Episode 15 Commentary

The Argo Is Captured!

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

Space Battleship Yamato III opens this episode in the midst of the action. Commander Lugna von Feral [Frakken] orders a torpedo strike. Yamato is pummeled by hit after hit. Von Feral laughs.

Inside, Wildstar [Kodai] is wheeled into the OR by IQ-9 [Analyzer], Nova [Yuki], and a Life Services orderly. Dr. Sane [Dr. Sado] assures Nova that “the best doctor in the world” is taking care of him.

After a brief “story so far” segment, von Feral orders another torpedo strike, which again blasts the ship.

These first two minutes of the episode are not found in Star Blazers.

In the Galman Empire’s Eastern Front Fortress, Admiral Smeardom [Gaidel] watches the Star Force’s plight on his monitors. He wants the ship herded toward the fortress for capture.

Back on the Argo, the surgery has begun with Nova (now in her nurse’s uniform) and IQ-9 assisting. Anxious crew members watch from the gallery above (including Sakimaki, whose arm is in a sling). Surprisingly, there is a little bit of gore shown in the operating sequence. It’s just some blood-soaked shrapnel placed into a bin next to bloody surgical instruments, but it was still rare to see such things in a cartoon back then.

For all the tense drama, Wildstar’s injury is relatively minor–shrapnel in his shoulder. Back at the end of the Comet Empire series, he got wounded far more often and would be back on his feet the next day.

Story note: Dr. Sane must indeed be the best physician in the world, since he can seemingly operate right through a sheet; one scene shows him reaching under the sheet with his tools to work on Wildstar’s injury underneath. There is also some lost continuity with the previous episode; the explosion that knocked out Wildstar was directly in front of him at the combat station console, but he hit the floor with no visible wounds. The bits of shrapnel must have struck a body part that was kept conveniently off-camera, definitely not the shoulder.

On the bridge, Jetter is wondering if the enemy will strike again. Venture is sure they will. Meanwhile, Sandor is in the lab finishing the creation of a sub-space sonar that will be able to detect their hidden enemy.

Post-Op, IQ-9 wheels Wildstar down the hallway. The doctor tells the dozens of onlookers to get back to work, and orders IQ to resume his normal duties as well, allowing Nova to take Derek off to his recovery.

In a private officer’s room, Derek regains consciousness and Nova fills him in on what happened. He wants to return to the bridge, but she assures him that Sandor, Venture, and Jason can handle things in his place. He starts to argue, but she does not yield. Then he tries a slightly different tack, pointing out that she should be on the bridge as well. She replies that she is also a nurse, and in that capacity has a duty to be with him. They had apparently promised to shelve their romantic thoughts while on duty, but the upside of his injury is that they will be able to spend time alone together. In spite of the circumstances–his injury, the enemy lurking nearby, their chaste vow–the atmosphere turns romantic.

Buster Block, Orion, and Sakimaki (who apparently doesn’t need his arm in a sling after all) are huddled outside Wildstar’s cabin, watching the couple and encouraging them to go further. Their voyeurism comes to an end when they start tussling with each other and inadvertently trigger the door to open. They tumble into the room, make awkward excuses, offer their good wishes, and hustle back out.

Sandor’s sub-space sonar is finally ready. This new scanning array extends from the bottom bow of the hull. Though the sonar is introduced as a new invention, it’s actually just a new part added to a sensor device from Be Forever Yamato where it was used only once. The subspace sonar resembles a hydrophone and requires listening on headphones with complete silence. It is sensitive to any vibrations, inside and out.

Story note: Unless the laws of physics work differently in this area of space, “sonar” must simply be a stand-in term for something else. Real-world sonar releases sound waves that bounce off an object and come back for detection. Without a medium to carry them, such as air or water, sound waves won’t go anywhere. And yet, when someone speaks to Sandor on the bridge, his readings go haywire from the excess noise. It’s also a little odd that the subspace sonar doesn’t actually dip itself into subspace, which would have explained everything with a simple visual.

Von Feral has two subs reposition themselves to the Argo‘s bow and stern. His XO warns him that the Argo‘s sonar will detect them, but von Feral is counting on that. In both the Japanese and American versions, the XO is shocked that von Feral is willing to sacrifice two of his own ships.

Sandor picks up the movement at 6 and 12 o’clock. Jason (now at Wildstar’s combat station) gives the order to launch the Wave-Motion depth charges. We get a brief look at the loading station before they go into action. As in last episode, the energy from the exploding charges pierces the subspace dimensional pocket and damages the subs, forcing them to emerge.

The Argo opens up its guns at the two exposed ships. Jason lets out a loud victory cheer at their destruction before remembering Sandor’s need for quiet. But Jason’s celebration is short-lived; while the Star Force was concentrating on destroying the exposed enemies, the rest of von Feral’s subs repositioned themselves to launch a devastating torpedo attack.

In the wake of the barrage, several of the subs begin retreating. Jason suggests chasing them down and Venture agrees, but this is exactly what von Feral wants. He calls Admiral Smeardom at the Eastern Front Fortress to let him know that the Argo is heading right for them. Admiral Smeardom orders his giant fortress forward.

Before the Argo can strike at the subs, they spot the fortress closing in. The forward shock cannons are quickly aimed and fired, but they have no discernible effect on the huge construct. The fortress expands, huge modules shifting and emerging to effectively double its size. (Look carefully in these scenes for a tiny little Argo, dwarfed by the enormous battle wagon.) The Argo descends underneath it to avoid a collision, and the trap is sprung. The fortress drops around the Argo, swallowing the ship into a huge holding bay.

Within moments, they are “welcomed” by Admiral Smeardom on the video panel. He praises their courage and prowess, but they are now his prisoners. As a tribute to their bravery, he promises to take them back to Earth to witness its subjugation.

Jason urges the use of the Wave-Motion Gun. Sandor points out all the reflector panels (made from “impervious magnetic titanium” according to Star Blazers) lining the Argo‘s “cell.” It’s made from the same material as the reflex satellite panels, which would simply reflect their shot back at them.

Story note: The explanation for why they can’t shoot their way out is simple enough, but isn’t well-supported visually. First, the reflective coating on the walls doesn’t cover the entire surface, and certainly doesn’t coat the hatchway that closed under the Argo. If the ship can still maneuver, there’s no reason it can’t be swung around to point in whatever direction would work. If it can’t maneuver, we don’t have an explanation for it, other than a shot near the end of the episode that sort of looks like it could be resting inside a giant clamp. It’s the job of a director to think of these things and devise visual cues to tell the story we don’t get from dialogue.

In his hospital bed, Wildstar realizes something is wrong. Dr. Sane comes in to deliver the bad news, followed by a contrite Jason Jetter. Jason literally falls on his knees in remorse, taking responsibility for this predicament. Wildstar counsels him to never give up, no matter what happens.

This scene is intended to be very dramatic, but the actors are too chained to their narrow character voices to really sell it. Dr. Sane’s actor can’t bring too much weight to the scene because of his buffoonish voice. Jason sounds on the verge of crying, but that’s close to how he usually sounds. And John [Wildstar] Bellucci’s method of communicating emotion is to deliver all his lines with extra breathiness. But at least Wildstar finally gets the satisfaction of ordering everyone to get him to the bridge.

For all the misgivings of the last scene, the next is one of my favorites. Admiral Smeardom, standing with von Feral and many of his top men, have an audience with Desslok via a huge monitor. Admiral Smeardom proudly announces the capture of an enemy ship, one that obliterated the 17th and 18th attack fleets and hails from the planet he has long been touting as a birthday gift. Desslok asks for the name of this ship.

“It’s the Argo, sire.” [“Space Battleship Yamato” in Yamato III.]

Desslok closes his eyes and asks him to repeat the name. Smeardom still has a proud smile on his face as he says it again. When Desslok’s eyes open, there is a furious intensity to them. He looks right at Smeardom. His voice rises to match his look, and he throws down his wine goblet. He chastises Smeardom for (a) never mentioning the name of the ship, and (b) ignoring his orders to leave the outskirts of his territory alone.

Admiral Smeardom tries to sputter out an excuse, but Desslok demands to speak to the captured ship’s commander.

The American script flubs the previous scene slightly: before Smeardom’s announcement, Desslok mentions that Smeardom’s target has been Earth, a detail he’s not supposed to be aware of. In Yamato III, Dessler just refers to the unnamed planet Smeardom has been promising for his birthday.

Wildstar has made it to the bridge with his arm in a sling (maybe the one Sakimaki gave up?), supported by Jason. He’s just in time to receive the call from an apologetic Emperor Desslok. Despite Wildstar’s lack of a proper uniform, Desslok is astute enough to immediately realize he is a full captain and congratulates him on it. He then explains that the attacks by his military occurred without his knowledge. He invites them to his throne-world as an apology.

He also surmises that Earth must be facing another catastrophe if the Argo is this far from home, so he wishes to help. Wildstar accepts. Desslok also notes that Nova is still at Derek’s side, which pleases him.

Admiral Smeardom is tasked with escorting the Argo to the throne-world. He never appears again, so it his ultimate fate goes unexplained. (Though The Bolar Wars Extended provides an interesting answer.)

There are only 207 days left (the same number as last episode).

Continue to Episode 16

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