Episode 8 Commentary

The Last Pioneer

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

Last episode, Dr. Dubiaius [Professor Kuroda] decided that there might be a problem with the sun after all. One episode later he’s ready to take action. The solar energy relay system is a network designed to absorb energy from the sun and transmit it to Earth. It includes stations on Earth, the moon, Mercury, and several sol-orbiting satellites. There were stations on Mars and Venus during the Comet Empire series, but they are not seen in Yamato III.

The Venus station was sabotaged during the Comet Empire’s preliminary attacks, and the Mars Station was visibly taken out during the Dark Nebula Empire’s rampage. Either they were never rebuilt, or perhaps they create energy by non-solar means. (It’s hard to imagine any kind of station on Venus, particularly one for collecting solar energy. The atmosphere is too thick for the sun’s rays to penetrate very far and too hostile for equipment to last long.)

Additional note from superfan Andrea Controzzi: The station on Venus is probably in orbit, since Venus would be a convenient “gravity anchor” for such a station, compared to letting float freely somewhere (exposed to meteorites and space dust). As for the “cooling energy” we’re about to see, it is quite a bogus idea, at least according to currently discovered laws of physics. Indeed, negative energy would imply negative mass, which has never been detected (even anti-matter has positive density) and is actually in contrast with general relativity. So there is no rational explanation for that.

With EDF Commander Singleton and the Earth Federation President observing, the energy collection system is reversed, sending “cooling energy” back to the sun. It’s initially successful and the temperature on Earth begins to drop. But the act of trying to restrain the sun seems to provoke it to anger. It flares up and destroys the entire network of stations with an energy overload.

Dr. Simon Probe was the first to bring the “solar warming” issue to the government, and was quickly fired by Dr. Dubiaius because he found his findings laughable. Dr. Dubiaius was forced to admit he was wrong. Although Dr. Probe has been vindicated, he’s never seen again, so it’s not known whether he was reinstated or received anything in the way of an apology.

Barnard’s Star is located 5.9 light years away from Earth. It’s older, smaller, and dimmer than our sun, allowing its first planet to be in the “Goldilocks zone,” the distance from a star that is deemed hospitable to life. Barnard’s Star was once thought to have at least one Jupiter-sized planet. However, in the 1970s, further observations concluded that such a planet could not exist. Earth-like planets are much harder to detect. Barnard’s Star was to be observed by NASA’s Space Interferometry Mission, designed to search for such planets, but the project was shut down in 2010 and is not expected to be restarted in the foreseeable future.

In the Yamato Universe, Barnard Planet 1 (a term that implies at least one more) is Earth-like, but very cold. It is the Star Force’s first stop on their mission to find a new Earth, which was given added import as the source of the missile attack from last episode. Galman General Dagon is camped out in an underground base near the planet’s south pole, anticipating his moment to strike.

The Argo observes the planet on the main video panel. Temperatures average within the range of Alaska or Siberia, making it possible to support a human population. There are mountains that look like ice, but are actually made of crystalline rock, similar to the mountains on Iscandar. Preliminary scans show no trace of the enemy.

Homer picks up an SOS signal. Wildstar decides to lead a team out in the Cosmo Hound for reconnaissance. Orion is specifically selected for this mission. He’s been anticipating his chance to go on an exploratory mission, but he’s disappointed to learn that he’ll be stationed on the Cosmo Hound to run engine tests.

This is the first episode in which Orion is given more than one line. In previous episodes, his lines were read by whatever actor happened to be in the recording booth at the time, and in whatever accent or affectation the actor felt like doing. This is the first time he’s assigned a specific voice, one that will stick throughout the rest of the series. Since he tends to be one of the comic-relief characters (in this scene, he painfully bangs his fist on the engineer’s podium, provoking laughter from the rest of the bridge) he’s saddled with a hokey voice that reminds me of Looney Tunes’ Beaky Buzzard.

The Cosmo Hound was first seen undergoing a test run in Episode 2 (where it was mistakenly called a “new Cosmo Tiger” in the Star Blazers script). It’s a large exploration vessel that holds a crew of about 10. Since it’s much larger than the Cosmo Tigers, it gets its own launch bay. On the port side of the hull, a large storage platform swings down, from which the Hound lifts off. Throughout the series, the Yamato/Argo is jammed with new equipment and weapons, to the point where it starts to resemble a cross between a navy battleship and a Swiss army knife.

In addition to Orion, the exploration crew consists of Buster Block (pilot, now with a completely different voice), Nova, Jason Jetter, IQ-9, Wildstar and two more nameless crew. Soon after landing, they come under fire. The shooter is an elderly man from Earth. He’s chased back to his home.

Inside the home, a younger man is tapping out an SOS on the radio when a woman warns him that her father is coming. The man, in obvious discomfort and lying in a bed, tries to put away the radio set. The old man, her father, runs in and quickly deduces what happened. The younger man’s illness doesn’t prevent the father from socking him in the jaw.

The Star Force begins exploring the home. Suddenly, the father jumps out and threatens them. Before tensions can escalate, his daughter dashes out of the room and over to the Star Force crew, thankful that they’ve arrived. “I didn’t want your help,” the father says as he throws down his rifle.

The father is played by Peter Fernandez, making his voice gruffer and crustier than usual. The young woman is played by Corinne Orr, half-crying every line.

At the Galman base, Dagon prepares to spring his trap. Captain Boche explains the plan: they are going to use a new version of the Reflex Gun, a weapon first seen during episodes 7 and 8 of Series 1. The original Reflex Gun used a system of stationary satellites to bounce the beam around anywhere on the planet. This new version uses reflector plates mounted on small fighters that can follow a target, allowing constant air cover. The reflector ships, each piloted by a one-man crew, are launched.

Dr. Sane and nurse Penny arrive planet-side to take a look at the bedridden man. Dr. Sane diagnoses him with an unknown virus. He must be brought up to the Argo. Dr. Sane is voiced by the same actor who plays Dash and the narrator. His voice is rather buffoonish, but does surprisingly well with the more serious scenes.

The woman, Tomoko Yamagami (unnamed in Star Blazers), tells the story of how they arrived on the planet. Her father wanted to be a pioneer. The three of them arrived on the planet five years ago. It was rough living, but there were enough animals to hunt to keep them alive. One day, the husband collapsed during a hunting expedition. Tomoko realized he needed to go back to Earth for medical attention, but her father was determined to stay. He made his decision final by blowing up their ship.

Story note: This is the first point in Series 3 that the saga’s overall calendar gets blurry. It is never said in the body of the show what year we’re in, but it is specifically stated that the Yamagami family emigrated to the first planet of Barnard five years ago. Such a trip would have required a warp-capable engine, so it couldn’t have happened before or during Series 1. If we presume that they were part of a space development program meant to help rebuild Earth’s resources, the earliest they could have launched would have been November 2200, about two months after Yamato returned from Iscandar. That works if we assume Series 3 happens in 2205, but since Final Yamato is specifically stated to happen in 2203, we’re stuck in a continuity quandary.

Tomoko makes another plea to return to Earth, but her father is steadfast, refusing to give up on his dream of being a pioneer. To go back is to admit failure. Wildstar assures him that he fought with all his strength, and therefore isn’t a failure. Tomoko’s husband awakens, feverish and weak. Wildstar asks if he’ll be okay, and Dr. Sane’s answer is a surprisingly candid shake of the head.

When told they are surrounded by people from Earth, the husband relaxes, thinking they made it back home. These thoughts are his last. Both Tomoko and her father grieve over his loss (and hopefully he’s regretting that punch to the jaw). The father had appeared progressively strained and sweaty throughout this scene, and after agreeing to go back to Earth, he collapses. Dr. Sane’s swift diagnosis reveals that he also has the virus.

Meanwhile, the Galman reflector ships have positioned themselves around the Argo (somehow avoiding detection), and the attack begins. The new Reflex Gun is shorter and bulkier than the previous cannon. The gun on Pluto was hidden under a frozen sea, but this new one is kept on the surface, fed energy through tubes running through the crystalline hills.

Additional note from superfan Andrea Controzzi: About the reflector ships going undetected, based on their coating it seems they have a stealth capability. This is understandable, since they go completely unharmed. Also notice that it requires superb skill on the part of the pilot, because they have to intercept a very fast-moving beam, and since the mirror covers only a part of the belly, even a slight mistake could mean total annihilation.

Wildstar’s group is within sight of the Argo when they see an energy beam rise from over the horizon, bounce off the reflector ship, then hit the Argo with a massive impact. Both Wildstar and Venture agree that the weapon appears to be a Gamilon reflex gun. Wildstar orders Buster to head south, towards the source of the beam.

The first Yamato series set the template for all the subsequent series. We have a doomed Earth, a time limit, and now, a two-part reflex gun episode. Fortunately, they put a little variation into it, and the story of “Barnard’s Family Robinson” is an adequate distraction from the ongoing plot.

Story notes: This new Reflex Gun doesn’t appear to be as powerful as the first, but makes up for it with a more agile reflection system and rapid fire. In fact, for every beam shot into the air, 3 or 4 appear to strike at the Argo. It isn’t specifically shown, but since the original beams are bouncing off moving targets, they might be splitting into several thinner beams to create a barrage. (Actually, we’ll find out the explanation in the next episode.) In the closing shot, the Argo may as well be under siege by an entire fleet. Incidentally, the new reflex gun was designed by Yutaka Izubuchi, who would go on to direct Yamato 2199.

This episode is estimated to take place on November 14, 21 days since launch from Earth.

There are 308 days left.

Continue to Episode 9

2 thoughts on “Episode 8 Commentary

  1. To give Tomoko the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she meant five “Barnard Planet 1” years instead of Earth years. If Barnard’s Star is older, smaller, and dimmer than our sun, I would assume that its planet would be closer in orbit than Earth and have a shorter year.
    Or maybe living with her crazy father on an ice-bound planet “felt” like five years. đŸ™‚
    What I don’t understand is if the planet supported life, why didn’t the Argo report it as a possible new home? It’s not like they have a lot of time to be choosy.

  2. Is is just me, or has anyone the resemblance between the old man and his American voice actor Peter Fernandez? Coincidence?

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