Battle of the Planets, Episode One
Gatchaman Episode #1, Gatchaman Versus Turtle King
DVD and Veoh episode #1
Review/Summary: We open on the added footage of Zark in his Nerve Center, where he sets the scene: “Somewhere, off the west coast of the United States, 900 fathoms beneath the surface of the sea, is this secret and extremely important world defense base, Center Neptune. One of Earth’s most precious minerals is mined and refined down here: Vitalumis (sp?). It is an amazing ore discovery, that renews the worn-out soils of Earth and other planets. Without this precious ore, nothing can be grown, and people in many galaxies (sic) will face starvation.” [This will be the last we hear of any mining operations in the vicinity of Center Neptune for the rest of the series. In a subsequent episode will appear vitalumis factories.]
Switch now to original Gatchaman footage of what will be called ‘G-Force’, as Zark continues to talk, “To guard this vital base against attack by space pirates and alien enemies is the huge responsibility of 5 incredible, highly specialized young people called G-Force.”
Back to Zark, who faces the camera and finally introduces himself. He’s the complex computer coordinator for G-Force. Everything goes through him, and he monitors the team 24/7. [Really? Does that mean while they’re in the bath? Scratching those hard-to-reach places? Doing other things that young people do (yes, I mean that)?]
Uh-oh, there’s an emergency.
Cut to a lighthouse in the night. The waters start churning, as Zark informs us that the ‘Cosmic space controller’ has informed him that ‘a mysterious UFO has been sighted’, then a giant, turtle-like machine rises from the water. [Not exactly a ‘flying’ object, is it, right now?] Zark identifies it as a radio-controlled attack craft from Spectra, a planet from a hostile alien galaxy. The Space Terrapin takes to the air. According to Zark, it’s heading for one of the fortified vaults where the vitalumis is stored. He radio-calls Vault #5 to warn them, just as the darn thing attacks, slicing its way into the structure. Military vehicles open fire as it makes its way to the vault itself. The only human in view is the one who orders the vehicles to start shooting. All other humans have been edited out. [I know it’s a children’s show, but they could have at least tried to sound more official. I don’t think ‘UFO’ is used when an unidentified object is being tracked. And it certainly didn’t remain unidentified for long.]
This huge machine knocks in the vault door and sends a smaller vehicle inside to seize what looks like a suitcase. One suitcase-sized object in the entire vault. The small vehicle returns to the Space Terrapin, which takes off. All the ordnance expended hasn’t even scratched the paint. Once in the air, it uses energy-beams to destroy the military vehicles.
Cut to add-on footage of Zark. He’s pacing, wondering why aliens would want to steal the precious vitalumis. They give it freely to anyone who asks. He’d better get G-Force on this right away. [So, if they give the vitalumis to anyone who asks, why is it kept in heavy-duty vaults surrounded by armed vehicles, rather than in guarded storage buildings?]
He calls on the Commander of G-Force, so we get some original Gatchaman footage of G1 in his Cessna as Zark tells him of the attack. Unfortunately, we also get some CB talk, as Mark responds with ‘Ears on. 10-2, Zark.’ Zark orders him to gather his team and proceed to ‘point 13 X, grid 40.’ He will transform Mark to "full jet". Mark raises his left arm in a circle and announces, ‘Transmute’, followed by his transmutation into his G1 Birdstyle.
Zark says he controls the team’s transmutations, but Mark is the real leader. As G3, Princess, appears on the screen, Zark mentions that she’s the only female on the team (as if none of the viewers can figure that out). Then the Phoenix rises out of the water, as Zark introduces G5, Tiny Harper. As we watch the stock footage of Princess parking her cycle in the port wing-pod of the Phoenix, Zark admits he pays special attention to Princess, but isn’t quite sure why. [O-kay. Does this bother anyone else? Should Princess get a restraining order against Zark? How long would it take her to dismantle Zark if he should go all B-movie poster on her?] The pickup of G4, Keyop, is interrupted so that Zark can tell us he was grown from a single embryonic cell in a laboratory, and that his speech is ‘a little peculiar.’ Then G2 is introduced. Jason is very capable, but a ‘trifle eager and hot-headed.’ Zark wishes Jason had solid-state circuitry. And finally, Mark docks in the upper stern of the Phoenix. Zark explains that they have cerebonic implants, which give them fantastic abilities beyond those of ordinary humans, and that they were raised almost since birth to develop those powers. Zark then gushes on that he wishes he could be with them on missions because he worries about them so much, but he’s just a stay-at-home think-tank.
[There is a lot of Zark on this show in general, all too often unnecessary.]
There’s some general chat. Keyop makes some weird noises while playing with his bolos, and ends with “--- bare hands.” Princess tells him he can’t go up against the Space Terrapin alone. Zark identifies the machine as from Spectra, and says it’s the third time Spectra has invaded. Jason wants a ‘laser bead’ on it, so that it will be their last attack (and Zark annoyingly points out that he said that the last time Spectra attacked). Then Zark loses the invader from his scanner, and tells the team they’re on their own. Mark acknowledges with ‘Big 10, Zark.’ Zark says he’s breaking contact [will we be so lucky as to be Zark-free for a while?], but will be on standby.
Now comes some odd dialogue. Mark announces that the invaders are from Spectra. Princess wonders what they’ll look like this time. Mark thinks they’ll be two-headed, setting up the ‘Two heads are better than one’ line from Princess just so he can say, “Not on the same body.”
Thankfully for the viewers, Tiny spots something in the water, so we can get on with the episode. The Phoenix dives and enters a tunnel. Mark thinks the Space Terrapin is attacking an underwater base. Princess has a feeling they should have remained airborne.
Cut to a rocket launching site, with rows of rockets at their gantries. The mecha bursts out of the ground and attacks, smashing and slicing rockets as more military vehicles fire at it. [Three astronauts are seen briefly, and never even mentioned by the all-seeing, all-knowing Zark.]
The Phoenix surfaces and flies to the launch site, where they get their first look at the enemy machine. Jason orders Tiny to get close so they can attack it. Mark overrides him and explains that there might be other attack craft. They have to follow it to its base. This angers Jason, who sarcastically observes that they’re ‘going to play tag. Isn’t that fun?’
Oh, God, the Zark-free interval has ended. He’s wondering how something so large could just disappear like that. Perhaps he should wear glasses at work. Ah, he has it on his scanners! He alerts G-Force.
For some reason, this is important news to G-Force. Did the scriptwriters forget they’re right there, looking at the darn thing? Or did they think they had to introduce Zark after every commercial break? Or did they think the audience was so stupid they had to be reminded?
The Space Terrapin is heading for Storage Vault #7. Keyop wants to wipe it out, and Jason seconds the motion. He reaches for the plexi-covered Big Red Button, and Mark stops him. He’s figured out the answer. Jason asks what the question was. Mark explains that the enemy craft is its own base. [Wow, Mark’s good. They’ve only been searching for the base for maybe five minutes, and he figured that out.] He can prove it if he gets inside. He’s spotted an open ventilator shaft.
Keyop wants to go. He’s small enough to fit. Jason wants in. Princess says it’s her turn to go with Mark. [Pause a moment for viewers of the Gatchaman original to do appropriate things with their skulls and walls, or at least have a nice face-palm moment.] Keyop teases her about wanting simply to be with Mark.
Mark and Princess take flight and enter the Space Terrapin. Once in, Mark orders to check the upper levels while he searches below. She says she’ll search for the phaser controls.
They each find some cool-looking gizmos. Princess starts sabotaging the one she found.
At last, as the Phoenix flies across the Space Terrapin’s viewscreen, we see a Spectra leader. His mask is a rather promising green cephalopod-looking thing, complete with tentacle-like extensions, ruined by a pair of perky-looking kitty-ish ears. He sounds like Zark’s evil brother (since both are voiced by Alan Young). As he targets the Phoenix, he gloats that they are powerless against his ‘prismatic refractors.’
Meanwhile, Princess continues her sabotage.
Back to the Phoenix in the cross-hairs.
Princess finishes, closes up the panel, and runs.
Captain Kitty-Squid pushes the button, and the weaponry controls explode. He realizes that someone had sabotaged his weapon. He sends people to check on it.
Meanwhile, Mark opens up the Space Terrapin to allow the Phoenix to land inside. For the sake of anyone not paying attention, he announces what he’s doing.
As the Phoenix docks, Zark weighs in with the obvious: the team is in terrible danger. He can’t take the strain. If they don’t contact him soon, he’ll have an electrode failure. [He’s out of contact, but still knows what’s going on? It seems the scriptwriters really didn’t trust the viewers to understand the danger.]
Tiny, Keyop, and Jason leap from the Phoenix and land in various dramatic poses. Mark notes that there’s no sign of the vitalumis. He’s sure that he’s right about the Space Terrapin being the base. They just have to look harder.
And it turns out they’re surrounded. Spectra soldiers line the walkways circling the landing bay as Captain Kitty-Squid says, “Aha! So Earth sends children against us! Against the most powerful spaceship from Crab Nebulae (sic)!” It’s obvious that Alan Young was really enjoying himself with those lines. He actually sounded like an evil villain.
Mark gets all righteous: “We’re getting tired of your invasions!”
Jason suggests to Mark that they use the ‘Rotor force’, and Mark agrees ‘Jet Spiral on minus 2.’ They look more like a couple of kids who’ve just discovered they don’t have to obey the rules.
More of Alan Young enjoying himself as Captain Kitty-Squid demands that G-Force surrender. Their supreme leader will be highly amused when he brings the team to Spectra.
Mark hates to disappoint the leader, but here’s his message: the team forms what looks initially like some sort of cheerleading formation, with Keyop on top proclaiming, “Bug off!” Then they spread their wings and start spinning. The resulting whirlwind blows weapons and goons everywhere before G-Force separates and starts kicking highly-edited ass. We are assured that the sound from Mark’s sonic boomerang induces temporary concussions that briefly incapacitate the enemy.
Next shot is Kitty-Squid groveling before the image of Zoltar on a monitor. Zoltar is not happy. Kitty-Squid justifies his failure with G-Force’s strange powers.
Zoltar reports Kitty-Squid’s failure to the Luminous Spirit. Who looks like a giant blue bird-head floating in a fiery void. The Luminous One states that the Space Terrapin [aside from the episode title, this is the first time a character uses the term] has outlived its usefulness and must be destroyed. They will need deadlier weapons and better strategy to overcome Earth and its defenders. Zoltar acknowledges the command. The Luminous One tells him to order Commander Gorok (aka Kitty-Squid) to abandon the Space Terrapin and take what he has in the escape ship. Zoltar acknowledges these orders, and will also order the Space Terrapin destroyed immediately.
Mark spots the Terrapin’s head detaching, and G-Force heads for the Phoenix. Gorok presses the ‘self destruct’ button, starting the countdown.
Tiny pilots the Phoenix towards the exit when the Space Terrapin’s rockets shut down. The mecha plummets, initially trapping the Phoenix. Again, Tiny gets them to the exit, but the doors iris shut, trapping one wing pod. Zark is babbling on about the Fiery Phoenix during all this, to set up what happens next.
All efforts to free the ship fail, so Mark orders the transformation to the Fiery Phoenix. This destroys what’s left of the Space Terrapin, to the initial delight of Gorok. Then the Fiery Phoenix emerges.
Zark burbles that it will take 24 hours for the Phoenix to resume its normal form, after which they can recover the vitalumis from the ocean.
Fic Alert: Vitalumis is an important product from Earth, yet it’s given away to any who ask. How did that happen? How could it exist under the (salty) ocean? What sort of economy does Earth have that it can afford to give away something that could generate wealth?
Whose bright idea was it to grow Keyop, and why?
Anyone care to explain how a ‘world defense base’ also serves as headquarters for a mining and refining operation?
What were the first two invasions? What sort of mecha? Where did Spectra attack? How did G-Force defeat them? How long ago were they?
Science Question: Did the scriptwriters know or care about the difference between galaxies and solar systems? This was a great time to introduce any mandated educational content, and they blew it. They blew it through the ENTIRE SERIES.
The Crab Nebula (Nebulae is the plural form) is in the Milky Way galaxy, some 6,500 light-years from Earth. It formed when a star went nova 6,300 years ago, according to Wikipedia.
Bizarreness Alert: Well, not bizarre, but troubling. In the original episode, G3 insists on accompanying G1 because she’s an explosives expert, and her skills might be necessary. Instead of keeping this, or finding another valid reason for her involvement, the BotP writers decided that it was her turn to go on a mission. What? Way to cut down the female on the team, guys. Or shall we imagine a rotation schedule in the Phoenix: ‘Who gets to go with Mark this time?’
Since when does a ‘world defense base’ also serve as headquarters for a mining operation? And when does a guard unit go out looking for the enemy?
The Space Terrapin is a radio-controlled device, but it has a crew and a commanding officer? Spectra was anticipating infiltrators already?
What happened to the purportedly-stunned crew when the Phoenix destroyed the Space Terrapin?
Gatchaman Plot: In the original episode, the mecha is called the ‘Turtle King’ and is deployed to steal uranium. Several scenes are deleted, especially one in which the team is introduced along with their founder and mentor, Dr. Nambu (who will be called Chief Anderson in Battle of the Planets). Aside from that, and the magically-vanishing body-count, the rescripted episode follows the original plot.