“That’s right! Smash the Star Force! Strike now, while we’ve got them at our mercy!” – General Lysis
There’s really no getting around the fact that this episode of STAR BLAZERS is a bit of a mess. While it’s got some nice moments in it, the plotting stretches credibility past the breaking point, and the resolution of the central crisis relies on a full-on deus ex machina solution. It’s not a wonderful way to wrap up the show’s third week of broadcasting, but it is what it is–they can’t all be winners.
As the episode opens, the narrator tells us that the next step in the Star Force’s journey to Iscandar is the planet Balan, which represents the halfway point in the voyage. YAMATO actually laid out the entire schedule in a sequence cut from the previous episode, but Venture relays much of it to Nova here when she brings the navigation crew some coffee on the second bridge. The plan called for the Star Force to spend 10 days leaving Earth’s solar system, then another 10 days going beyond the edge of the galactic system. In 45 more days, the Argo is meant to reach planet Balan, and from there, it should take another 45 days to reach Iscandar. (YAMATO specifies that 30 days have been budgeted for the ship to stay on Iscandar, getting the Cosmo DNA–which seems a bit excessive, but what do I know?)
The key point for the moment, however, is that being trapped behind the Octopus star-storm has put the Star Force 23 days behind schedule. That’s time that they need to make up, so the pressure is on for Venture and his team. Nova wonders if there’s any way for them to let Starsha of Iscandar know about the delay, and a dreamy Venture tells her that he assumes that she already knows, as she seems to know everything.
But there are more pressing matters awaiting the Star Force, as our view changes to the aforementioned Planet Balan, and the major Gamilon base that is situated there. The entire complex is on high alert and assembling to met an important dignitary. The base commander Volgar is there to welcome the arriving General Lysis, whom we met two episodes previously–and who tells Volgar that he has been assigned command of this base and is taking over the mission to destroy the Star Force, much to Volgar’s displeasure. (In a minor gaffe, Volgar’s nametag subtitle was missed by the STAR BLAZERS dubbing team, and remains in its original Japanese.)
It’s pretty clear that this Gamilon odd couple isn’t’ going to be working harmoniously as Lysis commanders Volgar’s office, destroying the previous commander’s personal effects. “”You have terrible taste in everything!” he bellows as he rampages through the office-space, and Volgar tries to hold his tongue and his temper. Lysis is a firecracker, and he doesn’t intend to wait for the Star Force to reach them to begin his hunt. No, he’s going to be going on the attack.
Back at the Argo, the Black Tigers are performing maintenance on their fighter planes, and we get a nice little scene that emphasizes the loneliness of space and of the Star Force’s mission. “How long have we been out here in space? Weeks? Months? Years?” wonders a fighter pilot with Eager’s voice. “And with every day just like the other. I lose track of time, too.” replies Conroy. “I miss the stars,” comments a pensive Wildstar, “There are more in our galaxy.” These little moments of humanity are what separated this series from everything else being broadcast during the afternoon kidvid time.
But before events can grow too laconic, the ship is rocked with shudders, and Wildstar makes his way to the bridge to find out what’s going on. The Wave-Motion Engine has stopped, and despite the best efforts of Orion and Sparks down in the engine room, even the power fro the auxiliary engines just won’t increase. Eager performs a scan and tells the others that they’re on the edge of a Galactic Whirlpool.
Venture explains that a Galactic Whirlpool is formed by a dying star, which first explodes out, then spins and contracts as it collapses into a black hole. Anything that gets caught in the whirlpool’s grip is held fast and eventually drawn to its center. Captain Avatar points out the abandoned husk of several other vessels in their path. “It’s like a sea of lost ships”. comments Dash.
What’s more, the one active sip that appears in front of them is an enemy ship, a Gamilon. And further out, just beyond the range of the whirlpool, Lysis and Volgar and their fleet has tracked down the Star Force–and Lysis doesn’t intend to be robbed of his glorious victory over the enemy by a stupid intergalactic phenomenon. Wildstar, of course, wants to go on the attack, despite the fact that Dash tells him that there isn’t enough power to deploy the Wave-Motion Gun. “We’ll use what we’ve got, we’ll fire by hand if we have to!” retorts an angry Wildstar. But Venture insists that they can’t fight–that their energy has to be spent on escaping the Whirlpool.
This being Wildstar-is-an-asshole week, he tells Venture to stick to what he knows, then turns to Captain Avatar. “Not today, Wildstar!” Avatar tells the rebuffed combat chief. The Captain agrees with Venture. And so, the Argo moves out, powered only by its auxiliary engines, and taking fire from a single Gamilon space destroyer without firing a single shot.
Beyond the Whirlpool, Lysis studies his enemy’s strategy, and is quietly impressed. But he moves his fleet into position at the rear, where they are eventually detected by Eager. “There must be more than three-thousand ships!” declares Dash in an unmatched bit of hyperbole. (YAMATO gives the number as 130.) Fortunately for the Star Force, the Gamilon attackers all got their marksmanship certification from Stormtrooper University–they hurl a literal rain of volleys in the direction of the Argo, and the worst damage the ship takes is a few glancing blows.
But the bad aim of the Gamilons doesn’t really matter, as the Star Force is rapidly getting enmeshed deeper and deeper within the Galactic Whirlpool and its energy supply is starting to get maxed out. With no choice, Avatar gives Wildstar permission to fire one barrage back at the enemy, to give them something to think about. But Wildstar’s no better a marksman under these circumstances than the Gamilons are. (YAMATO makes the situation more overt, that the spacial distortions around the Galactic Whirlpool make aiming properly impossible.)
Finally, the ship has reached its limit, the engines power down–there’s nothing more that the Star Force can do. Even Captain Avatar, who is typically so inspiring and defiant, slumps back in his captain’s chair, with the mission a failure and their extinction–and that of Earth–a certainty.
And that’s when the Deus Ex Machina comes into play. Suddenly, the astro-compass mounted in the center of the bridge lights up, indicating a particular course, and the Star Force all receive a telepathic broadcast from Starsha of Iscandar. As Venture foreshadowed at the top of the episode, she’s been monitoring the Star Force’s struggles, and now she has decided to aid them directly. By following the course that she’s laid out, the Argo will be able to escape the Galactic Whirlpool.
General Lysis is apoplectic as the Argo takes the one heading that will lead them out of the intergalactic snare. As the Star Force takes this course, the Wave-Motion Engine returns to life again, and Wildstar is able to return fire on the enemy fleet, keeping them at bay long enough for Venture to compute a space warp that will allow the Argo to get away.
In the aftermath of the battle, Wildstar is uncharacteristically humbled as he and Venture sit in the conning tower’s observation deck contemplating Sharsha. “We all owe you a lot, Venture, “ he says, “What would have happened to us if we had decided to fight the Gamilons the way I wanted to.” The conversation turns to the resemblance between Starsha and Nova as the latter arrives on the deck–something that hadn’t been commented on since Episode 1 weeks earlier (and a thread that wouldn’t really have any more of a payoff than that the same cartoonist created both designs.)
Meanwhile, back on Balan, General Lysis sits in what is now his office and types up his report of the day’s events. “January 7th. Fought the Star Force. A worthy foe.” This reference actually conforms to the timeline set out by YAMATO and confirms that events are now taking place in the year 2200 for viewers who are really paying attention. And now, only 273 days are left as we head into the weekend.