Episode 4 Commentary

Blast off to the Unknown!

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

4 November, 2201

Story note: In the original script for Episode 4, the date and time of Yamato‘s launch was simply written with an X and it remained unspecified through most of the production. Director Noboru Ishiguro was present for the voice recording and decided on the spot to make it November 4 in order to match the episode’s 1978 airdate. Counting backward, the crew would have boarded around 3am on November 3. Kodai proposed that they launch at 7am, but on the advice of Sanada and Tokugawa the departure was delayed to the following morning for careful engine checks and a slow injection of energy.

Ishiguro is credited with the storyboard for this episode. As revealed both here and in the climax of Episode 1 (which was also his), he is particularly good at designing sequences that play up the suspense of a clash of wills.

General Stone reports to EDF Commander Singleton that former Star Force personnel have left their peace-time positions and are boarding the Argo. Stone displays footage on the monitor, showing an impossible number of redshirt clones marching up the boarding ramp (based on previous data, there should be no more than 67 of them unless they have been joined by the patrol crew from the post-Iscandar mission). Stone describes this action as mutiny, and suggests bringing all personnel up on charges. Instead, Singleton merely tells Stone to order them off the ship.

Wildstar looks at the portrait of Captain Avatar and asks him for some advice, since he is still troubled by doubts. Sandor reminds everyone that they will have to be in good condition when they leave because they can’t expect help at their repair depots. Wildstar’s main concern is the water locks. Since the Argo is below sea level, they have to flood the docks and exit through the locks to get out. Sandor tries to reassure Wildstar that everything has been going smoothly so far.

Suddenly, Homer announces that EDF Command wishes to speak to the Star Force’s leader. “That’s you,” Sandor says encouragingly. Stone appears on the monitor and demands, in the name of the Commander, that the Star Force disband. Derek answers that he will pass along the message, but doesn’t believe the all-volunteer group will depart. Stone gives them 30 minutes to decide. Wildstar declares that the Argo will take off as planned. With a quick Star Force salute, Wildstar ends communication. Stone is left fuming. He orders the water locks closed. Singleton belays the order, saying that they’ve promised to give the Star Force 30 minutes. He tells Stone that the Star Force is “too valuable a unit to demoralize unnecessarily.”

Jordy Venture enters his home, where a brief shot of a sign reading “Shima” above the doorway was edited out. Upon seeing big bro Mark laid out on the couch, he immediately launches into questions and how he wants to be like him when he grows up. Mark barks at him to be quiet, then apologizes and says he has something important to think about and walks out the door. This is the last Jordy will see of his brother for awhile.

Production note: This is the first sequence in which we hear a new music cue that will figure strongly in Venture’s future. For now, it can be considered his theme. As for Jordy (originally named Jirou in Yamato), he’s visibly older than he was in the famous “goodbye to Earth” episode from Series 1 and nicely symbolizes the vitality of Earth’s recovery. We won’t see much more of him in Series 2, but he’s got plenty to do in the rest of the saga.

At Central Hospital, IQ-9 rushes to answer the phone only to be upstaged (again) by Miss Efficiency. It’s Venture calling for Dr. Sane. Sane takes the call across the room, but Nova keeps her eyes on him the whole time. Hanging up, he tells Nova to take care of things while he’s gone, which doesn’t sit too well with his current patient. “What about me, Doc? What about my leg,” he asks. Dr. Sane hangs up his coat and offers his homespun advice: “Well, you’ve got two, use the good one ’till it wears out, then come back and see me.” Dr. Sane takes Mimi along, but when Nova wants to come too, he attempts to be evasive, saying he “may be [gone] a little while.” Nova says she’s aware of what’s happening and insists on coming along. Dr. Sane reminds her of the tough life the Star Force leads. Nova says she’s willing to make that sacrifice just as any of the men do.

Wildstar informs all Star Force members of the risk they’ll be taking by launching with the Argo. After the announcement, launch operations resume. Sandor points out that it doesn’t look like Venture is coming. “His is almost the most important job, particularly for what we’re doing.” “Maybe he’s the smart one,” Wildstar responds, disappointed but understanding. He’s a lot more understanding in Star Blazers than in Yamato 2, where Kodai is ready to write Shima off as a stubborn jerk.

The EDF calls again; the 30 minutes are up and they want an answer. Homer passes along Wildstar’s response: “the entire Star Force’s reply is in the negative!” Stone orders the water locks closed. General Singleton urges him to continue negotiations, but Stone feels they’ve given them enough time. The locks are closed. Dash and Eager are afraid they’ll never be able to take off, but Wildstar tells them not to worry and to move up their take-off time. Derek’s thoughts are far from confident, however. He needs Venture.

Venture stands at the base of Avatar’s statue at Hero’s Hill, looking up at the image of his former captain. Dr. Sane (with Mimi) and Nova soon join him. Venture expresses his doubts about the mission, that an unclear radio message is very little information to base a mission on. Doctor Sane offers his sage advice on the situation: while acknowledging the risk, the consequences of not acting are dire. He’s planning to go himself.

Production note: A unique music cue underscores this scene, an instrumental version of From Yamato With Love, the ending theme from Farewell to Yamato. It’s the only time it will be heard in the entire series and in fact the only place it can be heard at all since it was conspicuously absent from Yamato‘s many music releases. So enjoy it now.

On the Argo‘s main bridge, all systems are prepared for launch. IQ-9 rolls up and announces that everyone is on board. Wildstar tells him to check again. IQ, realizing what Derek is so anxious about, is more direct in his next response, and says Venture is not on board. Without missing a beat, Wildstar calls in the gangway. Sandor starts flooding the dock. It seems a little strange that the locks are controlled by the EDF command, but the Argo controls the flooding mechanism. Commander Singleton calls the Argo to personally request that Wildstar stand down. He responds that they are doing what must be done. “Commander, we are taking off!” With a determined salute, he breaks contact.

Wildstar takes the helm and the Argo is released from the giant docking clamps. A familiar voice is heard on the bridge, calling out start-up proceedures. Wildstar is so wrapped up in what he’s doing that he doesn’t realize Venture has arrived until he’s standing right next to him. Venture takes the helm, which Wildstar is all too happy to surrender. The Argo is soon crashing through the locks and heading out into the ocean.

Story note: In Yamato 2, Kodai orders Yamato‘s launch speed from the underwater dock set at 0.5, but Shima boosts it to 0.6 in order to smash through the sea gate. As for speed in the water, 27 knots equals about 30 miles per hour.

General Stone orders the underwater “magnet missiles” to launch, but Singleton orders them defused first. They don’t want to destroy the Argo, just stop it from launching.

Derek is surprised to hear that the EDF is prepared to (as far as he knows) destroy the Argo. The ship’s forward torpedoes destroy the incoming missiles approaching the bow, but two more sneak in and attach themselves to the hull. After realizing they didn’t detonate, Sandor deduces that the EDF is trying to weigh them down, not destroy them, thanks to the sympathies of General Singleton.

As they prepare to surface, Sandor tells Venture to give an extra burst of thrust as they break the water, which should cause the magnet missiles to fall off. The shot of the ship as it rises from the surface of the water is an iconic scene (second only to the ground-bursting launch in Series 1), taken directly from Farewell to Yamato and used in the opening title of Yamato 2. As Sandor predicted, the magnet missiles fall off as the ship leaves the water.

As the ship rises through the atmosphere, a pair of heavy fightercraft do a flyby. One flies too close and gets a wing clipped by one of the Argo‘s antennae. At Stone’s insistence, the orbital battle satellites are brought online. Yamato 2 introduces viewers to the EDF Battle Satellites with a caption and some background from the narrator: they were created during the war with Gamilas as a last-ditch effort to prevent an invasion.

At Singleton’s behest, a warning shot is fired. Somehow, this “warning shot” involves firing a beam that looks as powerful as the Argo‘s Wave-Motion Gun, which demands swift evasive maneuvers from Venture. The Argo‘s shock cannons are fired in response, reducing the battle satellite to a burning mass.

Star Blazers and Yamato 2 reveal different reasonings for the warning shot. Singleton doesn’t want to destroy the ship, while Todo’s argument (at least to his advisor) is that the ship will fall back down to Earth if it’s hit, endangering lives. Singleton is ready to let them go, but Stone isn’t willing to allow these “rebels” to get away. Captain Gideon is ordered to stop the Argo “at all costs.” During this episode, when Stone raises his voice, he sounds very familiar; he was played by the same voice actor as Homer, listed in IMDB as Michael Bertolini.

As the Argo pulls away from Earth, it’s observed by a Comet Empire recon ship. In the Comet Empire Throne Room, Dyar is impressed that the Star Force is acting just as Desslok predicted. Invidia is less impressed, saying that Desslok “might be an interesting man if he didn’t have this obsession with the Star Force.” After silencing her, Zordar tells his officers that everything will proceed as planned.

The Argo pulls free of the bonds of Earth. “We’re on our own,” says Wildstar. “I sure hope we’re doing the right thing,” Venture replies. The first time we saw the ship leave Earth, it had the full backing of the human race. This time, there’s very little support for their mission.

This episode contained very few edits. Most were just “trimming the fat” that eliminated some wordless establishing shots, but nothing in the way of editing out dialogue or action.

Story note: The Star Force officially launches on its new mission at 7am on November 4, 2201. The Comet Empire is estimated to be 3,000 light years from Earth.

Continue to episode 5

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