Battle of the Planets, Episode Thirty-Five
Gatchaman Episode #47, The Devil’s Airline
DVD and Veoh episode #40
Review/Summary: Right-o. Center Neptune establishing shot with the fishies. And Zark VO: “Here, deep beneath the sea, is Center Neptune, where we keep watch on the entire Milky Way galaxy.” [Which I seriously doubt, as Wikipedia tells us it’s 100,000 light years across and has some 100- to 400-billion stars. Light travels 186,000 miles per second. Do the math.]
Now we see Zark, in his Zarkstyle. “It’s a big, round-the-clock job. I’m at the center of it all. They made my job a little easier by giving me a G-Force uniform and all of the fantastic gadgets I created for the team. It cuts my work by split seconds.” Then he flaps his cape and flies over to his favorite console, where he turns his head and tells he likes to fly like Mark and the others do. He does sound excited about it. Not sure if it’s the right kind of excited.
But he mustn’t be carried away by his new freedom. [New? He’s been flying – if you can call it that -- for most of the series!] “My first concern, always, is to contact planet Spectra, and learn what new and evil plan they have for conquering Earth.” [He contacts Spectra? Since when? Is that what he’s doing when he’s intercepting their communications? Or is there a spy for Earth on the planet? As TransmuteJun asked in her review, is there a 1-900-SPECTRA SECRETS number?]
And now we have the Luminous One. “It is not enough to say that you are working on it, Zoltar,” it says, and it sounds relatively calm this time, “I demand performance.” [Such a lovely set-up, and I can’t think of a joke.]
“I am only now attempting” – Zoltar begins, when the LO interrupts:
“I am not interested in what you are ‘attempting’. I want to know what you have accomplished.” And its eyes narrow in a way that should make Zoltar very nervous. “I won’t have you palming something of this magnitude off on underlings.” Then it makes some sort of exclamation I can’t understand.
“But Great Spirit, I must have help to” –
And Zoltar is cut off again. It just isn’t his day. “Enough. While you stand there trying to delegate authority, the all-important Earth plane is ready to become airborne.” [This is why Zoltar keeps getting his ass handed to him: the LO wants him to do everything. Is it any wonder nothing goes right?]
Zoltar bows and promises to get on it.
Meanwhile, back on Center Neptune –
We hear 1970s-style music over the establishing shot as the camera moves in. Could it be – ?
Yes. It is. The infamous Ready Room has made its debut. Princess and Keyop jamming on guitar (if that’s what she’s playing) and drums, as the camera pans left to show us Tiny chowing down on spaceburgers and then the eternal Mark/Jason ping-pong game. With the awful posture and butts sticking out. [I don’t think any viewer thought this animation belonged to the show. Maybe, on a dark night, the Zark stuff might work, but not the Ready Room.]
Then there’s a brief focus on Tiny, who asks if anyone wants a spaceburger (thus obeying the silly dictum that in an SF series, ‘space’, ‘star’, or ‘astro’ must be prefixed to various ordinary nouns). He’s already had four, and he doesn’t think he can eat any more than another two or three.
Now to Jason, and I refuse to comment on the way he’s animated. Let’s just say I doubt real ping-pong is played that way, or that any human moves the way he does. He jibes, “Force yourself, Tiny. You can’t let a little inactivity make you lose your appetite.”
“This waiting around for something to happen is nowhere,” Mark says. [Yeah, and soldiers are secretly adrenaline junkies. In real life, not having to use weapons is a good thing.] “Jason, can’t you make our game more exciting?”
Cut to a Princess who is so badly drawn that I can’t believe professionals did the work. She stops playing her odd-looking guitar. “Why don’t we hear from Zark or Anderson?” [Enjoy the quiet while you can, kiddo.] “This silence is making us all gloomy. We need some action.”
And now to Keyop, and the bit that will appear every time the Ready Room footage is used. He burbles a line and starts on the drums. This, for some reason, causes Mark to miss his shot at ping-pong. The ball whizzes off-screen to the lower right then somehow flies into Tiny’s mouth just as he tries to munch a spaceburger, causing him to drop the food.
Although, this time, we see Tiny eyeing the ping-pong ball that he presumably removed from his mouth, as Zark appears on the screen behind him.
“Attention, G-Force, I have an urgent new assignment from Center Neptune.” [I thought that’s where they were. Time to smack the scriptwriter.] “My finely-tuned field-probes have indicated Zoltar has renewed his activities.” [Oh, I still can’t think of a good joke. ‘Finely-tuned field-probes’ calls out for something.]
The team lines up in front of the screen, and Mark sort of looks like he has monkey-arms. Although, from the rear, they don’t look as ‘off’ as they did before.
Zark goes on: “It seems he’s established a new base in the vicinity of Central City. I hate to think what new deviltry he’s planning, but you must see Security Chief Anderson at once.” [Because Dr. Nambu had an important scene in the original that could not be cut from this episode.] “Happy hunting, team, and – have a nice da-ay.” [Yes, it does sound as disturbing as you think it does. Definitely time to review that Quanto Tobor contract.]
The team does a group salute and call of “G-Force!” before the floor drops out from under them. [Which means that, below the Ready Room, is another room that is basically an elevator pit just for that. A waste of space. Definitely a government contract job.]
Now to the oversized (or seriously underfurnished) room in which so many briefings have occurred. “I have reason to believe that Spectra is aware of our mission,” Anderson says. “Look at these films. I’ll answer questions later.” He presses a button on the desk, and a projector handily deploys from inside.
A suitcase is shown, opened by an unknown person. Inside is an electronic device. “We have to deliver that?” Tiny asks.
“We have to ensure delivery,” Anderson replies. “It’s so vital, that no-one besides the President of the Intergalactic Federation is cleared to carry it.” [But the President still doesn’t get to ride the Phoenix, which would be sensible.]
Tiny’s impressed. What is it?
Anderson says it’s the central mechanism of the new dynastral (sp?) computer.
With some burbles, Keyop asks, “Dinah? Dinah? Who’s she?”
“Later.” As Anderson keeps speaking, we see a desolate area and a facility in the distance. “The mission will originate at Magnaport, our newest land base. Only the most sensitive assignments are carried out from here. As you all know, it’s the last word in security design.”
Back to the team. Mark comments they’re being careful. Anderson says they have to. The intergalactic computer is going to back up the Conway Tapes. If that case doesn’t arrive safely, the galaxy can never be completely secure. [So, in typical badly-written SF fashion, there are no plans, prototypes, or duplicates. Just like everything else on this show.]
Jason comments that the Phoenix has done everything else. So why not ‘haul a high-class hunk of hardware?’
They won’t be transporting it themselves, Anderson says. They’ll be flying escort.
And then he shows them the vertical-take-off-and-landing capable plane that the President will use. [I don’t think I’d even heard of those when this show first aired. I doubt many adults had, never mind the intended audience.] President Kane does not want to attract attention, so he’s using a private jet. [Not a bad idea, although having the Phoenix in attendance is like putting a banner on the tail that reads ‘President and Important Object On Board.’]
Apparently, while the plane itself looks old-fashioned, the interior has everything. But we don’t have any details, except that the case will be locked in the arm of the President’s chair.
The President should reach his destination. G-Force will make a mid-air rendezvous at 0100 hours. Keep him in sight to destination.
“It’s a piece of cake,” says Tiny. [Any other time, maybe. But Zoltar is on the move.]
And then, because they couldn’t think of any other lines, the scriptwriters make Anderson tell them to keep in mind that the future of the entire galaxy is at stake.
Now to stock footage of the Phoenix launching.
And to the airport. A stewardess [which is what they were called back in the day] is walking between hangars alone. We spot the lower half of a goon in the front of the shot as she goes behind a building in the background. He tracks her as she walks along. Then she passes the far side of a truck. All we see beneath are her feet, and those of the goon. It’s obvious that something’s happening, but you have to look close. The camera doesn’t do more than pan a bit to the right so that we then see – the goon taking her into the back of the truck. [The memos must have flown about that.]
Next shot is inside the truck. The stewardess wakes up to see Zoltar leaning over her. He’s smiling. It’s a nasty smile. A ‘terrible things are about to happen to you’ smile. [Don’t know about you, but if that happened to me, I’d scream like the female lead of a bad 1960s horror movie and mess myself. That, or faint dead away. Or all of the above: scream, poop, faint.]
We get Zoltar voice-over: “My special powers will now transform me into a perfect duplicate of the girl.” [Okay, how many times did Keye Luke fall over laughing? Really. But now we know why Zoltar’s so good at disguising himself. And now I know where Alara Rogers got the idea for a shapeshifter in Zoltar’s family tree.]
Cut to a shot of the truck. As the camera pans, we hear him gloat that he’s changed himself over.
A shot of inside the truck, where we see the stewardess hung up in some device, and Zoltar in her form. Still gloating, he walks off.
Disguised Zoltar finishes the stewardess’s interrupted walk. The main difference between the two is the spider-shaped pin on ‘her’ uniform collar.
At the plane, the crew is running a pre-flight check. [Since I’m not a pilot, I don’t know how much they’re getting wrong.]
The captain spots the President and says they should alert the tower. His co-pilot comments that Kane is an impressive man, and sure looks like a President. The captain comments that he can’t move without his bodyguards. [And the President of the Federation has less security than the US President. We only ever see two minders.]
The three climb the boarding ladder. As the President passes the stewardess, he asks if she’s new. She tells him they’ve flown together before. He thinks it must be the striking pin she’s wearing. [Which is not as ridiculous as it sounds, as I can attest from experience. We get used to seeing certain people in certain ways, and when something changes – even something as simple as wearing a hat – we can be confused.] She compliments him on his observational skills, and he says he has to be, in his position. [And I think this is the first time that Zoltar has disguised himself as a woman, so Kane can be forgiven for not suspecting that he might have sensed something else. Although this still makes Kane more observant than the trained bodyguards he has to trust with his life. Scary.]
Kane boards the plane and locks up the briefcase. Then he utters words that tell us (as if the title wasn’t already a clue) that Things Will Go Wrong: “Now let planet Spectra try a surprise.” And they all take their seats as disguised Zoltar watches.
The plane takes off. Apparently, those aren’t conventional aircraft engines on the wings, but rocket engines. And none of the passengers have fastened their seatbelts. It rises to the same dramatic music that heralded the arrival of the FY9 in Space Rocket Escort. At the proper altitude, the plane converts to regular horizontal flight.
Disguised Zoltar takes off the spider pin and seems to give it a kiss before putting it on the floor. Then, taking out a control device disguised as a compact, s/he comments (or thinks?) that if it performs as programmed, two guards and the pilot will take a short nap. Just long enough for the plane to be diverted to Spectra headquarters.
The spider creeps along the floor, unnoticed by anyone.
Now to the cockpit.
So far, the pilots notice, so good. Time to give G-Force their position.
Now we see the captain. He’s sweating. On this show, sweating means trouble. The camera pans up, and we see the spider climbing along the bulkhead above him.
Then the spider drops down under his collar. It does something to him, because the captain’s in serious distress. He collapses. The co-pilot, asking what’s wrong, goes to him. Yes, he leaves the controls unattended. That does not seem to me like a good idea in any circumstances. Since he also gets bitten (or whatever) by the spider, it’s rather a moot point whether he should have left his post or not. Both men sprawl on the deck. [I might add that this is a very roomy cockpit. The co-pilot can actually walk easily, and there’s floor space to pass out in. Anyone who’s taken a glance while boarding a plane knows that cockpits are cramped because of all the equipment.]
While the flight crew is out cold, the controls move by themselves (an example of Spectran remote control, or is it on ordinary autopilot?). And Zark calls.
While the spider flashes ominously on the flight console, Zark wonders why the flight crew doesn’t respond to his hail. He knows the plane took off.
And Zark in his tube, wearing his sweater. No contact with a plane carrying the President of the Intergalactic Federation, and he’s about to go on a 10-second oil break?
“I’m certainly moving up in the world.” [Groan at pun.] “They even give me a 10-second oil break every now and then.” [We know that, Zark. We’ve seen you at it for numerous episodes. Why are you telling us this?]
As he slide-walks from his tube to his table, he tells us that he doesn’t feel guilty about his break because G-Force should be meeting the President’s plane at any moment. [Yeah, did you at least think to mention to them that you can’t contact the President’s plane?]
Susan calls, and she sounds about 10 years old this time. Which makes Zark’s antenna erection and embarrassed giggling even creepier than usual. She tells him he’s wanted on ‘intergalaxy emergency transmit.’ She calls him ‘sir.’ Whereupon Zark, after cooing over being called ‘sir’, tells us that she’s his private secretary, and that she’s so private he’s never even seen her. [To a six-year-old, a robot with a private secretary might make sense. It does not to me.]
And back down the tube he goes, talking about her lovely voice. Ugh. Her multiplex discontinuity filters are reportedly beautiful. We’ll take your word for it, Zark. Oh, God, he’s a Virgo, and he wonders if she’s one, also. [Barf bag, where’s a barf bag?] Their circuits are so compatible.
And he calls G-Force. A bulletin arrived from Magnaport: the regular stewardess is not on the President’s plane. She was replaced by an imposter. No mention of not being able to contact the pilots. [How did they find out about the imposter?]
Jason comments that it’s fifteen minutes past rendezvous. Time to eyeball. [No mention of Zark’s news about the stewardess. What were they doing during all that time? Sitting around? No wonder Earth hasn’t won a definitive victory against Spectra. Everyone gets the stupids when things don’t go as planned.]
Tiny says he’ll circle and check the ground. [Could have started doing that 14 minutes ago.]
Anyway, no sign of the President’s plane, and Tiny wonders if the Phoenix is up too high for it.
On the plane, the spider is still controlling things.
President Kane, as the possessor of the only working brain among the good guys, realizes they should have been long past this particular mountain range. (Appalachians? Sierra Nevada? Grand Tetons? Alps? Where are they going, anyway?) He tells the stewardess they’re off course.
“I beg to differ with you, Your former Excellency,” she replies. “Spectra is always on course.”
“I knew there was something wrong about her,” Kane mutters, pressing a button on his chair in a Morse Code pattern. And his two bodyguards don’t do a thing to restrain the stewardess. [Oh, that’s right, they’re unconscious. Two guys sitting in the main passenger cabin were presumably drugged the same way as the flight crew, but nobody noticed them groaning and falling out of their seats.]
Mark receives the message on his bracelet. So, what does he do? He starts talking back. The President’s plane has been hijacked, said President is risking his life to send a message, and Mark replies to it! Anyone could hear that. Did we miss the line about Kane having a receiver in his skull or something?
The next lines suggest that G-Forced received a partial message. Keyop burbles ‘Wrong number?’ and Jason comments that something must have happened after they started to send. Honestly, couldn’t the scriptwriters keep things straight for longer than two seconds?
Then, when they call Anderson, he asks if they’ve heard the from missing plane. Mark says they received a few bleeps, then it stopped. Galaxy Security received the same pre-arranged Mayday, and they’re triangulating the plane’s position.
Tiny comments that the President should have gone with them. He’d be at his destination by now.
Princess says there’s a signal coming in. They’re close. She tells Tiny to go to Grid 40, Sector B.
The scene shifts to the middle of nowhere, and it’s so nowhere that even the plants haven’t found it. But the team does find the President’s plane, and follows it, wondering where it’s going.
Then we see a radar-like tower. In plain sight. Where anyone could see it. One big rule of staying hidden: don’t assume that, just because few people go to a place, that nobody will see you there. Presume that there could be a witness. All it takes is one.
Anyway: a shot of the spider, flashing away on the aircraft control panel.
Voice-over Zark spells it out: “The President’s plane seems to be under some sort of – guidance control.”
A few seconds of the President’s plane, followed by the Phoenix.
Then a view of the plane through a monitor on the G-Force command ship. It looks as if they’ve flown over some sort of structure.
Now to Tiny, who’s struggling to move his main flight control lever. “Something’s jamming our control system!”
Mark realizes that Spectra has control now.
“Yeah, and there’s Spectra’s secret base,” Jason comments. “Great place to lose control.” Just as we see again that structure the President’s plane just flew over.
Cut to a gigantic pair of doors sliding aside in the ground, revealing an underground landing facility. Mark orders Tiny to bring them up, and G5 reminds him that Spectra still has control. Making lemonade from the lemon he’s been handed, Mark realizes they can take advantage of this situation. The scriptwriters use up some mouth flaps by having him tell Tiny to guide them in. To which Tiny replies, “Who’s guiding?”
Both craft come to a landing.
They’re surrounded by goons armed with mounted machine guns. The good stuff.
A brief shot of the President’s plane, dwarfed by the Phoenix, pinned by floodlights.
Then the bubble on top of the Phoenix opens and Mark leaps into the fray, followed by Jason in his car, and Keyop in his buggy.
And we have Zark to remind us that they’ve landed at an enemy base. He hopes the President can use the ‘self-ejector button’ if he’s really in trouble.
Edited for content.
The President does stomp on the control, and his seat ejects from the plane. We can’t really fault him for not doing so earlier. Eject at too high an altitude, and he would die from cold, or the sudden decrease in air-pressure around him, or of lack of oxygen, or some other cause. Although why he ejects now is not made clear. Remembers, there are lots of gunners outside.
Brief shot of the seat’s parachute deploying.
Disguised Zoltar tosses his cap in the air and, in his own voice, says, “You fool.”
Then the President, coming in for a landing.
Now Zoltar is standing on top of the plane. “He’s fallen from the chair. Get him. I want that case!”
Yep, the chair is empty.
Oh, they really edited this episode. Where are Mark, Jason, and Keyop? What (if anything) have they been doing?
Here’s Keyop. “Don’t worry!” He runs his buggy forward, and uses the net to catch the President and bring him aboard.
Goons with assault rifles come running.
The attaché case, the prize everyone wants, falls to the ground.
Jason drives up, commenting that what Zoltar needs is horsepower.
The parachute from the ejected chair entangles the running goons.
For some reason, Jason is suddenly driving up a slope towards goons with a tripod-mounted machine gun. He reaches the top, and starts setting a bad example for the kiddies by plowing through machine-gun crew after machine-gun crew.
Princess has joined the fun, but the editing does not make it clear what she’s done. (And the music changes abruptly, so we know that something was cut.)
Jason’s back on the landing strip again. We have a nice line-up of him, Princess, and Keyop heading for somewhere, or something.
Mini-tanks come in from the Spectra side, flanking a small crane of some sort.
The crane operator is after the attaché case. He gets it, and turns to head for cover.
Mark spots him. “Not after all this,” he gripes. [All what? What happened besides Jason committing road mayhem and Keyop catching the President?] He throws his boomerang at the fuel tank. Fuel pours from the hole.
Princess charges along on her motorcycle, while machine gunners miss her completely (and she’s traveling in a straight line!). She gets in the way of a mini-tank, whose operator tries to avoid her and ends up causing a chain of crashes that takes out a number of his colleagues.
Then Keyop takes to the air and now uses some sort of cannon to take out the gun emplacements inside the walls of the landing strip.
Hot debris falls to the landing strip itself, setting the line of fuel ablaze.
Yep. The crane explodes, and the attaché case goes flying.
Mark rushes out to retrieve it. During this, we have a brief look at the Phoenix bridge. Kane is on board. When did Keyop deliver him?
Lots of machine-gun fire, but since all we see are streaks of light, I suppose we’re to presume the guns we’ve seen are lasers. Whatever. They keep missing Mark.
Everyone heads for the command ship. Zoltar is not happy. He calls his men imbeciles, and demands that they capture at least one member of the team.
Because the original footage is of G2 talking, it’s Jason who says, “Tiny, get us out of here.”
Mark says, “Made it. But they’ll be right after us again.”
Jason compliments Keyop on saving the President. [I have to sit down. Jason complimented someone. Or am I thinking of Joe?]
Kane says they’re all heroes. A grateful galaxy salutes them. [Just say thanks, okay? There are no reporters to impress.]
And we have Zark voice-over as the team heads for home, telling us (because we’re too dumb to figure it out ourselves) that G-Force has just rescued the President and the dynastral (sp?) computer. And he agrees with Kane about G-Force being incredible and heroes and just shoot me now please.
Oh, and the ‘pretty stewardess’ that Zoltar impersonated? She’s recovered and been given an extended vacation. [After what happened to her, she’d better also have a monster pay raise and the best benefits package and pension plan ever.]
Now we see Zark. Why?
And the bodyguards and flight crew also recovered and are back on duty. [As Ghost Owl would say, we’ve been Zarked.]
Oh, and now back to narcissistic Zark [and he’d been doing so well these past several episodes]: “I wonder if the President knows I’m the master mechanical mind of the entire G-Force operation? I invented all their amazing devices.” Yes, he defiles the sonic boomerang again. “Oh, well. I’m not a glory hound. I don’t care if they know I exist. I just want to do my best for – G-Force.”
And now, the torment that is Zark has ended. Until the next review.
Fic Alert: All the inconsistencies and oddities in this episode. This is a perfect one for fixing up.
The stewardess might need some therapy.
Bizarreness Alert:: Zoltar is a guy, and he can change himself to look completely female. How did the show get away with that?
So, why did the President’s bodyguards apparently succumb imperceptibly to the ‘spider’ poison, while the flight crew moaned and struggled before going under?
At what point in the fight did Keyop bring the President aboard the Phoenix?
Gatchaman Plot:: The ISO has devised a new supercomputer. Leader X wants it destroyed.
Director Anderson is to transport the most important part of the computer to a very secure facility. This place is so secure that bugs literally don’t get past the security perimeter. He’s flying in a plane equipped with an ejector seat and emergency radio.
From here, the BotP plot follows the original for the most part.
Cut from the original is a bit more of Berg Katse’s preparations to impersonate the stewardess.
When the plane is hijacked, Katse uses his real voice to threaten Director Anderson.
More in the fighting, lots more. Body count. Anderson is shot out of his chair after he ejects.
Here we find out that Zoltar has some sort of shape-changing ability. But, the way they edited this episode, the writers could have had the stewardess replaced with a female Spectra agent. A few lines from Zoltar about an agent ready to replace the stewardess, and it’s done. When he shows up later, he could have gotten to the base by other means.
And I still wonder if Keye Luke gave the script an evil look, or ruined a few takes with laughter when he read those lines about special powers and changing himself to look like a woman.
Oh, I just remembered: he guest-starred in an episode of the original Star Trek in which a megalomaniac had learned how to change his form. Wonder if the scriptwriters had that in mind. Uh, no, Keye Luke was not that character – he was a victim of the character.