Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cult-TV Blogging: Star Blazers Episode #2

The Star Force saga continues in the second episode of the animated series, Star Blazers (1979).  This chapter depicts Yamato’s (or Argo’s) baptism of fire as it faces its first challenge from the Gamilons: an ultra-menace missile.

This episode also introduces several additional Argo crewmen, including Chief Engineer Orion, head mechanic Sandor, assistant pilot Eager, and officers Conroy, Dash, and Homer. 

Even better, the episode escorts viewers on a tour of the impressive Argo’s interior, from the holography room which can display 3-D “memories of Earth” (an early version of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s holodeck?) to Sandor’s machine shop.  We also get a good look at the fighter hanger bay, and the Wave Motion Engine and gun areas of the ship.  There’s even little information introduced about the science underlying the wave motion technology, which involves tachyon particles and the folding of space itself.

Future episodes establish the first test of the engine at “star warp” speed and the inaugural deployment of the Wave Motion gun in battle (near the floating continents of Jupiter).  But there’s a powerful and memorable image in this episode: Avatar and Wildstar standing in the turret/muzzle, essentially of the gigantic weapon.  This visual sells the size of the thing perfectly.

Additional character background also gets filled in during this early episode of Star Blazers.  The audience learns that Wildstar isn’t the only person who lost someone he loved at the Battle of Pluto.  In fact, Captain Avatar lost his only son as well, a fact he carries with him every moment of every day.  Wildstar learns this information when he is trying to determine “what kind of man,” his captain is, and his answer is clear. Avatar has faced personal tragedy, but that fact isn’t going to paralyze him when there is a planet to save.

Captain Avatar, who is rapidly becoming my favorite character, also gets to offer another one of his great nuggets of wisdom here: “The less time you have, the more you need to use it wisely.” Sometimes I think that’s the story of my writing career!

The episode ends with the notion that 363 days remain until Earth’s destruction…

Although the central threat of this Star Blazers episode -- the ultra menace missile – is a bit of a dud, the story nonetheless functions ably as the second chapter of a longer work, like a TV novel.  The Argo has become a character in the drama herself, and so this episode wisely reveals much more of the great ship.  

We also see and spend more time with the Gamilon leader Desslok here, and he sounds, unfortunately, like an adenoidal Roddy McDowall, which makes it a little difficult to take him seriously as a threat.

It’s also a little strange that the robot IQ9 boasts such a pronounced New York accent.  I wonder who programmed him with that little touch?

One factor I appreciated about this chapter involves the Star Force personnel saying goodbye to Earth and loved ones.  Parents cry and cheer during a parade, and onlookers quarrel as Earth’s future hangs in the balance.  This sequence puts a fine point on the bravery of Argo’s crew. 

These young, dedicated people are going where none have gone before, with full knowledge that a dedicated enemy will be nipping at their heels throughout the journey.


  1. Anonymous7:54 PM

    John nice review. The animated Star Trek series 1973-1974 episode "Practical Joker" had the first holodeck called the Rec Deck. However they must have been inspired by such literature as Ray Bradbury's The Veldt. I thought the Argo's hangar deck with fighters was very realistic. Once again the emotional characters development touched me as a boy in '79 as much as I denied it then.


  2. Donald G4:20 PM


    I'm afraid I'm going to be "that annoying pedantic guy" for a few minutes. The Ultra-Menace Missile and tour of the ship is actually in episode three of Star Blazers. You covered the events of episodes one and two as "episode one" in your last entry on the topic.

    For a long time, the VHS releases were two episodes per tape with the intervening credits between individual episodes removed, but for Season One (The Quest for Iscandar) the opening "In the Year 2199" narration tended to be kept at the beginning of each episode.

    With Season Two's Comet Empire releases, the recapping narration was often curtailed or cut out of the compilation entirely,

    1. Hey Donald,

      I feared something like this would happen, because of the way the DVD is organized.

      No opening and closing credits accompany each episode, and episode one is divided into four parts. It makes figuring things out nearly impossible for a newbie.

      I've been reluctant to tread into anime -- an area I don't know well -- because I figured I would make mistakes.

      And look, I already made one! This may be a warning sign I should stop now! :)


    2. Donald G7:36 PM

      Oh, please don't stop. The astute critical commentary makes up for any minor mistakes one may make, and besides, the show's the important thing, not how it's ultimately divided up for presentation.

      And, to be honest, decisions made by Voyager Entertainment in how to present the show on home video have been a cause for puzzlement.

      In aside, I'll share your assessment that Eddie Allen's voice for Desslok does sound like Roddy McDowall. The original Japanese voice of the character has the "deep voice of menace" thing going for him. I happen to like both portrayals as each one just exudes "villainous style". Granted, American-Desslok is more camp than Japanese-Dessler, but as the series goes on, it works for me.

    3. Hi Donald,

      Thank you! I was really just teasing because I'm outside my comfort zone a bit here. I'm enjoying the show and don't intend to stop blogging about it. Unless I REALLY embarrass myself! :)

      You are right about Desslok, he's kind of camp here, but also I can see how the choice works. His voice suggests indulgence and unquestioned power, and so it definitely works. That said, I need to listen to the Japanese "deep voice of menace," because that's also a powerful choice.

      All my best,

    4. Donald G10:56 PM

      Hi, John:

      After a little searching, I located a one minute fifty second compilation of Japanese Dessler scenes. "Evil Laugh of Lord Desler" should give enough of a taste.