Island of Fear by Grumpy Ghost Owl
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Gatchaman and Battle of the Planets are the property of Tatsunoko Studios and Sandy Frank Productions, respectively. Copyrighted material is used for the purposes of review, and in some cases, satire (when I think something's really stupid.) All views and opinions expressed are those of the reviewer. The recipe is genuine and has been tried and tested by the writer.


EPISODE REVIEW: ISLAND OF FEAR


I picked this title because it was an episode whose plot I couldn't actually remember and I thought it would be nice to do something fresh. Or not, as the case may be.



We start, as per usual, with Center Neptune and everybody's favourite cybernetic Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu, 7-Zark-7, who doesn't need any of us to like him because he's so far up his own virtual fundament, it's dark.

The Patrol Fish are swimming by, and I wonder if maybe someone should write some kind of spin-off fanfic about the fish. I mean, they have lives, right? They're regular cast members, right? Sort of like The Lone Gunmen, only with scales... No? Okay, forget I mentioned it.

"Although I'm constantly on alert down here at Center Neptune for any sign of alien invaders from outer space," Zark tells us, which is comforting, because if he was constantly on alert for any sign of alien invaders from Lower Chittering, I'd be asking some serious questions at the next meeting of the Appropriations Committee, you know what I'm saying? "I do get a second, now and then," he continues, "to relax."

So we cue the 'Zark' music, and there's Zark, thankfully not in the shower or any other state of implied undress, reclining on a little table thingummy, wearing his unpleasant little Number 7 sweater, and reading a book.

Sometimes, I think Zark's anthropomorphism just goes too far.

Actually, I think that all the time. Who am I kidding?

"It gives me a chance to read this fine new book," says Zark, and I cringe, wondering whether Zark is going to do the 'right' thing and encourage young viewers to read, or whether he's just setting up a cheap laugh, "The Care and Maintenance of Your Pet Robot Dog." Cheap Laugh. But you probably saw that coming before I did, right? Couldn't he have been reading, I, Robot and said something about historical novels? Never mind. That would have made me cringe, too. Okay, just let me hit the 'PLAY' button again: 1-Rover-1 sits up and yaps at Zark, who says, "Yes, 1-Rover-1. It's full of good ideas on how to make you a happy, well programmed companion, free from costly breakdowns and returns to the factory." Rover yaps again, and Zark takes this as a prompt. "For instance, it says, if your tail fails to properly receive interstellar radio signals, I should first unscrew your nose, remove your ears, and --" he stops at the sight of Rover playing dead on the floor. "Now, don't be afraid," he soothes, "it's good advice! The writer of this book is a robot, himself!"

A beeping sound intrudes on the scene, and Rover yaps at Zark some more. "What's that?" Zark asks, too absorbed in the sound of his own voice to worry about performing the function he was designed and installed for. "There's a strange signal pattern on my monitor? Thank you, 1-Rover-1. Your tail is working fine!" We cut to an image of one of Zark's monitors, which has a pattern of dots on it. "It seems to be some kind of a disturbance on nearby Witch's Island. What could possibly be brewing, there?"

And that sound you can hear is me gagging at the pun.

Now we have some happy, cheerful, jolly-hockey-sticks music as the camera pans across a slightly choppy ocean to a very small flat island devoid of just about anything, where the G-4 Space Buggy is doing some earthmoving. Keyop is looking rather grim and determined as he operates the machine, pushing soil and rocks into the water. (You know, kid, if you're bored, I've been waiting six months for the local contractor to come by and put down the sand pad for the extra water tank.) Keyop mops sweat from his face, and we see the Phoenix flying in with its wings in the down position and the nacelle panels pulled back, indicating that the G-5 is flying light, without the other vehicles aboard.

I think it's really clever the way the Phoenix is configured.

Tiny looks down on Keyop's efforts and speaks into his wrist comm. "Hey, whatcha doin' down there, Keyop?" he asks, and cringes when the boy comes back with a sarcastic riposte.

"Playing football," Keyop snarls back.

"Well, take a time-out," Tiny tells him. "I'm comin' down to see ya."

Keyop hunches and scowls over the controls of the Space Buggy as Tiny land the Phoenix.

I like the way the shock absorbers on the landing gear move.

Tiny leaps down from the Phoenix and runs over to where Keyop, now standing beside the G-4, is studying a large sheet of paper.

"What have you got, there?" Tiny wants to know. "A map for buried treasure?"

Keyop is unimpressed and flings the paper in Tiny's face. "Dig this!" he snaps. Tiny takes the paper, which appears to be some kind of construction plan. "You're standing," Keyop continues, "on probable... Spectra base!" He snatches back the paper.

Tiny looks shocked for a moment, then bursts out laughing. He leans against a palm tree, howling, and the 'tree' breaks with a snap of lumber and wires.

Tiny finds himself sitting rather abruptly on the ground amongst the remains of a fake tree. "Weak tree," he comments, then returns to the topic at hand. "Spectra base!" he snorts, ignoring the evidence that has literally fallen into his lap. "That's funny! I think you're suffering from island fever." He laughs again, to Keyop's chagrin, and returns to the Phoenix.

Keyop hurls a stone, which bounces uselessly off the fuselage of the command ship. The engines roar into life, and the Phoenix lifts off.

At this point, Zark joins us in voice over. And don't you wish he wouldn't?

"Tiny may laugh at Keyop," Zark says, "but Security isn't. I just checked with Security Chief Anderson, who placed Keyop on Witch's Island because of suspicious activity there." Meanwhile, Keyop is repairing the tree. Yes, repairing the tree. "This is such a secret mission," Zark burbles, "that the other members of G-Force haven't been told about it." We cut to a descending shot of Center Neptune. "That is," Zark adds, "until now."

Chief Anderson is sitting alone at a work station in an enormous room with one wall set into the outer curve of Center Neptune itself. There are huge computer banks and lots of equipment with buttons and controls that no human could reach without the aid of some serious library ladders.

Double doors slide open to admit Mark, Jason, Princess and Tiny in their combat uniforms. "G-Force," Mark announces. "You wanted to see us, Chief?"

Anderson stands and leans against what looks like a fish tank. I'd call this unwise, in terms of occupational health and safety, but that's just me. "We have long suspected that Spectra aimed to set up a base on Witch's Island," Anderson announces without preamble. "Now, we think they've done it."

Mark picks up on the uncertainty in Anderson's statement. "Is this speculation?" he asks, "or do you have concrete proof?" Nice one, Chicken Boy. You're learning.

You're also damned impertinent, but don't let that stop you, since Anderson isn't calling you on it.

"Let me show you," Anderson says, and reaches up to pull down a metal hose, whose nozzle he places in the tank of water. He turns and begins operating the Clever Scientific Device of the Episode, and the nozzle sprays what looks to be red dye into the water.

Anderson dips a rod into the water, which comes out red. "This aquarium contains a sampling of water Keyop took from the sea around Witch's Island. Into it, we have injected the RC factor."

Excuse me. I just have to go and laugh for a while.

It's a dialect thing, okay?

Deep breath.

Allow me to explain.

In North America, the word 'ass,' depending on usage and context, may refer to an ungulate, or a derriere, with all its associated connotations.

In Australia, New Zealand and the UK (and other places) the word is spelled 'arse' and pronounced "Ah-s," because we don't drawl our 'r's the way North Americans do. If someone is 'arsey,' it means they're a bit brash, a bit cheeky, and usually reliant on good luck -- a bit like Harry Potter, he's an arsey little sod. So, the RC (arsey) factor... well, it just... Look, I need a cup of tea, okay?



Anderson is still giving his terribly serious briefing while I'm sniggering at the (presumably unintentional) 'arse' pun. "The water turned red," he says, terribly seriously. He puts the rod down on a big table, then walks over to and activates a big round radar-y screen-y thingy. Also terribly serious. "Note what happens when the red sample is placed on the magnetic map and activated on the radar scope," he says. Okay, the big round radar-y screen-y thingy is a radar scope. In which case, yikes! They've got ground operated radar in the room? If that's the case, I hope nobody has any plans for big families. I hope nobody has any plans for any kind of reproduction whatsoever. (It was a running joke in pilot ground school that if you wanted to save money on contraception, just go stand in front of the ground operated radar for a few seconds and you wouldn't have to worry about unwanted pregnancies or paternity suits, ever. I never said it was a good joke.) A remote controlled claw picks up the rod and waves it around the map. "The radar blip follows a close path around the island," Anderson says. "Can anyone guess what this means?"

I can't. The only reason the blip is following any path at all at the moment, Chiefy, is because you've got that mechanical arm waving it around like that. Is this a trick question?

Princess does an Hermione Granger (sorry, it's the witch reference that does it -- I keep wishing Severus Snape would stalk in to Nerve Center and blast Zark off the top of the Astronomy Tower): "It suggests that the water 'round Witch's Island has a special quality."

"Okay," Jason says. "Just how did it get that quality?"

"Ha," says Tiny. "That's an easy one, Jase. It's gotta be the work of good ol' Spectra."

"That's the answer, Tiny!" Mark exclaims. Like anyone is surprised. "That red water means, 'Danger! Zoltar at Work,' and no doubt it's underhanded."

Or it could mean that there's been an accident with a tanker carrying most of the Milky Way's supply of red food colouring, which could put the makers of ADD/ADHD medication out of business and cripple the galactic economy.

"Underwater to be specific," Anderson parries, with a rare flash of humour, although he doesn't crack a smile. "We believe Spectra is building a submarine fleet."

Tiny considers this. "Submarines? They're not all that special," he says.

"These are," Anderson counters, "and our only defence is the Red Mist Torpedo System. We must contact Keyop now!"

If I had any idea what the Red Mist Torpedo System was, I might understand why he's got his knickers in such a knot, and since this is BotP, I have no guarantees that this will be adequately explained at any point in the episode.

The kids salute.



Now we cut to a pair of skinny legs clad in a Spectran uniform, running down a corridor. The skinny running goon is carrying a piece of rolled up paper.

Running Goon races into a room where Zoltar is waiting at a large round table, and, awww... it's the Tatsunoko Stooges! One of them is skinny, while the other is portly, and you just know that they're here to be the comic relief.

"You're late!" Zoltar snaps. "We've been waiting for your report."

Running Goon salutes and says, "I think we have what we need, Zoltar."

"Then hurry!" Zoltar shouts at him.

Running Goon unrolls the paper. "This is a view of Witch's Island." He lays the map out on the table, to the apparent consternation of Goon #2, who gapes at it. "It's the perfect underwater base," declares Running Goon, "and for more reasons than one." Running Goon presses a button and a beam of light projects an image on to the ceiling. It appears to be a crescent shaped coral cay.

"I see," says Zoltar. "Center Neptune! And within striking range!"

Oops. Looks like the big secret is out. How did Zoltar know where Center Neptune was? And hasn't he heard of ICBMs?

"It's perfect," Running Goon declares, with a theatrical sweep of his arm. "They'll never expect an attack from underwater!"

Um... why not?

"Excellent," Zoltar says. "If we can destroy Center Neptune, the Earthlings will be helpless. It will mean the end of the Galaxy Defence Centre!"

"I don't know," warns Running Goon, suddenly changing tack. "We could be heading in to a trap if we've been detected."

Goon #2 simply glances back and forth between Zoltar and Running Goon.

"The attack will proceed as planned," Zoltar says, and his tone brooks no argument. "There is nothing to fear. We have the element of surprise on our side. To victory!"

The goons salute. "Victory!" they declare.

If you say so, Zoltar.



Out of an undersea cavern emerges a nightmare behemoth in red and black. A kind of draconic mutant sea horse, possibly. Anyway, it's meant to look scary, and if you saw one of these while snorkelling, it'd give you a turn. It's a Big Darned Scary Machine for scaring people with. Behind it follow a bunch of smaller Not Quite As Scary As The Big Darned Scary Machine Machines, which are also for scaring people with only not as much.

For the purposes of this review, the Big Darned Scary Machine will hereinafter be referred to as the BDSM. The Not Quite As Scary As The Big Darned Scary Machine Machines will be referred to as the NQASMs.

Inside the BDSM, Zoltar is standing behind two identical goons who are driving.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix is upstairs, cruising through some cumulus cloud and encountering a little turbulence as she goes.

Zark puts in a call to G-Force, advising them to, "Proceed with caution. Don't be misled by that peaceful-looking small island below you." The Phoenix cruises over the top of Witch's Island, at about fifty feet. It's an odd-looking little bit of geography, crescent-shaped, like a cay, but without the coral sand and shallow waters you get with cay formation. There's a solitary palm tree growing on it. Bizarre.

The camera tilts downward, and we can see a pretty hefty submarine rock formation below the island. Toward the bottom, there's an orange periscope, and the periscope is attached to none other than the G-4.

"And, Keyop," Zark continues, as Keyop peers into the periscope's ocular, "my readouts indicate that Center Neptune itself is Spectra's target!"

Keyop is watching a construct that looks like it was built by the same guys who designed Center Neptune. It's got the same shaped thingummies on it like the docking bay for the Phoenix, but it's clearly not them. "Center Neptune!" Keyop stutters. "So that's... the target."

Um.

Yeah.

It is.

Now, just in case anyone missed any of that, Spectra is targeting Center Neptune, this episode. Okay? I'd hate to think that the screenwriters were being too subtle for any of us, wouldn't you?

Keyop pushes a button on his console and changes the view from the installation he was watching to the island above.

We close in on a little clump of palm trees, and there, hidden among the foliage, is some kind of electronic device. It looks very nineteen fifties retro-futuristic, if such an oxymoron makes sense.

And I can't resist it. I've tried, but I can't: with fronds like these, who need enemies?

The device suddenly lights up, and this triggers a reading on what looks like an oscilloscope being monitored by Princess aboard the Phoenix.

"We've just made contact with Keyop!" Princess announces.

"Make sure you don't lose that connection, Princess," Mark tells her.

"I been thinkin' it over," Tiny says. "Spectra probably planted that radioactive water. They want us to think they're operating outta Witch's Island."

Mark gives him a look. "You might be right, Tiny," Mark says. "This could be a diversionary action, but I doubt it. I smell a rat."

Tiny considers, and turns his attention back to his console. "You're probably right," he concedes. "That Zoltar! Always shows up when ya least expect it."



We cut to Goon #2, the stocky guy from before, who is having a jolly good chuckle aboard (presumably) the BDSM. "Ha-ha-ha! We've got them right where we want them!" he gloats. "Right on target, and they don't even know we're here!" He laughs some more, and the screen shows that they are looking at the installation Keyop was watching earlier.

Zoltar isn't joining in the giggle-fest, however. "I have had some experience in these matters," he says. "Be ready for the unexpected from G-Force!" He pushes a Significant Button, which turns out to be an intercom control. "Target Center Neptune in view!" he announces. "Prepare to fire!"



Back aboard the G-4, Keyop is bored. He's leaning with his chin cupped in one hand, eyes closed. "Got to... keep from... sleep," he tells himself, struggling not to drowse. His eyes fly open as movement on the monitor catches his attention. All around him, the fish are panicking.

And they're doing it in formation.

That should be enough to make anyone suspicious.

Keyop's sweep of the ocean floor reveals the BDSM and the NQASMs heading straight for G-Force's no longer quite so secret base! "Come in, Mark!" Keyop cries.

Mark answers the hail. "Read you, Keyop."

"Have spotted... Center Neptune... gunnery tower," Keyop burbles. So that's what everyone's been looking at. "Keeping eyes... peeled... for Zoltar's... fish!"

"You've got the ball, buddy," Mark says.

The camera pulls back from the gunnery tower and we can see the NQASMs looking a bit like those red crabs that you get on Christmas Island. Zoltar is happy. "In a moment," he predicts, "Center Neptune will be only an unpleasant memory." He snaps his fingers to make his point.

With this, the NQASMs open fire on the Center Neptune gunnery tower with lots of exciting music and unlikely Foley effects. A barrage of ordnance boils through the water, and we cut to the interior of the G-4, where Keyop reacts by pressing a button and saying, "Fire!"

It seems our lad has a patch through to the gunnery tower because an answering wave of countermeasures bursts forth from the installation.

They miss.

Spectra's torpedoes hit the gunnery tower, which explodes with enough force to destroy the artificial cay on top and hurl the G-4 through the water like a bath toy. Keyop is thrown face-first into his console and a massive detonation sends water churning skyward.

Zoltar is delighted.

"All is going according to plan," he gushes with an effusive gesture. "Our Wildfire torpedoes have hit their mark. Center Neptune is doomed!"

"Zoltar!" one of the goons says, aghast. "Something is wrong! Center Neptune has launched hundreds of torpedoes!"

Zoltar, who was facing away from the main viewer, turns back in horror. "What could have gone wrong with my beautiful scheme?" he wails.

The torpedoes close on the BDSM and all its little NQASMs.

As we fade to black, it seems Zoltar's doom is at hand!



Which seems like a really good point for us to go to Recipe of the Episode.




HAZELNUT CRESCENTS

You know those lovely little crescent shaped Viennese biscuits (cookies, for the North Americans among us) that you get from the Continental patisseries, deliciously buttery, flavoured with hazelnut meal and covered in powdered sugar? They're ridiculously simple to make yourself. Impress your friends at your next morning tea, or make them for your Gatchafriends and tell them that they're culinary representations of Crescent Coral Island!

Oh, and a word to the wise. Don't use substitutes for any of the ingredients in this recipe, especially the butter. The results will disappoint if you do. Also, don't use soft icing mix to dredge. You must use pure icing sugar for best results. For our North American friends, this is what you know of as powdered sugar, the kind used to make frosting, but remember: please use the unadulterated kind.


Ingredients

250g butter
½ cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
1 cup hazelnut meal
Extra icing sugar for dusting

Method

Cream butter and sugar, add vanilla and hazelnut meal. Gradually mix in flour until a stiff dough forms.

Roll teaspoonsful of dough into "sausage" shapes, then form into crescents and place on a baking sheet.

Bake in a moderate oven for 10 - 12 minutes.

Allow to cool for ten minutes before dredging with extra icing sugar. Cool on a wire rack and store in an a airtight container.






We now return to Battle of the Planets, where... Oh. It's Zark.

I suppose it had to happen, and now it has.

The horrible little anthropomorphic cybernaut is at his work station, looking at the pattern of dots and squares on his monitors. There are sparks coming off the keyboard. "We're at a triple red emergency alert," Zark announces (oh, please!) "Center Neptune has been struck by Spectra torpedoes, but so far, our ferro-electron understructure is intact, and we've launched a counter-attack. Still, the shocks have rattled my voltage stabilisers, and may have unhinged my oscillator relays."

Yes, well, we can only hope, can't we?

"I always wanted to be close to the action," Zark rambles on, "but this is ridiculous! If we don't put an end to Zoltar's fleet pretty soon, I'm going to be one big mass of jangled circuits."

Oh? Can I watch?

We cut back to the real action, now, where Center Neptune's torpedoes are closing with the invading fleet.

Impact!

Only, it's not explosive.

The torpedoes bump into the BDSM and the NQASMs, stop and release a cloud of red food colouring... Oooooh! It's the Arsey -- sorry, the RC Factor. Or possibly the previously mentioned Red Mist Torpedo System.

It appears that there's one Red Mist torpedo for every machine, be it Darned Scary or Not Quite As Scary.

How's that for forward planning? Well done, lads and lasses, that's very good. Outstanding.

The missiles fall away while Zoltar gibbers, his head in his hands.

How come he isn't sprinting for his escape capsule? He usually sprints for his escape capsule if he thinks his RC's going to be handed to him.

Suddenly, Zoltar realises he's not being blown up.

"Fortune has smiled on us!" he declares. "We have been saved!" He gets to his feet from where he's been gibbering, and looks out through a viewport at an ocean turned red. "Now we must get out of here," he says.

Running Goon salutes, while Goon #2 is scratching his head through his hat.

"What's the big hurry?" Running Goon asks. "We've already proved we're invulnerable to attack."

"They could hit us with something else!" Goon #2 points out, clearly upset at the idea of not Getting Out Of Here.

"Zoltar!" one of the Driving Goons cries. "The water is turning red around us!"

"Red Mist!" Zoltar gasps. "It's their dangerous disintegrator, Red Mist!"

Thing is, I could see that Paris Hilton bint bringing out a new fragrance called Red Mist, being the sort of thing she might see when she wakes up in the morning after a night on the tiles. It would smell like hangover, with top notes of stale vodka and come in a bottle that looked like a cup of cold sick.

Another goon is looking at what appears to be a radar scope of some kind, and there are big orange blips showing up everywhere... like lots of cold sick.

And I suspect that for the Spectrans, the Red Mist is about as welcome.

The Red Mist -- the dangerous disintegrator -- is fizzing and swirling all around the Spectran fleet of BDSM and NQASMs.

And on a coral reef, too. Did you know that many coral reefs are considered biodiversity hot spots and that they are considered among the most fragile ecosystems in the world? I think the Galactic EPA may be writing a very stern letter to Chief Anderson about this. As I say in my educational presentations on owls an the environment, we should only use poisons as a last resort rather than a first line of defence, because when we use poisons of any kind, we are introducing toxins into an already beleaguered and overburdened environment.

Mind you, blowing things up wouldn't have been terribly environmentally friendly, either.

Interstellar war is very bad for the environment, people. Just look at the damage being done, here. I do hope Center Neptune has an environmental officer who'll be overseeing the cleanup after this.

"Blast off!" Zoltar orders. "Full jets upward!"

The BDSM and all the NQASMs do just that. They swarm out of a sea turned pink and hover over the burning remains of the artificial cay atop the ruined gunnery tower, just like insects fleeing a scrub fire.

And just like a Black Kite waiting for insects to rise up out of a scrub fire, the Phoenix is waiting, figurative talons outstretched and ready for lunch.

"I've got a hunch the mouse is coming out of his hole," Mark says, which doesn't really tie in all that well with my simile but the predator/prey metaphor could be seen as a continuation.

"Yeah," Jason says with a feral grin, "and with all the rest of his rats."

Okay, rodent metaphor. Tiny, you're the Owl...

On cue, Tiny says, "Rats on the port side."

Keyop makes a call in to the rest of the team: "Phoenix, have... radar contact... Zoltar's fish."

And there goes the taxonomy for that sequence of metaphors.

The G-4 scoots along, just above the sea floor, with its jaunty little periscope extended. "Hold it!" Keyop chirps, and takes a look at the island on top of the ruined gunnery tower. "Smoking island..." he burbles. "Spectra base."

Um... Up to now, the visuals have suggested that the smoking island was the aerial cover for the Center Neptune gunnery tower.

Maybe there are two of them. Maybe this is meant to be Witch's Island. Okay, let's accept that two islands are now smoking, and this one is a secret Spectra base.

Which has, er... just... um... Self destructed! Yeah, that'll do.

"We see it, Keyop," Mark says. "We'll be going for it as soon as we get into position." Mark lowers his wrist and turns to his pilot. "Get with it, Tiny."

Tiny makes no response, but hangs his head.

Jason and Princess stare at him.

"Nothing personal, Tiny," Princess says, "but are you planning to join the party, or just snooze?"

I don't see how that couldn't be taken as personal. Really, I don't. That's quite uncharacteristically rude of Princess, but maybe she sees Tiny as someone she doesn't have to be nice to, because he's generally so easy going and not moody and volatile like Mark and Jason, or openly insecure like Keyop. This is an aspect of Princess' personality that we don't often see, and it's most unbecoming.

"Don't you, uh, people recognise, ah, meditation?" Tiny asks.

I find it difficult to believe that Tiny was asleep at his station. I mean, he's got the Phoenix strapped to his RC, here.

The Phoenix descends, approaching the island, from which the smoke is now billowing at an impressive rate, heavy and black.

Great. More pollution. I can see Chief Anderson engaging in some interesting correspondence with whoever is in charge of the GEPA.

"Light tower ahead," Keyop tells them via the wrist comm. "It's a phoney!" Light tower? What's this, now?

"Sneaky," Mark says.

"That Zoltar," Tiny says, wiping sweat from his face. Why he should be doing this is not explained in any way.

And now I see what Keyop was on about. It's a lighthouse, atop a rocky outcrop on this previously unmentioned and unseen smoking island.

The Phoenix goes into hover mode. In the port wing pod, Princess has mounted the G-3 and a clear cover is being lowered over the top. In the nacelle, Jason is strapping himself in to the G-2, while Mark flexes his hands over the controls of the G-1 in the aft bay.

"Go!" Mark gives the command, and his fighter is launched. He activates his dorsal ray weapon and opens fire on the lighthouse, slicing it open like a can of tuna. The top of the tower detonates, and NQASMs come pouring out of an exit at the base, along with uniformed soldiers, all running for their lives amidst a barrage of falling debris.

Mark fires the G-1's ray weapon at the NQASMs, and we see Jason driving the G-2 along a narrow causeway, overlooked by a gantry crowded with human figures, presumably enemy soldiers. He activates the big rotary gun and opens fire on them.

The gantry explodes in a massive fireball.

Princess is aquaplaning along the surface of the water, using some sort of ski extension on her bike, and makes a highly improbable leap from the water up over some railing and on to what looks like some kind of weir.

It is interesting to note that when we saw all the earlier images of the 'smoking island' there were no high rocky outcrops, no lighthouses, and certainly no weirs.

Must have been something to do with perspective.

Right.

Sure it was.

Never mind. Let's just move on. Nothing to see, here.

At considerable risk to her own safety, Princess casts her yo-yo weapon down to the weir below her and detonates a charge, which blows up all the stuff underneath her but leaves her quite safe above.

Nice trick, if you can manage it.

G-Force weapons are only indiscriminately deadly when in close proximity to the enemy.

Now, that's what I call smart bombs.

We next see Princess returning to the Phoenix, without the protective clear cover on the cycle. It must be disposable or something.

"So much for the light tower," she says as she returns to the bridge.

Jason is already back and in his seat. "Hate to have their clean-up bill," he drawls.

Mark, too, is back aboard. "You both did good work," he compliments them, "but we still have a problem: find Zoltar!" He turns to Tiny. "All set?"

Tiny is awake this time. "Big ten," he replies promptly.

The G-4 has surfaced and is now flying along just above the waves, presumably taking advantage of ground effect as long as we disregard the fact that it's about as aerodynamic as a jellybean.

"See Zoltar anywhere?" Mark is asking via the comm.

Keyop, sweating under the pressure, is scanning the area. "No," he chirps, "but looking!" He sees a blip on his radar screen. "Getting... closer," he decides, and glares at the screen.

One day, when he grows up, he might be able to compete with Jason, or even Anderson in the glare stakes, but for now, he has a long way to go.

His eyes widen and he brings the G-4 to a sudden stop. "Whoa!"

There, in the shallows, and clearly visible through the water, is the Big Darned Scary Machine!

Inside the BDSM, Zoltar is being Spoken To by the Luminous One, the Giant Blue Chicken of Spectra!

The Giant Blue Chicken is not amused.

"Once again, you stand before me in failure!" it complains.

"Forgive me, Master," Zoltar begs, cowering before the Giant Blue Chicken. "I am to blame. I trusted the advice of underlings."

Yeah, right.

"We have suffered great losses," the Giant Blue Chicken says, "and you alone are responsible! The enemy has breached our walls and scattered our troops." Zoltar looks around in horror, as though expecting to see breached walls and scattered troops any second. "Yes," the Chicken says, and Keye Luke's voice cracks so that he actually sounds like a chicken, which is really quite funny. "We must now abandon our base and destroy Witch's Island. Lay your plans carefully, Zoltar."

Zoltar bows before his Chicken God. "I shall take all the necessary precautions, O Luminous One," he promises.

"And above all," intones the Giant Blue Chicken, "Zoltar, save yourself."

The Chicken winks out of view, leaving Zoltar to carry out his plans.

Zoltar's plans conveniently involve a cabinet just to the left of the screen where he was communicating with the Luminous One. It's marked with the Spectran logo (the one described as 'Spectra's evil symbol' by Chief Anderson in Attack of the Alien Wasp) and contains what looks like a very small time bomb.

We know from experience that Zoltar's very small time bombs tend to make very big detonations, so let's not underestimate this little device he's got here.

Zoltar presses a button, and the ticking starts.

"G-Force thinks they have me trapped," Zoltar gloats silkily, "but they will find out differently.

Grinning, Zoltar opens a comm channel, and Goon #2 appears on screen. "You wanted to talk to me, Zoltar?" Goon #2 infers. No, sunshine, he just called you up to look at your unlovely countenance for a long and lingering moment.

"You have done good work, Colonel Gore," he says. Okay, so now we know Goon #2's name. "And you shall be rewarded," Zoltar continues, in a tone which ought to make Gore very nervous, except that most people who get told this sort of thing by Zoltar have a tendency not to survive to tell the tale, so it's only the viewer who should be suspicious at this point. "You are a born leader, Colonel," Zoltar says, "and because I recognise your unique talents, I am making you Supreme Commander of all our troops."

Gore/Goon #2 salutes and says, "I accept with great pride."

Except, this will be a promotion which gives poor old Colonel Gore roughly the same chances of survival as a Hogwarts headmaster in either of the last two Harry Potter books. "May there be many triumphs in your bright future," Zoltar says with all the sincerity of a politician promising to Clean Up The System.

Gore clasps his hands together in delight. "I will never forget you, Zoltar!" he promises.

They're laying the dramatic irony on with a trowel, here.

Zoltar sinks elegantly into a thronelike chair, about which a clear tube closes. The chair is lifted up on what appears to be a hydraulic platform of some kind, and vanishes into the ceiling.

The jaws of the BDSM open, and a small escape ship launches. It flies right past the nose of the G-4, and Keyop calls his team. "Rat!" he warns them. "Abandoning ship!"

"Read you!" Mark responds.

"Zoltar!" Jason infers, clenching his fists.

"Coming!" Mark promises.

"Hurry!" Keyop urges.

Princess turns to Mark in alarm. "Warn Keyop to steer clear!" she says.

"Avoid contact, Keyop," Mark cautions. "Keep an eye on Zoltar's escape ship, but let us do the nasty work." Mark settles back in his seat. "Full power," he orders.

"Got it," Tiny says, and complies.

The Phoenix soars upward in pursuit.

Zoltar's escape vessel, fetchingly tricked out in livery of rose madder, is cruising straight and level amongst the stratocumulus cloud. "That was a narrow escape," Zoltar muses aloud, "but I lead a charmed life. Poor, stupid Colonel Gore. I left him in charge of a disaster! Ha-ha-ha!"

Now, boys and girls, this is the part where we are being told, in no uncertain terms, that Zoltar is Not A Nice Person. I hope you have taken due note of this.

A blip appears on Zoltar's radar screen. His jaw drops in dismay. "They are following me!" he cries.

Zoltar's ship crosses a coastline and he descends over a city full of white rendered mid-to-high-rise buildings. The Phoenix descends after him. The city stops abruptly where woodland (or possibly jungle) begins, and above the trees is Zoltar's ship.

"Zoltar's rocket ship!" Mark says. "Below!"

Jason and Princess are on their feet. "Let's go!" they say in unison, and run for the exit.

If it were Keyop and Tiny, they'd get stuck in the doorway a'la the Three Stooges, but it's these two, who don't have slapstick comic relief written into their contracts, so they'll make it to their vehicles without incident.

Mark also makes it to his vehicle. The G-1 disengages from the Phoenix and cruises along in search of Zoltar. Jason is also looking, as is Princess, all of them with appropriately determined expressions on their faces.

In a clearing, Zoltar's ship has touched down.

Mark, Princess and Jason approach. Mark's jet hovers above as Princess and Jason walk toward the ship. "Look sharp," Mark tells them. "This might be a trick."

Jason draws his gun an he and Princess drop into fighting crouches. "He's all ours!" Jason declares.

We now cut to the escape ships fuselage, and thence to the interior. A grinning mask with purple ears is propped in the pilot's seat. The face falls away to reveal a mechanism which laughs with Zoltar's voice. "Fake!" Jason says, drawing back in horror. We never saw him get up to the cockpit, but there he is, and now he's hurrying to get down. "It's a dummy Zoltar booby trap!" he tells Princess as he leaps back down to the ground. "Let's split." The two of them get back aboard their vehicles and flee.

The small aircraft explodes just as Jason and Princess get clear. They stop and look back at the wreckage. Presumably, Mark got the G-1 out of the way in time, too.

Above, the Phoenix is hovering, and Tiny is feeling sorry for himself. It's no fun being left behind, he thinks. I know now that Mark, Princess and Jason are okay, but what about Keyop?

This segues nicely to the G-4, which is trundling along on the ocean floor.

Straight into the sights of the BDSM.

Colonel Gore and his goons see the G-4 at almost the same moment that Keyop sees the BDSM. "Fire torpedoes one and two!" Gore orders, and the goons comply.

"Uh-oh! Firecrackers!" Keyop gasps, and takes evasive manoeuvres. The torpedoes miss, but they explode close enough to send the G-4 tumbling. It makes a rough landing, and the viewport cracks, letting in the sea.

Keyop is on his belly, stunned, with the water rising around him.

He brings his communicator close to his mouth. "Buggy got... bunked!" he calls. "Sprung leak!"

"Hold your nose!" Tiny says. "I'm comin' down!"

The Phoenix turns and heads off at speed.

The G-4 is upside down, tracks cycling uselessly, as more torpedoes explode on either side of it. The Spectrans are firing repeatedly, but they can't seem to make a direct hit. Desperately, Keyop works the directional thrusters which fire and tip the Space Buggy back over, so that it's now resting right side up, but he's up to his chest in water.

He manages to get back into his seat, and the water level is somehow lower, now, and he moves the vehicle out of the way just as the prow of the Phoenix slams into the ocean floor. "Hey, Keyop," Tiny says, "you just gonna sit there?"

Keyop drives the buggy to the wing pod, where he is drawn aboard the Phoenix by way of the port wing pod.

Colonel Gore is less than pleased about this state of affairs. "Fire!" he orders again, and another torpedo flies free from the BDSM.

Keyop has made it back to the bridge of the Phoenix. Tiny sees the incoming torpedo and warns, "Hold on to your helmet. We're goin' up!"

The Phoenix blasts off into a steep descent just as the torpedo strikes the sea bed. The Phoenix powers right past the head of the BDSM on its way to the surface.

The time bomb Zoltar set aboard the BDSM explodes.

Which means, of course that the BDSM explodes, too.

The Phoenix gets airborne just in time, as the shockwave from the demise of the BDSM isn't far behind. The turbulence buffets the command ship, but Tiny straightens it out and settles it into straight and level flight.

Keyop is leaning against one of the seats. "What kept you?" he asks.

Tiny responds in kind, rubbing his nose. "First I feel asleep," he says, "then I stopped off for a nice spaceburger."

Keyop almost takes this at face value, then realises his leg is being pulled. "Figures," he quips.



The Phoenix cruises back to dry land, and Princess approaches aboard the G-3. Interestingly, she boards by way of the port wing pod, last seen taking the G-4 on board. What a versatile vehicle the Phoenix is.

Jason and the G-2 are next on board, and the Phoenix ascends to meet up with Mark, who docks the G-1 as per the stock footage.

Now that G-Force is fully reassembled, as it were, Zark is free to narrate for us.

"That was a narrow squeak for the team," Zark says. "Princess and Jason nearly got blown up, and Keyop almost drowned." He sighs. "I hope they get a little time to relax in their ready room when they get back here."

And this, I fear, is a foretelling for some really awful animation, but in the meantime we are treated to a lovely shot of the Phoenix on approach to the island atop Center Neptune. Zark continues in voice-over. "I know I've got to lie down for a second and take a load off my trigotrons."

And, yes. Here it is: the gosh-awful art that typifies the G-Force ready room.

As always, the budget extends to the team being engaged in the same activities whenever they are in their ready room: Princess and Keyop are jamming, Tiny is eating, and Mark and Jason are playing ping pong on a really small table.

Tiny reaches for a space burger. "I wish all of you wouldn't be so active," he complains. "It keeps makin' me hungrier."

At this, the comm activates, and it's an incoming call from none other than Zark.

"Attention, G-Force!" Zark says.

Princess stops playing her guitar. "Oh, no!" she says. "Not another emergency already!"

"I have something important to tell you," Zark announces. "Since I rarely get to see you, I was going to send a note, but that seemed so... cold, and formal. I just wanted to tell you what an incredible job you do every time you go out on a mission." Filler. Can you say, 'filler,' people? "You never cease to amaze me, and I'd like to add, it's a real honour and a privilege to work with... G-Force!" He salutes, as do the team.

"G-Force!" they respond, and we roll the closing title.



I found this episode quite confusing, and it may have something to do with all the stuff that was clearly cut out of the original footage, if all the filler is anything to go by, or it might just be poor continuity.

I choose to call it: Plot Adjustable Geography.

Yes, Plot Adjustable Geography (or PAG) allows you to use any number of incongruous crescent shaped islands for any purpose you desire, and you can alter the geography and geology of any or all of these islands to suit your plot. Thus, by applying a liberal dose of PAG, a tiny flat island which Keyop was working on at the start of the episode can turn into a land mass large enough to support a huge rocky outcrop topped with a lighthouse, a weir and numerous outbuildings, crewed with a staff of hundreds (all of whom will be conveniently blown up by G-Force.)

Despite the choppy continuity, it's not all bad. We see the Spectrans getting a bit of screen time in this episode, with Zoltar being portrayed as an all-around unpleasant sort of individual. We see him cowering at the idea of being blown up and then setting up an underling to die at the hands of his enemies, together with the crew of his ship. He's also extremely resourceful, which he demonstrates when he leaves the explosive decoy in the cockpit of his escape vessel. The Great Spirit obviously considers him valuable, as it orders him unequivocally to save himself at the expense of all other resources, both human and physical.

Life on Spectra, it seems, is cheap.

So, this was Island of Fear where Plot Adjustable Geography rules and the galaxy is saved once again by... red food colouring -- no, sorry -- G-Force!


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