Episode 17 Commentary

Critical Moment of Desslok’s Empire

By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)

Watch this episode now at these sources: Star Blazers on Hulu | Star Blazers on YouTube | Original version subtitled

Production note: the labor saved on Episode 16 was put to good use on this one, which is one of the best-looking of the entire series. On a character animation level, it was attributable to director Shinya Takahashi. A character designer by trade, he designed Sasha for Be Forever Yamato and went on to cover the entire cast for Final Yamato. His delicate, rounded faces and strong body structures are evident at a glance. Effects animation was supervised by the ever-popular Yoshinori Kanada, who had the singular skill of making an on-screen exchange of energy positively ripple with life.

The opening scene in this episode is a look at Galman and its twin, Starsha. Planet Starsha is supposed to be blue, but here it appears to look exactly the same as Galman.

It’s the morning after the last episode. At the Argo, Wildstar and his staff greet Emperor Desslok and his aide, Talan. This marks Talan’s first “live” appearance in Series 3. In Series 1, he seemed to be presented as an inventor and only appeared in two minor scenes. In Yamato 2, with the Gamilons reduced to little more than a nomadic, ragtag fleet, he was constantly at Desslok’s side, functioning as his loyal aide-de-camp. Perhaps Talan’s preferred position is as a scientist or inventor, and he filled the role as Desslok’s adjunct out of necessity. Now, with a whole empire under his rule, there are others, such as Keeling, more suited to a bureaucratic role. But, apparently there is still a place for Talan at Desslok’s side.

Story note: it’s interesting that as Desslok prepares to set foot on the Argo, he is greeted by the prime crew with the standard fist-on-heart salute–but Wildstar renders a standard military salute (right hand over right eye). It’s not the first time we’ve seen this salute in the saga, but it is the first time both styles have been seen together in one frame. Evidently, it’s a matter of rank and relationship with its own special explanation.

Stepping onto the first bridge of the Argo, Desslok does a surprising thing–he bows before the bas relief portrait of Captain Avatar. Desslok’s obeisance before his one-time enemy is a bit hard to reconcile with his previous declaration of godhood.

Story note: this is the first time Desslok has actually set foot on the bridge. He was not, however, the first alien to do so; he was preceded by Trelaina in Series 2, Sasha in Be Forever, and two members of the Bolar Federation: Captain Ram and Justin Liberatus.

Desslok asks why the Star Force has ventured so far from home. Wildstar explains that an errant Galman proton missile fell into the sun, leaving Earth only one year to survive. The Argo has been dispatched to find a new home. They’ve already burned up half their time between their search and repeated skirmishes, mostly with Galman forces. Desslok asks whether they’ve tried to regain control of the sun, and Wildstar answers that they’ve tried everything they could think of.

“Everything they could think of” was to send “cooling energy” to the sun back in Episode 7. If there were any other attempts, they were never shown or mentioned in-story. Desslok offers his assistance, bluntly declaring that Galman technology is superior to Earth’s. He asks Talan, rechristened “Masterson” by the Star Blazers scripters, to summon Technology Major Kranshaw.

The Talan/Masterson issue is an error due to the fact the Series 3 production team didn’t realize Talan was a pre-existing character. There was an attempt to address this error in the second Comico comic book series. The explanation is that “Talan” is a title, not a name. “Masterson” is the family name of those who have served as a Talan, or “ancestral friend,” to Desslok’s family for generations. Unfortunately, this explanation was undone when the author of the first issue, Markalan Joplin, died shortly after it was written. The followup author, Phil Foglio, wasn’t filled in on the whole story, so instead of becoming Desslok’s aide, Masterson was revealed to be attempting to assassinate Desslok and was killed by the end of the story!

Wildstar thanks Desslok. Desslok rebuffs his thanks; he is merely taking responsibility for the actions of his forces. As Desslok and Talan walk to the exit, the sound of the automatic door opening is heard, but the animation shows the door is already open.

Desslok’s offer sparks a short but impassioned debate. Jetter and Dash don’t wish to have the people of Earth indebted to such a man. Nova and Wildstar are both confident that he can be trusted, while the ever-pragmatic Sandor notes that Desslok is correct about Galman technology being more advanced. Doctor Sane says their main concern should be saving the Earth. Finally, Sandor suggests they wait to see what kind of plan the Galmans come up with, then decide whether or not to accept it. (If the Galmans’ solution involves planet bombs, I assume that would get a “no” vote!)

Meanwhile, at a frontline base of the Bolar Federation, missiles are launched toward the Galman homeworld. These missiles are equipped with warp capability, allowing them to bypass Galman defenses.

Sandor and Wildstar arrive at the Galman Imperial Spaceport, where they are introduced to Technology Major Kranshaw [Frausky]. Kranshaw outlines his plan for controlling Earth’s sun. He must have been waiting for an opportunity to wrestle with a sun, because he describes it as “the culmination of his life’s work.” If he were a full-blooded Gamilon, he might have been the genius behind Balan’s artificial sun.

Wildstar reports to Commander Singleton at the EDF Emigration office. Sandor has given Kranshaw’s plan his support. Five Galman ships are preparing for the operation, ETA 14 days. Sandor, five of his science team, and Homer Glitchman will accompany them (which prompts a smile from Wendy). Commander Singleton tells Wildstar to convey his thanks.

When Wildstar talks to Desslok, he broaches the subject of why Desslok doesn’t put all his technology towards scientific progress instead of using it to increase his military strength. Desslok answers that it’s for stability. The Bolar Federation is powerful, and a strong military is needed to protect his empire. He has designs on ruling the galaxy, but he differentiates himself from the Bolars by saying his rule will bring stability to his subjects.

And here’s where Series 3’s cold war theme is writ large: Desslok’s stance is based on the “nuclear deterrent” argument. The deterrence theory lies in the concept of possessing a large military force, and thus the mere possession of powerful weapons would be enough to prevent an attack. But as noted in a previous entry, the Galman/Bolar conflict is not a true cold war, since there have been actual battles between the two forces. Still, the idea of “peace through a strong military” mirrors the arguments made for nuclear proliferation.

However, the Bolars have one-upped the Galmans in the arms race. The Bolar warp missiles materialize right outside the Galman homeworld. For Desslok, this couldn’t be more perfect timing, demonstrating both the Bolar threat and the efficacy of Galman defenses. As the missiles approach the planet, their shells dismantle, releasing smaller missiles from inside. I like to think of these as “matryoshka” missiles (referring to the famous Russian nesting dolls).

Galman interceptor satellites and missiles destroy the first wave. (Proof that Galman technology is superior to Earth’s: their defense satellites successfully shoot down the first wave without even one of them getting destroyed!) The arrival of a second wave doesn’t go as well; one missile explodes on the outskirts of the capital city. Desslok demands to know how that happened. The control mainframe is down, he’s told. Dessloks turns to Wildstar and Nova to assure them they are safe. The pair head for the spaceport to prepare for launch.

While on the way to the spaceport, Wildstar and Nova witness a man running past them. A harsh German-accented voice calls out “traitor” and the fleeing man is pierced by laser fire. As the man falls, he holds up a Gardiana pendant and calls her name. A spectral image of Queen Gardiana appears, then fades away as he falls dead. Wildstar and Nova suspect that this man was responsible for the failure of the Galman defense system.

A group of Gamilon destroyers lifts off from the planet to aid in defense. Most of the “Bolar bowling pin” missiles are destroyed, but several more get through to the city below. A few of the destroyers and at least one defense satellite are blown up as well. Talan urges Desslok to retreat to a bunker, but the Emperor sees it as his duty to remain at C&C.

Another Bolar missile, a large planet destroyer, materializes near the planet. We know this one is dangerous because it uses the same sound effects as the Ultra-Menace Missile and Drill Missile from Series 1. (And its on-screen movement is nearly identical.)

At Galman control, a technician reports that it will take 30 minutes to fix the damage wrought by the saboteur. The planet-destroyer is detected. “Intercept it!” Desslok demands. Meanwhile, the Argo lifts off to escort Sandor and the Galman science fleet. The destroyers fail to bring down the missile.

Production note: this episode features not just one, but two luxurious flyby shots of alien mecha. Both the Bolar planet-destroyer and a Galman science ship (which, incidentally, is several times longer than the Argo) are shown flying close by the camera so that they fill the screen for several seconds as all their hull details pass by for inspection. Shots like this are rare because they’re very labor-intensive with a new drawing for every cel. It’s much cheaper to create one piece of art and just pass it in front of the camera, which we saw during the military parade at the end of the previous episode. When this laborous technique was used for the famous Yamato flyby that became a staple of Series 1, it was a revelation for TV anime. Here, two examples of it go almost unnoticed, but they are another example of the outstanding production values in this particular episode.

Jason Jetter is summoned to the Argo‘s bridge. Wildstar’s arm is still tender from his recent injury, so Jetter will fire the Wave-Motion Gun. One of the first things Jetter wants to do is eliminate the countdown and pull the trigger. Wildstar objects to the notion, explaining that Sandor and the Galman science ships are too close. They must wait until the missile is far enough away so its explosion will not harm the ships.

In Yamato III, Domon [Jason] recommends just letting the missile hit Galman and blow it up. This certainly paints Domon in a different light, since he would allow an inhabited planet to be destroyed out of spite.

The gun is fired, withering the missile away in the pure white flash of Wave-Motion energy. Jason is congratulated by most of the bridge crew. I like to imagine Dash is nursing a serious grudge at this point. After all, he’s been the number two guy in the Combat division since the beginning and has never gotten a chance to fire the gun. Even a “temp” like Kitano from The New Voyage got a chance at it.

Desslok thanks Wildstar for saving his empire. Wildstar delivers a strong rebuke to the emperor. He acted to save the science ships, he says; saving Desslok’s empire was a secondary concern. And as mighty as his technological defenses are, they can be brought down by a single saboteur. In Yamato III, Kodai proclaims, “Overconfidence is more dangerous to you than any enemy. Don’t forget it.” Desslok fumes at his words, but says nothing.

Story note: This episode is estimated to take place on March 20, 2206. It is 147 days since the mission began.

There are only 182 days left. (or 183 days, if you believe the Star Blazers narrator.)

Continue to Episode 18

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