Episode 8 Commentary

Space Storm! Escape is Impossible!

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 original Japanese version of this episode opens with a very handy scene in which Shima [Venture] rises from his seat on the bridge to direct everyone’s attention to a map on the video panel. The map demonstrates where the ship is relative to the path of the radio signal from space.

Unfortunately, since the map had Japanese text, the scene was cut from Star Blazers. This was one of several editing necessities that made the big picture slightly harder to grasp in the English version.

The bridge is experiencing a moment of calm until Venture asks Homer about the radio. Homer snaps at him, still nursing a grudge from last episode. Venture tells him to calm down. He’s only checking on something that’s important to their mission.

This little exchange was fabricated for Star Blazers to cover the screen-time lost from the edited scene. In Yamato 2, Shima [Venture] addresses the entire bridge crew, not just Aihara [Homer]. Aihara doesn’t have any dialogue. The clip of Homer’s irate response was spliced in from later in this scene.

Venture’s concern with the radio, at least on the surface, is that they don’t have a clear idea of where they’re going. They have a general heading from a previous contact with Trelaina. (Venture identifies her by name here despite the fact that, as far as we’ve seen, he’s never heard it before.) Since the White Comet seems to be approaching from the same direction, he fears it may be a trap. Sandor points out two mini-stars nearby. Their magnetic fields could be throwing off the instruments. Wildstar doesn’t believe it’s a trap because “her voice is too frightened.”

In Yamato 2, Kodai [Wildstar] and Sanada are both wary of the fact that the Comet and distress signal seem to originate from the same direction.

Homer’s console starts to receive a new message from Trelaina. Venture takes over the Comm station, which Homer begrudgingly surrenders. Venture is able to get enough information to correct their heading and is also warned of nearby danger before the signal dissolves into static. Venture offers a perfunctory apology to Homer, explaining that he needs this communication to plot a course, but then adds “if I have to ride roughshod over your feelings to get it, I will!” Homer lets out a disgusted grunt as he resumes his duties.

Venture was actually a bit nicer than his Yamato 2 counterpart, Shima. Shima haughtily announces the new heading of 3 o’clock. Goading Aihara, he asks, “Didn’t you say 12 o’clock? You were completely wrong!”

I think the bickering between Venture and Homer shows how Wildstar isn’t quite ready for a command position. He should never have put up with this kind of squabbling and insisted that the crew members stick to their positions. I can’t imagine Captain Avatar allowing this while he was in command. In fact, when Venture lost his temper and yelled at Orion back in Series 1, he received a dressing down and was made to apologize. No such disciplinary action occurs under Wildstar’s command.

Space Battleship Yamato 2 has the episode title here, followed by a brief recap of the situation so far.

Production note: There is an animation error in one of the maps shown during this recap. In the previous episode, we saw Yamato‘s course originating from Earth and heading out to Planet 11 along a white line. This time, the white line starts beyond Planet 11 and leads back to Earth. In the pre-digital animation era, scenes like this had to be animated “backwards.” In a scene like this one, the starting image would be the completed white line, and it would be etched away as subsequent frames were shot. When projected in reverse, the line would appear to grow in the correct direction. Understandably, scenes like this were tough to pull off because of the double-negative nature of the process. This animation error was a result.

Next, we’re introduced to General Torbuk, commander of the Telezart Occupational Forces, whose name had been mentioned in earlier episodes. (His original Japanese name was Goland.) After he’s informed of the Argo‘s new heading, he readies his fleet for departure. His aide reports that Desslok is calling, but Torbuk ignores it.

As his ships leave the Telezart area, the scene shifts to the planet below, where, in a strange floating structure, we get our first look at Trelaina. Her home looks like it was carved from dark blue crystal. Floors, walls, even her communication panel appear to be made from the same glassy material. Trelaina herself is pale and thin, surrounded by a yellow glow, and has long blonde hair that runs down to her ankles.

In both Farewell to Yamato and Yamato 2, her name was Teresa. In the TV version, her floating home was named Teresarium, though it was never mentioned on-screen. In Farewell, her hair was even longer since she was naked and needed some covering up. In the series, she wears a blue gown. She activates a control panel with a mere wave of her hand. A monitor focuses on the enemy forces as she eavesdrops on a broadcast between Desslok and Torbuk.

Although Torbuk had tried to ignore Desslok’s call, the Gamilon managed to get through to him anyway. Desslok takes him to task for disobeying orders and moving his forces out. Desslok warns Torbuk that his actions will lead to defeat, as they did for General Naska. It’s implied that Naska was killed in Yamato 2, while Star Blazers specifically informs us otherwise, with Desslok saying Naska “had to go crawling to Prince Zordar.”

Torbuk points out that Desslok’s strategies against the Star Force haven’t led to victory, so a different plan is in order. Torbuk gives Desslok a warning of his own: if the Star Force reaches Telezart, the whole Comet Empire is in danger. They must not be allowed to come into contact with Trelaina. Desslok stresses the need for single-minded focus and careful planning as the keys to victory.

Back in Episode 2, Zordar warned Desslok that Torbuk was “difficult.” Zordar later indicated that he assigned Torbuk to Desslok in order to keep the Gamilon leader in check. Zordar apparently has concerns about Desslok’s ambition.

The Star Force is readying for a warp when Homer starts to receive another incoming message. Venture immediately comes over and pushes Homer aside. They are only able to hear a brief message, in which “she sounds frightened, almost panicky,” according to Venture.

We cut to a scene of Nova, IQ-9, and Knox. Apparently, in addition to Radar, Survey, and Analysis, Nova’s Life Services Division includes Laundry. This scene takes place in the ship’s laundry room, which is shown in more detail in Yamato 2, where Yuki [Nova] is seen pulling uniforms out of a basket and putting them into a bin while Analyzer [IQ-9] appears to be working at an old-fashioned washboard.

Star Blazers joins this scene near the end, with Nova warning Knox about the upcoming warp. Knox brushes it off as “nothing to worry about.”

As brave as Knox is, news of the warp sends the rest of his marines scurrying to their bunks. Ignoring advice from his own men, Knox plans to just lie on the floor, eyes open, during the experience. The warp soon begins with the usual psychedelic effects. From Knox’s perspective, he’s sees himself in open space, holding onto an entire galaxy with one hand as he tries to grab another that floats past.

Story note: In Yamato 2, the ship’s warp here covers 120,000 space km. Warps are commonplace within the solar system, but long ones like this are dangerous and difficult because of the comparatively large number of obstacles. Thus, the Space Cavalry troops have experienced warps before, but never one of this magnitude.

The Argo rematerializes in normal space, only to suddenly get buffeted by a “wind.” They’ve landed in a kind of current, or “Space Cyclone” as Wildstar calls it. Venture insists in going right through it, saying that they’ll lose too much time if they veer off course. He tells Orion to give him full power, and they start to brute-force their way through the storm.

Meanwhile, Knox is crawling on his belly, weakened by the warp. Mimi walks by in a snappy pose, head up, eyes closed. She doesn’t even take note of him until she’s almost down the hall. She looks back at him curiously, mews, then continues on her way. It’s nice that Mimi gets this little scene, considering the indignity that will soon be visited upon her.

Back on the bridge, Homer receives a message. When asked about the location, he says “It’s not very far away.”

“Homer, we’ve got to have precise information,” Venture says, his voice full of contempt. “I’d do it myself, but I’m a little bit busy right now. Can’t you do it?”

“Better than you can!” Homer shoots back. A moment later, they hear Trelaina’s frightened voice from the radio. Sandor, who was suspicious of these mysterious messages, suggests that it could be a trap. Sanada is more direct in Yamato 2, calling it a fake, since the voice “sounded like an actor.” (Inside joke?)

Homer reports that Telezart is 7,000 megameters straight ahead. Venture remains on course.

The next scene in Yamato 2 isn’t in Star Blazers. The ship hits some wreckage, detritus from other ships lost in this storm. This worries the Cavalry [marines]. Saito [Knox] has recovered from the warp and thinks the crew is doing this on purpose, trying to test their courage.

At EDF command (introduced with a caption in Yamato 2), the Argo‘s signal has been lost. How they are able to communicate from so far away is never explained. In Series 1, the ship lost contact with Earth soon after leaving the Solar System. Two episodes ago, they indicated that Brumis was the edge of their communication range. From this scene, we can assume that the EDF has a long range communication network that extends far beyond Brumis.

As for why the Star Force considered Brumis the extent of their range before, remember, they were still considered rebels at that point, so they probably weren’t “plugged into” the EDF network. That’s no longer the case. Another possibility is that the Argo drops off relay satellites at regular intervals, creating their own link with home. The communications we see here, both with Earth and Telezart, happen in real time, indicating some kind of warp-speed communications tech is used.

EDF Command is worried about the sudden loss of the signal. General Stone (still cranky and tiresome) blames this on a lack of discipline, but Commander Singleton sticks up for them, commending the Star Force for risking everything on this mission.

Torbuk watches the Argo‘s progress. His aide tells him there is no need to expend any effort, that the Star Force is doomed. As in Series 1, I find that many of these enemy second-in-command officers have annoying, cartoony voices. Torbuk’s XO appears several times, but is never named.

In Yamato 2, the area the ship is approaching is referred to as a graveyard. Goland [Torbuk] is going to have his ships shoot missiles through the “dimensional cracks.”

The Argo emerges from the current into the “eye of the cyclone.” On the video panel, they see the broken wrecks of dozens of spaceships. In Yamato 2, the crew calls this area a Sargasso. The real life Sargasso Sea is a section of the Atlantic Ocean that’s bordered by currents on all sides. It’s gained a reputation as an area of mystery where ships can become trapped, much like stories about the Bermuda Triangle.

In Star Blazers, Homer reports that the radio is dead; in Yamato 2, he says that the message they were following is from this immediate area, thus confirming Sanada’s theory that the last distress call was a fake. Wildstar orders Venture to alter course. He tries, but the ship encounters resistance from the storm and gets pulled back in. Wildstar comes over to add his muscles to the helm, to no avail.

“It doesn’t look like we’ll get out of here this way,” Venture admits.

Homer sees an opportunity to retort, saying, “And you’re such a great pilot! You’re so good you think you can do my job too!!”

Venture’s reply is less eloquent: “Ah, Homer, shut up!”

In Yamato 2, Shima puts the blame for their predicament on Teresa [Trelaina]. “Damn, she tricked me!”

Yamato 2 had a few extra scenes of the ship’s escape attempts, with narration. The Sargasso is described as a “Necropolis of space” (referring to a city of the dead). It is a type of black hole that pulls ships in and destroys them with its high gravity.

Having given their best effort and failed, the crew wonders what to do next. Venture says that “somehow it’s my fault.” He doesn’t equivocate in Yamato 2, taking full responsibility for their predicament.

The marines are still grousing about their situation on the observation deck when Dr. Sane appears at the doorway with Mimi. He tells them all to calm down and delivers a mock-diagnosis: Space Fever. Knox seems to take it seriously. Fortunately, Dr. Sane has a remedy. Surprisingly, it’s not to get drunk, but to take a session in the Holography room. Likening it to “a two-week vacation with pay,” he activates the controls, transforming it into a beach resort. IQ-9 appears there too, dancing with the hula girls. Mimi even gets into the act, swinging rhythmically in Dr. Sane’s arms. The marines waste no time in joining in.

Torbuk continues to watch the Argo, which appears on his monitor with the thrust emanating from the middle of the ship. (Some kind of visual trickery from the black hole, no doubt!) Torbuk and his aide demonstrate their true evil talent: making bad, slightly ominous puns. “It’s only a matter of time” says the aide. “Yes, any minute now. They’ll start to go to pieces,” adds Torbuk with a laugh.

On the Argo, Homer announces that the radio is dead. Orion says the engine power isn’t building up (an issue not mentioned in Yamato 2, and the engine seems perfectly fine later on anyway). Nova suddenly shrieks–something is happening to her uniform. A second later, it rips open. Sandor and Orion’s uniforms start to shred as well, and the instruments go haywire. Sandor says they’re caught in a “speeded-up time trap,” which is causing everything to age rapidly. They must get out before it all disintegrates.

In the hydroponic garden, a hapless Life Services member wanders in to see tomato plants growing at an accelerated rate. They drop their tomatoes, whither away, then grow again, repeating months of growth every few seconds. The man shrinks back in horror, crawling out through the door before it turns into a scene from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

The rapidly-growing plant life always confused me, even in my younger days. If the plants are growing so fast, shouldn’t the people be aging just as quickly? If so, their perceptions should be accelerated as well, in which case the crewman would have seen the plants growing normally. The way an accelerated time-trap would work in my mind is more like time dilation; the ones experiencing the hyper-time wouldn’t sense anything was wrong, while outside of their little bubble, time would be “normal.”

In the Holography Room, the marines’ clothes shred till they’re standing almost entirely naked. Knox doesn’t seem to mind. They’re on a beach after all, and now they’re appropriately dressed. Dr. Sane is completely naked, with only Mimi covering him up. Amazingly, this scene was shown intact on American TV. On a lighter note, the destruction of all these uniforms means less laundry for Nova!

Missiles appear in a flash of light and strike the Argo. Eager reports that they can’t tell where it came from. Wildstar says that the first priority isn’t locating the enemy, but escaping the cyclone. Sandor warns Wildstar that the ship is also aging rapidly. Suddenly, the Astro-compass in the middle of the bridge comes to life. Venture concludes that if the compass is working, then the radio should be as well. He runs over to the comm station, pushing Homer aside, and soon Trelaina’s voice urges them to take the compass heading.

It’s a bit different in Yamato 2. Sanada says that the missile attacks are actually helping, that they must be coming from a dimensional crack they can follow. When the compass appears to be heading to 12 o’clock, from which Teresa’s message originated, Shima realizes the first message wasn’t a fake. (Thus, Homer got the original heading right after all.) He takes over the comm station to talk to her. She tells him to head for 1 o’clock. When Shima says there is nothing there, she advises him “not to think three-dimensionally.”

Still taking hits from the missile bombardment, the Argo surges toward the dimensional rift. The rift’s magnetic current (looking very much like wind) fights against the ship’s escape, but slowly the Argo starts to break free.

Torbuk watches the Argo‘s struggle. At first he seems amused at their desperation, but then his aide tells him that they’re heading in the one direction that will free them. Torbuk realizes they may have had help from Trelaina. He orders his ships to wait at the end of the escape route and attack as soon as they emerge from the storm.

The Argo breaks free of the magnetic storm. Upon seeing the fleet waiting ahead, Wildstar orders Venture to maintain full speed. The Argo takes several hits while making its escape, but Torbuk’s forces lose a few ships of their own. Torbuk isn’t willing to pursue. Instead, he says he’s simply “not going to lose sight” of them.

Production note: Defying the usual animation technique of having large ships travel slowly, the timing for this sequence has the Comet Empire Missile Ships flashing by like fightercraft. Given the tremendous speed and energy it would require to travel long distances in space, this is actually one of the more realistic space battles in the entire Yamato saga.

In Yamato 2, Admiral Goland [Torbuk] calls this conflict a mere “test.” He may be taking Dessler’s advice to heart. He had told Goland, “What do you think you can do without knowing Yamato?” After observing it in action, he probably sees the wisdom in some cautious planning.

One minor thing I always note in this scene is that the first explosion balloons outward, then shrinks back to nothing. This is one of the few times we see an explosion do that. Usually, they just seem to hang in space forever or simply fade out.

The Star Force has a brief moment of relief before the radio flares up again. Venture comes over to take the message, and is even somewhat polite to Homer, I guess because he’s been slightly humbled. He formally announces his name and position, and asks for information about the sender and her message. She identifies herself as “Trelaina of Telezart” (despite Mark using her name earlier, this should be the first time he’s hearing it).

She tells them the White Comet is a danger before her voice is swamped by jamming from Torbuk’s ship. Her message fades in again, and Mark starts to get a response to his question about Telezart’s location. But before he can get a clear answer, her signal is lost to the “super jamming wave.”

“We’ll continue in the same direction,” Wildstar says. Venture stays at the console for a moment. From his body language, he seems frustrated, but by the time he turns around he’s able to say a confident “roger.” The Argo takes off in the direction of what they hope is Planet Telezart.

One criticism that could be leveled against Series 2 (and 3 as well) is a feeling of repetition. In episode 15 of Series 1, the Argo became trapped in a “galactic whirlpool.” It was only due to Starsha that they were given the means to escape, using the Astro-compass to guide them. In this episode they face a similar trap and escape in a similar fashion with Trelaina filling in. Also, the brief scene of Mark and Derek struggling with the helm is an echo of the Octopus Star Storm episode.

Several scenes in this episode were lifted directly from Farewell to Yamato‘s “space current” sequence.

This episode also sees the worst of the bickering between Venture and Homer, who never showed any previous animosity toward each other. It’s possible Venture harbors some resentment for Homer’s emotional breakdown in Series 1 and sees him as weak. He certainly doesn’t seem to have much regard for his feelings. Homer, on the other hand, seems to be a very sensitive soul, consistent with how he was overwhelmed (and manipulated) by homesickness during their first journey.

Continue to episode 9

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