“I can’t believe it. Just a year. Just one year ago people were living in underground cities with no sunlight, like moles. That year we spent on the Argo, it was hard–but it was wonderful, too. We were doing something really important! All of those funny, adventurous star blazers…” — Nova
After a bit of a weak sauce start yesterday, this new storyline really begins to build with a number of really good episodes stacked up in a row. And while this entry isn’t big on action, it’s chock-full of characterization and emotion, the two hallmarks that separated STAR BLAZERS from the other programs being broadcast on weekday afternoons.
As the episode opens, the Argo is landing back on Earth after a year of duty in space, and Nova is waiting for Wildstar at the gate. The pair share a joyous reunion, marred only by the fact that Wildstar is only on leave for a week. He’s also got a wound on his hand from the attack last episode, and despite his protestations, Nova insists on taking him to Doctor Sane for another look. “Just a scratch.“, says the Doctor. “After a year in space, well, you must have something more interesting to do.” You’ve got a nasty mind, Doc! Sane also reminds them that the Star Force will be gathering that evening at the memorial statue to Captain Avatar.
But before that happens, Wildstar and Nova tour the city, astonished at just how much progress has been made in rebuilding the Earth since the Star Force returned from Iscandar. “Everything seems to be going very well.” muses Wildstar with just a tinge of concern in his voice. As the pair has coffee, Nova reminisces about their time together on the Argo, leading Wildstar to ask her if she’s happy. “Of course.” replies Nova with just a little bit too much forced enthusiasm.
That evening, out at the Captain’s memorial statue (this area is known as Hero’s Hill in YAMATO 2, but is never especially named in STAR BLAZERS) Doctor Sane sits by himself getting drunk (“You were right about the cool, fresh spring water you talked about!’) until the rest of the Star Force breaks his reverie by showing up on schedule to pay their respects to the man who led them to Iscandar and back. It’s an iconic scene, lifted in its entirety from SARABA YAMATO, so the animation is film quality as well. Nova and Wildstar turn up last, and Wildstar has a quick reunion with his old rival Venture (“What’s the cowboy of outer space doing down here on Earth?“) before the Doctor calls them all to attention.
“Captain, Star Force all present and accounted for. We are here to honor you and your leadership of the Star Force! We acknowledge our debt to you, and we speak for all of Earth in thanking Captain Avatar of the Star Force!” As the sun sets and the party stretches into the night, the revelry is momentarily disrupted by the Andromeda flying overhead, coming home from her test voyage. Wildstar takes the opportunity to ask Doctor Sane about how things are going on Earth, and when pressed, he reveals that his convoy was attacked on its way back home by an unknown enemy with planes faster and more maneuverable than anything he had encountered before. “This is very strange,” muses the Doctor, turning towards the status. “Captain, did you bring us together today for this purpose? Will we again have to fight to keep peace on Earth?“
Now that the ship has returned, Wildstar goes to the space dock to have a confrontation with the Captain of the Andromeda about their near-collision the day before. He’s surprised to find that it is Captain Gideon, under whom he studied in the space academy. Gideon is a hard-as-nails, by-the-book commander, and he rebukes Wildstar, telling the younger Captain that the flagship of the Earth Fleet goes first as a matter of rank. Wildstar blows his top: “I know rank is important, Captain Gideon. It didn’t occur to me that the Captain of the flagship of the Earth Defense Fleet would base his space navigation on the rules of rank instead of plain common sense!“
Sandor is also aboard the Andromeda, overseeing the results of the test flight. He gives Wildstar a tour of the ship, showing him how it is almost entirely automated–a necessity since so much of the human race was killed during the war with Gamilon. When Wildstar asks Sandor what this does to the crew, he responds snidely, “They become robots, they sit and stare at the dials. I don’t know what they’ll do when they have an emergency. I’m an engineer and I believe in technical improvements. But men still need to make the decisions. Machines can’t think!” (Way to disregard IQ-9 there, Sandor!) “The top officers at Defense Headquarters like these gadgets. They’re easier to manage than people. They think the Star Force’s achievement was due to our machinery. They think the people of the Star Force just went along for the ride. A space ship is more than machinery like this. It’s people, working together.”
Sandor takes Wildstar back to his lab, where they’ve begun to decipher the message tapes that he brought back with him. It’s a woman’s voice, warning of great danger and asking for help, but the message is broken and garbled. Sandor also shows Wildstar the huge comet that he’s detected far out in space which is on a direct course for Earth’s solar system. He tells Wildstar that the comet is emitting some manner of power ray that may have been what caused the power surge that affected the Argo and the Earth. This is a change from YAMATO 2, where that initial surge was caused solely by Trelaina’s broadcast. Either way, Sandor believes these events are connected, and that the comet isn’t a genuine celestial phenomenon, but rather something made to look like a comet.
With this news, efforts increase on updating and remodeling the Argo. The ship is fitted with new longer-range guns, and its landing hatch is remodeled to accommodate the new mid-size Torpedo Boat it’s taking on board. They’ve also installed a Time Radar, which can be used to gather fleet movement data from the recent past. (In YAMATO 2, when the device is tested, it shows a scene from a few minutes earlier of Orion relieving himself in a corner of the ship.) But Sandor has some bad news for Wildstar as well: he’s been ordered to adapt all of the Argo’s systems to the same computerized control system as the Andromeda. Wildstar is outraged, but Sandor tells him that if he doesn’t follow orders, he’ll be replaced by somebody who will.
Wildstar storms into the Commander’s office to plead his case for not automating the Argo. “The Argo is a special ship! It proved itself on the long trip to Iscandar and back! And it’s the home of the Star Force! It was Captain Avatar’s last command, that has to mean something–or is your memory so short, Commander?” But General Stone, the number two man, makes a very solid point about all of the ships in the fleet needing to be of uniform design so that they can exchange crews and parts effectively. Before Wildstar’s bravado makes him say something that he can’t take back, there’s a sudden power blackout!
The entire city is thrown into turmoil as equipment stops functioning. Reports indicate that the Solar Energy Station on Venus has stopped transmitting, as have the back-up units on the Moon and Mars. The entire energy grid is nonfunctional, and Sandor needs to order his men away from the heavy equipment being used to upgrade the Argo as it too begins to fail. Journeying out into the chaos and turmoil, Wildstar catches a glimpse in the sky of a plane identical to the one with which he dueled in the previous episode. Now he knows there’s something bad going on.
Meanwhile, in the Comet Empire, General Naska reports in to Prince Zordar that their efforts to soften up the Earth for conquest by disrupting the planet’s energy delivery system have borne great success. But Desslok warns his hosts not to underestimate the Star Force. “Leader Desslok, you amaze me!” taunts Princess Invidia, “Afraid of a band of adventurers flying about in an old space ship!” But Desslok cautions that he knows the Star Force too well.
Desslok tells Zordar that he is sure that once they decipher Trelaina’s message, the Star Force will head for Telezart. Zordar gives Desslok command of General Torbac’s tank squadron and sends him on his way to intercept the Star Force at Telezart. As the remnants of the Gamilon fleet emerge from the White Comet, Desslok doubles down on his confidence: “Star Force…this time I’ll win!“