Episode Review: 'Peril of the Preying Mantis' by UnpublishedWriter
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Peril of the Preying Mantis
Battle of the Planets, Episode Number Five
Gatchaman Episode #75, Jumbo Shakora, The Ocean Devil King
DVD and Veoh episode #64

Review/Summary: Center Neptune establishing shot. Of course. Zark in voice-over. “Center Neptune calling all galaxy monitors. Center Neptune calling.” This time, Alan Young seems to be trying for the Standard Robot Monotone, and not doing so well with it. And now we see Zark, at the console below the four screens. “This is 7 Zark 7. I have the relay from Cosmic Early Warning System. All clear. No news is good news.” [Bleargh.] And then he turns to us and gets all chipper. This, he tells us, is the routine part of his job: reports and clearances to space traffic between the Federation planets. [So the Federation is too cheap to pony up for a separate system dedicated to glorified air traffic control, is it?] He prefers more imaginative work, such as coordinating and directing G-Force. It’s so confining in this think tank [er, I thought he was a think tank?]. He’s the physical type, and craves action. [Right: no knees, body shaped like an egg, and all those ‘delicate components’ he keeps yammering about. A real action hero. Spare me.] He’s scheduled soon for exciting new components and increased mobility. [Agh! Unfortunate thought! Pass the brain bleach! Hurry.] Maybe then he’ll be able to move up and out once in a while, or even join G-Force on outer space flight. His antennae wiggle with excited anticipation as he says he can’t wait. [Those are very expressive antennae.]

It’s been quiet in space. The Interplanetary Patrol hasn’t spotted a single UFO. Yes, they have them, but they’re the real thing. [UFO is not synonymous with ‘extraterrestrial spaceship.’ It’s the acronym for ‘Unidentified Flying Object.’] He’s certain they’re planning something on Spectra.

And, yes, they are. Gatchaman footage. The Luminous One wants to know if everything is ready for this latest attack on Earth.

Zoltar tells him that he has chosen the fiercest fighters on all Spectra.

The Luminous One says that this is not enough. He wants their most able commander in charge of their new and awesome (yes, that is the line) spaceship. This commander will have complete control of their symbiot (sp?) robots. [What happened to the fiercest fighters on Spectra?] They must find and destroy the Conway Tapes, which contain the secret code that binds the ‘Intergalactic Federation’ together. [Another consultation of the 1950’s SF script manual, I see. The chapter that explains that ‘galaxy’, ‘universe’, and ‘solar system’ are interchangeable terms. ‘Interstellar’ and ‘intergalactic’ are also interchangeable.]

Zoltar says he has placed Bartok (sp?) in command. [Okay, I probably should get the Jason Hofius book so I know how to spell these names. Until then, bear with me.] The Luminous One approves.

Monologue for Zoltar, explaining the strategy. They will strike at scattered targets, to disperse Earth’s forces. Then they will attack the place where the Conway Tapes are kept, and steal them, even if they have to take the whole building. (He sounds rather calm, while leaning heavily on a console and then clenching a fist as if he were quite frustrated and angry.) [Tapes. It didn’t take long for technology to make magnetic tape obsolete, did it?]

Cavern, where the camera pans down to a mecha shaped like a shrimp or prawn. Soldiers board the mecha, as Zoltar orders them to conquer Earth.

And – we have that Sandy Frank launch from the previous episode. Why?

Now the space-travel footage, which starts as they leave Spectra, then switches to show the approach to Earth. It clearly shows them passing a spiral galaxy. [Because none of the scriptwriters would admit that the Crab Nebula is in the Milky Way galaxy.] In keeping with ‘all space routes pass Saturn’, we see Saturn.

Cue agitated Zark voice-over. He’s been alerted that an alien intruder has entered ‘our galaxy’. [Solar system, Zark. Solar system. They’re already in our galaxy.] It’s rapidly approaching Earth. He must alert G-Force and the Universal Defense System. [Really have to work on that sensor system. Really. It’s pathetic how easily Spectra forces get in and out of the Federation (and vice-versa). I’m surprised a third party hasn’t come in and taken over both sides.]

Searchlights stab the sky, and we have a shot of running feet, followed by planes in the air. [Wait: they’re admitting there are people in the planes that are about to be destroyed? How did that happen?]

Spectra planes, firing interesting parti-colored rays, wipe out the planes. Then Bartok tells the symbiots to check their fuel gauges. A mullet-wearing ‘robot’ checks the fuel, and yep, the needle is in the red. Whoever does the symbiot voice does a very good Standard Robot Monotone (and the sound guy added a sort of echo effect, it sounds like). Bartok calls them back. [Is it Alan Young again? Hard to tell.]

Bartok’s costume is rather nifty. He has a black mask with grey pointy ears and grey forehead panel, and little red dots lining the eye-holes. There’s formfitting brown or olive drab under what looks like a bluish breastplate with grey shoulder-pieces and vambraces.

Shot of a lighthouse. And now Zark tells us what we already know: Earth’s forces took a terrible punishment. But, things look peaceful for the moment. [Yo, Zark, Earth was just attacked. Bad choice of words. How about ‘quiet’? How about a few words about how you’re scanning the planet, looking for the Spectra attackers?]

And now we have a chubby fellow with a captain’s hat and a toothbrush moustache. He’s talking about how quiet everything is, and that they should be home by tomorrow. He’ll go below and turn in.

We know where this is going.

Yep. Before the captain can even stand up, the giant shrimp (or prawn) mecha surfaces. As the crew wonders what it is, a crewmember reports ‘Alien planes off starboard.’

And here come the little yellow planes that had just destroyed a number of fighters. [There must be some fog between them and Zark’s sensors. He doesn’t give any hint that he knows this is happening.] They dock with the mecha, while the captain orders someone to radio Security Headquarters.

A plane buzzes the ship, and suddenly people are falling into the water. The captain surfaces, then there’s a whirlpool. [Hm. Something’s missing.]

Abrupt cut to Center Neptune.

Zark tells us that he contacted four of the G-Force team, and they’re conferring with Chief Anderson right now. He can’t find Tiny. [More fog, eh?]

Now to Anderson and 4/5ths of G-Force. Spectra has attacked, he tells them, but they don’t know the target. First reports are of random destruction, but Spectra would not take such risks on haphazard targets. G-Force must learn the real goal.

Mark says they’re ready.

Anderson tells them that Tiny didn’t respond to Zark’s call. Does anyone know where he is? [So Tiny went off without telling the boss where he was going and what he’d be doing? Really? Unprofessional. Did the scriptwriters just not care how sloppy and careless they made G-Force look? Real military personnel have to fill out a leave request. Although, to be honest, Gatch too often had the same problem.]

Jason says he went to his home village to pay a call on someone called ‘Captain.’

Well, Tiny’s not responding to calls on his communicator. Keyop calls him a goof-off. Princess says there must be a good reason for him not to answer, since Tiny is so reliable.

Anderson asks Mark if he can pilot the Phoenix. [What? Their boss doesn’t know their skills? W(hiskey) T(ango) H(otel) sort of operation is he running, here?]

Mark says no, that’s Tiny’s job. Let’s give him just a little more time. [So, Mark, a pilot who has presumably trained extensively, can’t fly anything other than his plane. His single-person plane.]

Anderson says there’s no time. They’ll have to go in their individual vehicles without Tiny.

Everyone’s out looking for Spectra. And Zark still can’t find Tiny. Zark, who watches G-Force every minute of the day. [Paying a little too much attention to Princess, are we? Or is that fog still getting in the way?]

Now we have a long shot of the team’s base on land, and the camera pans over to show us Tiny, snoozing on a hillside. Nice mountain scenery.

[It’s time to review that contract with Quanto Tobor, no matter what the calendar says. Maybe check out some other contractors? Tiny’s in plain sight, but Zark can’t find him.]

A little kid runs past, and splashes mud on Tiny’s nose. He wakes up, and gripes that he was having a nice dream about coming here when he was little. [So that building with the orange roof only looks like the team’s land base.] The kid throws himself against Tiny and cries that his father is in trouble.

Now we find out that Captain Jack is the boy’s father, and that he was supposed to be at sea. The boy cries that he had heard on the telecom that his father was lost at sea and that G-Force had been trying to reach Tiny. [Say what? Since when are civilians privy to military communications? And how does the kid know that Tiny’s with G-Force? Their identities are secret, right?] Tiny’s communicator was turned off. [Unprofessional. And if there are regulations requiring him to maintain contact with Anderson and the team, turning off his communicator would be grounds for severe disciplinary action.]

Zark finally gets in touch with Tiny, who (for some reason) turns away from the boy and acts as if he’s hiding something. Zark tells Tiny that he must return to Center Neptune immediately.

Tiny acknowledges, and again the Gatchaman footage does not support the BotP script. He looks as if he’s agonizing over something, yet sounds businesslike as he requests a direct clearance to the hangar and to get the Phoenix ready for takeoff. While not speaking into his bracelet.

The boy, who turns out to be named Tommy, asks if Tiny isn’t going to help search for Captain Jack. Tiny can’t, because of his job. Tommy is convinced that if Tiny doesn’t help, he’ll never see his father again. Tiny isn’t happy about this.

Now to the shrimp (prawn?) mecha, in flight. It makes a weird boinging sound as it flies. Zoltar congratulates Bartok, and orders him to proceed with the mission. The commander orders a change of course to the Conway Building. [Way to keep a secret, folks! Sorry, but this was one time when hiding in plain sight just wasn’t going to work.]

Mark spots the mecha, and calls his team. He realizes the enemy is fixed on the Conway Building, and must be after the tapes. And just to be certain we know how important this is, he reminds everyone that if the Spectrans destroy those tapes, it’s the end of the Federation. [Okay, how does this work?]

Alarms sound. Over an intercom, a voice warns that enemy aircraft are approaching, and people must take cover. Heavy artillery deploys.

Bartok orders the theft of the Tapes.

G-Force, in their vehicles, are on the scene. The commander orders the symbiot planes to engage.

Mark says the enemy looks hungry. Give them a 12-course dinner. Cue dramatic music and the implication there will be a smack-down.

And –

The mecha attacks the Conway Building. Mark says the thing is getting the Conway Tapes.

[Now, this show edits Gatch footage, but there’s usually enough left of a fight to tell us there was one. There’s barely so much as a water-pistol deployed during this, yet there’s supposed to be some sort of fighting going on.] After this weird editing, Mark notes, ‘We missed.’ [And so did the audience. We missed something because the editing didn’t leave anything to support whatever was supposed to be happening.]

Back to base, where Anderson tells them not to be too hard on themselves. At least they drove off the Spectra invaders.

Jason says they really needed Tiny and the Phoenix. [Unlike Gatchaman, the various vehicles do not need to be docked in order for the Phoenix’s weapons to work.]

And now Tiny arrives. He looks pretty droopy and upset. He apologizes for being late, which the team accepts [although they look rather peeved with him]. Anderson orders them to go out and destroy that space monster.

Next scene is the Phoenix in flight. G-Force has been searching, and hasn’t found a thing.

And Zark again. He now has the capacity to read minds, as he tells us (in case we can’t figure it out for ourselves from the footage of what’s going on in Tiny’s head) that Tiny is thinking of Tommy and of Captain Jack’s predicament.

Commercial break.

And Zark in his command center. Which confirms that this was a commercial break. He’s doing that glide-pacing, just like in Decoys of Doom. He feels sorry for Tiny: all the guy wanted was to spend time with old friends in the country, and look at all the trouble he’s in.

And now it’s a close-up of Zark. He supposes he’s lucky: he never gets time off. He doesn’t even take time to eat or drink. Well, he does take a refreshing shot of oil now and again. [Bleargh. Honestly, the scriptwriters were just phoning it in for this bit.]

And now Zark pokes his console. The one with the four screens. He’d better go to work finding Zoltar and his ‘Spectra Space Mob.’ [Do they hang out near the Ant Hill Mob?]

Back to the Phoenix. Thank you.

Mark says they’ve lost the space monster, and orders Princess to set up the electronic tracking. [How can you lose a target you never had?]

Princess says they have a signal, but it’s moving away from them.

Mark orders ‘Ramjet’ from a distracted and distressed Tiny, then calls him for spacing out. Tiny apologizes that he was thinking.

Oh, Zark again. Relaying new coordinates on the Spectra spaceship. 75 degrees, on Grid 40. A large ship is being attacked. [Guess the fog must have lifted.]

G-Force heads over, and it’s horrible. They find the ship burning and sinking, leaking oil over the ocean’s surface.

Zoltar calls to laugh at them and tell them they’ve been outwitted again. His image on the monitor is really bad, as if it were transmitted over a standard television frequency in the age of roof antennae. The Conway computer bank is smashed. They and their Federation are doomed. He will destroy them one by one.

Zoltar has a superb evil villain laugh.

Anderson is upset. Spectra has the tapes, and it’s all because one of their number did not respond to a red alert. Mark defends Tiny by saying they all need a day off. Anderson says, ‘Fine. As long as you keep in touch.’ [Uh, couldn’t you have made that clear earlier, like, say, during training?]

Mark makes a speech in which he admits that he’s sometimes out of touch when he’s flying his plane. (Anderson is very unhappy, to judge by his expression.) Besides, it was his responsibility to stop Zoltar.
Tiny refuses to let Mark take any part of the blame. He went home, and it was so peaceful there.

Anderson tells them to take a rest, but to be ready for Round Two. [Uh, Conway Tapes? The tapes with the secret code that holds the Federation together. Remember them? They were stolen. By Spectra. You have to get them back. Can’t rest until you do. Hello?]

Tiny is still kicking himself.

Nice shot of mountains, and the camera pans to Mark and Princess. She doesn’t blame Tiny for wanting to come back here. [So G-Force is resting in Tiny’s home village. Funny, but the place looks too mountainous to be near the ocean. Looks more like the Alps.]

Mark notes that Tiny is in the doghouse. Princess says they did everything they could to get the tapes back. The conversation starts to get mushy, with talk about good clean air, and wishes that they could stay here forever. [Bleargh. And remember the Conway Tapes? Could they sound at least a little upset about that?]

Tommy comes up to them. Mark’s surprised: he thought the kid was fishing with Tiny. Tommy starts crying and says Tiny won’t go. Mark explains that Tiny feels guilty about Captain Jack and about G-Force. It’s time he snapped out of it. [Okay, Mark, what part of ‘secret identity’ don’t you and the rest of the team understand?] Tommy informs them that Tiny’s at his house.

Mark and Princess enter Tiny’s room. Mark tells Tiny it’s time to shape up and ship out. Jason arrives with news about the Mary Frances: survivors. Tiny gets excited: that was Captain Jack’s ship.

Mark asks if anyone is up to a rescue. They are. So they transmute. [The transmutation sequence is not in the Gatch episode.]

And we have stock footage of the Phoenix launching. [It’s a wonder they can rescue anyone or anything with all the travel. Land base, Tiny’s village, and now Center Neptune. Sloppy writing.]

And Zark calls them in flight: He’s still looking for the Spectra ship. And he can’t confirm the earlier report about survivors from the Mary Frances. He’s unable to establish further contact. [Well, maybe if you stopped watching Princess, you might find something, Zark. Just a thought.] Search atolls, vectors 405 and 603.

[Cookies. Must – have – cookies. I thought I could hold out, but I can’t.]

Mark assures Tiny that, while Zark has never been wrong before, there’s always a first time. [Zark is omniscient? How? Fog defeats his sensors. He could not provide an answer for Mark in Siege of the Squids. He can’t tell a speck of dirt on his monitors from an alien armada. The mind boggles. The taxpayers should demand an accounting.]

Cut to nice shot of atolls and small islands. Vector 405 isn’t working out, so they try 603.

Jason acidly notes that it’s a great place to swim.

Princess spots something, then the rest see the column of smoke she’d spotted. Tiny takes the Phoenix in for a landing.

Jack is happy to see them. Seems Tiny told him all about G-Force. [Why is Tiny behind the tree, and not with the team? What’s with telling Captain Jack about G-Force? People in special ops never reveal what they do.]

Mark tells the castaways that they’ll take them to port.

Then Zark calls. He’s located the space monster. It’s in the Northern Hemisphere, Sector 40, Grid 10.

And the shrimp/prawn mecha is in flight. When Bartok spots the Phoenix, he orders an attack. The smaller planes launch.

Just as Jason gets a bead on them, Tiny changes course. He owes this monster one, so let him take care of it.

Bartok chortles that nothing can stop them now.

Jason is all hot to fire the big red missiles. Tiny tells him to hold off, and let him do it. The missiles are lowered into launch position. Tiny fires one.

When the missile strikes the shrimp/prawn mecha and ends up on the Bridge, Bartok and company run out of there. Although we don’t see it, presumably the missile explodes and destroys the mecha.

The little yellow plans are closing to attack, but they have the fuel efficiency of American-made pickup trucks, and are riding on empty. As the planes plummet out of the sky, Tiny comments that the robots are bad pilots. [Zoltar should shoot his engineers. We humans do much better with our assorted drones.]

Now for the happy reunion between Tommy and Captain Jack.

And now for self-congratulatory Zark voice-over. Apparently, his foresight saved the Conway Tapes. He advised that they be removed from the Conway Building long before the attack. [WTH!? Then why didn’t he tell G-Force? Or Anderson, at least? They obviously had no idea the tapes were safe. Agh!] Does he have a sixth sensor? [Okay, not as agonizing as some of his puns, but still….] And there’s some more drivel, but I can take no more and will spare you.

And not once did any character refer to the giant shrimp/prawn mecha as a ‘preying mantis.’ Only in the title.
***** ***** *****

Fic Alert: Symbiot robots?

How might destroying the Conway Tapes lead to the destruction of the Federation? Are we talking about the dissolution of the Federation, or more serious political effects that might lead to war?

Bizarreness alert: G-Force, an elite fighting unit tasked with protecting the Federation from a ruthless enemy, apparently consists of five kids with no cross-training. Surely the scriptwriters could have found a better way to explain Mark not piloting the Phoenix.

Not only that, when they go on leave, they turn off their communicators. Nobody in the regular military stays out of touch that way. It might be necessary to return at a moment’s notice. Completely unprofessional, at the least. Basically, when the scriptwriters rewrote this episode, they either didn’t think this out, or they just didn’t give a darn.

I recall some episodes where they worry about their identities being discovered. This is consistent with their apparent role as a strike team. Yet the Harpers know all about Tiny and G-Force.

Come on, why didn’t Zark tell Anderson and G-Force the Conway Tapes were safe? Or at least Anderson. He’s the Chief of Security for the Federation! They could have still put up a spirited defense, enough to fool Zoltar.

And what was that oddly-edited fight about? [In the original series, the Science Ninja Team’s individual vehicles had been fitted with weapons a few episodes before. Perhaps the BotP people were trying not to jump the gun, since they had not yet adapted that episode, and no vehicle weapons appeared in the previous four episodes.]

These are the sort of things that happen when you rewrite a script and don’t pay attention to the details. I don’t care how old your audience is, pay attention to that stuff.

Gatchaman plot: This was a complete rewrite of the original Gatchaman episode.

Leader X is peeved. The International Science Organization’s Mantle Project is moving ahead. He orders Berg Katse to deploy the new mecha, Jumbo Shakora, immediately. They will destroy the central lab, a fuel tanker, and several uranium storehouses. He chews Katse a new one [75 episodes, and Katse has screwed up somehow in most of them]. Berg Katse is upset at being yelled at.

There are people flying the planes on both sides. The planes from the mecha still have the gas mileage of American pickup trucks.

Cut to Ryu’s father on his boat. They haven’t caught a thing. Jumbo Shakora appears. Nakanishi senior thinks the planes are refueling when they dock. The planes attack the ship and sink it.

The Science Ninja Team is at Dr. Nambu’s summer home, taking a short vacation. Until they hear about the latest Galactor outrage. [Yep, the building with the orange roof is a private home. Of a guy who has a complete lab somewhere inside it, to judge by other episodes.] Nambu wants a pre-emptive strike, but they have to find the mecha. They go out in their separate vehicles.

The little boy who goes to Ryu is his brother, Seiji. For some reason, even though the family doesn’t know what Ryu does, the boy knows to go to Nambu’s house. When Ryu has to go out with the SNT, Seiji pitches a fit and lays on the guilt. [Now, how does such a small boy travel so far? He looks younger than Jinpei. The show was often sloppy about its imaginary geography.]

It’s the central lab that’s attacked. And there’s no Ryu, because Seiji won’t let go of him. The big guy finally shakes off his brother. [How long did that take? Seiji significantly delays Ryu so that the team cannot combine with the God Phoenix, nor does Ryu arrive late.]

The SNT attack individually, since they can’t combine with the God Phoenix. [Why was this edited out of the BotP episode? They called the pilots ‘robots’, earlier. The word could have been used again. Was the destruction too explicit? In any case, the editing left out so much that we had that sloppy non-fight.] Their defense of the laboratory is inadequate without their ship and its missiles.

And they’re mad at Ryu. Who doesn’t tell them why he was late. [This sort of failure to communicate happens at plot-convenient times throughout the series.]

Nambu sends them out to guard the fuel tanker.

Because Ryu worries about his father, he doesn’t pay attention to his course. This means they aren’t there to defend the fuel tanker when it’s attacked. It’s only when Jun checks their route that they know they’re off course, and Nambu yells at them for not being at the rendezvous point.

Berg Katse gloats.

Nambu chews them all out. Ryu still hasn’t told anyone anything. And Ken’s pissed and upset. There’s no rubbish about needing vacations. Instead, they’re grounded. Yes, grounded.

Seiji is still hanging around (after all that fuss about looking for his father). He comes across Ken and Jun, and tells them what happened. Afterwards, Ken goes to Ryu and tells him they’re going to search for his father. (Nambu hears this through the door, and later orders them to find a fishing boat that was reported missing. He pretends to be angry at them, but Ken realizes what happened.)

They do find Ryu’s father. Who promptly tells Ken what a layabout and slob his son is. Ryu’s sulking behind the tree.

Not recognizing his son, Mr. Nakanishi tells him he’s certain that the planes refuel at the mecha.

Nambu calls with a location for Jumbo Shakora. The UN planes are once again being destroyed.

Ryu’s course-change is to shoot a missile into the mecha, so that the Galactor planes can’t refuel. He fires the missile, not Joe.

And the mecha is destroyed.
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