“Star Force! Star Force! You’ll need a new strategy to overcome the Comet Empire and save Earth! I know you can do it! Captain Avatar has taught you well! Good luck!” – Captain Gideon
This was the episode that everybody had been waiting for ever since the Earth flagship Andromeda had been introduced in the series–a chance to see what that cool-looking design could actually do. And it’s another stellar episode from stem to stern, with a few memorable moments along the way. At this point, the storyline had accelerated and was rocketing forward at a breakneck pace. And you couldn’t see a space fleet battle of this magnitude anywhere else in 1979.
As the episode opens, the Earth Defense Forces fleet is minutes from contact with the invading Comet Empire fleet. While the Star Force destroyed the enemy’s carrier fleet in the last episode, the Comet Empire still has the greater numbers. As the enemy hits the Saturn area, Captain Gideon sends the task force stationed at Hyperion, Saturn’s moon, to strike at the invaders from their flank. Captain Slate enters into a firefight with the Comet Empire ships, but things do not go as planned.
The Comet Empire fleet diverts a relatively small portion of their forces to meet this incoming flank attack. Their Impulse Cannons (referred to as simply Shock Cannons in STAR BLAZERS, the same type of main weapon used by the Earth forces) are devastating, with a single shot enveloping smaller Destroyers and escort ships and obliterating them. In a matter of minutes, Captain Slate and his fleet are wiped out–STAR BLAZERS cuts the moment when his bridge explodes around him, but cutting between Slate saying that his ship is taking heavy fire and then the ship exploding gets the point across. Nobody tries to pretend that Slate or his men got out alive.
As the Comet Empire fleet approaches, Captain Gideon gives the order for the Earth fleet to charge their Wave-Motion Guns. But the invaders are still several minutes from being within the Earth fleet’s effective firing range. And they’ve got a trump card weapon. STAR BLAZERS calls it the Magna-Flame Gun and changes its description of how it works from YAMATO 2, deciding that it simply has a much longer range than the Earth ships’ weapons. In face, the weapon is a Warp Cannon (called the Burst Energy Transport Cannon in YAMATO 2) which works like the Gamilon’s SMITE system–except in this case, rather than combat warping fighter planes, General Bleek is able to warp the shots he’s firing, so they come out of nowhere in the midst of the Earth forces, scattering and destroying them.
Captain Gideon is taken aback by this sudden counter-attack, and as his forces are picked off one by one by a weapon whose source he cannot predict, he decisively issues the order to fall back. The scattered Earth Fleet begins to retreat towards Saturn. Rather than regrouping his forces, General Bleek pursues them full throttle. “Now they’re on the run! This is the best part! Heh, heh, heh…“
Meanwhile, the Star Force at the head of the carrier fleet is rushing to join the battle. The Andromeda radios for air cover, and in response the Black Tigers are launched to attack the enemy. There’s a scene in here that’s cut out of STAR BLAZERS where IQ-9 and Royster notify Sandor and Wildstar that the Comet Empire itself has disappeared. But STAR BLAZERS doesn’t slow down events for such things. Captain Gideon plunges the Andromeda and the Earth fleet into the rings of Saturn, seemingly to provide cover until they can figure out a way to counter-attack.
General Bleek continues to move in, taking potshots at the Earth fleet all the while. When the Black Tigers show up and begin their attack run, he’s unconcerned. “They can’t do any real damage to us. We’re going after the main fleet, they’re more important.” The Tigers aren’t quite so ineffective, blowing up or disabling a number of Comet Empire warships. But the bulk of their fleet pursues the Andromeda into Saturn’s ring.
This turns out to be a terrible decision on the part of the Comet Empire fleet because, as General Bleek tries to fire his Magna-Flame Gun again, it backfires, causing turbulence within the ice ring that sends the Comet Empire ships spinning out of control. STAR BLAZERS chalks this up to trying to fire the super-hot weapon within the deadly cold of the ice ring, whereas in YAMATO 2, it’s the result of attempting to open up a warp field in the middle of a debris belt.
Either way, it gives Captain Gideon the opening he’s been looking for, and he and the Earth Fleet reverse course and close to firing range. It’s a turkey shoot at this point, with the Earth battleships demolishing their enemy targets one after another. Bleek’s flagship can’t use its main weapon, but with is forces dwindling, he orders his crew to make a run at the Earth flagship, to attempt to sink her. But the Andromeda and her assorted escorts blow the Comet Empire flagship to hell. Bleek’s death, as usual, was edited out of STAR BLAZERS.
The Star Force and Captain Gideon rendezvous and share mutual salutes–but before they can get too comfortable with their victory, the White Comet warps into space behind them. Its gravity well begins to pull at the ships closest to it, including the Argo. In a case of good news, bad news, a collision with another Earth vessel knocks the Argo out of the gravity vortex, but does catastrophic damage to the ship, starting a fire in the Wave-Motion Engine itself. Sandor and Orion race to the Engine Room to try to save the ship, but the only way to do that is to cut the main Energy Conduction Pipe before the fire can reach the Wave-Motion Gun.
This is a hugely dangerous proposition, so Sandor tells Wildstar that he needs to order the crew to abandon ship. The Star Force hustles into whatever planes they have left and leave the burning, plummeting vessel–but despite his orders, Wildstar is unable to get them to leave the area of the ship and move to a safe distance. Nova races onto the bridge in an attempt to get Wildstar to abandon ship as well, but instead he heads down to the engine room where Orion and Sandor are working furiously. They get the necessary pipe cut, but as it swings towards the ground, it clips Wildstar, wounding him severely. As Captain Gideon watches from afar with horror, the Argo spins away into space, seconds from death and completely out of the fight.
Captain Gideon orders the remainder of his fleet into formation for firing their Wave-Motion Guns again–and he’s so anxious to take out the Comet Empire that they don’t even bother with putting on their anti-flash goggles. A flotilla of ships unleash their unstoppable Wave-Motion Guns at the Comet Empire simultaneously, but the only effect is to blow off the Empire’s outer protective covering, revealing the War-City underneath.
Captain Gideon is undaunted, and he orders the Earth fleet to attack the Comet Empire. But their guns cannot penetrate the shield protecting the upper half of the floating island, and the enemy returns fire with massive missiles that annihilate the remainder of the Earth fleet. In his last act, Captain Gideon radios the Star Force, not even certain that they’re still alive, and tells them that they’ll need to concentrate their fire on the lower half of the Empire in order to defeat it. STAR BLAZERS cuts the last few moments of the Andromeda’s existence, as it flies into the Comet Empire and is ground into dust–and this is actually an excellent cut, because focusing on the half-unconscious Wildstar hearing Gideon’s message which cuts out in a huge explosion is much more emotionally powerful than anything we could see on frame. So the great battle is over, Earth is defenseless and the Argo is crippled. It would be a long 24 hours until the next episode.