“Well, Wildstar, when you get in trouble you sure take a lot of people with you!” – Conroy
This time, it’s another in the growing number of “Wildstar is an asshole” episodes that pepper the middle of the first series of STAR BLAZERS. But this is also a great episode in terms of exploring the underlying doubts and fears that the assorted Star Force crewmen have concerning their mission and its unlikely chance of success–especially now, as all forward movement by the Argo has been halted for weeks, making the Star Force go a bit stir crazy. The tension is palpable in this episode.
The cause of all of this distress is the Octopus Star Storm, a galactic maelstrom that stretches out for light years and blocks the Argo’s path. As the episode opens, the ship hasn’t made any forward progress in three weeks. Everybody is feeling the pressure, in particular Wildstar and Venture, whose rivalry explodes into open warfare in this episode.
We find the two of them playing “space chess” in the rec room, and clearly tempers are frayed. Wildstar is being a bit of a prat, and Venture is responding like a smug ass–the fact that he’s beating Wildstar in their game for what seems like the latest in a long string of bouts turns what was meant to be a friendly passtime into a full-on fist fight. Wildstar knocks over the board, causing Venture to go after him, and the two start whaling on each other to the delight of the other crewmembers (and no doubt the consternation of the censors–bits of all of Wildstar and Venture’s many dust-ups in this episode are trimmed to get rid of the most violent moments. But they’re still crazy violent in a “child-duplicable” way.)
The fight is broken up by a call for all senior staff members to assemble. “You’re lucky”, says Wildstar. “We’re not finished” replies Venture. The pair then move to the central briefing room, where Captain Avatar wants to review their situation. Venture, as chief navigator, lays out the scenario. The Octopus storm is blocking their path, and they can’t see beyond or through it. It would take them 40 days to circumnavigate the storm–and they’ve already spent 21 days waiting for it to subside. Venture is convinced that there’s a channel in the midst of the storm, like the eye of a hurricane, through which the Argo can pass–but all attempts to locate such a channel have so far failed.
Wildstar can’t help but needle his rival at this point, frustrated at not being able to take any action. “We’re sitting here in space while you can’t make up your mind! And what you called a channel–how do you know it really exists, or is it just in your head?” Venture tries to back up his position, but all he’s really got to go on his his instinct, leading Wildstar to pile on: “You’re sure? You’re not playing space chess now where you push things on a board, this is the Star Force! One bad move and we’ve had it!” But Venture is able to shut Wildstar up when he rejoinders: “Okay, hotshot, maybe you’ve got some bright ideas!” Because, ultimately, Wildstar doesn’t.
What he does have is a hot head and a reckless attitude. This drives Wildstar to the hanger, where he fires up his fighter despite Conroy’s attempts to stop him. Wildstar intends to locate the passageway that’ll allow the Argo to move forward. But Wildstar’s actions aren’t entirely heroic here: “If I find it, you can name it after me! Call it the Wildstar channel!” He’s looking to be the hero, the one that gets everybody out of this jam and is praised for it.
But the storm is far too powerful, and effortlessly smashes Wildstar’s fighter against the Argo, mangling it. Conroy is able to pull him from the wreckage (the reverse of Episode 4, come to think of it) but they’re both going to face the consequences of Wildstar’s actions. Captain Avatar is pissed, and as punishment orders Wildstar to scrub down the hangar deck. Stupidly, Conroy laughs at this, which causes the Captain to give him the same duty. “It’s your duty to prevent unauthorized flights! You let him take off!” snaps Avatar before leaving the bridge. Morale is crumbling more and more the longer things stay this way.
One of the key differences between this STAR BLAZERS episode and the YAMATO episode it is based on is that in YAMATO, they kept to a precise daily calendar. This episode takes place in the month of December, 2199, and New Years is right around the corner. With this in mind, Nova approaches Captain Avatar about having a party to celebrate the changing of the year, and in order to boost morale. But Avatar refuses, because he’s got another problem on his mind. The food supply aboard the Argo is limited, and with this delay, they’re burning through it more rapidly than is safe. “It’s better to have the crew snapping at each other instead of worrying where their next meal is coming from.” he tells Nova.
Again, this is an episode that turns on characterization rather than combat, and this is expressed in a wonderful midnight scene between Venture and Nova. She finds him sullen in the observation lounge, unable to sleep, his mind racing with the thought that what Wildstar said was right, that he’s keeping them all there in search of a channel that simply doesn’t exist–and so if the mission fails, it will be his fault. And Nova gently turns his thinking around by reflecting his own arguments back at him. “But if you weren’t sure, why are we waiting here? We could’ve be halfway around the black cloud.”
After the commercial break, STAR BLAZERS edits what I think is the most harrowing sequence in the entire run of YAMATO. Wildstar has a nightmare, dreaming of his parents’ death–and we see them run in terror for their lives as a Planet Bomb bears down on them and ultimately annihilates the both of them. Wildstar wakes up screaming, drenched in his own sweat, to discover that the emergency alert is sounding.
As he gets to the bridge, Wildstar discovers that, as Venture predicted, the storm has settled down, and they watch as a distant Gamilon vessel that has clearly been monitoring their progress zips away into a strait in the storm. Captain Avatar orders Wildstar to take a plane and investigate this potential channel, a mission he is only too happy to fly. “From now on it will be called the Wildstar Channel” he thinks to himself, the egotistical jerk, as he flies back to the Argo with the job only half done. When Venture asks him about the length of the channel and other pertinent questions, Wildstar is stymied–he didn’t bother to follow it all the way through. Nevertheless, Captain Avatar feels that they must seize this chance.
As the crew scrambles, Wildstar’s humiliation is too great, and he calls Venture out. The two head up to the Argo’s outer deck, where theri conversation swiftly comes to blows. “Because I didn’t check it out, the Star Force might meet with a disaster in the channel, is that what you’re thinking, Venture?”Ironically, Wildstar accuses Venture of trying to be a “big hero” and the Navigator responds that he’s got the best reason in the world to get them through this crisis: he’s going to kick Wildstar’s ass just as soon as they’re done.
Wildstar’s had it at this point, and he and Venture start brawling right out there on the deck. Again, STAR BLAZERS snips most of this fight, but it’s pretty ugly. It’s only when Nova shows up and calls them both on their bullshit that the two men finally stop brawling and head to their stations. They both look like a stretch of bad road as Venture fires up the engine and the Argo moves out.
As the ship enters the channel and begins to navigate between the Octopus stars, the storm stats again, buffeting the Argo wildly. Venture strains to steady the control yoke and keep the ship on course, but he’s being knocked around just as the ship is. And then, a hand reaches into frame, and it’s Wildstar. Together, the two work in unison, straining to keep the Argo on its safe course through the channel.
By the time the ship reaches the other side, all of the tension has been broken, and Wildstar and Venture are so relieved that they’re laughing and slapping one another on the back. “Just look at them!” says, Nova. “I’ll bet they can’t remember what they were fighting about.” Not that STAR BLAZERS acknowledges it, but a new year has dawned: it’s now 2200, and the mission to save humanity can continue. But valuable time has been lost. Now, only 280 days remain until the extinction of all mankind!