Episode 17 Commentary

Telezart – Disperse into Space!

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

In Yamato 2, the opening varied just slightly from Star Blazers, showing a map of the Comet Empire’s intended path, straight through Telezart.

Eager appraises the crew of the Comet’s progress. It’s 170 Megameters away from Telezart, or 170,000 space kilometers in Yamato 2 terminology (which is actually farther away than in the last episode, but we’ll ignore that). The Comet’s gravitational pull will start breaking up Telezart when it’s 50 Mm away, which means it will begin destroying Telezart in only one day.

The implications of this disturb Wildstar: at present speed, the Comet Empire will overtake the Argo. When Dash cries that they will never make it, Orion tells him to calm down. (Orion doesn’t quite sound like himself. His Irish accent sounded almost eastern European, indicating that a fill-in voice actor was probably used.) With time of the essence, Wildstar looks to the Argo‘s helm. It’s empty. Derek is sympathetic to Venture’s situation, but he is needed at his post.

Wildstar finds Venture in the aft observation deck, where he’s imagining Telezart’s destruction. Star Blazers reveals Venture’s thoughts, while Yamato 2 allows the animation alone to convey his inner fears. Venture is horrified by Wildstar’s news that the Comet Empire will threaten Telezart in one more day.

On Telezart, Trelaina opens her communications console with a wave of her hand. She urges the Star Force to hurry, but Wildstar tells her that they can’t warp away until the way ahead is clear. The Argo is still too deep in Telezart’s solar system. The ship only seems to make small jumps (i.e. from the Moon to Mars) within the Earth’s solar system, so it’s evident that the it has to be a great distance away from any stellar body before doing a large warp safely.

Venture can’t hold back any longer and tells Trelaina that she must do something. Trelaina seems reluctant to say anything, but finally tells him that she will be all right. Venture continues to fret about her safety, and she once again reassures him before ending communication.

The familiar shriek of the Comet Empire heralds a scene shift to the fortress Gatlantis (which is missing its equatorial band for some reason, but we’ll ignore that). In the planning room, Dyar, Gorce, and Invidia are informed of Trelaina’s contact with the Star Force. While Invidia mocks Trelaina’s “nobility” in urging the Star Force on, Gorce is concerned about rumors of Trelaina’s “strange powers.” Invidia, despite expressing the same concerns in earlier episodes, now brushes off his fears. Dyar backs her up, declaring that the Comet Empire will rule the universe. Invidia compliments him for “sounding just like my Father when he’s feeling very good,” followed by a mocking laugh.

Trelaina watches the Comet’s approach on her monitor. She doesn’t appear either upset or terrified, but determined.

The Star Force continues planning for their warp. Sandor recommends that they warp soon before they get caught in the Comet’s gravitational field. Venture’s frustration is written on his face, and the way he grips the controls. Letting out a disgusted grunt, he springs out of his seat. Wildstar walks over to calm him down, reminding him that Trelaina brought him back to the Star Force because they need him. He must trust her judgment. Without a word, Venture sits back down.

Homer alerts the bridge that Trelaina is transmitting again, this time to the enemy. She demands to speak with Prince Zordar (which marks the first time the Star Force has heard his name), and to know if he has a peaceful reason for coming to Telezart. In Yamato 2, she’s more challenging, stating that to approach any closer to Telezart will be considered a hostile action.

“The Comet Empire stops for no one!” Invidia boldly declares. Zordar arrives to stop Invidia from over-stepping her bounds. He’s surprisingly cautious about attacking Trelaina, and, as a gesture of respect, offers to allow her to leave her planet. Invidia questions this offer, calling Trelaina a “silly nuisance making idle threats.” Zordar again reminds Invidia of her place. He doesn’t need to answer to her.

Suddenly, banks of communications systems flare with electricity, and components shatter from the overload. Trelaina will not be ignored. Zordar orders a line opened.

What follows is one of the great battles in this series. There aren’t any ships or missiles or explosions in this battle; it’s fought with words, ideas and philosophies.

Zordar declares that he has a right to rule by virtue of power (in Yamato 2, this right is said to have come from several generations of ancestors, implying a long history of conquests). The Comet Empire, he says, “has a destiny to fullfill,” a universal manifest destiny to rule the entire cosmos. Zordar doesn’t just consider it his right to rule, but his duty, an obligation. “If the universe is to run efficiently, who will do it?” he asks, with the implied answer being himself. He bulwarks his position by pointing out that there is another side to his rule, beyond the harshness of power. He can impose order. After all, “people want things done for them, not by them!” He regards his conquered masses as not just too weak to lead themselves, but too complacent. They need a leader.

Trelaina points out all the victims he’s left in his wake. The millions killed by Zordar certainly don’t love his rule, no matter how “efficient” he thinks it is. She is unequivocal in her response, calling him power-mad and delusional. She resolutely vows to stop him. Zordar’s response is a low, stifled laugh, that sounds like he’s simultaneously enraged, cautious, and a bit aroused by her defiance.

I love the juxtaposition of these two powers. On the one hand, you have an Emperor (Prince) with the full backing of his armed forces, a big, broad chested alpha male with a deep, booming, baritone voice. And on the other, a frail looking, pale woman who looks like she would break if you looked at her too hard, residing on a barren, deserted planet with an ethereal voice. And this little squeak-toy of a woman is threatening him!

Story note: Over and above all the physical might at his disposal, Zordar provides a justification for his goals with a valid, if profoundly cynical, insight into human psychology. It is only the scale of his ambition that marks him as monstrous. Needless to say, this places him in a rarified class of intellectual villain seldom seen in adult SF, let alone a story written for young people.

The debate is much too nuanced for Invidia. Enough with words, it’s time to back them up! “Crush the rebel!!!” she commands.

On Telezart, the attitude is far removed from the fury and aggression of the Comet Empire. Trelaina watches the Argo on her screen, and her eyes start to water. “Dear Mark…”

The Argo is still in the planning stages of its warp. The way ahead is too cluttered to jump safely. Eager announces that the Comet Empire has sped up even more. Sandor has a pained look on his face as he says the Comet will overtake the Argo. “What can we do about it?” asks Wildstar. Sandor replies, “I don’t know!” The Argo must be in dire straights indeed if even Sandor is stumped.

Production note: In Yamato 2, the explanation of the White Comet’s progress in the opening of the second half was originally to be delivered by Yuki [Nova], but it was instead spoken by Ota [Eager] since Yoko Asagami (Yuki’s voice actress) was hospitalized at the time. Her subsequent lines in the episode was recorded separately a week later.

The Comet Empire is now close enough to affect Telezart’s atmosphere. Trelaina walks on the surface of the planet, the wild winds blowing through her hair, but otherwise unaffecting her.

Dyar and Invidia still anticipate an easy victory. They remind themselves how weak she appears. If she were truly powerful, why did she implore the Star Force to come to her? Despite all the victories under the Comet Empire’s belt, Invidia and Dyar are very insecure, trying to convice themselves that Trelaina is not a threat. Zordar injects a bit of reality to their bravado, maintaining that Trelaina is a power to be respected. Invidia seems surprised at Zordar’s “weakness.” Dyar continues beating the war drum, only to be silenced by Zordar. He calls Dyar a fool.

In contrast to the worries and insecurity of the Comet Empire, Trelaina stands on the surface of Telezart, clasps her hands together and closes her eyes. She’s in the middle of a hurricane, but couldn’t appear more serene.

Production note: The first half of the episode was animated by the members of Tiger Pro Studio. The second half was animated by Yoshinori Kanada and Studio Z, whose work was last seen in episode 9. The dancing light and wild explosions are pure Kanada style. After Yamato 2, his other high-profile projects in 1979 were the Space Carrier Blue Noah telefeature for Yoshinobu Nishizaki and the Galaxy Express 999 movie for Leiji Matsumoto. Read our tribute to Kanada here.

At 75 Mm away, Telezart starts breaking apart. Trelaina’s body glows brighter than before. Her halo engulfs the entire planet. Invidia isn’t cowed by seeing the planet lit up, or the huge light-silhouette of Trelaina in the center. She calls it a bluff and commands the attack to continue.

Trelaina raises her hand and a beam descends from a ring on her finger down to the planet below, which begins glowing even brighter, like a sun. Telezart has been converted to pure energy.

What follows is a very artistic scene of destruction. Light splashes across the screen in blobs, like it was flicked from an artists paintbrush, and oozes across the screen. Lightning flashes across the spectrum. While the Comet’s plasma shield remains intact, some of the energy breaks through, damaging parts of buildings and yanking them out into the energy storm, where they disappear in a puff. In an effective counterpoint to the wild destruction, the sequence is underscored by the sweet, tender “Teresa’s Love Theme.”

Chaos breaks out in Comet Empire stations as sections of the fortress buckle and explode, which is displayed with Empire techs screaming for their lives and some getting blown off the fortress itself in Yamato 2. Zordar seems more intrigued by Trelaina than ever. Star Blazers has him desiring her power, while Yamato 2 has him desiring Trelaina herself. “What a woman!” he exclaims in Japanese, unconcerned with the maelstrom swirling around him.

Gatlantis makes it through the worst of the explosion. They’re a little crispy, but intact. Trelaina, in the heart of the energy maelstrom, sees images of Mark Venture in her mind. “Mark?” she calls out longingly (this was another scene that played without dialogue in Yamato 2). With a fade to white, Trelaina is gone.

Eager reports Telezart’s passing to the horrified bridge crew. They all run to the aft observation deck and see the bright field where Telezart once was. Wildstar tries to reassure Venture, reminding him that Trelaina said not to worry. Nova, showing an uncharacteristic lack of tact, starts sobbing as she points out that she can’t be OK with Telezart gone.

In Yamato 2, there are a few scenes of the ship’s crew cheering, believing the Comet Empire has been destroyed. (Including one brief shot of a small group, probably the animators at Studio Z.) Many of them put on EVA suits and run outside on the aft deck and even start climbing up the aft fin, watching the Comet’s supposed destruction. Music from this scene was taken from the Yamato Disco Arrangement LP that was released by Polydor in December 1978. This was its debut as actual background music, and other tracks from that album are heard in upcoming episodes.

Wildstar, Sandor, and Eager all hover around Eager’s video screen watching the remains of Telezart burn away. At first, Eager says the sensors indicate only burning gas is left in the area, but then a shape emerges. The image is shifted to the large video panel, where the Comet Empire fortress is seen emerging from the heart of the storm.

Venture, walking arm-in-arm with Nova, enters the bridge at that moment, and Wildstar gives them the update. Sandor points out that the Comet is damaged and has gone off course, which will give them time to escape. Star Blazers is slightly edited here, removing a comment by Nanbu [Dash].

Venture stands alone on the aft deck of the Argo, looking toward the remains of Telezart. He holds out hope that Trelaina is still alive. Yamato 2‘s Shima is less optimistic about her survival, vowing to honor her sacrifice and continue fighting. Both versions end the episode, although Yamato 2 shows the Comet Empire for a few more seconds.

A terrific episode. The verbal sparring between Zordar and Trelaina is as interesting as the battle itself, and uncommonly philosophical for a cartoon.

Story note: Telezart is destroyed on January 23, 2202. The Comet Empire is now 42 days from Earth.

Continue to Episode 18

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