Episode 23 Commentary

Finally Arrived! Crest of the Magellanic Cloud’s Wave!

By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)

Watch this episode now at these sources: Original version subtitled

23 April 2200

Production notes: The storyboards for this and the next two episodes were by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu, who concluded his work on Series 1 with the singular achievement of having drawn 13 episodes, sharing duties with Noboru Ishiguro on only one of them (Episode 11).

This episode was condensed from material that was originally written for episodes 32 and 33. In the 39-episode plot, Yamato overthrows the command base in the Small Magellanic Cloud in episode 25, then advances while Gamilas undergoes internal troubles such as the execution first of Domel (ep 26), then Hisu (ep 27) when it is discovered that he was plotting to overthrow and assassinate Dessler. This would have been followed by encounters with ghosts and bizarre creatures, culminating in the collapse of Captain Okita in episode 31.

Over five weeks have passed since the Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster, enough time for the extensive repair work to be finished, including the rebuilding of the third bridge. With damage so great, I wonder where they got the raw materials. Argo Press’ Star Blazers comics had two answers: the comic story says they cannibalized the wrecks of the Gamilon carriers, while a letter column joked that they towed a spare Argo around just off-screen to strip for parts.

There is no recap to open this episode. We start off with the Star Force ready to face…the Comet Empire!!!??? No, sorry, it’s just the Greater Magellanic Cloud. But looking at that opening shot, I can’t help but wonder if this was the artists’ visual inspiration for the White Comet. It certainly looks very different from actual pictures of the Magellanic Cloud.

Venture calls attention to the Astro-Compass, which is malfunctioning. Realizing some outside force could be acting on it, Homer reports that they are getting a signal from the Magellanic Cloud. They soon hear Starsha’s voice, giving them a brief note of encouragement.

Space Battleship Yamato filled us in on the backstory here, detailing the plight of Earth and the mission to Iscandar. I guess they were tired of always having that at the beginning and decided to change things up a bit.

Derek and Nova are in such high spirits they decide to have their picture taken together. Feeling bold, he puts his arm around her, which she smacks away at the exact moment the camera goes off. She then goes back on duty, leaving Derek with the picture, a souvenir of “their first date”.

Clueless, Derek asks, “This is our first date?”

“Of course! You know it is, Derek,” Nova informs him as she exits the room.

Yamato‘s Yuki was a bit more sly, saying that the picture is something to show “the kids” from when “Mom and Dad” were young. It’s not until after she leaves that what she said sinks in. The scene continues further in Yamato with an extremely drunk (and buck-toothed) Dr. Sado offering his sage advice, telling Kodai [Wildstar] not to think that their mission is finished just because they’re nearly to their goal.

Homer walks into the communication room (where they made contact with Earth in episodes 10 and 19) and is told that the homing beacon to Iscandar has been cut off. In Yamato, this room is very dark, but Star Blazers lightens up the visuals, making it as bright as other areas of the ship. Curiously, the men who are working at the comm console are wearing Blue (Science) and Red (Combat) uniforms. Maybe other departments had to take over shifts in the comm room due to attrition.

Wildstar is informed of the situation by Venture (who, I assume, would have discovered the problem on his own). Wildstar isn’t bothered by the loss of the signal; they know where Iscandar is, so they should just continue ahead. But Venture has discovered that there appear to be two planets. Projecting them on the screen, the Star Force crew gets its first look at Iscandar and its unexpected twin. One planet is blue and Earthlike (at least an Earth not ruined by planet bombs) while the other looks green, cratered, and menacing. Heaven and Hell personified.

Viewers would recognize both planets, the blue one being Iscandar and the green, Gamilon. This was a revelation in Star Blazers. Not so in Yamato, which gave the game away as early as episode 3 when they showed the two planets side-by-side and clearly labeled. The narrator even mentions they’re twin planets in episode 10.

This scene had a few more differences in Yamato. Shima [Venture] brings up a map of the Magellanic Cloud on a video panel. If we’re to assume the inset on the map is Iscandar’s star system, called Sanzar, it appears to have planets with wildly eccentric orbits. Iscandar is the 8th planet of its system, located 300 million km from its sun (about twice the distance from the Earth to Sol.) The twin planets are a binary system, rotating around each other as they travel around their sun.

Eager suddenly shouts a warning of an attack from one of the Iscandars, and the ship goes on combat alert. There’s a brief shot of a gunnery crew preparing for battle. Like in the comm room, I think attrition caused crew members from other specialties to fill in where needed, because we see one of the science department members sitting in a gunner’s seat. This scene also shows a hammer being cocked on the shock cannon barrels. Since these are energy-based weapons, I’m not sure what this indicates. Do energy charges need to be loaded in there, similar to the Wave-Motion Cartridges we see in Be Forever Yamato?

When the missiles move in close, the Argo‘s shock cannons and pulse laser batteries fire. The missiles, which vaguely resemble maces, fire off spikes which act as mini-missiles. Some hit, others are destroyed by the guns, but each explosion releases rust-colored chaff, surrounding the Argo in a reddish cloud.

Yamato shows a bit more of the battle, with the cloud being formed as opposed to mostly being described by Venture. Venture commands Orion to stop the ship. Wildstar immediately snaps at the Chief Navigator for his lack of protocol, as all orders are to go through him. Venture explains that the missiles have created a magnetic cloud that is interfering with their navigation equipment. Yamato has extra dialogue that further points out the paradox, that by defending themselves they helped trigger this trap.

Wildstar seems very sensitive. Perhaps it’s because this is his first crisis, but he jumps down Venture’s throat, accusing him of thinking he’s not a capable Deputy Captain. Yamato‘s dialogue is less hysterical and gets to the heart of the problem; the recent signal from Iscandar may have been a fake. Kodai prompts Shima to admit that’s what he’s thinking as well. Shima (somewhat unconvicingly) says that no, Iscandar isn’t their enemy.

Conroy is ordered to get samples of the cloud, which allows Sandor to verify that it is of Gamilonian origin. Wildstar realizes the truth: that Gamilon and Iscandar are twin planets. The whole time they’ve been traveling to Iscandar they’ve also been flying right into the heart of their enemy.

In Desslok’s chambers, he relaxes with a bath and massage. An aide comes over with an ornate, old-fashioned telephone and informs him he has a call from Queen Starsha. After opening pleasantries, Starsha chastises Desslok for his treatment of Earth. Desslok’s response reveals to the viewers that both Iscandar and Gamilon are facing a cataclysm and he’s attacking Earth with the intention of relocating the population of his planet there.

Production note: In the first draft of the script for this episode, Dessler and Starsha’s conversation revealed that Gamilas and Iscandar were not the only closely-related planets; their peoples’ ancestors migrated to Earth at a time when its position was closer to the Magellanic Clouds. Later, we learn in Series 3 that the Gamilas actually came here from Planet Galman, so had this interesting detail been preserved, those who went to Earth would have been Starsha’s ancestors.

Desslok doesn’t care about Earthlings because “they’re so uncivilized.” Starsha calls him on his hypocrisy, pointing out that committing genocide is not the mark of a civilized society (although it’s couched in kid-friendly terms, with Starsha calling Desslok a “bully.”) Desslok dispenses with politeness and scolds her for offering the Cosmo DNA to Earth. She points out that the Star Force has beaten Gamilon forces in every engagement so far. Desslok gets a bit heated at this point, and tells her “the only battle that counts is the last one,” which will go on to become a catch-phrase for him.

Later, before hundreds of his cheering officers (and flanked by what look like GIANT applause meters), Desslok reveals his plan to destroy the Star Force. He starts with a look at Gamilon. A cross-section of the planet is shown. It looks like its molten core takes up over half its mass. Above that are two crusts: the lower one appears to be where the Gamilons live, and a “thin, protective crust” supported by natural rock columns makes up the outer shell, which apparently isn’t habitable.

There is a lot of volcanic activity on the lower crust. Desslok explains that the volcanic action that created Gamilon is now threatening to destroy it. Sulfur compounds found in the lava has mixed with the underground sea, making the areas around the volcanoes nearly pure sulfuric acid. The Argo is now surrounded by a magnetic cloud that will allow Desslok to use a magnetic tractor beam to draw it into the sulfuric acid sea. Guns, bombs, and rain-making “climate destabilizers” will hamper the Star Force if they try to escape.

Story note: The diameter of Planet Gamilas is 16,000 km. Its mineral content is rapidly sulfurizing and will soon be unable to support life. Therefore, it was decided to kill off all life on Earth with radioactivity before migrating there and (presumably) purifying the planet for Gamilas inhabitants. Knowing of the Cosmo DNA, Desslok might have been relying on Queen Starsha’s generous nature to put it to use for the benefit of his people.

In episode 20, Lysis mentioned that Desslok values clever strategy over brute strength. Based on the overly elaborate scheme he comes up with here, it certainly seems to be a point of weakness for him. As we see in Series 2, the Gamilons still have dozens of ships available. He could have just sent all of his ships against the Argo, or at least used them to form a defensive perimeter around the planet. I think part of the reason he didn’t is pride. Lysis went into battle with 4 carriers and special equipment, which is already pretty overwhelming. If Desslok or anyone else were to attack with a much more powerful force than that it would be akin to admitting they’re not capable commanders. (We’ll just ignore the fleet of “at least 3,000 ships” Lysis used in Episode 15.)

On the Argo, Derek stares out the aft observation deck. In Yamato, this scene is silent, but Star Blazers fills in the gap with Derek’s thoughts.

Later, as Derek talks things over with Captain Avatar, Gamilon’s magnetic tractor beams draw the Argo and the cloud into its subterranian inner crust. The Argo uses its reverse thrusters, but the pull is too strong. As we view the ship being pulled in, a female (non-Nova) voice is heard. In Yamato, the female crew were all in cold sleep capsules, but it seems the Star Force thawed out at least one other woman for active duty.

The Argo is pulled in at an impressive speed. The tractor beams are shut off and the cloud is dispersed, letting gravity and the ship’s momentum carry it into Gamilon. The Argo skims across the pale brown sea before coming to a rest. The crew are thrown around by the impact, and poor IQ is smashed into his component pieces. Derek picks himself off the floor and rouses the rest of the crew. He asks for an analysis from IQ, only to be told that they have to put him back together.

Rain clouds form, sending literal acid rain pouring down on the ship. A short time later, Sandor finishes reassembling IQ-9. (According to IQ, there’s a diagram inside his back panel showing how to put him together!)

The robot gets to work analyzing. As Derek becomes inured to the gentle rocking of the ship (a comment made in Yamato, not Star Blazers), IQ-9 announces his findings–they are floating in a sulfuric acid sea that will dissolve the hull!

Venture calls for an immediate launch. Almost as soon as the ship clears the water, the third bridge falls off. It had just been rebuilt after getting blown off at the end of last episode. If what the Star Blazers comics said was true and repair materials were salvaged from Gamilon wrecks, that could be why it fell off. Judging by how easily Gamilon ships explode, Gamilonian alloy must be much weaker than the materials the Yamato typically uses. Either way, that third bridge is still a death trap.

“There are 164 days left”

Continue to episode 24

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