Episode Review: 'Space Rocket Escort' by UnpublishedWriter
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Space Rocket Escort
Battle of the Planets, Episode Twenty-Three
Gatchaman Episode #11, The Mysterious Red Impulse
DVD and Veoh episode #11


Review/Summary: Center Neptune establishing shot. And Zark VO: “In [a] huge space complex like Center Neptune, far down in the ocean depths, we do a great variety of things to keep peace and maintain order in our vast galaxy.”

And, as always, during this, we go from voice-over to actually seeing Zark. A strange chirping sound, and he says that it’s Security Chief Anderson’s signal. Cut to Zark at his usual console. He wants G-Force in the Briefing Room right away.

Gatchaman footage as Zark tries to contact Mark. Our Hero is flying through clouds. He looks pensive. Then he buzzes a tropical-looking area, scaring the birds. “A pair of wings, a stick, and the wild blue yonder,” he says, and thinks, It’s good to get away from the crunch and grind every once in a while.

Then Zark interrupts to tell him to report to Anderson at Camp Parker. [Finally, confirmation that the name ‘Camp Parker’ is canon. I was starting to wonder.]

As Mark acknowledges and turns his plane, Zark wonders what the emergency is. ‘They’ don’t always tell him everything. [Which makes no sense at all. After all, Zark is supposed to be the eyes and ears of Galaxy Security. Now, if he were a mere guard, that would be another matter. I can attest from experience that people neglect to tell security guards all sorts of important things.]

Wait a minute: a Rigan plane has entered the scene. Mark calls it ‘an alien plane’, just before it flies so close he has to dodge.

And in the cockpit of the plane is – Cronus? Or Zoltar trying that trick again?

Mark transmutes in full view of the unknown. [Great way to keep the secret identity a secret, kid. The only thing saving you is the lack of numbers on your plane. Although, the enemy can then send people to look for aircraft lacking ID numbers.]

As he closes on the intruder, Mark comments that it looks like Colonel Cronus from Riga. [With no mention of Zoltar claiming Cronus was dead, or any other acknowledgement of events a few episodes ago.]

Cronus says (although it’s not clear if he’s supposed to be on the radio or not), “Hello, my friend. Can you still fly that thing?”

A bit of aerial tag, and Cronus jibes: “Come on, G-Force. Show me how good you Earthlings really are.” [Thus doing nothing to settle the question of whether or not Cronus is human or extraterrestrial. At least up to now. He could merely be keeping up his cover, even in the privacy of his own aircraft.]

The expert flying leads Mark to say that this is Cronus. Who can’t stay, since he has other business.

As a farewell, Cronus turns his craft and comes this close to Mark’s plane.

[There are old pilots, and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots. At least, not in the world inhabited by Ghost Owl and the rest of us. On BotP, there’s a chance.]

The wild flying style is Cronus, Mark says, but what’s he doing so far from his home planet? (Again, no mention of Zoltar’s deception, or that Galaxy Security had learned that Cronus was not really dead.) Maybe Anderson knows.

And now to Camp Parker. And Zark VO, identifying the place as security headquarters when Anderson is on vacation. (Which means the poor guy never really gets a vacation. Ouch.)

Mark’s reporting the incident with Cronus. Anderson says that Cronus had requested clearance to come to Earth. Security refused permission, and it’s strange that they hadn’t heard from him. Mark asks why permission was refused, and now we’re reminded of Zoltar’s trickery. “It’s my job to suspect everyone until they’re checked out.”

When Mark suggests contacting Riga to learn Cronus’s whereabouts, Anderson says they can’t – for security reasons. [What reasons? Riga’s status as Spectra’s butt-monkey? What might be revealed if they contacted Riga?] As Mark knows, they’ve been building the FY9 for Riga. It’s equipped with the latest technology. Mark says it’s pretty hush-hush. [How does he know about it, then? Although he has the clearance, he had no reason to know about the project. In the real world, having clearance doesn’t mean you know all that’s happening.]

Anderson says it’s being delivered today. So, Mark says, he wants G-Force to fly the FY9 to Riga.

Special pilots will do that. G-Force is
escorting the spacecraft.

Mark’s encounter bothers Anderson. Spectra has agents everywhere. It’s no secret what would happen if Zoltar got hold of the FY9. [For some reason, Anderson’s moustache looks very dark in the profile view. Almost as if someone added it at the last minute.]

Mark assures him they’ll fly a tight escort to Riga.

Which means that there will be trouble. There’s always trouble.

And now to an airport. A vehicle tows what looks like a humongous orange-and-blue Concord across the tarmac. Damn thing’s so big the cockpit is right at the air-controllers’ level on the airport control tower.

Cut to some men in a lounge, wearing red-and-yellow jumpsuits. One is smoking. (Horrors! Such a bad example for the kiddies!) An intercom announces that it’s time to board.

After the pilots stub out their cigs, but before they can leave, armed Spectra goons enter the room. [Ah, the early 1970s, before a spate of hijackings resulted in increased security. When you could carry a sword through the airport, or wear your handgun. But you still couldn’t wander around wearing the uniform of an enemy power and waving a rifle.]

Cut to the FY9 being towed into position.

Now to some different men in red-and-yellow jumpsuits leaving the lounge. To make certain we get it, one helpfully gloats that nobody will suspect they’re not the real pilots.

They board the bus which takes them to the FY9. Instead of climbing a boarding ladder, a scissor-lifting mechanism raises the passenger area of the bus to the FY9 cockpit. [And another inconsistency of scale, like so many that plague the show. Suddenly, the FY9 is no longer as large as it was initially. Later, when Cronus and his pilots buzz the ship, at least one of the single-person fighters will seem to be unusually large.]

Wherever this airport is located, it’s right on the ocean. The FY9 takes off like an airplane, along a runway that stops just short of the water.

Once airborne, its drooping nose straightens, and its wings raise.

The Phoenix, absurdly small by comparison, takes position right behind the FY9. [I’m not a pilot, but it seems to me there should be some turbulence that close behind a large aircraft like the FY9. Too much for Tiny to keep good control.]

G-Force is suitably impressed. Tiny would love to fly it.

Mark comments that they’re reaching orbital velocity. They’ll be getting clearance for spaceflight soon. (Come on, admit it: you’re also impressed by the FY9. Someone wring out that wet blanket.)

Sandy Frank space footage. And Zark VO. He has his scanners monitoring them. Everything seems in order.

Uh-oh: the FY9 has changed course. It’s headed away from Riga, towards the Crab Nebula and Spectra. [Okay, Zark, time to tell G-Force. Can you do that?] They’re on their way to Spectra, and he’s lost his audio contact with the Phoenix. [If you can’t contact G-Force, how about the Cosmic Patrol? Anyone?]

[Why doesn’t anyone aboard the Phoenix realize that they’re off-course?]

The Spectrans aboard the FY9 gloat. Zoltar should reward them well for bringing G-Force. One thinks they should take the opportunity to destroy the Phoenix. Another helpfully gloats about their new jamming device that cuts off all communication with Earth. [And they installed this on the FY9 when?] And it looks like they’re already in a planet’s atmosphere.

They turn on the targeting systems and lower a missile. G-Force is in for a big surprise.

Aboard the Phoenix, Jason says he can’t raise the pilots aboard the FY9. For some reason, this doesn’t worry anyone.

Keyop yawns and calls the pilots ‘dull company.’

[Yeah, G-Force is really worried that they can’t contact the FY9 crew. Not. Excuse me while I bang my head against the wall.]

Just as the Phoenix enters the FY9’s cross-hairs, three Rigan fighters appear.

Mark comments that Riga sent a fighter escort.

The Rigans attack the FY9. To the confusion of G-Force, who don’t see the missile aimed at them, or it being shot off.

And G-Force is really confused. Riga wanted the FY9, and now it’s under attack. Tiny suggests they aren’t Rigan, but Mark says they are before running for his jet.

The Rigan squadron dramatically buzzes the FY9, as Cronus takes careful aim. He fires a missile that lodges in the spaceship’s fuselage, and a countdown begins. “Hate to waste a beautiful new ship,” he comments, as he and his men break off their attack. The man’s a gearhead.

The three Rigans fly away, followed by Mark.

In the FY9, the hijackers think the Rigans are giving up.

Mark wonders what’s going on. Jason calls, and tells him that the FY9 doesn’t answer, and someone’s jamming the line to Zark. [So, they’re just now noticing that?]

Mark acknowledges, and says he’s going after Cronus – if he is Cronus.

Jason suggests Mark take a look around. They aren’t anywhere near Riga.

Mark had noticed. [After he left the Phoenix?] This has to be Spectra’s doing. Stick with the FY9. He’ll take Cronus.

And – Zark. He tells us that it is Cronus’s plane in the lead, and that Mark would know him anywhere. Maybe Cronus sold out to Spectra. Mark will find out what’s going on.

Commercial break.

Which means more Zark.

Who is in his tube, going up to his little ready room. Yep, taking a break during a crisis again. Anyone care to imagine what would happen to people who did that in real life?

He’s tried everything: stress scanners; dysfunctional space probes [Huh?]; even sublineal (?) bypasses, but no sign of the Phoenix or the FY9. They’ve vanished.

[Yep, once again, the all-seeing Zark has been stymied. The scriptwriters should be ashamed of themselves. At least there’s no fog.]

He arrives in his ready room. He admits he feels guilty taking a 10-second oil break, but there’s nothing he can do until his monitors start picking up again. [Oh, I don’t know, Zark: how about running systems checks, or trying to extrapolate the possible locations of both the Phoenix and FY9 based on their courses before you lost them and what’s known of Spectran tactics, or attempting to use alternative means of finding the missing craft?]

A squirt on the left antenna. 10-40 weight. Perfect for all occasions. [Whatever.]

Susan calls. Zark has a brief antenna erection. [Ugh.] She has something that might interest him.

There’s a crisis on, but Zark still manages to get tongue-tied and make a number of silly, unintended, innuendoes before getting down to business.

Susan has found the missing Phoenix and FY9. They’re flying over Omeg II.

Zark politely thanks her and asks her to put it on his monitor. So one of the screens in his ready room activates, and we get the funny little blocks on it. He tells us that Omeg II is a primitive, uninhabited planet in the Crab Nebulae (sic) under Spectra’s control.

Back to the action. The Phoenix is now flying beside the FY9. Jason tells Tiny to stay close. That new spaceship isn’t going where it’s supposed to. Keyop suggests space pirates [while the animation here makes him look like he’s bored and has his hands behind his head. Hardly the pose of someone worried about anything]. Princess is concerned about Mark.

Tiny realizes the Spectrans know their cover is blown. Jason orders him to pull away, but they’ve lost power in the turbo-jets. [Technobabble, anyone?] Princess reports her communication scanners are still jammed. [Communication scanners? What are those?] And there’s no power anywhere on the ship.

Aboard the FY9, more helpful gloating: G-Force is helpless in their traction beam. The Spectrans will pull them right into the volcano. [From destroying G-Force to capturing them in a few minutes. Very well.]

Significant shot of the volcano in question.

And now to Mark in his little Summit Jet. Which, as Ghost Owl has noted, is downright cute compared to real fighter craft. He’s chasing the three attackers.

Mark doesn’t understand the Rigans attacking their own plane.

One of the Rigan ships breaks out of formation and comes towards him. It’s Cronus.

As he passes close to Mark, Cronus wonders why Mark’s tailing him. Doesn’t he know what’s happened? [Bad communications, here. Someone didn’t tell Cronus that G-Force has been incommunicado the entire trip.]

Mark chases Cronus, who’s following a trace from the FY9. Silently, Cronus urges Mark to return to the Phoenix. G-Force could be in trouble, and there’s not much time left. [Mark’s plane is armed. Why doesn’t he shoot?]

Now, inside the Spectra base (that’s in the volcano), the FY9 and Phoenix sit side by side. Pinkish gas fills the G-Force ship, and the team’s out cold.

Outside, Cronus is still tracking the FY9. That missile he shot into it has a timer and a homing device. [I’m surprised no-one’s gone all voice-over to tell us this. Guess they didn’t have any more minutes to fill with Zark.]

Cronus lands near the volcano. Mark follows.

They face each other.

Mark demands to know what’s going on, then rushes to attack.

Cronus coolly steps out of the way and – trips Mark. So much for the cerebonic powers and training of G1.

Okay, Mark does recover and counterattack, but still: he was tripped up.

He leaps in a rather long flying kick. Telegraph those moves, why don’t you?

And Cronus knocks him out of the air.

This can’t be good for Mark’s ego. Cronus is old enough to be his father. [Oops, did I say that out loud?]

Mark throws a punch, which Cronus blocks. With one hand.

Cronus explains: Spectra hijacked the FY9. He shot a bomb into it, and it’s ticking down. The Rigans would rather lose the ship than let it fall into Spectra’s hands.

[So far, Mark has been the golden boy who can do no wrong. When Cronus shows up, though, he gets stupid. And rebellious. Rather a nice change from Mr. Perfect.]

Back to our plotline.

At the mention of a bomb, Mark remembers his comrades. Cronus confirms that G-Force is likely to be in a lot of trouble. The volcano and the FY9 will blow any minute.

Now our two are at the top of the volcano. Not being choked by any toxic gases or vapors. Cronus is in his cool-badass hands-on-hips pose, while Mark is suitably heroic with his clenched fists by his sides.

Well: the crater has a metal floor. That isn’t a real volcano. And there’s a convenient hatch where anyone can get to it.

Cronus and Mark jump down from their vantage point, hopping from outcrop to deck.

Spectran security stinks: Mark removes the panel, revealing the hangar containing Phoenix and FY9.

They have less than five minutes. Mark and Cronus enter the base.

Mark lands on the nose of the FY9.

G-Force is shackled to one wall of the base. We hear Zoltar’s evil laugh, and then see him on a large monitor, fronted by goons. He welcomes them as his guests.

Jason says they just dropped in to stay hello. They can’t stay.

Keyop blurps that it’s long enough.

Zoltar tells them not to be so impatient to leave. It will be their last visit together. [Another nicely-done implication.]

Princess has faith in Mark. And she uses his name. [Come on, people: secret identities, right?]

Zoltar is confident that their commander won’t find them, but if he does….

Then, suddenly, Zoltar announces that there’s an intruder, and to activate the robot guards. Don’t let the intruder get away. A medal and a promotion to the one who catches him. [I think I asked this before: Spectra has robot officers?]

And now to Cronus, who has his pistol out. Panels turn in the walls, revealing guards on little platforms. [How did they keep from falling off as their platforms moved?]

Suddenly, a sonic boomerang flies through the air, disarming the soldiers. Methinks there are some missing bits to this scene.

Mark lands beside Cronus. Jason tells them to get them out of there.

Zoltar urges Cronus to surrender. The robots have him surrounded.

Whatever you might think of Cronus, you have to admit he has style. He jibes that Zoltar can’t do much if he can’t see the robots to control them, then shoots the shackles holding G-Force. The man probably looks cool when he has a hangover.

Definitely some editing, since we see the team fly free, and then suddenly the focus is on the missile stuck in the FY9. Reaching the end of the countdown.

Cronus announces that time is running out. Everyone heads for the Phoenix.

Zoltar goes into PSA mode: There’s a bomb. Everyone evacuate. (Unlike the Purple Doberman on Speed, Zoltar actually cares about his minions.)

The covering over the base opens up and the Phoenix flies out.

And the missile countdown finishes, destroying the FY9 and the base.

Triumphant music, and we see the Phoenix fly across the screen. In the distance are Mark’s jet and Cronus’s plane.

Anderson on a monitor. He’s been trying to reach them for hours. What happened to the FY9?

Princess says they’ll tell him later. At his sarcastic, “Thanks a lot,” she explains that they’re still putting the pieces together themselves. [Hey, a coherent report is hard to make. Especially if you have to admit that you were stupid.] He orders them back to Earth immediately. Princess comments that he’s a regular bear when he’s mad.

Cronus wishes Mark a good flight home, and he’ll see him again.

AGH! Zark voice-over!

He finally unjammed his scanners in time to see the Spectra base blow up. The Spectra humanoids got out safely, but the FY9 was lost. [Yeah, Zark, we know. Or are you recapping for the ADD audience members?] If Cronus hadn’t been at the spaceport when it was hijacked, Zoltar’s plan might have succeeded. [Uh, so Cronus was the only person to realize that the FY9 had been stolen. And he didn’t tell G-Force, or alert anyone?]

And again, the actual presence of Zark. In his Zarkstyle. Going on about the team, and how he wishes he could work with them, but his job is a lonely one. He has no companionship.

Rover corrects him on that. And Susan gives him another antenna erection. And some flirties that suggest that he might one day meet her. Along with Zark blushing.

The end.

Fic Alert: No-one is surprised that Cronus is alive and well. Last we heard, he had died in the Spectra attack on Riga. Zoltar even said so (although he could have been lying). What happened between Attack of the Alien Wasp and this episode?

Science question: How do you conceal the fact that you’ve pulled someone off course?

Bizarreness alert: How does G-Force not notice they’re off course? There should be telemetry all over the place.

Nice, shiny new spacecraft + known enemy power = security out the wazoo. Or it should. Not in this episode.

Last time we heard about Cronus, he was supposedly killed in the Spectra attack on Riga. Now he’s alive, and there’s no explanation for why nobody is surprised at this.

Gatchaman plot: For the most part, the BotP episode follows the original plot. However, in the Gatch ordering, this is the first time Ken has any personal interaction with Red Impulse. After that first little ‘dogfight’, he demands to know Red Impulse’s identity, and in the conversation with Nambu, we’re given a number of hints that RI might be Ken’s supposedly dead father. The aircraft is the Blue Hawk, built by Tritan and intended to appear in an air show.

[This is one of the few times when the BotP
version makes more sense of some elements than the original did. Although the Blue Hawk is a prototype, intended for an air show, it’s armed. The FY9, built for Riga (presumably to use against Spectra), is more likely to carry weapons.]

Cut for BotP is the murder of the Blue Hawk crew by Galactor soldiers.

Someone finds the bodies of the crew, which tells Nambu that the Blue Hawk was hijacked. He forbids anyone to tell the Science Ninja Team. The GodPhoenix is no match for the plane’s armaments. (I agree: that’s not a good reason for not telling the SNT what’s wrong. But they couldn’t have the Ken/Red Impulse smackdown if the truth were known.)

Cut for BotP is the murder of the Blue Hawk’s crew, along with a chunk of the confrontation in the enemy base.
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