Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Battle Of The Planets E22: The Fiery Lava Giant

“Those men were giants all of them.” 
-a respectful nod to the men of Mount Rushmore-

Battle Of The Planets (1978-1980), like a lot of 1970s television of all genres, was a little casual about editing continuity or attention to detail. After all, it was only at the very end of 1976 that the VHS was essentially born. The idea that our favorite shows and films would actually make it to the home market or even be seen again seemed fairly unlikely to many. Rewinding, pausing, looking at the details simply wasn't considered. Gerry Anderson of Thunderbirds, UFO and Space: 1999 acclaim made this very point on the subject in the book What Made Thunderbirds Go! The Authorized Biography Of Gerry Anderson. So, there are some significant editing snafus from the era that simply weren't a huge concern. An American-edited children’s cartoon called Battle Of The Planets, sourced from Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, is no exception.

One particular editing snafu seems to forget the rescuee. After the character of Amelia is saved at one point Amelia then suddenly appears to no longer be with the team. Okay, maybe she was sent back to the Phoenix. Okay we can go with that. But then suddenly she is back with the team in Spectra’s lair and Tiny abruptly goes missing. Okay perhaps Mark has sent Tiny to get the Phoenix. Yes, that appears to be it as it is then confirmed visually that Tiny is in the cockpit. Oh no, but when the Phoenix arrives to pick up Mark, Princess, Jason and Keyop along with Amelia, Amelia is once again no longer there. Poor girl. When the team jumps up and into the Phoenix Tiny is surprisingly back with the team on the ground. My gosh what is happening? Always five acting as one apparently. But a serious question then, who the hell is flying the Phoenix? At some point I will have to check out the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972-1974) original (The Magma Giant, Emperor Of Hell) on this one. Either the Americans sliced and diced the original to shreds reconfiguring it all out of order for Battle Of The Planets or simply extracted the errors from a poorly edited Japanese original. Alas we would one day have VHS, DVD and more to completely dissect these inconsistencies for a good bit of fun. Despite the imperfections in these productions they are truly magnificent and made lovingly by hand. As kids we were far more forgiving. Those were the days.

As simple as these productions are it was always the animation and out of this world design work that would seize and win the day for this writer and they have kept me coming back for more nearing 50 years later.

As such I've provided plenty of images of the wonderful moments included in the entry spotlighting the many vehicles used by the team in the form of the Summit or Sonic Jet, Space Mobile, Space Buggy and Sonic Cycle.

A respectful homage is paid to the men of Mount Rushmore in monument mountain as the team dispatches to Space Island.

It’s ironic the American translation of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman for Battle of The Planets felt the need to supplant alleged violent images from the Japanese original with footage of 7-Zark-7. This is noted as I watch Battle Of The Planets, Episode 22, The Fiery Lava Giant, only to be reminded how often the writers of this American version felt the compulsion to script dialogue for the robot in the form of his fosdick. The sexual innuendos fly often between Zark and his faceless female love Susan. Apparently these writers were clearly horn dogs and felt compelled to incorporate some adult humor in place of the violence. It’s amusing, but the original animation is an irreplaceable and flawless work.

Despite the occasionally disappointing choices for the American adaptation there is incredible emotional power in the US series and all of it is brought to fruition by way of its talented, compelling American voice cast.

*Footnote: This writer and fan of the series continues to examine each and every Battle Of The Planets episode by matching the English-adapted equivalent in corresponding order to the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman release. There are missing adaptations from that original series. So there are gaps. But episode 22 here corresponds with the next episode of the Japanese original in chronological order.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman title: The Magma Giant, Emperor Of Hell
Up next: The Bat Ray Bombers.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Falling Skies S1 E10: Eight Hours

"I want you to think about where we are. Battles of Lexington and Concord were fought not too far from here. Small force of colonists against the entire might of the British Empire. Nobody gave them much of a chance either. Patrick Henry called it. 'The battle is not to the strong alone. It is to the vigilant, the active and the brave.' A small, disciplined militia can not only hold out against a larger force but drive it back because they're fighting for what rightfully belongs to them. This is our home, our world. So remember that if they come."

Close encounters of the third and not so friendly kind aside, Falling Skies, Season One, Episode 10, Eight Hours is a bit awkward in execution and maybe doesn't quite deliver the expectations of an epic season finale, but on a limited budget, in relative terms, it still has its moments and closes the deal on what was a fine season of science fiction TV. 

Eight Hours also propels the story forward for Season Two with the departure of Tom Mason taking the previously abducted Karen's hand and boarding the alien ship with one of those tall, lanky salamander type aliens. Again, not a perfect finale by any stretch considering the build that preceded it, but still a solid little closing to an impressive first season.

The soldiers move closer to Boston further underscoring the series unique setting and the guerilla-like fight against the aliens.

One of the better sci-fi components of the entry involves the previously-harnessed Rick running into the woods. He finds a harnessed girl who is much deeper into Skitter transformation. Her skin is discolored and her face is changing. The girl from Sanctuary (Part One) (S1, E6) represents the sci-fi concepts of physical transformation or body horror. These elements have been explored in Doctor Who (The Ark In Space) (1975) to cinema with films like Pandorum (2009) or District 9 (2009).

Falling Skies delves nicely into the idea of being between worlds through these transformations. With his harness now removed Rick is rejected by the Skitters, but he is also shunned as other by humankind. He is in effect in limbo and lost. The Ben character too is in a similar place with some of humanity rejecting his alien changes. He writhes in pain after being affected by a frequency. Rick and Ben are something beyond human. These aspects of the series present ambiguity and grey areas that add to its thoughtful science fiction elements.

Eight hours is the time until night falls and the charges must be deployed on the alien hive ship.

To inspire the troops Tom transforms into full-on professor mode noting the battles of Concorde and Lexington against the might of the British Empire. Tom quotes founding father Patrick Henry ("give me liberty or give me death") who noted the potential might of a few. "The battle is not to the strong alone. It is to the vigilant, the active and the brave.  A small disciplined militia cannot only hold out against a larger force, but drive it back, because they're fighting for what rightfully belongs to them. This is our home - our world. So remember that if they come." These words echo the fight of any free nation battling an aggressor on a respective homeland. Ukraine's fight against the Russians in 2022 is a perfect modern example. There are many examples. The Vietnamese worked to repel Americans from Vietnam, while Americans repelled the British during the American Revolutionary War (roughly 1775-1783).

Weaver orders Hal to return to the school base and notify the others that the 4th and 5th are gone.  In effect, Hal Mason is Paul Revere warning the civilian militias through the streets of Massachusetts that the aliens are coming, the aliens are coming. My now fully grown Boy Wonder noted that excellent point.

The human fighting force employs bullets crafted from downed mecha to aid in the fight. Samples of the proto-molecule were eventually used in the hull of the Rocinante in The Expanse (2015-2022). The use of alien tech and alien ware has forever been an aspect of science fiction invention.

The season finale delivers its mightiest special effects since Live And Learn (E1) and it's understandable the costs involved in a production of this size with genuine external location shooting.  A ground's eye view of the alien structure is truly imposing and looks remarkable.

The final scenes echo a kind of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) on a smaller, more intimate less grand Spielbergian scale or better The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). We learn about the impact of the harness on children even after removal. The kids are still influenced as a biological change has already occurred in them. Eight Hours delivers a thrilling, stellar sci-fi cliffhanger that rounds out a solid ten episode first season.

I can only note that Season Two furthers the story and delivers another solid ten episodes for the Falling Skies series. When it comes to science fiction escape this TNT series is impressive and consistent in its quality. The channel's recent Snowpiercer (2020-present) effort is delivering those same engaging, storytelling qualities having been passed the baton. But if you haven't seen Falling Skies it is a consistently strong science fiction yarn that holds up to repeat viewing. And unlike those laborious eight hour work shifts this particular Eight Hours flies.

Writer: Mark Verheiden. Director: Greg Beeman.