Spoiler Warning: The commentary found here discusses events in this episode and beyond.  Read at your own risk!

POWER RANGERS TAKE FLIGHT

Episode 23: "Wolves in Rangers' Clothing, part 1"

This episode was completed on July 21, 2007, and released on August 9, 2008.  Its title refers to the antagonists in the role of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Writer:  Joe Rovang

[ Sentai footage is primarily from Jetman #24, but all sources are indicated.  One shot is used from Zyuranger #1. ]

Shots of the Kestrel crashing in, and taking off from, the mountains are used from Jetman #24.  See episode 29 for a summary of this sentai episode.

With the exception of the interplay between Strife, Sasha, and Gamma Two next episode, this two-parter was another US original, immediately on the heels of my previous US-original two-parter.  This was arguably a bit self-indulgent, but I felt these four episodes were an interesting intermission between the Jinnsect and post-Jinnsect acts of the series (and I didn't leave in enough Jetman content to fill a full 40 episodes).

This two-parter also serves as my obligatory team-up, for which I chose the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers because their sentai (Zyuranger) was adjacent to Jetman.  This is slightly at odds with the typical Power Rangers team-up, in which the current team encounters the previous season's team (mine pits my team against the "next" team, in a sense).  Nonetheless, this was my tribute to the team-up tradition.


[ Fade in to EXT. SPACE (Zyuranger #1) - We fade in to a certain iconic planetoid near a cratered, grayish moon.  An alien ship (US addition) flies down toward the planetoid. ]

planetoid (not shown: alien ship, caption) planetoid (not shown: alien ship, caption)

This seemed like an eyecatching way to open an episode, as it was the opening shot in the very first episode of Power Rangers.  I do not make an attempt to explain the object in the foreground, which in Zyuranger and Power Rangers was the Earth's moon.

[ A caption reads, "Years ago..." ]


[ Dissolve to EXT. ALIEN DESERT - We pan across a vast desert with a bluish sky above.  In the distance, a group of six alien generals, reptilian with roughly humanoid physique (particularly the shape of their heads), trek across the sand.  The previous alien spacecraft rests on the horizon behind them. ]

This shot is an homage to the opening scene of "Day of the Dumpster" (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, 1993), in which two astronauts explored the surface of a strange planetoid before unwittingly releasing Rita Repulsa from her ancient space dumpster.

Further, this entire setup, wherein the Power Coins are found on this planetoid after a brush with various traps, is an amalgam of assorted Power Rangers legends.  The first element is the planetoid itself, where Rita was released (the nature of this planetoid wasn't explored in Power Rangers, but in Zyuranger, it was a rogue planetoid named Nemesis; in Take Flight, we find it far from Earth).  The second is the location where the Power Coins were found; in Power Rangers, this location wasn't specified, but it was said that Zordon and Alpha found the coins with a map to the entrance to Ninjor's Temple of Power.  The final element is the trap-laden (and seemingly extraterrestrial) Desert of Despair, where the powerless Rangers sought the entrance to the aforementioned Temple of Power.  Years ago, I speculated that the map and coins might have been found in the Desert of Despair, and that the selfsame desert might have been the desert-like surface seen on Rita's planetoid (as Lord Zedd once gazed toward a planet roughly resembling this planetoid when he spied on the Rangers as they explored the Desert of Despair).  This overlap is by no means canon in Power Rangers, but it is a fun approach, and it was also a tidy way to condense a great deal of Power Rangers history into a single plot element in this episode.

The generals' heads had to be fairly humanoid in shape in order to fit into the MMPR helmets, notwithstanding the bizarre precedent of Doggie Cruger's snout vanishing when he morphed in Power Rangers SPD (2005).

[ In a closer shot, we see the generals, each with a subtle coloration on his or her armor.  ANDAR, the leader, has a muscular build and keeps a keen eye on his surroundings; his coloration is red.  Of a similar shape is JANOS, green, who displays a more anxious, mistrustful demeanor.  Black is GRINDEL, a hefty tank of a warrior who plods along cheerily.  FEXEL, blue, has a narrower frame and carries what appears to be a scanner in his hand, which he watches closely.  The most slender, apparently females, are KIRO (yellow) and FEI (pink); KIRO walks with a brazen swagger, while FEI is more tentative. ]

Originally, the generals' names were anagrams of actors' names from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but I later decided to use that set of names for their Thadian replacements (see next episode).  At that point, I simply created these substitute names on a whim.  Janos, however, retains his original name; his is an anagram of "Jason," as in Jason David Frank, the actor who played Tommy, the original Green Ranger.

[ As they speak, the generals' mouths don't quite match their voices (as if dubbed in another language). ]

The generals speak Thadian; ideally, I would have subtitled their dialog, but that much reading is generally off-limits in Power Rangers, given its target demographic.  Instead, I've used creative license to dub their voices in English, with the assumption that this is merely a recreation of their true dialog for the sake of the audience's clarity.

FEI:
I'm telling you, I don't like this planet.  It's not on any of our gravity maps.

I hypothesized that sufficiently advanced technology could make a map of the surrounding space by analyzing gravity waves from massive objects.  Oddly, however, this planetoid appears to have eluded detection; in addition to just making the planetoid mysterious, this was a nod to the fact that such a massive object could approach the Earth's moon in Power Rangers without its gravitational presence affecting the Earth or throwing the moon out of orbit.

FEXEL (scanning the area):
That's what makes it interesting, Fei.

KIRO:
Oh, give it a rest, Fexel.  You think every uncharted rock is the lost planet of Eltar.

GRINDEL:
Hey, Eltar's real.  We'll find it someday.

FEXEL:
What Grindel said.

KIRO:
They already found it!  It's a cloud of rubble!

JANOS:
That's what they want you to think...

Now seemed like a fine opportunity to hint that Eltar (and therefore Zordon) wasn't in the same state as in Power Rangers.  In fact, an unspecified presence has caused its destruction long ago (as confirmed by the ancient Red Ranger in episode 33).  It left quite an impression on the psyche of galactic sapients, however, to the extent that many prefer to believe it still exists.

[ KIRO grunts in exasperation. ]

[ FEI points ahead. ]

FEI:
Hey, look at that!

This line was uttered by one of the astronauts in "Day of the Dumpster" when he saw Rita's space dumpster glinting in the distance.

[ We see the corner of a black object jutting out from the sand. ]

[ As the generals rush forward, FEXEL smacks the side of his scanner before slipping it into his armor and joining the others. ]

The box has avoided detection by whatever technology the scanner uses, but it can't escape visual detection.  I speculated that the box was found (by the generals here, and by Zordon and Alpha in Power Rangers) after erosion happened to uncover it after many millennia of being hidden.

[ As FEXEL approaches from the rear, GRINDEL is already digging his fingers around the edges of the buried object. ]

FEXEL:
All right, let's be very gentle...

[ Just then, GRINDEL wrenches the object, a small black chest, out of the sand with a mighty grunt.  He places it down beside its former resting place with a thud.  FEXEL sighs and rolls his eyes. ]

The generals ended up more likable in this scene than I expected.

[ The box sits on the sand.  It bears ornate gold designs.  The six generals study it for a moment.  GRINDEL then speaks. ]

This box was intended to be similar to the box Goldar used to hold the captured Power Coins in "Return of an Old Friend" (MMPR season 1), as well as the box which held the captured pink Power Coin in "A Different Shade of Pink, part 3" (MMPR season 3).

GRINDEL:
It's a box!

[ KIRO impatiently pushes her way past the others and picks up the case. ]

KIRO:
Give me that!

[ With one hand, KIRO breaks open the lid, revealing a mass of dusty brown cloth.  She cocks her head briefly and then removes the cloth, a flat, brown sack bearing a golden Dinozord insignia (compare with "A Pressing Engagement"). ]

This sack and the suede-like material inside were intended to match the one containing the Power Crystals in "A Pressing Engagement" (MMPR season 1).  Curiously in that episode, the Power Crystals were introduced as independent artifacts even though they bore the Power Coins on their bases (and were in fact merely alternate forms of the Power Coins which had been used as joysticks in the Megazord since the first episode).

[ KIRO carelessly tosses the box aside and unfolds the sack's flap, revealing a light brown length of suede-like material.  She drops the sack and unwraps the suede to reveal five golden coins which glimmer in the sunlight.  The coins are the POWER COINS (see Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) and bear the designs of the tyrannosaurus, mastodon, triceratops, saber-toothed tiger, and pterodactyl. ]

I leave it up to the audience's imagination to speculate why the green Power Coin wasn't found with the others; in Power Rangers, it was in Rita's possession at least since her fateful clash with Zordon 10,000 years ago.

[ The generals gaze at the coins a moment.  KIRO soon interjects, shaking out the suede as if checking for further contents. ]

KIRO:
That's it?!

[ FEXEL takes a coin (tyrannosaurus) from KIRO's hand and inspects it.  (The same emblem is engraved in both sides.) ]

FEXEL:
Interesting designs.  Some sort of alien creatures.

KIRO:
We came out here for a handful of gold coins?!

FEXEL:
We can still use them.  Lots of planets use gold for currency, Kiro.

Gold's special physical properties (as well as its beauty) made me suspect plenty of sapients would value it highly.

[ FEI kneels beside the discarded box, in which an old, square-shaped paper map is visible, having been placed at the bottom of the box.  FEI removes it.  (The illustration, though not shown clearly, matches the map featured in "Ninja Quest, part 2.") ]

This was intended to be the map which Zordon and Alpha found and the Rangers used to traverse the Desert of Despair in "Ninja Quest, part 2" (MMPR season 3).  It leads to a cave in the base of a peculiar double-peaked mountain.

FEI:
Hey, there's a map in here too.

[ Her attention drawn, KIRO dumps the coins into FEXEL's hands and approaches FEI. ]

KIRO:
Let me see.

GRINDEL:
What kind of map?

FEI:
I don't know!  An ancient map!

[ FEXEL wraps the coins back inside the discarded sack. ]

FEXEL:
It could lead us to more of these.

[ KIRO contemplates. ]

JANOS:
Or it could be a trap.

KIRO (to Janos):
Janos, are you dense?  Who's gonna try to mess with us?  We're Master Lendei's elite guard!

Lendei is an anagram of Ed Neil, the name of a prominent stunt actor in the early seasons of Power Rangers; most notably, he portrayed Lord Zedd in-costume, as well as his human form after he'd been transformed by Zordon's energy wave in "Countdown to Destruction, part 2" (Power Rangers in Space).

[ ANDAR turns to face the others. ]

ANDAR:
Not anymore, we're not.

The generals' fall from power is detailed later.

[ The others grow sullen.  KIRO fumes silently.  After a moment, GRINDEL speaks up. ]

GRINDEL:
I think we should follow the map.

[ KIRO shrugs. ]

KIRO:
Might as well.

[ JANOS crosses his arms. ]

JANOS:
You do what you want.  I'm watching the ship.

This decision will make Janos the odd man out once the others discover the power of the five Power Coins.

[ The others look to ANDAR. ]

FEXEL:
Andar?

[ After a moment, ANDAR snatches the map from FEI. ]

FEI:
Hey!

ANDAR:
We go.

[ The five depart on foot as JANOS remains.  As they depart, FEXEL carries the sack of coins. ]

[ Alone, JANOS waves his hand dismissively and heads back toward the ship. ]


[ Dissolve to EXT. ALIEN DESERT (ELSEWHERE) - In a region with more rocks and plant life, the five generals trek across the landscape (the map still in ANDAR's possession, and the sack carried by FEXEL). ]

[ In one shot, GRINDEL falls into an unseen patch of quicksand, but the others link arms and pull him out (no audio).  We dissolve to another sequence in which the generals maneuver around a wall of fire (also no audio). ]

These traps parallel traps encountered by the Rangers in "Ninja Quest, part 2."  That clearly demonstrates that this desert is in fact the Desert of Despair, though I purposefully chose to omit the wailing of spirits encountered by the Rangers in that episode; I intended that the planetoid's alternate history in Take Flight did not result in ghosts haunting the planet for some reason.


[ EXT. ALIEN MOUNTAIN, BASE - At the base of a tall, jagged rock formation (compare with California's Vasquez Rocks), the five generals stop and examine the rock.  ANDAR continues to hold the map, and FEXEL carries the sack. ]

Vasquez Rocks is a location used by many Hollywood productions.   Power Rangers used it repeatedly during the years it was produced in Los Angeles, including as the Command Center mountain (MMPR through Power Rangers Turbo); the California desert ("Day of the Dumpster" from MMPR season 1, "Sowing the Seas of Evil" from Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers, and "Inner Spirit" from Power Rangers Zeo); the Desert of Despair ("Ninja Quest, part 2"); and multiple planets in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy ("An Evil Game" and "Protect the Quasar Saber").

ANDAR:
This is it.

KIRO:
It's just a jagged rock!

GRINDEL (pointing ahead):
Hey, that looks like an opening.

In "Ninja Quest, part 2," the Rangers entered a narrow crevice, in which they stumbled across a rock-shaped switch which opened a passageway into the cave within.  Perhaps this switch isn't in place in this universe, or the "opening" here refers to the crevice, and the switch discovery occurred off-screen.

FEI:
Great.  It's probably full of booby-traps.

[ They advance. ]


[ INT. CAVE - Led by ANDAR, the five generals explore a dark, winding cave.  Dim light shines from the opening some distance behind them. ]

[ Soon, the generals come to a dead end.  ANDAR punches the rock with his free hand.  It strikes solidly with a resounding thud. ]

In "Ninja Quest, part 2," Tommy punched a wall after they reached the dead end, but he sailed right through the wall and into Ninjor's realm containing the Temple of Power.  Here, the thud of Andar's strike is a clear contrast with that episode; either the cave has rejected the generals due to their wicked hearts, or Ninjor's absence has led to the portal no longer functioning (see episode 33).

ANDAR:
It's a dead end!

KIRO:
Well, great.  We've wasted a whole day on this stupid planet.

FEI:
I think Janos was right.  This whole place is one big trap.

[ ANDAR crumples the map and tosses it aside. ]

The last time the map will be seen.

ANDAR:
Whatever treasure was here is long gone.

[ FEXEL, meanwhile, is peering into the brown sack, which appears to be glowing faintly from within. ]

FEXEL:
Uhh, guys...

[ FEXEL removes one of the coins (triceratops), to one side of which a translucent, blue, conical crystal (a POWER CRYSTAL) is now attached, the coin serving as a base for the crystal (compare with "A Pressing Engagement").  The crystal glows with faint blue light. ]

For some reason, the Power Coins have turned into the Power Crystals, perhaps reacting to being close to what was once Ninjor's lair.

FEXEL (cont'd):
I'm starting to think these aren't just ordinary coins.

[ The others startle at the sight. ]

KIRO:
What in the galaxy...?

Instead of the less-traveled "what in the world."

[ KIRO takes the sack from FEXEL and removes another coin (saber-toothed tiger), which now bears a yellow crystal. ]

Kiro happens to take the yellow crystal, and in fact she will be the Yellow Ranger.

KIRO (cont'd):
These things are full of energy!

[ GRINDEL looks on in awe. ]

GRINDEL:
So we had the treasure all along...!

[ GRINDEL, ANDAR, and FEI look at each other a moment, then all suddenly lunge for the sack, wrenching it from KIRO's hand.  They clamor over the final three crystals (black, red, and pink). ]

Grindel will be Black Ranger, Andar Red, and Fei Pink.  Fexel is left as Blue.  Note that the Blue Ranger being the brain of the team parallels Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.


[ Break. ]


[ EXT. SPACE STATION - Establishment shot. ]

[ A caption reads, "1992." ]

This scene takes place on Sunday, July 12, 1992, the day after Sasha vanished with the Rangers (episode 22).


[ INT. SPACE STATION COMMAND - TRASK is toting a biomass canister through the command center when DILLIK enters from his usual direction. ]

TRASK:
Ah, Dillik...

DILLIK:
Trask...

[ TRASK sets the canister down. ]

TRASK:
I intend to keep my word, Dillik.  I said you'd be in charge if Sasha's monsters failed, and they did.

Referring to events in episodes 21 and 22.

[ DILLIK fidgets. ]

TRASK (cont'd):
So...  What's the plan?  A robot army?  A giant war machine?  I have plenty of biomass if you want to --

Curiously, all of Trask's suggestions will be enacted over the course of the series: Mainframe will create a robot army (Nobots), Dillik will build a war machine (the Gigazord), and the biomass will be used to create a new class of monsters.

DILLIK:
Trask, I need to go.

TRASK (surprised):
What...?  W-- Where?

DILLIK:
I think I know where Sasha went.  She might be in trouble.

Sasha mentioned the planet Illam as her home planet as she spoke with Strife in episode 21.

[ TRASK is dumbfounded. ]

DILLIK (cont'd):
I'd like to borrow your ship.

TRASK:
The Earth is defenseless...!

DILLIK:
I'm sorry, Trask.  I just really need to go.

[ TRASK stares blankly at DILLIK.  DILLIK turns and leaves. ]

[ TRASK remains stone-faced. ]

Trask is certainly not happy with this turn of events, but he allows Dillik to borrow his ship nonetheless.  During Dillik's absence, Trask will seek to replace him by creating a monster (Mainframe) from the space station's console (see episodes 24 and 25).


[ EXT. SPACE, NEBULA - In jet mode, the KESTREL flies through murky interstellar space, apparently in the midst of a vast, multicolored nebula. ]

No, not the Lost Galaxy.


[ INT. KESTREL CONTROL ROOM - In a relatively tight room with pipes and wires routed along the walls and ceiling, the five HEROES stand near a simple control panel beside what appears to be the innermost door of an airlock. ]

[ Each of the HEROES is dressed in a seemingly comfortable black uniform with basic white edge designs.  (None of them is displaying a hairstyle that would have required a blow dryer or product, and the girls lack any makeup.) ]

These uniforms were salvaged from the Vanguard base in episode 22.

[ MAGGIE mans the controls. ]

MAGGIE:
So... everybody's sure we want to do this, right?

PETE:
Yeah, definitely.  Get rid of that thing.

CASEY:
Yeah.  It creeps me out, having it onboard.

LUKE:
I definitely don't want to bring it back to Earth.

CHRIS:
And it'd be pretty stupid to try to destroy it anywhere near us.

CASEY:
If we even can.

CHRIS:
Yeah, that too.

LUKE:
Let's do it.

[ MAGGIE nods and presses a button on the controls.  A muffled whoosh of air is heard as the HEROES watch the airlock door. ]


[ EXT. SPACE, NEBULA - From the side of the KESTREL emerges a small puff of gas.  Shortly, the STAR HANDLE quickly flies by the camera, having been jettisoned from the KESTREL. ]

Maggie obtained the Star Handle during a clash with Sasha in episode 22, and the Rangers have now chosen to discard it in the shroud of this interstellar nebula, for lack of a better solution.  As their paths essentially overlap (but in reverse), however, Dillik will find it at the end of the episode.


[ INT. KESTREL CONTROL ROOM - The HEROES continue to watch the airlock for a moment.  Once satisfied, they begin to disperse. ]

[ CASEY, CHRIS, and LUKE walk out of frame in mid-conversation. ]

CASEY:
So when's our next jump?

The Rangers are traversing the vast distance to Earth through a series of "jumps," which somehow move the Kestrel faster than light.  These seem to be a function of the Kestrelzord rather than external wormholes or other cosmic shortcuts.

LUKE:
As soon as we get out of this cloud.  Tomorrow, probably.

[ Meanwhile, PETE stays behind, wincing slightly as he holds his hand to his right cheek.  MAGGIE stays with him, concerned. ]

MAGGIE:
Are you okay, Pete?

[ PETE nods silently, as if waiting for pain to subside. ]

MAGGIE (cont'd):
Your tooth again?

Pete had a toothache in episode 21.  He had a dental appointment on Monday; it's now late Sunday, Spring Valley time, and he will miss his appointment.

[ PETE relaxes slightly. ]

PETE:
Yeah.  Wish I had some ice or something.

[ MAGGIE looks around searchingly.  Her gaze falls on the airlock door nearby. ]

MAGGIE:
Maybe we can make some.

They have water aboard the Kestrel, thanks to a tank they installed in episode 22, but no freezer.


[ Dissolve to - INT. KESTREL HOLDING BAY - In black pajamas, PETE slowly wakes, having slept on the floor in a black sleeping bag.  He touches his right cheek in apparent discomfort.  Along the wall, four other sleeping bags are rolled up. ]

By Earth time, the rest of this episode takes place on Monday, July 11, 1992, two days since Sasha's defeat (episode 22).

[ MAGGIE approaches, wearing her standard black uniform.  She wraps a clear, cylindrical container of ice (roughly six inches tall by four inches wide) in a black towel. ]

MAGGIE:
Morning.

PETE (groggily):
Hey.

MAGGIE:
Got some ice, finally.

[ PETE sits up and takes it.  She sits beside him at the foot of his sleeping bag. ]

MAGGIE (cont'd):
Sorry it took so long.  I thought space was supposed to be cold!

[ PETE holds the makeshift ice pack against his right cheek. ]

PETE:
It is, but there's no air or anything to carry the heat away.  All the water can do is give off thermal radiation.

Indeed, space is often described as being cold, but without a surrounding medium, heat tends to radiate away fairly slowly (and that's only if there are no radiating bodies such as a sun nearby).  I calculated that a liter of room-temperature water would take six hours to freeze by radiation alone; I would not be surprised to learn my calculations were faulty, but this seemed to be a reasonable approximation given that it should have occurred more slowly than in the cold air of a freezer.

MAGGIE (puzzled):
Where'd you learn that?

PETE:
What, like chefs don't know thermodynamics?

I suspect most chefs probably don't know this about outer space, but it was an amusing gag nonetheless.

MAGGIE (playfully):
Sor-ry.

CASEY (off-screen):
Hey, Pete.  How are you feeling?

[ PETE turns to see CASEY at the room's rear entrance.  Wearing a typical black uniform, she is drying her damp hair with a black towel.  In the same type of uniform, CHRIS approaches her from behind and rests his hand on her shoulder.  His hair is damp as well. ]

PETE:
About the same, I g--

[ PETE pauses, frowning suspiciously.  He wordlessly points at CASEY and CHRIS and looks to MAGGIE, then back at the couple. ]

PETE (cont'd, with a shrug):
Well, that's one way to conserve water, I guess.

[ Startled at the implication, CASEY pulls away from CHRIS. ]

CASEY:
What?  No!  That's not --

[ CHRIS, meanwhile, walks by her on his way to the front exit. ]

CASEY (to Chris, blushing):
Tell them that's not what happened!

CHRIS (with a smirk):
I'm gonna go see what Luke's up to.

[ CASEY pouts.  PETE and MAGGIE share a laugh. ]

They did not, in fact, shower together, despite the way this looks.


[ INT. KESTREL COCKPIT - In a standard black uniform, LUKE mans the center seat of the Kestrelzord.  Beyond the front viewscreen is outer space (the stars appearing stationary).  LUKE studies the controls intently.  His face is somewhat stubbly. ]

I didn't figure Chris would readily grow a beard due to his Native American heritage (though it's a myth that no Native Americans have facial hair), and I pictured Pete with a baby face on which facial hair would seem out of place.  Luke, however, was another story.

[ CHRIS enters from the rear door. ]

CHRIS:
Hey, man.  What's up?

[ LUKE glances over his shoulder but remains focused on the controls. ]

LUKE:
Hey.  Come listen to this.

[ CHRIS approaches. ]

LUKE (cont'd):
I was looking over the log from our last jump.  It looks like we passed over a few years' worth of radio broadcasts.  Listen.

If a ship can travel faster than light, it stands to reason that it would pass over years' worth of information embedded in electromagnetic waves in a short time.

[ LUKE presses a button, playing a recording of some sort of alien language (Thadian).  The speaker sounds excited or agitated.  Eventually, LUKE shuts it off. ]

LUKE (cont'd):
It goes on like that for long stretches.  But sometimes it goes quiet for a few days, sometimes a few weeks.  Listen to this.

[ LUKE plays another recording of an even more agitated speaker.  The voice cuts short as a crash is heard in the background.  An audible struggle seems to ensue, and the recording stops abruptly. ]

LUKE (cont'd):
That was the last one.  The signals stop there.

These signals were the Thadian rebels' means of communicating across the planet; they just happened to leak into space.

[ CHRIS ponders. ]

CHRIS:
You think it's some kind of distress signal?

LUKE:
Seems like it.  The signal came from a star system not too far from here.  If we changed course, we could be there by tonight.

[ CHRIS nods. ]

LUKE (cont'd):
Problem is, we passed these signals light-years ago.

CHRIS:
So if somebody WAS in trouble, we could be way too late.

[ LUKE nods.  CHRIS ponders further. ]


[ Dissolve to EXT. THADIAN FIELDS - Throughout mountainous plains, we see assorted agricultural fields, in which work a number of Thadians, humanoid beings with flat faces and smooth, hairless skin which ranges from yellow to a pale blue (varying by individual). ]

[ The Thadians look up as the KESTREL flies overhead. ]


[ INT. KESTREL COCKPIT - All in their standard black uniforms, the five HEROES are manning their respective controls (compare with sentai). ]

CHRIS:
Those look like farms.

PETE:
Yeah...  Kinda peaceful-looking, actually.  I wonder if --

MAGGIE:
Incoming--!


[ EXT. SKY - A fiery mass strikes the SKY KESTREL from below and explodes on impact, rattling the jet Zord. ]

This blast was fired by the cannon shown in possession of the Thadian defense force, as they believed this craft to be potentially hostile.


[ INT. KESTREL COCKPIT - The HEROES are jarred violently as sparks erupt around the cockpit. ]

PETE:
We're hit!

LUKE:
Hang on, everybody!  We're going down!

[ On the viewscreen ahead, we see a mountainous terrain (compare with sentai) approaching rapidly. ]


[ EXT. MOUNTAINS (Jetman #24) - The KESTREL skids to a rough landing in the mountains.  Soon, the jet Zord comes to a stop. ]

Kestrel crash lands Kestrel crash lands Kestrel crash lands Kestrel crash lands Kestrel crash lands

In Jetman #24, the Kestrel was downed after the giant image of Radiguet's face shot a dagger into one of the Dimensians.


[ INT. KESTREL COCKPIT - The shaken HEROES recover as light smoke clears in the cockpit. ]

LUKE:
Is everybody okay?

PETE:
Yeah...

MAGGIE:
I think so.  (checks monitor)  Except we just ruptured our water tank.  (presses button)  I'm opening the vents.

PETE:
Oh, man.  We can't make it home without water.

Plot device to make the Rangers explore.

CASEY:
I think there was a town up ahead.  Maybe we could try asking for help.

PETE:
Help?!  They just shot at us!

LUKE:
We don't know who or what fired at us... or why.  It could be a misunderstanding.

CHRIS:
That's a heck of a misunderstanding.

MAGGIE:
They might've been scared.  We're flying around in a big unidentified flying object.

CASEY:
I think we should try to introduce ourselves.

PETE (intrigued):
Ohh, first contact!

Pete is a sci-fi enthusiast.  Further, the Rangers haven't encountered any aliens beyond the select group attacking Earth.

CHRIS (to Pete):
What happened to "they shot at us?"

PETE:
I'm over it.

[ CHRIS rolls his eyes slightly. ]

[ PETE clutches his right cheek in apparent discomfort. ]

LUKE (to Pete):
Pete, you think you should stay here?

[ PETE stands. ]

PETE:
Yeah, like I'd miss this.

[ The others stand, exchanging concerned glances. ]


[ EXT. KESTREL (still frame from Jetman #24) - As the giant KESTREL lies on the rocky terrain, the five RANGERS (US addition) disembark on foot, quite small in comparison to the Zord.  Wisps of smoke drift in the foreground (US effect). ]

Kestrel in mountains (Rangers not shown)


[ EXT. MOUNTAIN RIDGE - The RANGERS climb out of a mountainous ridge below.  PINK RANGER points ahead. ]

CASEY (Pink Ranger):
Look!

[ Several groups of Thadian soldiers are positioned behind rock formations nearby, their rifle weapons aimed at the RANGERS.  Upon getting a clear view of the RANGERS, the soldiers exclaim in surprise (speaking the Thadian language heard over the earlier transmission) and emerge from their positions, placing their weapons in sheaths on their backs.  They promptly begin bowing and kneeling reverently (or apologetically). ]

The soldiers mistake the Earth Rangers for the Thadian generals; though their suits are different, their colors and general appearance are the same, and the Thadians lack proper context to realize there may be multiple Ranger teams in the universe.

[ The RANGERS exchange glances. ]

CASEY (Pink Ranger):
What's going on?

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
It happens all the time during first contact.  They think we're gods.

Not quite, but nice guess, anyway.

[ RED RANGER encourages a nearby soldier to stand. ]

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Please, get up.

Due to his religious beliefs, I figured Luke would be the most opposed to this type of worship.

[ The soldier rises, standing stiffly with his fist positioned over his chest (delivered as though it were a salute).  The other soldiers follow suit with identical gestures. ]

[ Just then, a caravan of additional soldiers arrives in non-Earthen military vehicles, their technology not tremendously more advanced than Earth's.  One vehicle is equipped with a rather large cannon of some sort, a bit of soot on its barrel indicating it has been fired at some point. ]

This cannon shot down the Kestrelzord.

[ The soldiers disembark, joined by two Thadian officers, OFFICER1 and OFFICER2, in more ornate uniforms. ]

[ The officers approach the RANGERS and perform the same fist salute. ]

MAGGIE (Blue Ranger):
Well, at least they're not attacking us.

[ OFFICER2 mutters something in Thadian to OFFICER1, who tersely rebukes him in return.  OFFICER2 frowns and eyes the RANGERS suspiciously. ]

[ OFFICER1 steps forward and politely escorts the RANGERS toward their caravan.  The RANGERS hesitate. ]

CASEY (Pink Ranger):
Hey, where are trying to take us?

The officers, some of whom may not have had direct contact with the Thadian generals, are offering to take them back to down, given that their ship has just been disabled.

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
Probably to their leader.

CHRIS (Black Ranger):
That or their local gulag.

[ The officers eye the reluctant RANGERS. ]

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Let's give them the benefit of the doubt... for now.

[ The RANGERS follow the officers and take a seat in the lead vehicle.  The caravan departs, leaving a few soldiers standing guard over the ridge. ]


[ EXT. MOUNTAIN TRAIL - The caravan proceeds along a narrow trail which runs through the mountains.  (YELLOW RANGER is seen with his gloved hand against the right side of his helmet.) ]

More toothache.

[ RED RANGER absently watches a small creature fly overhead.  It does not bear a resemblance to any common Earth creatures (especially not a pterosaur). ]

I wanted to rule out the possibility that Thadia shared animal species with Earth before the dinosaur emblems appeared.

[ As the caravan passes, an assortment of Thadian rebels emerge from the surrounding rocks and open fire on the carvan with various laser weapons.  The rebels wear assorted rugged clothes and are equipped with what resembles survival gear. ]

The rebels are opposed to the cruel generals (for whom they also mistake the Rangers), as well as the government officials who cater to them.  Episode 40 describes this group as the "Eastern Rebels."

[ Lasers bombard the convoy, causing some of the vehicles to crash into the rocks as their drivers take cover and return fire.  Some of the soldiers are injured peripherally before they can take cover. ]

[ Meanwhile, the rest of the vehicles are forced to stop, and the RANGERS take cover during the chaos. ]

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
Who the heck are these guys?!

MAGGIE (Blue Ranger):
Probably the guys who shot us down!

Nope.

[ PINK RANGER reaches for her blaster as the laser battle continues. ]

CASEY (Pink Ranger):
Should we return fire?

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Not yet!  We still don't know enough about what's going on!

Luke isn't willing to get involved in combat without knowing more about the situation.  One may wonder if he would have been able to strike effectively while working for the Air Force.

[ BLACK RANGER's shoulder is grazed with a rebel laser, causing a flash of sparks.  He clasps his hand over his arm but appears uninjured upon closer inspection. ]

CHRIS (Black Ranger):
Dude, they're shooting right at us!

This is the third time Chris has been struck with laser fire: the first was by his own reflected laser (episode 10), and the second was due to Luke's poor aim (episode 22).

[ The soldiers surge forward with a hail of laser fire, driving back the rebels.  While most escape, two rebels are captured at gunpoint and brought back to the caravan, their hands raised. ]

[ The RANGERS watch as the two captured rebels are led past them.  The soldiers somewhat harshly shove them into the back of a vehicle and use some sort of fixture to attach their wrists to the interior. ]

I used the harsh treatment of captives to imply the soldiers deserved slightly less sympathy than the rebels in the conflict, though both sides commit their own inhumane acts in this two-parter.

[ As the RANGERS continue to watch, OFFICER1 politely encourages them to be seated in their original vehicle.  They look at each other a moment and then pile in once more. ]


[ EXT. THADIAN TOWN - The caravan rumbles into a modest industrial town populated by Thadians.  The RANGERS watch the Thadian residents as they pause to eye the passing caravan.  The residents' gaze is somewhat intense; their emotion is not easily readable, but a few adults can be seen holding their children back protectively as the caravan passes. ]

[ Once past the most heavily populated area, RED RANGER looks down in thought. ]

Something doesn't sit right with the Rangers (Luke in particular) upon seeing the locals' guarded reactions.


[ INT. GOVERNMENT BUILDING - In some sort of government building, populated by a few Thadians in some sort of civil patrol outfits, the soldiers bring in their two rebel captives.  The curious RANGERS enter as well, escorted by the two officers. ]

[ As instructed by the patrolmen, several Thadian guards arrive and roughly take possession of the two prisoners.  The guards' demeanor and language is not gentle. ]

[ BLACK RANGER steps forward slightly. ]

CHRIS (Black Ranger):
Hey, take it easy...!

[ The Thadians pause to look at BLACK RANGER.  Soon, one of the guards, described here as HEAD GUARD, seems to ask a question in Thadian.  OFFICER1 responds, waving them away.  The guards then take the captives away, down a side corridor of unrevealed destination. ]

The generals haven't had a problem with harsh treatment of prisoners in the past, so they find Chris's protest peculiar here.

[ OFFICER1 turns and speaks to BLACK RANGER reassuringly as he politely leads the RANGERS out of the building.  The RANGERS leave reluctantly.  (As the officers and RANGERS exit, we see puzzled soldiers looking amongst themselves.) ]


[ EXT. THADIAN TOWN - The RANGERS, now alone, walk slowly through the town, examining the area.  Wherever they pass, civilians and scattered patrolmen pause to bow or kneel reverently, though most seem slightly apprehensive as they do so.  (YELLOW RANGER touches the right side of his jaw briefly.) ]

More toothache.

In episode 40, I give the name of this town as Shiku Prime.  The future Pink Ranger, Cerithena, will come from this town (see next episode).

CASEY (Pink Ranger):
There's something strange about this place...

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
Yeah...  It's like they're scared of us.  But not in a... "I've never seen these guys before" kind of way.

I expect that the difference between caution toward strangers and fear of familiar abusers would be subtle but detectable.

[ A civilian timidly offers RED RANGER an ornate trinket, but he politely shakes his head and refuses. ]

Payoffs help when it comes to the generals.

MAGGIE (Blue Ranger):
It looks like that, doesn't it?  Like they've seen us before... but why would they be scared?

[ BLACK RANGER examines a stone monument nearby. ]

CHRIS (Black Ranger):
Guys, look at this.

[ The RANGERS gather in front of the monument.  Etched into it is Thadian writing (consisting of curved, elegant characters), above which are five circular emblems matching the Power Coins. ]

This monument was erected as a tribute to the generals; presumably some members of the populace support the generals despite their despotism, but the government is also quite friendly to the generals, as it's their mandate which keeps them in power.

[ PINK RANGER runs her hand over the emblems. ]

CASEY (Pink Ranger, in awe):
Are those dinosaurs?!

CHRIS (Black Ranger):
Well, three of them.  What is that... a mammoth and a saber-toothed tiger?

Notwithstanding the name "Mastodon" used in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, I had to lean toward realism here: the so-called mastodon emblem actually resembles a mammoth much more closely than a mastodon.

MAGGIE (Blue Ranger):
That's strange.

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Two.

CASEY (Pink Ranger):
What?

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Two dinosaurs.  Pteranodons weren't dinosaurs either.  But anyway, it is strange.  Why would they have a monument to ancient Earth creatures?

Luke is a stickler for accuracy, his knowledge presumably coming from his experience at the museum.  I noted in my series bible at this point that Luke is probably comfortable with evolution (contemporary opinion polls suggest that roughly half of Americans believe mankind was created in its present form within the past 10,000 years; the majority of the remaining half believe that God guided man's evolution).

Like the mastodon/mammoth discrepancy, I'm compelled to side with realism here: the so-called pterodactyl emblem actually resembles a pteranodon much more closely than a pterodactyl.  Further, as Luke points out, only two of these creatures are actually dinosaurs (despite Zordon's description to the contrary in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers).

When Luke wondered about the monument to ancient Earth creatures, I originally had Pete hypothesize that maybe creatures from Earth were taken to seed this world long ago.  Ultimately, I found this red herring distractingly compelling, so I omitted it.

[ YELLOW looks around. ]

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
Too bad we can't get somebody to read this to us.  (to a nearby Thadian)  Uh, excuse me...

[ The Thadian scurries away anxiously.  YELLOW slumps disappointedly. ]


[ Dissolve to EXT. KESTREL - Once again outside the KESTRELZORD in the mountains, the RANGERS emerge from an open hatch, accompanied by OFFICER1 and a small group of soldiers.  Nearby, several Thadian vehicles are parked. ]

[ Once outside, the RANGERS bow their heads appreciatively to the soldiers, and the soldiers bow in return. ]

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Thank you.

[ OFFICER1 speaks a Thadian word in reply as RED RANGER shakes his hand.  OFFICER1 seems briefly puzzled by the gesture but returns it. ]

CASEY (Pink Ranger):
So that's it?  We're all fixed up?

CHRIS (Black Ranger):
Yep.  Water tank's patched and filled up.

The Thadians may or may not have used some of Chris's spare parts (see episode 22) to repair the water tank.

MAGGIE (Blue Ranger):
So... I guess we can go home now...?

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Not just yet.  There's something I want to find out.

Luke is troubled by what he's seen; he needs to investigate further before he can leave the planet in good conscience.


[ INT. KESTREL COCKPIT - In the cockpit, we see RED RANGER gripping his joysticks as the sound of the engines increases. ]


[ EXT. MOUNTAINS (Jetman #24) - The KESTREL takes off. ]

Kestrel takes off Kestrel takes off

In the sentai, Radiguet (Trask) had infiltrated the downed Kestrel and was now taking off in it.


[ INT. KESTREL COCKPIT - RED RANGER notices something in his monitor. ]

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Look.  See?  There's a shelter of some kind built into the rock not far from where we got ambushed by those rebels, or whatever they were.

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
All right, so... what?  Are we trying to get shot down again?

MAGGIE (Blue Ranger):
Actually, those soldiers might have shot us down.  Anybody else notice that giant gun they had?

Nice catch, Maggie.

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
Yeah, but the rebels weren't pulling any punches when they hit our convoy.

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Still...  There's two sides to every conflict.  I want to find out what's going on.

CASEY (Pink Ranger):
Yeah, I agree with Luke.  Somebody sounded like they were in trouble, and we still don't know who it was.

CHRIS (Black Ranger):
All right, I'm in.

[ YELLOW RANGER shrugs and presses a button. ]

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
Okay.  Kestrel to auto-pilot.


[ EXT. MOUNTAIN BASE - At the base of a mountain, a metal wall is partially hidden beneath earth and rock, disguising a subterranean facility of indeterminate size. ]

[ The five RANGERS beam down from the sky in a blue beam of light.  They then examine the base ahead. ]

I gave the Kestrel a blue teleportation beam to contrast with the Flyers' green beam.  Only the green beam appeared in Jetman.

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
All right, here goes...  Freedom-fighters or scourge of the planet?  Place your bets.

[ RED RANGER crouches down and examines something buried in the rocky terrain.  He brushes aside several rocks, revealing a twisted, corroded metal rod.  The RANGERS take a step back and examine the broader scope of the terrain, at which point the remains of a fallen, partially buried structure resembling a broadcast tower can be seen around them. ]

MAGGIE (Blue Ranger):
It looks like a radio tower.

CASEY (Pink Ranger):
Maybe the one that sent those signals?

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Or it could just be coincidence.

Whether or not this happens to be the tower which sent the signals the Rangers detected, it's indicative of difficulties the rebels have had communicating as they fought the Thadian authorities.

[ BLACK RANGER, meanwhile, is distracted, his attention on the mountain above. ]

CHRIS (Black Ranger):
Whoa.  Easy.

[ The RANGERS look up.  Dozens of rebel sharpshooters are poised along the mountain, their laser weapons aimed at the RANGERS below. ]

[ The RANGERS put up their hands. ]

PETE (Yellow Ranger, gently):
Nice rebels...


[ INT. REBEL OUTPOST - In a medium-sized room with rock walls, the five RANGERS stand with their hands tied behind their backs with a flexible, shiny material.  They stand together on a circular platform, around which is a nearly invisible barrier which just barely bends the light around it. ]

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
So, that, uh... that could've gone better.

[ In the doorway leading to an adjacent room, two rebels have a spirited discussion in Thadian, apparently an argument.  They occasionally gesture in the RANGERS' direction. ]

The two rebels are unable to agree whether these are Lendei's generals.

CASEY (Pink Ranger):
I wonder what they're arguing about.

MAGGIE (Blue Ranger):
Us.

CHRIS (Black Ranger):
Yeah, just like the soldiers from that town.  Everybody has an opinion about us.

LUKE (Red Ranger):
It's mistaken identity.  That's gotta be it.

PETE (Yellow Ranger):
Who the heck would they mistake us for?!  You know of any other Power Rangers?

Like the people of Thadia, the heroes are unfamiliar with other Rangers in the universe.

MAGGIE (Blue Ranger):
It would sort of explain some things.

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Right.  We need to show them we're not who they think.  I'm going to demorph.

CHRIS (Black Ranger):
Uhh, you know, man, I don't know if that's a --

LUKE (Red Ranger):
Power down.

[ With a red gleam, LUKE demorphs into his black uniform, his arms still tied behind his back.  The two rebels are startled by the spectacle and promptly call others into the room. ]

[ The subjects of intense scrutiny as a small crowd of rebels gathers in the room, the other four RANGERS exchange glances. ]

MAGGIE (Blue Ranger):
Well, here goes nothing...

RANGERS (in unison):
Power down.

[ The other four RANGERS demorph with respective gleams into their black uniforms.  The rebels are surprised once more, and they murmur amongst each other in Thadian. ]

This bold decision will succeed in clearing up the misunderstanding.  It's vaguely similar to the Rangers' demorphing to jog Tommy's memory in "King for a Day, part 2" (Power Rangers Zeo).


[ INT. REBEL OUTPOST (LATER) - Now seated in the adjoining room, the five HEROES are unrestrained.  PETE holds his hand against his right cheek as they wait. ]

More toothache.  It will be treated by Dairu, the rebels' medic.  The audience must assume she has a relatively pain-free method of treating his tooth that's compatible with human physiology.

[ Soon, a female rebel, DAIRU, enters and beckons PETE to come with her.  He looks to the others and rises, following her into another room.  MAGGIE accompanies him. ]

Dairu will become the Yellow Ranger, though this won't be revealed until episode 40.  Her name is an anagram of "Audri," as in Audri DuBois, the actress who played Trini, the Yellow Ranger, in the original pilot for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  (My alternatives were Thuy Trang and Karan Ashley, the two actresses who played Yellow Rangers in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers; neither of their names seemed conducive to a proper anagram.)

[ From yet another room enters a REBEL LIEUTENANT, his arms full of display boards and other visual aids.  CHRIS, LUKE, and CASEY stand attentively as he sets down his materials. ]


[ Dissolve to INT. REBEL OUTPOST (STILL LATER) - After an apparently lengthy, elaborate discussion, the REBEL LIEUTENANT concludes, awaiting a response from the trio.  They sit up, having been reclined during the seemingly long lecture.  The visual aids scattered around the room include drawings and black-and-white photos of landscapes, various Thadians, the six generals, and perhaps a rough sketch of five Ranger-like entities. ]

The language barrier makes explanations difficult, but the Rangers seem to be making progress after some time.

CASEY:
All right, so let me see if I'm following all this...  (points) This Lendei guy came to Thadia and took over the planet.  But... I don't get it... The people liked Lendei...?

I made up the name Thadia on a whim because it sounded like a nice alien planet name.  It isn't an anagram, nor does it represent anything meaningful.

LUKE:
Eventually.  He seems to have been kind of a... benevolent leader.

I enjoyed making the people of Thadia fairly complex, in that they could come to respect a leader who conquered them (as has surely happened a time or two in human history), and that their allegiances were split between the pro-general government and the rebels (others just want to be left alone).

CHRIS:
Right.  He industrialized them, gave them security...

The technology seen at the Thadians' disposal was introduced by Lendei's forces.

CASEY:
But he treated them horribly!  (speaks an approximation of a Thadian word) ...right?

[ The REBEL LIEUTENANT shakes his head and redirects CASEY to a drawing of the six generals.  He explains in Thadian.  Afterward, CHRIS agrees: ]

CHRIS:
Yeah, see, his generals were the ones terrorizing everyone.  As soon as Lendei found out, he put them on trial and banished them from the planet.

Further reason the populace tended to respect Lendei; though his generals were abusive, he did (eventually) banish them accordingly.

LUKE:
Right, but they came back and overthrew him.  ...with whatever these powers are that they're describing.  The Thadian government follows their orders, and these rebels are the opposition.

It's unclear whether Lendei survived, but if he did, he surely would have fled to another planet.

CASEY:
So do you really think those generals could be Power Rangers too?

LUKE:
I don't know.  But I say we pay them a visit.

CASEY:
Seriously?

CHRIS:
It could get ugly.  Ranger against Ranger...  And the Phoenix Cannon and the Battlizers are stuck on Earth in the Flyers.  (shrugs)  Then again, I've seen worse odds.

Perhaps the worse odds Chris refers to involve the fifteen-member monster army they just fought (episodes 21 and 22).

I reveal that the Battlizers are stored aboard the Flyers, which offers a convenient explanation as to why the Rangers don't use them in this US-original adventure.

PETE (off-screen):
I say we go for it.

[ The trio turns to find PETE standing with MAGGIE in the doorway, DAIRU behind them. ]

CASEY:
Pete!

LUKE:
How are you feeling?

PETE (touching his cheek):
Pretty good, actually.  This weird filling's just gonna be a little hard to explain to my dentist.

We don't know what Pete's dentist made of the filling, which may have been made of a compound uncommmon on Earth.

My original plans involved Pete getting a crush on the rebel dentist, but it would have been out of place here.

[ In the background, DAIRU turns and exits. ]

CHRIS:
It was just a cavity?

PETE:
Well, I guess...  (glances back)  We didn't talk much.  She seemed like she knew what she was doing, anyway.

CASEY:
Well, I'm glad you're okay.

PETE:
Me too.

MAGGIE (to the others):
All right, now, what's this about Ranger against Ranger?


[ EXT. SPACE, NEBULA - The STAR HANDLE tumbles through the original nebula.  Soon, a golden beam of energy from off-screen stabilizes the STAR HANDLE and begins to draw it in the direction of the beam.  Just barely in frame, we see the edge of a gunmetal black ship (TRASK'S SHIP). ]


[ INT. VILLAIN COCKPIT - Seated at the cockpit of Trask's ship, DILLIK opens a hatch beside his feet.  From the opening he removes the STAR HANDLE and weighs it curiously in his hands. ]

This was a contrivance I made up to get the Star Handle back in Sasha's hands for the upcoming Shadow Ranger plot (episode 27).

Note that Trask's ship must be considerably faster than the Kestrelzord: in roughly a day, Dillik is able to span the same distance which takes the Rangers numerous days to travel.

[ Freezeframe.  "To be continued..." ]