“The Star Force is kind of special. They’re people willing to give up a lot. The world would not be as it is today if it were not for the Star Force. People don’t always get a chance to do something that matters in this world, so when the time comes for someone to step forward...” – Doctor Sane
Now at the end of the fifth week of broadcast of STAR BLAZERS, and the story is worlds removed from where things were just a week prior. The series has become more sophisticated and more mature, and the animation and design has taken a quantum leap forward–evidence of the improvements in budget and methodology made between the two Japanese YAMATO series that formed the raw material for STAR BLAZERS. Also, the preamble to this new storyline is effectively over as of this episode–so it’s time to get back into outer space.
The episode opens at Earth Defense Headquarters, as general Stone has become aware that the former Star Force crewmembers have been leaving their current posts and assembling at the Argo. Clearly, the Star Force is planning some action, and Stone doesn’t need to be a mind reader to figure out what it is. He reports his findings to the Commander, who tells Stone to contact the Star Force and order them to leave the ship and return to their current posts.
On board the Argo, as he stares at the newly-installed portrait of his mentor Captain Avatar, Wildstar is having misgivings. “Captain Avatar, am I doing the right thing? I’m asking a lot of people to trust me and my judgement. That’s a heavy responsibility. We took the mission to Iscandar when Earth was in danger, I feel there is great danger again, but–what if I’m wrong?“But his reverie is interrupted by a call from Defense Headquarters. General Stone admonishes him and tells him that he’s giving the Star Force 30 minutes to disembark the ship.
Back at the Venture family home, young Jordie Venture runs smack into his older brother Mark’s foul mood–the older Venture is sizing up his options, and the decision is clearly weighing on him. As he heads out. it remains uncertain as to whether he will join the mission or not. Elsewhere, at the hospital, Doctor Sane’s attempts to sneak away without attracting Nova’s attention are all for nothing–she’s a hell of a lot smarter than that. “Nova, not this time! Life with the Star Force is hard, particularly for a woman! You know that! And again we won’t know what we’ll be facing! It’s too much to ask of you!“Nova shuts him right the heck up by asking him straight out, “Do you think only men are strong enough to make sacrifices, Doctor?“
Back at the dock, the thirty minutes are almost up, and the Argo is ready to take off–but Mark Venture is still not at his position. “I was so sure he’d come.” muses Wildstar, ” But maybe he’s right to stay behind, maybe he’s the smart one!“(This is a far cry from YAMATO 2, where Wildstar tells Sandor that Venture is a stubborn ass, and that if he doesn’t want to come, it’s fine with him. An example of one of the many ways that the STAR BLAZERS writing team localized the content.) Sandor’s concerns are far more practical: “Without Mark Venture, the Argo doesn’t have an experienced navigator/pilot. Almost the most important member of the crew, particularly for what we’re doing!“When Headquarters calls over for an answer to their ultimatum, Homer replies, “This is the Star Force! We say no! The entire Star Force’s answer is in the negative!” In response, General Stone orders the underwater locks to be closed so as to prevent the Argo’s takeoff.
Out at Hero’s Hill, a despondent venture rendezvous with Doctor Sane and Nova. He’s not sure what to do. “Doc, why are you so sure that this is the right thing to do? I’ve always believed in obeying orders, but to do this–! The message that Wildstar feels is so important isn’t even very clear. And yet he’s disobeying orders and rushing off!“But Doctor Sane has already made up his own mind. “You could be right, but still, I’m going with them. If there is no danger then we are doing a foolish thing. But if there is a threat to peace, and we do nothing to prevent it–well, I’ll take my chance on being a fool!“
As 07:00 arrives, Wildstar orders the gangway to be withdrawn and the undersea dock to be flooded in preparation for the Argo’s departure. With nobody else at the helm, he hesitantly sits down in what is typically Venture’s station and prepares to pilot the Argo himself. The Commander tries one last time to reason with Wildstar and the Star Force: “When you leave the undersea launching dock, you will all be treated as mutineers. When it is known to the world that the Star Force has disobeyed orders, you will be in disgrace! Wildstar, consider carefully what you are doing!” But Wildstar is resolute, and he begins to call out navigational orders for the take-off. But he’s interrupted by a hand on his shoulder–it’s venture, who has arrived in the nick of time. ‘Boy, you sure had me worried!” confides Wildstar.
With no way to open the underwater lock doors, the Star Force instead opts for the most practical solution and simply bulls its way through them, heading out to open sea. General Stone is at this point outraged, and despite the Commander’s objections (“Our aim is not to destroy the Argo. If we can keep it from taking off, I’ll be satisfied. And I trust you will be, too.“) he fires magnetic missiles towards the escaping ship. The Star Force is able to knock out the first volley with their own torpedoes, but a pair of them get past the Star Force’s defenses and attach themselves to the ship’s hull.
But the missiles don’t detonate–the Commander has ordered them defused. Sandor theorizes that the Defense Command is trying to weigh them down so that they can’t take off, a plan that seems ludicrous on the face of it. He tells Venture that when they break the surface of the water, they should launch with lots of thrust to make the missiles fall off.
In a sequence lifted whole cloth from the SARABA YAMATO film, and thus animated for a movie screen, the Argo breaks the surface of the water and takes off in a spectacular four-point liftoff sequence that is truly breathtaking (and which was the centerpiece of the YAMATO 2 title sequence.) It’s a lovely shot, one that fetishizes the ship, and a sequence that will be reused again later on in the series. It’s the best the Argo has looked up to this point in the series. The swell of that powerful music sting doesn’t hurt, either.
As the Argo rises into the sky, as promised the magnetic missiles drop away from the hull and fall harmlessly back into the ocean. Interceptor planes circle the Argo as it rises towards the stratosphere, one of which flies a little bit too close and clips its wing on the Argo’s antenna, plummeting back down towards Earth. Everything seems to be home free now.
But General Stone cannot countenance mutiny. He orders one of the Earth’s defensive Battle Satellites brought on line and targets the Argo, intending to blow the ship out of the sky. The Commander intervenes: “Don’t be a fool, Stone! I know they’re rebels but they are also heroes. If we destroy them, we will be the ones in disgrace. It’s up to us to show mature judgment!” and he forces Stone to make his first shot a warning shot.
Unaware of the Commander’s order, the Star Force dodges the fire from the Battle Satellite, and then returns the attack, shooting down the Battle Satellite and proceeding into deep space and away from Earth. General Stone sends out a message to the Andromeda, ordering the flagship to hunt down the Argo and capture the Star Force at all costs!
In the Comet Empire, Prince Zordar’s court has observed these events through one of their spy planes with keen eyes. “Just as Desslok predicted!” opines General Dire, “He does understand the Star Force! That could be very valuable to us!”But Zordar himself is unconcerned–he’s content to leave the matter of the Star Force to his ally Leader Desslok.
As the Argo heads away from Earth, Venture can’t help but give voice to his misgivings one last time: “Boy, I hope we’re doing the right thing, Wildstar.” And the narrator plays us out for the weekend: “Now the Star Force once again leaves Earth, and unknown dangers lie ahead! But this time, Captain Avatar is not in command! Can the Star Force succeed without him?” We’d have to wait until Monday to find out.