Episode 25 Commentary

Iscandar! A Dying Planet Of Love!

By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)

Watch this episode now at these sources: Original version subtitled

26 April – 26 May 2200

The Star Force has finally arrived at Iscandar, and in Yamato we’re treated to a few scenes of Iscandar’s solar system, Sanzar. Eager reports that Iscandar appears “similar to Earth, mild temperatures in all zones.” Iscandar doesn’t seem to have polar ice caps, and appears to be mostly water, with only one single land mass that’s shaped (possibly by artist’s intent) somewhat like Japan.

Production note: In the original 39-episode plan, Yamato was to take a full episode to travel between the planets, the highlight of which was a dimensional rift that threatened to swallow the ship.

In Yamato, the narrator recaps the series over footage of the ship’s descent to the ocean’s surface. Sailing into the capital city, Mothertown (not identified by word or label in Star Blazers), the four senior officers–Wildstar, Venture, Nova, and Sandor–and IQ-9 depart the gantry to at last meet their benefactor, Queen Starsha.

Starsha is a typical Matsumoto woman: thin, demure, and with impossibly long blonde hair. Sandor notes that she looks like Nova, a fact that was remarked on by Wildstar and Venture earlier in the series. Even Starsha is fooled, assuming Nova is her sister, Astra. Derek informs her that her sister died in a crash landing on Mars. In a detail that wasn’t mentioned in the first episode, we learn that Astra’s ship was attacked by the Gamilons, which accounts for the damage shown when her ship fell to Mars.

Starsha offers an apology for not informing them that Gamilon and Iscandar were twin planets. She was afraid that they would choose not to come to Iscandar if it meant also heading for Gamilon. This explanation is only marginally better than Yamato‘s, where Starsha said she wanted to test the Earther’s bravery and make them worthy of her gift. It almost sounds like she could have just sent the Cosmo Cleaner D [Cosmo DNA] directly to Earth, but instead chose to make them come to her instead. This seems incredibly hard-hearted, akin to seeing someone drowning and throwing the life preserver far away from them. Hey, if they really want to live, they’ll swim for it, right? In either case, we can probably assume that Iscandarian psychology is different from Earth’s.

This scene takes place on a clear, bright day, except for one shot where it’s a clear, starry night, then it’s day again. Perhaps the sun was eclipsed by Gamilon for a minute?

Boxes containing parts of the Cosmo DNA are moved by automatic loaders onto the Argo. Sandor will assemble and test it on the return trip. While he would much rather assemble it here and ask the engineers of Iscandar any questions that might come up, they are running out of time. Avatar and his bed have been moved outside for this scene. This is the last time (until Final Yamato) that we will see him outside of his cabin.

Sparks, IQ-9, Eager, Homer (last two are heard, not seen), and about a dozen crew members are given a tour of Iscandar via some type of monorail. Iscandarian buildings look like they’re carved out of crystal. They pass by an island which IQ says is made entirely out of diamond. Sparks is suitably impressed. Some of the discussion during this trip is about the Iscandarian natives, and the fact that Starsha is the only person they’ve seen so far. There is a lot less chatter in the Yamato version, and the only members of this tour group appear to be Yabu [Sparks] and some engineers, most likely his future conspirators.

Wildstar and Nova accompany Starsha to a vast cemetery. Starsha kneels before a grave marker (a fresh one to mark Astra’s passing) and thanks the two for coming here, which she describes as “all that’s left of Iscandar.” Looking at the rows of grave markers stretching as far as the eye can see, Nova asks where all the people are. “They’re here,” Starsha says, indicating the graves. Starsha explains that the Iscandarians were victim to a plague that shortened their lifespans. They had appealed to Gamilon for help, but Gamilon’s answer was to wage war on other planets in order to find one to live on. In the process, they destroyed worlds and cultures that could have benefited the twin planets. Helpless to save their own people, when Starsha and Astra learned of Earth’s fate they decided to offer assistance. Starsha leaves the graveyard, telling the pair that she has someone from Earth to send home with them.

The Yamato version of this scene has a few differences in the details. When Starsha concludes the brief funeral for Sasha (Astra), she says she’s returned to the soil of Iscandar, implying that the Yamato brought her body with them. (Leiji Matsumoto’s manga adaption indicates that Kodai and Shima buried her on Mars.) There was no mention of a lifespan-shortening disease. Instead, Starsha is vague, simply saying that it was Iscandar’s fate to die.

At Starsha’s citadel, Derek has an emotional reunion with Starsha’s guest, none other than his own brother Alex. This scene was drawn out by a few more dramatic beats in Yamato. Leaving them to catch up, Starsha quietly slips away. Nova follows. She finds her in another room, where she is softly crying. Starsha explains that Alex Wildstar was captured by the Gamilons after the Paladin crashed on Titan. (Apparently, the Paladin wasn’t as damaged as it looked from the Pluto battle, and managed to evade Gamilon forces until it reached Titan.) Taking Alex back to Gamilon, their ship got caught in a “space storm” (possibly from the shared atmospheric channel between the twin planets) and they crashed on Iscandar. Alex was the only survivor, and Starsha nursed him back to health. Nova, showing amazing insight bordering on ESP, asks, “you love him, don’t you?” We don’t hear an answer, we just see Starsha’s Bambi-like expression.

Nighttime. In the Argo‘s mess hall, Travis Sparks sits with his boss, Orion, expressing doubts about the success of their mission. (This isn’t the first time. He revealed similar doubts way back in Episode 14.) They’ve been out of communication with Earth for months, so they don’t know how conditions have deteriorated since then. They might not make it back in time, especially considering the state of the Argo. Although it looks like it’s in decent condition, Sparks’ comments indicate there is still some major repair work to be done. Orion tells Sparks that he has faith they’ll make it back in time. Later, in the Engine Room, Sparks brings up the subject again. With a mad fire in his eyes, he suggests that they can stay on Iscandar. Orion has had enough, and shuts him down.

A short time later, Avatar wakes to the sight of Alex standing in front of him. Avatar seems taken aback for a moment, then salutes and offers a trembling hand out to him. Before things can get too maudlin, Sandor rushes in. An old schoolmate of Alex’s, they are understandably happy to see one another. Dr. Sane rushes in with bottles of sake, referred to as “Captain Avatar’s spring water,” to celebrate.

Sandor and Alex Wildstar share another bond: a link between their names. Both Alex and Sandor are derived from the name “Alexander.” Not only that, but the name Iscandar (which is the planet’s name in Japanese as well) is also a form of the name Alexander.

Story note: in the first draft of the script, Mamoru Kodai delivers a follow-up to the interesting historical detail learned in episode 23. He confirms that the Magellanic Clouds once brushed up against the Milky Way and that ancient Iscandarians emigrated to Earth. There, they adapted to the environment and evolved into human beings.

Later, Starsha is asked to return to Earth with the Star Force. Her answer is a sad shake of the head. Her family has ruled Iscandar for generations and she cannot desert it. She then changes the subject to something requiring Wildstar’s attention; several Star Force personel have taken a scout ship to Diamond Island with the intent to settle there.

Furthermore, Starsha reveals that Diamond Island is likely to sink under the sea at any moment. She explains that volcanic activity on Gamilon has affected Iscandar’s continental shelf. Being twin planets in a precarious gravitational balance, if one’s orbit was disturbed even a little, it could conceivably cause chaos to its twin. As if on cue, a quake rumbles through the city. Wildstar rushes off to the Argo. A brief scene of Wildstar running up the gantry was seen in Yamato, but not Star Blazers.

When Wildstar arrives on the bridge, he’s told that Sparks and twelve Engine Room personnel have deserted. They are soon contacted by Sparks, who formally requests permission to stay. Wildstar tells him it’s against regs to colonize other planets. Sparks explains that he and his men have decided to stay on Iscandar to ensure Earth’s survival. When Wildstar points out that twelve men won’t last more than a generation, Sparks reveals that they’ve also taken Nova. Of course, only a single female wouldn’t be much better for propagating the human race, but Wildstar rightly sticks to more immediate concerns, warning them about the impending earthquake. Sparks just laughs, believing this to be a thin ploy.

Just then, the whole planet shakes, and Eager reports an incoming tidal wave.

Production note: a blooper occurs when Wildstar orders the ship to launch; his cel layer is beneath that of the bridge, making him look like a giant standing outside the windows.

The Argo takes off immediately. After they get into the air, Conroy and his group depart in special never-seen-before-or-will-again rescue vehicles to retrieve the mutineers. Star Blazers only showed a brief look at the mutineers as the earthquake hits and volcanoes erupt.

Yamato reveals Yabu [Sparks] and some of his partners falling into a crevasse that opens up before them. Nova is rescued just moments before the wave hits, flooding a nearby city. The entire island is then shown to be consumed in a volcanic eruption.

Later, when things are calm again, Starsha says her goodbye to a bedridden Avatar as they prepare to depart. She’s come to his cabin with Derek, Alex, Orion and Nova. Venture enters and requests permission to start the return trip. Instead of granting permission, Avatar turns to Wildstar. “You’re the Deputy Captain.” Wildstar gives Venture the go-ahead.

Orion offers an apology to Starsha for the trouble his men caused. “I’m afraid the long trip was harder on some than on others. He was a good man,” he laments. A lesser show might have made a reference to Sparks being in the ship’s brig, but Star Blazers, although using indirect language, makes it clear that Sparks is dead. Avatar asks Starsha once more to return with them, but again she refuses so he simply thanks her on behalf of Earth.

As Starsha leaves, Nova encourages her to tell Alex how she feels. When Alex and Starsha say their goodbyes, Starsha makes a considerable effort before managing to say “I love you, Alex. I love you,” then runs off crying. Offering his apologies to Derek, Alex goes after her, falling into her arms. They then say their good-byes to the Star Force and take off in their pink Barbie hoverboat.

Story note: the 1979 “Hot Blood” novelization of Series 1 by author Hitomi Takagaki strengthened the bond between Earth and Iscandar. Before Kodai and Mamoru part, they agree to establish a permanent trade route between the two planets that their descendants will enjoy for centuries thereafter. This was, of course, written before The New Voyage.

“I guess that Alex and Starsha are going to be the Adam and Eve of a brand new Iscandar,” Derek says. While it’s somewhat romantic to think they’ll start repopulating the planet, they’ll face the same issues as Sparks and his men, only exacerbated by the fact that Alex and Starsha (at least in theory) come from two different races.

“It’ll be our turn next, Nova,” Wildstar states hopefully. She nods, and with a vigorous “Earth, here we come!!” the Argo begins its journey back home.

Production note: The ship departs after a month-long stay on Iscandar. (Attention fanfic writers: the unseen events of that timeframe have yet to be chronicled.) The original plan was to spend two full episodes on Iscandar, which would have included the death of Captain Okita.

“There are only 131 days left”

Continue to episode 26

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