Episode 11 Commentary

Resolution! Break Through the Gamilons’ Absolute Defense Line!

By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)

Watch this episode now at these sources: Original version subtitled

25-27 November 2199

Production note: storyboarding duties for this episode were shared by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu and animation director Noboru Ishiguro. As with previous episodes, Yasuhiko’s work shines brightest in his lively facial expressions and well-proportioned body shapes. Ishiguro probably focused on the exterior space scenes.

After the recap, Space Battleship Yamato opens with a shot of Gamilas, then the outside of the Command Headquarters (where we get our first sight of the “pseudo-swastika” insignia), and finally the Central Planning Room. There were labels for each scene, which could be why it was removed from Star Blazers.

As Leader Desslok walks down a path to his throne, we hear for the first time the famous Desslok chant: “DESS-lok Desslok-Desslok, DESS-lok Desslok-Desslok,” repeated over and over again. (Say it loud, say it proud. Right now. Come on, you know you want to!)

This scene also introduces the newer, bluer Gamilons and puts them all in standardized uniforms. The Gamilons had been colored with human skin tones before (except for General Krypt, who at times looked a bit mauve), but during this episode it was decided to make them blue and keep them that way. In later iterations of the Quest For Iscandar, namely the Playstation games, they were shown to be blue even in the early parts of the story. I have to say, seeing a blue Ganz and Bain just looks wrong to me.

The only transition we actually see is with Desslok. He starts his walk in yellowish flesh tones, then as the light in the room changes he becomes blue. His hair, formerly brown-orange, is now blond. No reason is given for the change in story, and the only semi-serious answer we’ve been given is that they appeared non-blue earlier due to a trick of the lighting. This explanation came directly from Noboru Ishiguro, who said that when the color-change order came down from Nishizaki the animators had to preserve their pride with some sort of on-screen shift.

There are a couple of other fan theories. The most popular is that the Gamilons we’ve seen before now were modified to live on Earth. Another is that the Gamilons encountered in the Solar System were actually human traitors. My own pet idea is that, as revealed later, Desslok is secretly in love with Starsha, so he changed himself to look more Iscandarian and therefore, more attractive to her. Ever the trend-setter, other Gamilons followed suit. (They certainly act like a crowd of yes-men in this episode.)

Production note: (Yep, there’s even more to be said about this.) The one and only comment to come out from Japan in print was in the famous 1977 issue of OUT magazine. In a tongue-in-cheek Q&A article hosted by Analyzer (IQ-9), he gave this theory: In humans, iron is a constituent element in the blood, which gives them a red pigment. In Gamilas people, that constituent element is copper, which produces a blue blood cell. But the question was, why did the skin color change during the story? What you didn’t see was the space warp Yamato made between episodes 10 and 11 which went wrong and jumped the ship into a parallel universe where Gamilas have blue skin. Another theory has it that the Gamilas turned pale when they saw Yamato approaching.

Read the entire OUT article here.

Two more possibilities, and then we can all get on with our lives. Stretching the plausibility a bit, the skin tone could be partially explained by observing that Ganz’ troops spent enough time being irradiated by Earth’s sun that it changed their skin color. Or it was done artificially so they could pass for Earthlings if it ever became necessary. As far as we know, however, it didn’t.

That’s that. Note, however, that these production notes have all been Gamilon blue since episode 1. We think of everything here.

Yamato mentions that it is the 103rd year of Dessler’s [Desslok’s] reign. If that weren’t impressive enough, the dialogue also reveals that each Gamilon year contains at least 800 days!

Desslok starts the meeting. General Krypt, choosing his words carefully, details the Star Force’s progress. When Desslok observes that the Star Force has thus far defeated all Gamilon forces, Krypt is quick to assure him that it’s only temporary. The Yamato version of Krypt, Vice President Hisu, lays it on thick, denigrating the Yamato‘s accomplishments (calling the Wave-Motion Gun a mere “pistol”) to the point where Dessler tells him to report the facts, not his opinions.

Talan is introduced. He will make just one more appearance in series 1, and then takes over Krypt’s job in series 2. The Star Blazers voice casters had the foresight to use the same actor throughout, but in series 2 he gets a buffed up body and mustache, darker hair, and a chin of granite. That’s what defeat can do to a man with motivation!

Talan informs Desslok that they’ve put “Desslok Mines” in the Star Force’s path. Desslok offers a toast in honor of the Star Force. This prompts a portly, obnoxious officer to break out in laughter. Desslok presses a button, opening a hole underneath the laughing man, sending him to a fate unknown. None of the officers around him seem to miss him. This episode marks the debut of Mike Czechopolis as the laughing officer. He later plays General Volgar.

Story note: It’s perhaps worth noting that Desslok touches a very specific part of his control panel, implying that this room is chock full of trap doors. No wonder everyone stays quiet afterward.

Nova picks up the Desslok Mines on her radar. An inflatable Argo-shaped “balloon dummy” is sent out to intercept them. Derek seems particularly impressed by the balloon ship, or “Baby Argo” as he calls it. (In the original, he simply refers to it as “cute.”) Next comes an excruciating bit, where the Star Force members can almost name the objects in front of them, but don’t. Space Battleship Yamato doesn’t have any dialogue during this sequence.

Venture says “Don’t worry, we can avoid them. We’ll just turn left at the next star, you’ll see.” Venture has a slight smile as he says this. He was trying to be funny, I think. (If not, he’s playing pretty fast and loose with the principles of navigation.) The Argo changes course but the mines move to block them. Wildstar suggests performing a warp, but Sandor nixes the idea, I assume because they need some forward motion before making a jump. Venture suggests that they use the Wave-Motion Gun. Derek’s excuse is “I don’t have time for an energy charge,” which leads to some back and forth sniping between the two, who in turn are silenced by “big brother” Sandor. As for why they really don’t use the WMG, I’d speculate that Avatar is very cautious about using it too casually. Plus, the last time they used it they broke the ship and spent a day or two repairing it.

Nova calculates the distance between the mines and finds there’s just enough room for the ship to slip through. Venture proceeds at slow speed. Rather than let Venture concentrate, Wildstar mocks him, telling him sarcastically what a hero he will be. This just seems to goad Venture into showing off.

There are several scenes of the ship moving through the mine field that were removed from Star Blazers. The tension rises steadily as the crew goes dead silent. Shima incrementally adjusts their course as they inch forward. Unfortunately, the mines start moving in and completely surround the ship. Nova reports her scanners are picking up electromagnetic waves which will cause the mines to explode if touched. I’m not sure what is meant by “waves.” I think of waves as a pulse of energy spreading in all directions, but apparently these waves can be avoided. Maybe it’s more like an energy web, like we’ll see next episode, or a proximity field that surrounds each mine. Venture’s comments later about hitting a mine’s electromagnetic field would seem to confirm that last interpretation.

Wildstar suddenly regrets that he was egging Venture on earlier. He begs him to stop (the original Japanese dialogue even includes the word “stop” in English), but Venture seems to enjoy his power over Wildstar. Venture sounds like a petulant child when he’s ordered by the Captain to stop the ship. Avatar orders Sandor to disable the mines. Sandor in turn tells IQ-9 to report to the hangar.

In a deleted scene, Analyzer/IQ-9 is hanging out with Dr. Sado/Sane, who is drunk to a degree we’ve never seen before. The good doctor wants his robot buddy to join in the fun, so he throws a glass of sake on him, which makes Analyzer instantly drunk. Yes, if you throw sake on a robot in Yamato, it will become drunk. Hiccups and everything. The Star Blazers explanation for his hiccups only slightly more credible–IQ-9 had hiccups programmed into himself as a “new human characteristic.” IQ arrives late at the hangar, and Sandor yells at him to get into the recon ship. Sandor soon realizes IQ isn’t very well.

The Argo is forced to tilt in order to avoid a few mines. There’s an odd part where Venture is shown speaking one of Homer’s lines.

IQ-9 finally manages to filter out the noise created by the mines’ electromagnetic fields (in between hiccups, no less) and pinpoints the controlling mine, which they begin to dismantle. On the ship, they can do nothing but wait while continuing to avoid mines. There’s a brief edit when Venture informs the Captain they can’t tilt any further. In Yamato, he’s apparently worried when the Captain doesn’t respond and tells him again. This is likely the first indication of the Captain’s worsening condition, which we’ll see next episode.

At one point, Orion’s voice sounds rather gravelly, making it apparent that the same voice actor dubbed the Captain as well.

As IQ starts to disassemble the mine, he and Sandor have one of my favorite exchanges of this episode.

IQ-9: “You know I’m programmed to be careful, Sandor!”

Sandor: “You’re also programmed to hiccup.”

As it turns out, the hiccup actually helps, enabling IQ-9’s “extenso-arms” to reach and detach a computer chip. With the mines now disarmed, Avatar orders Wildstar and the Black Tiger crew to go out in EVA suits and push them away by hand. Reticent at first, Wildstar warms up to the idea, to the point where he even offers to play Venture in a game of “Space Volleyball” with a mine.

Production note: This is the first time we see the official EVA uniform of the Star Force with the gas jets mounted on the shoulders (as opposed to the hardsuits of previous episodes). All of those seen in this episode are red, but in the next episode we’ll see the entire spectrum.

Desslok is fascinated by the way they’ve outsmarted his scientists. He laughs at the irony of the greatest minds of the Gamilon Empire being outwitted by “barbarians” who weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Remembering the unceremonious dumping of their compatriot, the assembled officers slowly join in the laughter. Krypt, his body still bent in an apologetic bow, is the last to join in.

Suddenly, Desslok appears to have a clone. In two scenes, there are two Dessloks! A lookalike decoy, maybe?

Desslok seems rather pleased that he may have a worthy adversary on his hands. He dismisses the meeting, but not before admonishing his men on their sin: arrogance. He starts to walk out, telling Krypt to send a congratulatory note to Captain Avatar. The one odd thing about this is that Desslok asks for Avatar’s name, despite the fact that he used it himself earlier in this episode. This is most likely a script mistake, but it could have been saved by a change of emphasis. (Instead of “Who is the Captain,” it should have been “Who is the Captain,” suggesting Desslok needed a reminder, not that he never knew.)

Later, Eager receives a message signed “Desslok of Gamilon.” At Avatar’s behest, he reads it to the crew. It’s a terse message, stating that they won today, but they will meet again. It’s very strange that Nav Officer Eager received this message instead of Communications man Homer. Indeed, this was a mistake in the original production. In Yamato Captain Okita refers to Ohta (Eager) as Aihara (Homer), and Aihara’s voice actor reads the lines. Once again, the error was probably spotted too late in the production to fix it before airtime. (There’s more evidence that this scene was either rushed or handled by an inexperienced animator; out of nowhere someone looking a little like Conroy runs in wearing a badly mispainted uniform.)

As the first episode to feature a large dose of Desslok, we get a good look at his style. Far from a “cackle-and-shackle” villain, Desslok has class. Sure, he’s responsible for the deaths of millions on Earth (and who knows how many elsewhere), but he likes things done with panache. Eddie Allen’s choice to voice him with an almost supernal calm adds character, portraying him as a corrupt “oh-I’m-so-bored-with-life” Emperor. He comes across as eminently civilized even as he orders the deaths of billions.

“There are now 311 days left”

Continue to episode 12

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