Episode 14 Commentary

Counterstrike! The Discovery of Trelaina!

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

Continuing from the previous episode, the Space Marines are engaged in a battle with General Skorch’s tanks on Telezart. Yamato 2 featured a scene of Kodai’s [Wildstar’s] gunship landing in the midst of explosions.

Additional note from Matt Murray: The original broadcast of Star Blazers also contained this footage, but the home releases have, as per usual, removed the episode recap, despite the fact that it segues straight into the current episode and features new footage not seen in the previous episode.

Wildstar, Sandor and IQ-9 bring out the multi-missile launcher. Unfortunately, the cannon needs to be assembled, so the Marines will have to hold off the tanks until it’s ready. Encouraged by the presence of reinforcements, and ignoring the fact that (if you do a head count) they’ve all been hit by enemy fire at least once already, the jarheads charge forward. Showing impressive skill and bravery, Knox jumps on top of a tank, slides back the hatch, and tosses a grenade inside. He and his men take out a few more tanks this way. Then Knox does a variation of this maneuver where he jumps inside a tank, tosses out its crew, and commandeers it. Several of his men hitch a ride with him.

Since a number of tanks are blown up with enemy troops inside, Star Blazers mitigates the violence with dialogue claiming the tank crews are robots. Also, a few scenes were removed which involved the Marines taking casualties. In one macabre clip, Saito [Knox] turns away from a nearby blast. When he looks back, he sees an empty Marine helmet land in front of him.

Additional note from Matt Murray: I’m not so sure that the helmet is meant to be empty. We never see the front side, and the look on Saito’s face is one of barely-contained horror at what he sees.

As the casualties rise, Wildstar calls up to the Argo for a medical team. Dr. Sane rushes to the med ship with Nova following close behind. He is reluctant to accept her help, but she argues that the Marines will require immediate medical attention. That’s a fine, noble reason for placing herself in harm’s way. Unfortunately, she reveals another: she didn’t get a chance to give Derek the flowers she picked for Trelaina. Dr. Sane questions the wisdom of bringing flowers to a battlefield, but relents and motions for her to accompany him. (I’m sure Dr. Sane wouldn’t have a problem bringing sake along, but flowers?)

In her underground domicile, Trelaina watches the battle on her monitors. “Once again, Telezart has become a battlefield,” she says mournfully. She clasps her hands together and kneels down in prayer. Waves of energy emanate from her.

Knox uses his commandeered tank to take out another. He laughs as a tank retreats from him, and challenges the rest of the enemy to all come at him at once. He soon regrets his bravado when Skorch orders his forces to renew their attack. While you won’t see this brief clip on your DVD, according to fan Boris Konon, it was included in the original broadcast of Star Blazers. The DVD rejoins the action as enemy tanks appear over the ridge. “Where is that missile launcher?” Knox says through gritted teeth as a near miss stops his advance.

Additional note from Matt Murray: All of the dialogue contained in these now-missing scenes was rewritten in the service of reiterating, in case anyone had forgotten, that the tanks are robot-manned. Knox exclaims that “Those robots are programmed to fight well!” a curious comment seeing as how he’s just blown one in half, after which Skorch exhorts his “mechanical marvels” to regroup and attack.

Sandor completes the missile launcher’s assembly. It looks like a WWII-era howitzer, only instead of one large cannon, there are 15 small ones. Sandor aims the gun (which suddenly appears loaded with missiles, though a few seconds ago the tubes were empty) and fires. The missiles arc over the battlefield and explode, sending down a rain of energy that burns right through the tanks’ armor. Skorch manages to survive the “rain of death” and beats a hasty retreat. Knox follows him.

Additional note from Matt Murray: Skorch looks a little different in this scene, as it was lifted straight from the film version. The series version of the character had been slightly redesigned.

Despite the claim that the tanks were manned by robots, during the rain of death sequence, Star Blazers removed one brief scene of a tank driver trying to crawl out of his vehicle, only for it to explode under him.

Production notes: Many of these battlefield scenes were lifted from the movie Farewell to Yamato, but Sandor fires the launcher in the series whereas Kodai did it in the movie. Also, look carefully at the crew that lands in the medical ship. Those seen running to the hangar earlier wore Black Tiger uniforms, but those who disembark are in the combat group. Maybe the Black Tiger pilots stayed in the cockpit?

The medical ship arrives. Upon seeing Nova, Wildstar starts to scold her. She defends herself, saying that the fighting is almost over and she forgot to give him the flowers for Trelaina. With a resigned “all right,” he takes the flowers. Turning back to the business at hand, Sandor recalls that Trelaina is in a large cave. IQ-9 reports a cave nearby.

At this point, there was an extensive scene that was removed from Star Blazers. As Kodai’s craft takes off, Zaibabal [Skorch] fires several rounds at it from his tank’s anti-personnel gun, but misses. He then spots Saito scampering behind some rock formations. Zaibabal fires at him, but Saito is too quick. The Space Marine sneaks his way to the front of the tank and tosses a rock toward the back. This momentary distraction is all Saito requires to climb up the tank and engage Zaibabal in hand-to-hand combat.

The two men fall from the tank’s turret to the ground. As big as Saito is, he’s dwarfed by the Comet Empire’s Panzer commander (though not quite as much as in the Playstation game, where Zaibabal appeared to be about 8 feet tall). Zaibabal gains the upper hand and aims a handgun at Saito, who’s still laying on the ground. Just as he fires, Saito scoots toward him and lands a kick to his gut, which forces Zaibabal to drop the gun. Scrambling across the ground, Saito reaches the gun, points it at the tank commander’s chest, and fires. Zaibabal falls to the ground, dead. Saito gets on his feet, exhausted from his ordeal.

This scene is similar to the one in Farewell to Yamato, but consists of new animation. The biggest difference between the two versions is the shooting of Zaibabal. In the movie, Saito held the gun to Zaibabal’s chest and they stood there, frozen for a moment before he fires. It seemed to indicate a moment of deliberation on Saito’s part before he pulled the trigger. In Yamato 2, there is no hesitation; Saito grabs the gun and instantly puts a round through his enemy’s chest. Thus, it seemed like a heat-of-the-moment decision rather than an execution.

This scene answered a question I had when watching the original Star Blazers. We saw Knox pursuing Skorch, but never saw this last battle between them. However, there’s a gap between the tank battle and the Knox/Skorch confrontation that even Yamato 2 doesn’t fill. Before this scene, we last saw Knox in a tank with at least one other person. There’s no indication of what happened to the tank, Knox’s comrade, or why Skorch’s tank was stopped.

Meanwhile, back at the Comet Empire city Gatlantis, Prince Zordar engages in his favorite pasttime: drinking. Gorce informs him that Skorch and his battalion has been defeated by the Star Force. Gorce lays the blame entirely on Desslok, claiming the Gamilon Leader’s hasty retreat left Skorch without air support. “He was left to his fate,” Gorce reports. Zordar is disappointed, saying, “I trusted Desslok as if he were my son.”

Meanwhile, Desslok is facing Princess Invidia and General Dyar. Desslok doesn’t want to deal with underlings and demands an audience with Zordar himself. Invidia offers the excuse that Zordar “is a very busy man.” (Yes, there is a lot of drinking to be done.) Unsatisfied, Desslok turns to walk out. Desperate to keep him there, Invidia baits him with information about why he was recalled. Desslok stops and reiterates that he will only accept answers from Zordar.

Invidia tells him his plans interfered with Zordar’s grand designs for the Comet Empire. Desslok can’t accept that since he previously had the full backing of the Prince. With a steely gaze toward Invidia, he asks “Who changed his mind?” She turns away, offended. Dyar, sweat running down his face, offers up the meek excuse, “Tactics were changed, that’s all.”

Desslok reminds them of the danger the Star Force poses to the Comet Empire. This prompts Invidia to claim that Trelaina is an even bigger threat. To Desslok, it is tantamount to a full confession. He realizes Invidia’s fear of Trelaina (a concern she brought up before in his presence) is the real reason he was recalled, and Zordar was not involved in the decision. As Desslok strips away their deception, Dyar shoots Invidia a dirty look. He was ambivalent about her plan last episode.

Desslok heads for the door, eager to restart his campaign against the Star Force. However, at a command from Invidia, armed guards train their guns on him. “You forget I am the one in charge here,” she gloats. “I am the one who says stay or go!” The guards lead Desslok out of the room. Talan follows, calling after him. The Gamilon Leader leaves him in charge of the fleet, but promises that he will eventually get through to Zordar, and then “he’ll learn who the traitors are.”

This is a brilliant turn for Desslok. He is given such a sense of honor and nobility that you can’t help but cheer for him in the face of Invidia’s underhanded dealings. He’s still a villain, but one with admirable qualities.

After Desslok is secured in his solitary cell, Invidia shares a quiet moment with Zordar over drinks. She tells the Prince that Desslok confessed his fear of Trelaina to her. Zordar seems to accept this. He regrets that he saved his life, but is satisfied that he “discovered what he’s like in time.”

In previous episodes, Invidia indicated that she herself feared Trelaina, and opposed Desslok in part because he could provoke Trelaina into action. Perhaps Invidia’s handling of Desslok gave her some confidence, because she now dismisses “silly little Trelaina” as “no problem.” She leans in seductively close and speaks into Zordar’s ear, telling him how Trelaina is helpless against their power. Again, Zordar seems to accept this. Invidia suggests sending someone else to deal with the Star Force, probably to further cover herself since they never do.

Back at the Argo, Homer receives a message from Trelaina. He calls Venture over, indicating that the two have made their peace. Although Venture is sitting at the station, the animation shows Homer’s hands at the controls. Trelaina gives Venture more detailed instructions about where she is located, and expresses interest in meeting him personally, which he is thrilled to hear. In Yamato 2, Tokugawa [Orion] even gives Shima a congratulatory comment and a slap on the back for gaining her favor. Before Venture’s head can swell any further, Homer teases him with, “Wait till she sees Venture. She might change her mind!” (I love Homer for that comment, but so much for those two becoming best buds.) Irritated, Venture sharply tells him to update Wildstar with the info.

Dr. Sane and Nova are busy with an infirmary full of injured Marines. Nova, who must be somewhat inured to the harshness of war by now, worries about her flowers. The doctor tells her that Derek is likely to have forgotten them, but Nova insists that he never forgets anything she tells him. Maybe I’m imagining it, but she sounds a bit aggressive as she says this. Perhaps Derek doesn’t forget because the cost of facing an enraged Nova is high.

In Yamato 2, Dr. Sado proceeds to pull out a bottle of sake from the medicine cabinet, intending to celebrate the imminent contact with Teresa. Yuki points out that there’s too much work to be done. Crestfallen, he puts it back.

Wildstar, Sandor, and IQ-9 reach the entrance to a cave. IQ is asked to provide some light, but as soon as he does, they are fired upon from the dark. The shot bounces harmlessly off IQ’s dome and the men take cover. IQ grabs a boulder and tosses it right on top of an enemy soldier. Star Blazers adds a metallic “clank” sound effect to emphasize that these soldiers are robots.

The American edit cuts over to Knox, but the Japanese version shows the firefight with the (non-robot) enemy soldiers, including a scene of Kodai shooting one in the chest, which plummets the soldier into a deep ravine.

Having defeated the first group of guards, the Earthmen move further into the cave. They find a sealed door guarded by more armed soldiers. These guards haven’t been alerted to their presence yet, but that changes when they trip the motion sensors. Floodlights catch them, which fortunately gives them a moment to duck before the soldiers can fire. One grenade from Wildstar takes care of the whole group.

Star Blazers cuts away from part of the grenade explosion, and also deletes a brief clip of Kodai, Sanada, and Analyzer moving past the fallen bodies.

Additional note from Matt Murray: This is an example of Star Blazers editing at its most conservative. Wildstar has already announced to the audience that the enemy troops are robots (which he can somehow discern in the dark, at a distance, when they look exactly like living soldiers), but the explosion is cut out anyway. It seems as though one change or the other would’ve been sufficient.

Sandor looks at the lock controls for the gate, which he easily deciphers. The gate was apparently built by the Comet Empire to keep Trelaina inside. They must have had a lot of faith in their guards, since the lock’s controls are exceedingly simple.

The trio walks into the cave beyond the gate, which is enshrouded in mist. The mist dissipates, revealing Teresarium, Trelaina’s domicile, hovering over a small lake. Knox finally catches up in time to see Trelaina herself appear in one of the windows to welcome them. She thanks them for responding to her “thought-waves.” Derek offers her any help they can give because of a debt to someone who helped Earth once (a reference to Starsha of Iscandar).

Remembering Nova’s gift, he pulls out the flowers and offers them to her before he notices they’ve wilted. Knox encourages him anyway, saying “She’ll think it’s a joke, Wildstar.” Wilted or not, Trelaina seems pleased to see the flowers. Wildstar asks if they can meet with her, leading to their next problem–they can’t get to her. With a wave of her hand, she makes like Moses and parts the waters of the lake, creating a path to the center.

The episode ends here. The Star Force is finally at Telezart and about to meet the mysterious Trelaina. Desslok has been dealt with, not by the heroes of the story, but through the political machinations of his own allies.

Among hard-core and casual fans alike, Series 1 seems to be the faraway favorite. In my opinion, Series 2 is much more sophisticated than the more linear Quest for Iscandar. This episode alone also demonstrates why I am underwhelmed by the movie version, Farewell to Yamato. The movie tells the Comet Empire story in broad strokes, so you miss the rich tapestry of events and character development. The series features political maneuvering and subterfuge, while the movie is, by comparison, mostly big battles and bigger soap opera scenes.

Matt Murray’s documentary about Star Blazers, Remember A Day, makes an interesting point about the use of robots to cover up explicit violence: it’s used almost exclusively for tanks. Elsewhere in the series, enemy fighter craft are often shown with pilots, and capital ships with crews, and there is never any claim about them being robots. Yet whenever tanks appear (at Brumis and Skorch’s panzer division, and even on Titan back in Series 1), the robot reference follows.

Production note: the storyboard for this episode was drawn by none other than Animation Director Noboru Ishiguro. His numerous interviews and essays can be found all over this website (starting here).

Continue to Episode 15

2 thoughts on “Episode 14 Commentary

  1. Going back through Yamato 2 (or The Comet Empire series) made me wonder about something I hadn’t thought of before: As noted, Sabella (Invidia) does not share the green skin of the Gatlantian people, and she also has a vast knowledge of Teresa’s (Trelaina’s) powers. Could it be that Sabella was an inhabitant of Telezart at one time?

  2. I had been watching (and taping) these every morning since I realized it was running at the time (KCOP Channel 13) until the next day…when it suddenly stopped. My dad called them (at my request) and was told they were “waiting for more episodes to arrive from Japan.” I never saw another episode.
    But words will surely fail me in an attempt to say how pleased I’ve been with the mix of scientific accuracy, mechanical nuances, character motivation analyses, and so on that have characterized this commentary on episodes that I must have watched fifty times over the following years.
    And now, with the links graciously provided at the beginning of each episode, I will finally find out what happens after they arrive at Telezart!
    Many thanks to Tim, Arthur, and Matt (“…and the rest…”) for a marvellous and surely time-intensive labor of love. Thanks especially for the stills of stuff from the Japanese original!

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