Episode Review: 'Mammoth Shark Menace' by UnpublishedWriter
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Mammoth Shark Menace
Battle of the Planets, Episode Twelve
Gatchaman Episode #55, The Daring Mini-Submarine
DVD and Veoh episode #47

Review/Summary: Establishing shot of Center Neptune and Zark in VO: “Everything looks peaceful around Center Neptune, deep beneath the sea, but something doesn’t feel right.”

So, why is Zark on the way to his ready room? “I’ve had an inkling in my reactors all morning that Zoltar is brewing up new trouble for us on Planet Spectra, but I can’t pin it down.” [Well, for starters, how about the fact that there have been 14 attacks – 12 of them on-screen – from Spectra? That would be a big clue that he’s planning something else. The mystery is what he’s planning. Lord, what were the scriptwriters thinking?]

He arrives at his ready room, and continues, “I’ve even activated my interdimensional probes, but so far, nothing.” [‘Interdimensional probes’. As if he isn’t creepy enough with just this dimension to spy on. Or is it the other definition of probe?] As he glide-walks to his recliner, “I’ll try to relax and take a 10-second oil break, but it won’t be easy.” He reclines, gives himself a couple of oil squirts in the left antenna, and puts his hands behind his head with a satisfied sigh. “There’s nothing like a nice cold can after grueling hours in the control room.” [Well, that’s not as bad as some of his lines.]

Then we hear a beepy-bipping sound, and he says, “Center Neptune control.”

And a very breathy, 1-900-number female voice says, “Seven Zark Seven.” I mean, she sounds totally HAWT. Like someone a very lonely guy would call. Especially a lonely, rather geeky guy with no – erm – experience.

“Oo-oh, yes, Susan. May I help you?” Zark says (in exactly the sort of tone such a ‘$3.99 for the first minute’ voice would elicit, if the wife/girlfriend walked in at that moment, or the speaker was a virgin).

“No: may I help you?” she asks. [No, please, no.]

“Oohh, you certainly – I mean you should only – Oh, I hope so.” Zark sounds flustered. He sounds like he’s [Ugh!] turned on, and I don’t mean electronically.

“An – emergency report – is coming in from Oceanographic Research, code classification, Condition Critical.”

Sounding more normal, Zark acknowledges, “Thank you, Susan, I shall get right on it.” Then: “That voice: so warm and appealing. She could drive a robot to a complete circuit meltdown.” [Yep, time to investigate Quanto Tobor. This is ridiculous.] “Now, what was I supposed to – Oh, yes! We have a Condition Critical.” [And let me tell you that the animation and tone do not convey a sense of urgency.]

[Yes, folks, the first appearance of Susan, the sexy-voiced early warning system out on Planet Pluto. Voiced by Janet Waldo, who now works with Focus on the Family. I mention this because the Zark/Susan dialogue on this show is rather at odds with the sort of thing Focus on the Family promotes. My brain is sizzling (but not as much as when I learned that Larry Flynt considered Jerry Falwell a friend). I wonder just what the scriptwriters thought they were doing when they created this relationship. It might have gone over the heads of the target audience, but it had to have disturbed older viewers. (To be honest, as one of those older viewers, I don’t recall doing much more than rolling my eyes. Old enough to catch the innuendo, young enough to miss all the implications. Now it’s creepy.) And all acknowledgement to Ms Anne O’Malley for introducing ‘$3.99 for the first minute’ to describe Susan’s voice. Oh, and Ms Waldo was old enough to be the mother of everyone on G-Force when she was breathing Susan’s lines. Just for some perspective here.]

And now to Gatchaman footage of the ocean. “Everything appears peaceful on my video scanners,” Zark says, as the camera pans across, revealing what look like structures on the ocean floor. “I wonder why Oceanographic Research issued an alert?” [Again, the all-knowing, all-seeing Zark is mystified. Either he sees and knows all, or he doesn’t. Can’t have it both ways.] “I better have a look on my surface monitors.”

“No problem on the coast, that I can detect,” he announces, over waves crashing against rocks. [Which coast?]

Oh, the music has gone all ominous, and brown is spreading over the surface. Zark sees it: “Ah, that looks like our problem!” [As fish die and float to the surface. I think the kiddies could have figured it out without such inane dialogue.] “I’ve never seen anything quite like it. That’s really serious. It’s not just regular old pollution.” [As the fish carcasses dissolve.] “Oh, the poor little fish.”

“I’m sure this is all Zoltar’s evil doing,” continues the VO as the scene shifts to the ocean floor again.

Then back to the waves on the rocks, as Zark says, “Attention, G-Force, Red Alert. We have a condition critical.” He continues over a scene of black birds of some sort in the sky. They see the masses of dead fish. “A poisonous pollution is destroying all the fish in the ocean.” As the birds feed, he states the obvious: “The birds are eating the fish, and dying too.” [How did they get this past the standards and practices people? Death and dying were supposed to be forbidden topics on American children’s television in the 1970s.] “G-Force, your mission is to collect a sample of pollutant and report to Chief Anderson.” [Because the scriptwriters couldn’t think of any other way to do this, and admit that there’s more to Federation Security than G-Force, the Chief, and Zark.]

And back to Center Neptune. Where scientists are now analyzing the pollutant. [How hard would it have been to mention an investigative team going out and retrieving the sample? Hm?]

Reddish liquid in a flask. Anderson in VO says the chemical is definitely from an alien planet, which means Spectra. [I suppose it was too much to expect something more rigorous than ‘It’s alien, therefore it’s from Spectra’ from the scriptwriters.] When Mark asks if he’s analyzed it, Anderson says it defies chemical analysis.

Princess suggests there’s a simple answer. Anderson says he’s open to any new theories or ideas. She speculates that a crack opened in the ocean floor, releasing a deadly gas. [Not as absurd as it might sound, depending upon the composition of the gas, conditions under the ocean, and other factors. The interactions of various chemicals with each other, and with temperature and water pressure, could produce interesting compounds.) Anderson agrees that it’s possible, but they’ve never come across such a toxic chemical before. All life in the ocean is in jeopardy.

And guess who calls to gloat. “Can it be that G-Force is unable to cope with the new disaster that I bring you?” A line that implies that Zoltar knows they’re stumped. [Time to review security clearances and procedures.]

Mark glares at the screen and clenches a fist. “Zoltar.”

“I have reason to laugh. Forget your cerebonic powers. Now I have the power.” [No hint that Z can hear what Mark just said.]

Zoltar continues. They’ve resisted him too long. Now the entire chain of life shall be poisoned into submission. [Oh, that is over the line. And defeats the purpose of conquering Earth. If it’s poisoned, Spectrans can’t live there, either. Or can they?] [And a brief distraction during the group shot of everyone glaring: Anderson’s even better-looking when he’s scowling. Just thought I’d mention it.] Followed by some more gloating, and the mention that life began in the sea, and shall now be ended by the sea.

Anderson tells the team that Zoltar is right. If they can’t find the source of his pollutant, Earth will be doomed. Mark is determined that they will find it.

Stock footage of Phoenix launch.

They’re over an ocean. [Still no mention of which one.] Mark urges everyone to keep their eyes peeled. They know how tricky Zoltar is. To accommodate the Gatch animation, Jason says they have to find him. [We get it, we get it.] In case we don’t get it, here’s Mark to tell us that if they don’t stop Zoltar, there won’t be a fish left.

Jason suggests they decoy Zoltar on the monitor, and get Zark to find his location. Tiny agrees: Zoltar can’t resist teasing them. Mark orders Princess to make a bogus call to base.

Zoltar appears on the monitor. Mark picks up a handheld unit, and tries to call Zark for a directional fix. A bit of gloating from Z, and Jason says their signal’s being jammed. He urges Mark to keep trying. Mark says all channels are ‘zonked.’ He can’t contact Center Neptune. Jason says they don’t have to listen to the purple creep anymore, either. [Huh? Zoltar got through just fine. When did he sign off?]

Mark orders left full rudder, and to open thrusters. There’s something ahead.

Three large cargo/tanker type ships in a line. Jason comments that they’re just tankers on their way south. [Given what happens later, perhaps we could ask why G-Force doesn’t double-check.]

Zoltar calls again, to insult them on their helplessness. All life in the sea will succumb, and he will rule Earth for Spectra.

Mark orders a dive. He wants a look at the sea bottom.

They set down on the seabed. Tiny comments that it’s nice and peaceful. And that he forgot to feed his rare goldfish.

Princess is monitoring sonar. She’s picking something up. [And if anyone has a hydrophone out there, they’re picking up the Phoenix’s sonar pings and engine noise.]

An odd-looking submarine vessel approaches.

AGH! Zark! In his Zarkstyle. His antennae are sticking straight up. “Calling G-Force. Red alert. My sensitive probes have detected a strange object shaped like a giant shark cruising near the Phoenix.” [It didn’t look that much like a shark. Or even much like a fish. The only ‘fishy’ thing about it were some fins that looked rather like pectoral fins. More shoddy taxonomy.] “My receptors indicate that it is not a shark, but a powerful weapon.” [Because we could never have figured out that it wasn’t a shark without you, Zark.] “Prepare your torpedoes, over.”

The Spectra vehicle [We all know it’s Spectra, don’t we?] stops on a ridge above the Phoenix. A nice red spot on the sonar screen tells Princess where it is. Mark orders ‘Release torpedos’, but it’s the same old missiles.

Which destroy the enemy vessel. And release brown gunk.

“We got it,” Tiny says, as debris lands around them.

Fish swim into the pollutant and dissolve. The team sees the carnage on the screen (which includes at least one sea turtle). They’re pretty upset.

And it doesn’t help that Zoltar calls. To gloat.

As the fish and other sea life die, the Phoenix goes airborne again, and comes across the three ships from before. Princess says that she can’t stand thinking of all sea creatures dying.

Under the surface, Spectra craft continue spreading the pollutant.

To ominous music, we fade to commercial break.

And come back to Zark. He pokes at his console, which starts to spark. He backs off and says that Zoltar must be using a new type of jamming device. He returns to the console, extends his legs, and wipes off one monitor. Yep, he mistook a flyspeck for a radar fix on a ‘shark’. [How did flies get into Center Neptune? Did one of Keyop’s bug collections escape?] It’s embarrassing to make a mistake like that. G-Force is depending on him to advise them. He’ll find a way ‘to patch through somehow.’ [Really, guys, it’s time to review that Quanto Tobor contract.]

Back in the Phoenix, everyone is bummed out. Jason says that even if there’s no word from Zark, they can’t sit around. They have to stop the pollution. [Someone had a thought! Yay!] Mark agrees. Now, if Jason will tell them where to find Zoltar’s base, they can do that. [Way to support your troops, Mark.]

Tiny thinks he knows. It’s the tankers below them. Mark says they’re not flying any flags, and these aren’t regular shipping lanes. [And you didn’t notice that before because…?] He’s going to take his rocket sub and go below for another look.

The command ship swoops close to the water and the nose opens up to reveal both the G2 and a small yellow submersible. [How much can they cram into that nose section, anyway? And this is the first and last time we see that little sub.] They drop the submersible.

[And nobody on the three ships even notices the Phoenix, or catches it on radar. Idiots.]

The Spectra craft are still spreading poison, and fish still die. Mark catches up, and says that they’re remote controlled from somewhere close.

When the Spectra subs return to one of the tankers, Mark follows.

Before he can contact the Phoenix and tell them Tiny was right, something in his submarine springs a leak, and red vapor fills the cabin. He decides to follow the ‘sharks’ into the tanker.

The contaminated submersibles are transported to a clean-up area, where automatic sprays clean off the poison. One of the goons monitoring the process sees an extra vessel.

Just as he realizes it’s not one of theirs, the doors from the decontamination chamber burst open, filling the room with spray. As the spray finishes, Mark leaps into the room. [And a promising ass-whupping is edited away.]

Back to the tankers on the surface.

Now to Zoltar. Who is thrilled. They have the chance to get all of G-Force. He orders the tankers to transform, and to ready the ‘gravity ray gun.’

The tankers take up their new formation and link to form the latest Spectra base. All the regular ship bits retract below deck, and Spectra bits replace them. The turret with the ‘gravity ray gun’ is helpfully emblazoned with the Spectra symbol. Two parabolic dishes, and what is most likely a gun barrel, make up the ‘gravity ray gun.’

Tiny takes the Phoenix down for a closer look.

Zoltar orders his men to fire. Beams come from all three components of the ray gun and strike the Phoenix.

The G-Force command ship is pulled towards the ship/base.

Jason orders Tiny to try anti-gravity thrust. When that doesn’t work, he orders Tiny to transmute. Which also doesn’t work. Ramjets don’t work, either. [Technobabble -- Away!]

And guess what? Yep, the Phoenix is cracking.

Zoltar is chuckling over his incipient victory. He’s been sent home in defeat too many times. Now it’s his turn.

As the Phoenix runs out of power, Zoltar orders ‘Gorko’ to pull them in. [A one-minute goon gets a name. Hmmm.] Prepare a reception for G-Force when they land.

While Zoltar is thus distracted, Mark comes up behind him and announces that he has a little party planned for him. As Zoltar reacts in surprise, Mark says he reprogrammed the gravity ray to self-destruct. [When? And why not turn the thing off?] He demands that Zoltar surrender.

The gravity beam shuts off, and the Phoenix escapes.

Zoltar steps on a floor control, and slides down a section of deck. Mark pursues him.

In the Phoenix, Tiny regains control.

The gravity ray gun turns to face the deck of the ship/base. Zoltar’s escape craft launches, as he orders his crew to abandon ship. [So unlike on Gatchaman, where minions are left to die.] The ray gun then opens fire, destroying the ship/base. As the Spectra craft breaks up, strange capsules fall into the water.

A shot of what looks like Spectra uniform parts floating in the water.

Tiny, watching this on the monitor, hopes Mark’s okay. Jason notes that Mark is always okay.

Princess’s bracelet beeps. It’s Mark. He’s in the middle of brown muck, and could use a lift. [So, the pollution that dissolves sea life doesn’t affect humans? Or maybe it is harmful. He’s swimming pretty fast, and Princess is distressed when she urges Tiny to hurry and pick him up.]

A platform is lowered, and Mark reaches it just in time.

And Zark VO: “Well, that was a close call. But Zoltar helped defeat his own evil scheme this time.” [One of the mystery capsules falls to the sea floor and opens up, releasing another chemical.] “I’d like to see the look on his face when he realizes that by blowing up his own ship, he also released the liquid to deactivate the pollutant.” [I think he knows, Zark.] “That’s what all those cylinders are full of. And the anti-toxin is already making the water safe for undersea life once again.”

In the Phoenix, Mark spots Zoltar’s ship. They have a chance at him. Jason says they can’t do it: their ship took a real pounding.

For some reason, they look as if they’ve reached some sort of rapprochement. I didn’t see a lot of conflict between them this episode.

At least they kept Zoltar from ruining their oceans, Mark observes.

“One day, we’ll catch Old Kinky,” Princess says. [Does she know something we don’t?]

And obligatory Zark close. “Well, G-Force is safely on its way home again, and” – the sentence suddenly breaks off. [Problems with the upload to the Veoh site?]

Followed by Zark standing next to a yellow robot dog. “No, 1-Rover-1, but G-Force isn’t bringing Zoltar back with them. He got away again.” Rover electronically yarps, to which Zark replies, “Yes, I know you’ve been looking forward to biting him. Maybe you’ll get a chance one day.” Close-up of Zark as he says, “Rover can bite, too. Right through a steel bar.”

Rover really starts yarping. “All right, you run down below and meet G-Force when they return.”

After Rover presumably goes off to meet the team, the robot continues, “He loves to meet the team when they come back from a successful mission.” Zark heaves a sigh and says he’d like to meet the team in person someday himself. [So I suppose he wasn’t really in that parade at the end of The Thing With 1000 Eyes?] Until then, he’ll stay up here and do his best for G-Force.

Fic Alert: How did Zoltar know when to call, and that they were unsure of how to deal with the chemical? A spy? Surveillance devices? A good guess?

Science question: What sort of chemical defies analysis? Or do they not have the equipment to analyze an alien chemical compound?

Bizarreness alert: How about the steam between Zark and Susan on what is supposed to be a children’s show?

Gatchaman plot: The Earth was nearly cooked just recently, yet seems to have recovered remarkably well. Which makes the death and dissolution of the fish in a section of ocean noteworthy. Brown gunk fills the water.

The ISO analyzes the brown gunk, and finds it is radioactive cellulose PCB. While Dr. Nambu and the team are discussing what to do, Berg Katse calls to demand that they surrender to Galactor. He names the coordinates and radio frequency they should use to contact him. If the SNT doesn’t surrender, Galactor will poison even more of the ocean.

When the team arrives on the scene, Ken calls Galactor. Their surrender is to be a sham, to find the base. A Galactor submarine approaches, and Joe nails it with a Bird Missile. Berg Katse tells them that he’ll continue poisoning the oceans, since they broke their end of the bargain.

So Ken takes the mini-sub out to follow other submarine mecha, confirming that the tankers seen earlier belong to Galactor. From this point, the BotP episode does follow the original plot (more or less). What the BotP episode doesn’t show is bad guys being dissolved by their own chemical weapon. There was a countermeasure aboard the base, which was released when it was destroyed.
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