Episode Review: 'The Fiery Lava Giant' by UnpublishedWriter
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Author's Chapter Notes:
Only rated 13+ because of the idiotic flirting between Zark and Susan.
The Fiery Lava Giant
Battle of the Planets, Episode Thirteen
Gatchaman Episode #25, The Magma Giant, Emperor of Hell
DVD and Veoh episode #22

Review/Summary: The much-used establishing shot, and Zark VO: “Deep down beneath the sea here at Center Neptune, all reports indicate that things are under control throughout the galaxy tonight.” [Presumably, ‘tonight’ refers to that part of Earth where Center Neptune is located. And my cat is trying to fit onto what little of my lap is left by the laptop computer. Guess which is less annoying.]

Now Zark (in his Zarkstyle), with Rover beside him. “Or, is it morning? I’m never certain, because I’m at the controls 24 hours a day. It always looks the same down here,” he says, as he floats over to his console [where we can only presume there are no clocks or other timepieces.] “The only action I get is a short flight like that, now and again.” As he continues, Rover gets onto all fours and whirls his tail to fly over. “And the only company I have is 1-Rover-1. I keep constant check on all planets of the Intergalactic Federation, large or small.” [All planets? Really? Either you have great capacity, or there aren’t many planets. And repeat after me: ‘Intergalactic is not synonymous with interstellar.’] “Some are only a few hundred miles in diameter, like the tiny but livable asteroid I’m contacting now.” [Not habitable at that size. And my cat left my lap.]

And Gatchaman footage. Of a smoking volcano and the surrounding countryside. [This is no asteroid. They are neither geologically active nor large enough to hold atmosphere.]

Zark continues talking [unfortunately]. “It was discovered by space explorers seeking radio emanation sources in a distant galaxy.” [As the scene shifts to some sort of facility under construction.] “They named it ‘Space Island,’ and later the tiny globe was colonized. Today, we have geothermal engineers working there to harness the cosmic energy in the asteroid’s volcanic core and make it a refueling station for spaceflights.” [Again, the misuse of ‘galaxy’ to mean ‘solar system’. And the hot center of a planet does not contain ‘cosmic energy.’ More technobabble.] “Everything seems peaceful and in order there.”

Scene shifts to wilderness area. “I’ll take a look around the countryside.” [So is this Zark’s POV as the camera pans around, and then up a mountain carved with human faces?] “This is Monument Mountain. One of the colonists sculpted these faces in honor of the men who discovered Space Island. He spent the last years of his life on this great work, and now his daughter, Amelia, follows in his footsteps. Amelia has dedicated her life to completing the great work her father started.” [We get it, we get it!!!] And more about how hard she works, and, since her father passed away, her desire to finish. [Come on, people! Was it necessary to fill every freaking second of the past couple of minutes with Zark?] “Must be lonely work on the side of a mountain. Somewhat like mine, at my controls.” [And now he makes it all about himself. Again.]

Now Amelia gets some lines. For a young woman, she sounds old enough to be her mother. She wonders what’s causing all those new cracks in the mountain. [Something is up. As usual.] She bids the carving farewell, promising to be back the next day. As she drives away, there’s a significant close-up of one face, and the eye glows. [Which means that Spectra is up to no good again. No suspense, here.]

Now to an office, where a man in a suit looks out at the nearby volcano. In the 12 years he’s been on this asteroid, he’s never seen the volcano so active. [He sounds like a less dorky version of Zark.] Another tells him that a pool of hot lava is building up in the crater. [I’m no volcanologist, but I don’t think that’s how volcanism works. One more of many missed opportunities to provide meaningful educational content.] The first man orders the plant closed and an immediate evacuation.

Cut to the Luminous One. “Very well, Zoltar. Do not fail this time. Destroy the geothermal complex and conquer Space Island. We must have it as a base for attacks against Earth from within their own alliance.” [Cat’s back.] Zoltar acknowledges the order. [And I see a fingernail on the gloved hand reaching for the Big Red Button.]

The bearded head from before retracts into the mountainside. [I think we now know the origin of the cracks Amelia mentioned.]

Then the volcano erupts. From out of this mess rises a magma-covered giant, reaching dramatically skyward. Another Godzilla-sized Spectra mecha. It looks like – (‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ joke deleted). It’s naked, but there are no bits showing. Just lava dripping from head to foot. It stomps towards the geothermal complex and –

Scene edited to avoid giving moral guardians conniptions.

A tape recorder on a table. It’s a recording of a report from Space Island. A lava giant has destroyed the geothermal facility.

G-Force and Anderson listen to the tape. When it finishes, Anderson presses some sort of control and records his own contribution: “Center Neptune Security Report 1250. Top priority. At 1033 from Space Island Energy Plant, terminated at 1800 hours.” [Had to go. Working around the cat made me do something to my computer. Now I’m back.]

Mark asks what sort of giants could be on Space Island. [Off the top of my head, MECHANICAL GIANTS FROM SPECTRA! Really, people.]

Jason suggests the carvings on Monument Mountain. Maybe the artist is a Spectra agent. [And her father, too? He started the work.]

Princess says Amelia’s an old friend, and she knows her better than that. [And nobody knows this about Amelia?]

For the safety of the people on Space Island, Jason wants to bring her in for questioning. The rest of the team agrees. [Hard to tell if Princess agrees, since all voices are in unison.]

Mark requests security clearance to go to Space Island, which Anderson grants.

This time, we have some footage of the team running down a tunnel, then leaping up to board the Phoenix. [No ladders?] Slightly different launch, but they’re soon in space.

Sandy Frank space travel stock footage. And Zark has to tell us all about how G-Force broke free of Earth’s gravity and are now hurtling through space towards Space Island. Oh, they pass Jupiter and then Mars. [Anyone care to plot that course and post it for the rest of us?] Then they’re out of the Milky Way and going far beyond. [Wait, did they just use ‘galaxy’ properly? Oh, my.]

And he goes on about how they’ve passed the speed of light and entered time warp, where time and space are meaningless: a century can pass in a second, and a billion miles are no more than a footstep. [I don’t think we want to lose a century or two.]

And now they’re at Space Island and looking it over. He sounds really excited as he wishes them good hunting.

On the Phoenix bridge, ruin and wreckage fill their forward screens. Princess comments on how terrible it is, and Mark is thankful everyone got out. He orders Tiny down for a closer look, and we see more damaged buildings than at any power plant.

They find giant footprints, which lead up to the volcano, and follow. At the crater, Mark orders descent. As they near the lava, the temperature gauge nears the red, and Princess reports their hull temperature is rising. Then she says something about the cooling system, and that they’re at maximum heat stress.

Near the bottom, they find a tunnel entrance. Mark asks Tiny its heading, and he replies, “South.” Which is the direction of Monument Mountain and Amelia. Tiny says that Jason was right about Amelia’s involvement. [Rather jumping to conclusions, aren’t we? A kangaroo court would be embarrassed by that logic.]

The lava churns. Thinking the volcano is about to erupt, Mark orders them out of there. Below, the lava giant emerges from the ultimate hot bath. An edited game of tag follows, ending with the Phoenix spinning towards the water and the giant triumphant on shore.

Next, we see the Phoenix, steam rising from its hull, just clear of the water on some rocks. G-Force is in the water. Tiny says they now know where the giant came from, and Princess insists that Amelia is merely an artist, not a spy from Spectra. [Since this is a children’s show, and not adult fare, we know that Princess is correct about her friend.]

Mark says they all saw the face on that giant, and they have to find Amelia for questioning. (Meanwhile, the giant’s head returns to its place on the mountain.)

Commercial break. [Cat was using me for a bed. Now getting into trouble in another room.]

And then 1-Rover-1 sitting and yarping in Zark’s ready room. He apparently awakens Zark, who mistakes his barking for an emergency alert. [Head bangs wall.] Zark says he must have accidentally pushed his ‘off’ button when he sat down. [Since when does the main AI for galaxy security have an ‘off’ button?]

Susan calls. She sounds as sexy as ever. Zark sounds less – animated – than he did the previous episode. And then it gets gushy. Oh, I might as well transcribe this. Share the horror.


Zark: “Center Neptune control.” Very businesslike tone.

Susan: “7-Zark-7”

Zark: “Oh, hello, Susan. How are you?”

Susan: “I’m worried about how you are.”

Zark: (Creepy giggle) “Really?” [Which also sounds creepy.] “Well, it’s nice of you to be concerned, but I’m always in factory-fresh working order.” [You’re a self-centered hypochondriac!]

Susan: “But, you only get a 10-second oil break, and you’ve been gone 30 seconds.”

Zark: “Oh, my! I guess I did push my ‘off’ button.” [Is this going where I think it’s going? Please, no. PLEASE.]

Susan: “I’ll be happy to turn you on, Zark.” [It did. Remember: Janet Waldo now works with Focus on the Family.]

Zark: (Rapidly cycling from flirtatious to embarrassed to recovering his composure.) “Oh, you do. I mean, you have. Thank you, Susan, I’ll get back on the job.

“Someday, I’ve just got to meet her. I hear her calibrations are a perfect 38-24-36.” [What can I say?]

Now Zark’s in his transport tube, heading down to his nerve center. He says he has to get his mind back on G-Force and find out how they’re doing on Space Island.

Meanwhile, on Space Island, Amelia has returned to Monument Mountain. She climbs up [by herself, with no climbing gear except a rope and her own muscles].

Jason spots her, and identifies the head as that of the giant. He and Mark fly up, grab her, and enter a tunnel in the figure’s mouth. Princess and Keyop follow.

Jason, one hand over Amelia’s mouth, tells her they know she sculpted the giant’s head. Where is the giant?

Stating the obvious, Princess asks him how Amelia can answer if he has his hand over her mouth.

Amelia doesn’t know what Jason’s crazy mixed-up problem is, but if he wants to find a giant, he can climb a beanstalk. [I like her.]

Jason apologizes for overreacting, but insists that she must know something, since she carved its face. [Not necessarily. And since when does the Condor give up that easily?]

And that makes her some kind of criminal? She carved the head of a great man, not a giant. [See why I like her?]

Mark tells her that somehow the head she sculpted is that of the fiery giant. They have to investigate.

And they all head down the tunnel.

They pass from a rocky tunnel to a metal tunnel, and end up at the Spectra base. There’s a lava pit right in the middle, guarded by soldiers wearing protective masks.

Jason: “They’re boiling up an artificial volcanic eruption.”

Mark makes a lame joke about the giant’s ‘hot lava baths.’

Princess is ‘I told you so.’

[Animator’s mistake in the long shot: instead of Amelia, we see Tiny.]

And now for the Luminous One. He’s pleased: Zoltar destroyed the energy plant. Now, go destroy G-Force.

Back to the base. A pair of giant grippers deploy in the metal tunnel. A conveyor brings the giant carved head. G-Force (carrying Amelia) get out of the way and cling to the upper walls as the head passes by. Afterwards, they resume their hiding place.

The grippers lower the head into the lava, where it fuses to the lava giant’s body. Amelia now understands why Jason was suspicious of her.

As the giant stomps out through another tunnel, Princess tells Mark they have to stop it before it destroys everything. Mark calls Tiny for a pickup. He flies down the tunnel left by the head.

Mark asks if the Phoenix is battle-ready. Tiny says Zark supervised a complete overhaul. [Where did this happen? And how? Tiny and a toolkit?]

They shoot their way out with missiles, releasing a deluge of water from above. [Yep, the base was under water. Not a mention of that until now.] Which makes it a bit tough to fly out, but they manage it. [This means that the base was flooded. People would have drowned.]

Lava is flowing towards a town or city, and the giant is wading along without trouble.

Zoltar spots the Phoenix. He thinks that G-Force is too eager for battle, and orders the giant to ignore the town to attack them.

G-Force deploys in their individual vehicles. They got cool weapons just a few episodes ago, but don’t use them. Instead, they buzz and tease the giant.

Zoltar orders the giant to attack them one by one.

Ah: the plan is to lure the giant into the ocean, and let the water cool its magma shell.

And damned if the stupid thing doesn’t follow them right into the sea. The magma immediately cools, hardens, and cracks off the legs. Mark buzzes it until it stumbles onto all fours and the rest of its coating falls away, revealing the underskeleton.

Space Island is safe.

At the base of Monument Mountain, Princess comments that Amelia has quite a repair job ahead of her. Amelia says her father spent years sculpting those figures, and that she’ll carry on. She’ll just begin at the beginning again. Those men were giants, all of them.

Final scene is her resuming her lonely work.

It should be, but we have Zark in voice-over. He really admires Amelia’s dedication, and he thinks G-Force learned something about justice on this trip. Jason now knows that all people are innocent until proven guilty. [Make it stop. Please make it stop.]

Then Zark and Rover. The team, Zark says, is passing Canis Major, and he’s letting Rover guide them the rest of the way. Rover has a real knack for getting them past Sirius, the Dog Star. [Groan.] It’s the brightest star in the sky, but right now, the brightest star is G-Force. [Yeah, there was more, but who needs it?] Zark salutes the team, then Rover salutes. Yep, the robot dog stands up on its hind legs and puts one front leg over its chest.

Fic Alert: When did Princess meet Amelia and become friends with her?

Science question: The lava-covered body of the giant itself. How does that work?

Also: a geologically-active, habitable, asteroid? I’ve read a few popular science books, and something as small as an asteroid can’t be either geologically active, or habitable.

Bizarreness alert: Nobody notices when one of the heads goes missing? And there are no signs that the darn thing is ever moved.

Gatchaman plot: In Ameris, the Bluestone National Park is justly famous for many natural features, including a cliff carved with the faces of several Presidents. Just recently, the face of Jesus Christ has been added [thus showing that the Japanese didn’t understand our whole ‘separation of church and state’ thing, at least in the 1970s]. The carvings are the work of three generations of one family. Which is now represented by one young woman, working without power tools.

Meanwhile, not far away, scientists at an ISO facility near a volcano have finished working on a process for deriving fresh air from poisonous gases. They plan to lay pipe to provide clean air to hospitals and other places afflicted by polluted air.

Galactor can’t have that, and they dispatch a magma-covered mecha to destroy the facility.

The Science Ninja Team are dispatched to investigate. In their first encounter with the giant, it almost gets them, but can’t follow them into the ocean. Joe recognizes the head as the Christ on the mountain. When they go there, Joe treats the sculptor as if she’s a Galactor agent. His comrades calm him down, and they and the young woman go down the tunnel to the Galactor base.

The base is under a lake whose bottom has been replaced by a giant lens to focus the sun’s rays and provide solar power to the giant. Among the scenes that are edited are the SNT dealing with Galactor minions. After that, the BotP episode largely follows the original, with the team leading the giant into the water.

No Zark, no homilies. Just the young woman resuming her work.
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