Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Battle Of The Planets Ep15: Microfilm Mystery

Speaking of wars amongst the stars and battles of good versus evil...we return to an era far, far away...

That era began with Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972-1974) pre-dating Star Wars (1977), but later retrofitted, Battle Of The Planets (1978), to accommodate the renewed interest in space-based science fiction adventure. The force was indeed with Sandy Frank, the man behind Battle Of The Planets. This it was G-Force against an evil empire.

"It's over. It's erased. Wiped out. Finished.
In the name of the Federation of peaceful planets, I'm placing you under arrest for crimes against the galaxy."
-Mark (good)-

"Oh Luminous One how may I serve your diabolical will."
-Zoltar (evil)-

It is impressive just how evil the Spectrans are spewing poison and vitriol with their every breath.

According to the adaptation of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman's The Indestructible Machine Mechanika as Battle Of The Planets, Episode 15, Microfilm Mystery, the Metamorphosis 1 is being created as an assistant to 7-Zark-7. Built by robots, not custom made like Zark, the unit shall contain all of the microfilm blueprints to Center Neptune. As such, it will be the target of Zoltar as directed by the oh so malevolent, Machiavellian leader the Luminous One.

The Spectran Goons implement all manner of Spectran weaponry resulting in the sabotage of Earth robots constructing Metamorphosis 1.

Inevitably the blueprints are stolen. Zoltar plans to reprogram Center Neptune's computers with misinformation bringing Earth to its very knees at the hands of its own technology. Sinister indeed.

It turns out this is a job for, you guessed it, G-Force!

The team assembles and rendezvous at the site of the computer lab in each of their individual G craft. Kids are treated to some splendid shots of G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4.

The team is challenged by yet another Spectran mech resembling something akin to a Pteratops dinosaur capable of transforming into a snake-like mech with train-like speed. Like amazing!

Tiny unites the group housing the respective vehicles inside the G-5 better known and beloved as The Phoenix. Each vehicle is given a loving treatment for the kids at home even if it is in repetition at this point.

With computers being jammed G-Force is faced with a technological challenge as much as a physical one.

In a rare turn, Keyop goes it alone entering a long highway tunnel in pursuit of the enemy. There is a good team exchange. Tiny doesn't believe Keyop really has a chance working solo. Risk-taking Jason thinks it's a good idea and the ever cautious Mark surprisingly okays the mission. You never exactly sure which way Mark will fall, but good leaders surprise you. Keyop will go solo while The Phoenix gets its computers repaired back at Center Neptune. Given Center Neptune has also been affected including 7-Zark-7 there are some logic issues that come into question.

So it's an unusual move and a bit surprising the team would let Keyop leave without back up. It's a bit out of character for the team and maybe Tiny's caution, not so much a lack of faith, makes a good deal of sense given their friendship/relationship dynamic as well.

Back at Center Neptune Chief Anderson alerts the team that the Metamorphosizer stolen by Spectra to reprogram Earth computers must be stopped. The only solution is the Microfilm Neutralizer. That's exactly what I was thinking. That's a mouthful. Mark retorts almost comically, "Microfilm Neutralizer, that's a new one." Yes, that's what we were thinking Mark. No question. It will erase programs on the microfilm.

"We're really in bad shape," notes 7-Zark-7 after flying backwards. Spectra is doing a number on Earth. It's up to Keyop to shoulder the burden and locate the Spectran base.

Locating the base ship Keyop utilizes on board TNT to create chaos. Keyop throws a real wrench in the works.

In a stroke of luck, Keyop locates the microfilm. He makes his way back to G-Force exhausted and is praised by Chief Anderson for his bravery and performance. If only those children that mocked poor little Keyop in Battle Of The Planets, Episode 8, Fearful Sea Anemone could see him now. Civilians simply have no idea what G-Force manage to do day to day to keep us all safe. Keyop deserves a bit more respect.

Mark must sneak aboard the Spectran ship and install a new tape to neutralize the Metamorphosizer. "The entire galaxy is depending on you," declares Anderson. No pressure. No pressure at all Mark.

As Mark prepares for his mission Anderson's words echo in Mark's head over and over. "It won't be easy. It won't be easy." Are any of these missions easy? No and yet G-Force dispatches the baddies pretty handily every time making it look easy, but for whatever reason they perseverate on this particular mission.

On the other hand, the moment does lend the episode its small moment of emotional subtext as even a team leader indeed suffers self-doubt. We all question our actions. We all have moments of pause in our lives and this message is underscored here by Mark's mission. These youngsters are human beings with flaws and feelings and the danger is real. The creators ensure that a sense of realism is infused in tiny moments like this one.

Ultimately, how will Mark know where to find the tape's location inside the ship is an entirely other matter with no explanation to be had. I'm sure lady luck will have a hand in it.

Mark eventually comes face to face with Zoltar and succeeds in his directive. In a very boy scout moment Mark reads Zoltar the riot act in a great bit of truth, justice and the American way. "It's over. It's erased. Wiped out. Finished. In the name of the Federation of peaceful planets, I'm placing you under arrest for crimes against the galaxy." Boy if that didn't sound like a perfect ending, but alas Zoltar escapes.

In a great bit of recycling the giant Spectran mecha is converted into a Ferris wheel at an amusement park.

The episode closes with a typically sultry call from Susan whereby 7-Zark-7 notes he has no need of an assistant when he has the likes of Susan around to tickle his fosdick. He didn't actually use the word fosdick this time around but that's an oft mention innuendo.

Microfilm Mystery is a good bit of convoluted science fiction technobabble Battle Of The Planets style. Some good bits are not enough to elevate or save the entry from average at best.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman title: The Indestructible Machine Mechanika.
Up Next: The Alien Beetles.

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