By Tim Eldred with Carol Hutchings
Here we look at the story one chapter at a time, showing the original Japanese notes that provided its foundation, highlights of our development discussions, and added trivia.
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1. Last Option
script completed July 2009
art completed September 2009
published October 1, 2009
Based on episodes 19-21 from the 52-episode plan:
Battle with the United States of Zeni
Go to the planet introduced by Dessler, attacked by the United States of Zeni [Bolar Federation], become involved in the fight between Goa [Galman] and Zeni [Bolar].
Original story notes:
A lethal weapon that can destroy a planet and all its life forms
The power struggle between the Bolar Federation and Galman Empire grows more intense by the day. A lethal weapon used by the Bolar is a gigantic automated battleship which aims for total destruction of every life form on habitable planets.
There is a high possibility of discovering a planet within Bolar’s target area to which Earthlings can emigrate! Yamato‘s crew must face this lethal weapon not only for the sake of human beings, but also other life forms in the area! A desperate battle begins between Yamato and this lethal weapon – what will be the outcome?
Cruising Combat Planet Guraken
This is a gigantic structure, basically a moving cluster of slaughter weapons. A biological brain is positioned in the core, surrounded by and linked to strategic and tactical computers. This is an automated mechanical berserker whose aim is to completely destroy life-sustaining planets. It indiscriminately attacks both Yamato and Gamilas. Each of its many blocks can detach and become an independent fighting machine.
Those two entries were separate in the original notes from Japan, but almost certainly referred to the same idea. The Guraken concept probably lead to Bemlayze’s fortress from the finale (named Zespaze [Zess-pa-zay] in the anime). So I combined the ideas; the individual spheres could be called Gurakens when they split off to operate independently like robo-Death Stars.
This opening chapter splits with the TV series during the course of Episode 18, The Angry Sun, with the death of Major Kranshaw being the pivotal event that ignites Keeling’s conspiracy against Desslok. In the anime, Desslok simply apologizes that his guy didn’t solve the solar crisis and that’s that. He lets the Star Force go to continue looking for a new Earth, tipping them off to Planet Phantom almost as an afterthought. That was how the anime writers decided to end-run around the many episodes of story material that were supposed to begin unfolding here.
This turn in the plot never, ever worked for me. It felt like a cheat (which, basically, it was). We know Desslok better than that; he’s not simply going to put a check mark in the “fail” column and go on like it doesn’t matter. Somewhere in the presumably enormous Galman database must be a planet for his Earth friends. He would insist on helping them, and complex political questions would arise immediately.
I remember “talking” through other possible worlds. Derek and Tim wanted to use the moon Starsha as a possibility. I kind of had issues with this, as we don’t see anyone living on it in Series 3, and there’s no mention of Desslok building a palace there either. I had originally come up with the idea that while Starsha looks like a perfectly habitable Earth type planet, there was something wrong which made living there difficult. I had theorized right-handed proteins in the planet’s ecology where humans wouldn’t be able to eat anything grown there. Earth would need to depend on Galman for food exports, which would play havoc with their need for independence and their desire to not rely on Galman for anything.
FROM OUR 2009 NOTES:
Derek: I can understand the how/why Desslok and the Star Force vets have found and decided upon a way to bury the hatchet. I SERIOUSLY doubt that would be the case with the majority of those on Earth who lived through the Gamilon War, or those on Gamilon who survived the Star Force’s short but dramatic visit there.
If I remember correctly (it’s been a long time since I’ve done much postulating on Series 3), the issue of trusting Desslok seemed to rear its head very briefly on their way to Galman. After which, the whole matter of universal animosity and grudges that WOULD be held by the two races was quickly and neatly swept under the rug, never to raise its ugly head again.
I guess one might say that’s why Major Kranshaw and his techno team never came close to landing on Earth. Or, that’s why only a handful of EDF officials seemed to be assigned to work with them on their project.
But I still believe a MAJOR case of ‘I HATE YOUR GUTS’ is gonna exist between these two races for many generations. And given the number of nuggets (NavSpeak for rookies) aboard the Argo on this cruise, it would seem the issue would rear its ugly head more than the one time we saw it in the show.
The need to keep a respectable distance between Earth and Galman was strongly stated in the comic. Keeling and Gustav represent the Galman side of this. In the anime, we didn’t meet Gustav until late in the series when he destroyed Planet Phantom and was prepared to fire on the Argo in the Skalagek star cluster – before Desslok ordered him to protect them from the Bolar instead. Gustav regretted that he didn’t get the chance to test himself against the Star Force…so we gave him that chance here. Keeling, on the other hand, was little more than a bit player. It’s interesting to see him on screen now after putting all sorts of new thoughts in his head.
2. Forgotten Souls
script completed October 2009
art completed November 2009
published December 1, 2009
Based on eps 22-24 from the 52-episode plan: Planet Lars
The mystery of the planet introduced by Dessler; rescue a girl who lost her memory at the space Auschwitz; Goa [Galman] becomes Yamato‘s enemy.
Original story notes:
Satanic Feudal Lord
Not allied with Galman or Bolar, a tyrant who controls his region with magic, makes it into a fantasy world ruled by strange magical powers.
That obviously has little to do with this chapter; it was part of an early notion to drop the Star Force onto a medieval planet, which might have worked on the original Star Trek, but doesn’t sound much like a Yamato story. (There was a specific mention of Wildstar getting into a swordfight, for example.) But it got me thinking about making Lars some kind of savage land.
– Someone not allied with Galman or Bolar
– A member of the old Galman aristocracy, pre-Dessler
– Shelters the Shalbartists, sends them to Yamato
The Galman Nobleman, also known as “the Exile,” definitely seemed like a character who could open up some doors for us, so we found a way to weave him into the plot.
Tomoko (or Tomono) Yamagami
27-28 years old, joins the crew after losing her husband and her father on a pioneer planet. She is pregnant, and advances during the voyage. She and Sanada develop a romance. In a later battle, she calls out his name when she goes into labor. He runs to her side and helps to deliver the baby under battle conditions. It is a boy. She names him Yamato Yamagami.
Obviously, Tomoko Yamagami’s name was kept intact in the comic. If they’d given her a Star Blazers name we would have gone with that. Without one, she fell into the same category as Chief Engineer Yamazaki and Gunner Sakimaki.
With this chapter, I wanted to address what I thought was the single worst decision made by the writers of the anime: arbitrarily sending all the female crew members home back in TV Episode 9. I was relieved to learn from the story notes that this decision was one of the compromises forced upon them when the show was cut down. Tomoko’s character description made it clear that she was in for the whole trip, but she was jettisoned along with the nurses when her story was abandoned. Nevertheless, I made sure to bring them back in a way that was essential to the story rather than simple wish fulfillment.
You know, whenever I have to go to a convention now, I’ll take extra vitamins for a few days in advance, just in case, because of this chapter specifically.
I was happy to flesh out more of Jetter’s work in the galley with some of my own real life food service experience. I knew who to trust and who not to trust with making food. I added the corn joke because Japan has a thing for pizza with corn on it. Where some folks see Star Blazers as its own separate animal, I have only ever seen it as a translation of Space Battleship Yamato.
Figuring out how to make Lars the turning point for the relationship between Desslok and Wildstar was the subject of extensive discussion. The term “Space Auschwitz” from the original notes definitely caught our attention.
FROM OUR 2009 NOTES:
Tim: We have to deduce a reason for Mariposa to be sent to Planet Lars rather than locked up in a Galman dungeon. There would have to be a reason for that planet to be the safest place to keep her. Something in the water?
Carol: I don’t suppose Desslok would have anything to do with her losing her memory in order to keep his empire his own.
When the Gamilon pilot was captured in the first series the story was that Gamilons go into battle with no memories, that they get some kind of memory wipe so they can’t be interrogated. This is something Star Blazers has that Yamato does not. In Yamato they just give their soldiers the least amount of information possible. If a man could whip up novelty gas that consumes energy and destroys matter, some kind of memory erasing device wouldn’t be impossible.
Tim: What could be special about Planet Lars? Here’s a thought. Maybe it’s the anti-memory planet. Maybe it’s got something in its atmosphere that suppresses memories? It would be an ideal place to send people who might be radicalized in a conventional prison. Think about it. One of our quandaries right now is what to do with those who were dropped into Gitmo. Even if they weren’t actual enemies before, they could have become enemies in the meantime because of how they were treated. That seems like a universal problem for anyone in power.
So what if, instead of Gitmo, we could send them somewhere with environmental conditions that make them forget all about being our enemies? The Gamilon memory-wipe is a good precedent, we can definitely use that. Lars could either have the same stuff in the atmosphere that was used for that process, or it could have been engineered into one giant forget-me farm.
That would also make the Exile far more interesting; he has to be immune to whatever is going on there. The same would have to be true for Earth people, or the Star Force wouldn’t make it off the surface.
If we go that way, we need to think of Desslok’s motivation for using Lars in such a fashion. Maybe it’s part of his plan for reforming the Galmans. No need to slaughter or imprison people. That’s what the Bolar do. And they’re so uncivilized…
Carol: How about this – there is something in the air on Lars that causes amnesia (“sniff sniff, do you smell hazelnuts?”), but it’s not instantaneous. The Earth medical team that went to Lars noticed what was happening and was able to create an antidote before their memories were lost.
I would like to keep Desslok’s regret down to a minimum. Having Lars not be a hideous death camp but instead some kind of rehabilitation center certainly makes me feel better. Earth could still get self righteous about “you don’t have the right to take a person’s memories away.” And where Earth might get cranky about it, it’s enough of a gray area that Earth would still want a planet in Desslok’s Empire.
Tim: Let’s consider this issue solved, then. We still need to lock down exactly why a Gardiana uprising is a threat, though. Is it perceived as a big enough problem to actually hurt the war effort against the Bolar? Or is it more of an ego thing? “The Galaxy doesn’t need TWO gods.” There has to be sufficient reason for Desslok to put the Star Force on the most wanted list.
I think once he learns they have Mariposa, he’s got to call them up directly and ask for her to be returned. The experience on Lars will have hardened Wildstar and company into defying him, giving away the fact that they’ve learned a few inconvenient things, and he will sign off with great regrets. (i.e. You’ve given me no choice.)
Carol: Well, I imagined some kind of situation where Wildstar makes a scene in public and tells him Earth won’t tolerate what he’s doing on Lars, and Desslok reminds him Earth is in no position to dictate policy.
Carol wrote most of the argument between Desslok and Wilstar at the end of this chapter, which finally solved our dilemma about what would put them at odds again and locked us on course for the rest of the story.
Tim: Still, there’s a tipping point that we haven’t quite reached yet: how do things go from threat to fighting? Your exchange leaves off with Desslok putting Wildstar on notice, but not giving an open order to his troops. Also, is the Planet Lars issue enough to set the pot boiling without making Mariposa part of the issue? Or do we still need Desslok to know about her in order to motivate the rest of the story?
Could Desslok be unaware of the Mariposa problem until some later point where she has some kind of “awakening” event that affects Gardiana worshippers en masse? Then he’s got real justification to go after the Argo himself.
And thus, the conversation about Planet Lars set up a whole string of events to unfold one by one.
Carol wrote ambitiously lengthy scenes on the planet surface that echoed a lot of the events in the Planet Phantom TV episode. She had the landing party split up in multiple vehicles, seeing phantoms and forgetting things left and right. She came up with this exchange between Wildstar and Nova:
Nova: “What about my name? Can you get that right?”
Wildstar: “Of course, Amy, I’d never forget you.”
Nova: “Who’s this Amy person?!?” she drops his hand like it gained 50 pounds. She pouts.
Wildstar: “I’m sorry Nova, I couldn’t help myself!” Wildstar laughs.
Since Carol has much more experience writing prose fiction than a comic script (which is as bare-bones as it gets), I couldn’t use a lot of what she contributed, but I definitely kept the “Amy” joke. In case you’re unaware, our mutual friend Amy Howard-Wilson was the voice of Nova in Star Blazers.
Carol also came up with a livelier version of the scene in which Tomoko finds Sandor. He’s about to be killed by two “ferals” who she fends off with some MLB-level rock pitching. It would have been fun to play out, but it would have taken a lot of extra panels to do it justice.
Yes, Tomoko is totally in disguise as Tochiro from Captain Harlock. I wanted her to have the old style Matsumoto rifle with the worn wooden gunstock too, but we were going to settle on the rock throw. In the previous Argo Press Star Blazers comics, Bruce Lewis imagined Sandor as a baseball nut, and I thought Tomoko saving him like that would appeal to him. Again, I write too much, and that had to go, too. Ultimately this is Tim’s story; he doesn’t have to take anything I offer. There were times I wrote stuff, which helped Tim decide he didn’t want.
Another point was that the ship last seen taking the nurses away in TV Episode 9 would be shown crashed on the surface. We needed a name for it, so Derek stepped up.
Derek: How about UES Sydney for the Scout Cruiser found on Lars? HMAS Sydney was Australia’s equivalent to the Arizona, Hood, etc. She was a light cruiser lost with all hands in a battle against a German Commerce Raider off Australia’s west coast. Not the same situation, but still a way to use an honorable ship name (and it fits, given my nomenclature rules of cruisers being named after cities).
Derek also saved me from a bit of embarrassment. All the references I used for the Scout Cruiser showed it in the dark blue color scheme seen in Farewell to Yamato, so I colored it that way in the comic. Derek reminded me that the actual ship from Episode 9 was grey, so I had to go back in for some last-minute retouching.
Trivia: Gustav’s gloves change color from chapter 1 to 2 as he changes his allegiance from Desslok to Keeling. That was Carol’s idea.
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Part 1 script completed November 2009
Part 1 art completed January 2010
Published February 1, 2010
Part 2 script completed January 2010
Part 2 art completed March 2010
Published April 1, 2010
Based on eps 27 & 28 from the 52-episode plan:
End of the Battleship Arizona
Encounter with another exploration ship that makes a suicidal attack; fight with Zeni [Bolar]; memorial service for Arizona.
This was our first multi-part chapter. That wasn’t on purpose, the script just turned out too long to fit into one. As soon as we crossed that line, I knew it was going to take longer than expected to get through the whole project. I just had no idea how long.
It was also the first time, here or anywhere, that I drew Bolar characters. It seemed kind of important to get them in, since their name is part of the title. I liked imagining Bemlayze as a big, hammy stage actor who didn’t care how much spittle he launched during one of his tirades. Every one of his staff officers would make sure to carry a handkerchief at all times.
I also wanted to make sure every officer from the anime had a role to play in the comic. Major Balsiky originally appeared in TV Episode 19, The Way to Planet Phantom.
Another element from that episode I wanted to get in here was the surreptitious flower-to-flower message between Homer and Wendy, and his subsequent teasing by the crew. Given where we were headed, this was the last piece of the anime that could be directly adapted for a while.
The initial idea to get this story rolling was for the Argo to reach the rendezvous point with Arizona, but instead find a lifeboat with no one inside, only an SOS message with a new location. But since you always have to look for quicker story solutions in a comic, using the oft-forgotten Time Radar was at once more efficient and more authentic. Plus, it gave Tomoko a chance to impress everyone by laying some science on them. Incidentally, one explanation for how a Time Radar could work was thoroughly examined in The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. Tomoko’s short-and-sweet description essentially came from there.
Despite the early impact of having Tomoko on the ship, it was self-evident that a military unit wouldn’t take on the inherent risks of keeping a pregnant civilian on board. Derek had this to say about it:
Derek: You wouldn’t want a pregnant crew member aboard a warship in a time of war. Their hormonal fluctuations can cause emotional shifts that could be detrimental to the well-being of the ship and crew. In peacetime, the service might be more accommodating in these regards. But in wartime, the standard policy would probably be to transfer any pregnant women to shore duty. If this wasn’t possible or feasible, they would probably be put in cryo stasis for the duration of the cruise (or until the ship could make a safe port of call). In the case of Tomoko, you might avoid this issue on the technicality that she’s not an official member of the crew. At best, she’s serving in an advisory/assistant capacity, so she doesn’t fall under the strict rules of EDF regs. Still, someone might bring this up.
Thus, the need to at least demonstrate awareness of the issue. The original story note from Japan didn’t give a reason for the rendezvous to take place, so this gave it a rationale.
Something I was really looking forward to (along with many other fans, I’m sure) was finally seeing the Arizona in action. From the first moment you lay eyes on that gorgeous ship (designed, incidentally, by 2199 director Yutaka Izubuchi) you get the idea that it could pick up where Andromeda left off. Unfortunately, it seemed the original writers intended for its anime career to be short and sweet, making it just another casualty of war. (And adding insult to injury, we only saw its wreckage in the TV version.) But our goal was to honor their original intent, so we slogged forward. Then Derek Wakefield spoke up:
Derek: My vote would be to substitute the Prince of Wales or Bismarck for the Arizona and allow for your idea of using the Arizona post-Gardiana. For one reason, the PoW and Bismarck looked horrendously weak compared to the Arizona.
If I were the one to choose the ill-fated ship, I’d go with the Prince of Wales. Of the two, it’s probably the one which could last the longest in a gunfight. Also, the ill-fated ship’s loss situation seems closer to what happened to the real PoW (moreso than what happened to the Bismarck).
OTOH, I’m surprised they didn’t name the PoW the Hood instead. The design of the ship is more reminiscent of the Hood than Prince of Wales. It was slender, narrow, and had 4 twin turrets. In comparison, the PoW was wider and had two quad and one twin gun mount.
The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. We didn’t HAVE to throw away the Arizona just yet. We could honor the original intent without being slavish about it, especially when this would be the one and only opportunity to have it live up to its promise. So I agreed with Derek and made it the Hood instead.
Derek: Okay…now that I can claim I saved the Arizona @_@
Who recognized the reflex gun reflector ships launching after Talan? Gold star!
The hardest part of this chapter was to set up the mystery that would take Talan several more chapters of detective work to sleuth out. I had never written a detective mystery before, so it took a lot of discussion to work it out. Some highlights:
Tim: It’s Keeling/Gustav’s plan to lure the Argo into a shooting match against their side so the standoff can go hot. They want to draw out the Argo and get it into a fight WITHOUT tipping off Talan that they’re engineering the whole thing. As I ponder this, the funny thing is that we (as writers) have to find a way to outsmart Talan. That guy is trouble even on paper.
The stakes have to be pretty big. Talan has to see it and have no cause for doubt. Or even if he does, the result of the shootout has to be significant. Maybe Talan himself gets pushed into the line of fire, so it looks like the Argo is targeting HIM. That’s something Desslok could never forgive. So how do Keeling & Gustav engineer THAT?
Carol: He could go over to the Hood in his own personal ship to speak with their commander to offer friendship and assistance (maybe with a star map of Galman space as a gift), and on his way back his ship is fired upon. It looks like Hood fires on him but it’s something SMITE-ed (or reflexed, which would be easier, maybe) from behind the Hood that shoots one of his engines out.
Tim: I’m liking the reflex gun angle (pun intended)…a quintessential Gamilon weapon that can always be counted on for major trouble. It would be easy to cover its tracks, and give Talan a nice detective story to play out.
But there’s still some uncertainty. A shot from the Hood could easily be written off as a mistake, since they’ve not had any contact with Galmans or Gamilons before. The shot HAS to come from the Argo and it HAS to look like they’re intentionally firing on Talan. That’s how we ignite war.
Getting the Argo to the scene is easy with the Hood as bait. The Bolar need to be the heavies since we can’t yet have a shooting war between Galman & Earth. It would have been easy for Keeling & Gustav to tip off the Bolar about the Hood and engineer a fight. If they’re in a position to watch it, Talan would want to intervene on behalf of Earth, but it would be like the US stepping in to fight Russia in defense of Europe – the cold war would go hot in a flash. Can’t do that.
Maybe Talan decides to take a single ship into the fray that’s too small to be noticed. That’s the ship that would get “fired upon” by the “Argo.” It has to be a Galman-style ship, maybe a fighter.
Carol: It could even be THAT fighter. The one he commandeered from the white comet during Desslok’s rescue. No wait. There would still be confusion with that, wouldn’t there? It’s not obviously Galman or Gamilon.
Tim: The only doubt it gives me is that a small fighter can really easily get caught up in the crossfire, and it can be chalked up to pilot error. A bigger ship is a much more obvious target. The question we’d have to answer is, what’s Talan trying to accomplish by taking it out? Does he want to make contact with someone or just intervene? The goal would dictate what kind of ship he’d use.
Carol: It would have some kind of diplomatic significance, but it should be small enough that he’d want to pilot it himself. It could be a destroyer class ship with a wacky paint job and slaved controls to one pilot. It normally needs a crew of three or so.
And thus was Talan made a True Detective.
That scares me a little bit, because now I see him making things out of beer cans. I pretty much referred to his character for these chapters as “Gumshoe Talan.”