Battle of the Planets, Episode Thirty-Two
Gatchaman Episode #12, The Gluttonous Monster Ibukron
DVD and Veoh episode #12
Review/Summary: Establishing shot of Center Neptune, complete with the three fish and inevitable Zark voice-over: “Here at Center Neptune, deep beneath the sea, all the excitement doesn’t necessarily come from outer space.”
Zark is on his slanted whatever, wearing his sweater, and I’m sure I’ll see those mysterious sneakers in a couple of seconds. “Right now, I’m so excited, my capacitors are shorting out of my transducers.” [No, they aren’t, because Zark is still functional. Electrical shorts are not good things for electronic equipment, especially in vital components such as capacitors.]
Yep, long shot, with sneakers in plain view. “I just received a call from my secretary [!?!?!?!?] the commander of G-Force wishes to speak to me on my monitor.” [Zark has a secretary? Is this some sort of punishment detail in Galaxy Security?] “Susan has such a lovely voice, I forgot to ask her what the Commander wanted.” [My head is buzzing. Susan is Zark’s secretary. But they’ve never met.]
Suddenly, Zark is in his tube, heading down. “But I’m sure Mark wants to discuss my request for two weeks’ R&R. That’s ‘Rest and Recreation’, you know.” [*Ahem.* I seem to remember some moaning in early episodes about robots not getting that sort of R&R.]
Now to the Nerve Center. Zark, in his horrid Zarkstyle, emerges and flaps his way to his usual console as he speaks: “Even our master computer has agreed, my sychro-server could stand a little recharging.
“I’ve checked out all the travel folders, and have decided on the Robot Health Spa on Venus. The dry desert air is so good for robots. Rust is our greatest hazard.” [By this time, real scientists knew that Venus was hardly a ‘sister planet’ to Earth. I can’t recall if they knew about the 200 mph ‘light breezes’ or the sulphuric acid clouds in 1978, though.]
Right: now the four screens are mysteriously one large screen, which can mean only one thing –
The Return of Crappy-Headshot Mark.
And I hate being right.
All this, just to tell Zark he’s not getting R&R. They need him right where he is. Zark’s antennae droop. [I feel more sympathy for Mr. Bean when he gets himself into a fix.] Seems the Cosmic Patrol reports that Spectra is up to something in the Caribbean.
[Which Zark would have noticed, being the unsleeping guardian of the universe and the galaxy and what-all, if he hadn’t been looking at travel brochures and having antenna erections with Susan.]
Now, Zark is just far too understanding and accepting of this news. The self-centered egg who moans about this and that and the other thing – and somehow manages to make everything about himself – doesn’t so much as gripe about not getting leave. Well, he does agree that he’s far too important to leave Center Neptune, but still….
Instead, he turns his attention to the Caribbean.
Gatchaman footage. A sugarcane plantation in the Dominican Republic looks peaceful. A harvester or whatever is merrily driven along by a man too light-skinned to be Dominican operator. Of course, this normality will not last long.
The operator stops, and wipes the sweat from his face. His eyes widen as he sees something.
Either over a hill, or out of it, comes a giant beetle mecha. We hear the operator (who sounds rather like Tiny) comment that nobody will believe him. [Hm, I think people will.]
The mecha attacks, sucking up the sugar cane and smashing the tractor (or whatever that is). Wisely, the operator hauls ass. Along the way, it sucks up a large truck.
Something tells me that the Dominican Republic will need some economic assistance right about now. As will other Caribbean nations.
We have some stills that suggest the mecha is getting around.
Then we’re in a conference room, where a Mercator-type map of the world (centered on the North Pole) forms the centerpiece of a circular table surrounded by seated people. (As the camera pans, we see Chief Anderson, and Federation President Kane.) Zark tells us the devastation is world-wide. Sugar is at a premium. Some dieticians think the shortage could be a blessing in disguise. Zark’s next line is a non-sequitur: sugar is ‘a vital source of energy, and we need it.’
Actually, it’s a boon to the high-fructose corn syrup manufacturers. Along with producers of other artificial sweeteners. They can set their price.
A few stills of distressed children unable to get sweets.
Then we have Keyop and Princess, carrying wrapped packages and unable to see ahead of them.
Tiny collides with them, knocking their packages everywhere and landing on his rump. “Hey, did you know there’s a big sugar shortage?” he asks.
“Guess who caused it,” Princess snarks, with Keyop adding, “By yourself.”
Tiny’s not paying attention. He’s just discovered what’s in the packages: candy and ice cream. Beautiful.
Before he can tuck in, Anderson calls and orders him to Center Neptune immediately. To Princess’s amusement.
Keyop reaches over, grabs the cake out of his hand, and Tiny protests, “Knock it off, you little squirt.”
His bracelet is still transmitting.
“How dare you tell me to ‘knock it off’?” Anderson snaps. “And who are you calling ‘a little squirt’? Do you realize” –
“Not you, Chief: I was talking to Keyop!”
“On the double, Tiny!”
Tiny shoots to his feet and doesn’t quite stand to attention, but the will is there. “Yes, sir.” To Princess and Keyop: “You heard him. Let’s go.”
Mark’s Summit jet is preparing to dock with the Phoenix as Zark tells us he’s spotted the Spectra mecha and summoned all the G-Force members. [For whatever reason, the scriptwriters have Zark gush over Mark and remind us that he leads G-Force and is a marvelous pilot. This isn’t even foreshadowing.]
Oh, dear, they have Zark introduce everyone, and their vehicles. Hm. I’m trying to remember if they ever named the smaller vehicles in previous episodes. Yes, he has to comment that Jason is sometimes hard to get along with. [Well, when a character has his own opinions, and the moral guardians want to teach the kids to be good little obedient drones, someone has to stand up for the collective.]
[And it wasn’t that long ago that Mark wasn’t so obedient, and Chief Anderson pulled his own ‘go out and meet the bad guy alone’ stunt. I suppose it was time to remind the kiddies that individuality is a bad thing.]
And G-Force is the only family Zark has ever known. He’s so proud of them.
Now that they’re together, Mark calls Anderson for a recitation of plot points. Okay, not so much a recap of what’s already happened as advancing the plot:
The beast has just devastated farm sector V5 and local authorities have been unable to stop it. [Well, duh: the damn thing’s bigger than a cargo ship.]
Sugar reserves have been almost wiped out. They may be aiming at other agricultural areas.
And Mark cleverly deduces that it must be the work of Planet Spectra again. [Just how does a planet do things? Or does he use ‘Planet Spectra’ as a sort of shorthand indicating the military forces of the planet under orders from Zoltar?]
Anderson confirms that Galaxy Security has known for some time of a secret base on Earth, with Zoltar in charge. [This may be why Spectra’s not doing so well: Zoltar’s micromanaging. Or is it the Luminous One as the control freak?]
The team weighs in with their (low) opinion of Zoltar. Tiny says that anyone who takes food out of people’s mouths is the lowest.
Given Anderson’s anger earlier, it’s surprising that he lets the team carry on like this. He’s quite calm. He orders them to stop the mecha’s attack, but not to destroy it. They’re to follow it to its base.
After a search of unknown length, Tiny spots the mecha destroying more acreage.
The thing turns its head and looks up at them. You can see its weight shift on its legs as it does so. [And this is what was so cool at the time, and still is: the Gatchaman original did things that American animation in the 1970s and 1980s just could not pull off. It’s probably a good thing the voice cast couldn’t see the animation, because they’d have been too impressed to do any work.]
Technobabble time. Mark says, “Check power.”
Princess responds, “Magnetic interference, Mark.”
And we have a shot of some dials twitching.
The Phoenix is in the air, then it shakes and is suddenly falling out of the sky. Tiny reports they’re being drawn in by some powerful force. [Yeah, the same ‘powerful force’ the mecha used to suck up all the sugar cane.]
Tiny can’t hold it much longer.
Mark orders him to let Keyop and Princess take over. Tiny, Mark, and Jason will try to enter the mecha.
Mark, Tiny, and Jason take flight. Princess pulls the Phoenix out of danger as those three realize they’re being sucked right into a set of crushing rollers. Mark chucks his sonic boomerang, jamming the rollers just in time, and somehow also stopping the suction into the bargain. [The rollers can destroy a truck, but a little sonic boomerang defeats them?]
Tiny yanks a control lever, and the rollers part to reveal a refinery. And no sign of any hoppers for crunched-up sugar cane. Just the factory floor and the tanks.
The big guy asks where all the stolen sugar is.
Everything shakes as the mecha takes off, followed by the Phoenix.
Princess hopes it’s flying back to its secret base.
And now they’re in what looks like snow-covered mountains.
Inside the mecha, Mark, Tiny, and Jason are riding a conveyor belt upwards. Apparently, none of them are paying attention, because they reach the end and are dumped into a large tank. All Mark manages is ‘Look out!’ before they fall.
As usual, Mark and Jason land on their feet, while Tiny lands on his butt.
Then a piston comes down the tank towards them. “You’re the muscle-man, Tiny,” Mark says.
“Thanks a whole lot,” Tiny gripes, as he tries to hold off the piston.
Mark figures there’s a way to empty the tank. Jason searches the walls, and finds a little hatchway. He dives in, Tiny gets stuck just long enough for some fake suspense, then Mark, just in time.
Aboard the Phoenix, Princess is worried: no word from the guys. Keyop suggests they found the sugar and are eating it. “You’re as bad as Tiny,” she says. At a time like this, all he can think of is sweets.
“Better believe, sweetie,” Keyop teases (with burbles).
Our guys head down a tunnel, which ends at the world’s largest syrup-cooking vat. [This episode’s homework assignment: sugar refining.] The stuff is boiling. Jason suggests they backtrack and find other tunnels.
Something (raw sugar?) pours down the tunnel, forcing them to jump out and hang onto the sides of the wall. Well, Mark and Jason hang onto the walls, and Tiny hangs onto them.
And now we meet the Captain of the Episode, and Zoltar. The captain’s watching on a monitor. He assures Zoltar that there’s no way they can escape. Zoltar orders them captured and held for his arrival.
Meanwhile, Princess is following the mecha down a crevasse. She comments that if the others are in trouble, it’s up to her and Keyop to rescue them – if they can get into the base. Keyop suggests under the wing.
She maneuvers the Phoenix under the mecha’s wing. [I’m not a pilot, but I’d say this requires a lot of skill.] And here’s proof that mecha don’t have radar or other proximity alerts.
And obligatory post-commercial Zark.
He’s pacing, and says he’s lost ‘telecom contact’ with G-Force when they followed the monster beetle. He’d better try his super-sensitive, long-range infra-scanners. [No, not the super-sensitive, long-range infra-scanners!]
Now he flies over to his favorite console, and reminds us that he must contact G-Force. Sparks fly, and he comments that it’s horrible.
We’re now watching the guys, and Zark is, also. [How?] He tells us they’re in trouble.
Back to Zark. “Princess and Keyop are down there, somewhere. They must be alerted.” And he sounds really desperate as he calls her. [Way to reassure the kiddies, Zark. Weren’t you intended to be the one who kept them from being scared?]
And now the Spectra base. The mecha has landed, and there’s a transparent cylinder connecting its head to the floor.
The Captain rides a platform down from the mecha. He looks like a character out of a comic book. Compared to some costumes, it’s not too bad. Restrained color scheme of light blue and light blue-green, with dark red gloves and boots.
Then the camera pans to two tiny figures in the background, then zooms in on Princess and Keyop. Where did they hide the Phoenix? Princess says they have to go down and search for Mark and the others. Keyop says he hates bugs. [Yeah, I know.] They crawl along the pipe (or whatever it is they’re on).
In the sugar vat, Jason says he’s going to try his cable gun. He lets go of Tiny’s hand. To judge by the expression on Mark’s face, he’s having trouble keeping a grip on Tiny and the section of wall.
Jason fires the crescent-shaped end upwards, looping the cable around a handy beam. Then he swings down in time to use his legs to catch Tiny. How he avoids ripping his arms out of their sockets is a mystery to me.
They’re still on Candid Camera.
The captain can’t believe they’re escaping. Another idiot who didn’t listen when Zoltar warned him about G-Force. Of which fact Zoltar reminds him. He wants G-Force captured.
Suddenly, Mark, Jason, and Tiny are out of the vat and riding in some sort of hopper on a track. Given their track record in this episode, we know this won’t end well.
Uh-oh. The hopper stops at what looks to me like a giant test tube. Wait, there are four of them, arranged around a central axis. Just like a – Aw, no, tell me it isn’t a centrifuge device.
“Now, what?” Mark asks, just before it tips them into the tube. [What is it with him this episode?]
Yep, it’s a centrifuge.
“Out of the frying pan,” Mark gripes. [Hey, you guys have wings, training, and cerebonic implants, and you still managed to be dropped into a tank and a giant test tube.]
“A few more turns in the centrifuge, Sire, and we’ll have them,” the Captain of this episode gloats to Zoltar (who’s pleased).
In a control room somewhere, goons discover more intruders.
Somewhere, Keyop grabs at a cable in the wall and pulls. For some reason, this causes an explosion. And the editors left in the resulting black eye and bandage on his face.
He caused a power failure. Smoke rises from the mecha’s head. Alarms blare.
The centrifuge stops.
For some reason, Mark, Jason, and Tiny are not dizzy, nor are they vomiting themselves to dehydration.
“They can have these Spectra merry-go-rounds,” Mark says.
“Let’s close this amusement park, fast,” Jason suggests.
“Give me a second,” Tiny requests. “My head’s still going around.”
The bottom drops out of their tube, landing them in sugar. For once, Tiny’s inglorious landing is a happy one for him: face-first into sugar.
Yeah, there are some lines about Tiny’s love of sugar and Mark chiding him for it.
Interrupted by this episode’s Circle of Gun-Toting Goons, accompanied by the Captain’s evil laugh. It’s almost as good as Zoltar’s. He tells them that they’re trapped. Surrender, and Zoltar will give them safe passage to Spectra.
Mark refuses: that’s worse than being lost in a black hole in outer space. [Bit of hyperbole, there, kid. Of course, all a black hole can do is kill you, so you might have a point.]
The captain is angry. “Insolent fools. You’re asking for harsh measures.”
Okay, we have three people in functional bird suits, surrounded by goons. You know what’s going to happen.
Whirlwind pyramid. Sort of. Tiny at the bottom, Jason in the middle, Mark on the top. [Okay, you-know-who: stop snickering.]
I’ll spare you Mark’s bad joke. Suffice to say, they kick edited ass.
Tiny finds a way out. The Captain flees.
And now we have Tiny using a sledgehammer to bang on a large, forbidding, machine. [Safety tip: do not use a sledgehammer on mysterious machinery. You don’t know what could happen.]
Mark and Princess run in. (When did those two meet up?) Mark asks Tiny what he’s doing. Tiny replies that he’s trying to put the mecha out of business. Mark grabs the sledgehammer and tells him there’s no time. Jason and Keyop are waiting in the Phoenix.
Except Tiny still wants to hammer away.
Princess intervenes with some technobabble. You know what happens when Princess gets her hands on mechanical or electronic devices.
She’d fit right in on Mythbusters.
They have three minutes.
But Tiny has to stop and fill some bags with sugar. [You need help, Tiny. Three minutes before a mecha goes boom, and you’re stopping off for sugar?]
Zoltar has only been visible on a viewscreen, but he knows catastrophe is about to strike. He orders a retreat. The Captain has already ordered it, and all personnel are secure.
Mark, Princess, and Tiny board the Phoenix. Jason orders Keyop to take the ship up.
The mecha blows, then the base.
The Phoenix gets caught in the avalanche, pummeled by tons of snow, ice, and rock.
Mark orders Fiery Phoenix.
And now Zark assures us that, with fast-grow fertilizers, it didn’t take Earth’s farmers long to make up for the damage caused by the ‘beast with the sweet tooth.’ While he’s doing this, there’s a scene in a park, where Keyop’s Star Buggy is parked. He’s dispensing handfuls of sugar to some happy kids. While Zark gushes some more about G-Force foiling the plans of the villainous planet Spectra.
But Spectra will try again. That’s why Zark must be on round-the-clock vigil.
And now we have Zark, telling us that he’ll likely never get that two weeks of R&R. But why should he go somewhere? He has his monitors. With them, he can visit faraway planets and star systems. Nope, he’s happy to stay right here and be the nerve center for – G-Force. [That devotion is creepy. Really, really creepy. I mean, there are times when Zark sounds more like a devotee of G-Force than anything else.
[Aw, no, I just imagined a little shrine to G-Force. I’d better stop typing.]
Fic Alert: Economic effects of the sugar shortage. What happens to the economies of those nations that rely on exporting sugar cane and sugar beets? To the artificial-sweetener industry? I know the whole thing can’t have lasted more than a month, but imagine the jolt to the worldwide economy as sugar supplies were destroyed.
Why is there a sugar-processing facility in the mecha? Is Spectra not only destroying the crop on Earth but stealing the sugar?
Science question: A sugar-cane processing facility in a flying mecha? Wouldn’t one banking turn screw everything up? There’s no sign that the factory was designed with turbulence or maneuvering in mind.
What happens if you’re spun too fast in a centrifuge?
Bizarreness alert: Besides a robot having a secretary?
Gatchaman plot: It’s Galactor, and it’s just sugar cane and sugar beets. And Ryu’s rushing down the street to crash into Jun and Jinpei because he just learned about the sugar shortage on the news – he wants to get his stash. (Much of his motivation is anger at Galactor for depriving him of his favorite food.) And he mouths off to Dr. Nambu during the incident.
The BotP episode pretty much follows the Gatch plot until the guys enter the mecha. Then the editing takes out chunks of the action. Among the lost bits: Jun and Jinpei being taken prisoner and shown to Ken to make him surrender (which does not go as planned, since Ken frees them with his boomerang and they pummel goons), and the revelation that Ryu has been using a sledgehammer on a nuclear reactor. And no nonsense about fast-growing fertilizers.