Episode Review: 'Mad New Ruler of Spectra' by UnpublishedWriter
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Mad New Ruler of Spectra
Battle of the Planets, Episode Number Four
Gatchaman Episode #21, Who Is Leader X?
DVD and Veoh episode #18

Review/Summary: “Here at Center Neptune, deep beneath the sea, all threats to world peace are instantly detected.” Yep, it’s Zark. And he’s trying out his badass hands-on-hip-equivalents pose. [We’re still not ‘deep beneath the sea’, to judge by the establishing shot.] He motions to his screens, calling them a complicated alarm system designed to alert G-Force to any attack by hostile extraterrestrials. But, without him, it’s just a pile of parts. He’s the nerve center of this operation, and must be in tip-top condition at all times. That’s why he’s going to the rehabilitation center soon to undergo major reconstruction. [And a personality change? Please?]

Even G-Force needs some time off. Tiny and Keyop have gone to see an obstacle horse race. They don’t bet on the horses, but they do try to pick a winner. [Good, no moralizing about gambling. Of course, they could have simply not mentioned gambling.] Zark tells us that he likes horses, and that he likes all animals, especially dogs. He thinks he’ll ask for one to keep him company. Since everyone else is having fun, he’ll check out the race track on his monitor. [Where are my cookies?]

Gatchaman footage. Yay! A nasal-sounding Casey Kasem is the track announcer. Keyop and Tiny push to their places at the rail, apologizing as they do.

The #8 horse, Electra, is running its first race today. We’re shown riderless horses, wearing numbers, apparently being transported on a moving platform before the audience. The track announcer says #8 looks a little old and heavy for the race, and the poor animal does look a bit swaybacked and clumsy. People laugh, including Keyop and Tiny.

An old man with a goat-beard, who has plainly seen better days (to judge by his baggy coat and patched trousers) tells them that at the race’s end, #8 will be in the winner’s circle. Alan Young, with a raspy throat. Keyop whispers to Tiny that the old man is spooky.

Cut to two Spectra goons, wearing dark blue or black trench coats and pimp hats. One is looking through binoculars, while the other is either talking into a device, or covering his mouth and nose with it.

The race begins. Electra (#8) is still in the gate. As Keyop and Tiny burst out laughing (and the track announcer tells us the obvious), the old man twiddles a button on his coat. [These days, it’s not a good idea to play with the buttons on over-large coats. People get ideas.]

Light flashes from Electra’s eyes and the horse is off, burning up the track to pass the leaders.

Barriers rise from the ground for the horses to jump. Several don’t make it, but Electra clears them with ease (with a significant close-up of rear hooves as the horse leaps). Meanwhile, the horse Keyop and Tiny picked is dead last. “We always pick one that wants to jog around the track,” Tiny gripes.

Goat-beard is still playing with his button, which plainly has something to do with Electra’s performance.

The horses run under a bar where robot riders are seated. As horses pass under, the robots push off onto their backs. [This does not sound good for the animals at all.] The horses are wonderfully cooperative, and each one runs under one robot. One horse stumbles and falls when the robot lands on it. Keyop and Tiny are bummed.

Electra wins, and tosses the robot rider for good measure.

When Tiny and Keyop look around, the old man is gone.

As Electra and Goat-Beard appear in the winner’s circle, Zark says it’s the end of the holiday for G-Force. Why were the two Spectra agents watching the horse? [And why didn’t Zark call Keyop and Tiny the moment he saw the agents, for that matter?] The team must meet with Chief Anderson.

Now we see the goons. The tall one with the binoculars has buck teeth that make him look like a rat.

Back at HQ, and Anderson looks serious. Security has tapes of a strange event at the track. According to Tiny, the event was their horse losing. Anderson tells him this is no joke. The incident concerns the winning horse and its unusual owner, Professor Hugo Doriarty (sp?). [For some reason, a mental image is treated as if it’s a photograph Anderson shows the team.] Doriarty is one of the world’s greatest research scientists. The question is why he would be interested in horses. [Okay, I’ll bite: what’s so suspicious about this guy owning a horse? Maybe that’s why he’s so badly dressed: it took up all his money.]

The team doesn’t find that so suspicious. As Jason point out, scientists can like horses, too. Princess says that a genius like Doriarty could fall into enemy hands, and asks if that’s Anderson’s concern. [I see: so people who could be valuable to the enemy should be kept in seclusion for their own protection. Is that what the scriptwriters were saying? Or were they just filling up episode time and not paying attention to the implications?]

Anderson says yes, and that Zark had identified two Spectra agents in the crowd. They had been watching Doriarty closely, and now he knows why.

He shows ‘our films’ of the race. [Uh-oh: Big Brother alert!] Everything seems normal until the leap. A device was planted in the hoof. The animal’s strange leap gives it unusual strength and speed. [Mm, run out of dialogue time for describing a rather complicated process?] A peeved Keyop and Tiny conclude the horse was a machine. Anderson wonders who implanted the device, and for what reason.

Mark chimes in with, ‘The wrong reason. Why else would Spectra be interested?’ [Not necessarily, Mark. Not that I advocate cheating, but this might be an unorthodox way to test a device that could help crippled people and animals. The right reason, but Spectra could still be interested.]

Anderson points out that someone capable of inventing powerful mechanical animals would be someone Spectra wants. [As if Spectra does not have sufficient engineers for that already.] Mark says they’ll check him out. [Legal issues, legal issues, legal issues. Since when does G-Force have the authority to investigate civilians?]

Cut to a dilapidated house. Place could be a set for a horror movie. Inside is worse: cobwebs everywhere, and junk stacked around the hallways. It looks as if it were being used for storage, not to live in.

In an equally-shabby room, Doriarty is laughing over his win and drinking some sort of alcoholic beverage [it sure does not look like juice or a soft drink]. He will live in the lap of luxury with money from racing. No-one will know he’s built an unbeatable machine.

As he gloats, the two pimp-goons show up. Rat-teeth tells him he’s going to another planet. Doriarty refuses, but it’s no good. We don’t see what they did to make him come along.

Now, a scene that must have been cribbed from another episode: a rocket launch in daylight. Now for some definite add-on Sandy Frank space travel footage. [The space travel add-ons are much better than the G-Force add-ons.]

Back to the house, where G-Force enters. It’s either another night, or nobody paid attention to the daylight in the cribbed launch shot. Money is scattered across the floor. Mark states the obvious: the professor is gone. Princess deduces that he was taken. [I’d say the bills scattered over the floor are a clue, but nobody even mentions it.] Keyop says, “Foul play” between noises, and Jason says the ‘foul players’ left a clue and points down. A red Spectra symbol is on the floor. Princess identifies it as a radio badge worn by all Spectra agents.

Now to Spectra, where the two goons take Doriarty to Zoltar and the Luminous One. Zoltar politely introduces himself, and asks if Doriarty knows why he’s here. Doriarty hasn’t a clue, so the Luminous One tells him that Spectra respects genius, and that if he works for them, he will be a very rich man. When Doriarty asks what will happen if he refuses, Zoltar tells him that he will be a forgotten man. [Nice implied threat there, Z. The scriptwriters put some thought into that line.]

LO and Zoltar pile it on: on Earth, people have only contempt for him. On Spectra, he will be honored. It seems to be working.

Then Doriarty has to be a dork: he’ll consider it, on one condition.

Zoltar tells him they make no conditions. There is just a hint of anger in his voice. [I would love to have seen this acted out by Keye Luke.]

The Luminous One wants the professor to be heard.

So, HD takes the opening and uses it: since his genius is so important to them, he demands they make him ruler of Spectra. [Dude, quit while you’re ahead!]

The Luminous One agrees, and Doriarty is thrilled. He has what he’s always wanted.

Zoltar is less than thrilled. Can’t imagine why.

And we have Zark pacing. G-Force is ready to launch for planet Spectra [is that near Planet Hollywood?] to rescue Doriarty. It’s a dangerous mission, thousands of light-years away. [Wait, an actual scientific fact! How did that get in there? The Crab Nebula is 6,300 light years away.] He hopes he can follow them on his scanners, because he does worry about them when they’re so far away from home. [Are these the same scanners that are defeated by fog, but can watch G-Force at all times?]

Stock footage of the Phoenix launching.

Space footage, and Zark tells us they’re going 100 times faster than sound. [Impressive turn of speed by comparison with current technology: according to lborgia at Gatchamania, it will get you to Mars in 19 days. The speed of sound is 343 miles per second; 100X that is 34300 m/sec; 34.3 km/sec; 2058 km/minute; 1279 m/minute; 76740 mph.] Then they go into their time warp.

Someone has been misreading the astronomy books, because Zark now says they’re leaving the Milky Way. [The Crab Nebula is in the Milky Way, just to remind everyone. Again. And it is Nebula, not Nebulae.]

And now they’re flying over Spectra. Which looks a lot like Earth. Princess notes that they haven’t been picked up by the defense satellites. [Zoltar had best shoot the defense contractor and find someone better, or these embarrassments will continue.]

Tiny points, and says it looks like Texas back on Earth. On his screens, they see a large herd of horses. But those are no Texas horses.

Here is where the Gatchaman footage does not support the BotP script: Tiny is sitting with his arms behind his head, smiling, while saying there’s some odd about them. [Nobody is that laid back while invading a sovereign power’s airspace.]

Mark comments that these are cyborg horses, and Jason calls them mechanical hobby-horses.

Then Mark tells Tiny to buzz them. Which causes a stampede towards a hydroelectric plant. [Way to go, Mark. And if those had been real horses? They would have been injured and killed.] The horses shed their skins, revealing white bodies and Spectra symbols on their heads.

As the cyborgs tear the place apart, Mark comments that they’ve gone crazy. Princess suggests that buzzing them was the cause. Mark prefers to think that someone’s playing with the remote control. [Yeah, right: Zoltar’s going to destroy a power plant on his own planet for the fun of it. This is Zoltar, not the PDOS.]

Mark realizes these horses are Doriarty’s work, and orders Tiny to land so that they can rescue the professor.

Now for an odd shot. Mark, Princess, Jason and Keyop are peering over some upthrust rocks. So is the Phoenix. Really, that’s how it looks. As if the Phoenix is craning for a view from its hiding place. It’s actually some distance off.

Mark calls Tiny, who initially doesn’t see anything until the horses come running over the hill.

The herd stops as one, the head cyborg rears and calls out, and a panel opens up out of the ground. The horses run down inside. [Uh, why? Post-stampede tune-up?]

G-Force follows.

Zoltar tells Doriarty the cyborgs are ready to be sent to Earth to destroy the largest energy plant in the West. [What West? The Western Hemisphere? The Western United States?]

The professor objects. That wasn’t his plan.

Zoltar tells him it was Spectra’s plan. The cyborgs will be loaded with explosives, and the professor will detonate them when they reach their destination.

Doriarty reminds Zoltar that he’s the ruler of Spectra, and that he wasn’t consulted.

Zoltar says that he’s no longer ruler of Spectra. They got what they wanted out of him, and now he’ll do as he’s told.

Doriarty runs to the Luminous One. [Okay, this guy couldn’t figure out that he was being played for a fool? Spectra is an enemy power. They’ll say whatever they must to get what they want.]

The Almighty Butane is not pleased to be dealing with their petty quarrels. Doriarty says he’s done what they asked, but he didn’t do it to destroy Earth. [See my earlier comment.]

Above HD’s head, Mark and Princess slide a panel to one side.

Pissed, Doriarty realizes that they probably never even intended to pay him. He announces that he has the power to destroy them. Zoltar hits the panic button, and the Luminous One disappears, replaced by some sort of beam that knocks the old guy for a loop.

Mark and Princess see this, and Princess cries out, alerting Zoltar. Now that they’re busted, the two glide down and confront Zoltar. They’re planning to take him in.

Zoltar grabs hold of a rather large lever and pulls it. He tells them that guards have been alerted, and that the attack on Earth shall proceed as scheduled. Princess hears horses stampeding.

Cyborg horses, ridden by soldiers, pour out of the underground base towards the spaceship to Earth.

There’s an oddly-edited bit: Doriarty, on the floor, struggles onto hands and knees and reaches for Zoltar’s cloak. Zoltar calls him a foolish old man, and suddenly leaps upwards into a rocket at the end of the room.

The rocket takes off without asphyxiating or burning Mark, Princess, or Doriarty. Mark says he’d better call the Phoenix.

Where are Jason and Keyop in all this? They ducked into the base, also.

Tiny comes to pick up the team. On the ground, Jason asks if the old man can help. Mark says he can, if he’s finally learned his lesson. [Ah, yes, be the ‘Voice of Morality’ for this episode, why don’t you, Mark.]

Doriarty says he wanted power, but it was a mistake [MORAL!]. They must set the self-destruct button on each cyborg horse. His glasses fall off and break.

Mark knows they have to get him aboard the Phoenix. Princess hopes that Earth will realize what a great mind they’ve been ignoring. [Under the circumstances, I think the old man might be in some legal trouble.]

Tiny closes in on the herd, and most of G-Force emerges to set the conveniently-placed self-destruct buttons on the cyborg horses. With Tiny’s help, the old man destroys his creations.

Agh! Zark! At least it’s short: Mark tells him the mission was successful.

And then, for some reason, what looks like Sandy Frank footage of a rocket taking off. Is this supposed to be G-Force? They have the Phoenix. [I doubt it’s cribbed from another Gatch episode. The exhaust is curly lines around white, as in American cartoons of the time, very unlike the Tatsunoko-quality launch footage from earlier in the episode.]

Nice space footage again. Mark announces they’re approaching Earth, and requests descent and recovery clearance. [What? Since when did they ‘splash down’ like Apollo astronauts?]

And Zark says they’re cleared for ‘boost-glide re-entry.’ [Okay, there’s something inconsistent here. Just not sure what. Or is this more technobabble we weren’t supposed to notice as kids?]

Zark footage. Why? Anyway, G-Force stopped the evil Zoltar again, 50,000 light-years away. [What astronomy book did the scriptwriters use?] That’s what he calls ‘far out.’ [Do not try to be hip, Zark. It doesn’t suit you.] He wishes he could go on a space shot some time, but he doesn’t know if his sensitive components can take it. [Bleargh.] Then he babbles some more, and I shall spare you his hypochondria. Oh, he has a grandfather, 4 Zark 4. Hm. That doesn’t quite work out. Grampy should be 5 Zark 5.

And the episode ends. At last.
***** ***** *****

Fic Alert: Explain how Doriarty can be held in contempt, while being world-famous. He’s not described as a crackpot or fool.

I think the good doctor is in some legal trouble. There’s the use of a cyborg horse to win a race; becoming leader of an enemy planet; cooperating with the enemy (even if he was tricked), and probably a few other things I haven’t thought of.

Science question: How do the robots stay on the horses’ backs during the race? More to the point, how do they not miss their targets?

100 times faster than sound is faster than any aircraft has yet achieved.

Encyclopedias existed in 1978. So why the blunders about the location of the Crab Nebula and its distance from Earth?

Gatchaman plot: This episode pretty much followed the original plot. The old man is named Henjinman, and is brilliant but eccentric. His plan is to create a cyborg world, that he will rule. When he’s brought before Leader X, he refuses a lot of money and demands to be made leader of Galactor. When X demurs, he claims to have figured out what Leader X really is, and gets what he wants. After he discovers that Galactor intends to use his creations to destroy a nearby city, Henjinman threatens to reveal Leader X’s true identity, and Berg Katse presses the button that engages the weapon. [The creators of Gatchaman had not yet decided that X was an extraterrestrial or that Berg Katse was a sex-changing mutant. As late as this episode, Leader X was an AI created by Berg Katse, who was a woman disguised as a man.]

In the original, Joe and Jinpei sabotage the base while Ken and Jun are after the professor.

When Henjinman grabs Katse’s cloak, the PDOS is surprised he’s still alive. He gives the old man a kick as he dodges Ken’s thrown boomerang, then leaps into the rocket. [Why BotP cut that is beyond me, since we’ve seen the boomerang in use before. Perhaps they couldn’t cut the kick?]

And Henjinman dies in the original, after destroying his cyborg horses.

There was also, in the briefing scene, a rather simplistic and troubling (to modern ears) description of cyborgs as having real brains and fake bodies. By the time BotP was produced, the Six Million Dollar Man had introduced the target audience to the idea of cyborgs.
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