Episode Review: 'A Swarm of Robot Ants' by UnpublishedWriter
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A Swarm of Robot Ants
Battle of the Planets, Episode Twenty-Eight
Gatchaman Episode #10, The Great Underground Monster War
DVD and Veoh episode #10

Review/Summary: Establishing shot of you-know-where, with the three fish swimming across the foreground, and Zark: “Down here, at Center Neptune, many leagues beneath the sea” – [A league is a unit of distance, not depth, Zark] – “I maintain my never-ending vigil to safeguard the security of every galaxy in the universe.” [That is truly some amazing technology, to watch over the entire universe. No sense of scale.]

And now we have Zark, at his favorite console. “Usually things are peaceful, but sometimes, like right now, they can be very disturbing.” [SaidveryfastasifAlanYounghadtosqueezeinhislines.] And now for close-up. “My long-range probes indicate a swarm of small, unidentified flying objects is coming from outer space, and heading directly for Earth.” Back to Zark and the console. Because you can never have too much of the console and the four screens that can become one. “There could be a number of explanations for this phenomenon, such as a dirty monitor screen.” And he cleans that one monitor on the upper right. [Okay, so Zark can’t simply link to the systems and get a view through the sensors: he has to look at the monitors. And he doesn’t bother to check any other readouts to confirm what he sees. Righty-o.] “It wouldn’t be the first time a speck of dirt set off an Early Warning Alert.” [Remember, Zark monitors the entire universe with this equipment. Why hasn’t Spectra won, yet?] “But this screen is clean, and those UFOs are still descending toward Earth. This is very strange. If it’s an invasion force, I can’t pick up any of the usual Spectra identifications.

“Incredible! This unknown force appears to be a swarm of insects from an alien galaxy.” [As opposed to, say a nearby solar system, which is more plausible.] “I’d better give G-Force a Red Alert immediately.”

And – Gatchaman animation. A city at night. More Zark: “A night on the town, and Keyop and Princess are getting down at the disco.” He hates to interrupt their fun, but – Uh-oh: he can’t get through. The security channel is jammed. As he speaks the scene shifts from the city to an old-fashioned montage of neon signs superimposed on a city-scape, then to a disco. Princess is either dancing or waiting in line for the restroom. [Yeah, that joke’s older than the show. Shoot me.] And you can say the same about everybody else in the place.

Then the power goes out, all over the city. And Zark reminds us that this is serious, and adds that the emergency back-up systems are out. [Ooh, when can we have those in major cities?] This could lead to traffic accidents. [The only thing approximating one didn’t look that bad.]

Now we have Jason in his vehicle, calling Center Neptune to report the obvious.

Mark in his plane, confirming that it looks bad. So Zark sends him to the solar fusion plant. [Solar fusion plant? Last I heard, fusion is how the Sun produces its output. Are they saying there’s the equivalent of an artificial sun in the middle of the city? Whatever happened to keeping nuclear matters as far outside of cities as possible?]

Shot of the solar fusion plant, then a change to – ants. Lots and lots of ants. And one of them shoots something that dissolves a section of wall. The ants stream inside.

I think we just found Zark’s UFOs.

They do a hell of a job. In one shot, a rather large hole breaches a wall, and alarms sound.

Up onto a power-line scaffolding, where the acid is again used to destroy the connections.

Zark tells Mark that everyone has left, according to instructions.

Now Mark docks with the Phoenix. We can presume the others have done the same.

Anderson’s on the monitor. As usual, he’s relegated to repeating what we’ve just learned: the ants are dangerous and from an alien galaxy, and everyone got out of the city and into secure shelters in time. It’s up to G-Force to stop them.

The solar fusion plant is in flames. [Radiation? Lots and lots of radiation, of the sort that will fry you to cinders? Any of that around?] The ants are still busy.

G-Force has a problem. All those ants, and they don’t have enough missiles to deal with them. Never mind the obvious problem of shooting missiles into a power plant. How to get rid of them? Where did they come from?

Jason has the only viable idea: blow the aqueduct and flood the ants out. [And hope to God nothing’s too terribly contaminated with nuclear radiation.]

It works, as Zark excitedly informs us (even though we can see it). A hell of a lot of water comes out of the aqueduct and floods the plant, washing away the attackers [and lots of contaminated rubble].

Next scene, G-Force searching the ruins of the plant. Either nobody thought about it, or their Birdstyles protect them from the radiation that must have permeated everything.

Princess looks over a pile of rubble. “Look!”

A motionless ant.

Mark picks it up. The thing fills both his hands.

Then there’s a clever scene change: the ant remains, but now we can see a small motor in its abdomen.

Come on, now, we’re not surprised the ants are artificial. Even if the episode title didn’t give it away, this is Standard Operating Procedure for Spectra.

Anderson is impressed. They’ve never seen anything like it. The ant is powered by a tiny turbo engine. Zark has cross-checked the data, and the metals comprising the ant come from the planet Tramulus.

Mark is astounded. A new enemy?

According to Anderson, yes.

Jason looks rather pleased as he suggests going to Tramulus. Well, he hasn’t been able to really shine the last couple of missions. Guess he’s not meeting his ass-kicking quota this month.

And so they launch. Another mission outside the Solar System.

We have the nice add-on space travel animation, that has to end at the Chocolate Turtle planet. [They could not have added a couple other planets to their stock footage?]

The team, in civvies, put the ant down and wait for it to start moving. They’re going to follow it back to its base. Tiny’s up in the Phoenix.

Tramulus isn’t very inviting. It looks like a desert.

Then, suddenly, they lose track of the ant. The four on the ground run to catch up.

They top a rise, and see two steep-sided towers. Keyop brups, “Sand castles.”

Mark corrects him. They’re looking at anthills.

Anthills with 70 or 80 degree slopes. Real anthills aren’t that steep, not even the huge ones, and these two are taller even than termite mounds. More like the size of buildings. They’re too narrow for their height, and should collapse if they’re made of displaced dirt.

Keyop wants to knock them down. Jason wants to bust in. Mark decides they’ll wait the ants out. [Uh, why? They’re all inside. A couple of missiles should do the job.]

Night, and the ants emerge from the nest. Mark figures they’re going on another raid. [Scriptwriters not thinking things through again.]

The team rushes towards the anthills. Just short of them, they stop.

Under their feet, the ground shakes and a sort of sand whirlpool starts up. They’re sucked in.

On the way down, Mark orders, “Activate your transformers. Transmute to full G-Force.”

They fall through an opening into an underground chamber, and strike dramatic poses (except Keyop). Even though the opening is fixed, and none of them move out of the way, they don’t land on each other.

And now for the long shot, and this week’s villain greets them: “How nice of you to drop in, G-Force. Allow me to introduce myself. I am the mighty Antoff, soon to be the supreme ruler of Earth.”

‘The mighty Antoff.’ Sounds like a failed comic book pitch – What the hell?

This guy is wearing blue and red trunk hose and an Elizabethan ruffled collar. Worse, he has an ant’s head and what looks like a mild case of gynecomastia. Please let that be bad costume design.

Also, Spectra goons flank him on each side. So much for Tramulus being a ‘new enemy.’

He gloats that they’re his prisoners, and orders one of his men to ‘flip the switch.’ This is not a euphemism for a new rude gesture, but an order.

Two halves of a transparent dome surround G-Force. Oddly, for a dome taller than it is wide, the halves rise out of a circular seam in the floor.

Antoff explains that he struck a bargain with Spectra: they will let him rule Earth, if he eliminates G-Force. [And he knows they will keep the deal because … ?)

Someone edited something. Mark is sweating and leaning on the inside of the dome. He draws his boomerang, and stabs at the material. It seems to make a little dent, but not a permanent one. They’re trapped.

Keyop loads his bolos with black powder. Princess warns him not to overload the charges, and Jason figures the kid knows what he’s doing.

After he finishes, Keyop joins the team and tells them to take cover. They hide under their wings.

The charge blows a hole in the side of the dome.

[Uh, where are Antoff and his goons? They were there a second ago.]

Commercial break.

And, after so many Zark-free minutes, we’re stuck with Zark again.

Pacing. Because he’s worried about G-Force. [As we must be reminded every episode.]

Then he flaps his cape to fly the few feet to his favorite console. He tries to contact G-Force.

Who are walking down the middle of the corridor, in plain sight. It isn’t until Mark spots something that they take cover. [Bit late, isn’t it?]

Princess makes a disgusted noise.

We next see – a giant pupa casing in the middle of a large room. Mark calls it a cocoon, but it’s not that.

Up to the Phoenix, where Tiny is griping about nobody calling him. Then he spots movement in the sand below.

The giant pupa bursts out of the ground.

Tiny seriously understates: “Wow, that’s really weird!”

Then the pupa bursts open, and a giant ant mecha crawls out. Leaving us to wonder what a giant ant mecha needs with a pupal form.

It looks up at the Phoenix and spits a gob of acid, which Tiny avoids, before crawling off to obey its programming.

“The giant ant is cutting out,” Tiny says.

Mark’s acknowledgement makes him a little too happy. A big grin crosses his face, as if perhaps the original scene had been about him finally hearing from G1.

Mark tells him to turn on the ‘sonar sensors’ to track it. Then Mark tells the others to seal up the base and head for the Phoenix.

There’s no gripping footage of how they pull that off. Instead, we see them pulled up by a really long rope into the Phoenix. [It couldn’t land so they could board normally?]

Anderson calls again. Antoff is a space pirate from the galaxy DQ3. [Evidently being the owner/operator of a Dairy Queen franchise isn’t what it’s cracked up to be in the BotP ‘verse]. This is his first time invading Earth, and apparently he has Spectra’s cooperation. [Yeah, we know that part: Antoff told us already. Shoot your scriptwriter.]

Mark asks about the giant ant.

It’s landed, and is crawling underground towards Civic Center. [In which city? Lots of cities have civic centers that are unimaginatively called ‘Civic Center.’]

Mark wonders what they can do about the thing while it’s underground.

Anderson says they won’t have long to wait. It’s sure to surface and attack the city.

So G-Force hauls butt back to Earth.

The giant ant emerges and attacks the city. Red aircraft that look remarkably like those of the Red Ranger squadron open fire on it.

Antoff orders the mecha back under cover. Into the tunnel under the river. [A rather snappy holster has been added to his ensemble.]

Anderson tells G-Force that the mecha has been forced into the Breslin Tunnel. [And I wonder how much destruction was meted out in terms of friendly fire?]

They arrive at the other end of the tunnel. Anderson is on the scene, in a nearby control tower (or something very like one). Hands-on guy, is Anderson, at least in the previous episode and this one.

Mark orders the ‘electron blaster’ readied, and asks Keyop what’s on the sonar. Whatever Keyop says is – you know. The electron blaster must involve the sun, since Mark says it’s useless without sunlight. And we do see an overcast sky.

“Position the solar refractor screen.”

The panels on the nose of the Phoenix retract. Jason’s car is missing, but there is a rig that unfolds into a parabolic dish.

The giant mecha emerges from the tunnel, the sky clears, and they turn on the juice.

It works. Giant holes open up in the mecha’s skin, and it looks ready to collapse.

Then the clouds cover the sun. Crap.

Antoff steals Muhammed Ali’s line: “Now it’s time to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”

Wings sprout from the ant mecha. It flies up to engage G-Force.

I will spare you the ridiculous techno-babble. Apparently, the scriptwriters did not want to admit that the Phoenix might have trouble maneuvering with a parabolic dish hanging out of its bow. Suffice it to say that they dodge the mecha’s attacks.

The red fighters appear and open fire on the mecha.

Mark says they have to get above the cloud cover if they’re to defeat the mecha.

Jason notes they’d better hurry. The mecha is closing fast.

Apparently, they get above the clouds, because they resume frying the ant mecha.

Inside, Antoff orders everyone into the ‘aerial life raft.’

And we see the mecha falling out of the sky, streaming smoke.

I shall also spare you some cheesy lines about the sun being the biggest hero.

Naturally, we must close with Zark, who babbles on about what an honor it is to be associated with G-Force and how they’ve saved Earth yet again. The alliance between Spectra and Antoff has been broken.

And now we have Zark in his tube, wearing his sweater. He admits he had some trouble tracking Antoff, and had to cross-check computers galaxy wide. But Antoff is now in prison. [No word on whether or not that was a mask he wore.]

He marvels at the robot ants. They had more modern circuitry than he does.

Oh, no. Susan calls. Antenna erection time.

And I refuse to transcribe the creepy, innuendo-laden conversation that fills out this episode. Suffice it to say that G-Force is disco-dancing in their ready room. And Susan wants to know if Zark wants to dance during one of his oil breaks. Yes, we are introduced to the term ‘funky fosdic.’ I will now bang my head on the wall.

Fic Alert: Why not blow the nest? Is there some conflict between what G-Force is doing and Federation law? Or would using a missile elevate G-Force’s actions from a covert espionage/sabotage mission to an act of war?

Science question: And how would a solar fusion plant work, exactly?

And the technology of the ‘electron blaster’ and its ‘solar refractor screen’?

How about a collapsible parabolic dish? [In radar or radio, those work by focusing incoming radio waves onto the actual antenna, which is in that little bit in front of the dish.]

Bizarreness alert: Besides Antoff?

Gatchaman plot: The episode largely followed the Gatch plot, except that all the action took place on Earth. It’s possible that the guy in the ant suit is Katse.

Red Impulse and his team have a few more scenes in the original.

One good edit: a rather dumb moment when Jun finds the damaged robot ant and jumps into Joe’s arms. [The moment that launched a thousand Joe/Jun ‘ship fics.]
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