Battle of the Planets, Episode Eleven
Gatchaman Episode #41, Murder Music
DVD and Veoh episode #34
Review/Summary: Establishing shot of Center Neptune. Zark voice-over: “Center Neptune, hidden away at the bottom of the sea, nerve center for all galaxy defenses and security.” And now to Zark --- Oh. Dear.
This is it, people. This is the first appearance of Zark in his ‘G-Force’ getup. The yellow, visored helmet and yellow cape of infamy have appeared. To make certain we see it all, the animators put him right in the middle ground of the shot, facing us.
And he continues, “I’m in charge of this huge, complex operation. I keep watch on the entire galaxy day and night. I invent all the amazing gadgets that the G-Force team uses. And I designed their command ship, the Phoenix.” [I’m about to slam my head against the wall. Repeatedly. I still say there was a better way to integrate Zark into the show.]
Now he turns stage right (to our left), and – and floats. [Everything floats here, and soon, you’ll float, too! Points if you get the reference.] As he floats, he says, “A robot’s work is never done.”
He lands in front of his four screens, extends his legs, and starts wiping the monitors. He turns his head and says, “I even do windows.” [Maybe it’s just that it’s late at night, but that line doesn’t bother me as much as the ones preceding.]
Legs retract, and he says, “Now I can tune my sensitive probes in on Planet Spectra and see if they’re plotting some new devilish scheme to endanger Earth.” [‘Sensitive probes.’ No, I won’t say it. I won’t.]
Gatchaman footage. Zoltar and the Luminous One. “Have you done my bidding, Zoltar?” the Great Blue Chicken of Spectra asks. “Is everything prepared?” [Yes, I know others said ‘Great Blue Chicken of Spectra’, ‘Almighty Butane’, and ‘Purple Doberman on Speed’ first, but they’re such great epithets that I will use them. So there.]
“The Spectra ship has been equipped as you ordered,” Zoltar replies.
“Using sound as a weapon. Excellent.” [O-kay, the way that was pronounced now produces a mental picture of Montgomery Burns with a blue chicken head. Hm: Bart Simpson vs. Spectra. Must stop. Now.] “It must work.”
Zoltar replies that it will. They await orders.
The Luminous One is certain that they have found a surefire way to bring ‘those defiant Earthlings to their knees.’ Zoltar agrees that they have waited a long time for such a victory, ‘O Illustrious Spirit.’ [I wonder how the scriptwriters came up with all those nifty little titles for the LO. Late nights with pizza? Or did they watch cheesy movies?]
After reminding Zoltar that the future of Spectra (and Zoltar himself) depends upon the success of this mission, the Luminous One sends Zoltar on his way.
And again with that Sandy Frank rocket launch. Come on, people. You couldn’t have managed at least one more just for variety?
And the space-travel footage.
Zark VO: “Well, Spectra has launched another one of their terrible attack vehicles. And, as usual, it’s heading straight for Earth.”
Zark at his console. “I must try to reach G-Force quickly. But right now, they’re attending a big, outdoor rock concert.” [So?] “I hate to break into their rare moment of fun, but ….” [Just call them. It’s procedure.]
Dark screen, Zark VO: “This is 7-Zark-7, calling G-Force.” As he continues, flashes of light and the sounds of music interrupt: “Red Alert. Come in, G-Force.”
The flashes of light increase in frequency, then give way to some rather trippy visuals. Then – something got past the censors. It looks sort of like a witch-demon, and a mutant moth-thing just flew across the screen. Now we see the band, and the drum-set bears the legend ‘DN 5.’ The band themselves look very early 1970s, and the one female is not singing any sort of sane lyrics, but just faking it with a few random repetitions of ‘Baby-baby’ and the sorts of noises only heard in pay-by-the-hour motels.
Over shots of the audience, Zark is at it again: “G-Force. Come in, G-Force. Oh, dear. I can’t reach them over all that sound, and they’re so wrapped up in the music of the Dirty Named 5, the most famous rock band in the Milky Way.” [Real rock concerts are pretty loud. Might be time to put a vibrate function on their wristbands. Oops, I walked right into that one, didn’t I?]
Cut to the edge of the crowd, and G-Force. Tiny and Keyop are wearing ridiculous wigs, Princess seems blissed out, and Mark and Jason look as if they’d rather be elsewhere.
Keyop yanks off Tiny’s wig, revealing earplugs. Tiny grabs Keyop’s wig, revealing another set of earplugs. [Am I the only one who noticed the earplugs? That joke is so old….) They tussle, and Princess says she can’t take them anywhere. [She doesn’t sound quite annoyed enough. Is there something in the air?] As Tiny and Keyop trade insults, she wonders why they can’t be quiet and enjoy good music. Mark and Jason trade glances.
A sound gets their attention.
In the sky appears this episode’s mecha. Right now, it doesn’t look like much. Sort of skinny, with funny-looking wings.
Inside, Zoltar tells one of his men to begin the attack, and commands ‘vacuum pressure.’ [Not going there, not going there.]
A three-sided, transparent tube extrudes from the mecha onto the stage. Apparently, everyone was grooving so hard they didn’t see the ship or the tube. The band is sucked upwards to the sound of Zoltar laughing.
Well, the mecha now looks more interesting. It’s sprouted pipes like a pipe-organ. And it flies off.
“Hey, a Spectra plane,” Mark says. The tone doesn’t match his facial expression. Conversational tone, concerned face. Jason says they have the band. Better alert Security Chief Anderson.
And now to the mecha’s base. Nice overhead shot of the mecha, which is no longer sporting the extra pipes.
Cut to a pinkish door, which swings open. It’s thick, and in light of what happens next, plainly soundproofed. Zoltar steps through with some goons. He faces the band and says, “I’m afraid I have interrupted your concert. I owe you an explanation, I suppose.” [This being Zoltar, it’s gonna be a doozy.] The camera pans over the band members, who are all equipped with musical instruments. “Shall we say that I am a great fancier of musical talent, and so we are all going to make beautiful music together?” [Why do I want to curl up and hide?] “You will find my new amplification process quite interesting.”
One of the band members says it would be more interesting to know what Zoltar wants with them. [I can’t figure out who’s doing the voice for this guy.]
Zoltar says he’s making them an offer they can’t refuse. Surely they want to hear themselves as they’ve never been heard before. [If I were in this band, by now I’d be curled up, hiding, and probably trying not to humiliate myself. Captured by Zoltar? That can’t be good. And he sounds so civilized. Even worse.]
The band, to the last member, refuses to cooperate.
If they refuse, Zoltar says he will have to be very harsh with them. Very harsh. [Uh, okay, Zoltar, whatever you say, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it please don’t hurt me. That would be running through the head of any sane person right then. A civilized tone can be so intimidating.] He will be in the control room, making musical history.
Helmets lower from the ceiling onto the band-members’ heads. For some reason, they all look stoned. And that’s before the helmets.
Zoltar mentions that he will be using the DN 5’s music to make Earthlings a little more flexible in their dealings with Spectra. [Dirty Name 5? What sort of band name is that? An attempt to capitalize on the Jackson Five while accounting for the DN on the drum-set? Although it’s not as odd as some.] Now, play!
They do, and the woman still doesn’t sing real lyrics. Reel-to-reel tape spins. While the engineers are working the consoles, Zoltar is actually boogying to the beat. Tells us his taste in music, doesn’t it?
Cut to a city in the daytime. The mecha takes position overhead. Its full complement of sound-pipes appear. Zoltar orders the volume raised, and all ‘speakerphones’ activated.
The city’s buildings crumble under the musical onslaught. [Every object has a resonant frequency at which it will vibrate. Vibrate violently enough, long enough, and there could be considerable damage done.]
Center Neptune. G-Force gathered together, listening to a news report. Destruction in a ten-mile radius, but no human lives were lost. [Uh, does that mean animals and extraterrestrials lost their lives?]
Anderson enters the room. He pulls out a cassette [How 1970s!] and says a girl had the presence of mind to make a recording of the attack. [Nowadays, there would be video from everyone with a cell phone.] He puts it in a player and soon everyone (except him: he’s wearing earphones) is covering their ears and grimacing in pain. When it’s over, he says the music is that of the Dirty Name 5. It’s obvious now why Zoltar kidnapped them, and they are in grave danger.
Princess wonders what Zoltar hopes to gain with weird music like that. [Uh, you like the band, Princess. Don’t you know?] Mark comments that Zoltar doesn’t have a hit record. [Was that an intentional in-joke?]
Anderson says Zoltar has made demands. “What does he want? Our biggest stadium, so he can hold his own crazy rock concert?” Princess asks. Mark says that, whatever it is, Zoltar’s not getting it. Anderson says that Spectra is demanding all of Earth’s food and processing plants. He asks Tiny if the command ship is ready for takeoff. Tiny says it will be ready as soon as he’s at the controls.
[I’ll skip some attempts at cleverness in the dialogue.]
Stock footage of the Phoenix launching.
G-Force catches up with Zoltar’s mecha. Zoltar turns on the music.
The Phoenix vibrates, and the instruments go crazy. Its hull cracks and parts peels. Jason wants to activate the ejector chutes (and the control for them looks remarkably like the missile launch button). Mark asks Tiny if he can lose the Spectra ship. Tiny is willing to try.
Oh, no, Zoltar says. There’s no escape this time.
The chase is on. The Spectra ship is soon on their tail. Mark orders a dive into the ocean.
Zoltar isn’t that upset. The ocean is only a temporary refuge. The Spectrans have more important concerns. [Nothing is more important than making certain your enemy is really down for the count, Zoltar.]
The Phoenix sinks. G-Force tries to take comfort in their survival, but Mark says they didn’t even slow Zoltar down, and that’s what counts.
And now – the first appearance of Zark’s sweater and the 10-second oil break. He’s heading up the tube between his nerve center and his little ready room. [And it’s taking a long time to travel from his nerve center to his ready room.]
“Watching G-Force escape from almost certain destruction nearly made my dynamometer magnetize,” he says. [Any electronics experts out there? Can you shed some light on his electro-babble?] But, now that he knows they’re safe, he can take his 10-second oil break and relax.
He pops out into a space that looks as if it could be adjoining his nerve center. Same rounded room, same shape of windows. There’s a Peter Max-wannabe poster on one wall (a nut, a bolt, and a caster, amid some 1970s design elements). He glide-walks to a tilted platform and leans back against it. [For some reason, Zark does not look as friendly as usual. His eyes are definitely oval, and tilted in a way that resembles a frown.] It tilts some more. Hanging over him are a gear, a strap for conduit, a funnel, and another device I cannot identify, and I think they’re parts of a mobile. That, or Zark has interesting hobbies. Two dart boards on the wall behind him, and on the floor – a pair of sneakers. [Dark, nasty thoughts about Zark’s leisure activities form in my mind. Sweeney Zark, the demon droid of Center Neptune….]
Zark grabs an old-fashioned oiler and gives himself a dab at the antennae. That light-bodied oil sure is refreshing. 1998 was a very good year.
He knows G-Force is safe, but what is Zoltar up to?
As if anyone has to ask.
Now to the captured band, who are at the end of their patience with their captivity. They want out.
Zoltar, not amused, asks their plans, then sends a zap through their helmets. Now, play!
One of the guitarists seems to tip a wink to the drummer before the music starts.
Another attack, on another city. This one is met with fighter jets and ground artillery. It’s cut suddenly short, and now we see bits of burning wreckage as Zoltar laughs. The robot planes were no match for Spectra’s music.
Over the ocean hovers the Phoenix. A parabolic dish is deployed from its nose, under Jason’s car. Inside, a couple of cables connect to Princess’s helmet.
Keyop’s bored with sitting around. Mark says they aren’t getting anywhere, so they’re going back to Center Neptune to sweat it out.
Zark calls them. Strange signals have been picked up from the vicinity of Lake Titicaca. G-Force must fly down at once and investigate. [So there are no other intelligence teams available. Galaxy Security is underfunded?]
Down in a cell, the DN 5 drummer is banging on the cell door with a spoon. One of the band (sounding like a stoned Mark) tells him to stop, or the guards will figure it out. The drummer says they won’t: cons always bang on the bars when the food’s terrible. [And he knows this how? Movies, or personal experience?] The woman says they’re prisoners, but they’re not cons. She joins the drummer (whose name is Eddie) in banging out a Morse code signal for help.
The Phoenix arrives at Lake Titicaca. Mark orders Princess to activate the detectors. Out comes the dish again. They pick up the SOS, and follow it underwater.
They come upon a sunken step pyramid. Zoltar’s base. Mark suggests they call without knocking. [Archaeologists across the galaxy must be really annoyed with Spectra. Sites compromised left and right, for military reasons. Do the Spectrans also dabble in pot-hunting?]
Inside the base, the band is getting a headful of their own music. Zoltar tells them that if they try to signal for help again, it will go even worse. And we hear his evil villain laugh.
Which is interrupted by the arrival of the Phoenix. Water gushes around the command ship as it forces its way into the base, and continues to flow as the team emerge.
An edited fight or something ensues. Keyop and Princess break into the sound stage, and Zoltar announces that it’s time to escape. He uses the three-sided tube just as Mark throws his sonic boomerang.
G-Force has rescued the band, and Zoltar’s heading for the surface in his mecha. Tiny follows [leaving the base to be flooded through the hole the ship made].
In the sky, Zoltar turns on the sound again. As the Phoenix cracks, Anderson calls. Zark has figured out how to defeat the weapon. They must turn the sound back on Zoltar. Deflect the sound beams, and turn them back onto Zoltar’s craft. [Unless this is merely bad scriptwriting for what they really intended, I think we have another missed educational opportunity.] They must activate the sonar probe. (So that’s what that dish is called.)
Jason says it sounds like a long shot. Mark worries that the probe might attract the sound waves, rather than deflect them. [Sound engineers, explain a few things to our Eagle, will you?] Anderson tells them that Zark guarantees his solution. [Oh, that fills me with confidence. A fuss-pot robot whose sensors are defeated by fog has the answers. Time to curl up and hide again.]
Mark says that Zark never goofs, and gives the order. [You definitely haven’t been up there, have you, Commander. If you did, you wouldn’t have such confidence in the egg.]
They pull it off. For a second, it seems to Zoltar that the music stops. A minion tells him the sound waves are reversing. “Nnoo! Prepare to abandon!” Zoltar orders, just in the nick of time.
The mecha explodes, and we see the same little transforming escape craft as in The Raid of the Space Octopus. Inside, Zoltar rants that he will never rest until he finds a way to be rid of G-Force forever.
The DN 5 are back in concert. No earplugs (or wigs) for Tiny and Keyop. Mark and Jason still look as if they’d rather be elsewhere. Princess complains that they have free tickets, and she doesn’t think she can stay awake. [That’s some serious tired, if you can fall asleep at a rock concert without chemical assistance.]
Zark, this time in VO. “I can’t blame Princess for being tired, but this time, G-Force is going to enjoy the rock concert in peace.” [Too bad we don’t get to.] Fade out.
Except for obligatory Zark closing. “And to think, Zoltar used that music to drive people crazy. You know, I hate to say this, but it always did drive me crazy. Ah-hm. I suppose that’s because I have a tin ear. Well, I don’t have to be programmed for music. As long as I am at the controls here at Center Neptune, I can set the whole galaxy singing.” [All together now: Bleargh.] “Singing the praises of – G-Force.” [Another chorus of ‘Bleargh’, please.]
Fic Alert: How does Eddie, the DN 5 drummer, know about prison?
Science question: The scriptwriters mangle the solution to the problem of using sound as a weapon. Did they misunderstand the simplistic science, or just figure their audience would not know the difference?
Bizarreness alert: Aside from the introduction of Zarkstyle?
Gatchaman plot: Leader X has written a piece of music that no-one in Galactor can play. Only the rock band the Demon 5 have the talent to perform it. Berg Katse must kidnap the Demon 5. Which he does, right in front of the Science Ninja Team.
In the mecha, Katse tells the band that they will play this music, which has been written by one of the world’s greatest composers. They agree the writer is a genius, but they won’t cooperate with a Galactor scheme. Which doesn’t matter to Katse. His goons inject the members with something so that they won’t have heart attacks from this music, and special helmets are lowered onto their heads so they can’t hear what they’re playing. The singer is told that she can’t make intelligible sounds. Under Galactor influence, they play Leader X’s composition.
The music levels a city.
When the Science Ninja Team are briefed, Jun recognizes the recording as the style of the Demon 5.
No demands. By now, the viewer knows it’s all about Galactor taking over the Earth.
When the SNT take on the mecha, the sound waves almost destroy the God Phoenix. Ken won’t let Joe use the Bird Missiles, because the sound will detonate them. [I know, I know.] Aside from some of the editing and new lines, the BotP version of the team’s defeat follows the Gatch version.
The rest of the episode follows the Gatchaman plot. Yes, the original also finishes up in Lake Titicaca (allowing Jinpei to make a juvenile joke).
In the original, the mecha is stopped by cancelling out its sound. The GP plays the music a half-phase off. [In reality, this can only be done if the two sound sources are in fixed positions relative to each other. Can’t do it if one or both won’t stay still.]