Magnetic Attraction by Grumpy Ghost Owl
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Gatchaman and Battle of the Planets are the property of Tatsunoko Studios and Sandy Frank Productions, respectively. Copyrighted material is used for the purposes of review, and in some cases, satire (when I think something's really stupid.) All views and opinions expressed are those of the reviewer. The recipe is genuine and has been tried and tested by the writer.


I decided to review this episode after having a reviewed a couple of the deeper, darker ones, so I thought it was time for a little light relief. Bring on the giant bowling ball!

As usual, we open with a shot of Center Neptune. The three orange fish, Larry, Moe and Curly, are cruisin'.

Zark, sadly, is also cruisin' as he continues to delude himself about his own location in the shallow tropical waters of what is most probably the Pacific Ocean. "Deep down beneath the sea, here, may be the defence centre for the universe," he says, "but right now, it's just a snug and cosy marine retreat, far away from the worries of outer space." The defence centre for the universe, eh, Zark? As in, the entire universe. The universe, dude. The whole YOON-EE-VERSE. Dork.

"Eight bells, and all's well!" Zark declares. He's taking a shower, which is horrible to behold. He has this little shower screen thing, presumably for modesty, and, like, he's a glorified coffee machine with delusions of grandeur. People clean espresso makers out every day of the week without having to avert their eyes.

And... you know, now I've articulated that thought, I'm never drinking coffee again.

1-Rover-1 is waiting outside the cubicle, holding a towel. Dog Friday.

Zark, in the meantime, is attempting to sing Row Your Boat, and is getting the lyrics mixed up. Like, here he is, in charge of the defence centre for the entire effing universe, and he can't retrieve the lyrics to Row Your Boat from his data storage system. No wonder Zoltar keeps trying to invade the Earth. If Zark is anything to go by, our guys must be hanging on through sheer luck and grim determination.

"Ah, I might as well face it," Zark sighs, applying his scrubbing brush, "I'm just not the outdoors type. And I wasn't programmed for singing, either."

He finishes his shower and accepts the towel from 1-Rover-1. He thanks Rover and waffles on about how nice it is to shower in high grade machine oil. Ugh. As usual, with Zark being en déshabillé, Susan calls.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

One thing I notice is that I don't see a lot of Zark/Susan fic around the place in this fandom.

Long may it stay that way.


And I mean that with all sincerity. Truly, I do. And if anyone has written Zark/Susan fic, please don't tell me about it, because I do not wish to know.

Anway, Zark does the whole over-the-top anthropomorphic reaction to Susan and asks the very same question I was pondering -- why is it that Susan always calls when Zark is in the shower? Maybe it's just art reflecting life: the phone always rings when you're in the bath.

Anyway, Susan's all 1900 call me now, only five bucks a minute, and she's, "Afraid, that there's trouble heading in to the Solar System. A space UFO."

A space UFO.

Three minutes, twenty eight seconds into the episode (inclusive of the opening title, mind you) and already, I'm thinking, no. I'm so not going there.

Because I'm not about to discuss the possibilities of the various types of non-space UFOs and how they might be described. It's a space UFO, and I'm dealing with it... more or less... okay, I need tea in order to cope with this. Back in a tick.

Susan says she picked the space UFO up on her cosmic scanner.

Zark is chuffed that Suz managed to do the job she was installed to do, and wants to know if the space UFO is heading toward Earth.

Susan apologises that she can't tell, because -- and I hope you're sitting comfortably for this, really I do. Look, just take a deep breath before I continue, all right? And put down your teacup or coffee mug. Finish whatever it is you're eating.


She was washing her antennae.

Three minutes, forty one seconds, and I'm thinking, you know, there's a reason I loved this show as a kid, a reason that even after all these years, I still like it a lot...

And this isn't it.

But wait, there's more.

"I was putting them up in curlers," Suz continues, "and I'm afraid... well... I lost it, Zark."

Zark is duly concerned about this. He decides he'd better see if he can find the space UFO. Susan elaborates for him: "It was a very strange object," she says. "A huge round metal ball, floating through space. I hope you find it."

Zark agrees, and sighs as Suz signs off. He laments that, "Susan is usually so reliable. And to be washing her antennae on duty!" He says, clutching a towel around his nether regions having just been taking a shower while on duty. "I wonder what colour her antenna is?" he wonders. "I've always had a weakness for robot girls with red antennae."

And that's just --




Zark decides to go and turn on his monitors. Instead of the usual dots and geometrical patterns, the animators have gone to a little bit of trouble to produce a frame with some of the matte art done for the space shot scenes. They've actually layered it and it looks quite good. Zark laments that he can't see anything, but notes that, "If the mysterious UFO was heading for Earth, it may already have landed."

As Zark says this, we cut to what looks like a railway station, with people getting in and out of trains, and it becomes evident that Zark is right about the space UFO having already landed, because here it is, and it doesn't look like it wants anyone to check its ticket.

Something large and dark bursts up through the floor. It fills the screen, sends cracks racing through the building, and erupts, taking the building with it. It's as Suz described it, a giant dark sphere. Horrified onlookers stand helpless beside their cars in the street. Several people lie prone and unmoving on the pavement.

Using the pause button, I count four bodies. Skittled by a giant bowling ball. How the heck do you explain that to their next of kin?

"Well, Susan's UFO has landed in Center City," Zark observes. "I've just had time to warn all citizens to rush to the bomb-proof shelters. Thank goodness no-one has been injured."

Um... except for the people who were in the station when the giant space UFO destroyed the building and the people we saw lying in the street, right, Zark?

The bowling ball has four long legs. Red, segmented legs. The Bowling Ball Lobster.

It's very weird. The limbs retract, and the surface of the bowling ball seals up, apparently seamlessly.

"I've had this strange and destructive visitor under my scanners," Zark says, "but it's still eluding me."


Um, Zark, it's at the train station. You were just telling us how you saved everyone and no-one was injured.

The bowling ball rolls down the street.

That's right.

The bowling ball.


Down the street.

It looks to be at least two storeys high, and it's a bowling ball... rolling down the street.

Dude, forget the fried egg analogy, this is your brain on drugs.

The bowling ball has made it out of the city, now -- I guess those parking hassles are so bad, even giant bowling balls can't find a space during the peak hour -- and we see a view of a city overlooking a bay, which appears to be from the bowling ball's viewpoint. It has extended those segmented red legs again, on which it walks when it isn't rolling along.

Zark prattles on about how security has ordered robot land vehicles and remote controlled fighter planes to defend the city, so we just know that the ISO is going to get its figurative bum handed to it.

The trucks with the rocket batteries line up like targets on a firing range, while the remote controlled fighters fly in.

The trucks close in, well within range of the bowling ball, and open fire, as do the fighters. Ordnance explodes and bounces ineffectively off the bowling ball's seemingly impregnable surface.

The bowling ball retracts its legs, extends a pair of stubby wings and a tailfin, and takes off.

The remote controlled fighter jets pursue the bowling ball, and fire air-to-air missiles at it, all of which demonstrate a level of effectiveness roughly congruent to that of a wet flannel. Or possibly less.

Several barnacle-like protuberances emerge from the bowling ball, and it fires countermeasures, which take out the remote controlled fighters.

Wow. It slices. It dices. It takes out enemy interceptors with a 360-degree air-to-air missile volley. This one terror machine can meet all your invasion needs with its amazing range of easy-to-operate accessories. Call now, and we'll throw in a legion of stormtroopers. Use your credit card, and we'll add this handy pocket-sized 'Mini-Doom' death ray, absolutely free! Call in the next ten minutes to get your stormtrooopers and use your credit card to get the exclusive 'Mini-Doom' pocket death ray. Don't delay! Call NOW!

The view shrinks to a screen, and we're at Center Neptune, with Chief Anderson briefing G-Force.

"That's it," the Chief says as the image fades. "We don't know what it is, or how to destroy it." The camera pans over Jason looking cynical, and Mark looking despondent.

Tiny, on the other hand, has had his Weeties this morning. "Just give us a crack at it, Chief!" he says, brandishing a clenched fist.

Anderson shrugs. Jason turns his head slightly to address Anderson, who is still in mid-shrug. "Been a while since we had trouble from Zoltar and his bunch of pirates from Spectra."

The camera pulls back, and the body language is telling: Jason, Princess, Tiny and Keyop are all facing toward Anderson, who is speaking, while Mark, at left, is standing with his back to the group, arms folded, head down, as though he thinks nothing's worth it.

"We're not sure it's Spectra," Anderson says, seemingly ignoring Mark's lack of courtesy, "but the UFO appears to be impregnable against our defensive weapons."

"An indestructible black ball," Princess concludes.

"Probably from some distant enemy star system," Anderson says, without providing us with any basis for his theory.

"Where?" Princess asks, all business.

"It slipped by our early warning system," Anderson says, thankfully -- blessedly -- leaving out the part about Susan's curlers.

"Fast ball!" Keyop chrips.

"You want us to take a crack at it, Chief?" Princess asks.

Well, no, lovie, he just briefed you so you could go and handle the press conference.

Anderson directs a glare over Princess' shoulder at the back of Mark's head. It's a wonder Chicken Boy's helmet doesn't spontaneously combust. "That's for your Commander to decide," Anderson points out. If they ever figure out how to harness the power of the Anderson Glare, they'll have the ultimate weapon against everything. Zoltar could take lessons from Anderson. The Zoltar Glare isn't nearly as scary as the Anderson Glare. The Zoltar Glare gives the impression that Zoltar is about to start spraying spit as he shouts. The Anderson glare, on the other hand, excludes anything to do with spitting, because in the face of the Anderson Glare, your salivary glands have just undergone spontaneous dessication, and are currently trying to get as far away from ground zero as they can by crawling out through your ears.

Mark turns around. "No, I don't think so," he says softly. "I'm sorry."

Anderson nods. "I understand," he says gently.

Jason is appalled and wants to know why Mark is declining the mission. "It's not like you to chicken out on an emergency like this, Mark," he goads.

"I want to know what we're up against, first," Mark says.

Um.... I think you're kind of up against a giant bowling ball with lobster legs and all the accessories from every kitchen appliance ever made, actually.

"And what do we do in the meantime?" Jason demands. "Let it destroy our cities? Let's go after that space invader!"

"No!" Mark admonishes. "As long as I'm in command, we keep the Phoenix grounded and ready."

"Sorry, Jason," Princess says. "I vote with Mark."

Suddenly, G-Force is a democracy.

Keyop warbles and stutters, "Me, too!"

"Double check," Tiny says. Mister Loyalty, as always.

"Well, Jason?" Mark challenges, now that he has the other three to back up his command.

"No way!" Jason protests.

"Hold it," Anderson says. "We're faced with an extreme emergency." He turns away from the team. "The Federation will decide."

Erm... okay. So we've got yet another seemingly indestructible weapon attacking yet another Earth city, and the Chief says it's Mark's call as to whether G-Force will go up against it. Four fifths of G-Force has a group hug over Mark's decision not to go, and suddenly it's going to go to the Federation to decide whether or not G-Force goes bowling.

Why ask the question if you're not going to accept any answer other than the one you want to hear? Some form of operant conditioning through negative reinforcement, perhaps?

It's Zark again. He's back at his regular monitors with the little geometric patterns on them. "Oh, my," he laments. "Jason and Mark are at it again. Jason is so hotheaded," Zark pontificates, "and I feel it's all my fault." Say what, metal man? "Now the mysterious UFO has disappeared. My scanners are probing the oceans, right now. I've got to find out what that thing is up to! My molecular stress analysers the UFO is composed of some unknown metallic compound that is impervious to all types of explosives. I'll have to come up with a solution, if I ever find it! Uh-oh," he says, as his antennae buzz, "I think I'm picking it up now."

We cut to the G-Force ready room, where we are treated to some gosh-awful animation courtesy of Sandy Frank Entertainment. Princess is playing a rather odd-shaped guitar and Keyop is at the drum set. There's synthesised background music playing, at odds with the instruments on screen. It's hard to tell what Princess might be playing, as it appears that she's simply strumming the same chord over and over. My prediction: she'll probably never be the next overnight musical success story.

The camera pans to where Tiny is sitting and eating a burger. "You know," he says, "for once I think I've had my fill of spaceburgers. This sitting around and waiting kills my appetite."

Princess -- and she's horribly, appallingly, hideously drawn -- stops playing, but the music continues. "Nothing we can do about it, Tiny," she says. "Zark is up in his tower, burning up his circuits, trying to find an answer." And for that last bit, she sounds like Susan. I know, same VA, but she's all breathy like Suz and I hate that. The art is abysmal in these scenes. I've seen better fanart, for crying out loud.

Keyop makes some warbling noises and asks where Mark is.

"Gone down to the ocean," Tiny reports. "To meditate, he says."

Zark's horrible little image appears on the big screen. Even he's drawn badly. "Attention, G-Force," says the tin toad, "I have a red alert! I've finally located the UFO, just off the coast! Your mission now is, track down and destroy!"

"But what about Mark?" Princess asks, and they haven't even bothered to paint a background.

"Call him in, Princess," Zark says. I thought that was supposed to be your job, metal man.

We see seawater washing up against the base of a cliff and hear the sound of a G-Force communicator chiming. The camera tilts up and changes perspective. Mark is lying flat on his back at the top of the rise. He sits up at the sound of the alert and answers the hail. "Ears on," he says. "Anything on the UFO?"

"Zark located it," Princess tells him. "We're going after the space intruder, Mark."

"I didn't give that order, yet, Princess," Mark says.

Tiny steps in to avoid an argument. "Pick you up in ten minutes, Mark," he says, and there's no arguing with Tiny when he's got however many tonnes of Phoenix strapped to his bum, because, like, he's got the Phoenix strapped to his bum.

Mark grimaces, and leaps to a conclusion. "Jason was itching to take over," he snarls to himself.

So, let's examine Chicken Boy's logic on this: when asked by Anderson whether he was prepared to lead his team against a weapon that might well take them out, he declined and explained that he wanted more intel before engaging the enemy. Anderson said that he understood, and Mark's decision was backed by Princess, Tiny and Keyop. Jason felt that they ought to go after the intruder because if they didn't stop it, Earth's cities would be undefended.

Now, both Mark and Jason are right, and Mark is being prudent, in that if the bowling ball were to knock G-Force out for the count, Earth would really be left undefended, so he's got this whole 'big picture/greater good' argument going for him, there. Jason, however, is right in the sense that the people of Earth deserve to know that their defence organisation is doing its utmost to protect each and every one of them, on principle. Because that's Jason's thing. I don't know that he's so much hotheaded as idealistic. He sees each citizen as valuable, each life as precious, and if he has to give up his own life defending what he believes in, he'll do so. What he fails to do is think ahead another couple of steps after that and ask himself what happens to the rest of the Federation if G-Force is lost.

So Jason is right, but Mark is more right in a practical sense.

Anderson said that the Federation would decide, and Zark has passed along the orders which must stem from a higher power, be it the ISO or whatever this universe's equivalent of the Minister or Secretary for Defence is.

So why is Mark blaming this on Jason? Is Mark's command so dependent on consensus that he can only make an executive decision if everyone agrees with it? That doesn't make sense.

I hate the way Zark and Mark make it that Jason is wrong and power-hungry. They're saying that Jason is motivated by ambition rather than by ideals, and what kind of example is that to give to kids? Go ahead and make judgements about others, regardless of the fact that they may have a completely valid reason for their views or their actions. Don't negotiate or try to find common ground when someone disagrees with you, just judge. Charming.

Zark is not a very good role model for young people.

And with all the things I hate, loathe and detest about this show, I still love it because the good stuff outweighs the bad. It's just a shame there has to be so much that's so bad. Don't get me wrong: I regard BotP as a show in its own right, so that if you were to just show me Gatchaman, it wouldn't be like, "Oh, BotP with all the bad bits taken out," it would be like, Gatchaman, a separate show. BotP with all the bad bits taken out would be a very different show to Gatchaman. And it would still have all the silly things that Gatchaman has, but thankfully that does not include salad-spinner neurosurgery, roller skates or the puppy episode.

Mark stands, extends his left arm and says, "Begin... Transmute!" We have a sparkly -- and thankfully brief -- transmutation sequence, then we cut to some stock footage of the G-1 jet docking with the Phoenix.

Another cut takes us to the bridge of the Phoenix. Mark is standing directly in front of Jason, but isn't meeting his eyes. "Who countermanded my orders?" he snaps.

Jason has his answer all ready. "Zark, and the Chief, and the Federation," he says. Zark? Zark can countermand the orders of the Commander of G-Force? "It's our job, Mark," Jason continues, "and that's what we're all trained and organised for." Jason isn't in to defusing situations. He's in to telling it like it is. As it happens, that isn't what Mark wants, right now.

The look on Keyop's face just screams, We're not going to get into trouble for this, are we? "Not spectators," he manages to say, after gargling with his tonsils for a moment.

Mark has his arms folded. He's on the defensive. "Sure," he says, "but what are we going to stop it with? Our bare hands? Even our Neutron Missile won't put a dent in it!"

Hey, there's always the Anderson Glare...

"I'd like to give it a good try," Jason says, tactfully refraining from pointing out that they haven't tried their Neutron Missiles, yet. This is about as close to tact as Jason gets.

"He's right," Princess says, and there's steel in her voice, this time. It puts an abrupt end to the argument.

"There it is!" Tiny points out, and it's eyes front for everyone. I wonder if they had a new artist on staff for this episode, because Jason looks very young in this scene.

The music goes all dramatic -- there's an egg-shaped monitor on the rear console that I don't remember seeing before -- and there before them is the bowling ball.


A swimming bowling ball.

Dear, oh, dear, oh dear.

The bowling ball is closing on what looks to be a cargo ship. From the depths of the bowling ball, some new accessories emerge: two claw-like appendages and a fan. I bet one of these would be really handy in the kitchen.

The ship moves past the camera and the bowling ball circles around in pursuit.

"That ship may be in danger," Jason observes, calling on his amazing cerebonic power of Stating the Bleeding Obvious. "Let's knock that black ball out of the park."

Mark is having a sulk. He's still in the corner facing the wall.

"What, now?" Keyop asks.

Princess follow this up with, "Mark?"

Mark has his eyes closed. He opens them, gazing upward as though looking for divine inspiration (or possibly forgiveness, for what he's about to say next. "We're turning back," he tells them. "Nothing we can do, here."

Princess closes her eyes in disappointment. Keyop has his mouth open, his expression one of outrage, and Jason puts himself in the firing line.

"No go, Mark," he says. "I'm in command, now."

Interesting choice of words: "I'm in command, now," rather than, "I'm relieving you of command." It's as though the writers are trying to portray Jason as being hungry for power.

Mark's refusal to engage the enemy appears to be a refusal to follow orders which have been given by his superiors. Of course, we don't know the exact nature of the orders, but it has been implied throughout the episode that G-Force is expected to engage. Orders aside, Mark is effectively abandoning the crew of the cargo ship to death or capture, which is not something that Good Guys do.

Compare this behaviour with what the team did in Ace From Outer Space, which precedes Magnetic Attraction in both the Gatchaman production order and the Frank viewing order. In Ace, the team knew they were up against an 'indestructible' weapon. Anderson told them outright he had no idea how to stop Captain Doom and that he wouldn't order them to go up against him. The team eagerly volunteered to launch a counter-strike based on virtually no information. In Magnetic Attraction, G-Force is again faced with little-to-no information, but this time, the enemy is on home soil, constituting a clear and present danger to both military and civilian assets. On receipt of orders from the highest authority to engage and neutralise the threat, Mark abandons a civilian target to its fate with a cheerful, "Nothing we can do here!"

And the production crew want the audience to see Jason as the bad guy for relieving Mark of command.

Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture?

Before anyone can say anything further, we hear a familiar laugh. It looks like Galaxy Security's comms network is about as secure as Internet Explorer. "Good morning, G-Force," Zoltar says. "Do I detect strife and dissention in your ranks?"

Keyop scowls at the screen."All we needed," he grumbles.

"Now, Commander," Zoltar reasons, "surely G-Force is not afraid of a metallic sphere from outer space? I dare you to try to destroy it. I dare you! I dare you!" Zoltar dissolves into fits of the obligatory Evil Villain laughter while Mark develops a decidedly stressy facial tic.

The bowling ball sprouts a submarine conn tower and sinks below the surface of the ocean.

Mark says nothing. He's having a sulk, and his only hope for redemption at this point will be for him to survive the encounter so he can tell everyone else that he told them so.

This is what happens when you send a boy to do a man's job.

Interestingly, Jason isn't watching Zoltar. Jason is watching Mark.

After a moment, he turns his attention to Tiny. "Let's go, Tiny," he says. "Take her down."

"Big ten," Tiny acknowledges.

Mark doesn't move, but his expression has gone from distressed to determined. "No!" he insists.

Tiny, caught between conflicting orders, looks up at Mark. "Eh?" he asks.

"We're not taking the bait," Mark says.

He has a point. I mean, when the Evil Villain hacks in to your comms system and taunts you, complete with the Evil Villain laughter, he probably wants you to attack him because he has a Cleverly Laid Trap all waiting for you, and Mark's reluctance to waltz in to it smacks of common sense.

"I'm giving the orders," Jason points out.

And this may well be one time where Jason is being hot headed. Because Not Walking Into The Evil Villain's Carefully Laid Trap is probably one of the things you really should learn if you want to survive more than one episode as Commander of G-Force. Seriously.

"Turn back!" Mark snaps.

Tiny's hand trembles on the control lever. Poor Tiny. What a position to be in! He doesn't know whether to obey Mark or Jason. Technically, Mark has abdicated his control through his refusal to obey a direct order from the Federation, so Jason is legally in charge.

"That's exactly what Zoltar wants us to do, Jason!" Mark argues, but he's watching Tiny, as is Jason, because it's not about convincing Jason, now, it's about convincing the man with the Phoenix strapped to his bum. "We play his game, and we lose!"

Princess watches the power struggle. Keyop watches Princess.

"It's up to you, Tiny," Mark says.

Which is a really nasty thing to do.

"Thanks," Tiny drawls, and a trickle of sweat runs down his temple. His hand wavers on the controls for a second, then he throttles back.

Tiny chooses his personal loyalty to Mark over his loyalty to the Federation and his obligation to obey orders. It's what Tiny does, and Mark was obviously counting on it. Tiny is all about people rather than the roles they fulfill. For Tiny, G-Force is Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop and Tiny, not G-1 through G-5. Tiny may be represented by the owl, whose wisdom and ability to cut through to the core of any matter are its defining archetypical qualities, but he doesn't do much to really live up to his avian avatar. Tiny is all about heart, rather than mind. Tiny's uniform should be a bear.

The camera pans across from Tiny's face, to Jason's, and continues until it focusses on Mark's groin. Yes, you read that correctly.

"There must be some way!" Mark says, and it's almost like a prayer.

Probably for the camera to stop focussing on his groin.

The music goes all dramatic and we fade... to Zark, who is pacing back and forth, watched by 1-Rover-1.

I think we should go to Recipe of the Episode, now.


Sponge cakes have a reputation for being tricky, but really, there's nothing that can't be overcome with patience, care and an understanding of the processes involved in making a good sponge.

This cake recipe contains no shortening at all. The only fat in it comes from the egg yolks. When making a sponge, the important thing to remember is that it has to stay fluffy. The method requires that the cook introduce tiny, uniform air bubbles to the mixture and then, most importantly, ensure that the bubbles aren't knocked out of the mixture through heavy handed mixing when the flour is added. Use a delicate hand when folding in that flour, and don't take shortcuts!

For best results, take the eggs out of the fridge and have them at room temperature before starting. Preheat the oven, and make sure that the mixing bowl is either porcelain, metal or glass. Eggs won't whip up in a plastic bowl. The bowl should be warm, but not hot before the eggs are put in.

When the sponge comes out of the oven, handle the tins with care. A bump or knock while the cake is still hot can cause it to collapse. Don't try to remove the cake from the tin until it has cooled. I have found that a good springform tin is the best type to use if you're going for an ordinary 20cm (8") round cake. I also use this basic recipe for butterfly cupcakes and Swiss rolls. Fingers crossed, it's never let me down.

4 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water
½ cup cornflour
½ cup plain flour
½ teaspoon vanilla essence

Sift plain flour, cornflour and baking powder seven times.

Warm a mixing bowl and beat the eggs until thick and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla, beating all the time.

Gradually fold in the flour mixture. When almost folded in, add boiling water.

Bake in a papered, greased tin in a moderate oven for approximately 15 minutes.

This sponge is delicious split and served with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

And now, back to our episode:

Zark is expositing as he paces: "I've tried everything to find a way to find a way to defeat that awesome space ship from Spectra. Molecular scanners, chemo-probes, spectroanalysis -- nothing! A blank! Susan is devastated. She feels it's her fault the UFO slipped by the outer planetary watch patrols so easily." Zark uses his cape to fly over to his monitors. You know, the ones he constantly watches... as long as he isn't pacing, throwing a wrench for his dog, taking a ten second oil break, showering or flirting with his girlfriend. Those monitors. "I know G-Force is counting on me to come up with a solution," Zark continues (while your reviewer gags) "Even their newest weapons are no match for Zoltar's space machine."

While I wonder how Zark knows all this (possibly the molecular scanners, chemo-probes and spectroanalysis) there is some cutesy-poo music and Rover does that thing where he spins his tail like a propellor and flies over to join Zark. Rover makes some yappy noises at Zark.

"Thanks for your vote of confidence, 1-Rover-1," Zark says, "but I'm afraid, this time, my dialectric ketrodes (?) are just not coming up with a magical answer, and unless I find a way to destroy this impregnable invader from Spectra, Earth could be doomed!"

Rover yaps some more, which obviously helps a lot. Not.

Mark is having a sulk. He's lying on top of an extremely narrow bed in his civvies, staring at the ceiling.

Princess and Keyop approach. "Mark?" Princess says, and repeats herself when this elicits no response.

"Mark?" Keyop tries.

Mark responds by turning toward Keyop and saying, "I asked everybody to leave me alone."

That's so constructive.

"You're taking this too hard, Mark," Princess points out. "After all, it's not your fault."

Mark turns away and closes his eyes. He's not in the mood for common sense at the moment. In fact, apart from having sufficient brain cells to resist walking in to Zoltar's trap earlier with a dotted line drawn across his throat and the words 'cut here' written under it, he hasn't been particularly receptive to logic for the majority of the episode.

Princess makes a small sound of disappointment, and Keyop tries to cheer Mark up by showing him a horse-shoe magnet and a steel ball, much like the one my grand-uncle gave me when I was four. "Look," he urges. "Brought you... nice new present!"

"Put it away, Keyop," Princess says, her tone revealing a measure of annoyance.

"Why?" Keyop challenges.

"Just do it!" Princess says, using a 'tired mother in the supermarket' voice that we don't usually hear from her.

Mark's eyes fly open. He sits up and turns to his friends. "Wait!" he says. "Maybe Keyop has something, there!"

Yes, Mark, he has a horse-shoe magnet and a steel ball.

Which you could not possibly have seen as you had your back turned while Keyop was trying to show it to you.

The camera focusses on the magnet and the ball. Thank heaven the operator has gotten over his groin obsession.

Mark stares into a private middle distance while Keyop grins up at him. "Simple science," Keyop says, "but fun!"

Princess glances back and forth between the two of them. I think she can see the gears turning in Mark's head.

Mark stands up, one hand curling into a fist. "Hmmmm..." he says, decisively. (Yes, I know, I'm being sarcastic.)

"Educational," Keyop continues, as he keeps playing with the magnet.

He finally notices the look on Mark's face and turns to Princess as though seeking an explanation. Princess merely gives him a superior look.

Mark relieves Keyop of the magnet and lets the ball fly to it. "That's it!" he declares, and starts to laugh.

Princess and Keyop exchange looks. "He loves it!" Keyop says happily.

We cut to a set of blue prints, and sadly, Zark will now narrate for us.

"So simple!" Zark declares in voice over. "We're building a giant magnet, whose force will trap the enemy space ship. I don't know why I didn't think of it immediately, but as they say, sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees! It should work," he says, "but first, G-Force will have to decoy the enemy sphere into chasing them." The vision segues from blueprints and construction images to the completed magnet, which appears to be situated in a pine forest. Is this the forest Zark couldn't see for the trees? "I have alerted G-Force that the deadly sphere has been sighted. They are taking off to intercept it."

We cut to a shot of the Phoenix's nacelle, flying straight and level in a clear blue sky.

And here's the bowling ball!

The two ships are closing, and the camera pans across the cabin of the Phoenix, showing all of G-Force, appropriately focussed on their mission.

Now that Mark has had his inspiration and is back in command, All Is Well With The World.

Interesting, isn't it? If Mark is happy, everybody's happy.

How nice.

Another interesting thing is that Jason isn't standing in his usual position up the front: he's at the back of the cabin, still appropriately focussed, but it's like he's been sent to stand in the corner for being a bad boy and doubting Hero Mark.

Speaking of Mark, Mark is speaking: "Remember," he cautions, "keep all weapons systems closed." Is that why he's sent Jason up the back? To lead him not into temptation? "Tiny will keep buzzing that thing until I give the word to disengage.

"Hey," Tiny says, and he looks like he's half asleep, "watch me fly rings around it, Commander."

There's a hiss of static, Zoltar's favourite little corner monitor lights up, and Keyop chirps, "Got company!"

The Z-dude's picture appears in its usual spot. "So you finally came out of hiding, Earthlings," he taunts them. "You have fallen in to my trap, G-Force, just as I planned. And now, I have a surprise for you -- a deadly surprise!" at which point he dissolves into more Evil Villain laughter.

"We'll see who gets the surprise," Jason says from his 'in disgrace' seat up the back.

"You're on, Tiny," Mark says. "Time to do your thing."

Tiny grins. "Right, Commander," he says.

The Phoenix pitches down and yaws into a descending turn. It intercepts the bowling ball and proceeds to, quite literally, as Tiny said, fly rings around it.

The nifty sledgehammer acessory emerges from the bowling ball and takes swipes at the Phoenix, but Tiny is unfazed. Intriguingly, the bowling ball's wings and external propulsion unit have vanished, presumably retracted back into the main body of the machine, but it's still airborne and in motion. The thing is spinning, now, with two very large sledgehammer units trying to knock the Phoenix out of the sky.

Tiny keeps dodging and weaving, then breaks off. The bowling ball follows, now with wings and propulsion unit back on.

The bowling ball closes, but Tiny retains a gap between the two ships. The bowling ball is right on the Phoenix's six at this point, and it would only require one nose gunner to do some serious damage, but of course, the plot does not call for conventional warfare at this point in time.

The Phoenix heads toward some really pointy looking mountains, with the bowling ball in hot pursuit.

Suddenly, however, the bowling ball breaks off and veers away.

Princess rises out of her seat. "It's turned back!" she exclaims.

"Smelled a rat!" Keyop speculates as everyone leans over to get a look at the departing bowling ball.

Mark, of course, has a solution: "We have to get that thing turned around, somehow," he declares, "and there's only one way to do it."

Jason is out of his seat. "You mean... get inside that thing?"

Mark fixes Jason with a look. "Know any other way, Jason?" he asks, and he's daring Jason to defy him again. One thing about Mark, he's so darned insecure, he has to display his dominance at every opportunity. This is the Mark equivalent of strutting around on his perch with his wings dropped, footing the branch, tossing his head and calling to show that he's the alpha male.

"That's plain suicide, Mark!" Princess breathes.

"Far out!" Keyop adds for good measure.

"It's our only chance to stop Zoltar," Mark says, and I can't help wondering, once again, how he knows this. Oh, yeah, right: molecular scanners, chemo-probes and spectroanalysis. That was it. Sorry.

Mark strikes an heroic pose with his team clustered around him. "Someone has to do it," he says.

"Me!" Princess volunteers, but Mark isn't having any of this equality nonsense.

"Thanks, Princess," he says, "but I'm still in charge, here."

Jason steps forward. "You always have been, Mark," he says, and they shake hands.

"Thanks," Mark says, and prepares to meet Highly Probable Doom.

Okay, so Mark's in charge. Does that mean he has to volunteer for all the solo missions? Because I thought that if you were in command, your job was not so much to go off and try to get yourself killed at every opportunity but to act as leader, strategist and general 'holding it all together' sort of person.

And this may well be true, unless you're Mark.

Me, I would have let Princess do it because she's the team's demolition expert. I might even have sent Jason in with her because he's no slouch when it comes to engineering himself, but I wouldn't have sent Jason in alone because he'd feel he had something to prove and might be inclined to take a few too many risks.

So, anyway, the Phoenix makes a few feints at the bowling ball, which takes a few swipes with this little plug attachment thingy, then we focus on the dorsal dome of the Phoenix, to see our boy Mark (of course) ready to do his thing.

With a cry, Mark launches himself off the command ship, grabs hold of the plug accessory (if you need to power your handy Giant Bowling Ball of Doom, you can use this attachment to charge it up using any international shaver jack!) and is drawn into the bowling ball while the Phoenix completes her fly-by.

Once inside, Mark has a little look around, and finds himself, not inside an equipment bay, but in a control room. An unmanned control room. He twiddles some knobs and dials, which make those cute little clockwork windy noises like when you had an old-fashioned alarm clock that had to be wound up every day.

On the Phoenix's you-beaut radar-thingy screen, Princess and Keyop are watching a yellow dot -- presumably our bowling ball -- turn onto a new course.

"Mark did it!" Keyop declares triumphantly, and Princess nods in agreement.

Princess activates her wrist communicator (rather than use the ship's comm system) and says, "Get ready, Chief. Mark's bringing the ball in. Should be in range, soon."

And, I know, this is me being really picky and everything, but if Mark can override the command systems on the bowling ball, why not simply commandeer it, capture it, and study it so that you can develop stronger armour for those tanks that keep getting blown up every other week? Oh, no, sorry. That would make sense. What was I thinking?

We cut to a close up of Anderson, who says, "Thanks, Princess," then he turns to a bunch of men in white coats and orders, "Power."

A hand, presumably attached to an arm, presumably attached to one of the men in one of the white coats, turns on two very big switches, and then Anderson gets to say the title of the episode, "Magnetic attraction!"

Personally, I think he's been spending far too much time listening to Zark.

The big magnet starts to vibrate.


It's vibrating.

A vibrating magnet.

Now, I know I was never terribly good at physics. I mean, the whole business of calculating the charge on a subatomic particle was just too much for my poor little right-brain-dominant mind to deal with. Give me art. Give me literature. Don't give me interpretive dance, however. Please don't. I mean that. Seriously. But I seem to recall this thing in high school science where we were taught that to make an electromagnet, you got yourself a bit of magnetic material (eg: steel) and you ran a current through it. Or you got yourself a piece of steel, wrapped copper wire around it, and ran a current through that. Either way, it involved bits of metal, alligator clips and a transistor battery.

Bearing in mind that this took place in a classroom full of hormonal adolescents, I'm quite certain that if there'd been any vibrating of any kind whatsoever, someone would have noticed.

Anyway, the big magnet is vibrating like mad, and there are people who could read quite a lot into that. Fortunately, I'm not one of them.

The bowling ball is heading for the magnet on quite a steep descent and quite fast, too. The sudden stop is going to be a doozy! We see a dark gloved hand being restrained by another hand in a blue glove as the first hand's owner struggles to move a control. It's Mark, of course, preventing a Spectran soldier from turning the bowling ball away from the magnet.

"Sorry," Mark says, and I get the feeling he isn't being entirely sincere in his apology, "but I'm in charge, here."

He's really feeling the need to assert himself, today, isn't he?

Aboard the Phoenix, the remaining four fifths of G-Force are watching the bowling ball's descent.

"Mark!" Princess exclaims. "He's going down with it!"

Keyop bursts into tears. "Bail out!" he pleads.

Meanwhile, back aboard the bowling ball, where the intertial damping system is, as per Gene Roddenberry, working very well, thank you, with no sign of the stresses involved with a rapid descent from altitude, Mark has done something decidedly unpleasant but largely unspecified to the Spectran soldier, and he's using some kind of hand held ray weapon to trash the controls. He leaps out of frame just as one of the consoles explodes.

Now we see Mark running down a companionway (again, with no sign of having to deal with any of the forces that affect any falling body.)

The giant magnet is vibrating so hard, and exerting such a powerful magnetic field that it's beginning to shake loose of its footings. No surprises there, really, given that the concrete probably hasn't been given time to cure.

Bits start flying out of the bowling ball and hitting the magnet. The bowling ball has slowed and is fighting back (not sure how, given that their control consoles were smashed and done in by Mark, but maybe they have a really good engineering team.)

Instead of using any of its superior weaponry and destroying the magnet, (probably because Mark smashed the control consoles) the bowling ball is merely using its propulsion systems to try and fight the traction.

The bowling ball is being pulled in, but so is the magnet!

This is what comes of allowing your super weapons to be built by the lowest bidder. And also not allowing the concrete to cure properly.

The bowling ball impacts with the magnet -- which, after having seen the ball up against the Phoenix, gives an idea of the scale of said magnet -- with a discharge of... something, possibly electricity?

For a moment, everything hangs, then the magnet topples forward, the bowling ball hits the ground, and it all goes, KA-BLOOEY!

And there's no sign of Mark.

The Phoenix touches down and G-Force walk right up to the crater, which is burning with the kind of intensity that would have me standing, oh, about forty metres back with my husband's firefighting suit on.

They're all in tears.

"Mark!" Princess says.

"Come back, Mark!" sobs Keyop, and flings himself to the ground. "Mark!"

"I can't believe Mark's gone," says Jason, which of course, counts as foreshadowing, because at that moment, Tiny looks up and asks a very important question.

"What's that?"

They all look up, and Princess gasps.

It's Mark, of course, gliding down from where he must have bailed out earlier.

Nice of you to open a comm channel and let your team know you were okay, you twit.

"It's Mark!" Princess says, quite unnecessarily. "It's Mark!"

"Glide!" Keyop urges, and sniffles. "Good old Mark."

So, Mark is on descent, and we are joined, in voice over, by 7-Zark-7.

"Well," says Zark, "Mark certainly proved once again why he's the Commander of G-Force. His idea for that giant magnet really worked. Of course, he got the idea from Keyop, really, and Keyop got his magnet from me!" (That noise you can hear is me, gagging.) Mark lands next to Keyop. "There's a lot of talent on this team," Zark says.

We cut back to Nerve Centre, where Zark addresses Rover. "After an ordeal like that, 1-Rover-1, I think I'll go up to my ready room for a short breather." I didn't know robots needed to breathe. Rover yaps a bit and Zark puts his horrible little hands behind his unpleasant little back, shuffling away. "You stay here, and watch for any red alerts." 1-Rover-1 yaps a bit more.

With Zark out of the picture (literally) Mark walks in, and he looks like he was drawn by an artist who really needed one of those little wooden mannequins to get the proportions right. I mean, dude. You learn this stuff in your first year at art school.

"Hi, Zark," Mark says, not realising that Zark is absent. "Just dropped in to tell you that -- Zark?"

Princess joins him, also drawn really, really, really badly. I mean, if I drew something that badly, I would never, ever, ever in a million years allow it out of my visual diary unless it was to use it as kindling, let alone release it for international TV network syndication.

"Where is Zark?" Princess wonders aloud.

"Must be up in his ready room on a ten second oil break," Mark says.

"Mark," Princess says, "I haven't had a chance to tell you, yet, but I was so worried about you, today."

"You really were?" Mark asks.

"When I thought you were trapped in that awful thing," Princess explains, "the magnetic attraction was so strong, I was afraid you weren't coming back."

"Don't worry, Princess," Mark says. "I'll always come back. Your magnetic attraction is a lot stronger."

"Mark," Princess chides, "you shouldn't say embarrassing things like that in front of 1-Rover-1."

Hell no. I mean, he's a robot dog for crying out loud.

Mark laughs. "He can keep a secret," he says as the dog stands up on his hind legs and salutes. "He's G-Force."

And the end title rolls.

I've always hated those nasty little tacked-on end sequences. It would have been really nice if Sandy Frank's artists could have been allowed to put in a bit more effort. The talent had to be there or they wouldn't have been able to hold jobs in what has to be a highly competitive field, so it had to be effort, and that probably came down to budget. And that's a shame, considering the effort they went to in order to produce the black mattes for the space sequences and the fact that they did such a nice job earlier with the monitor.

There are a great many silly things about this episode, not the least of which is the concept of a giant bowling ball being sucked in by a giant magnet. One of the silliest things is that it could possibly have worked with a tad more exposition and a lot less glorifying of Zarky-Sue. Mark's refusal to engage in the face of direct orders is inadequately explained. Fiery Phoenix works against almost everything, and Mark doesn't even switch on the pilot light! What gives? And what's all the dumping on Jason for wanting to follow orders? This episode would have been better served if the writers had sought to justify Mark's decision and go for some real character development rather than just, "Oh, look at that Jason! He disagrees with Mark so he is a bad boy! Boo! Hiss!"

A lot of the nonsense in this episode is Gatcha-nonsense, such as the way the bowling ball totally fails to use its ranged weaponry against the Phoenix in flight and the vibra-magnet (I'm so not going there!) Adding Zarky-Sue -- Keyop got his magnet from Zark, oh, please -- to the mix makes it even sillier still.

But, it all ends well, unless you were one of the unlucky commuters at the train station, a member of the Earth-based defence forces or aboard that ship that got attacked with no hope of rescue by our heroes. Yeah, right.

But for the shippers among us, Mark did flirt with Princess at the end!

And I'm off to make a cup of tea.
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