Thursday, September 17, 2015

Battle Of The Planets Ep14: The Thing With 1,000 Eyes

"Anybody for outer space?"
-Mark essentially talking directly to the Star Wars-obsessed kiddies of the late 1970s-

As I continue reflecting back on Battle Of The Planets it's worth noting one of the things that we connected to in our youth was the overall musculature of the character designs crafted for Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972-1974) and thus Battle Of The Planets (1978).

These were five strong, but credibly thin orphans. The exception Tiny, though notably strong and considered the G-Force team muscle, was hardly possessive of the kind of physique associated with the likes of today's Marvel characters or even the likes of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe. Tiny was fairly large with as much fat as he had muscle and believably so. All of these characters were endowed with real world physical attributes rather than the rare, freakishly muscular features that would be deemed apparently more desirable beyond the 1970s. This is indeed one aspect of Battle Of The Planets that gave ordinary kids a way of identifying with these extraordinary heroes.

Today, we sometimes see a general exaggeration in muscle tone and physical prowess when it comes to our superheroes in comic books and animation, but with G-Force we had a group of believable teenagers who were indeed strong and agile but not designed to appear as muscle-laden oafs with great powers. These were credible characters and the type with whom children could easily connect. There was indeed an escape within the science fiction and even heroic world of Battle Of The Planets, but we were whisked away by characters that seemed palpably real. In fact, one of them was even a scrawny, little, funny and awkward kid. It doesn't get much more down to Earth than that despite stories and outer space adventures on Battle Of The Planets that were out of this world. And away we went from there.

We look back yet again at the good old days with Battle Of The Planets, Episode 14, The Thing With 1,000 Eyes (not that anyone really counted).

As is often the case, Battle Of The Planets opens once again with 7-Zark-7 deep at the heart of Center Neptune ready to warn of any impending alien intruders, except of course those from Spectra that manage to by pass his scanners and set up secret bases on Earth. Oh well. No one said it was easy attaining perfection against relentless alien terrorism.

7-Zark-7 informs us he has never met G-Force in the flesh. His relationship has always been via computer communication.

Attention turns to planet Riga, part of the intergalactic federation, and it just so happens to look as awful lot like Earth. Riga's capital city appears desolate. Chief Anderson sends an exploratory recon team to the planet. Anderson warns not to get too close since they are not a combat team.

Zoltar enjoys a trademark evil laugh and contacts the Luminous One.

The Phoenix, now fitted with warp power and a time by-pass converter, is sprayed with a golden orange hue. Anderson informs G-Force the orange coating is a protective anti-matter. It will shield G-Force from any deadly gases or toxins on Riga. That's comforting despite the fact 7-Zark-7 noted Riga was a lot like Earth. This essentially negates that point. The orange Phoenix may not be as glorious as the original red and blue, but it's always a pleasure to see what animators cook up to be creative and change things up a bit for a series. The orange Phoenix is indeed a creamsicle-like treat.

I have a good number of Gatchaman collectibles but they have yet to make an orange, die cast Phoenix collectible straight out of Episode 14. Manufacturers please take note, We wait patiently.

Anderson's exploratory expedition has been captured on Riga and G-Force is en route to save them.

When the team arrives it's creepy quiet. Princess compares the mood to a spider web waiting for a victim. Mark retorts, "And you can't see the spider but you know he's there someplace."

Mark call's Riga's capital city "a weird scene---creep city."

Surrounded, Mark orders Tiny to jet them out of harm's way.

Jason notes "it's the happiness boys from Spectra again." The Spectran Goons were referred to as such in Episode 13, Perilous Pleasure Cruise, offering the series a little continuity as far as characters go. Jason suggests they fight back, but Mark indicates the mission is to find the survey team and not engage the enemy although it's clearly Spectra.

The Luminous One is less than pleased with Zoltar's minions. Zoltar is essentially given a tongue-lashing. The Luminous One is pleased that the underwater breeding tanks were unharmed. The Luminous One commands Zoltar to unleash this new lifeform created by Spectra.

The creature is set free and The Thing With 1,000 Eyes almost works as a kind of kaiju eiga (large monster) homage to the great monster pictures of Toho. A very specific example might be Godzilla Vs. Hedora (1971) as the sea of Riga is polluted and the massive blob is suggestive of Hedora itself, "a big plum pudding," as Princess dubs it. Even Riga's forces attack the thing like Japan's self-defense forces. The biological nightmare is massive and inflicting destruction everywhere on Riga.

Mark checks in with Zark to inform him they've seen what the creature can do, but now they have to locate it. Zark tells Mark to check the incubation site located in the sea of Riga.

The Phoenix is protected underwater by the orange coating.

The creature is underwater and dividing into several different creatures. This concept predates later anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996) and a replicating Angel monster called Israfel in Ep9, Both Of You, Dance Like You Want To Win!.

"Ugly things, I don't think I would want any for my aquarium," declares Princess. Jason suggests snorkeling and attacking the creature(s) with their lasers. Mark calls the idea "too risky" and requests GBX missiles with explosive warheads.

The creatures are unharmed by the explosives and begin attaching to the hull of The Phoenix eating through the ship's protective coating. Able to use thrusters and escape the things The Phoenix exits through the water surface and the creatures follow reuniting in the air into a single massive entity. *// The thing fires a massive laser. It is a genuinely creepy menace and perhaps one of the creepiest given its biological origin here in the series rather than a built mecha.

7-Zark-7 reports to Mark and the team informing them that the creature spawned in the polluted sea of Riga thrives on pollution. Sound familiar? The thing is most vulnerable in the air and must be injected with a massive dose of high pressure oxygen and then ignited by contact with the fiery Phoenix. How does 7-Zark-7 ascertain this information? It's all smoke and mirrors when it comes to his computer analysis. The oxygen weapon idea also pays homage and channels the classic ending to director Ishiro Honda's Gojira (1954).

Riga's forces will be dropping a high pressure oxygen bomb on the creature. But where is Colonel Cronus when you need him? Timing will be everything.

The continuity is good with the episode as well. Even after the Phoenix transmutes back to regular Phoenix the ship remains orange.

Chief Anderson declares a "full day of celebration" in honor of G-Force when they return. Not too shabby. Mark requests acknowledgement for the contributions of 7-Zark-7 and apparently he will be at the head of the parade. They will finally meet the Jar Jar Binks of Battle Of The Planets. Okay, he's more like the C3PO meets R2D2 and doesn't quite attain the Jar Jar Binks level of hatred.

7-Zark-7 even hopes to kiss Princess when they meet. Gosh who wouldn't? But that desire gives you a kind of new found respect for Earth's favorite geek robot, just a little. I'm sure his antennae and fosdick will stand erect and overjoyed with envy.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman title: The Fearsome Jellyfish Lens.
Up Next: Microfilm Mystery.

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