“Even if we do get back to Earth with the Cosmo DNA, it might be too late. There wouldn’t be anybody left on Earth. And can the Argo make the return trip? It’s pretty beat up. Hey, Chief, if all the people on Earth are already dead, and if we’re the only people left alive, we can stay right here on this planet!” – Sparks
The end of the fifth week of STAR BLAZERS brought about a paradigm-shift in the series, one that I don’t think anybody watching it first-run quite realized until after it was over. Because this is the episode in which the Star Force completes the first half of its mission, finally landing on the planet Iscandar, albeit two months late, to acquire the Earth-healing Cosmo-DNA. It would have been impossible to know during the first-run that this particular saga was almost at an end–the expectation would have been that we’d take as many episodes getting back to Earth as we did getting to Iscandar. But such was not the case.
The truth of the matter is, this is a bit of a dull episode, an anti-climax after not only coming this long way but especially after the preceding couple of episodes. it does its job, but that’s about it. The episode opens with the Star Force finally touching down on Iscandar just outside the capital city. Starsha herself is something of a disappointment as well after so many episodes teasing her as a mysterious all-knowing space princess. Here, much like Wildstar and Venture in the pilot episode, she mistakes nova for her sister Astra, and has to be told of Astra’s death on Mars.
According to their schedule, the Star Force was meant to spend as much as a month on Iscandar, not only picking up the Cosmo-DNA but being instructed in its proper use. But in order to save time on their return voyage, Sandor elects to simply have all of the necessary parts taken aboard the Argo and to do the construction during the return flight. “It’ll be a great joke if we find out we left a few important screws behind here on Iscandar when we get back to Earth, Sandor.’ remarks Doctor Sane, cynically.
The crew does get a day or two of shore leave outside of the Argo, and IQ-9 leads a number of crewmen on a tour of the planet. Wildstar and Nova, meanwhile, attend Astra’s funeral along with Starsha. There, Nova asks a pretty obvious question: Starsha is the only person the Star Force has met since they arrived. Where is everybody else? There’s a bit of a deviation from the source material here. In STAR BLAZERS, Starsha reveals that she and Astra were the only survivors of a mysterious virus that wiped out life on Iscandar. In the original YAMATO, it’s more simply that both Iscandar and Gamilon are at the end of their natural lifespans, and were Gamilon chose to struggle against this destiny, the people of Iscandar calmly accepted their own demise. It’s a weird change, but probably one for the better, at least in terms of localizing the material.
Starsha does have one more revelation to lay on the Star Force, and it’s the biggest stretch in the series (and this is a series whose premise is that a World War Ii battleship is transformed into an intergalactic space ship!) There is one other person on Iscandar, the survivor of a crashed Gamilon prison ship. This is, of course, Alex Wildstar, Derek’s older brother, whose fate had been foreshadowed several times in the series. In point of fact, had YAMATO not been shortened down to 26 episodes from 39, Alex was meant to turn up again as they mysterious space pirate Captain Harlock. So the truncation of YAMATO meant that creator Leiji Matsumoto got to hang onto that character and use him elsewhere.
It’s a joyous celebration as Alex is reunited with both Captain Avatar and his old friend Sandor. Doctor Sane even breaks out the stores of “spring water” for the occasion. But Nova’s sussed out what the real problem here is; Starsha is in love with Alex Wildstar, and even though she knows she has to let him return to Earth, she doesn’t’ want him to go. it’s a very human conflict, rather than a military one.
Elsewhere, Sparks, the junior engineer under Orion, has been getting his own ideas. He’s been a recurring background character throughout the series, always somewhat skeptical about their chances of pulling off the mission. Having gotten a chance to get out of the engine room and smell the air on Iscandar, Sparks has decided that he likes it. He organizes a bunch of his buddies, and they leave the ship, determined to settle on Iscandar. Which wouldn’t be all that much of a problem, but they force Nova to come with them as, well, breeding stock pretty much. STAR BLAZERS dances around this, but there’s no way to avoid the question entirely.
Back at the palace, Windstar attempts to convince Starsha to return to Earth with them, and Alex, but she will not abandon her home planet. More urgently, she makes Wildstar aware of Sparks’ plan, and the fact that he’s chosen to settle in an area of Iscandar that’s being rocked by tectonic instability as a result of the detonations on Gamilon. Wildstar returns to the Argo and tries to reason with Sparks, but the young engineer won’t listen to him any more than he’s acquiesce to Orion.
Suddenly, the planet begins to experience massive quakes, and a huge tidal wave forms heading to the diamond island where Sparks and the others are. The amount of contrivance throughout this episode is pretty astonishing–everybody just happens to be where they need to be in order for the most unlikely thing to happen. In any event, Wildstar dispatches the Black Tigers not in their typical fighter planes but rather in small rescue helicopters.
But it’s too late for most of them, so this is really just a naked attempt to get some action and color into an otherwise-talky episode. Sparks and his fellows are all killed–typically, STAR BLAZERS cuts the footage where they fall into a crevice and are killed, but even without it, they’re certainly not rescued. The only one who makes it out alive is Nova, who is scooped up on a tether line from one of the helicopters.
The next day, the Argo has everything loaded up and they’re ready to set sail for home. Orion feels the need to apologize to Queen Starsha personally. for Sparks’ actions. “I’m afraid the long trip was harder on some than on others.” And despite Captain Avatar’s renewed offer, Starsha once again refuses to come with them back to Earth. As she moves to leave the ship, Nova makes one final attempt to change Starsha’s mind on something: “You were brave enough to reach out across space to help Earth, to try to give happiness to a whole planet. Starsha, you should do something to bring yourself happiness.“
As Starsha goes to say farewell to Alex, she confesses her feelings for him, then bolts from the ship. A conflicted Alex Wildstar takes a few steps forward out of reflex, turns, tells his brother to forgive him, then runs down the gangplank to join Starsha in remaining behind. “Say hello to Earth!” he shouts as the aircar pulls away. “Well, I guess that Alex and Starsha are going to be the Adam and Eve of a brand new Iscandar. I guess it’s our turn next, Nova.” remarks Wildstar, not quite understanding the gravity of what he’s just said.
“Earth, here we come!” shouts Wildstar, and the Argo lifts off from Iscandar to make the 148,000 light year journey home. Where the sow will go from here is really entirely up in the air as we go into the weekend–it can’t all be over quite this soon, can it? We’ll know the answer in 131 days in any case, as that’s all the time remaining for what life still survives on planet Earth.