In Our Next STAR BLAZERS Adventure

EPISODE 51

Wildstar, Wildstar…look, you’ve got to let me do this. I never thanked you…for rescuing me and my me on Brumis that time. It’s hard for me to say things. This is my way of sayin’ thanks. So long…see you back at the Argo!” – Sergeant Knox

As Monday rolled around, we came to this, the most heavily edited episode in the run of STAR BLAZERS. And no wonder, as it corresponded narratively to the climactic battle in SARABA UCHU SENKAN YAMATO, wherein most of the main cast met their final fate. Because YAMATO 2 was meant to provide an alternative to that dark outcome, it wasn’t quite so kill-crazy–but there were still dozens of casualties, many on the enemy’s side, several of the good guys, and almost all in hand-to-hand fighting where it was difficult to avoid. To make matters more interesting, the YAMATO 2 episode ran over length, and so dropped its opening credits to pack in more story. This meant that the STAR BLAZERS crew was going to need to edit more than usual anyway to fit into the American run-time.

As the episode opens, the Black Tigers begin their bombing run on the topside of the Comet Empire while the Star Force moves into position to attack the bottom of the floating space fortress with torpedoes from beneath the water. In Prince Zordar’s throne chamber, the Comet Empire’s senior staff is astonished at the temerity of the Earthlings to attack after claiming to surrender. but Princess Invidia correctly surmises the situation. “It’s because of the Star Force! They’re the ones that are fighting on!

After one of the control centers of the city is damaged, Zordar is ready to retailiate. “The resistance is futile, it’s just the death-struggle of a defeated planet! We’ll show them what happens to those who oppose us!” The Comet Empire’s defenses spring into action, shooting down a number of the Black Tiger planes as the defensive shield is erected around the upper half of the city. Conroy orders his squadron to fall back and regroup, and as they do, the Comet Empire begins to rise up out of the water and into the sky. In the original YAMATO 2 episode all of this action took place during what would have been the opening credits.

Seeing the Comet Empire ascend into the skies, you would think Wildstar and the rest of the Star Force would be concerned, right? After all, they just spend half an episode telling us that all they have left to fight with are torpedoes, and those aren’t going to work in the air. But that limitation appears to be forgotten now, and Wildstar orders IQ-9 to surface the ship and attack. Here, the episode reuses the lovely launch footage from SARABA of the Argo cresting up out of the water in a full moving turn-around as it blasts into the sky.

As this happens, everybody in the nearby city has their eyes focused on the nearby battle, what they can make out of it. In Earth Defense Headquarters, now back at his post, the Commander says out loud that the Star Force is their only hope. And out in the street, people cheer for the Star Force as well, notably Venture’s younger brother Jordie, who reiterates that he knew they would come back to help the human race. By this point, the Comet Empire is leaving the Earth’s atmosphere to conduct the battle in space. The Argo and the Black Tigers follow, remaining at all times below the effective firing angle of the massive guns that encircle the city. As Desslok suggested, they’re going to attack it from the bottom.

But the Comet Empire is done taking it on the chin. They launch interceptors that begin to dogfight with the Black Tigers. At the same time, gun ports open up and begin peppering both the Star Force fighter planes and the Argo itself with shots. As usual, virtually any time you see a shot strike the ship, there’s an additional shot that’s being cut showing a section of the hull exploding around the various crewmen.

In order to try to get away from the enemy fire, Wildstar orders the ship to move in closer and descend beneath the Comet Empire. Meanwhile, try as he might, Sandor can’t seem to locate the weak point in the underside that Desslok had told them about. To make matters worse, additional gun ports open up throughout the rocks, and the Argo is strafed again by enemy fire. Things are looking bad. And then suddenly Sandor has a realization. But not before an entire sequence is cut out of the episode.

In YAMATO 2, Sandor calls down to the Computer Room, where Royster is working, and he tells him to find the location of the launch bay where the enemy planes are coming from. The STAR BLAZERS team, aware that this sequence was coming up, had been cutting Royster out of episodes for a while now, presumably so that nobody would ask where he disappeared to later. In any case, he’s nervous that the Computer Room will be struck before he can complete the analysis.

As the room shakes, Royster pulls out a comb and fixes his hair–is grandmother always told him to look his best. The computer beeps that it’s got a result, and Royster goes to retrieve it–but the room blows up around him before he can report back to Sandor. Bloodied, Royster struggles back up, crawling to the communications equipment so that he can pass the location to his superior, Sandor, before he falls–and just as he does so, another sot hit, exploding the room and sending Royster’s lifeless body careening across it. Up on the bridge, Sandor is visibly shaken by the death he’s just heard play out in real time.

In any event, Sandor now has the information the Star Force needs (though in STAR BLAZERS this is just his own observation.) He tells Wildstar that they can get into the Comet Empire through the launch bay where the enemy’s planes are emerging, and Wildstar quickly works out an invasion plan where they’ll board the Empire and knock out its energy center. Knox and his space marines show up and demand to be a part of the mission, and Sandor says that he’s coming along as well, because Wildstar will need help to find the energy center. This was portentous in YAMATO 2 because in SARABA Sandor is killed during this attempt.

Wildstar and a second squadron of Black Tigers takes of. (Why they’ve been keeping a second squadron in reserve, especially when this was meant to be an all-out attack and they supposedly have no working main weapons, is a mystery.) The planes run into heavy enemy resistance, and in a scene cut out of STAR BLAZERS, Hardy is shot down while defending Wildstar’s plane–he salutes as his ship becomes a fireball that crashes into the side of the Empire. The Argo fires a volley at the landing dock, destroying its doors, and the remaining Black Tigers and Wildstar race inside. Their invasion has begun.

The Star Force planes fly into the inner hanger, and there dogfight with a few launching Comet Empire planes. Locating a landing strip, the Star Force pilots put wheels down, surrounded by gunfire the whole way. STAR BLAZERS cuts the moment where a Black Tiger plane runs directly into a barracade and a squad of defenders, annihilating them. The Black Tiger pilots set up a beachhead while Wildstar, Sandor, Knox and the space marines make their way deeper into the enemy stronghold. Lots of moments of soldiers on both sides getting shot to pieces here were edited out of STAR BLAZERS.

In their defense room, Generals Dire and Gorce and Princess Invidia watch the Star Force’s progress. Invidia is disdainful of their efforts and tells Gorce not to bother updating Prince Zordar as to their progress, as the three of them should be able to handle the intruders. Sandor uses a handheld energy indicator to guide the Star Force team deeper into the city, but they’re ambushed, and their space marine escort is wiped out in the process. (The ambush is in STAR BLAZERS, but not the deaths of the space marines who were with them–they just suddenly stop showing up.)

The three men move closer and closer to the Energy Center–but suddenly they’re targeted by an automated defense system. While they duck back undr cover swiftly, Sandor’s leg is shot off by the weapon. This violent moment is allowed to remain in STAR BLAZERS both because it’s a crucial plot point and because, as established many episodes earlier, Sandor’s limbs are bionic. (This is how YAMATO 2 kept him out of the end of the mission, saving his life.) Sandor passes them his equipment and volunteers to hold this position while they locate the Energy Center and destroy it.

Now down to just the two of them, Wildstar and Knox finally locate the massive reactor core that powers the Comet Empire. This news comes as a painful shock to Princess Invidia when General Dire is forced to inform her of this fact. Just then, Prince Zordar appears, wanting to know what’s going on and outraged that they’ve been keeping him out of the loop. Invidia stammers but no reply is forthcoming.

There’s an open area that needs to be crossed to get to the reactor, though, and Knox tells Wildstar to cover him and then to go back for Sandor and get out of the Comet Empire. He insists that he’ll follow on after he’s finished in a bit of STAR BLAZERS trying to soft-peddle what’s obviously going on here–that Knox intends to sacrifice his life to complete the mission. Wildstar hesitates but Knox forces his hand by dashing out into the open area, dodging enemy fire as he races across the divide. Safely on the other side, he begs Wildstar to go. With tears in his eyes, Wildstar turns and runs off (killing a few Comet Empire guys along the way in moments edited out of STAR BLAZERS.)

Wildstar makes it back to Sandor who, when told of the plan by Wildstar, asks the obvious question: “Will he get out?“Hoisting Sandor on his back,Wildstar makes his way back to the landing strip, where a wounded Conroy is desperately holding their beachhead. The hanger is strewn with the remains of destroyed fighters. The three men pile into the one working plane that’s left, and with Conroy at the controls, exit the Comet Empire.

The rest of this scene is edited down to nothing in STAR BLAZERS. In YAMATO 2, Knox plants the necessary explosives wile holding off a squad of Comet Empire soldiers. He absorbs a ridiculous number of enemy shots, but refuses to fall until the job is done, staying on his feet by pure will alone. Ultimately, though, he can go no further, and he falls backwards to the ground and bounces, seemingly dead.

As the enemy soldiers close in on his position, Knox’s head and hand pop back up–he’s got Sandor’s detonator, and he refuses to die until he’s set it off. The room is engulfed in chaos as the entire energy station goes up in the blast–a detonation so great that it’s visible even outside of the Comet Empire itself, as a gigantic mushroom cloud explodes from a section of the city.

STAR BLAZERS leaves in Wildstar’s reaction to that blast, indicating that he knows that Knox has died, even though it’s about to try to put the lie to that idea in a few seconds. Their plane lands back aboard the Argo, the only plane to have returned from the mission, and Wildstar thanks Conroy for his help. “We couldn’t have done with without you.” And that’s where the moment ends in STAR BLAZERS. In YAMATO 2, however, Wildstar realizes that Conroy is dead, succumbing to his injuries seconds after bringing them safely home.

On board the Comet Empire, Prince Zordar expresses his wrath at Dire, Gorce and Invidia as he boards an unseen craft. In STAR BLAZERS he tells them, “I can still use you for minor tasks.” But this is a lie. In YAMATO 2 he tells them that they must face the consequences of their actions and that he doesn’t require subordinates like them. And then he closes the gantry to his escape craft in their faces, leaving Princess Invidia (who in YAMATO 2 was his consort rather than his daughter, which changes the subtext a little bit) to pound futilely at the airlock before falling to her knees, knowing that her demise is certain.

A shaken Wildstar enters the bridge, where STAR BLAZERS has Dash utter its most unbelievable line: “We were worried when we didn’t hear from you! Knox got out just behind you.” I’ve never known a single viewer of the program who ever thought that was the truth even for a moment–but in 1979, that’s what the broadcast standards for children’s programming demanded. At that point, STAR BLAZERS has Wildstar think an inconsequential line about knowing that the enemy isn’t finished–but in YAMATO 2, he rattles off the names of those who have fallen during the battle, before turning to the others and ordering: “One last time! Aim all guns at the Comet Empire! ALL guns!

What follows is a pyrotechnic display that goes on for a couple of minutes, as the Argo fires every weapon it has left standing, blowing the holy hell out of the non-responsive Comet Empire and reducing it to a flaming ruin. After so many episodes, this is a profoundly satisfying moment. But the victory isn’t to last. As the carcass of the fortress burns, it begins to crack open, and rising up from within the ruins flies another enormous space dreadnought, one that dwarfs the Argo in size. (It dwarfs it so much, in fact, that a friend’s science teacher one did the math based on the relative sizes and concluded that it was far too big to ave fit inside the Comet Empire in the first place.) Prince Zordar isn’t finished yet–and he’d strike back on Tuesday!

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