Battle of the Planets, Episode Eight
Gatchaman Episode #57, The Evil White Sea
DVD and Veoh episode #48
Review/Summary: Establishing shot. And Zark. “This is Center Neptune, computerized watchdog of our galaxy. Here, the activities of Planet Spectra, arch-enemy of Earth, are monitored 24 hours a day.” Followed by Zark introducing himself, and talking about how finely tuned he is and how he watches for any interplanetary threat. [I find I want cookies and milk again.] His ‘refined intelligence bank’ [as opposed to a ‘coarse intelligence bank’?] stores the names of all Spectra agents active on Earth. [Hm. How about arresting them, if they’re known agents. Or are they under surveillance in hopes they’ll lead authorities to Spectra bases?] Then he gives an example: Zone30/RR. Two known Spectra agents have moved into the area. Their possible target is the old maximum security prison of San Martin. After which, he wonders what could interest people from another planet in this prison. He’ll have a look on his scanner.
Gatchaman footage of two heavy, barred gates in front of forbidding stonework. The gates open, and from an archway walk an old man and a prison guard.
The guard notes that Vargo (sp?) is getting out after 30 years in prison. What are his plans? Return to his old way of life out West?
Vargo admits that it’s the only kind of life he’s known, but he’s probably too old for it now. He used to be mighty handy with guns. Fastest draw in the world. We’ll see. And he walks off, all alone, as the guard wishes him luck.
A car pulls up beside Vargo (and really close to the prison). [Prisons have ‘guard lines’ that cannot be crossed. These are several yards from the walls or fences.] Someone from the car tells him they want to talk to him.
He asks who they are. The Spectra driver opens his door and says that they’re friends. [Keye Luke doing a broadcaster-generic accent. Almost unrecognizable as a result.] Vargo doesn’t remember having friends like them. The driver says that now that he’s out of prison, they want to help him. (In the back seat is a chubby fellow wearing a horned German-army-looking helmet and picking his teeth.) When Vargo asks if they’re from out West, the driver says they’re from way out West. If he’s interested in a new start, come with them. The driver even gets out and opens the passenger side door for Vargo. The old man accepts their offer. [Guess they didn’t have television in that prison, or Vargo would recognize Spectra agents.] When he trips, the driver respectfully helps him up and into the car.
Once in the car, Vargo asks what’s going on. Teeth-picker says he’ll be taking a trip to Spectra, all expenses paid. The driver says Zoltar has a big, important job for him. Teeth-picker spoils the friendly mood by telling Vargo that he’d better do it if he wants to see Earth or any other planet again.
Now we’re in space, at a space station that actually looks like one that we can put up right now. [Not the big wheel of most SF, but like the International Space Station, or the Skylab that launched in 1973, during the run of Gatchaman.] Inside, a fellow floats through the background as another sits at a control panel. A nasal voice-over says, “Skylab 2, this Galaxy Control: we’re picking up a UFO moving in your direction at light-speed.” [Those are some great sensors, if they can detect an object at light-speed.] The two men (who sound like Mark and Tiny) identify the object as a meteorite and think they’re going to be hit. The object misses them. [An object coming at light-speed would have hit or missed the space station before Galaxy Control even knew it was there.]
Cut to Mark asking, “But why?” Anderson says they don’t know why, and that it was no accident. Jason wants to know Security’s answer. Anderson thinks a manmade meteorite was launched at Skylab 2. Princess says it looks like the work of Spectra, but what would they gain by it? [Aside from the war with Spectra, any other reasons for thinking they were behind it?]
Maybe, Jason says, Spectra was testing a weapon, and Skylab was the handiest target. Mark doesn’t think so: there were a number of more important targets in the area. Jason suggests it’s the first of more to follow, but Anderson points out that the rulers of Spectra are usually more devious than that. Mark agrees. This is bait. Spectra can’t beat G-Force on Earth, so they’re trying to lure G-Force to Spectra. Why not answer the challenge? Anderson warns them that Spectra is waiting for them.
Stock footage of the Phoenix launching. Then Sandy Frank space footage. Then Zark in voice-over, telling us that G-Force is on its way to the distant Crab Nebulae. [‘NebulA’, Zark. ‘Nebulae’ is plural. Guess the scriptwriters got that stuck in their heads and never got rid of it.] He hopes they aren’t being led into a fatal trap. [They’re going freely and with the knowledge that it could be a trap. That’s hardly ‘being led.’] He’s also given them a readout on Vargo. [Why? Aside from plot requirements, why would he think Vargo’s pickup had anything to do with the meteor fired at Skylab 2?] Zark wonders if Vargo has anything to do with this, and is on Spectra now. He must mull this over in his ‘analyzer cells.’
Cut to someplace that looks very cold and isolated. Then inside a facility, where an elevator takes Vargo and Tooth-picker into Zoltar’s presence. Tooth-picker says he brought Vargo as ordered, and calls Zoltar ‘Master.’
Zoltar welcomes Vargo. Tooth-picker jabs Vargo with an elbow and tells him not to stand there: the supreme ruler of Spectra has greeted him. Vargo asks, “You have work for me?” What sort of work could he do on another planet?
Zoltar wants him as a gun expert – if he still has any skills. Vargo admits that he doesn’t know about his fingers. Zoltar says that a great artist does not lose his talent. He was once known as the greatest on Earth. Vargo tells him not to expect much, since he’s not a young man anymore.
Zoltar pulls a gun, and Vargo immediately dives behind Tooth-picker and draws his sidearm. The quick response pleases Zoltar. Then Vargo [now some four or five feet from the guy] twirls the pistol and tosses it back into Tooth-picker’s holster. Stunned at the old man’s prowess, Tooth-picker slides down the wall to the floor. He still has the knack. Now, what?
In another room is a rather odd-looking contraption that Zoltar calls their newest superweapon: the cryno-gun. It doesn’t look very terrifying, with its bulbous driver/gunner area, and a spike (collared with spikes) sticking out the front.
Vargo asks if he was brought up here to run that thing. Zoltar confirms, then points at Tooth-picker. Brock (Tooth-picker) will be his first assistant (to Brock’s dismay).
Edited sequence here. Zoltar climbs in to the gunner’s seat, sticks a more-intimidating gun through an opening in the windscreen, then pulls it back. He explains that the beam from this gun freezes its target. An amazing breakthrough in weaponry. [Not so amazing. A big mecha used the same sort of weapon in Decoys of Doom. But this show wasn’t big on arcs.] Then he exits.
Zoltar tells Vargo that G-Force is on their way to Spectra, and that he, Vargo, will shoot them down. He pours a handful of strange-looking ammunition from one palm to the other. Vargo comments that it will be another showdown at high noon. [The scriptwriters plainly intended the viewers to think of gunslingers and the Westerns that were on television at this time. When I saw the episode the first time, I had that impression, even though I knew it was unlikely that Vargo could have been a Western-style gunfighter.]
Zoltar warns him that G-Force is highly trained and skilled, able to meet all challenges. [This is Episode 8, and if G-Force was involved in repelling the first two invasions mentioned in the first episode, they made quite an impression on Zoltar.]
He shows one of the ‘bullets’ for the cryno gun. It contains a mixture of liquid nitrogen and cryonic crystals. A direct hit freezes the victim in his tracks. G-Force stands in Spectra’s way, and must be eliminated.
Back to Sandy Frank footage, and Zark telling us that G-Force is approaching the Crab Nebula(e), that galaxy of swirling gases [which is in the Milky Way, not a galaxy in its own right].
Now G-Force is over Spectra, and in the right place again. [How do they know where to go? Planets are huge.]
Tiny notices interference in their instruments. Jason says that someone is beaming in on their ‘telecom monitor.’
Zoltar’s voice-over greets them. He welcomes them to Spectra, and in response to Mark says that the team might be detained forever. Mark asks him to show himself.
Cut to a spinning ship with five smaller craft sticking out of it. VO Zoltar says he’s right there, and has them in view. We then see Zoltar at the controls. He wants them to see the exciting reception waiting for them. [This little scene is cribbed from Mortal Blow! Gatchaman Fire.]
The snow-storm clears for a bit, revealing the cryno-gun. Tiny asks what it is, and Mark says he’d rather not know. Zoltar insults them some more, and flies off.
Mark refuses to play by Zoltar’s rules. Jason says that someone has to kick it off, and heads out before anyone can stop him.
Tiny lands the Phoenix and Jason sets off to meet the cryno-gun. As he approaches, Jason recognizes Vargo in the gunner’s seat.
Vargo urges his opponent on. There’s also some disagreement between him and Brock. Brock apparently won’t hold still, and Vargo keeps kicking him. [With guys like these in the ranks, no wonder Spectra hasn’t won the war!]
Somehow, Vargo gets behind Jason, and there’s a chase over the snow. The cryno-gun has wings to allow it to cross crevasses. Chortling, Vargo loads his gun. He crows that he still knows how to sling a gun.
Jason whirls his car around and heads right for Vargo. He leaps the car over the cryno-gun, but Vargo aims up and nails him.
And Zark at his console. He’s fussing about getting bad vibes from Spectra. G-Force are sitting ducks for that cryno-gun. In his opinion, Security should have thought twice before letting G-Force go to Spectra. But he’s just a robot. He’s not paid to give opinions, but to provide precise readouts. Come to think of it, he’s not paid at all. [Bleargh. Were the folks at Standards and Practices thinking that the audience would be traumatized if they didn't add this nonsense?]
Aboard the Phoenix, the others realize Jason’s been hit. Vargo insults them a bit, asking if they’re afraid of a worn-out old man like him.
Mark realizes that they have to meet this challenge. They know nothing about this weapon, so they’re going to test it. Time for Princess and Keyop to get ready. Tiny has to stay in the Phoenix. Again. Which bums him out. [In the Gatch episode, G1 reminds G5 that he has a family that will miss him.]
Princess, Mark, and Keyop head out to do battle. Mark tells the other two to take their assigned positions. They’ll outflank him. Keyop broops, ending with “ – mincemeat.”
Keyop’s buggy takes flight, as does the cryno-gun. Vargo comments that his opponent is a ‘runty little feller’. [How does he know? It’s not like Keyop’s visible.]
Keyop does a pretty good job avoiding Vargo in the air. It helps that Brock isn’t (at least in Vargo’s opinion) flying the cryno-gun very well. When Keyop goes underwater, the cryno-gun turns out able to float, and that’s when Vargo gets his shot.
[Whatever happened to Mark, Princess, and ‘outflanking’ Vargo?]
Tiny, pissed, enters the fray. He parks the Phoenix over Vargo and blasts him with the jets. In the middle of the turbulence and heat, Vargo orders Brock to get them out of there.
Brock dives, and Tiny follows. Bad mistake. Vargo’s waiting in ambush, and shoots. Tiny and the ship are frozen. [The Phoenix is much larger than the other vehicles, yet it’s frozen. Just how powerful are those rounds, anyway?]
Now we find out what the spikes are for, as the cryno-gun drills through the ice and comes up behind Princess (who has noted that Vargo’s taking out the team one by one). She turns to face him. When Vargo sees her, he says, “A young filly. This is gettin’ easier.” It isn’t. She dodges and he misses his shot. [Is his remark intended to show how nasty he is? Or does it show that he considers women to be suitable targets?]
Brock insults him: “Some sharpshooter. Couldn’t even hit a girl.”
Mark’s turn to go after Vargo.
Vargo aims again at Princess. The gun’s barrel is hot, steaming. He says he won’t miss. Mark zips under the spike, and flips the cryno-gun over just as he fires again. The overheated barrel explodes.
He crawls out of the wrecked weapon and says he proved he wasn’t over the hill yet. Mark, serving as the voice of morality again, tells him that he proved it in the wrong way, on the wrong world. Vargo says it’s the only way he knew, and this was the only world that wanted him. [Not that he had much chance of finding that out, did he?] Then several objects drop from his hand.
Princess kneels beside him and says they’ll take him back to Earth and help him find the right way. [Okay, any kids watching would be well aware that Vargo is in big legal trouble. Plenty of them were watching cop shows on prime time, or reruns of cop shows on the UHF channels. I know I was. But I don’t remember my reaction to this.]
Vargo says he knows it’s back to prison for him. He had thirty years to learn that violence doesn’t pay. Spectra had 30,000 years, and still hasn’t learned. [Anyone spot the irony of this sort of moral on a show that contains a lot of violence, however edited?]
Suddenly, the Phoenix is in the air and Mark is calling Center Neptune. They’re heading home. Mission successful. Three of the team were frozen by a new ray-gun, but the effects wore off when the gun was destroyed. [Bang head against wall.]
Sandy Frank space footage.
And the obligatory Zark close, where he burbles how lucky ‘we’ are to get G-Force back home safe. Imagine being turned into a block of ice. The thought sends shivers down his transducer. And Mark’s right: Zoltar will come up with another weapon to use against Earth. [Why did they always have Zark at the end? I think viewers could figure out that the episode had ended.]
Fic Alert: Vargo’s life before imprisonment. Who was he, and what did he do? Was he a hit man, or a more ordinary criminal? Former military, before he turned to crime as a civilian? What could have made him willing to work for an enemy power?
Science question: How can someone be flash-frozen solid, yet survive?
What sort of weapon can fire objects at light-speed? Is the ‘rail gun’ of SF (one candidate for doing so) even possible, let alone economically feasible?
Bizarreness alert: At no time does Vargo question why he should shoot his fellow Terrans. A mistake on the part of the scriptwriters? Or did they never even think about that question? I doubt the audience was so unsophisticated they couldn’t accept a decent motivation if it were presented to them. Although there wasn’t much opportunity to provide any. Unless maybe Zark got some lines about why Vargo was in prison, and then we discover that 30 years’ incarceration had only made him meaner and more cunning.
Gatchaman plot: Except that it all takes place on Earth, much the same. The old gunman is released after thirty years. He has no-one waiting for him. His only family is a daughter who hasn’t seen him since she was two years old. Two Galactor agents meet him outside the gate (and still too close to the prison), and are not nearly as respectful as in the BotP version. Galactor fires at a space station over the Antarctic. The Science Ninja Team, knowing the organization’s talent for subterfuge, know they should go to the Arctic.
Another difference is when Berg Katse shows off the gun. He shoots some hapless Emperor penguins, which freeze and then shatter. According to him, there is a core in the ammunition that will ensure that the target is killed when frozen.
After the fight, the dying gunman reveals that he took the cores from the ammunition. He was having too much fun to end the game so soon (even though that’s what got him captured so long ago). He deliberately missed Jun because she reminded him of his daughter.