Certain Death! The Wishing Star of Orion, Hell-star!
By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)
Watch this episode now at these sources: Original version subtitled
30 November 2199
Production note: This episode wins the Dustbuster award for most cel dirt in a single program. Seriously, it’s like every stray cigarette ash in the studio somehow found its way into the camera room. Yamato was actually somewhat infamous for this back in the early days. Other animators would joke about how hard it was to spot the ship among the “junk” floating around it in space. In many scenes you can actually watch dirt crawl across the screen as the cels change.
Nova is in the Aft Observation Deck when she’s joined by Derek. She tells him she’s making a wish on the nearby “Wishing Star of Volton.” It was called the Alpha Star of Orion (a.k.a “The Prayer Star”) in Space Battleship Yamato. Star Blazers might have changed the name from Orion to Volton to avoid confusion with the Star Force’s Chief Engineer.
Story note: The Star Force is about 980 light years from Earth when they reach the Alpha Star (the red giant Betelgeuse) of the constellation Orion. In the original scenario and in Leiji Matsumoto’s manga, it was the Beta Star (Rigel).
Derek chides her for wishing on a “hunk of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen,” but his curiosity is piqued enough to ask her what she wished for. Suddenly, they are thrown to the floor as the ship comes to a halt. The crew rushes to the bridge. Venture immediately contacts Orion to find out if there’s any engine problem, but he reports that everything is fine.
Nova turns on her radar and reports that the Argo is caught in a “Space Net,” an invisible electro-magnetic net that’s stretched between the Volton stars. Wildstar looks to the Captain for guidance, but he’s not there. Up in his cabin, Avatar is slowly picking himself up off the floor and having great difficulty doing so. When he finally arrives on the bridge, there are two groups of missiles heading for them. Venture struggles with the ship to avoid the missiles, but the net makes the Argo‘s movements sluggish. At close to the last moment, the ship turns and the missiles whiz by the bridge, missing them by meters. With the second wave coming in fast, Venture loses his temper and calls Orion an idiot.
Wildstar has his hands on the counter-attack missile launch controls. He requests permission to fire. Receiving no reply, he pulls the trigger and the counter-attack missiles successfully save the ship with an energy net of their own. Star Blazers often adds dialogue to scenes, including this one. In Yamato, Kodai (Wildstar) doesn’t say anything, he just looks at the Captain in silence before firing.
Soon, Orion, Venture, and Wildstar are in the Captain’s quarters being chastised for their behavior. Venture is first, taken to account for his lack of self-control. Mark’s only defense is that he was “only trying to do [his] job.” Avatar does not consider than an excuse and orders Venture to apologize. Mark offers a somewhat unconvincing “sorry Orion,” then the pair go off to have a cup of “space java.” (As opposed to the regular kind?)
The scene is more formal in Yamato. Shima [Venture] respectfully bows as he makes his apology. After Tokugawa [Orion] says a few words of reassurance, they are both verbally dismissed by the Captain.
Turning to Wildstar, Avatar berates him for having fired the counter-attack missiles without orders. Wildstar argues that he acted for the safety of the ship; without his action they would have been destroyed. Avatar’s only concern is discipline. When Derek starts to imply that Avatar couldn’t issue the needed order, he’s smacked in the face. However, it’s Avatar himself that’s injured by this action. He falls to his knees clutching his side, and pushes Derek away when he tries to help.
After establishing shots of Gamilon and Desslok’s Palace (omitted from Star Blazers), we join the Gamilons in Desslok’s throne room. They are watching the Star Force’s plight. Star Blazers eliminated a detail of the trap, that if the Argo disturbs the Space Net, a nearby base will automatically launch missiles. Desslok unveils the next stage in his plan. He releases into his throne room a sample of “ecto-gas,” a small black cloud which “feeds on energy and consumes matter.” Forced to flee from the gas, the Star Force’s only path through the Space Net will take them across the “Sea of Fire” of the red star of Volton.
I love the fact that Desslok describes the ecto-gas as “a simple invention of mine.” Not only is he the ruler of an interplanetary empire, he invents esoteric chemical weapons in his spare time! Actually the ecto-gas was probably invented by his scientists, but everything ultimately belongs to emperor. Therefore, it’s “his” invention. He also doesn’t have any qualms about releasing a potentially dangerous gas in his own throne room.
Dr. Sane finishes his exam of Avatar. Rather than the infirmary, Sane is examining him in the Captain’s quarters. Also present are Wildstar, Nova, and possibly the ugliest nurse ever. I’m not sure if it’s a man or a woman, but the nurse is pug-nosed and about the same height and build as Sane. Nova seems to do the actual nursing, so Nurse X is reduced to filling up Sane’s drinks for him, at least in the Yamato version of this scene. Since the drinking was cut out of Star Blazers, s/he is barely noticeable. A line or two of Dr. Sane’s dialogue was also removed from Star Blazers, where he absently talks about how horrible the Pluto Battle was. He apologizes when he notices Derek, who lost his brother at that same battle.
Production note: Initially, Dr. Sane’s assistant was meant to be a woman, but when the note came down to eliminate all the other women from the crew, she was quickly redrawn as a male in all but one scene in which he/she is chasing Dr. Sane down the hall in his/her spacesuit. Naturally, we never see him/her again.
Everyone starts walking out the door except for Dr. Sane. He casually calls Avatar back as if there’s some little thing he forgot to tell him. Once the two are alone, Dr. Sane’s demeanor changes. (In Yamato, he gets visibly angry.) Now it’s the Captain’s turn to get berated. Avatar is suffering from radiation sickness and must be hospitalized. His condition was discovered back on Earth and the disease is spreading. Avatar refuses. His job and the mission are too important. Sane tells him what Wildstar hinted at: that he was so ill he wasn’t able to issue the order to fire the missiles. More incidents like that will occur if he doesn’t get treatment.
The gas approaches the Argo. Sandor notices it from an Aft Observation window and watches as it dissolves a catapult. Within moments, the crew are scrambling to their stations. We see Orion sliding down an emergency chute to the engine room.
Production note: In Star Blazers Orion doesn’t make a sound in this scene. In Yamato, Tokugawa yells a blue streak all the way down, which seems a bit out of character. In fact, it was an animation error. Both Tokugawa and Dr. Sado had the same voice actor, and a recording of Sado’s voice yelling wildly was mistakenly attached to this scene.
Venture orders a takeoff as Nova checks her screen for a path through the net. Spotting one at 10 o’clock, their hopes are dashed when they realize that will take them across the face of the Red Star. It’s a trap, but they have no other choice. Avatar orders them to head right for the Red Star and its “sea of fire”.
As far as Dessok’s concerned, their fate is sealed. He retires from the throne room, not even caring for an update from Krypt.
The Argo flies through the corona of the star. Avatar orders protective coverings to be pulled over the “windowed” sections of the ship. Venture has to drive at full speed, assisted by Eager who computes the activity of the solar prominences (aka flares). Sandor advises the Captain they should put on their space suits, which would allow the crew to withstand 800 degree heat (Celsius). After agreeing, the Captain collapses. Nova rushes to his side, calling for Dr. Sane on the intercom.
Dr. Sane rushes out of the infirmary with his medkit, pursued by Nurse X, pleading with the Doctor to put his space suit on. This is the one scene in which Nurse X is visibly female, but speaks with Homer’s voice. Sane can’t be bothered with a suit because it will hamper his examination of the Captain.
Sane rushes onto the bridge–now wearing the space suit he didn’t want–and orders the ship to stop, even going so far as to invoke a “Doctor’s order!” Avatar has regained consciousness and orders them not to stop, assuring everyone that he’s all right. Dr. Sane checks Avatar’s pulse (somehow, through his gloves) and strongly advises caution. There’s a small scene in Yamato of Derek making a comment of relief while putting on his suit, and another of the approach to the star. Both were cut from Star Blazers.
As Venture maneuvers the ship across the face of the star, Sandor calmly reports that the outside temperature is 2500 degrees, while the interior is a mere 400 degrees!
Venture reports to Orion that they’re losing engine power. Orion finds one of his men slumped over, succumbing to the heat. He rushes over to help, encouraging him by comparing this experience to a hot shower.
The ecto-gas has been following the Argo the whole time. It gets hit by a prominence that knocks it down into the “sea of fire” and is quickly dissolved.
A huge flare appears in front of the Argo, too close to be avoided. Dropping the speed is out of the question because the Red Star’s gravity will overcome them. At Avatar’s order, the Wave-Motion Gun is quickly charged and fired, dissipating the prominence and giving the Argo an escape route.
Here’s where I get a little confused. We were told before that the ship loses all power for a brief time before and after firing the Wave-Motion Gun. Venture said they couldn’t drop their speed, but by firing the gun they would be cutting the forward propulsion anyway, so they should start sinking toward the star as soon as the gun starts charging up. The only explanation left is some fluke of physics that was too complex to go into.
Desslok’s bed rest is disturbed by General Krypt, arriving to give an update on the Star Force. Desslok starts to chastise him because he didn’t want any updates, but when Krypt tells them that the Star Force escaped, Desslok is amazed. When Krypt suggests they send out interceptors, Desslok is indignant. The Star Force should be congratulated, not harassed. Dismissing Krypt, Desslok sits there with his thoughts, wondering how the Star Force could have outwitted him. This scene is the other way around in Yamato; Hisu [Krypt] was the one who suggested sending congratulations. Dessler calls him stupid.
As the Red Star recedes into the distance, Nova is once again on the Aft Observation deck with Derek. He asks her how she can be wishing on the star again after their recent experiences. She just says that her wishes will find a good star to make them come true. Derek then prompts her to tell him what she’s wishing so intently on. She reveals that she’s wishing for someone to fall in love with her, but doesn’t say who. This leads to a somewhat corny scene of Nova running out the door with Derek in hot, confused pursuit. Those darn girls and their mind-clouding super powers!
“There are only 308 days left”
This ep in my opinion is one of and possibly THE best balanced of all Yamato eps. Between Deslar’s plan, Avatar’s sickness, the triple threat of the Alpha prominence, the gas and the space snare, the Yuki flirt and Shima’s blow up (funnier in Star Blazers IMHO) this had more brilliant writing in 20 minutes than a whole season of most other scifi shows. I’ve seen this one at least 10 times and each time is as tense as the first time.
Dr. Sane (the Star Blazers VA) especially should get an Emmy for this one episode.
The WMG firing sequence in this episode is the same as the one from Ep. 5 when it was first used to destroy the floating continent – though this time without the animation error of the energy crossing in front of the bow. Easy to fix in a digital re-master though.
There is no physics problem regarding the Yamato’s speed and WMG charging. Once escape velocity was reached, continuing forward on a ballistic course required no additional energy for the brief time it took to charge and fire the WMG.