“Gamilon has the greatest scientists in our galaxy, but you all made one great mistake. Sometimes simple solutions are the best. And I guess the barbarians know that. They did it with their bare hands.” – Leader Desslok
The third week of STAR BLAZERS broadcasts began with an episode that was really kind of a stinker. Now that the Star Force has left our solar system and entered intergalactic space, we begin a cycle of adventures in which Derek Wildstar behaves like–there’s no easier way to phrase this–a flaming asshole. Whether this is due to his experiences with the crew last Friday or maybe just the pressures of the mission getting to the poor kid, the fact remains that he comes across in a number of these episodes as petty, juvenile, vindictive, spoiled, whiny and just not very heroic. I get the whole notion of the hero’s journey, but it’s really remarkable just how bad the show makes him look for the next week or so.
But before we get to that, let’s look in on our favorite enemy nation, Gamilon. With Colonel Ganz and Bane having been reduced to free-floating atoms, the Star Force needs a new nemesis–and for the next couple of episodes, it’s going to be the big guy, Leader Desslok, himself. This is a valuable decision, as we begin to get a sense of the man, and his particular style and quasi-nobility begins to present itself. As these qualities develop, Desslok will become one of the more fascinating villains in animation, and the template for many who would follow him.
It’s also at this point that the YAMATO production team made some retroactive decisions about the Gamilons, chief among them being the fact that they will henceforth be depicted with blue skin. In order to hand-wave away the fact that for ten episodes now the enemy has looked as Caucasian as the heroes, this episode opens with a sequence in which Desslok walks through a cheering crowd to his throne, moving from the “bad lighting” he’d been in that made him appear to be pale-skinned into proper Gamilon lighting, showing off his proud azure pallor. One must assume that the light on Titan and in both the Pluto Base and on Ganz’ command ship had the same properties as that of Desslok’s citadel up to this point.
General Krypt has also metastasized into the proper Gamilon hue, and he gives Desslok a rundown of the Star Force’s activities up to this point before turning the microphone over to a new character, General Talan. Considering what an important player Talan will be in the second series, he gets relatively little screen time in the first. Here, he informs Desslok that they plan to prevent the Star Force’s advance by creating an impassible barrier comprised of the new subtly-named Desslok Space Mines.
Now, the idea that you could block off a ship’s trajectory in deep space with a minefield is a ridiculous idea, absolutely absurd. But still, Desslok is flattered by the attention, and the plan is put into effect. But when one of his subordinates interrupts Desslok’s toast to the occasion with a burst of maniacal mustache-twirling laughter, Desslok throws a switch and the soldier is trap-doored out of the room to an uncertain fate. “I can’t stand a man who laughs at his own jokes”, comments Desslok.
Approaching the minefield, Nova detects it on her radar, and the Star Force sends out an enormous “balloon dummy” Argo to probe the minefield. When it gets blown to smithereens, Venture moves to avoid the minefield altogether. But it’s too late for that, the mines are now attracted to the ship, and close in around it from all sides.
Cue Wildstar beginning to act like a know-it-all asshole. He gives Venture grief about his handling of the ship, suggests that they try to warp out of the minefield (”Think you’re a cowboy, Wildstar?” replies Sandor), then he gets in Venture’s face again about what the pilot’s bright solution might be, and Sandor has to restore order as the two bicker. Nova computes the current distance between the mines, and Venture is sure that he can navigate the ship through the field safely.
As Venture attempts the delicate maneuver, with everybody’s lives and the fate of Earth on the line, Wildstar decides that this would be a good time to give his buddy the business. “Hey, hotdog, do you really think you can make it?” says Wildstar, and it’s astonishing that the Captain doesn’t tell him to sit back down and shut the hell up. “You get us through those mines, and you’ll be a heeeero!” What an ass.
Seconds later, as the mines begin to move in faster, closing up all of the available gaps, it’s Wildstar whose nerve cracks first. “It’s too dangerous, stop the ship! If you stop, I promise I’ll never call you a space-jockey again!” Now trapped at the center of the minefield with the mines closing in on the Star Force, all eyes turn to Sandor for a solution. He in turn requests the help of IQ-9.
IQ-9 is having his own problems. When he shows up in the launch bay, he’s suffering from a case of the hiccups. “My new human characteristic” he explains to Sandor. It’s a weird beat, but no weirder than the explanation for it. Because in the original YAMATO episode, IQ-9 isn’t experimenting with a change to his programming, he’s drunk. That old reprobate Dr. Sane poured sake onto him, and this in some fashion has caused him to become inebriated. Making IQ’s hiccup’s self-inflicted was the best solution the dubbing team could come up with.
So Sandor and the somewhat-incapacitated robot set out in a search plane looking to track down toe control center for the minefield. As the web draws in tighter around the Star Force and Wildstar and venture continue to behave badly, Captain Avatar has finally had enough. He just about chews off poor Venture’s head when informed tat a mine is about to touch the ship, and orders him to tilt the Argo on its axis to avoid this. Strangely, he does nothing to reprimand the far-more-out-of-line Wildstar.
From here, the rest of the mission is relatively perfunctory, cutting between Sandor coaxing the malfunctioning IQ-9 through locating and disarming the control mine while the Star Force continues to tilt the Argo five degrees at a time so as to not set off the minefield. Eventually, the inebriated/hiccupping robot manages to get the job done, and the mines stop moving. But Captain Avatar warns that they’er still dangerous. And maybe now is where he gives Wildstar his comeuppance, as Derek and the Black Tiger fighter pilots must venture outside the sip and clear away the still-explosive minefield by hand.
They do just that, as the Gamilons watch in astonishment. His trap a failure, Desslok needles his senior staff and makes them squirm: “Krypt. What was the name of your wonderful new weapon? It seems to have slipped my mind.” But Desslok isn’t really all that angry, he thinks it’s a good thing for his Generals to be humiliated from time to time–keeps them from getting big heads, you know. And despite having referred to Captain Avatar by name earlier in the episode, Desslok asks Krypt who the Captain of the Star Force is as he leaves the room.
This leads to the wrap-up, and probably the best beat in the episode. Eager picks up a message being broadcast to the ship–and why this is Eager and not Homer, who’s the communications officer, I couldn’t tell you. This may be why he doesn’t know enough to trace the vector of origin of the transmission and locate its source, the Gamilon base, which Captain Avatar chastises him for overlooking. It’s a message from Desslok to his foes, the first time that any Earthman has heard the name of the Gamilon leader.
“I salute the Star Force and its brave crew. We shall meet again. Signed, Desslok of Gamilon.” (That should probably have been Argo and its brave crew, but in the zeal to change all of the references to Yamato to Star Force in STAR BLAZERS, sometimes the translators got carried away.) Wildstar enthuses about the possibility of getting his hands on the enemy leader, a sentiment that will come back to bite him in the future, before Captain Avatar orders the Argo to get under way again. Conditions back on Earth are growing more dire, and now only 311 days remain for all life on Earth.