Catteries Not Included
This episode is the first in the “regular” series of Rescue Rangers, graduating from the foundation story established in “To the Rescue”. We return to the police station, where we left off at the end of the five-part series, to find Sergeant Spinelli and the same little girl we saw then. Interestingly, the girl was trying to find a lost puppy at the end of TTR, and now it’s a lost kitten—either she’s got a lot of pets missing or the writers tried to slip one in on us :-)
Chip, Dale, Monty and Zipper are over the sergeant’s head, sitting on top of the ceiling fan. There’s no immediately clear method as to how they got up there, so we have to assume they came through the ceiling somehow. Monty, Dale and Zipper are resting while Chip checks things out with his Ranger-sized binoculars (a Gadget invention?). It would seem that some days if not many are slow days for the Rangers.
Monty gets a mischievous idea, rubbing up a static charge and zapping Dale with it. Dale is immediately intrigued, and Monty shows him how to “rub some fur and then ya picks yer target”, zapping Zipper this time. Zipper is none too happy, but Dale’s attention is on the inattentive Chip. Dale zaps him and gets a kick in the rump for his laughter.
The scene shifts downstairs, where the little girl is showing Spinelli the picture of her kitten named Spunky. In the Disney comics, the little girl’s name was Mandy, but her name was never mentioned in the episode itself. Spinelli tells her that they don’t really handle lost kittens, so the Rangers go into action.
The guys leave the station room via a secret door, which we can only assume that Gadget constructed, since it’s a swinging door that’s a great fit with the surrounding wall. Then they head upstairs via a smoke pipe and head for a very unique contraption.
This is the only time we see the Ranger catapult, its purpose to propel the Rangers from the station back to Headquarters. This is definitely Gadget’s work, considering that the trajectory would have to be perfect to avoid splatting the Rangers. Also note that it was built to propel three Rangers and not four—this would imply that Gadget never goes to the station with them. That could be reasonable, given the amount of time she puts in on inventing and the upkeep of the Ranger vehicles et al.
The guys arrive at the treehouse, and Gadget is thrilled at the idea of a case. This scene is interesting, as there’s a little flirtation between Chip and Gadget. Then Dale drops into the RangerPlane between the two of them and flirts a little with Gadget as well. This exchange shows how early on things were, and the writers hadn’t firmly established just how relationships would be worked out. One thing was clear, though—Gadget didn’t mind some attention from the boys at that point. Considering she’d been in that plane of hers for at least an implied year, that would be understandable enough.
Monty doesn’t like the idea of going in the RangerPlane, prompting Gadget to say one of her classic lines, “Oh Monty, how many times do you think the wings can fall off a plane?” “I don’t know. You tell me,” Monty retorts. Chip and Gadget head off to follow the little girl to her house while Dale and Monty head for Cat Alley to see if little Spunky is among the cats there. When Chip and Gadget arrive at the house, it’s Gadget who spots the first clue—a mysterious set of claw marks on the window sill. Then they also find heavy footprints in the grass beneath the window. Clearly some mischief has happened here.
Over in Cat Alley, Dale and Monty are amazed to find that it’s no longer Cat Alley but Mouse Alley. The mice are everywhere, whooping it up. Note how this scene dates the episode, as the mice are dressed up as punk rockers and break dancers—the mouse that interacts with them even does some break dance moves! No one there has seen Spunky, so Dale suggests that they “think like a cat” and see if they can’t figure out why all the cats are missing.
Later that evening, the mice run for it at what sounds sort of like a cat approaching. In fact it’s a pretty shoddy representation of a cat, powered by Monty and Dale on the inside. Since Gadget wasn’t with them, we have to assume that either he or Monty designed and constructed it—likely Dale since he suggested the idea in the first place—so this would be an indication of Dale’s ingenuity.
Soon the canvas cat is met by a metal dog. Dale and Monty run for it, but the robot dog is too fast and chases them up a telephone pole. It pulls on the “cat’s” tail, then lets go, sending them shooting into the air just high enough to wave hello to Zipper, Gadget and Chip before they head back down. Monty whacks the metal dog with a lead pipe, zapping him and leaving him pretty toasted.
The others came on down, where Gadget gets inside the dog and figures out she can control it. The Rangers climb in and the dog heads for home—in this case being the hillside stronghold of Professor Norton Nimnul. This is the first look we’re given of his geodesic dome, which of course is made to look scarier than normal for first impressions. The Rangers in the beat-up metal dog follow two other robot dogs into the place, where Nimnul uses his contraptions to remove the cats the other two dogs have captured.
It soon becomes apparent that all the missing cats are here, though it’s not immediately understood why Nimnul has them. Zipper finds Spunky and Monty frees him from his cage. The Rangers lower the kitten to the floor and are ready to go, when Gadget refuses to let the team leave without freeing the other cats. The guys give in and Dale starts punching buttons on Nimnul’s remote control. The mechanical hands grab Chip, Dale and Spunky while other mechanical hands use brushes to brush them, building up a huge static charge.
Nimnul returns, reclaiming his remote and using it to brush a bunch of cats and create a huge static charge that he plans to use to wreak havoc at his whim. The Rangers go into action, distracting Nimnul from his plans and regain the remote. A wild chase around the lab ensues, while Monty manages to free all the cats. Nimnul gets the drop on Chip, Gadget and Dale, but then Spunky latches on to his rump and one of the robot dogs swallows Nimnul in an attempt to get the kitten.
The next day, the Rangers take Spunky to his home, where the little girl is thrilled to see him again. Everything is good, and Monty’s leaned that even cats have their place: “As far from me as possible.” The Rangers have what turns out to be a traditional laugh, and the show irises out.
Evaluation: Three Acorns out of five. Overall a good episode. Plenty of interaction between the Rangers, and we get an idea of how their group dynamics are going to develop. Having Nimnul as the main villain works well, and the action is pretty well-paced. Some sheer comedic elements, but it is a kids’ show so you have to allow for that. I would’ve liked to have seen stuff like the catapult and more unique inventions like it used more during the series, but I can understand why they didn’t branch out in those directions too much.