Episode 22 Commentary

Farewell, Planet of Dreams!

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 Japan-only recap footage, we see the true surface of Phantom–a desolate, blue-gray landscape below a murky green sky. Star Blazers opens with the episode title screen, then cuts to a close-up view of the ship’s superstructure, which is missing its horizontal radar panels. We’ll just pretend Sandor [Sanada] had his crew take them down for maintenance work.

Story note: in this recap we actually see a new background painting of Phantom’s surface in its undisguised form. Since we now know it’s a living creature, it’s easy to imagine this as a hyper-magnified epidermis with all sorts of glands, follicles, and effluvia. Feel free to get the willies.

Down on the planet, Flash Contrail [Takeshi Ageha] and Jason Jetter [Ryuske Domon] are chasing the ghost-like image of a young woman through a labyrinth of vein-like tunnels. The “veins” eventually lead them to the “heart” of Phantom–a strange, formless room with ankle-deep, bubbling liquid covering the floor. Flash and Jason don’t appear to be more than slightly unnerved from being in such a surreal and alien environment. All I can say is that Star Force training produces soldiers with nerves of steel.

Story note: at the end of Episode 21, Flash and Jason were wearing their grey-blue Star Force work gloves, but now they’re down to the regular tan ones. Wherever the greys were left, they’re probably being overrun by antibodies at this point.

A voice emanates from a bulbous column in the center of the room, welcoming the Earthmen by name. The voice identifies itself as “the mind of planet Phantom” (which I guess makes this room the brain of the planet, not the heart, though we can hear a steady heartbeat). It has led them here to put Queen Mariposa in their care.

The Queen, whose image the men have been chasing, emerges from the column. Phantom says she is the heir to the throne of Gardiana [Shalbart], a mythical place revered by worshipers the Star Force has encountered in recent episodes. Phantom verifies that planet Gardiana is real and the queen has hidden knowledge of its location. She is no longer safe on Phantom because both the Galman Empire and the Bolar Federation now know of its existence. Phantom has chosen Flash and Jason to protect her because of their respect for life.

The American version of Phantom speaks with a grandfatherly voice, portrayed by the ubiquitous Peter Fernandez. In Yamato III, Phantom speaks with an eerie female monotone. The queen’s name, Mariposa, is Spanish for “butterfly.” Her Japanese name is Princess Ruda.

Back on the ship, Wildstar [Kodai] decides to try direct communication with the planet to find their missing men. Before a message can be sent, Jason, Flash, and the queen are spotted on the surface. Phantom lifts them up with a huge tendril to meet the Argo‘s descending lifeboat.

Production note: like all the other vehicles carried by the Argo, the lifeboat looks to be different sizes in different scenes. In Series 2 it seemed about the size of a truck, but by the time this one reaches Flash and Jason it’s as big as a house. Size charts were generated for the production, but evidently were not circulated as widely as they should have been.

Once they’re on board, Flash takes the queen to the captain’s quarters for a meeting with Wildstar, Sandor, and Nova [Yuki]. In the Japanese script, Nova introduces herself as chief of the Life Services Division. In Star Blazers, she says she is an executive officer, which is incorrect. The executive officer, or XO, acts as the second-in-command of a vessel and a direct assistant to the commanding officer (CO). It is normally a singular position, but in the first episode of The Bolar Wars, Sandor and Venture [Shima] were specifically assigned as co-XOs, with Sandor being the senior of the two.

Additional note from superfan Andrea Controzzi: There is always a third officer in the chain of command. First there is the CO, a Captain on a ship, then the XO, the second highest ranking officer. (Usually this is his last step before getting his own ship commander hat.) The XO takes care of daily matters, leaving the mind of the Captain free for strategic planning and whatever important thinking he needs to do. The XO is also a sounding board for the CO, and often plays devil’s advocate during planning. He must be ready to take the CO’s place if anything unpleasant happens to him. Since the CO and XO are a team, like Kodai and Sandada, the third officer (Shima in this case) is a sort of junior XO who can take command or act as assistant for the XO when the CO is not present.

On warships, the Captain and XO usually come from a combat background. Sanada is an exception but he’s also the most senior on the bridge, and the third officer is often the head of the navigation division (like Shima). In Yamato the CO-XO role is not very clear, because both Shima and Sanada are also friends with Kodai, and the military context is very generic. Yamato 2199 is better in that regard since ranks are shown, but to see an anime with 100% realistic military context you have to watch Zipang. [End of note.]

Flash explains that Mariposa was exiled to Phantom by Bolar Prime Minister Bemlayze. To Bemlayze, Phantom looked like a cold, barren world. In other words, an ideal prison. Instead, she was protected by the living planet. The queen’s exile serves as another example of the Bolar Federation as stand-ins for the Soviet Union. Under Josef Stalin, people or populations deemed “enemies of the state” were forcibly relocated to remote territories, which included work camps (gulags like on planet Berth) or so-called “exile settlements” in the harsh tundra wilderness of Siberia.

In the flashback to her exile, the camera focuses on a Bolar officer. This is a young Balsiky, the same man who battled the Argo three episodes ago. Also, in Star Blazers, Flash indicates that Mariposa can speak (“she told me”), although she has not yet demonstrated this ability on screen.

Story note: in one of the flashback scenes, the Bolar landing craft passes a frigid-looking mountain with two strange purple orbs behind it. The scale would suggest they are quite large, but they only appear in this one scene. If they were an artist’s error, there was probably no time to paint over them.

Nova helps the queen get settled into her quarters. The Star Force doesn’t have a dedicated security detail or Military Police to handle guard duty, so Flash is assigned to protect her. Wildstar probably assigned him to this post because he was among her first contacts.

When the Argo departs to resume its mission, Phantom gives them a little goodbye treat, turning into a vision of Earth. Jason laments the fact that Phantom is one more in a long list of planets found to be unsuitable for a second home for humanity. This leads to a brief glimpse at what life is now like on the home planet, which looks less like Earth than Phantom at the moment. The sky is a deep crimson; cities are inundated by seawater. Volcanoes erupt. Forest fires rage. Animal remains bake in the heat.

The Argo hasn’t gotten very far before Eager picks up a Galman fleet warping in. In Mariposa’s quarters, the queen tells Nova that the Galmans are going to destroy Phantom, revealing both her ability to speak the language (specifically noted in Yamato III) and some kind of clairvoyant power.

Production note: Princess Ruda’s voice actress would have sounded very familiar to Yamato fans–it was Keiko Han, heard previously as the voice of Sasha in Be Forever.

Flash relays Mariposa’s warning to the bridge. Wildstar contacts Galman commander Gustav and warns him not to attack, but Gustav abruptly cuts him off and launches a planet-destroying Proton missile.

Story note: The flagship of Vice Admiral Gustav of the northern task force is a large vessel, about 640m long (more than twice the length of the Argo), taking into account both its main fuselage and the planet-destroying missile it carries. In Episode 21, it had an escort of four large-size Galman-Gamilas battleships. Here, the escort is seen to be three medium-size battleships.

The aft gun turrets attempt to shoot down Gustav’s missile, but fail. I had assumed Sakimaki was in charge of the first cannon only, but this scene implies he’s in command of all the main and secondary shock cannons. Sakimaki may be third in line of succession in the combat division, behind Wildstar and Dash [Nanbu]. Actually, with Wildstar promoted to CO, Dash really should have been promoted to Combat Chief. Instead, freshman Jason Jetter takes the Combat Chief role, under Wildstar’s direct supervision.

Additional note from superfan Andrea Controzzi: This is probably the only time we see Yamato miss a target. It is also impressive how they fail to properly and promptly maneuver to shoot the missile. It seems clumsy, especially since they already destroyed a few of them in the solar system. This is obviously a plot twist, to make them “fail” instead of “do nothing” for Phantom and keep their “good guy” reputation.

Regarding Sakimaki, it is probably a mistake for a gun director to be located on the bridge, like Dash. Sakimaki is the commander of a turret, probably the senior commander of them, and they probably just put him on screen again not to avoid designing a new commander for the 3rd turret. And it amazes me how they don’t destroy the tail fin every time they fire the rear guns! [End of note.]

The warhead ignites the planet and the whole sphere erupts in a giant explosion. Jason Jetter finds it traumatizing to see the planet (which maintains its Earth disguise to the end) destroyed by the same type of missile that killed his parents and is driving his home planet to extinction. This triggers a flashback to the scene of the death of his parents and the missile falling into the sun, lifted directly from episode 1 and presented in black-and-white.

Story note: it would have been interesting if Phantom had taken on the appearance of Galman to give Gustav a moment of pause. This may, in fact, have happened off-camera but we didn’t see it.

Wildstar contacts Desslok [Dessler], who admits that it was his decision to destroy Phantom. He asserts that the planet’s “deception” shamed him and made a fool of them both, which is cause for execution in his mind. This once again displays Desslok’s god-like aspirations and his willingness to use his vast power on a whim. Desslok speaks and acts as a friend to the Star Force, but his actions are almost more harmful now than when he was their enemy.

Story note: another thing that might have been interesting to see in this episode would have been a moment of speculation about the human race using Phantom as a temporary refuge, coexisting for a time with this large intelligent creature as the search for a second Earth continued.

Additional note from superfan Andrea Controzzi: I don’t think it would be possible for humans to live on Phantom. Humanity has a very invasive presence on our planet. We see how Phantom didn’t like to be drilled, so how could you build cities there, especially since no underground tubes are possible? What about pollution? Or farming? Surely the high-tech future could make coal and oil obsolute (with fusion, solar collectors, etc.), but I don’t see the greedy humans refraining from mining. There is asteroid mining, but humans are too numerous and invasive to coexist with a living planet.

What happens if some of them make the planet angry? Would you entrust your whole race to an unknown, sentient creature? It would even be a good temporary solution, since emigration consumes a lot of time and resources, so another mass emigration is out of question for a long while. Anyway, it is very scary to see Dessler ready to obliterate something alive and unique simply because he felt humiliated by it! [End of note.]

On planet Bolar, Prime Minister Bemlayze learns that Mariposa is aboard the Argo and orders Major General Barphin Balsiky [Hakins] to deploy a fleet to confirm it. If they refuse to surrender her, they are to be destroyed. The 1st and 2nd fleets are sent out to support him, which appear to contain about a hundred capital ships. As the fleet departs, each ship type gets its own spotlight consisting of a group shot with a single ship passing by in close-up.

Additional note from superfan Andrea Controzzi: Since the Bolars are the Soviet Union in the space, this is another hint. In the USSR armed forces, there were some elite armored divisions which were tasked to be the spearhead for an invasion of West Europe. Those were given the title “Guards.” The top divisions were called 1st, 2nd, 3rd Guard Division, and so on. The 1st and 2nd fleets are called “main” fleets, which make them the space-equivalent of those divisions. [End of note.]

This is Balsiky’s second attempt at the Star Force. His first time was when he led the 8th Attack Force against the Argo on the way to Phantom. It was assumed that the entire force was obliterated, but somehow Balsiky managed to survive. The Star Blazers‘ writers may also have assumed Balsiky had been killed, since he is only called “Barphin” in this scene, but they are one and the same. The solution to this discrepancy can be found in the character information data in the Star Blazers DVD extras, which lists the character as “Barphin Balsiky”. (On second thought, perhaps Balsiky was killed several episodes ago, and “Barphin Balsiky” is actually his twin brother, a la “Cory Conroy”?)

Science officer Nayzmayo returns to Galman and tells Desslok of a Mariposa sighting on the Argo. Desslok has a similar reaction to Bemlayze and orders Keeling to get confirmation that she’s on the ship. Keeling assigns the task to Gustav, who is already near the Argo‘s position. Desslok did not authorize the use of force, but Keeling gives the go-ahead for Gustav to attack if they refuse to turn her over. Keeling is overstepping his bounds, which makes him either extremely ambitious or extremely stupid. He has seen first-hand what happens to those who displease Desslok. After all, he just obliterated an entire planet in a fit of pique!

Additional note from superfan Andrea Controzzi: I think this is another plot twist. The audience is informed that Keeling himself made the choice, not the Emperor. An excuse to continue making Dessler not a real enemy, but (again!) a “victim” of his admirals and generals overstepping his orders. [End of note.]

For a character who had been in exile for what is implied to be a long time, Queen Mariposa is still a well-known personality. Both the Bolars and Galmans recognize her by sight. The two space nations must also have surveillance cameras with extremely good resolution and facial recognition software.

Story note: it’s not explained exactly how either the Bolar or Galman sides learned about Mariposa’s presence on the Argo, but since both have had contact with Planet Phantom before now (Bolar in the unspecified past and Galman just one episode ago), it’s conceivable that they each left spy satellites in orbit and they happened to catch a shot of the Argo‘s lifeboat picking her up. That’s the best I can do with this one.

Flash and Jason walk to the observation deck to see Mariposa. (I like seeing Jason and Flash together, if only because their uniforms are reverse images of each other, brought into focus by the close-up of their pant legs as they walk together in lockstep.) From Flash’s intense, open mouthed gaze, he appears rather enamored with Queen Mariposa. His feelings are emphasized by the shooting star that streaks past the observation window behind her, and the gentle theme that plays in the background.

“Earth has 111 days left.” (Or 73, if you believe the Star Blazers narrator.)

Story note: the Star Force departs from Planet Phantom to continue searching for a second Earth. It is 218 days since launch, estimated to be May 30, 2206.

Continue to Episode 23

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