Monday, May 17, 2021

Star Blazers, Episode #17

In this seventeenth episode of the animated series Star Blazers (1979), the Argo has just 45 days left in its voyage to distant Iscandar, and the great ship has fallen three days behind schedule.  This delay means that it may be necessary to activate the motion wave engine early, and possibly risk the ship in the process.

At the same time, the Gamilon officer Volgar -- working for Lysis -- has developed a bizarre new weapon to challenge the Star Force.  On the planet of a nearby Gamilon outpost, energy cells in a sea of volcanic lava are actually life-forms that can combine and form different shapes.  Volgar has been training these creatures to form a giant, space-going (kaiju) monster called a Balanosaurus.  

His plan is to let the Balanosaurus destroy the Argo...

But as this challenge rises, the Star Force faces another problem.  Captain Avatar falls gravely ill, and collapses on the bridge.  He must undergo surgery immediately...or die.  "Any time you can give me...I'm counting on you," he tells the ship's doctor. 

Avatar's illness provides a test of command for Derek Wildstar as the giant balanosaurus approaches...

In many senses, this episode of Star Blazers relies on a tried-and-true series formula: a new Gamilon weapon endangers the mission to Iscandar.  

We've seen ultra-menace missiles, reflex guns, Desslok space mines, and other various and sundry threats thus far.  The energy-cell "colony" -- in the form of a space-going dragon/Balanosaurus -- is only the latest in a long line.  

And not unpredictably, this threat also fails to destroy the Argo.

Yet, this episode's subplot about Avatar is affecting.  

As viewers, we have known for some time that Avatar is weakening, and coming to the end.  Here, his condition is "very serious," and he pulls through, but there's also the sense that he is living on borrowed time. 

I find it interesting (and very human) how he uses that limited time: once awake, he commends Wildstar (in front of other crew members) for pulling the Argo through the latest scrape with the Gamilons.  Avatar is no doubt proud of Wildstar's accomplishment, but his public appreciation for the young man's actions serve another purpose: they allow the process of building-confidence in Avatar's replacement, when the time comes.  Avatar understands that he will leave big shoes to fill, and that the crew must feel committed to and confident about his successor.

It's for moments such as this one that Star Blazers proves so fascinating and worthwhile, at least to me.  All the space battle stuff we've seen before (and will see again...), but the character arcs are the ones that keep us watching.

Only 263 days left...

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