Episode Review: 'Orion, Wonder Dog of Space' by UnpublishedWriter
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Orion, Wonder Dog of Space
Battle of the Planets, Episode Thirty-Six
Gatchaman Episode #37, Renzilla, The Electric Beast
DVD and Veoh episode #31

Review/Summary: Yes, establishing shot of Center Neptune, complete with the fish and Zark VO: “We’re in a state of emergency here at Center Neptune, 900 fathoms beneath the sea.” [Even though it’s obvious that CN is just below the surface, to judge by the sunlight and the presence of normal-looking fish.] “Planet Spectra has launched a full-scale ecological attack against Earth.”

Now we have Zark, and inappropriately perky ‘robot theme music’ as he flaps across the Nerve Center to his favorite console. “They’ve invented a powerful new super-thermal dynamo capable of altering the climate and global temperature. A world-wide drought has resulted. Earth faces a critical biospheric crisis.” [Go look up ‘dynamo’, boys and girls. It’s used in generating electricity.]

Hey, 1-Rover-1 is back. Haven’t seen him in a while. He yarps at Zark.

“No, 1-Rover-1, I’m not forgetting that we have dogs working with us in G-Force now.” [Mental image of Rin Tin Tin and Lassie in Birdstyle.] “You’re all very helpful, and some, like Orion over in Science and Research, actually go out on dangerous missions.”

Perky ‘Rover’ theme as 1-Rover-1 does some of his badly-animated tricks.

“Oh, I know you’re very clever, and do all kinds of computer tricks,” Zark says, “but Orion is a human dog, you know. I mean, he’s a real Saint Bernard, so he’s especially good in the mountains and the snow.”

More yarping. There must be some serious editing in this episode for this much Zark and Rover.

“You’re absolutely right, 1-Rover-1: it’s time for me to check my monitor screens and” – he’s interrupted by more yarping – “Oh, I misunderstood. You’re hungry. Well, run off and get your din-din. I’ve got a whole bucket of nice mixed nuts and bolts waiting. Just the way you like them: good and crunchy.” [And Alan Young sounds a bit tired of this interruption as he finishes up.]

Now to the famous four screens. “It’s time for me to try and contact our top solar scientist, Dr. Baxter. We’ve sent him along with Orion, the wonder dog of space, on a top secret mission.” [Okay, now the theme to the 1950’s live-action Flash Gordon series is in my head, since Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, didn’t have anything catchy for its titles. No, I’m not older (and crankier) than Ghost Owl: I have DVDs.] “Dr. Baxter has created a solar reflector that magnifies the Sun’s rays, and may be able to melt a part of the polar ice cap and pipe water to a thirsty world.” [There’s not enough water in the entire polar ice cap to do that for even a day. And the amount of resources and labor required to catch and move all that meltwater would be prohibitive. Not to mention deadly to the global economy, as every scrap of necessary material must be diverted to the project. No buildings would be constructed or renovated, no replacement parts made for all types of machinery and electronic devices, no new household items to replace damaged ones, and so on.]

Gatchaman footage. Finally. Whirling helicopter blades.

“Center Neptune to Explorer One, do you read?” Nice radio-effect on Zark’s voice there, as the scene cuts to a view of snowy peaks seen through the helicopter window.

“I read you, Zark,” says a bearded fellow piloting the helicopter (and voiced by Alan Young, also). The humongous St. Bernard beside him whines. “I’ve got good news.”

“7-Zark-7 to Explorer One: go ahead, Dr. Baxter.” [I’ll let the ones who know about radio protocol comment on whether any of this is remotely according to the rules.]

“Tell the Federation I’ve been exploring the Danielson Pass region. I’ve found a natural ice lake that we can use as a reservoir to store melted snow.” And we see a snow-bound lake that, unless it’s actually the size of one of the Great Lakes or the Black Sea, isn’t nearly large enough for that, unless they intend to flood the valley containing it. “The terrain is perfectly suited to run-off.” [Uh, okay, today’s assignment kids: research what would actually be required for a natural feature to be suitable as a giant reservoir capable of supplying water to an entire continent. Would run-off even be part of the plan?] He goes on to say that if the lake is deep enough, they can expand the output of the Solar Magna-Reflector to pump out 2 million gallons a day. [And how much water is in the polar ice cap? How many days would it last, assuming no losses from evaporation or accidents? Would that be enough to supply a significant number of people simply with drinking water, let alone to irrigate crops?] He’s going in for a closer look. It looks like a freshwater lake. [No mouth-flaps to fill in, here. I think the audience can figure out it’s a freshwater lake.]

Now there’s a cutesy bit: 1-Rover-1 says hello to Orion, who barks back.

The helicopter flies over the lake, and Baxter takes pictures with a small camera. [Helicopters shake. He must have an incredible shutter speed and amazing film to get any usable pictures.]

Yep. Spectra base under water. Sierra Hotel India Tango.

And then small, one-person, open helicopters move in to surround Baxter’s larger helicopter. None of the goons is dressed for cold weather, unless their uniforms are specially designed for the climate.

Worse, they’re jamming the radio, so Baxter can’t call Zark. Orion’s only response is to bark. [Bet if he jumped on one of those little ‘copters, it would go down like a brick.]

The Spectrans order him to land. He has thirty seconds before they open fire. They know who he is, and warn him not to try anything foolish.

Okay, evil villains and henchmen, learn this: any form of ‘Don’t try anything foolish’ is absolutely guaranteed to result in your prisoner-to-be doing something heroic. It might be futile, but it will be heroic.

Baxter takes the helicopter up, opens the window, and gives the camera to Orion. “Get these pictures to G-Force.” And the dog jumps out. From a height that should kill anyone who tries it without a parachute.

Orion hits the ground safely, to the surprise of the goons, and starts running, sliding and climbing. Then he miscalculates a jump, loses his footing, and falls into a crevasse.

The goons order Baxter to surrender, or he’ll be down there, also. Saddened by the apparent death of the dog, Baxter obeys.

Not to worry: Orion’s alive and well, camera lying in the snow beside him, barking as his master is escorted away.

The break here has a ‘commercial interruption’ feel to it, but it’s too soon.

And now for – Center Neptune establishing shot with the longer fish parade.

Cut to a pair of bolos whizzing through the air, then caught by a green-gloved hand. And then a long shot of a largish room, with G-Force seated along what looks like an L-shaped transparent coffee-table, where we see that red-gloved Keyop has the weapon. [Never mind.] “And now” – assorted noises – “big finish.” Which is ruined when deep-voiced barking interrupts him and his bolos whack his helmet. Then he jumps into Princess’s arms.

Tiny says it’s Orion.

Who walks through the door, looking tired.

Then Chief Anderson is beside the dog. At his command, Orion lies down.

Mark asks what happened to Dr. Baxter. Anderson replies that he was captured by enemy aliens, and recaps (briefly) previous events. An arctic patrol picked up Orion. While he speaks, he goes to a projector and presses a switch.

As the slides play, Anderson continues. Orion had the camera, with these pictures of Danielson Pass. A frozen, mountainous wasteland in the Arctic Circle, still largely unexplored. [So, nowhere near the bases destroyed in A Whale Joins G-Force or Raid of the Red Scorpion, I’m thinking.] Baxter was likely captured by Spectra. Over a drawing of what is presumably Baxter’s invention, Anderson says that if it fell into Zoltar’s ‘evil hands’, the result would be disastrous. [Ya think?]

“That invention is not a weapon,” Princess says.

It can focus a beam of solar energy equal to a 10 million kiloton nuclear charge, Anderson says. It could melt the entire North Pole and cause terrible floods and tidal waves. [Not sure about the flooding. Most of the ice up there is sea ice. It’s already displacing water, and since there’s more ice under the waterline than above it, the sea level won’t rise that much. But such an influx of cold freshwater would have some effect on the Gulf Stream and other warm-water currents, besides wreaking havoc with polar ecosystems. Melt other ice and snow, such as glaciers and the ice that covers Antarctica, and then there could be flooding. A one foot rise in sea-level would reduce numerous islands to nearly nothing, flood wetlands, and threaten coastal communities. And tidal waves are caused by undersea earthquakes, volcanoes, and other mass movements of crust.]

Naturally, the team’s mission is to get Dr. Baxter back. Orion will go with them. He has a cerebonic implant, just like they do. [Orion doesn’t act like a real dog. He acts like a TV dog in the tradition of Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and even Benji. This time, there’s the implant to explain the intelligence and non-doggy behavior.]

Meanwhile, at the Spectra base –

Zoltar demands the secret of the magna solar reflector, so that they may add it to their latest secret weapon: the Giant Space Vulture. [It does look a bit like a vulture. If you squint.] Funny, but this is happening in a rather nice, lounge-type room, with Dr. Baxter seated in a chair, flanked by goons. And one wall is covered with monitor screens, but nobody’s watching them.

Okay, now we can see the Giant Space Vulture, and it doesn’t look quite so much like a vulture. It has a long, coiling tail, and the wings are more appropriate for a dragon or big flying reptile. It hovers over – an alpine town? Above the Arctic Circle? [Okay, there’s town in Georgia called Helen, that has the whole Swiss Heidi schtick going on, but it’s in a location people will actually visit. Someone must have very high hopes for this place.] As the mecha fries the village, Zoltar says they gave the people time to evacuate. Cooperate, or the next village won’t be so fortunate. [Ups the ante for evil a bit. ‘We can be merciful – when we wish.’] Baxter can stop the destruction by telling them how the solar reflector works. [Because aliens capable of traveling nearly 4,000 light-years in a single day can’t figure out a solar reflector.]

To take up some more Gatchaman animation, Zoltar rephrases his demand, and then adds that if Baxter does not tell him about the reflector, he will melt the North Pole and flood the Earth. This last said with a dramatic raise of the arms and a bit of a cape flourish.

Baxter utters the classic line: “You’re mad.”

And now – Zark. Who reminds us that “…there’s no telling what evil Zoltar might try” if he gets the reflector. Then he says that G-Force is about to leave. Rover yarps a bit, so that Zark can remind us that Orion is a super-dog. [Stop, okay? Lassie’s getting peeved. Something about dignity. And Rin Tin Tin has been known to hang out with soldiers. Don’t annoy the iconic dogs of fiction.]

Then he tells the team they’re cleared for launching.

And the show borrows that footage again, only instead of Mark asking if they’re ready for outer space, he says, “Ready for takeoff.” Followed by them transmuting out of civvies into Birdstyle. [They were in Birdstyle earlier. Why did they change?]

Then the Phoenix launches, and they’re on their way north.

They reach the lake, and Tiny takes them down to, as he says, ‘eyeball.’ As they watch on the monitor, there’s the traditional ‘evil gleam’ off the lake, just to remind us that the bad guys are there.

And a one-man helicopter rises right in front of them, but doesn’t react to them. Mark identifies it as a Spectra battle-chopper, but is not concerned that the pilot might have seen them. [Huh?] Using his clever deductive powers, Mark says that’s Zoltar’s base, and Dr. Baxter, must be nearby. He also uses his superpowers to stand without us seeing him do it (and cut several inches from his height, since he seems to be standing on his chair). Jason says that with all the snow, finding the base will be like finding a meteorite (sic) in a galaxy. Mark orders Tiny to drop them behind a nearby ridge, and to wait for them. The big guy complains about being left home again.

Mark goes to Orion. “Okay, boy, let’s find Doctor Baxter.” Orion barks.

Next scene, the team riding through the snow, Orion running beside them. Most of the team drive their modified vehicles. Mark has a snowmobile with a sidecar.

From an opening in the ground rise single-person helicopters. As it irises shut, the team and Orion shake off the concealing snow and leap down into the base. [Apparently, guarding the entrances is not a high priority for Spectra.] They run through the corridors, making no attempt to hide.

Next shot is someone’s hands working on an old-fashioned drawing board, then clenching into fists and striking it, breaking the ruler. We hear Baxter say, “I won’t do it.”

Zoltar appears on a monitor to give his version of a pep talk: “You are a stubborn man, but you will change your tune when you see who I have here.” And shows Orion and G-Force on the monitor. “If you don’t value your own life, then think of your dog, and your friends.” Nice work. People who will give their own lives heroically won’t let others suffer needlessly. Although, in this case, G-Force risk their lives against Spectra every day, so that only Orion is the true innocent.

Seems Orion got ahead of the team, as Princess asks where he went. [Typical TV surveillance system: has all the camera angles.]

Then G-Force runs down the corridor. They see Orion with Baxter.

Keyop rushes forward, strikes an unseen barrier.

Mark states the obvious.

Zoltar gloats over the intercom as another barrier closes behind the team. He tells them not even their powers can save them. They’re like sour gherkins in a jar. [Zoltar knows about pickles.] The lights go up, to reveal that Baxter’s in some sort of egg-shaped cell just large enough for him, and Orion has his paws on it.

“Let’s see how your snow-dog takes to the water,” Zoltar suggests, and demonstrates interesting base design: in the chamber containing Baxter and Orion, there’s an overhead entrance. It opens and water pours in. [And not a mini-sub or scuba tank in sight, so it can’t be a docking area.]

Orion’s caught, and in what looks to me like a violation of physics, he’s whirled out of that same overhead portal. The team looks distressed, yet Mark’s line [to reassure the kids] is, “He’s gonna make it.”

Commercial break.

And Zark in his tube. [Why the writers give him these inappropriate oil breaks is a mystery.] He reassures us that Orion escaped from Zoltar’s ‘cruel water tank.’

Then to Zark’s ready room. Where he continues on about Orion being a super-dog and more than a match for ‘those evil Spectra minds.’ And he recycles the gag about how, if he had a heart, it would be in his mouth. If he had a mouth.

As he blathers about feeling guilty for taking his oil break, Rover yarps some more. He’s hungry again. Zark gives him a wrench to chew on, then wishes he had a signal or something to tell him what G-Force is doing to escape Zoltar’s base.

Well, the team’s trying all their usual methods (involving explosives), without much luck. Obviously, the enemy has learned a few things from dealing with them.

Mark pulls a little device out of his belt to call Orion. The others aren’t sure if this idea will work, but he calls. (There are some lines to remind us he has cerebonic powers.)

Cut to the surface, where an unconscious Orion is lying in the shallows. [Why he isn’t dead or severely weakened from the Arctic cold is a mystery. Unless the implant can do amazing things.] We get a brief glimpse of the implant in his head, sending out little zappy lines.

Mark tells the others he’s receiving Orion’s brainwaves.

And Orion is on the move. He races back to their original entry-point, which nobody has bothered to completely close or to guard, and re-enters the base. He runs behind a goon, who doesn’t even hear him. [I have never known a dog to run silently. Maybe I’ve only owned doggy galoots.]

Next thing we know, he’s confronting a downed guard just outside the team’s impromptu prison (and there was a flash of something in the shot that could have been another goon, but not moving). Mark praises him and orders him to show the goon what will happen if he (the goon) doesn’t do what he’s told.

Orion gets in the goon’s face. Since a) his head is bigger than the goon’s and b) he’s snarling, the guard gets the message. But he still refuses. Zoltar will never forgive him if he lets G-Force out. Mark points out that Orion will never forgive him.

Not wanting to be lunch, the goon pulls the lever that opens the barrier.

Outside, the sun is rising. The vulture mecha is in the air.

“This is your last chance, Doctor Baxter,” Zoltar says. “The Space Vulture is now on its way to one of your major cities. I want that invention.”

Baxter refuses. He doesn’t believe Zoltar would stop the attack anyway. [A rare moment of honesty in a children’s show. Someone had a moment of intelligence.]

The goons report the status of the space vulture, and someone starts a countdown for the attack.

G-Force and Orion burst in. To my surprise, the big dog actually bites someone he jumps on. [How did the editors miss that? Or did they feel that a bitten arm wasn’t a big deal?] Then he runs to Baxter.

Editing. Because Zoltar rushes out, hands to his face, but the line is a rather calm “See that they don’t escape” as goons pass him into the room.

Quick shot of the mecha in flight.

Then Zoltar at a bank of monitors, one hand still covering the top of his mask. “Our guidance system isn’t working,” he says to two goons, “and you let G-Force slip out of our grasp.” [When did that happen? Obviously it did, but we never saw any part of the ass-kicking that must have occurred in the other room.] Activate all robot snow units to pursue.

Oh, there’s going to be a throw-down they couldn’t edit very much.

Goons on snowmobiles in hot pursuit of the team.

To use some mouth flaps, Dr. Baxter thanks Mark for rescuing him and says Zoltar was trying to learn the secret of the solar reflector. [So, Baxter knows G-Force’s secret identities? Zoltar will be so pissed if he ever finds out that he could have had two things he wanted in Baxter.]

The goons are catching up. Mark orders the team to cover Orion. [How about Dr. Baxter? He’s the big prize.]

There’s more editing. Jason’s only seen taking out a couple of robots, but he has the advantage of a large, heavy car. And Keyop seems to be praising Jason’s work, but there had to have been something for him to do.

Four helicopters have a net between them. Princess slides a blade onto her hand, then stands up on her motorcycle and leaps to cut the net in half. She lands back on her cycle. [When this war is over, she has a career in stunt driving.]

More editing. Shots of goons on snowmobiles, then Mark says, “Hang on” as Baxter’s sidecar separates and slides free. Orion isn’t far from his master.

A goon comes up on one side and leaps from his vehicle into the sidecar. Not the wisest idea, since there’s no way to control what’s now a glorified sled.’

Orion has his own opinion on that, and jumps on the goon. [That has to be the roomiest sidecar ever designed.]

Mark shouts to Princess, who slings her yo-yo to him. He catches, and now we see his snowmobile is burning. Princess tows him along like a paraglider or oversized kite until he can swing over and grab Baxter.

The sidecar, carrying Orion and the goon, slides into a crevasse, to the horror of everyone.

No sign of what happens to the rest of the goons, because the next scene is Tiny in the Phoenix as Mark calls for pickup. Somehow, nobody ever spotted this 747-sized blue spaceship sitting in the back yard.

Zoltar’s really annoyed. He orders the mountains and forests destroyed, then send the mecha after the Phoenix. G-Force cannot escape with Dr. Baxter.

Watching from the bridge of the Phoenix, Baxter says that the only way to destroy the weapon is to overload the ‘radial projectors.’ [And he knows this because – ?]

That mech is putting out a lot of energy. It does look like the rocks are melting. Why does Zoltar want the solar reflector when he already has such weapons?

“How exquisitely evil,” Zoltar says. Then he orders an attack on the Phoenix.

One problem: the mecha is out of control and the crew has already abandoned ship.

As the mecha overloads, it overheats, turning red. Baxter realizes it’s about to explode.

Mark orders someone to ‘Patch in the servo-circuits’. The mecha’s attacking Spectra HQ. [So the out-of-control mecha turned around?]

There’s what looks like an explosion, but Tiny says he can’t change course: they’re locked in the projector beam from the mecha. They’re overheating, and everyone suddenly goes transparent, as we can see the backgrounds through them. Lots of technobabble here. It’s obvious that either the temperature exceeded that of the Fiery Phoenix, or else the Phoenix can’t withstand external heat sources above a certain temperature range.

Zoltar also realizes his own base is under attack, and orders an evacuation.

The base explodes. Remember, it was under water. That was one hell of an energy beam to heat it enough to explode.

Then the mecha explodes.

The Phoenix gradually cools down. Inside, Baxter is unconscious in Mark’s arms. He gradually regains consciousness. Fortunately, he’s not severely injured. Not bad for a guy without a cerebonic implant or protective Birdstyle.

The base is gone, and Zoltar was thwarted. But what of Orion? Mark’s certain that the dog’s ‘cerebonic superpowers’ pulled him through. So is Baxter.

As the team returns home, we get Zark voice-over. He also hopes that Mark is right, that Orion survived. His sensors are picking something up. Yes, there’s something down there. Fresh pawprints. Then Orion himself, on a rock outcrop, barking.

And now Zark in his nerve center. He must alert Security at once, so that they can send an arctic patrol to pick Orion up. [Why not call G-Force? Or has it been that long?]

As Rover yarps, Zark tells him that he can’t go up in all that snow and ice to get Orion. He hasn’t had his anti-freeze shots yet. [Argh.]

And we have that unnerving worshipful guff about how honored Zark is to be serving with G-Force. The End.

Fic Alert: Why not use the weather-control technology on Spectra? Are things that far gone there?

If Spectra can control Earth’s weather, then why screw around with giant mecha monsters?

Science Question: ‘Natural ice lake’?

The whole plan to melt the polar ice and use it as a water source: is that in any way, shape, or form feasible?

Actual effects of melting the North Pole, anyone?

Gatchaman Plot: Dr. Miwa, a prominent solar energy researcher, wants to use an always frozen lake known as either Lake Mountaintop, or Mountaintop Lake (depending on the sub or dub) for his project. The lake melts, and he goes to investigate, accompanied by his faithful dog, Taro. They see the Galactor base under the water, and are soon surrounded by Galactor one-man helicopters.

Miwa, who has pictures of the base, gives the camera to Taro. The dog jumps out of his helicopter and after being pursued by goons, seems to fall to its death.

Taro survives, and somehow reaches Dr. Nambu and the Science Ninja Team. He initially terrifies Jinpei, who (despite having faced dangerous soldiers and mecha) begs Jun for help.

According to Nambu, Miwa’s project involved shaping the ice of the lake into a giant lens to focus the sun’s rays and generate electricity. [Not sure how that was supposed to work, but throughout Gatchaman, any mention of solar power mentions lenses to concentrate sunlight.]

Naturally, they suspect Galactor, and the Science Ninja Team, accompanied by Taro, head for the lake to investigate. The BotP action is similar here, except there’s no team transformation and no talk of the Arctic Circle.

Miwa is forced to design a lens that can be used in Galactor’s latest mecha. Conquering Earth with nuclear power takes too long. Solar would supply Galactor’s energy needs.

Berg Katse, bastard that he is, shows the rebellious scientist Taro and the team sneaking around.

When Taro runs towards Miwa, he’s responding to a projected image. The BotP episode could not get around this scene, and left it in, even though it would be quite distressing to young children. (Unless they were paying attention and had been brought up on Lassie: the heroes don’t die on this show. And they would still need to explain Orion’s actions afterwards.)

Here is one of the times when a BotP element surpasses the original. The team is trapped, and Taro has drowned. Ken whips out a little device and tells his comrades that he can revive the dog with it, if it’s been less than an hour. Until that moment, there was no hint (except for TV-dog behavior) that Taro was not a regular dog. Not a single mention of an implant. And it’s been less than an hour. A very pissed St. Bernard to the rescue.

Taro is quite the canine Terminator when he has to be. There are two goons guarding the team. He kills one, and will kill the other if Ken gives the order. So the goon releases them, although it’s unlikely he survived the episode.

The team then goes to rescue Miwa. Cut from the BotP episode is Ken throwing his boomerang at Katse’s face and damaging his mask. (If you pause or slow the DVD at this point, you can see a panicked female face.) There’s also rather more to the fight scene. Naturally.

During the pursuit of the escaping team, Taro attacks the goon who had jumped into Miwa’s sidecar. He’s shot, and after Ken rescues Miwa, the dog, the goon, and sidecar go down a crevasse.

Without the lens Miwa designed, there’s no controlling Renzilla. It gets out of control and explodes after destroying either one Alpine village, or several villages.
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