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Weekly Ranger Review: Dino Charge Episode 01, “Powers of the Past”

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Weekly Ranger Review: Dino Charge Episode 01, “Powers of the Past”

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Power Rangers is a huge part of the world of tokusatsu. As such, we want to bring an extra dose of Power Rangers to your TokuNet experience. Every week, at least until the inevitable summer hiatus, I will be here to bring you my take on the latest episode of Power Rangers Dino Charge. This review will bring you a quick synopsis, my opinions of the episode, and a brief discussion regarding its Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger counterpart episode, when applicable, since not all Dino Charge episodes will coincide perfectly with a Kyoryuger episode.


While the show didn’t formally air until this weekend, fans got a treat when Nickelodeon posted the premier episode online on Friday, January 30, 2015. After four years of major fan complaints, the extraordinarily positive response I witnessed on my personal Twitter feed made me really excited to kick back and watch.

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Synopsis

The evil bounty hunter Sledge, his fiancee Poisandra, and his henchmen Fury and Wrench are in a space chase after The Keeper, a small alien currently in the possession of the Energems, one of the most powerful items in the universe. The Keeper is finally shot down, with Fury sent to finish the deed and take the Energems. An impressive bait and switch leaves ten Dinosaurs in possession of the Energems, Fury trapped on Earth with The Keeper, and a giant hole in Sledge’s out of control ship.

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Blast forward to present day Amber Beach, where Tyler Navarro is checking out the local Dinosaur Museum. He is then assisted by Chase Randall, an employee of the museum on the locations of caves his missing father visited in the past. We’re also introduced to Shelby Watkins, a waitress at the Dino Bite Cafe, and Kendall Morgan, a scientist working at the museum.

Kendall, along with Chase, and their super strong assistant Koda, embark on a fossil dig toward the caves Tyler left to investigate. Shelby, wanting nothing more than to leave the cafe and go on the dig with them, hides in the back of their truck.

Tyler, having successfully made it to the cave, heads down to find not only a mysterious cloaked monster, but a red crystal embedded in a Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil. While the three man crew begins their own dig above ground, Shelby witnesses the same monster steal a crate from the truck. She makes chase, only to quickly be defeated by the cloaked monster, who reveals himself to be Iceage, a monster previously imprisoned on Sledge’s ship. Inside the box was his bounty, the Pink Energem.

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Tyler “Tarzans” his way to Shelby’s rescue, heroically defending himself and Shelby with his mighty shovel. Unfortunately, the tables turn as Iceage freezes the pair. The power of the Energems they each held thaws them out with Dino Charge Morphers suddenly appearing in their hands.

With the Energems inserted, they “spin the thing” and accidentally transform into the Red and Pink Dino Charge Rangers. Holding their own against Iceage, a mysterious red Tyrannosaurus Rex enters the forest, flings Iceage away, and quickly scampers off. Shelby hitches a ride with Tyler back to Amber Beach, with the evil Fury watching from a distance.

Review

After Power Rangers Samurai gave us what is possibly the worst first episode ever (referring to “The Team Unites” and not “Origins Part 1”), Super Samurai, Megaforce, and Super Megaforce all had pretty decent first episodes.

That said, we haven’t had a first episode with this much substance since Power Rangers RPM. It’s worth noting that we spend almost ten minutes engaged in this episode before we see the face of one of our Rangers. It’s also worth noting that one of our main Rangers, Riley the Green Ranger, is nowhere to be found the entire episode. After having a multitude of “five people meet, five people get powers” intros in the franchise, it’s incredibly refreshing to see a series take a slow and steady approach. Despite being introduced to Chase, Koda, and Kendall in the episode as well, they certainly take a backseat as the episode focuses on Tyler’s quest to find his missing father and Shelby’s quest to go on a fossil dig. Their paths intersect and we bare witness to the birth of the first two Dino Charge Rangers.

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But do we?

Iceage clearly knows what a Ranger is. Kendall also quotes Chase and Koda as “highly trained museum personnel” as opposed to “employees”. Needless to say, it’s a wonderful feeling to actually be thinking about Power Rangers again. This first episode alone sets up a pretty neat world I can’t wait to dig further into.

Get it? Dig? Okay.

Looking into the overall plot line presented in the first episode, Sledge is an intergalactic bounty hunter that hunts rare items, creatures, and apparently people to collect as much money as he can. He also apparently really likes asteroids. The Keeper has entrusted the ten Energems (red, black, blue, green, pink, gold, aqua, graphite, purple, and silver) to ten different species of Dinosaurs, considered to be the bravest among them. The Keeper’s trap inadvertently blows a hole into Sledge’s ship, sending the asteroids hurdling down to Earth, killing the dinosaurs. I’m pretty sure kids everywhere will now hold a personal grudge against The Keeper.

Of course, this method scatters the Energems about, creating a fascinating way of letting the Ranger team develop slowly as opposed to instantly gathering all at once. As we see in the first episode, Tyler and Shelby are the first Rangers we see, but the other three could easily have their Energems already, or be finding them in the next two episodes. It’s an interesting mechanic that I personally really enjoy, especially from a storytelling perspective.

It’s hard to judge most of the other characters, be it Sledge, The Keeper, or even Chase or Koda, as they weren’t in the episode for any significant length of time. We did see a lot of Tyler and Shelby, however, and their dynamic was a breath of fresh air. Tyler is a bit bumbling from what we’ve seen, but has a very determined attitude, especially when it comes to finding his missing father. The kind of awestruck, confused tone the character has when receiving the Dino Charge Morpher felt real. Shelby was also a pretty interesting change from the standard Pink Ranger we’ve had the past four years. She knows what she wants, how to get it, and won’t take crap from no one. She’s quick witted, and that definitely shows within the first episode. The two characters bounce off each other well. Given what we know of Kyoryuger, it will be interesting to see how Shelby and Tyler’s relationship will develop.

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I’ve seen many people say that the first episode of Dino Charge made Power Rangers feel like Power Rangers again, and in many respects, I can agree with that. Even when Power Rangers was copying the Sentai counterpart heavily (Time Force, for example), it still had many unique characters, elements, and plots to set it apart from the original in some way or another. Samurai and Megaforce had quite a few original elements that ultimately didn’t amount to a whole lot, leaving many fans to feel like they were watching light versions of the Sentai seasons.

Dino Charge feels different. Judd Lynn (known as Chip Lynn in the credits) has done what he always has for Power Rangers, and turned it into his own. He took the mold Kyoryuger had established, and remolded it into an entirely new shape. While it’s a bold statement coming off of one episode, it certainly feels like Lynn is pushing it in this direction. Will there be similarities? Absolutely. Tyler’s missing father mirrors Daigo’s missing father, Chase and Ian are both after the ladies, Koda and Nossan are both strong. Character traits and overarching plots are something that will always be shared, but it’s easy to say that the unique spin on things like Sledge being a bounty hunter, and characters like The Keeper make the show stand out in a way that Samurai and Megaforce ultimately failed in. Jonathan Tzachor’s reign of the show is over, Judd Lynn is back, and the show looks to be back to what it once was.

“Powers of the Past” was an incredible first episode. It has everything an intro episode needs to be entertaining: plot, character, and action. The episode was able to introduce a vast majority of this season’s characters in a timely fashion, while not throwing everything into our face all at once like some previous intro episodes. The show presenting Rangers a few at a time instead of all at once is another breath of fresh air we haven’t seen in a few years. I was really skeptical about being excited for Dino Charge. After having excitement for both Samurai and Megaforce and ultimately being let down, it was a hard emotion to justify. I’m just glad it delivered. It’s incredibly satisfying when my biggest complaint with the episode is having to wait until February 14th to catch episode two. I need it in my life right now.

VS. Kyoryuger

Given the fact that “Powers of the Past” had absolutely no Sentai footage in it aside from the opening credits, it’s really hard to draw any comparisons between the two. Outside of the Red Rangers receiving their powers, Gabutyra/T-Rex Zord making an appearance, and the main monster of the day being Iceage/Debo Iceage, the comparisons sort of stop. In both episodes, we are introduced to the cast of villains, the mentor figure, the Rangers and the general synopsis of the show.

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Kyoryuger’s “Brave 01” focused entirely on Daigo, and how he became a Kyoryuger. As the show started, he was the newest member, as the other four had previously obtained their powers already. We see very little of the other members of the team throughout the course of the episode. We do, however, get to find out a lot about Daigo, Kyoryu Red. The episode concludes with Debo Iceage being defeated.

In “Powers of the Past”, however, we get a pretty balanced focus between Tyler, Dino Charge Red, and Shelby, Dino Charge Pink. Both become Rangers at the same time, and the status of the rest of the team remains a mystery. We get the core of Tyler’s story while still getting a great feel for who Shelby is and what her goals are. We get a fight at the end of the episode with an appearance from one of the Zords, but the Iceage monster is still alive.

While there are definitely similarities in how the episodes present themselves, Dino Charge does, in my opinion, a more concrete job of setting up the world while creating a bit of mystery to keep the viewers hooked. Kyoryuger gave us the intro to our Red Ranger while still forming the full team for a fight at the end, with a help of a robot, against the first monster of the day created instantly after the bad guys were introduced. Dino Charge, however, balanced between two characters equally, and left the remainder of the team a mystery. There could be more Rangers, there could not be more Rangers. The viewers are left in the dark on a lot of details surrounding the fates of Sledge’s crew and The Keeper as well. While spewing everything out at once is fine for a foundation, taking it easy while creating a mystery and overarching plot keeps viewers intrigued and wanting to tune in next week.

If I had to pick a winner, while I absolutely adore Kyoryuger and its intro episode, the Dino Charge intro episode left me wanting more. Not only because I thought it was entertaining, but because I was curious. I want to know who the next Ranger is, I want to know what happened to The Keeper and Sledge. While Kyoryuger left me wanting more of this high-energy show, Dino Charge leaves me wanting more for all the right reasons.

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YouTube Toy Review, Co-Host of The RRR Podcast, and resident Tokusatsu toy nerd at The Tokusatsu Network. I write, I review, and I certainly talk a lot when given the opportunity.

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