Episode Review: 'A Whale Joins G-Force' by UnpublishedWriter
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A Whale Joins G-Force
Battle of the Planets, Episode Fifteen
Gatchaman Episode #18, Revenge! The Whale Operation
DVD and Veoh episode #17


Review/Summary: Establishing shot of Center Neptune. Zark VO: “On a calm, peaceful night like this, things can be very pleasant down here, deep beneath the waves, at Center Neptune. Even though we have the responsibility of keeping a watchful eye on our entire galaxy.” [They aren’t that deep. It’s obvious the whole place is just under the surface, to judge by the light from the sun and the fake crescent-shaped island attached to the top of the base.]

Zark descending in his [overlong] tube. “Just when I thought I could take a short oil break, my long-range probes flashed an emergency alert. I should know by now: there’s always something going on out there in space.”

And suddenly, he’s in the control room and wearing his Zarkstyle. A very poor transition. And he’s still talking. “This time, the alert seems to indicate something is heading toward Bay City, right here on Earth.” [Where is Bay City? United States? Canada? Australia?]

He floats over to his favorite panel, below the four-screens-which-can-become-one. “Bay City is the main storage depot for marine fuel, and it’s also in the path of migrating whales.” [Anyone want to explain that? Unless it’s on an island in the ocean, in the middle of migration routes, it’s not in any danger from whales (nor are they in danger from it).] “The Intergalactic Early Warning System has never made a mistake. I’m afraid it isn’t just an ordinary herd of whales my probes are picking up. I’ll switch on the long-range video satellite and take a closer look. With Zoltar always out there somewhere, we can’t be too careful.” [Glad to know that something isn’t fuddled by bugs, dirt, and fog. But why would an ‘intergalactic’ system be trained on Earth?]

Wherever Bay City is, it’s night time. Zark notes that it looks peaceful, and the city’s lights on the water look very romantic, but he’s suspicious.

And he’s right to be. A large shape is visible underwater, and the music’s gotten ominous. Zark realizes that something’s wrong, and alerts Bay City to evacuate. [Can’t traumatize the kiddies. Even though it’s already too late to get anyone out of danger.]

We get a brief glimpse of what looks like a demonic whale-face, then a highly edited attack scene. One explosion, a quick shot of the ‘whale’ leaping, then swimming under a wrecked suspension bridge.

To the skies, where Mark’s plane comes into view. Zark says he’s flying a solo reconnaissance mission. Communications with Bay City have been suddenly cut off. [Gee, I wonder why?] Zark finds a Condition Critical in the harbor.

Another explosion, which gets Mark’s attention. While he’s commenting on the damage, Zark calls and tells him that a giant whale caused the explosions at the refinery. Mark says that whales don’t attack refineries. But Zark confirmed it, and now he orders Mark to join the rest of G-Force.

Transmutation sequence. Hope nobody ever gets a good look at Mark’s plane, or they could figure out G1’s identity.

Looks like they edited the pick-up scene, since we cut right to Keyop exiting his buggy. Jason is picked up, and Mark docks.

Keyop worries about shooting whales. Mark assures him that won’t happen as long as he’s in charge. [And it’s a good thing for you that whales aren’t responsible for the attack, or you’d have to eat those words.] Jason and Princess point out that witnesses saw the whale attack.

The Phoenix flies over the ocean until it comes across a pod of migrating whales. Mark notes they’re on their way to their feeding grounds in the Arctic. They’re migrating from their feeding and calving sanctuary with their new young ones. [Oops, another fact slipped in.]

The whales are acting normally. [I’m not sure of the species, but they look like sperm whales, or a similar species.] Mark has Tiny drop down for a closer look. Jason points out that it’s a big ocean, and Mark says that whales play a vital ecological role in it. [Plot point!]

Now Zark VO, as he hopes that G-Force can exonerate the whales of responsibility for the attack. He continues on with how whales are intelligent, and are actually mammals and capable of feeling.

On the Phoenix viewscreen, a whale mecha twice or thrice the size of any one whale appears on the horizon. As the command ship closes, the mecha fires missiles and flees. G-Force pursues.

The mecha heads right for the whale pod. It rams right through, killing the animals. [Wait: they died? That’s against the rules of 1970's children’s television! Another episode that violates the rules. Oh, how the memos must have flown.]

A whale calf swims to one of the dead whales and nudges it.

The team is ready follow the mecha and take it apart. Just as Mark gives the order to dive, Princess spots a new danger for the calf. Sharks. That bear a striking resemblance to killer whales. [And for some reason, the scriptwriters change the predators from killer whales to sharks. Even though the newcomers are clearly orcas by their body shape and markings.]

Keyop insists they have to do something for the baby whale. Jason tells him they can’t let the monster get away. Keyop persists, and Jason reminds him the whole Earth depends on them. Which answer doesn’t satisfy the boy in the slightest, and he goes out to rescue the orphaned calf.

The calf is hauling ass as the ‘sharks’ close in. Keyop interferes, knocking the ‘sharks’ about and even netting a number of them. In a case of bad vehicle design, he has to open up his buggy so he can hold onto the net. A ‘shark’ jumps for him, and is deflected by a shot from the Phoenix.

Phoenix underwater. Zark in VO, relieved that the whales weren’t responsible for the events in Bay City. (Close-up of the whale calf and Keyop in the ‘bubble’ on top of the Phoenix, with a little water so the calf can float.) Zark tells us that Keyop named the calf ‘Nambu’. [Was that a deliberate Gatchaman joke? Or did the writers want to suggest the famous Shamu of Sea World? Both?] Anderson has summoned them to Center Neptune for a briefing.

Anderson tells the team that every whale in the ocean is threatened with extinction. Spectra is manipulating the sea monsters to interfere with the ocean ecosystem. [They didn’t do so well on their last effort, and they were using poison. When at first you don’t succeed, go to the hard way?] Zark communicated with Nambu on the interspecies translator, and the little whale has volunteered to help them. [Is Nambu even old enough to make that sort of decision? He’s a baby.]

Mark points out that Nambu is just a baby, but Anderson assures him that the calf understands what’s happening, and that other whales are depending on him. Nambu’s been fitted with a tracking device, and is already following one of the sea monsters.

Mark is worried. What chance does such a youngster have in the ocean, let alone against a monster? Anderson reminds him that what happened to Nambu’s parents could happen to other whales. Keyop, of course, is ready to help the little guy. And that, Anderson says, is what they’re going to do.

The mecha and Nambu are heading for the Arctic, according to the homing device.

G-Force heads out. They arrive in the Arctic not long afterwards.

Commercial break.

And – Zark. He’s been tracking Nambu, and now the signal seems to have stopped moving on his monitor. Yes, he wipes off a monitor, and says that the motionless signal was just a blob of dust. [Face palm. Repeat as needed.]

He hopes he can get a fix on Nambu. Then he continues on about how similar whales are to humans, as they live in families, play together, and take care of each other.

Oh, dear. Nambu’s heading into an icy strait. If he gets trapped beneath the ice, he won’t be able to surface for air.

Back to the Phoenix in flight. The team are just as worried. Nambu is circling, as if he’s looking for an opening in the ice. Or found the Spectra base.

Jason says he has something on his sonar. [Sonar? Why not radar?]

They come upon a small, isolated building. Mark orders Tiny to land. He and Jason will check things out.

Mark and Jason make their way to the ice-coated building. It looks abandoned, but a radar dish turns on the roof. Figuring Zoltar’s men are inside, the pair rush the door. [Now would be a good time to call and find out about the place. You know, confirm that it shouldn’t be there, or occupied, or whatever.]

Inside wait two armed men.

Mark and Jason enter. The Spectra agents draw their weapons, but not quickly enough. A couple of feather darts disarm them. A Spectra mask, with a hole between the eyes, and a spent cartridge, hits the floor. [Bit of editing here, to avoid admitting that someone was just killed.] Jason comments that the two agents left quickly once they lost their guns. This is just a tracking station, not the main base. [Bad move, letting them get away. They could alert the other Spectrans to G-Force’s arrival.]

Mark calls the Phoenix and reports what just happened. For some reason, this is the cue for Princess and Keyop to join him. Tiny resigns himself to sitting and waiting.

Meanwhile, Nambu has followed the mecha to the actual base, and surfaced in the docking bay. Whale mecha are lined up, waiting to be loaded.

A Spectra captain orders the robot crabs to load atomic torpedoes into the whale mechas.

Another prize-winner in the Spectra fashion division, is this fellow. He wears a long purple coat, brown, shako-type headgear (with a feather), and a green mask with a Joker grin that would give anyone bad dreams.

Back to the radar station. Princess crouches in the foreground with a box-shaped device. Mark asks if it will work.

She opens the device, revealing a reticulated screen. A quick adjustment of some controls, and she reports that they’re right over Nambu. [Okay, that puts a large building directly on top of sea ice. Not a good idea. Unless you want to argue that Nambu swam through some sort of flooded tunnel to a cavern.]

Jason cuts a section out of the floor, and Keyop holds up what looks like a cross between a bomb and a drill, chirruping, “Dig a hole.” He sticks it into the hole Jason drilled, as G3 warns him to stand back. The ‘rocket drill’ kicks up a lot of dirt. [Which means Nambu had to have found an underwater tunnel.]

Which it does. Right onto Keyop’s head.

Then it breaks through, apparently without alerting anyone in the base. G-Force drop down to pay a visit.

Skulldoon (sp?) is the Spectra captain’s name. He reports that the subs are loaded and ready to attack migrating whales. Zoltar says that there will soon be no more whales in Earth’s oceans. [So, Spectra has been attacking whales all along?]

Mark asks Princess for the ‘electronic darts.’ She passes them out.

To fill up time in the Gatch footage, Mark tells them to do this for Nambu and all the whales of the ocean. Then they set to work.

The members of G-Force sneak and rush through the docking area, setting the darts everywhere. I think we can presume they’re more than darts.

Keyop sets one in a console near a soldier. As the man turns to attend to another task, Keyop takes cover, but a dart falls out of his hand and rolls into view. Just as the soldier bends to pick up the dart, Nambu splashes in the water.

The soldier, pistol drawn, goes to the edge of the docking area. When he sees Nambu, he sneers, “Just a dumb whale.” As he turns away, an angry Keyop brips that Nambu isn’t dumb. He turns back, and spots the tracking device on the whale calf’s forehead. Before he can shoot, Keyop throws his bolos. The goon’s shots go wild.

Mark and the others hear. So do Skulldoon and Zoltar. Guards come running.

Keyop tries to get Nambu to leave. It’s too dangerous to stay. The whale isn’t listening.

Edited fight scene. Mark asks Keyop for a little help, but the boy insists on trying to save Nambu. Jason says none of them will get out unless they get a move on.

Significant close-ups of the darts they’ve planted.

Skulldoon doesn’t know how G-Force found the base, but they can’t stop what’s planned. Zoltar orders him to start the ‘Great Whale Hunt’ immediately. When the captain says it shall be done, Zoltar tells him that it had better be, or he’ll be wearing a real skeleton face. [Lines like that are a lot scarier than some of the original concepts the Standards and Practices people cut. Really.]

The clocks are ticking. Keyop won’t leave Nambu, and finally dives into the water. The rest of the team face Spectra soldiers.

Reluctantly, Mark orders a retreat to the Phoenix. [What else can he do at this point? Really? Follow Keyop?]

Skulldoon thinks G-Force has been beaten, and orders the attack to begin. Soon, Earth’s oceans will be theirs.

At the surface, the Phoenix takes off. No sign of Keyop or Nambu. Princess says they can’t leave either one behind.

The whale mechas are on the move.

Jason wants to find Keyop and Nambu. Mark says they’re attacking the sea monsters. [Under the circumstances, the right decision. Their duty is to protect the Earth. They can’t ignore that, no matter how they feel.]

For some reason, the Phoenix’s approach leads Skulldoon to order everyone to abandon their mechas. Not so much as a spitball is fired.

The mechas dive, then explode. [Now we know why the scriptwriters made Skulldoon chicken out.] The darts finally went off. Those pencil-sized bombs destroy the Spectran machines.

And the scriptwriters felt obliged to have Zark fretting about Keyop and Nambu in voice-over. Did they think the audience had forgotten?

Besides, G-Force expresses the same concerns in the next minute.

Nambu and Keyop surface not far away. Once he reaches the shore, Keyop removes the tracking device from the whale. Nambu accidentally splashes Keyop while swimming away. Keyop calls G-Force, to their delight.

And more Zark voice-over, this time praising G-Force and saying that even robots can take pleasure in a job well done.

As if that weren’t enough Zark, we have Zark and Rover on the screen. Rover yarps, and Zark admits that it was a shame that Keyop and Nambu had to part. He knows how he’d feel if he and Rover had to break up. [Agh! Unfortunate implication! Pass the brain bleach.] But Nambu needs room: he’ll be a huge whale some day, and how could Keyop care for him? Zark is certain they’ll meet again, and Nambu will always be a loyal member of G-Force.

[Is anyone as bothered by the end-of-episode salutes as I am? There’s another unfortunate implication to those. They’re not as ‘cute’ as the scriptwriters seemed to think.]

Fic Alert: Layout of the Early Warning System. How does it work? What regulations control its use? Do the various planets monitor themselves and send data to the EWS? Or does Zark get to spy on entire planets? Privacy and other issues galore.

Interspecies translator? That raises some interesting issues. Could Spectra be charged with attempted genocide against whales? Is it murder when a carnivore kills and eats its prey? What animal species can communicate using this device?

Is the whale calf old enough to understand?

Science question: Interspecies translator?
Translation between human languages is hard enough. How would that work?

How would a ‘rocket drill’ actually function?

Some whale species are predators. Others eat krill and plankton. Losing them all could be a serious blow to the oceanic ecosystem, but would that be enough to destroy it?

Bizarreness alert: Letting two enemy agents leave, rather than capturing and confining them is pretty odd.

If Spectra intended to attack whales, then why attack the refinery at Bay City? No mention of ‘framing’ whales for the attacks, so that people would hunt them down.

Gatchaman plot: Utoland City’s waterfront areas are attacked by what looks like a large whale. Ships, suspension bridges, and a petrochemical plant are destroyed. The Science Ninja Team is dispatched to investigate.

The team figure that it must be a submarine disguised as a whale.

When they come upon the whale pod, they note that the cetaceans are swimming towards something. Figuring that the whales are following some sort of signal, the team follows. They spot the whale mecha, and pursue it.

The massacre of the pod occurs, leaving one orphaned calf as a survivor. Just before the team can follow the mecha, killer whales show up.

Jinpei rushes out to help the calf, after an argument with Joe (who he accuses of being a heartless jerk who doesn’t understand what it’s like to be an orphan). Instead of following the whale mecha, the SNT aid Jinpei. It’s Joe who shoots the killer whale that almost gets Jinpei.

Dr. Nambu is really angry at them for ditching the mission to rescue the whale calf. Whale submarines have attacked ships and ports all over the world. He released the baby whale, with a tracking device attached, and they’ll follow it.

The calf has entered rivers under northern ice. Hundreds of miles of empty, where Galactor can hide.

When they reach the Arctic and check out the supposedly-abandoned radar station, they find two Galactor agents who pretend to be lost forest rangers who accidentally turned on the radar. It’s Joe who’s suspicious, and has his darts ready when the men turn out to be Galactor. Both men die. When the phone rings, Ken and Joe see an opportunity to trace the calls.

Jun and Jinpei are summoned with the proper equipment.

The base below receives a phone call, which is the SNT setting up the trace. When it comes through, their ‘mole machine’ digs a tunnel down to the base.

They realize an operation is under way, and prepare to set time bombs. The bombs will explode in ten minutes. That means they have five minutes to set them.

When Jinpei is startled and drops his bomb, the calf distracts the nearest guard. The fight starts as depicted, and isn’t edited to death.

Berg Katse orders the base commander to sortie the whale submarines immediately. Destroy the world’s seaports.

When Ken refuses to leave him, Jinpei jumps into the water with the whale calf. Reluctantly, Ken and the others leave.

Once they get into the air, Ken orders Ryu to get close to the whale mechas. He wants to lure them away from the base before they explode. In case Jinpei is still in the base.

The mechas explode, and the BotP version follows the Gatch from here. Except for the Zark bits.

(Gatchaman was perfectly willing to end episodes with powerful images. For some reason, this was not acceptable to the makers of Battle of the Planets. They always ended with Zark and his blather. Either they did not trust their audience to understand, or they felt that it had to be this way to protect the target audience from emotional upset.)
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