Episode 13 Commentary

Dreadful! The Bolar Federation!

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

Star Force crew members run across the deck of the Argo, only to be cut down by gun-wielding escapees from the Bolar prison camp. After the action moves on to other parts of the ship, Jason and Flash sneak back onboard and examine the body of one of the fallen men. They discover that the escapees are using stun guns.

In one of the opening shots, a close look reveals Wildstar, Dr. Sane, and several prison camp guards standing motionless on the deck in the midst of all the violence. This same shot (minus the violence) will be used a few minutes later as the prisoners are marched away. Either an extra character cel was inadvertently left in place or the motionless figures are actually part of the background itself.

A contingent of prisoners have taken the engine room crew hostage at gunpoint. Orion asks where they plan on taking the ship. “Planet Gardiana” is the reply. (Called “Planet Shalbart” in Yamato III.)

On the bridge, Venture suggests that they follow the hijackers’ demands. Wildstar balks at the mere thought of surrender, but Venture explains that once they’re out in space they will have the upper hand. As with most of Venture’s suggestions, it’s quickly dismissed. Sandor feels it would be much too dangerous. Jason and Flash rush in and update Wildstar on the situation: there may be a total of 70 to 80 prisoners, but they are only armed with stun guns.

Just then, Orion’s voice is heard over the intercom with the hijackers’ demands to go to Gardiana. The lead hijacker grabs the mic to proselytize about his mythological queen. The followers of Queen Gardiana believe that she can end the madness of the wars raging through the galaxy. Then he insists that they take off immediately or his men will destroy the engines. Wildstar would be willing to oblige them (or so he says) if he knew where Gardiana is. The hijacker says he doesn’t know, but the Argo‘s powerful engines would allow unlimited travel. He demands the ship take off in 5 minutes.

Production note: the Japanese voice of the lead hijacker will sound familiar to experienced anime viewers; it’s Shigeru Chiba, whose signature high-pitched voice has shrieked from the mouths of hundreds of characters over the decades. His first association with Yamato started as a bit player in Series 2, and he continues today as the voice of Dr. Sado in Yamato 2199.

The bridge is a bit more relaxed now that they have some inkling of what they’re dealing with: followers of an ancient religion who, despite their threats of violence, appear to be against killing. Sandor suggests they use a maintenance tube that runs from the hangar to the engine room. Wildstar, Jetter, and Flash will go with him, armed with stun guns.

Story note: In a bit of a mind-bender, the group enters the tube in the hangar bay and exits through the ceiling of the engine room. It must have been a circuitous trip, since the engine room is located above the hangar bay. Also, this is another point where unpublished music appears in the soundtrack.

They reach the engine room just as the 5-minute deadline expires. When the hijackers make their move to wreck the engines, the group attacks, quickly knocking out the armed prisoners. During the gunfight, Orion gets shot in the shoulder and goes down. Ace rushes to his aid and learns that the intruders are only using stun guns. He is outraged–threatening his life is one thing, but only pretending to threaten his life is another!

Flash previously estimated there were 70 or 80 prisoners, and from the way he said it, it sounded like all of them were on board, but there couldn’t have been more than a dozen in the engine room. The others must have been running around on the outside deck.

Wildstar explains that they are on a mission, so they can’t help the prisoners. They are going to be turned back over to the prison camp, but he pledges he will ask the Berth government for leniency. The prisoner weeps quietly. In Yamato III, his cry was much more anguished (as befitting a performance by Shigeru Chiba).

True to his word, Wildstar turns the bound prisoners over to Liberatus with a request for Governer-General Lobo to be lenient with them. Liberatus promises to pass on his request. Watching the prisoners march off the ship, Dr. Sane can’t help but feel sympathy for them. He doesn’t agree with their methods, but he can’t fault their motives.

The scene of the prisoners being marched off the deck is the same one used at the beginning of the episode. Wildstar, Dr. Sane, and the prison guards actually belong here this time.

In deep space, the Bolar Prime Minister Bemlayze [Bemrarzei] is traveling with his executive fleet. Inside his cruiser, the Bemlin, he holds a meeting with his inner circle to address the Galman “problem.” According to Bemlayze, the Bolar Federation has the advantage of power, but the Galmans are being bold in their attacks, as demonstrated by their destruction of the Berth Defense Fleet. He pledges that his nation will meet the Galman “challenge.” Just then, he receives word of the prisoner uprising on Berth. Upon hearing that the insurrection was lead by Gardiana worshipers, he orders all the prisoners to be executed. In Yamato III, Bemlayze has a moment of megalomania when he refers to himself as “lord of the cosmos.”

At the Galman Empire capital, another war council is meeting. The Galmans are planning to start an all-out war with the Bolars. Desslok is eager to hear the details, but first, Chief of Staff Keeling has an issue to address: Gardiana worship has spread into the Galman Empire and there is talk of revolt. With the Empire setting itself on a war footing, such a revolt could be disastrous. Keeling indicates that a high-ranking officer at this very meeting is one of the conspirators.

Desslok allows the accused, Heigel, to respond. Without a word, Heigel stands up and walks over to a large window. He holds a Gardiana amulet and chants her name. A faint image of the Queen of Gardiana [Mother Shalbart] appears, a projection of the amulet. The narrator says a few brief sentences about Gardiana, and his last words are heard just as a pistol shot rings out. Heigel’s face contorts with a mix of surprise and pain and he falls over dead. Desslok stands over him, holding the literal smoking gun. Looking down at the body, he pronounces “I am the one and only God!” He hands his pistol to an assistant and takes his seat. Desslok’s officers look stunned as he calmly resumes the meeting.

I remember being floored at this scene. When the Bolar Wars was released (1985), restrictions on violence had been relaxed compared to the time the original 52 episodes were produced (1979). Still, such brutality was unexpected, as was Desslok’s blasphemous declaration of godhood. Desslok’s line in Yamato III wasn’t quite as brash, but it held the same meaning: “Galman doesn’t need two gods.” Thus, this episode sets up both Desslok and Bemlayze as “gods of war” clashing for supremacy, with a “goddess of peace” (Gardiana/Mother Shalbert) quietly trying to undermine their efforts.

The Star Force’s command staff watches from the bridge as Bemlayze’s executive fleet approaches the planet. Bemlayze was invited by General-Governor Lobo, and the Star Force is expected to meet with him. This causes discord among the Star Force command, with Venture saying he has no wish to do so, while Wildstar and Sandor feel it would be in Earth’s best interest to find out more about the intended ruler of the galaxy. It would probably be best not to offend him, anyway. Wildstar, Sandor, Dr. Sane (in his yellow uniform), Homer, Conroy, IQ-9, and Jason Jetter make up the diplomatic party.

Story note: Wildstar and the others pay their courtesy call to Bemlayze using a special exploration boat from Series 1. Despite its size, it is launched from the rear catapult.

As they streak through the Berth sky, Conroy calls Wildstar’s attention down below. They are horrified to see the Argo‘s hijackers tied to posts and shot by a firing squad. (These scenes were excised for TV, but restored in the remastered DVD.) After a quick landing, Wildstar demands an explanation from Liberatus, who is overseeing the executions. He says he is following orders; he relayed Wildstar’s request for leniency, but Lobo denied it on direct orders from Prime Minister Bemlayze.

A short time later, Wildstar, Sandor, and Dr. Sane stand face to face with Bemlayze. The discussion begins with a modicum of respect, but quickly turns hostile when Wildstar speaks on behalf of the prisoners. Bemlayze sees the situation in simple terms–the prisoners broke Bolar laws and were punished with a mandatory execution. Wildstar argues that as the victims of their uprising, the Star Force should have had a say in their treatment. He believes the prisoners should have been freed.

The argument between the captain and prime minister only becomes more heated. Bemlayze declares that when the Star Force came to the aid of the Legendra they became de facto allies, and therefore his subjects. Wildstar objects to Earth being grafted to the Bolar Federation. Lobo finally speaks (his voice is nearly identical to Galman General Dagon), and says that the Bolar Federation has much to offer, and if Earth is not the Bolar Federation’s ally, it will be considered an enemy.

Wildstar has no difficulty making a choice–he proclaims they are not allies. Bemlayze orders General Lobo to detain them while he goes to inspect the troops. As his throne descends into the floor, he asserts that he is the supreme ruler and will “brook no opposition.” After a brief exchange of gunfire, the Star Force landing party find themselves on the run.

Unaware of this development, Bemlayze attends a miltary parade featuring marching troops and rows of mobile missile launchers. Just a stone’s throw away from the parade, the Star Force crew fights their way outside. The marching troops are so disciplined they don’t even seem to notice the chaos right next to them. Dr. Sane compares being allies with the Bolars to “shaking hands with a cobra.” His Yamato III comment was about how cool and confident Bemlayze was, that he ordered them detained and then left without another thought. Bemlayze could almost be a Bond villain, trusting his traps and troops to deal with his enemies.

Wildstar contacts the Argo; he orders the Cosmo Tigers to aid the prisoners, and for Nova to retrieve his party in the Cosmo Hound. In short order, the Tigers sweep down over the prison camp just as Liberatus is about to execute another group of prisoners. The prisoners cheer as strafing fire cuts down Liberatus and the firing squad.

The approach of the Cosmo Hound finally gets the notice of Bemlayze. General Lobo tries to apologize for the fiasco, but Bemlayze lays the responsibility at the General’s feet. Not only is Lobo blamed for these defiant Earthlings being here, but the loss of the Berth fleet as well. Bemlayze tells Lobo he must not allow the Earth ship to leave the planet “even if you have to use your bare hands.”

The Cosmo Hound recovers Wildstar’s group. As it lifts off, Lobo orders missile tanks to bring it down. The Hound is clipped by a missile but stays in the air.

Bemlayze’s executive fleet launches. Wildstar and crew make it back to the Argo and they take off as well, pursued by the Berth defense fleet. The fleet opens fire, causing some damage to the Argo, which responds with several vollies from its shock cannons. In minutes, the entire Berth fleet is laid to waste.

I like the scenes of the Argo swerving while firing the guns, but the noticeable reuse of the same clips is distracting. The ship swerves starboard firing the forward cannons, then it swerves to port firing the same cannons, then it swerves starboard again. All three firings reuse the same image, made obvious because they all contain the same mistake–one cel of the firing sequence is flopped.

Outraged, Bemlayze orders the entire planet Berth destroyed. “I never want to see it in my galaxy again!” he says, spoken like a true mad dictator. Several giant “cataclysm proton” missiles are launched. The Argo was just about to descend and pick up the prisoners, but they have to evade the missiles instead. (The missile attack is reported by Eager, who uses Yamato‘s measurement, “space kilometers,” instead of the usual “megameters.”)

The missiles strike the planet, causing it to erupt and explode. The Bolar missiles are a bit smaller than their Galman counterparts, but they have a similar effect. Governor-General Lobo was still on the planet and is shown burning alive, paying the price of Bemlayze’s displeasure. Not only did the Star Force make an enemy of the Bolar Federation and fail to rescue the prisoners, they were helpless to stop a potential new Earth from being destroyed.

Destroying Berth has apparently sated Bemlayze’s appetite, and he contacts the Argo to commend them for their fighting prowess. He warns that he will not be so merciful next time. Wildstar says he’ll remember Bemlayze’s cruelty and promises there will be a reckoning.

I’ve noted before that planets tend to blow up when the Star Force is around. Telezart, Gamilon, Iscandar, Dezarium, and now Berth is added to the tally.

Story note: It is the 102nd day of the mission, estimated to be February 3.

There are only 227 days left.

Continue to Episode 14

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