“We have not sought out the Gamilons, they have found us, first in our homes on Earth and now here. We must face them and defeat them before we get to Iscandar.” – Captain Avatar
We had no way of knowing it ahead of time, but the velocity of storytelling on STAR BLAZERS was about to increase exponentially as we entered the fifth week of broadcast. The original Japanese series of YAMATO had been planned to run for 39 episodes, but the show got horrible ratings, attracting only an anemic 6% share of television audiences. Consequently, the broadcast station cut their commitment to YAMATO back to 26 episodes, which meant that the production team suddenly only had six episodes remaining in which to wrap up all of the assorted elements of their story.
Following last episode’s destruction of the Gamilon base on Planet Balan, General Lysis has returned to Gamilon to face a Court Martial as a consequence of his actions. At the trial, the defiant Lysis is confident, even brash: “My operations never fail! If there had been no call from Desslok, it would have succeeded!”But the assembled Gamilon High Command isn’t hearing it. “Stop blaming everyone but yourself! With your arrogant stupidity, you have cost us an important base! Our control of (the) galaxy will be greatly limited!” accuses General Talan, soon to be an important figure in the saga. In what may be a first for a cartoon aired in America, the assembled Generals vote for the Death Penalty.
In his private quarters, where he’s attended by a bevy of willowy Gamilon beauties, Leader Desslok is brought the results of the trial by General Krypt (who at last is evidencing a healthy blue pallor.) Krypt tells Desslok that the verdict was unanimous, but the great Gamilon leader isn’t having it. “I know that Lysis is often rash, even dangerous, but he is the only one of my generals I can depend on to defeat the Star Force. Of course he’s made mistakes, but at least he does something, not like those who sit in judgment on him.” Desslok chooses to pardon Lysis and send him back into battle with the Star Force for a decisive showdown.
In the original plan for YAMATO, the journey from Balan into the Greater Magellanic Cloud would have taken place over several episodes and adventures, but now the production team didn’t have nearly that much track. So instead, the back half of the Star Force’s journey into Iscandar space would be completed in only two episodes, and with a single massive conflict involved. Informed of his pardon, Lysis is given new orders to prevent the Star Force’s entry into the Magellanic Cloud by any means necessary.
Despite having testified against Lysis at his trial, Volgar remains as his second in command. It’s never stated outright here, but the between-the-lines sense is that this mission is a last chance effort for the both of them. If they fail this time, there’s not going to be any coming back. Lysis and Volgar scout locations for their coming conflict, eventually settling on the Rainbow Galaxy, an area of space where the Star Force’s radar equipment will be unable to function properly. Lysis has also got some specialized new weapons to bring to the party: an energy beam system capable of warping small fighter planes across the battlefield, which he nicknames S.M.I.T.E. (Space Matter Instant Transforming Equipment) and a colossal Drill Missile, which he intends to fire directly into the Argo’s Wave-Motion Gun, destroying it.
His plans laid out, Lysis takes the direct approach in attracting the Star Force’s attention: he sends a message of challenge directly to them, exciting the crew: “To Captain Avatar of the Star Force: The battle lines between the forces of Gamilon and Earth have never been precisely drawn. I propose we meet at the edge of the Magellanic Cloud, at RXPT730 in seven Earth days. The outcome will determine your future. If, as I expect, we defeat you, your mission to Iscandar will be finished. You can, if you wish, withdraw now and return to Earth. This is Lysis, commander of all Gamilon forces!”
Wildstar is, of course, overjoyed at the thought of a direct confrontation with the Gamilons, and he points out that if they don’t defeat them, they’re going to have to fight them all the way back to Earth on the return trip as well. The rest of the crew isn’t so sure. Sandor points out that the Star Force is outnumbered a hundred to one, and Venture says that their schedule is already extremely tight–even if they win, the delay might be enough to prevent them from getting back to Earth in time. It’s Orion who points out that Captain Avatar is present, and all eyes turn to the old man to deliver his decision on the matter.
And Captain Avatar chooses to answer the challenge. it must be said, this is an extraordinarily stupid and foolish thing for him to do, given that all life on Earth depends on the success of this single ship. But especially in Japanese culture, it would be cowardly and dishonorable to refuse such a challenge, so like it or not, the Star Force is heading into a decisive battle in the Rainbow Galaxy for all the marbles.
As the days count down, Lysis pulls together a fleet for the mission. Rather than the hundreds of starships he’s fielded in the past, he instead selects a small task force made up of three Space Carriers and one Carrier-Battleship, augmented by his own small command vessel. We see extensive sequences of the different types of assault fighters and bombers grouping up on their respective carriers and then making their way back to the homeworld.
Lysis assembles his commanders for a briefing on strategy. They represent the front line Generals of four of the most heavily contested outliers of the Gamilon Empire. As the troops assemble, Leader Desslok addresses them, giving them a quick speech to stoke their battle readiness. And then, the assembled task Force moves out, to hunt their foe.
As they near the area of the coming conflict, Captain Avatar assembles the entirety of the Star Force in the Argo’s assembly hall. As he mounts the dais, one random crewman muses, “He doesn’t look very strong, does he?” calling back to Avatar’s recent illness. The Captain Proposes that the crew drink a toast to their coming victory in water from a once-beautiful spring on Earth. Amazingly, this is the one instance where this actually was water in the original YAMATO version, part of a ritual performed by soldiers going out to face death.
As the episode wraps up, the Star Force enters the Rainbow Galaxy, and its radar systems cease to function. Captain Avatar orders the crew to battle stations, and everybody braces for the attack to come. And on the Gamilon side, the assembled forces of the enemy similarly brace, waiting for the impending order to launch their attack and obliterate their foe. It’s on this moment of greatest tension that the episode comes to its conclusion, letting us know that, whatever the outcome of this great battle, mankind has only 215 days left to live.