Episode 15 Commentary

Trelaina: the Beginning of Love

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

There is an opening scene in Yamato 2 that is not found in Star Blazers. As Kodai’s [Wildstar’s] group walks to the center of the parted lake, Saito [Knox] urges caution. He asks a pertinent question: why would someone who can part the waters with a wave of her hand not have helped them against the tanks earlier? This question must really be eating at Saito since it was his own men who suffered and died during that battle. Sanada [Sandor] and Kodai don’t have an answer but say that they need to continue on.

Back on the Argo, Venture is preparing to meet Trelaina, which is being treated like a formal date rather than first contact with an unknown alien. He gets a haircut from Dr. Sane (who we learn worked his way through medical school as a barber, an interesting little tidbit only found in Star Blazers), and receives a boutonniere from Nova. After a final look in the mirror, he heads off to the hangar. Nova and Dr. Sane seem like proud and apprehensive parents watching their son go off on his first date.

Venture is silent as he walks through the hangar to his landing tank, ignoring comments from the Black Tigers (“Looking good, Venture!” “Ask her if she has a sister!”) Apparently, word has gotten around that there’s something brewing between the helmsman and the local goddess.

In Yamato 2, Shima [Venture] has a surprise waiting for him when he enters the landing craft: it’s packed full of crew members all waiting for their chance to meet Teresa [Trelaina]. Kato [Conroy] is there, as well as Arakome [Royster], who we saw preparing for the meeting two episodes ago. Shima yells at them to leave. It should be noted that despite his insistence that this isn’t a social call, he’s wearing a corsage. No one calls him on it, but it’s clear that only Shima is allowed to mack on the space goddess, not secondary characters or anonymous crewmen.

Wildstar, Sandor, Knox, and IQ-9 walk through the parted waters of the lake. A circular platform lifts the quartet up into her home, where they find themselves in the presence of their strange host. They stand there for an awkward moment in silence. Trelaina is the first to speak. “Mark?” she says to Derek. “Are you Mark Venture?” Derek looks like he just snapped out of a daydream (lost in Trelaina’s big blue eyes?), while the others find this extraordinarily funny. (Or perhaps they’re laughing at her high-pitched speaking voice.)

Derek makes his introduction and the others follow suit. IQ is last, launching into a brief description of himself. Knox wryly notes “You forgot the part about bein’ a genius.” The recurring bit about IQ referring to himself as a “genius robot” is only found in Star Blazers, but I appreciate that the writers were able to have a little fun with it.

Trelaina insists on waiting for Venture. Derek struggles to fill in the awkward silence. In Yamato 2, this silence was filled by Saito, who remarks, “It’s just like a woman to keep us waiting.” He demands answers, saying that it shouldn’t matter if Shima is there or not. He’s quieted by Sanada. (This scene appeared in the original broadcast of Star Blazers, but is not found on DVD.)

Remembering the flowers Nova gave him, Wildstar presents them to Trelaina, apologizing for their wilted appearance (but someone forgot to inform the animator of this, since they look relatively fresh). Trelaina waves her hand over them and they are restored to their former beauty.

Like a good host, Trelaina lays out an assortment of food for her guests. They marvel at all the strange fruits and find them very edible. Suddenly, Trelaina is alerted to Mark Venture’s arrival. Upon first look, Mark seems quite taken with her, calling her “more beautiful than I dreamed you would be.” Now that Venture has arrived, Trelaina can get down to business. She calls them all to the next room. As they quickly hustle out of their chairs, Knox can’t resist one last bite.

Trelaina briefs the Star Force members on the Comet Empire, aided by images displayed on her monitor. She lists some stats about the empire-fortress. The Comet is currently 3,000 light years (ly) from Telezart and 30,000 ly from Earth. It is cruising at 1.1 million Megameters (Mm), which is actually pretty useless without an indication of time. Is that 1.1 million Mm per second? Per hour? Millennium? (She may as well have said it can make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs!) The Yamato 2 version of this scene is more helpful and says the Comet Empire is cruising at 1.2 million space kilometers per hour.

Production note: The lonely background music heard during this sequence is the same track that accompanied the space marines’ discovery of the city ruins in episode 13; it has yet to be released commercially.

She lists the Comet’s diameter as 6,600 km or “about half that of Earth” (the average of Earth’s diameter is 12,742 km). However, that doesn’t seem to match what we see later in the series, where the Comet Empire fortress is shown to be much smaller than the Moon. Therefore, she’s actually describing the size of the cometary halo (later called a plasma shield), but even then, the shield didn’t seem significantly larger than the fortress itself. Perhaps it expands when cruising?

While Trelaina was giving this briefing, there are slightly different visuals used in Yamato 2, which show the Comet Empire attacking a planet. It’s rather crudely drawn and animated. I can see why it was left out of Star Blazers.

Trelaina says the Comet houses a fortress and has a fleet at its disposal, with which it subjugates planets it deems worthy of conquest. She confirms that its next target is Earth.

We transition to the Comet Empire. When not out conquering worlds, Comet Empire officers can relax in a funky discotheque. This is where we find Zordar, Invidia, and Dyar. While strolling through the disco, Invidia asks Dyar to summarize Zordar’s achievements. They happen to be passing by a gallery of pictures, so Dyar uses them in his ad hoc presentation. It’s not clear how long Zordar’s reign has lasted so far, but Dyar covers the first four years. The first year, Zordar conquered the Black Fox nebula, in the second, the Magna Star Cluster, the planets Petronia and Ragella fell in the third and fourth years. In Yamato 2, his conquests were called the Zeram Cloud, the Paradium Cloud, the planet Grasder, and the planet Doraize.

Invidia notices Talan nearby and breaks away from Zordar’s side to mock him. He should report to Desslok that they are about to enter the Milky Way, she says with a derisive laugh. Talan doesn’t respond to her. His thoughts are of Desslok.

We briefly shift to Desslok in his cell, complaining about “what a vile, uncivilized place” it is. He throws his bed sheets on the floor and starts pacing, wondering how he can get to Zordar. The Yamato 2 script reveals why he’s so hostile to his sheets: they haven’t been changed once since he was imprisoned!

Story notes: In Yamato 2, Desslok is in a full-on tantrum, shouting that his sheets haven’t been changed in a week. Assuming he counts a week the same as Earth people do, it means the Star Force has already been hanging around Telezart for seven days. Best to categorize this as a script error and move on.

In the celebration for the Comet Empire’s entry into the Milky Way Galaxy, Sabella introduces Zordar as Gatlantis’ Fifth Great Emperor. Thus, the conquest of Gatlantis has been going on for five generations. Needless to say, this spells out quite a different backstory than in Star Blazers. In Yamato 2, the Comet Empire is a single, self-contained entity that sustains itself on its endless conquests. In Star Blazers, Zordar’s “Prince” title suggests a larger royal family and an empire to match. And, naturally, fanfic writers have had a field day with that for decades.

Back at the disco, Zordar announces that they are just days away from entering the Milky Way, and will conquer the Earth in 50 days. “Then, we shall have a great celebration,” he laughs.

During the disco scenes, there is some funky synth-groove music exclusive to Star Blazers. The original soundtrack had very different sound, which was so buried in reverb it could barely be called music. Since dancers are prominently displayed several times, the Star Blazers production team thought it was appropriate to give them something better to dance to.

Additional note from Matt Murray: Note those dancers-several seem to have blue skin, and at least one is caucasian. These are the only female Gatlantians we ever see besides Invidia, and none of them areĀ green, either. Perhaps only the males are green-skinned.

Trelaina continues with her briefing. The Comet Empire has already conquered all the intervening space between the Black Fox nebula and the Milky Way. The Black Fox nebula (also mentioned by Dyar in a previous scene) is fictional. The Japanese script established it as the Andromeda Galaxy.

Venture, revealing his personal concerns, asks if Telezart will be attacked. She nods. She expects Telezart to encounter the Comet Empire in four days, and Earth, in 46 days. Wildstar asks what can be done to save both Telezart and Earth. Trelaina turns away, saying she’s given them all the information she has.

Story note: At its current speed, the White Comet must cover 750 light years per day to reach Telezart in four days. To reach Earth 42 days after that, it must cover about 476 ly per day, since the two planets are about 20,000 ly apart. In Series 1, Yamato warped 500 ly at a time, twice a day, so the distance of 20,000 ly from Earth to Telezart is not unreasonable. All of this was decided during the voice recording of this episode in Japan. The script indicated the Comet’s speed as 50 space knots.

Knox becomes infuriated over the fact that they’ve made the long journey (and lost a lot of his men) for little more than an intelligence report. Sandor restrains him. Perhaps to offset his uncouth companion, Venture approaches Trelaina delicately. First he thanks her for the information, then asks if there’s anything they can do to help defend her planet. She shakes her head. “Nothing.” She will brook no further discussion and asks them to leave. Wildstar says her information will be passed along to Earth.

When Venture turns to leave, Trelaina asks him to stay. With a suggestive tone, Knox says “We’ll see ya later, Venture!” Wildstar nods his consent. (Notice that when Venture nods in return, his boutonniere is missing. It reappears in the next shot.) Once the others leave, Venture asks her to explain herself.

Trelaina displays images of the ruined city on the monitor and broaches the subject of what happened to her planet. Venture asks if it was a war or a natural disaster. “No, I destroyed it,” she says calmly.

She describes Telezart as a successful and prosperous hub of the galaxy. Other planets became envious of Telezart’s wealth and began terrorist attacks against its population. She differentiates this conflict as being a war not between military factions, but direct attacks against civilians. This is illustrated by a flashback of gunmen opening fire on a roomful of people, and other civilians engulfed in explosions. The more violent of these scenes were removed from Star Blazers.

Trelaina recounts that one day, she returned home in a daze after a bombing raid. While thinking about the terrible fighting, her thoughts seemed to take the form of energy. Waves of this thought-energy pulsed through the city, demolishing it. In this one incident, everyone on her planet was killed. After this, she vowed never to use her mind-energy again.

Venture argues that if she uses her power against the Comet Empire, she will be preventing a great war. She refuses. Venture insists that she at least use her power to defend herself. Trelaina answers that she was not given her power to destroy, but to create. Venture brings up the point that she won’t be able to create anything if she and her planet are obliterated. He pleads for the sake of Earth and its “billions of people.” Her response is to kneel down in prayer.

Getting down face to face with her, he changes his tactic and asks her to come aboard the Argo. She steadfastly refuses. Mark gives up and begins to walk out. She asks him to stay a little longer. He turns to face her, and when he speaks he’s all business. “I am Chief Navigator of the Star Force, and I am needed there.” He turns and walks out, leaving Trelaina staring after him, the swelling music emphasizing her heartbreak.

This is an incredibly dramatic scene, well-acted with expressive body language in the animation. Even without sound, you can still see how much Venture cares about her by the way he clasps her hand, or the way he kneels to face her.

Production note: This is directly attributable to veteran staff member Takeshi Shirato, who created the storyboard for this episode. He worked on Series 1 from the very beginning, directed The New Voyage, and continued all the way through Yamato Resurrection. Read more about him here.

It’s interesting to hear Trelaina say she was “given” her powers. That term, and the fact that she’s often seen praying, implies that she believes in some kind of higher power. No name for her god is ever used, however, nor is her philosophy expounded upon outside of these oblique references. It should be noted that Trelaina’s Yamato 2 name is Teresa. Given her penchant for praying, I wonder if she was named in honor of Mother Teresa.

Trelaina also mentions that she developed this power after a bombing raid that left her head ringing. It’s a quick jump to imagine that some experimental chemical/biological bomb may have caused her to develop this amazing ability.

There are some changes in the Yamato 2 version of her backstory. For one, although Telezart was called an interstellar hub, it was clearly mentioned that the war was between Telezart’s various city-states, and didn’t involve extra-planetary forces. Another change is the origin of her mind-energy. She doesn’t mention the after-effects of a bomb, just that she was praying one day. Her praying, in conjunction with unspecified “devices,” led to the destruction of all the cities on her planet.

Perhaps ironically, some of Venture’s arguments call to mind the reasoning behind the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII. As terrible as they were, one stated reason for the bombings was that they prevented the long and drawn out invasion of Japan and the loss of millions more lives. Venture makes a similar argument that if she uses her powers to destroy the Comet Empire she will prevent even greater destruction in the future.

Trelaina may further symbolize nuclear power by being highly destructive and not easily controlled. Her “radioactivity” is even visible in the form of her unnatural glow. (There is never any comment about the fact that she glows, nor is there any indication of it being dangerous.)

In a general sense, the relationships between the major powers in this series can be seen as an analogy to the major powers of the Cold War era. Earth (Japan) is threatened by the Comet Empire (Soviet Union and/or China), which has the power to destroy the entire planet, and is threatening to do so. Earth/Japan is tentatively allied to another potential world-destroying power, Teresa (United States), who can stand against them, but has used its terrible power before (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and is reluctant to do so again.

It’s a little too broad to be an exact analogy, (particularly with how events play out) and may not have been on the minds of either the Japanese or American writers, but it’s interesting to consider the idea.

Next is another scene that was removed from Star Blazers: Kodai is anxiously waiting for a response from Earth. Tokugawa [Orion] tells him not to expect an answer quickly.

Venture arrives back at the Argo only to be heckled by Hardy, who makes a comment about how he struck out with the space babe. If the crew viewed Venture and Trelaina’s meeting as a kind of first date, Venture’s ignominious return would indicate he wasn’t a successful suitor. There’s more than a bit of innuendo in the way Hardy describes Trelaina as “having the power, but not the will, to cooperate.” When Venture angrily demands to know how Hardy can make such comments when he wasn’t there, the pilot tells him that “Knox told us everything.” Head full of steam, Venture charges off to find “that blabbermouth.” I have to admire Venture for being macho enough to confront a Space Marine while wearing a boutonniere.

Venture finds Knox snoring away in his bunk. He grabs him by his shirt collar and warns him about talking about Trelaina “that way.” Far from intimidated, Knox just smiles. “Did Miss Stuck-up tell ya ta get lost? Look fella, dames like that ain’t worth worryin’ about.”

Star Blazers cuts away here, but in Yamato 2, Shima responds with a quick slap. He follows up with a verbal warning, then throws Saito down. Once again, Saito smiles. Shima apparently thought their “conversation” was over and starts to walk out, but Saito punches him across the room and the fight is on. For someone whose forte is navigation, Shima proves he’s no slouch when it comes to hand-to-hand combat.

Dr. Sane walks by, warning them that he doesn’t have any hospital beds to spare, and waits for them to stop. It looks like it’ll be awhile. If you’re wondering about the corsage, it looks like it fell off during the fight. It’s there at the beginning, but gone by the time Dr. Sane arrives.

Some time later, Dr. Sane is just finishing up a lecture as he arrives on the bridge with the two combatants. Venture gives the bridge crew an update on Trelaina. He says her mind is made up; she won’t choose sides, and won’t use her power. She’s afraid of it getting out of control.

“Boy, this was sure a wasted trip. Why couldn’t she put that bit of info in one of her messages?” Dash says. He has a point. The Star Force risked their careers, came into conflict numerous times, faced dangers from space, and lost crewmembers all for relatively little info. Why didn’t she simply send the intelligence along in one of her messages? Because she was lonely? If she only zipped the data and sent it as an email attachment, a lot of trouble could have been avoided!

Production note: The obvious rejoinder here is that there wouldn’t have been much of a story to tell, just like if Starsha had sent plans for the Cosmo DNA to Earth rather than those for a Wave-Motion Engine. Practical concerns aside, the journey to Telezart was actually the idea of storyboard artist Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. Since he was assigned the daunting task of boarding all of Farewell to Yamato, he took part in story development meetings. There, he suggested that the spirit of Series 1 could be evoked by including another grand voyage in this story. Everyone agreed, and the “Quest for Telezart” was a go.

Venture explains Trelaina’s dilemma, that she accidentally destroyed her planet with her mind-energy. She doesn’t want to be responsible for any more injury or death, not even to save herself.

The dialogue is quite different in Yamato 2. Nambu [Dash] thinks she is selfish, and Shima agrees, admitting that she is very concerned with herself. He contrasts this with humans, who are taught to care for each other. Caring for yourself is difficult, he continues, but Teresa did the right thing by alerting Earth so they can rally to defend themselves.

Apparently, Shima sees Teresa’s brand of pacifism as a kind of selfishness, since she won’t fight to protect others. She’s refraining from taking any action to assuage her own guilt, as her own form of penance for the lives she took. Yamato 2 seems to put humans on unique pedestal, making us out to be the only race (other than Starsha of Iscandar) concerned with others.

On Earth, a meeting is taking place in a room labeled “Earth Defense Force Central Meeting Room.” Earth’s Prime Minister is briefed about the Comet Empire by EDF Commander Singleton. The P.M. asks Captain Gideon if they are prepared. Captain Gideon (displaying his giant ears and mullet) says they will need at least 10 more Andromeda-class ships. The P.M. tells the men to “do [their] best.”

Story note: At this point, the scene flashes back to the “next Andromeda” being built in the shipyard, the same shot seen in episode 10. With a month and a half before D-day, there is presumably time to finish it, and yet we never see it again in the series. Nor the other nine. If they aren’t wiped out on the ground in the last episode, theirs is a story yet to be told.

Again, there is funky music unique to Star Blazers playing in the background in this scene, one of those rare musical cues not derived from Yamato‘s score. (Thanks to Boris Konon for pointing this out.)

The Commander contacts the Argo and orders them to return at once. Wildstar orders the crew to start launch preparations. While everyone is hustling about, Venture stares down at the planet below. Wildstar tells him he’s sorry that they have to leave. Venture understands. Down on Telezart, Trelaina is in her home, still praying. In light of what we now know about her, she probably prays for forgiveness.

Trelaina is an interesting character for an action/adventure show. She’s extremely powerful, but because she’s traumatized from using her powers improperly, she feels a responsibility to use them only in a narrowly-defined way. Even when faced with the dilemma of using them to destroy for the overall greater good, she refuses.

Kudos to Tom Tweedy, the voice of Venture, who puts in an impressive showing during the Telezart episodes. One notable thing about Tweedy’s Venture is his accent, which always sticks out to me during his confrontation with Hardy. (“What are you tahlking ahbout Hahdy? You weren’t even theyah!”) I’ve heard it described as both a New York accent and a Boston accent. According to Amy Howard-Wilson (the voice of Nova), the correct answer is… both. Tom Tweedy spent his formative years in both places!

Continue to Episode 16

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