“There’s life on Pluto. If we use the Wave Gun, it means the destruction of all that life. We are not permitted to destroy life on planets of the Solar System. The Star Force is on a mission to save life on planet Earth. it would be wrong for us to destroy another planet” – Captain Avatar
Tuesday of the second week of STAR BLAZERS brought us the first part of the series’ first straight-up continued episode, and a pretty strong cliffhanger as well. it also introduced the first in what would turn out to be a string of enemy super-weapons meant to challenge and defeat the Argo and the Star Force: the dreaded Gamilon Reflex Gun on Pluto.
Having been bested and made fools of a number of times already by the encroaching Earthmen, Colonel Ganz is delighted at the opportunity to take the fight to his nemesis. His aide, Bane, isn’t quite so sure–the Reflex Gun has only a limited range, so it’s going to be necessary to draw the Argo into the vicinity of Pluto so that Ganz can shoot it down. To this end, Ganz fires a volley of missiles in the Star Force’s direction, and dispatches the Gamilon space fleet to engage the enemy. In the meantime, he and Bane continue to get down to their true purpose on Pluto: firing off more Planet Bombs towards Earth than will continue to irradiate the planet.
Colonel Ganz needn’t have worried about having to draw his prey to him, because as soon as the Argo encounters Planet Bombs in mid-flight towards Earth, the Star Force is able to determine that there must be an enemy position on Pluto, and that installation must be the source of the bombardment. An angry Wildstar demands that Captain Avatar take action and wipe out that base, a course of action that the Captain, after a moment’s consideration, agrees with.
After deploying the Black Tigers to fly escort and scout for enemies, the senior Star Force staff adjourns to the briefing room, to lay out their tactics. And a very important discussion takes place, one that helps to define the parameters under which the Star Force operates. Sandor asks the Captain if they’re going to use the Wave-Motion Gun in their assault, and when Avatar responds in the negative, the crew is taken aback. It falls to the Captain to explain that, like what happened at the Floating Continent on Jupiter, if they were to use the Wave-Motion Gun against the Pluto Base, they would also cause untold devastation to the rest of the planet. Avatar sees the necessity of demolishing the enemy stronghold, but he will not use the power the Star Force has been granted indiscriminately, or heedlessly. They’re going to need to get the job done this time using more conventional weaponry.
As the ship gets closer to Pluto, enemy forces begin to blip up on Nova’s radar, leading to the first full-out space battle of the series. And, really, it’s a pretty subdued affair. Wildstar tells the Black Tigers to pull back out of the line of fire, and the Argo wipes out most of the enemy fleet with its mighty Shock Cannons, then turns to the defensive as waves of missiles approach the ship. As the enemy withdraws, the Star Force pursues it closer to Pluto.
It’s at this point that the Star Force crosses the Pluto defense line and enters the effective firing range of the Gamilon Reflex Gun. Ganz, no doubt chest-thumping, has already explained that the Reflex Gun is more powerful than the Wave-Motion Gun, but it has a much more limited range. Both of these facts prove to be false, as it happens. Either way, the Argo is seismically rocked by the opening salvo of from the enormous Reflex Gun.
Crippled, the great ship takes refuge on the far side of Pluto’s moon, out of the way of any direct firing solution. It’s only then that the truly cool feature of the Reflex Gun is revealed by Ganz: there is a network of satellites stationed at all points throughout the space surrounding Pluto, and these satellites can be used to bounce the ray beam from the Reflex Gun through space, allowing it to effectively shoot around corners.
From this point on, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel for testy old Colonel Ganz, as he blasts the Argo, knocking it from its perch in the sky and sending it crashing down into the waters on Pluto. As in previous episodes, there isn’t a whole lot of realism concerning the geologic make-up of the planets in our Solar System. It’s one of those things that you just need to roll with (and which the modern 2199 remake series chalks up to Gamilon terraforming.)
The Argo is in bad shape, and it can’t even locate a target to retaliate against. Overjoyed at his incumbent victory, Colonel Ganz ill-advisedly has a message sent home to Leader Desslok on Gamilon to apprise the dictator of his glorious triumph. Desslok, for his part, couldn’t seem to care less–he’s far more focused on the nubile concubines sharing his space-age love seat.
And as one final shot from the Reflex Gun causes the Argo to list, capsize and sink into the icy depths of the ocean on Pluto, all hope for Earth seems lost. “Can this be the end of the Star Force? Have they gone to the bottom of the sea on Pluto, taking with them the hopes of all mankind, crushing the dream that Earth could be saved?” intones the narrator, fretfully. “The Star Force must go on! Time is running out! Planet Earth has only 356 days left!”
Of course, after the final commercial break, the teaser for tomorrow’s episode shows us clearly that the Star Force has survived, and that Wildstar and Sandor will be leading a raid on the Reflex Gun base. It also includes a second or two of footage that was cut from the actual episode, making it of special interest to eagle-eyes STAR BLAZERS viewers of the period.