wanted more money and was dropped from the show in favor of Thuy Trang. This lead to a few changes in Trini. While both are able to translate Billy’s technobabble, this version is more willing to fight and is more tomboyish than Thuy’s version. I have to wonder how different a lot of Trini’s episodes would have been with this version?
And because it needs to be pointed out, Paul Schier isn’t Bulk but just another thug for the actual unnamed gang leader, who like Skull is really into Kimberly. I don’t see this guy undergoing the same character arc Bulk and Skull would have between the final pilot and Power Rangers In Space. Also to be pointed out, the music when Zack does his hello tour would later appear in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, “Higher Ground” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. So if you have the movie soundtrack, you own a song from this pilot. 😀
However, what really strikes me about the unused pilot is how…natural the teens seem to be. Fox wanted to tone down the violence on humans and so the Rangers would find ways to deal with Bulk and Skull without fighting them, but here they seem to have no issue with just taking down the bullies. Something about the quintet bowling instead of being in the “juice bar” doing martial arts, though this would explain their fighting skills better, and the way they talk and act with each other also feels more normal. Even Kimberly’s “psyche” comes off more natural in this version. You know how the Rangers in the series would always be part of every activity and cause that happens in Angel Grove? While I could see them taking part in some of the activities, I’d be surprised to see that. These Rangers feel more like kids than what we got, and they’d get better about that as the series went on, but even these days the slight camp edge the series has isn’t there and give them a more normal feeling. You mileage may vary as to which you prefer but there is something about this that at least interests me and makes wonder what the series would have been like following this pilot instead of the one we got.
Catch more Power Rangers series from the various generations (in almost random order…fix that, Hasbro) on YouTube.
Maybe it’s the years of the term being used, but “Dinozord” beats “Dinozoid” in this case. Plus when the Zoids anime shows brought those toys back to US shows that would be confusing as heck. 🙂 Zordon also comes off as a better name change but that also could just be because I’m so used to it over Zoltar. The new design for the Command Center control room are better but I didn’t hate the previous version. Alpha is an upgrade but I wouldn’t have mind something closer (but a bit cleaner) to the first draft. The special effects are also a huge improvement.
The voice acting for the villains are a lot better here. I’m glad they changed voices for Finster especially and he gets to actually be involved as Rita Repulsa’s monster maker. On the flip side, the gang do come off more as friends who do things together. In the other pilot Billy and Trini were either teamed with Jason and Kimberly or keeping score for them, with Zack coming in during the game. Here they seem to have a more obvious bond of friendship that serves well as a team. They also explain how the Rangers know how to operate the Zords…simply by being surprised they can. It’s obvious without stating it that it comes with the powers. And of course the morphing sequence looks better, though Jason is still the only one we see actually undergo metamorphosis.
I kind of like the pacing a bit too. Introduce the villains just before the first commercial break, then show off the future heroes. They do a better job establishing everyone’s personalities. Billy is still studious but is trying to accelerate his physical skill as well, while trying to overcome his bodily limitations. As mentioned, Trini isn’t quite the tomboy of her predecessor. Kimberly’s gymnastic moves tied to her fighting style is a bit more on display here as we get to see her doing gymnastics. Jason being a martial arts instructor also shows off his own skills and Zack shows some dance moves in his sparring style, which matches his “hip hop kido” technique. While the bowling introduction makes them appear more like actual teenagers (what teen drinks “spinach juice”?), the juice bar introduction does give us a better look at the cast, plus it follows the less violent methods of taking down bullies, which does show kids not every villain has to be stopped with swords, axes, and punches.
However, this isn’t Saban’s first attempt at this. In addition to the comedic redub of Dynaman, Saban attempted a similar concept to Power Rangers with a pilot for Bio-Man, which had some of the Ranger names reused into Power Rangers. Apparently another pilot called Galaxy Rangers (not to be confused with the sci-fi western) I was hoping to find the actual pilot for next week’s showcase, but since that appears to be a bust here’s a couple of bonus videos from someone who at least knows about it.
And here’s Este‘s video on Galaxy Rangers.
Here’s some more about it from the Power Rangers wiki if you’re curious. I would love for either of these pilots to resurface. As popular as this franchise is, getting to see the full path to becoming the Fox Kids/ABC Family/Nickelodeon series we know today would be amazing. You can find the comedic dubs of Dynaman pretty easily but this would be something Ranger fans would be thrilled to see, if only to know why they didn’t make it.