“Escaped? Did they abandon the Pluto Base? Tell them to return and fight, and never come back to Gamilon. I never want to see their faces.” – Leader Desslok
Episode 8 is the first example of another hallmark of the STAR BLAZERS series: the invasion of the enemy stronghold. It also wrapped up the two-parter that represented the climactic battle of the first leg of the Star Force’s journey, for all that they’d still be dealing with Ganz and Bane for another episode hereafter. But it’s a big feel-good victory after a string of close scrapes.
After a recap of the previous day’s events, what had appeared to be the end of the Star Force turns out instead to be a feint. Captain Avatar intends to buy time by making the Argo appear defenseless and destroyed while a special attack group is sent out in infiltrate and destroy the Gamilon Base and their deadly Reflex Gun. In the meantime, delighted that things have been going so well for him, Colonel Ganz dispatches a squadron of submarines to finish demolishing the seemingly-helpless Star Force.
As part of the attack group, Wildstar selects not only Dash and Conroy for the mission, but also Lance and Kato, two new crewmembers mentioned here for the first time. Dash apparently gets cold feed, because he doesn’t actually come along on the mission, somehow forgotten along the way. but both Sandor and IQ-9 join the team before they set out in their recon craft.
As the Gamilon submarines approach their position, the Star Force flips the Argo back over again and begins a counter-offensive. But in their melee, their oxygen supply unit is damaged, which means that they’ll only be able to remain submerged and safe from the Reflex Gun’s destructive power for another three hours. And yeah, I don’t understand how that’s supposed to work either, given that the atmosphere on Pluto is no more breathable than its oceans–to say nothing of the void of space. None of it makes a hell of a lot of sense.
But that doesn’t matter, because the recon team is now operating against a strict deadline–it’s win or fail in just three hours! In order to allow them to get a bead on the Reflex Gun firing point, Captain Avatar orders the Argo to surface momentarily. They’ll monitor all of the satellites, and when they see the Gamilons lining up a shot, they’ll submerge the ship again before they can be hit by the beam. And yes, given that the Reflex Gun fires from a location below the surface of the ocean itself, I also don’t understand how the same water is going to protect the ship from the blast. This episode is pretty shaky when it comes to the specifics of why and how things work the way they do. Fortunately, with the ticking countdown, there’s enough forward thrust to the story to keep you from thinking about it all that much.
Meanwhile, hapless Colonel Ganz is getting frustrated. He can’t understand why the Argo is playing this game of cat and mouse with him. He eventually figures it out, and orders Bane to set up a different shot with the satellites, one banking around the planet the other way, thus concealing it from the Star Force. he figures that this shot should finish them.
Sandor and the others have located the cooling vents for the Reflex Gun base–as well as the “Protozoans of Pluto”, indigenous single-cell lifeforms. “They feel like slippery grape gelatin!” announces Wildstar as one crawls over his hand. It’s because of these innocent creatures that the Star Force dare not turn the Wave-Motion Gun against their Gamilon enemies–so thanks a lot, guys! The team begins to make its way down through the cooling shaft, with Sandor grimly noting, “If they fire the gun, we’ll go out faster than we came in!”
And, in fact, that’s more or less what happens to poor Lance and Kato, who disappear during the sequences where the Star Force exploratory unit is penetrating the Reflex Gun’s defenses. They’re there for a good portion of the episode, but by the time the team is picked up at the end, they’re gone. And that’s because both of them run into fatal consequences as a result of the mission, all of which was cut from STAR BLAZERS (though a tiny bit of one sequence made its way into the teaser that ran the day before.)
Conquering obstacle after obstacle, the Star Force team eventually makes its way to the Reflex Gun chamber itself, where Sandor can begin to plant explosives. Among my crowd, these distinctive little mines were known alternately as “Sandor Bombs” or “H-Bombs” due to the distinctive character on each of them. Once they’ve got the explosives set, the Star Force members rush to get out of dodge before the whole place goes up.
Back in the sea, the Star Force is out of time–they have no choice but to surface the ship and try a futile head-on assault against the Gamilon base. And as soon as they surface, Ganz’s bank-shot does the trick, and the Argo is further damaged (but not destroyed–stronger than the Wave-Motion Gun my ass.) Things are looking even more doomed than they have all episode–and then those little bomb-buggers tick off their final seconds, and the Reflex Gun explodes in a cacophony of violence and pyrotechnics.
A horrified Bane rushed up to Ganz, screaming “The Reflex Gun exploded!” like a crazy man. Despite their earlier reports of victory, Ganz is now forced to gather up whatever forces he has remaining to hims and evacuate the field of battle. They run for it–and back on Gamilon, as Krypt makes a follow-up report to Leader Desslok, their fate is sealed. He exiles them from Gamilon and orders them to fight to the end. But today, at least, is lost.
And so, the Protozoans of Pluto can return to their sedentary lives unmolested any further by Gamilons. And, more importantly, no further planet bombs will be striking Earth. But the damage has already been done–the Star Force is still on the clock. And the Argo is still badly in need of repairs. But that will be tomorrow’s worry.
For today, Venture and Nova get permission to rendezvous with the triumphant returning recon team, to celebrate their victory. Except for sad, forgotten Lance and Kato, who’ll be left in cold, unmarked graves upon the surface of Pluto, and never mentioned again.