“What are you thinking, Venture? You think I made a mistake in trusting the message from Iscandar? That after coming all this way I’ve gotten us into a trap? That I’m not capable of being Deputy Captain?” – Derek Wildstar
Finally, after four and a half weeks of episodes and adventures, the Star Force is within sight of their objective, the planet Iscandar and the restorative Cosmo DNA that awaits them there. But there are still perils ahead, as STAR BLAZERS improves on its YAMATO source material and makes one of its most shocking and important reveals.
Much as the previous episode did, this installment eschews the standard boiler plate introduction to dive directly into the adventure proper. It opens with the Star Force poised to enter the Magellanic Cloud where Iscandar is located, but the crew is mystified by an outside force which is affecting their compass. Homer is able to lock on to the signal, which turns out to be a radio message from Starsha, and the new heading will guide the ship straight to Iscandar.
There’s a lot of rejoicing on the bridge as Starsha gives the Star Force important information, such as they heading they must follow (1836M) and the fact that Iscandar is the eighth planet in its solar system, 0.8 light years from the Argo’s current position. It sure seems like the worst is over, and that all of the hardships are going to have been worth it once the ship touches down and the Star Force can retrieve the Cosmo DNA.
From here, we get a cute little scene where Wildstar and Nova have their picture taken on the observation deck. Wildstar gets a little bit too familiar, causing Nova to slap his arm away just as the photo is snapped. Befuddling Wildstar even further, Nova refers to this as their first date as she heads out.
But there are more dangerous developments waiting in the wings. Homer is called down to the communications suite, where he discovers that the signal from Iscandar has been cut off. What’s more, when the navigation group scanned ahead, they discovered not one planet, but two: Iscandar is part of a twin planet system. As the Star Force watches, one of the two planets disappears from their screens, its image jammed like the guide beam from Iscandar, and a volley of 60 missiles is detected headed straight at the Argo from the direction of Iscandar. (As Eager says, “It looks like somebody kicked over a beehive, they’re gonna hit us from everywhere!”)The Star Force moves to defend itself, destroying the enemy ordinance, but the after-effect is that the ship is enmeshed in a strange magnetic cloud.
Among other things, the magnetic cloud is fouling up all of the Star Force’s navigation equipment, causing them to come to a stop. This episode and the next are really Wildstar’s trial-by-fire as Deputy Captain, and right at this moment, he’s beginning to lose it. He gets in Venture’s face about the peril they’re in, making it all about himself, then orders Conroy to fly out and get a sample of the debris that are around the Argo, despite the fact that the pilot will need to do all of his flying without the aid of any instruments.
And this is where we get the big reveal of the episode, as Sandor confirms that the missiles are of Gamilon origin, and the crew works out that one of the twin planets before them must be Gamilon. This reveal wasn’t something that YAMATO kept a secret–as early as its fourth episode it was clear that Iscandar and Gamilon existed in the same space. STAR BLAZERS wisely attempted to keep this reveal a secret by cutting as many shots as possible that depicted Iscandar and Gamilon together before this point. Either way, the upshot is the same: all the time the Star Force has been heading towards Iscandar, they have also been heading deeper and deeper into the heart of enemy territory.
Cutting over to Gamilon, we get our best look yet at that mysterious planet, a world of caverns and stalactites. Leader Desslok is enjoying a nice soak when he receives an irate call from his neighbor, Queen Starsha of Iscandar. The interplay here is really quite lovely, and it gives us our first real glimpse of Starsha as anything other than a mysterious cosmic voice. She and Desslok share an understated familiarity that sells their long relationship.
They also lay out the stakes for both Gamilon and Iscandar: both planets are doomed, and while Starsha is correct that Desslok’s solution to their common problem is ultimately evil, he does have a point when he tells her, “What are you doing to save Iscandar? I am trying to find a new home, while you wait meekly for your doom. This galaxy does not belong to the weak. It is only the strong who will survive.” Starsha pricks Desslok’s ego by asking him why he hasn’t been able to stop the Star Force before now, leading him to utter one of his signature lines: “Yes, the Star Force has put up a good fight, but the only battle that counts is the last one.”
Fired up from his conversation with Starsha, Desslok addresses his generals and lays out his strategy. For years now, the planet Gamilon has been growing more and more acidic, to the point where their oceans are virtually pure sulfuric acid. It’s this steady poisoning of the planet that’s the reason that Desslok intends to relocate his civilization to Earth–but now, he’s going to use it as a weapon against the Star Force. He intends to draw the Argo to Gamilon by tractoring the magnetic cloud it’s in the center of, and then creating an acidic storm around the ship that will melt it to nothingness, all while the Gamilon military bombards it from the coast.
Out in space, things are looking up on the motionless Argo as well, as the Star Force receives another communication from Starsha. She apologizes for not telling them that Gamilon was Iscandar’s twin planet earlier–she was afraid that they wouldn’t come. This good news uncharacteristically inspires Wildstar to make his own apology to Venture for his outburst earlier.
Suddenly, the ship is rocked with tremors as the Gamilons activate their magnetic grapple beams and begin to pull the Star Force to Gamilon. Try though they might, the Star Force can’t generate enough power to break free, and the Argo goes soaring through one of the gaps in the outer crust of the planet, splashing down in the sea on Gamilon.
Wildstar asks IQ-9 to do an analysis of the environment, but the robot has flown apart during the crash landing, and it’ll be a few minutes before Sandor and Nova can put him back together. Eager announces that heavy clouds are gathering and a storm is imminent, but that doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about–not until IQ-9 is reassembled and he’s able to inform the Star Force that all of this liquid is highly acidic and eating into the ship’s hull.
The Argo makes an emergency takeoff, but the ship’s third bridge doesn’t come with it, falling off into the Gamilon sea. (And they only just finished replacing that thing after the Rainbow galaxy battle!) To make matters worse, the ship is being peppered with explosive charges in an attempt to drive it back down into the sea, where it will be destroyed. The situation is tense.
And as the episode wraps up on this cliffhanger, a slow zoom in on Wildstar’s stressed-out face is accompanied by almost-mocking words from the narrator: “Wildstar, you must act now! To wait is fatal! The fate of the Star Force is in your hands! And you must get to Iscandar and return to Earth in 164 days, or all life on Earth will be extinct!” Sadly, STAR BLAZERS cuts the very end of this shot, where Wildstar’s eyes begin to pulse with tension in a very effective and creepy way.