“Never before has the Comet Empire been forced to change its course! If we had avoided the confrontation with Trelaina, it never would have happened! An Empire is built on victories, not defeats! Trelaina has taught me a valuable lesson, never again will I listen to anyone whose advice runs counter to my own judgment!” – Prince Zordar
This particular episode of STAR BLAZERS was the first one I ever saw, and even then not in its entirety–I was flipping around the dial looking for something to watch tat afternoon, and I caught big chunks of it, but not the entire thing. It was Desslok’s escape at the end that intrigued me enough to come back the following day. I had been a fan of BATTLE OF THE PLANETS, but the art style of STAR BLAZERS was less Americanized, and so looked weird and off-putting to my eyes. I also didn’t understand what the show was about, something that the bits of this episode that I did watch did nothing to resolve. But it’s another great episode, the preamble to what lies ahead, setting up dominos for the rest of the series.
The episode opens with the Star Force racing back to the Solar System in order to join Earth’s space forces in defense of the mother planet. The destruction of Telezart has slowed the Comet Empire down, but not by much, so the Argo is making larger and larger space warps in order to gain distance on it. But these greater warps (“We saved over 2000 light years–that’s a new warp record!“) are putting a greater strain on the ship, causing systems to break down. but Venture is adamant that at least two more large-scale warps like that one will be necessary, and he brusquely tells Sandor that the chief mechanic will just have to repair any damage that they might cause. Venture is determined to make Trelaina’s sacrifice count for something.
Trelaina is also a topic for discussion in the Comet Empire, where Prince Zordar makes his feelings about his subordinates’ actions in bringing them into conflict with Trelaina very apparent, before ordering the invasion plan against Earth to move ahead. Stationed in the Sirius system, General Bleek (who appeared in earlier episodes as General Terpis–somebody on the production team of STAR BLAZERS didn’t realize that this was the same character) begins to mobilize the combined space fleets of the Comet Empire into a single overwhelming force. News of these fleet movements reach Captain Gideon aboard the Andromeda, and in response, he orders the assorted Earth Defense Fleets to all leave their positions and rendezvous at Titan, the moon of Saturn. His subordinate reminds him that such large-scale fleet assignments need to be cleared through headquarters, and that he’ll be cashiered for acting without official clearance, and Gideon tells him bluntly, “You may be right, Lieutenant, but until then, I’m in command! I’ve given you an order, and I expect it to be carried out!‘ Captain Gideon isn’t messing around.
One of the great difficulties the STAR BLAZERS team faced with this episode is the fact that, with so many different fleet movements on both sides of the conflict being featured, the original YAMATO 2 episode contained dozens of huge chyrons at the bottom of the screen, identifying who was going where. In earlier episodes of STAR BLAZERS, these chyrons would simply be pasted over with the appropriate English translation, or those shots would be cut entirely, but by this point the dubbing team had come up with a better solution. They simply zoomed in on a smaller portion of the picture, cropping the chyrons out of the shot. (They’d also gotten much better about managing the soundtrack by this point. Rather than having jarring cuts in the music where something was edited out, as occasionally happened in the early episodes, by this point they had gotten adept at sliding whole tracks of music around on the soundtrack, to seamlessly cover any edits. This would prove to be invaluable in a few episodes, where the cutting reached its maximum.)
Back on Earth, Defense Headquarters is in a tizzy about this sudden flurry of activity. General Stone wants to know who is making these changes in fleet positioning and he’s informed that Captain Gideon has been issuing them. Gideon takes this moment to call in to the Commander: “I’m asking you to approve of what I’ve already done! The Comet Empire’s advance fleet is now approaching the Milky Way. Because of this threat, I’m taking emergency action now!“
“If we don’t win this battle, Earth is doomed! We must conquer the advance fleet, then defeat the Empire!“But General Stone isn’t having it, and the Commander is tight-lipped. “I mean no disrespect to you, General Stone, but this is most urgent. That’s why I could not wait. This is an emergency! Battles are not fought in defense council rooms!“The Commander asks Gideon to give him time to consult with the Defense Council–and Gideon knows that no help is coming.” Then I shall act on my own authority as I see fit! And I will accept any disciplinary action you may take later!” Gideon’s got balls–and General Stone only receives silence when he asks the Commander to relieve Gideon of command.
Back at the Argo, the situation is looking bad, as long range scans show that the Comet Empire has already corrected its course and will catch up to the ship again in five days. Venture insists that they warp again, and gets into Sandor’s face when he tells him that’s not a good idea–but the point is moot for the moment, as there’s an energy leak in the warp mechanism caused by the last warp. Sandor tells Venture that he and his team can fix it, but the next time it may be something he can’t fix. Venture is like a caged tiger, hassling the repair team to speed things up. “Venture, we can’t rush this.” Sandor tells him, “If we do, it will break down again. Can’t you take it easy, relax for a bit?“
Forced to wait, Venture goes back to the observation deck to think about Trelaina, which is where Nova finds him. She tells him that Trelaina wouldn’t want him to become this kind of a driven person, and Venture relaxes, realizing that she’s right. And in response, Venture tells her that she and Wildstar should get married soon. “When two people find each other out of all others in the universe, they shouldn’t wait. They can never be sure there will be a tomorrow.“As Nova exits, she finds Wildstar sneaking away from the doorway, clearly also having heard what Venture just said, and the two embrace.
Back at the Comet Empire, Princess Invidia takes a moment to go visit Desslok in prison, to let him know that the Comet Empire will soon be dispatching his old enemy the Star Force and invading Earth. Desslok demands a trial (which is better than in the source material, as in YAMATO 2 he demands to be executed, having nothing to live for if his enemies are destroyed by another’s hand) but he quickly overpowers the guard and takes Invidia prisoner, using her as a shield to make his way to the landing dock and escape. The whole thing is a spectacular, griping sequence, one of the best in the series.
As the Gamilon Fleet appears to pick up their liberated Leader, Invidia orders them to be destroyed–but Prince Zordar appears and orders them to be left alone. He’s realized through Desslok’s courageous actions that the Gamilon could not be the coward Invidia professed him to be. “Why did you deliberately deceive me about Desslok, Invidia? I should never have listened to the two of you. I knew Desslok was not a coward–and he certainly proved it! You think his aide General Talan would have helped a coward to escape justice? He escaped prison to fight, hardly the act of a coward! I find it hard to believe the two of you would deceive me, my own daughter, and you, Dire, my oldest friend–! You will both have to work very hard to regain my trust!“As a parting gift, Zordar releases Desslok’s flagship, sending it back to him. Boarding it and realizing that Zordar has learned the truth, Desslok orders his fleet to go after the Star Force! And that’s where we fade out until Friday.