Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Star Blazers, Episode #19

The nineteenth episode of Star Blazers takes the story of the Argo in a more intimate and intriguing direction than some installments do.  The story by-and-large focuses on a minor character, the communications officer named Homer, as he grapples with feelings of guilt about his family on Earth, as well as feelings of homesickness for the distant planet.  His parents don't do much to help him, either  In long-range transmissions from Earth, they are accusatory and histrionic.  They all but ask him to forsake his mission and return home.  But of course, to do that would mean the end of every human life on the planet.

Homer's existential angst goes much deeper than homesickness and guilt, however.  He is literally obsessed with impending death.  He worries that "every space warp takes us further into the dark unknown," and that Earth and his family are truly lost to him.  

At one point in the drama, Homer asks for guarantees of success, and Captain Avatar very rightly provides him none.  "No one knows tomorrow.  There are no guarantees," he notes.   

This comment reflects one reason why I admire Avatar so deeply as a character.  He doesn't candy-coat anything, and he doesn't underestimate the danger that the Star Force faces.  On the contrary, Captain Avatar is facing his own "dark unknown" in the form of his illness, but even that sickness doesn't prevent him from continuing to focus on the job at hand.

In moments such as this one, this episode of Star Blazers ably charts the psychological impact of the long journey to Iscandar, and in a way that only a few episodes thus far have managed to equal.  The story resolves with Homer becoming a hero, which is a nice, optimistic touch.  After he attempts to commit suicide by leaving the Argo in a space suit, Homer encounters a Gamilon relay satellite, and helps Derek Wildstar to destroy it.  This act refocuses him on his mission, and his duty.

This episode of Star Blazers also features scenes of Homer in the "holography room," experiencing his home on Earth during the winter.  This "holography room" is very much a forerunner to the holodeck on Star Trek: The Next Generation though in fairness to that franchise, Gene Roddenberry had envisioned this brand of rec room technology as early as Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973 - 1974) and episodes such as "Practical Joker."    

Again, the important thing here regarding the holography room is the emotional important. Homer recognizes that a simulation of home is not home. "It's not that way now," he objects, before storming out of the holography room, offering the audience an explicit reminder that the beauty of Earth has largely been destroyed by Gamilon bombing.

All in all, what this episode points out rather nimbly is the notion that on a long, lonely voyage through space, self-doubt and guilt can prove just as dangerous to the Star Force as a Gamilon weapons array.

255 Days Left!

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