Episode Review: 'The Ghostly Grasshopper' by UnpublishedWriter
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The Ghostly Grasshopper
Battle of the Planets, Episode Twenty-Two
Gatchaman Episode #30, Kamisoral, the Guillotine Iron Beast
DVD and Veoh episode #25

Review/Summary: Establishing shot of Center Neptune, and Zark in VO: “Our primary duty, here at Center Neptune, is to monitor and detect any activity by alien invaders from outer space in their never-ending attempts to conquer Earth and its resources.”

And we have Zark at his usual console. “Uh-oh: there’s something mighty disturbing coming at us right now. But what is it? My first read-out indicates a destructive storm.” He pokes at it a couple of times. “7-Zark-7 to Weather Control. Red Alert. A typhoon-like storm is approaching.” [Since when does Weather Control need to be warned of approaching storms?] My sensors indicate its velocity is four times greater than any ever recorded. Evacuate all personnel at Water Storage Unit #5.” [I’ll accept that fudge. It’s not like the scriptwriters had a way to find those numbers right away – and even then, they could end up watching a real-life storm beat the old record just before the episode aired.] He requests that they provide data via ‘magnacomp.’

He comments that it’s sometimes difficult to tell if suspicious weather patterns are natural or artificial. He’s interrupted by 1-Rover-1 yarping its mechanical heart out. Seems Rover likes to run out into the rain and come back in covered in rust. [They’re under water. When does Rover get to play in the rain? Cookies.]

As he was saying, he has to play it safe. The current storm could be caused by aliens. He’s receiving video even now.

The destruction has been severe in the vicinity of Cosmic City. [‘Cosmic City’? Sounds like a theme park.]

Gatchaman animation. Of a desert. Zark in VO tells us the world’s largest water reserve center is nearby. [So the desert is what’s left of Cosmic City?]

As the scene shifts to a broken dam, Zark tells us the center provides water desalination and storage to 1/20th of the world’s population. [Anyone care to do the math and thus figure out the most likely location of Cosmic City?] The situation will be critical if it’s hit. (So that means it hasn’t struck yet? Or has it? What’s happening and where is it happening?)

[Really, all that dry desert is not consistent with what Zark is saying. The scriptwriters must have been desperate.]

And now we have some place that does look like some sort of facility with storage tanks and smokestacks. Is this the ‘Cosmic City’ previously mentioned?

Sharp-sounding slashes, and water-pipes are cleanly cut, draining of their contents. Explosions destroy others.

Cut to Zoltar looking at a screen. Apparently, Spectra uses some cut-rate electronics, because there’s a lot of wavy lines before the screen clears and shows the Captain of the Week.

Who is sort of greenish or bluish, with a black widow’s peak painted on his head, a yellow-lined black cape with upright collar, reddish pectorals, and what looks like a pink abdomen.

“Dahmbo,” Zoltar says, “you are not disappointing me. The devastation is beautiful
to see, even though the attack is not yet completed. Your robot people are good.”

“Will we have our independence, as you promised?” Dahmbo asks.

“If the attack succeeds.” As a firestorm rages, “When Earth surrenders, your robots shall be free.”

[I would be motivated to succeed, under those circumstances. How about you?]

Now Mark’s looking at ranks of rockets. We can’t see his face, but hear his voice as he says (or thinks) that these weather-control missiles were ready to launch and might have deflected the storm. Why weren’t they used? [Ooh, thought-provoking lines! My heart quickens with anticipation.]

Anderson calls him. Get everyone aboard the Phoenix. Instructions will follow. Mark acknowledges.

And now for the transmutation of Mark in his plane.

Cut to aboard the Phoenix. Anderson, on the monitor, says that Zark has no leads, but he himself is convinced the catastrophe was man-made. When Mark asks why the missiles weren’t used, Anderson says they were activated, but electrical interference in the storm’s eye made their use impossible. That’s why he’s sending them to Sector D-10. He needs evidence that the storm was artificial.

Mark notes that D-10 is a long way from the storm site. Anderson tells him that Zark detected unusual activity in the area. He suspects that Zoltar is somewhere around.

An indeterminate period of time later, and Zark calls. He has the location of the unusual activity pinpointed on their radar. Princess looks at the data, and says they’re right in the middle of it.

Everyone looks out the front. A translucent, pale shape appears. It looks sort of like an insect.

Mark figures they’re safer above it. Tiny takes the Phoenix up.

Dahmbo, watching on his monitor, is determined to give them a chase they’ll never forget.

It isn’t a chase: it’s a game of chicken. I can’t tell who blinks first, but the alien ship just misses the Phoenix (or vice versa). The G-Force command ship shakes badly. Princess reports the stress factor gauge is pushing tolerance.

A quick shot of the ship’s tail. All three upper fins (including the rudder of Mark’s plane) are badly cracked.

Then Tiny says they’re flying upside-down. Oh, sh*@.

He gets them straightened out just long enough for the enemy to knock them around again. And again.

And Dahmbo is sitting in his/its chair, arms and legs crossed, as if this is all an annoying waste of time, rather than a battle.

Mark fires missiles. Which are all cut in two. Cleanly.

One last buzz by the enemy, and the Phoenix is going down.

It hits the water and sinks like a stone. Mark says they’re limping home. The ship needs a major overhaul.

At Center Neptune, Anderson says that what they’ve told him points to Zoltar or one of his henchmen. Run the video of the firestorm again.

Mark does, and Anderson orders him to stop it when the pipes are cut. According to Anderson, in the next few frames, they will see what looks like a whirlwind. It has a destructive force beyond that of a regular storm. That ghostly shape they reported must be the key.

What now? Mark wants to know.

They need a new generation of weather-control missiles to replace the ones immobilized earlier. Professor Kenton at Weather Control has exactly what they’re looking for. He’s also the most stubborn man on Earth. Then Anderson leaves, presumably to speak to Kenton.

Cut to a control room, with technicians looking at monitors.

A heavy-set man, apparently Kenton, says, “Anderson, I’m a busy man. Let’s not go over old ground.”

Anderson starts to say he’ll only take as long as he needs to convince Kenton, but the other says his rocket is only in the experimental stage. [Which means that he doesn’t have very many. And there may be other problems with them.]

When Anderson says this is the perfect test, Kenton replies that he won’t let anyone tell him what to do. Anderson’s putting on a show for the press. [What press? Those guys standing around the background?]

Rather calmly, Anderson says Kenton knows better than that. A meeting between department heads is hardly the time to hold a press conference. [So, Chief of Security is the title of a department head?] They’re old friends. Can’t they work this out without an audience?

Kenton says his views are on the record. And he’s rather skeptical of the claim that the storm was artificial.

It turns out that Zoltar did contact Earth. [When? Between the debriefing at Center Neptune and Anderson’s arrival at Kenton’s facility? The Sandy Frank people couldn’t find any footage to borrow from another episode?] Spectra is dying, drying up. The big Z has threatened to dismantle the water resource centers and take them to Spectra. [Which wouldn’t do him any good. Even if he took the water in them along for the ride. There’s a reason the planet’s dying, and it isn’t just lack of water.]

At the big window, looking out at the disabled missiles, Anderson notes that Kenton’s rockets are more powerful than the old ones. They can generate a ‘counter-whirlwind’. [Which I assume is a good thing.]

Kenton relents. He’ll try to provide what Anderson wants, but he won’t make any promises.

Commercial break.

And Zark. Who tells us that they’re working around the clock on the missiles. But who knows if they’ll work?

He extends legs, and wipes again at the upper right of his favorite four monitors. It’s always clouding up or going black. He needs to repair it. And when he tried to watch the Milky Way, it gave him a rerun of Gilligan’s Island. [Must be an in-joke: one of the Dineharts was a scriptwriter for that show.] He’s set his sensors to help search for the alien invaders. (As long as there's no fog, he's right on top of things.)

And now he’s getting a signal from a powerful energy field.

A stand of pines. Into the shot erupts a – giant preying mantis. [More bad biology on the part of the Sandy Frank people.]

On Dahmbo’s ship, Zoltar is on screen and unhappy at the continued resistance of Terrans. Time for Plan B.

The ‘ghostly grasshopper’ [preying mantis!] flies off.

G-Force rushes to the Phoenix and boards. Stock launch footage.

Anderson tells the team that water storage facilities have been under surveillance since the first attack. Zark thinks that Center Nine will be the next hit.

The Phoenix meets up with the Spectra ship again. Now something happens on the viewscreen, and they can see their enemy. Keyop calls it a grasshopper.

Tiny gets them out of the way.

Dahmbo, still in the ‘This is a waste of time’ pose, sounds more upset this time. He orders Spectra-looking soldiers to their posts. [Are they supposed to be his fellow robots?]

The two ships play tag. The Phoenix is struck with turbulence as the Spectra craft passes by. Those super-sharp front limbs still miss the command ship.

Spoke too soon. One clips the stern, right on the hatch enclosing G1.

Jason hopes Anderson’s having better luck.

On the ground, Weather Control has managed to construct enough rockets for Anderson’s plan. [Huh?]

Kenton has everything ready to go. He warns Anderson that this still might not work.

The rockets fire.

Phoenix and mecha are still chasing each other around.

Then the mecha catches them in its claws. The blades stab through the hull.

Jason pushes past Tiny and fires the missiles. Which have no effect.

The weather control rockets pass by.

Inside the Spectra ship, Dahmbo has his/its feet up. A goon reports they’re surrounded by strange rockets. Dahmbo is certain they won’t be activated as long the mecha holds the Phoenix.

Vapor spews from nozzles on the rockets.

And Zark in VO. “Dahmbo has made a very grave error. Because he doesn’t realize that the missiles contain no explosives, but have a far more powerful potential.” [How does he know what happened aboard the Spectra ship, never mind Dahmbo’s name?]

The atmosphere churns. Dark clouds and lightning. Mark announces a typhoon. Zark informs us that the missiles have created ‘a seething maelstrom, from which nothing can escape.’

The storm strikes the Spectra ship, knocking Dahmbo from his chair. A soldier says they must release the Phoenix. Dahmbo refuses. When they go, they’ll take G-Force with them. The soldier protests that they might survive if they let go of the Phoenix. Dahmbo is equally determined that they keep hold of the ship. [Considering the prize for success, can you blame him/it?]

They clamp down on the G-Force command ship, and try to leave the area. It doesn’t occur to Tiny that he could seriously mess up their plans if he starts up the engines. He’s a bit distracted at that moment.

The tornado gets hold of the Spectra mecha and pulls it in. Unfortunately, the Phoenix is still in its grasp. Princess says the storm could tear them both apart. Jason thinks the mecha might release its hold if it’s struck by lightning.

Someone’s listening, because lightning does strike the mecha. It lets go one claw. Tiny turns on the engines.

For some reason, this is bad news for Dahmbo. “We can’t win. Prepare to abandon ship.” Why not simply let go and make a strategic withdrawal? Come back another day? And what happened to taking G-Force with them?

Apparently, there’s no letting go. The claw is stuck into the Phoenix.

And the storm isn’t letting up.

Then, finally, the claw slides free. The Phoenix escapes, struggling through the typhoon. The mecha is torn apart.

Finally, our heroes hit clear air. Mark comments that Zoltar may have lost this one, but he’s still free.

As bits of mecha fall into the ocean, Zark tells us that Zoltar’s men bailed out, but were captured. [So, there were none of Dahmbo’s fellow robots aboard the mecha?] While the machine was destroyed, Spectra is still in business.

Zoltar himself is angry. Why did he think a robot could destroy G-Force? That’s a job he must do himself, and do it he shall. He makes that promise.

And because we can never end an episode where it should end, we’re subjected to Zark VO as it rains. Earth’s water supply is safe from the selfish grasp of Spectra. “But for how long? That’s the question that haunts both man and robot alike.” [Oh, that doesn’t bode well for our intestinal equilibrium.] And there’s a nice view of a rainbow with the Phoenix flying through it.

Oh, yes, we are subjected to more Zark. Now that peace and sanity are restored, he can take a 10-second oil break. [Funny, but a crisis has never stopped him before.] As soon as he turns off his monitors and transfers all signals to his ready room.

Oh, dear. He does that thing with the sonic boomerang again. Will someone please take it away from him? And he chirps that he thinks he uses it almost as well as Mark. But then, he invented it. [Bleargh.]

Fic Alert: The origins of Dahmbo and his/its fellow robots?

What happens to them now? Was Dahmbo captured? Are his/its fellow robots still slaves of Spectra?

Science question: Could storm-generated electrical interference render missiles unsafe or inoperable?

Bizarreness alert: A prawn is a preying mantis, a crawfish is a squid, orcas are sharks, a preying mantis is a grasshopper….

Gatchaman plot: There’s a supposed world-wide drought. Then, to top it all off, an unseen enemy starts attacking various industrial and energy facilities, along with dams and water facilities. This makes the drought worse.

In the middle of an attack, Kamisoral proves vulnerable to the firestorm it creates, and they have to break it off.

The ISO has readied missiles to generate artificial rain. Ken is looking them over when Nambu calls him about the attacks. Apparently, they just occurred, and nobody has seen what did it. The SNT must find out.

They lose the fight with Kamisoral, which cuts the Bird Missiles out of the air and damages the GodPhoenix, forcing them to ditch in the ocean.

When they watch the video at base, they discover that the enemy is moving faster than Mach 10 and using the slipstream effect to destroy things.

Berg Katse calls to gloat, and says tomorrow is mankind’s last day.

Nambu realizes that Kamisoral’s speed is also its weakness. The firestorms could trigger a typhoon, which could destroy the mecha.

Next day, Nambu bungles his request for help from the rain-making project. They think he wants to cancel it. Then he explains that he wants a larger storm than usual, and what Galactor has been doing. Yes, it’s risky, but a successful attack on a nuclear power plant is a real risk.

Katse’s target is a nuclear power plant.

The BotP plot more or less follows this episode from about this point on, with a few variations in detail. In Gatch, the Captain dismisses the missiles as an attempted diversion. Bad mistake.

[Gatchaman suffered from problems of scale. We are told there is a world-wide drought, but the rain-making program is only in a limited area. And there’s no way that destroying one nuclear power plant could poison the Earth.]
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