Episode 20 Commentary

The Day Planet Balan’s Sun Fell!

By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)

Watch this episode now at these sources: Original version subtitled

24 January 2200

Production note: This episode’s title was a parody of the 20th Century Fox SF film The Day the Fish Came Out (1968). They don’t sound much like each other in English, but the Japanese wording is closer.

The Star Force has finally reached Planet Balan, the halfway point to Iscandar. On the Nav station of the Second Bridge, Venture [Shima] and Eager [Ohta] wonder if the Gamilons are nearby. Venture mentions that Wildstar and Conroy are on a recon mission to Balan, and that Wildstar is unarmed. This dialogue is very different in Yamato, where the two Nav members are discussing the mission plan and consult their schedule. Similar discussions occur in many of the previous episodes.

Story notes: The Star Force’s mission plan had them arriving at Planet Balan on day 65, but they are running 44 days behind, which makes this mission day 109. Wildstar and IQ-9 are flying a Type-100 Recon Plane that has been reconfigured with side-to-side seats rather than front-back as seen earlier in the series.

Wildstar and IQ-9 approach Balan. IQ tells Wildstar that Balan is roughly twice the size of Earth, which sounds a bit more reasonable than twenty times larger as stated in Episode 17 of Space Battleship Yamato. Balan also has a sun which orbits around the planet, which IQ-9 understatedly describes as “very unusual.”

On the first bridge, Nova worries that Wildstar only has Conroy as an escort, but Dash says that Wildstar insisted. Though Dash says this with a slight chuckle in his voice, Avatar’s thoughts (only heard in Star Blazers) are more serious. Will he be able to trust Wildstar’s judgement in the future?

Additional note from Matt Murray: This bridge scene contains a glaring and odd mistake: where there are normally five forward windows, there are now only three, and the entire bridge seems a good deal smaller. When next we see the bridge, it will have reverted to form.

As they continue their recon, Wildstar notes the plants on the ground. They are short with vines that droop towards the ground instead of growing upward. Suddenly, IQ-9 calls his attention to a large Gamilon base in the center of a crater. The base launches a wave of missiles, which Wildstar and Conroy easily dodge as they retreat.

Space Battleship Yamato has a scene here where Kodai [Wildstar] discovers the skeletons of dozens of Balanosaurus creatures. The Balanosaurus was used to attack the Argo a few episodes ago. That one was made up of living energy cells, but apparently its shape was based on another native Balan lifeform. Seeing the Balanosaurus remains makes Kodai even more eager to destroy the base.

The scouting party is ordered to return, but a squadron of Gamilon fighters approaches before they can make their escape. As Conroy engages the squadron, Wildstar turns the piloting over to IQ, apparently with the intention of assisting him. However, earlier we were explicitly told that Wildstar’s ship was unarmed. In Yamato, it was not the case and Kodai was simply moving over to the gunner’s seat. Regardless, with IQ now at the controls, the robot does the sensible thing and retreats. Conroy, faced with about a dozen fighters, takes out two before the scene fades.

Wildstar rushes onto the bridge and insists that the Star Force must destroy the Balan base. It’s a threat that can’t be ignored. Venture argues that they can’t risk a fight, they are 44 days behind schedule, and their goal of reaching Iscandar is more important. Wildstar counters that they’re behind schedule because of the Gamilons and they’ll face them on the return trip unless they take them out. They defer to the Captain, who agrees with Wildstar.

This discussion in Space Battleship Yamato is all about the Balanodons [Balanosaurs]. Kodai insists on attacking the base on behalf of the massacred Balanodons he saw during his flyby. Sorry, Yamato writers, but Wildstar’s reasoning is much more focused and logical than Kodai’s. Kodai seems unreasonably incensed at the cruelty the Gamilas displayed on Balan. However, the Gamilas’ cruelty is already abundantly apparent. I can’t see Kodai getting that worked up over the Balanodons when all life on Earth will soon be extinct. In Star Blazers, Wildstar rightly puts his concern on the Star Force’s mission and not some ancillary environmental crusade.

Production note: in the 39-episode scenario for the series, Balan was one of many Gamilas planets on which the natives were enslaved. This made the notion of fighting less of a debate; Yamato had to stop at several of these planets to restock the food supplies, and liberating slaves was part of the process. Kodai’s indignance over the cruelty heaped upon the poor Balanodons was likely an artifact of that original concept.

Conroy’s fighter returns to the ship. He didn’t escape unscathed; he’s trailing smoke from his starboard wing.

Meanwhile, Lysis and his forces are gathered 50 megameters from Balan. Lysis explains his master plan to Volgar, based on careful observation of the Star Force. Lysis believes that since there are native life forms on Balan, the Star Force will not use the Wave-Motion Gun. Forced to move in closer to use their other weapons, they can be crushed by Balan’s artificial sun. Lysis is smart enough to know the risk–the Star Force could use the Wave Gun on the sun itself–but he believes it’s essentially foolproof. Volgar is horrified. The Balan base will surely be destroyed, he thinks. Lysis brushes off his concerns. “Maybe there will be a little damage,” he concedes, “but we’ll get the Star Force!”

In Yamato, Lysis [Domel] admits he slaughtered the Balanodons to goad the Earthlings into attacking.

Ohhh-kay…so this is the fearsome Space Wolf Domel’s master plan? He expects an elite group of experienced soldiers fighting for their world to get sentimental over lizard carcasses? I can see why Volgar [Geru] would be horrified. What was Plan B, I wonder? Jettison a basketful of kittens into space? Also, there is no equivocation about the fate of the Balan base in Yamato. Domel fully expects it to be destroyed.

At the Balan base, the missile silos are raised in preparation for the fight. There are a few shots of the base that were removed from Star Blazers.

Additional note from Matt Murray: As the crew prepares for battle, we see a shot wherein, for some reason, all the crewmen are running against the arrows painted on the corridor floor. Either there was a miscommunication between the foreground and background artists, or the rank-and-file of the Star Force have organized a mass, if rather feeble, demonstration of insubordination.

The Star Force preps for combat. Noticing the sun looming ominously nearby, Wildstar asks Eager to keep track of it. As the battle begins, Lysis orders the sun to be activated. A beam is shot from the base to the sun to activate the guidance systems, followed by a beam from the flagship to the sun to do the actual maneuvering. Soon, the sun is descending toward the planet. The Star Force, still protecting itself from a missile wave, seems not to notice for a few crucial moments.

Story note: Balan was revealed to be a dark planet in Episode 18 with a band of glowing magma as its only source of light. This begs the question of when the artificial sun was constructed and how. If the Gamilas are capable of astro-engineering on this scale, one has to wonder why they couldn’t correct the geological instabilities of their own planet. But then, there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell.

Shortly, Eager reports on the sun’s activity. Venture states the obvious conclusion that it’s not a real sun. Wildstar’s instinct is to turn the ship and use the Wave-Motion Gun on it, and Avatar agrees. As the ship makes its turn, Eager calculates that they are 10 seconds too late, that the sun will hit before they can complete the turn.

Lysis has apparently been making the same computations, as he also says the Star Force is ten seconds too late. Volgar once again asks about the safety of the base, which Lysis dismisses as “a small loss.” Horrified, Volgar runs from the room, proclaiming “Madness! Utter madness!!” As if to prove Volgar’s point, Lysis starts laughing maniacally.

The Argo is still not aligned with the sun, which is approaching closer and closer. Wildstar tells Venture to reverse engines to bring them closer to the planet. Avatar is having trouble coping with the stress. Nova runs to his side to assist him, but he insists that he’s not important.

Lysis is savoring his imminent victory. “We’ve won!” he declares. Just then, Volgar arrives to tell him that Leader Desslok wants to speak with him. The Leader is succinct; Volgar has informed him of Lysis’ plan and while he agrees that the plan is clever, it is too dangerous. “Stop it now,” Desslok orders. Lysis is stunned.

Production note: In the 39-episode scenario for the TV series, Domel’s [Lysis’] plot against Yamato was stopped by Hisu [Krypt] to prevent him from grabbing up too much glory in the eyes of Dessler. It was to be Hisu’s first step toward an attempted coup to seize the throne.

With the sun now stopped, the Star Force takes immediate advantage of the situation. Resuming their turn, the Wave-Motion Gun is quickly charged and fired. The sun starts breaking apart and the Argo plows right through the spreading mass of fire. The ship is resilient enough to make it, but the Balan base is incinerated by the rain of fireballs from the sun’s destruction. Star Blazers edited out a few scenes of the base’s destruction, which looked very much like the familiar rain of Planet Bombs on the Earth.

Additional note from Matt Murray: These extra scenes of destruction were seen in the recap that began the following episode, or at least they were until the home video gods decided to shear it off.

Oh, and so much for trying to protect Balan’s wildlife. I wonder how many Balanodons perished in the conflagration?

Lysis is livid as he watches the Argo emerge from the firestorm. They’re a little crispy, but intact. After the surface of the planet has calmed, Nova leads a landing party to gather much-needed food supplies.

Meeting the Balan survey group in the hangar, Derek explains how he knew the sun was artificial. Looking at a “Space Turtle” (actually, a live Balanodon), he points out its small eyes, indicating it came from a dark world. IQ hands Derek one of the plants he had seen earlier. Noting that the branches reach for the ground, he offers that as more proof that Balan had no natural sun. The plants would be taller to gain more sunlight. The fact that the sun orbited around the planet was another giveaway.

I’m wondering how Sandor didn’t suspect it was an artificial sun. The idea of a sun that orbits a planet is so contrary to known physics that it would have to be an artificial construct, or at the very least, deserve closer inspection. There’s also an odd continuity break wherein Venture surmises that Balan’s sun is artificial, but at the end of the episode everyone credits Wildstar with this discovery, credit he happily takes. (The Yamato episode had the same continuity issue.)

Wildstar reports to Avatar’s quarters, where he finds the Captain resting in bed. Avatar quickly gets to the point; he can no longer carry on with his full duties. He wants Wildstar to be his Deputy Captain. With some reluctance, Wildstar accepts.

“There are only 253 days left.”

Continue to episode 21

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