By Tim Eldred with Carol Hutchings
After paring down the story structure into an unbroken continuity, Carol Hutchings, Derek Wakefield and I still had some pretty major gaps to fill. The available story notes from Japan were substantial, but not complete. It was more than a matter of putting meat on the bones; in many cases we first had to connect the bones.
However, puzzling it out and making logical leaps was the most enjoyable part of the project, since it gave us the thrill of experiencing the story for the first time. I imagine the Yamato 2199 writing team must have had a similar experience when they worked out ways to retrofit logic into the gaps of the original series. There was much more at stake for them, since they were re-imagining a beloved classic with a lot of investment behind it. We just wanted to entertain ourselves, and hope other fans would enjoy the ride.
In the next part, we’ll go chapter by chapter and get into details. Presented here is a record of how we got those bones connected up.
On turning Desslok into the antagonist again
This was the single biggest issue we had to solve to make the story credible. Despite the hard-won friendship between Desslok and Wildstar, the anime writers wanted to spend the entire second half of the series with them as enemies again – right up to the last episode when the birth of Tomoko’s baby gives Desslok a change of heart and he calls it off.
That sure didn’t sound like the Desslok we’ve come to know. Whatever obstacle came between these two men had to be complex, serious, and intractable. They would each see their viewpoint as the correct one, but also see this loss of friendship as a failure.
Carol: To me, the character of Desslok had progressed to a point where that would never happen again. What could tear apart that friendship with Wildstar, forged by the trials of war? Certainly Desslok doesn’t have the stomach to fight Earth again, knowing what it cost him previously. Even if he succeeded in rebuilding the Gamilon Empire back to its original height and power, why would he want to drag his new people into long grueling slog of a war where Gamilon and Earth are equally matched? There are enough corpses on his back as it is. That goes against both the speech he gave at the end of series 2, and also the anti-war message I got from watching the show in the first place.
I love Star Blazers too much for there to be some cheap and easy reason for Galman and Earth to be at war again. It does a disservice to some of the best characters in fiction and the original Japanese works. It’s kid friendly, but for the most part adults are reading it and I had no desire to dumb it down for anyone. Though it was challenging, I think it changed the dynamic of the story for the better. Originally Series 3 was supposed to be about Earth caught in a cold war between the two space nations like Russia and the USA back in the 80’s.
To figure this out, I went back to my fan fiction roots. How do you hurt Desslok? You challenge his authority, insult his pride, do harm to his friends and allies. If you push him, he will push back. He can be a reasonable man, but that man is not always easily found. It was a much easier situation when it was just him and his fleet against Yamato back in Series 2. The Desslok in our story can’t always get up and go whenever it suits him. His life is maintaining the empire; it’s stressful and takes up almost all of his time.
For a while, we thought the obstacle that gets between Desslok and Wildstar would have to be the presence of Mariposa and the history of Gardiana.
FROM OUR 2009 NOTES:
Carol: When the Mechanized Queen shows up (clearly evil and Galman will be in the right to fight her), it will be difficult to keep Desslok back. Desslok and Wildstar (aka Galman/Earth) could split for several reasons:
• Wildstar doesn’t speak for himself. Wildstar always speaks for Earth, and Earth wants its own autonomy, despite being in the territory of Desslok’s Empire. They don’t want to be subjects, and they probably don’t even want to trade with Galman (or the Bolar).
• Earth is spiritual. Religion is necessary for several million people who live on Earth. “We have to make sure the rights of our religious people are protected in their new home.” Desslok feels religion is unnecessary and sees it as a sign that Earth still lacks a certain maturity and sophistication. Even though they’ve both seen their fair share of space goddesses, Desslok doesn’t attribute their existence to any divine creator. Space is simply full of phenomenae that haven’t been investigated and proven by science yet.
• Earth wants its own rules. If Desslok doesn’t make some kind of show where he adopts the new Earth as subjects of his Empire and Earth agrees, that weakens his favor with Galman. Earthgate! Did Desslok say he’d conquered Earth but they were too backward to be part of the Empire? They don’t look too backward now! Why are they getting their own planet? Did Desslok lie about Earth? Are there other things on the Eastern Front Desslok didn’t tell us about? Galman starts to wonder if Earth rules Desslok. Coup d’etats would be likely as a result.
• Earth doesn’t care about appeasing Desslok or how strong/weak his ability to govern Galman is. As far as Earth is concerned (among those willing to emigrate in the first place), he owes them and this is the least he can do. The universe can only be better without him if he’s overthrown by someone else. And the Star Force will always protect Earth’s people no matter where they live in space.
On adding original characters
There was a point in April 2009 when I started thinking about admitting some fan-created characters into the story, sort of like the conceit I followed in Star Blazers Rebirth of naming characters after real-life fans. Derek Wakefield had several of his own characters to plug in, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed like a can of worms.
Carol gave me some sound advice that ruled the day:
It’s not Derek’s world to populate with his people, nor is it mine to do the same. I’m presuming if you wanted to put fan characters in the comic you would’ve come to either of us and asked, “I’m looking for extras for these scenes. I’ll take fan characters if you have them, but of course it’s still my comic and I have final say.” It might be a good idea not to include any fan characters, since some folks might have had some disconnect with the fan inserts in Rebirth.
Does Talan count as a fan character? He’s kind of a blank slate Wedge Antilles for Gamilon. I think his character only survived from first to second series because he was forgotten. What I’m writing is new material for your story about him. He’s similar to the guy I write about in my own stories, but he’s not the same because his experiences are different. If he were a tree, his roots sprout into different directions, even though the acorn is the same. Maybe I don’t see it as fanfic because he’s not my mystery date, but I still want him represented fairly.
On Desslok and Galman
Original story notes from Japan:
After The New Voyage, he arrives at star system of Galman, frees them from Bolar occupation, then appeals to their solidarity to reconstruct the empire (the four kingdoms). Installed as emperor, he begins a campaign of conquest and unification. Galman believes itself ethically and aesthetically superior to all other races, and wants to remake the galaxy in its image.
Dessler puts a moratorium on Earth’s region (The Sagittarius Arm of the milky way) saying they are too primitive, not worth the trouble. This creates disagreement, leads to Gaidel’s rebellion. Dessler’s friendship with Kodai is still strong, so he is actually protecting them.
When he hears of Earth’s misfortune, he sees an opportunity to settle their debt from the peak of his power. The first attempt to control the sun fails and Dessler is humiliated. He orders the heads of the scientific unit executed (creating further internal conflict). He mobilizes the entire Galman network and discovers an Earthlike planet, giving its location to Kodai.
As you already know, that’s where The Bolar Wars Extended begins.
Goa Interstellar Empire
30,000 light years from Planet Berth. Their history was built on nation-building on an interstellar scale. The conservative house of Bolar protested, began a civil war. Bolar was one of four kingdoms, Gamilas was another.
When Dessler rebuilds Goa, he reinstates the Miss Universe Contest and the Goa Olympics. Goa’s people hold beauty and physical perfection as their highest ideal. Their police hunt down those who don’t fit the ideal, and these rejects sink to the bottom of society as fugitives. Nation building resumes in an attempt to purify the entire galaxy. Races that don’t measure up are exiled to Lars, a planet of carnivorous plants.
This concept was later revised out of the anime and ‘Goa’ was altered to ‘Galman,’ but it got us thinking about galactic history. Keep reading.
FROM OUR 2009 NOTES:
Carol: I have to consider that the practice of hunting down and killing/exiling the ugly people no longer stands since the Galman Command staff has characters like Smeardom/Gaidel (fat, funny nose), Kranshaw/Frausky (weak in one eye) and Keeling (limpy with cane) in it. I see Desslok conquering territory to amass power and enrich the lives of his people, but I don’t think he’d do it to preserve Galman Purity and spread Blue Beauty everywhere.
I would hope that he remembers the races Gamilon destroyed out of pride and a false sense of superiority while trying to find a cure for their planet’s ills. This time around, any populated worlds they conquer would be coerced to join their empire and share their wealth rather than face extinction. If they would prefer to raise arms against Galman and fight to the last soldier rather than join up, that cannot be avoided.
Let me get something off my back that has kind of been a problem for me about the third series. It sometimes seems to me like Series 2 never happened, because even though Earth and Galman/Gamilas are no longer aggressive toward each other, Desslok never learned the lesson that Series 2 taught him: ends don’t justify the means, war is to be avoided at all costs, pride is never worth your race, all men are brothers, and the burden of living with regret.
I’m okay with the idea that Bolar imprisoned Galman and that Galman wants the Bolar’s territory out of revenge as motivation for the war. And I know Galman’s tromping around the Milky Way conquering space isn’t the right way to live either (an emperor’s gotta have an empire), but where some Bolar conscripts are honorable soldiers, the Bolar government for the most part is malevolent and definitely the worse of the two space powers. I know putting anyone in a prison camp is wrong, but the more I hear about Galman from the anime notes, the more I worry that the Galman are an unbottled genie and Bolar did the right thing in detaining those crazies.
I’m kind of worried Desslok made a Faustian bargain to find a home world for the remainder of Gamilon’s bedraggled citizenry. When Gamilon defended Galman from the Bolar, I presumed the people accepted him openly and follow him nearly as blindly as the Gamilons did. If the people want a beauty contest and olympic games, those are trifles and Desslok would be more than happy to allow them. Leisure time and entertainment are luxuries Gamilon rarely had. He would love to grant those.
But if the people feel they are so perfect and beautiful they want to use the royal space navy to spread that beauty out into space and get rid of anyone who doesn’t look like them, that would not sit well with the emperor. Talan, who sometimes serves as his conscience, would be bristling like a Halloween cat. To wage war against civilized space to satisfy vanity is not a line Desslok would be willing to cross. He’s trying to be a good man doing the right things. Being emperor of Galman was supposed to be his fresh start to become the man he should be after his encounter with Wildstar and Nova in Series 2. It’s the man we saw in The New Voyage.
That puts him in conflict with his people, and that’s trouble. To me it seems okay that some generals here and there might have a problem with him, or maybe some of the old Galman government might want to unseat him for someone who follows their own agenda, but he has a compelling charisma and to me that means he will always have the people on his side. As long as he lives, Gamilon lives, which means his people, their culture and their way of life.
On casting the villain
While translating the story notes from Series 3, the name Gaidel came up repeatedly as the enemy on the Galman side. (In Star Blazers, he was renamed Smeardom.) Evidently, he was to continue his role as Yamato‘s antagonist, even after his critical blunder of attacking and delivering them to Dessler. If the intent was to give him command of the Eastern Task Force again, we’d have to figure out how to make that work. That lead to this 2009 exchange:
Carol: I have to get this off my chest. I know you’re really sold on Smeardom being the big bad guy for the new comic. If it were up to me, I would not use him, and here are my reasons why…
(Here followed a lengthy defense of Smeardom’s character, citing evidence of him being a true loyalist to Desslok and a man of honor.)
I did a little send up of Futurama‘s “Single Female Lawyer” and used screen caps of Smeardom/Gaidel from Series 3 to prove my point. “How could this man be a Desslok hater, look at that Bas Relief of His Majesty while Bro’s getting his head shaved!”
Carol’s conclusion: There’s no reason why you can’t have Smeardom turn 360 degrees after Desslok flips out – it makes him more of a Brutus character than a two dimensional bully. Keeling might con him into doing it for the good of Galman. It also makes for some strong drama if Von Feral has to fight him, because both of them will be reluctant but respect each other too much to attack half-heartedly. Smeardom wouldn’t hide under evac ships, and he wouldn’t use civilians as targets to draw fire away from him.
Tim: Actually, I am NOT “really sold” on Smeardom as the bad guy. I just stayed with that concept because that’s what the original plot called for. It was one of those not-quite-there ideas that I was prepared to grapple with and try to make credible.
I agree with you on the personality basics. If anything, Smeardom after Episode 15 would be more inclined to think of himself as a jilted lover instead of a betrayed fundamentalist. I pictured him being demoted and exiled to some sort of humiliating trash-pickup duty on the back nine, but he could also be exiled to Lars. If he’s seen there by the Star Force, wandering around clueless and disheveled like Nixon on the beach, it would instantly demonstrate what the place is all about.
Let’s assume Smeardom gets replaced by somebody else (Gustav already has my vote) and new things happen. Keeling sees that Desslok is willing to dismiss proven Galman officers (who fought together for years against the Bolar) for the sake of his weird thing for these Earth punks. Plus the war is heating up and the Gardiana problem is on the rise. Too many things to deal with. We can’t lose any more of our guys. Get Desslok to drop this Star Force crush. Send them to Lars. Yeah, that’s it. Whoops, what’s that? They got away? Now they’re mad at Desslok? He put them on notice? OK, we have something to work with.
Keeling could volunteer to take over the Eastern Task Force after the Lars incident. This would get him out of Desslok’s immediate view and reduce his chances of getting fingered. But there’s a catch – Talan is posted as his number 2. This boosts Talan’s role from secret benefactor to overt watchdog. As the Star Force problem intensifies, so would their opposition to each other. That could lead to a Crimson Tide scenario with Keeling as Gene Hackman and Talan as Denzel Washington. It could break open shortly before we reach Planet Gardiana and Keeling would end up square on Desslok’s hit list. Zipping away to hold Earth hostage would be his only option.
And thus was the villain cast. But that was just the first step.
Keeling’s master plan
After writing the script for Chapter 6, in which Keeling’s plot against Desslok takes a serious setback from the awakening of Mariposa, it became necessary to define exactly what he was attempting, since his hand in things was to be revealed there. That lead to the writing of this text, which was massaged into its final form in June 2012:
(1) Get the Eastern Task Force entirely opposed to Desslok by attacking and destroying the Argo in defiance of his order. When they succeed, he’ll place the death sentence on all of them and the ETF will have no choice but to turn pirate and fight for its life. The specter of this should turn the other Galmans against Desslok and all Gamilons.
This goes south when Talan’s detective work exposes the plot. Nevertheless, the result is the same. The ETF earns Desslok’s contempt and takes it on the lam.
(2) Return to Galman and overpower Desslok’s forces. This is much harder than it sounds. The ETF fortress is formidable, but not enough to face down all the firepower at Desslok’s command. Therefore, they need more energy. To obtain it, Keeling orders the ETF to Earth’s solar system. With the sun nearing the tipping point, all they have to do is set up a network of satellites that can collect the energy of its supernova. Even a tiny percentage of this explosive power will keep the ETF fortress supplied for generations.
Setting up that satellite network is a huge operation that itself requires a lot of energy and manpower. Enslaving the people of Earth answers the manpower problem; Keeling can even offer them a chance for a new home in return (though whether he will actually follow through is open to question). Mining the energy of Jupiter and the raw materials of Mars is the other part of the operation, and this is what the Star Force must overcome when they return to the solar system. (We later pared this down to the mining operation on Io.)
Carol: Keeling throws Desslok’s name around like it’s going out of style. I presume he’s become somewhat unhinged because he’s the guy who always has a plan, always has pieces on the chessboard but now he’s only got one piece on the board – the battle fortress. He’s close to throwing the board up and cowering in a corner as his nerves snap. I had planned for Talan to beat him so badly he’d need to wear a mask or a patch for his swollen eye for the last part of the story. If he’s recovered, he’ll only cover his mouth when he speaks.
Flash’s father, being a war profiteer, doesn’t give two shakes about Keeling’s offer. Contrail’s plan is to lure Keeling in and obliterate him with the last of his arsenal. Contrail “wants to be Desslok” but a good Earth Desslok with fine upstanding Earth values – and to bring Earth another victory against Gamilon menace might get more of the revenge-hungry populace in his favor (especially since word might have gotten out it was a Galman missile that did the sun in). He’s still planning on getting all his favorite shareholders and influential people aboard his escape ship that he’ll rule from once Earth is dry toast. It’s just not the Argo anymore. He’s more than willing to sell people tickets to the other escape craft if they can afford it. Neither of these guys is playing with a level head, but Contrail has more marbles.
Returning to the history of the galaxy, as briefly hinted earlier in the note about the Goa Empire, Carol took it upon herself to flesh this out so it could inform our story, particularly Chapter 7. Here’s what she came up with as of March 2009 (and the finished pages that came out of it).
• The Milky Way Formed. In its center, Planet Gardiana and the Gardianist civilization was the first to rise.
Side note: it’s not quite the same, but it was interesting to learn later that the 2199 writers put the Akerians in this role.
• Bolar home world and Galman were next to reach information ages. Gardiana was far advanced beyond the two.
• Gardiana gave them gifts of super science to promote peace and friendship in Space. Each race got one boon.
• Bolar developed space travel prematurely and devoted scientific endeavors to quantum mechanics and the fabric of space with the goal of exploration.
• Galman prematurely mapped the human genome and created a race of people without birth defects, sickness or disease. They became preoccupied with the total perfection of body and mind. Perfect Galmans strove to perfect themselves further. Perfection of mind brought about the space travel and super science Gardiana did not provide. Original Galmans did their best to improve themselves to their limit. Galman culture is full of stories and contests where men and women drive themselves to be their personal best. Energy drinks, olympics, beauty contests. Reality shows like Ninja Warrior and Unbeatable Banzuke are popular. Sport. Beauty. Art (relating to representational art and the physical form). Science. Galman pride/hubris renowned throughout Space.
• Civil war erupted between Original Galmans and Perfect Galmans. Original Galmans amassed an exodus fleet and left Galman to build a new home elsewhere. Since no one remained to provide an opposing view, Perfect Galmans renamed their former co-citizens Uglies and changed the story, saying they were exiled from the homeworld on an “Ugly Ark.” Galman decided they were the pinnacle of racial perfection and had the right to conquer all of space. Gardiana’s homeworld was taken as their first trophy. Planet Lars’ violent nature was discovered and designated as a disposal planet for rebels or those judged less than Attractiveness 6.
• Bolar, not being in the exact center of the Milky Way, enjoyed some privacy. Exploration and trading made their civilization wealthy. Their economy was not based on money, but bartering goods and services. Bolar merchant marine dabbles in piracy – wealthy ships of other planetary systems are cannibalized to bring Bolar wealth for all citizens. Planets can join their Commonwealth and share spoils, or oppose them and lose everything. Work camps established for those who disagree with their policy or refuse to give up their possessions.
• Gamilon found by Galman refugees, kinship with Iscandar established.
• Bolar becomes richer as more planets hear of Galman’s madness and join the Commonwealth to seek protection from them. Bolar attcks when they stand a chance of winning against Galman, seizing Galman’s empire and Gardiana’s lost homeworld.
• Planet Galman becomes an internment camp. Galman’s territory is appropriated by the Bolar Commonwealth. Malnutrition and unsanitary conditions reintroduce sickness, disease and birth defects into the Galman population. Demoralized, they are no longer a master race of perfect people. Vain goals are set aside for the sake of survival.
• The Gamilon Empire Flourishes in the Sanzar system despite Iscandar’s disappointment and pleas for peace. Gamilon conquers space not out of vanity but out of greed, for power and territory. Like the Bolar, the Gamilon Empire brings wealth and comfort to its citizens. Unmatched endeavors in super science and military advances make monsters of their confidence. Social Darwinism becomes apparent with the division of class structure between civilians and the career military. The strength to rule reinforces their pride. They should conquer space because they are the strongest. They have the force to take it and the military might to keep it.
• Desslok is born. Scientists begin to discover that Gamilon is dying.
• Aging virus claims the first Iscandarian.
• Helmets for Gamilon ladies (sulfuric acid will burn your scalp!) and black serapes become newest fashion trend. New Capitol City affixed to underside of crust.
• Gamilons begin to live entirely indoors. Helmets are still in style.
• A long range probe and further recon confirms that Earth is exactly what they need for their new home world.
• Gamilon sets its sights on Earth. Star Blazers begins.