Thursday 15 November 2012

24 A New Beginning For the Galaxy

"Our defences are unable to penetrate their planet fortress!"

Episode 24: A New Beginning For the Galaxy
UK Video: Space Quest for F-01
US Video: Volume 8: Showdown In Space
DVD: Star Fleet - The Complete Series - Disc 4

X-Bomber & The Skull race towards Earth as The Imperial Master continues his assault. General Kyle calls X-Bomber and tells them it's only a matter of time before they are defeated. Lamia rests in her quarters, unable to remember her encounter with the Imperial Master. The Imperial Master appears before them in space telling them Earth may escape total annihilation if they execute Lamia. Hercules replies by firing X-Bomber's Laser Torpedoes at the hologram. Lamia offers to surrender her life but the crew refuses. The Skull hears the ultimatum and has the pilots attack the Imperial Planet in the Dai-X. Halley has Lamia & Kirara transferred aboard the Skull. The pilots form the Dai-X robot but are attacked by Imperial Fighters. They reply with Dai-X's eye beams, super laser cannon and foot cannon. Fighters are launched at the Skull which comes under heavy assault during which Kirara, acting as a gunner, is shot and blasted into space. Heavily damaged with the majority of the crew dead the Skull is only saved by the arrival of Dai-X which destroys the attacking fighters but is forced to leave the stricken ship floating in space. The Dai-X attacks the Imperial Fortress planet with the X-Tracers and then deploys it's breast cannons. The Imperial Master has the Delta Laser fired at the Dai-X damaging it, knocking out the crew and leaving it tumbling through space. Lamia & Halley stand on the deck of the Skull as the new millennium dawns with a planetary alignment. The Imperial Master starts to celebrate his victory, but as he does so Halley raises his sword and is surrounded by a glowing light before disappearing and merging with Lamia. Lamia too becomes glowing light and travels to the Imperial Master's planet where she confronts the Imperial Master. He defies her and attacks her with a sword but, as the Fortress Planet nears Earth, she flies round the room evading the Imperial Master and replies with energy bolts. He fires energy bolts at her from his eyes but she destroys both him and his Fortress Planet. Lamia bids goodbye to the people of the Earth and crew of X-Bomber before leaving for deep space. The pilots reactivate Dai-X. On X-Bomber Professor Hagen remembers Captain Carter & Doctor Benn, lost in the fight against the Imperial Alliance. Dai-X and X-Bomber head for Star Fleet Command on Earth.

The last episode of Star Fleet has a lot to live up to. In many ways it delivers: we get a decent action sequence involving the Dai-X robot, fighting the Alliance Astro-Fighters for the first time, we get to see the Imperial Master wreaking destruction on Earth on a greater scale than before and we get to see Lamia's transformation, an event that's been hanging over the series for a long while, and the full power of F-01 unleashed destroying both the Imperial Master and his Fortress Planet. But against that we've got some slightly odd pacing: Dai-X launching (and with flipped shots showing Main Body & Leg Track leaving from the wrong sides of the ship) deciding to stay in fighter mode and then five seconds later forming the Dai-X. Yes, it's a reaction to the Imperial Master's manoeuvre but maybe leave them in fighter mode for slightly longer, having said you're going to do that, and maybe engage some Alliance fighters before forming the Dai-X. Then Dai-X sits out the conclusion to the series as does X-Bomber, which serves little function in this episode apart from to deliver Lamia & the Dai-X to the battle. Maybe having Lamia deal with the Imperial Master and then X-Bomber destroy the Fortress Planet using X-Impulse (unseen since episode 7) might have brought the craft into the action a bit more. In it;'s final appearance the only one of it's weapons we see is the Laser Torpedoes and they're just used to fire at a projection of the Imperial Master in space! Dai-X gets a slightly better crack at things using it's super cannon and X-Tracers before unveiling it's eye beams, foot cannon (effectively Leg Tracks' gun, not previously seen used in this mode) before *finally* using the Breast Missiles. (Stop laughing - that's the name given in The Look In Article published at the start of the series. And yes the photo there does show Dai-X's chest open standing on a planet, something we don't see in the English episodes of Star Fleet. It might be from Super Space Machine X Bomber - Takeoff Preparation Complete, the Japanese Pilot which I've never seen)

Having got the end of the series here's the final tally of how many times X-Bomber & Dai-X use which weapons:


Turret Lasers - 8 times: 1, 2, 7, 8, 10, 14, 15 & 23
Laser Blast - 5 times: 2, 5, 7, 14 & 22
X-Impulse - twice: 3 & 7
Shield - once: 4
Beam Cannons - twice: 4 & 22
Laser Torpedoes - 3 times: 8, 21 & 24
Neck Laser Torpedo - once: 16
Rear Laser Blast - once: 22


Fighters - 10 times: 4, 5, 11, 12, 14, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24
Robot - 7 times: 4, 11, 18, 19, 21, 22 & 24
Super Cannon - 5 times: 4, 11, 18, 19, 21, & 24
Torpedoes - 5 times: 4, 11, 18, 19 & 21
X-Ray Laser - once: 19
X-Tracers - twice: 21 & 24
Shield - once: 21
Eye Beams, Foot Gun & Breast Cannon - once each, all in 24

And while we're counting: we see the pilots space suits in episode 5, 18, 19 & 22 plus Shiro's in 12 & 14. And despite seeing the yellow suits hanging in the airlocks on several occasions - episodes 3, 10 & 16 spring to mind!

Kirara is killed during this episode, seemingly randomly by a laser blast followed by a poignant shot of him drifting away into space. He's been there to be Lamia's bodyguard and seemingly the only reason to kill him now is his function has been fulfilled. Maybe they should have had him killed in episode 19 instead of Cyborg and had Doctor Benn, a far better character onscreen than Professor Hagen, continue to the end of the series? Technically Captain Halley dies too when he merges with Lamia and the Imperial Master certainly does when Lamia destroys him. So the final count of named character deaths in the series is 8: Capitan Carter, Doctor Benn, Commander Makara, Captain Orion, Calliban, Kirara, Captain Halley & the Imperial Master. Technically it might be 9, but you can't really be sure about Princess Keeli in episode 11. We've also seen numerous Star Fleet pilots, Pluto Base personnel, Termoids & Skull crew killed. For me the most annoying dead characters are Captain Halley's first officer, who we see in a couple of episodes and reports Kirara's death here, and the Imperial Officers on the Fortress planet because we never find out what their names are!

The explanation of why Lamia's powers emerge (the how I'm not even going to touch with a long barge pole) has been telegraphed throughout the series as being to do with the dawning of the year 3000. OK, it's an arbitrary date, I'll live with that. But now, right at the end, it seems that what actually triggers this is a planetary alignment in the Solar System. The series, via Professor Hagen, had a botched go at explaining this last episode (some mumbled statements about movement of planets which made no sense - I wonder if the Japanese version was clearer). So did Lamia need to be in the Solar System for her powers to manifest itself? Would explain why the Skull was hanging around in Episode 5..... and indeed why Lamia was sent to Earth in the first place. Maybe when Halley gave the crew of X-Bomber his explanation of what was going to happen to Lamia in episode 16 he should have said that it would be triggered by the planetary alignment and that she needed to be in the Solar System by the point the alignment occurred at the start of the year 3000. That would then have given the need to get back to Earth more urgency from that point onwards and added an element to the battle on Carillion..... "we must leave as soon as possible to get Lamia to Earth in time"

The ending always amuses me: Lamia, transformed into a glowy light being, floats about and fires energy bolts at the baddie. The reason it amuses me is that it's very similar to the end of the Doctor Who story The Mutants except there the transformed being is Ky, played by Garrick Hagon (Captains Carter & Halley in Star Fleet, amongst others) the real life husband of Liza Ross who plays Lamia!

I love Star Fleet as a series to bits. But I'm aware the episodes I like the best are the first 12 that I caught on first transmission. When the mystery of F-01 is revealed the series somehow looses *something*. Oddly it's the three later episodes that I didn't see as a child I have the most trouble with. 22 doesn't live up to my expectations, 23 is just not any good and we've outlined the flaws in 24 (admittedly much less obvious than those in 23) above.

Portions of this episode appear on the original version of the UK Video compilation Space Quest for F-01 but how much depends on which version you have. I have two, a 90 min version and a shorter 77 minute version which cuts all of the material between the farewell meal on Carillion and Halley & Lamia standing on the Skull in episode 24, amounting to about 17 minutes of footage and including all of the material from episode 23 and all the Dai-X battle sequences from this episode. Most of the episode was found as the middle episode of US Video Volume 8: Showdown In Space. However I got to see the full version of this episode when, c2000, a friend of mine sent me a video tapes containing episodes 19 & 24. Now I know that episode 24 originally aired in the LWT region in 1983. I'm unsure if it was repeated in that region in 1984: maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. The tape I have features the tail end of the credits to The Chart Show before Star Fleet starts, and the Central television logos which suggests that Star Fleet was repeated in that region on or after January 1989, the date the Chart Show was first aired by ITV.

The episode, like the other 23 episodes of Star Fleet was *finally* released in full when it appeared on DVD on Monday 9th February 2009. To say I had been looking forward to this set was an understatement. All 24 episodes, in full, at last. And yes it looks better than any previously available version of the episodes. But, spoilt by years of loving work by The Restoration Team on the Doctor Who DVDs and the, frankly, beautifully restored HD prints used for the Prisoner & Space 1999 BDs I can't help but feel it could look an awful lot better properly tidied up with the scratches that are seen on some episodes removed.

And, while there's lots of bonus features on the DVDs, much of it amounts to text & photos with just a documentary featuring Go Nagai, Louis Elman, Peter Marinker, the voice of Paul Bliss and a frankly annoying Gerry Anderson who keeps plugging his own products and a framed version of the Brian May music video making up anything like what I would have expected. I think there's room for a definitive release of this series and here's what else I'd include:

The Star Fleet "ad caps" - the Star Fleet logo animations that appear at the beginning and end of each advert break.
The Brian May Star Fleet project in full screen 4:3 ratio
Scans of the Look In Star Fleet Articles & Covers, Star Fleet comics strips (some, but not all, of which were reprinted in a booklet with the first edition of the DVD) and Star Fleet Annual.
The existing UK Compilation videos.

These are the most obvious UK special features that could be included, but the Japanese and French version of the series, both called X-Bomber, would give us a wealth of extra materials

French & Japanese title sequences
Japanese pilot/promo Super Space Machine X Bomber - Takeoff Preparation Complete
Trailer for Japanese episode 18
Japanese episode 18, a clip show missing from the UK run. (see here and here on YouTube)
Any cut Japanese footage

The absence of Cast & Crew Commentaries is also noticeable compared to The Doctor Who DVDs. A fan commentary might have been nice too.... In fact if there's any Special Edition DVD producers reading this I'd love to come in and do one for episodes 4 & 5. Of the entire series it's those two episodes that really stand out for me. When I think of Star Fleet it's Moonbase, asteroid belt, Dai-X rampaging on Jupiter, the snow falling on Pluto and Lamia seeking the Skull while the others search for her that I think of.

Thanks for watching Star Fleet with me these last few weeks. I hope you've all enjoyed it. And don't forget to buy the DVD if you haven't already so you can watch them again!

Wednesday 14 November 2012

23 Earth in Desperation!

"To catch an Iron Fish we'll use the electric solar energy net!"

Episode 23: Earth in Desperation!
UK Video: Space Quest for F-01
US Video: Volume 8: Showdown In Space
DVD: Star Fleet - The Complete Series - Disc 4

X-Bomber is surrounded by a fluctuating energy field which Lamia's emerging powers have created. Professor Hagen attempts to help Lamia with the pain she is experiencing as she starts to change. The Imperial Officers report to the Imperial Master they will reach Earth a few days before the New Year and X-Bomber is far behind them even though it is travelling faster. Earth Defence Forces detect the Imperial Home Planet and speculate it's a UFO. General Kyle asks if they have managed to make contact with X-Bomber yet. X-Bomber tries to call Earth but fails. Lamia flees the bridge as she has more pains and the ship is surrounded by light again. She has a vision of the Imperial Master who communicates with her. She tells him to stop his advance on Earth but he refuses and swears to destroy her. The Imperial Master fires Laser Torpedoes at the distant pursuing X-Bomber. X-Bomber takes evasive action but the torpedoes turn with them. Hercules opens fire with the turret lasers. X-Bomber is damaged but are saved when the Skull arrives and Captain Halley destroys the Laser Torpedoes. The Imperial Master retaliates by launching the electric solar energy net. Star Fleet command tries to contact the UFO but the Imperial Master refuses to reply. X-Bomber becomes ensnared in the Space Net turning the electrical system haywire and causing PPA to malfunction. X-Bomber is out of control and the Skull's attempts to rescue it fail. The Imperial Master contacts Earth Defence Forces and taunts General Kyle and orders them to surrender before firing it's missiles. X-Bomber slows, regaining computer control and raises it's shield, escaping the net. The Imperial Master tells Star Fleet command that they will be annihilated. Under attack Earth scrambles it's astro fighters to attack but they are destroyed by the Imperial Master's planet. X-Bomber regains contact with Star Fleet command and is updated on the status of the attack. Shiro tells General Kyle that Lamia is the F-01, that Doctor Benn has been killed and reveals that they have been joined by his Father to the General who is pleased at his reappearance. General Kyle urges them to make all speed to Earth as the Imperial Master promises to make Earth burn!

Push me on my least favourite Star Fleet episode and I'll probably go for this one. It just doesn't work for me and there's a a load of reasons for it. Primarily I think the problem is to do with the lack of Commander Makara and Captain Orion, the primary protagonists for much of the show. Somehow the Imperial Master, being loud and shouty, and his unnamed assistants just don't do the job. The Imperial Officers, who appeared from nowhere last episode, might have worked better if we'd have seen them before on previous visits to the Imperial Master's planet. The Imperial Master himself doesn't feel like too much of a threat in this episode. Yes he's attacking Star Fleet command but Commander Makara didn't do too bad a job of that in episode 3 and somehow the threat posed by him doesn't feel sort of magnitudes higher which it should do for a series' big bad. The Laser Torpedoes fired at X-Bomber are physical projectiles as opposed to the laser blasts seen previously and their pursuit of X-Bomber is similar to the first death ball seen in episode 19. The Space net however.... deary me what a silly idea. Maybe as a close range weapon for ship to ship combat but to fire it at a ship so far away and achieve a direct hit? No. And when PPA, disorientated by the effects of the net, starts singing It's a Long Way to Tipperary and Underneath the Arches I can't help but think of Bender from Futurama whenever he gets exposed to a magnet. Professor Hagen's annoying me coming over as little more than a watered down knock off of Doctor Benn..... and as for his poor explanation of why Lamia's powers are emerging concerning the way the planets are moving..... ugh. Actually now I think of it this might make some sense when you see the next episode but could have been explained a lot better here. I wonder if the Japanese version made more sense? The way this episode is physically cut together looks sloppy & rushed too, like bits of it are actually missing. Examples include the suddenly appearing energy effects too and the quick cutting between shots of the moving Imperial Planet, not giving time for the musical cues heard throughout the series. No I'm sorry it just doesn't work for me.

On the plus side: General Kyle and Earth Defence forces *FINALLY* make their return appearance, their first since episode 6. If you've joined the series since then you'll have no idea who they are as we've not seen them, bar flashbacks in 9 & 13, since. Maybe an occasional scene set in Star Fleet command in the meantime might have been in order? I do wonder about why Star Fleet has curved launch ramps for their fighters, as seen in the tunnel launch sequences, won't they achieve a greater speed being launched off a straight ramp? We also get to see X-Bomber's turret Lasers, or rather the one operated by Hercules, used for the first time since episode 15. It's their 8th use here.

I said in the previous episode I had concerns about how that episode crammed too much in. I think both episodes would work a lot better if some of the material was swapped round giving the Imperial Master more to do earlier and continuing Commander Makara's involvement in the series for longer:

Episode 22:

Imperial Master's planet exits the Thalian Zone while X-Bomber races at twice hyper speed to Earth. Makara's damaged battleship attempts to pursue but is far behind. The spacenet fired at X-Bomber slowing it down. X-Bomber escapes from the Spacenet but Captain Orion makes his suicide attack on X-Bomber crippling her in space.

Episode 23:

The Crew work to repair X-Bomber as the Imperial Master closes in on Earth and Earth defends itself. Commander Makara attacks X-Bomber in her repaired battlecruiser. Dai-X destroys Makara's spaceship. X-Bomber contacts Earth and promises it will be there as Imperial Master continues his attack.

Portions of this episode appear on the original version of the UK Video compilation Space Quest for F-01. However I have two copies of this video: a 90 min version and a shorter 77 minute version which cuts all of the material between the farewell meal on Carillion and Halley & Lamia standing on the Skull in episode 24, amounting to about 17 minutes of footage including all of the material used from this episode. Most of the episode was found as the middle episode of US Video Volume 8: Showdown In Space.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

22 Board The Imperial Battlecruiser!

"Long live the Imperial Alliance!"

Episode 22: Board The Imperial Battlecruiser!
UK Video: -
US Video: Volume 8: Showdown In Space
DVD: Star Fleet - The Complete Series - Disc 4

X-Bomber is travelling towards Earth but the Imperial Home Planet is ahead of them and will get to Earth first. Professor Hagen comes up with a way to override the computers so X-Bomber can travel at twice Hyper Speed and get to Earth faster. Meanwhile the disgraced Commander Makara is attempting to pursue X-Bomber in her crippled battlecruiser. Captain Orion lies in the sick bay, mortally ill after being struck by a falling beam. The injured Calliban, miraculously having survived the the destruction of the death ball, tells Orion he has suffered severe cerebral damage and cannot resume his command. Orion has Calliban take him to his drone craft and launches in pursuit of X-Bomber. Commander Makara thinks he is deserting but Calliban tells her that he has gone to make a final suicide attack on X-Bomber. Lamia wonders how she can demonstrate the powers that the prophecy tells her she will have. The Drone craft's approach is detected and X-Bomber tries to negotiate with it's Captain but Orion is set on his goal and challenges X-Bomber to fight opening fire on it. X-Bomber is forced to slow down to fight opening fire with it's rear laser blasts and taking evasive manoeuvres before opening fire with it's twin beam cannons severely damaging Orion's craft. Declaring "Commander Makara this is your true Orion - Long live the Imperial Alliance!" Orion rams X-Bomber, crippling her but destroying himself and his ship in the process. Repairs completed Commander Makara closes on X-Bomber as the crew work outside repairing X-Bomber. The Battlecruiser opens fire on X-Bomber as the crew come try to come inside the ship, repairs not quite completed leaving the ship unable to use X-Impulse. Hercules is knocked into space but Lee pulls him back in by his tether. X-Bomber uses it's laser blast against the Battlecruiser but the Alliance ship raises it's new shield and returns fire further damaging X-Bomber. The Pilots leave the ship to Professor Hagen launching the Dai-X and immediately forming the Dai-X robot which they plunge towards the battlecruiser penetrating it's shield and entering it through the launching bay. Dai-X rampages through the ship towards the engine room. Calliban attempts to escape but is crushed by falling debris. Dai-X heads for the cruiser's bridge. Commander Makara attempts to flee too but Hercules crushes her using Dai-x's fist. Dai-X flies out of the battlecruiser as it explodes behind the the Dai-X. The Imperial Master's home planet emerges from the Thalian Zone and heads towards Earth........

Any opinion I have on this episode *has* to be taken in some context here..... In August (?) 1983 Star Fleet returned to the LWT region running on Saturdays and Sundays. I saw episode 20 on one Saturday, missed episode 21 the next day because I was at church and then..... the following Saturday I was faced with a choice: Do I watch episode 22 having missed the previous episode or do I go to Bentalls in Kingston to meet Darth Vader? Aged 10 and at the height of rabid Star Wars fandom following Return of the Jedi I chose the latter..... as we wandered round town afterwards I ran into some neighbours (in the brand new just opened Waterstones store) who told me what happened and I immediately knew I'd missed a complete classic episode. Fast forward to 1990 and I'm picking up cheap Star Fleet compilations. None (or very little) of this episode appears on either compilation: indeed as I remember it the end of Space Quest for F-01 is *very* rushed. There's portions of episode 23 and most of episode 24 but no episode 22. So the first time I got to see this episode was in 2000ish when I got a copy of the US video Volume 8: Showdown In Space....

To me the episode is a bit of a game of two halves: Orion's suicide run and Dai-X's attack on the Battlecruiser.

Firstly: what on Earth is Calliban doing there? He was on the Death Ball when it was destroyed towards the end of the last episode. He should be dead! OK he's injured here with a stick and a bandaged arm but he's less injured than Orion is. And Orion.... we never even saw him get injured in the previous episode yet here he's in a much worse state than Calliban. Right got that one out of the way.

You get the feeling that Calliban is manipulating Orion during their conversation in the sickbay. There's been some antagonism between the two in the previous 3 episodes that they've been in but nowhere near as bad as between Orion & Carter previously. Here Calliban seems to be actively manipulating Orion into the course of action that will cause his death. And so, bandaged and wearing the medal the Imperial Master gave him, Orion goes to his doom, calling out to Commander Makara and proclaiming his loyalty to the Alliance. Makara's been nothing but cruel to Orion on screen apportioning blame for all the failed attacks to him. Yet here at the end it's her he's trying to impress again......

Now I have some issues with the pacing of this and the next episode.... lets just say I'd have ended the episode with Orion's crash, leaving X-Bomber crippled as the Imperial Master's planet approaches Earth leaving the destruction of Makara's Battlecruiser for episode 23.... More later .....

Orion's attack gives X-Bomber a chance to use two of it's weapons: the first we've not seen before, a rear mounted laser blast identical to that first seen fired from the cannons within X-Bomber's neck in episode 2. We also get to see the twin blue beam cannons for a second time, first seen in episode 4. Commander Makara's Battlecruiser finally gets it's own shield and we get to see X-Bomber attack it with it's Laser Blast, it's 5th following episodes 2, 5, 7 & 14. The Spacesuits are back for the pilot's EVA repair work. It's the fourth time the pilots all wear their space suits (episode 5, 18 & 18) but the sixth time for Shiro (above plus 12 & 14). And still nobody has worn one of the yellow suits in the airlock!

Then we get to Dai-X's rampage on the Imperial Battlecruiser. The shot of it trying to penetrate the shield looks a little dodgy but flying into the launch bay with us looking out for the first time is a lovely shot, strangely reminiscent of some of the model work on the original Battlestar Galactica which had similar shots of shuttles landing on the Galactica's launch bay. We then get to see the Battlecruiser destroyed from the inside out which somehow fail to live up to what my ten year old mind imagined it might. Nevertheless there are some lovely shots in here. I do wonder about the wisdom of killing both Makara and Calliban off in this sequence especially as we've already lost Orion earlier in the same show. Again the pacing. If Calliban had died in the previous episode and Makara in the next (see above for when I'd have had this episode end) that might have worked a little better. And, at a crucial stage in the story, The Skull & Halley are missing for the entire episode. Still more next episode when I have issues with that......

So after twenty years this episode couldn't really live up to what my brain had imagined it to be. And perhaps because I'd never seen it till I was an adult that makes me be a bit more critical of it than some other episodes.

So it's farewell to Commander Makara, Captain Orion & Calliban. Farewell to to the magnificent Imperial Alliance Battlecruiser and the drone fighter carriers but we'll see the fighters again in episode 24. The three deaths then create a vacuum in the enemy ranks filled by the two Imperial Officers briefly seen at the end of this episode who I think are voiced by John Badderly (PPA) and Sean Barret (Captain Orion). Sean Barrett started his career in the fifties as a child actor before appearing in a number of recognisable shows such as Z-Cars, Softly, Softly, Father Ted, Holby City, Brush Strokes, Minder & Poldark. He got into voice over work in the early 80s and has performed this role in several films including of Tik-Tok in Return to Oz, a Goblin in Labyrinth and UrZah the Ritual-Guardian in The Dark Crystal.

The Japanese name for this episode is Board The Gelma Mothership! It doesn't appear on either of the UK compilation tapes but featured on US Video Volume 8: Showdown In Space.

Monday 12 November 2012

21 Collinian Limitless Battle!

"and now we'll celebrate with a bonfire!"

Episode 21: Collinian Limitless Battle!
UK Video: Space Quest for F-01
US Video: Volume 7: Attack of the Bionic Robot
DVD: Star Fleet - The Complete Series - Disc 4

Commander Makara has her battlecruiser fire laser torpedoes at X-Bomber but X-Bomber replies with it's laser blast. The carriers on Collinian deploy more fighters against the palace and the city. Halley wants the rulers to flee but the refuse and will not reply with violence or use Professor Hagen's laser cannon which he constructed without their knowledge or permission. The Skull launches and battles the Alliance fighters as Calliban's Death Ball approaches the palace and attacks, demanding Lamia surrender herself. Halley calls X-Bomber for help, revealing the Alliance's trap. The pilots leave X-Bomber in the hands of Professor Hagen & PPA launching the Dai-X fighters. They form Dai-X in space and travel to Collinian where they land and confront the Death Ball. Calliban has been waiting for the Dai-X and attacks it first with missiles. The Death Ball's shell is impervious to Dai-X's physical attacks but when Dai-X physically pushes the death ball back Dai-X gets electrocuted by it. Dai-X uses it's laser beam and torpedoes but the death ball is undamaged. The Death Ball closes in on Dai-X as the Skull is attacked by the fighters. Dai-X jumps over the death ball but it turns round firing magnets attached to chains at the robot and then electrocuting it again, forcing the robot to the ground and injuring the pilots. Lamia is appalled by the suffering her friends are enduring and urges the Collinian royals to use the Professor's cannon. Death ball retracts it's chains and uses a flame thrower against Dai-X and the city. The pilots recover and Dai-X regains it's footing projecting an energy shield which deflects the Death Ball's flames. Dai-X fires X-Tracers destroying the Death Ball, but collapses, it's energy cells depleted. As Makara's battlecruiser attacks the palace fires the cannon causing the cruiser to flee in flames. The rulers of Collinian thank the crew of X-Bomber for helping defend their planet. Lamia bids goodbye to the -Bomber crew as she prepares to leave with Halley. As Commander Makara plots to destroy Collinian they are interrupted by the hologram of the Imperial Master who strips her and Orion of their command and tells them he will attack the Earth himself. Makara refuses to take this disgrace and resolves to attack and destroy X-Bomber. Collinian intercepts the transmission from the Imperial Master and informs Captain Halley & Lamia. Lamia rushes to tell the X-Bomber crew as they pay their respects at Doctor Benn's grave before they leave. She tells them that the Imperial Master will attack the Earth and they prepare to return to Earth. Lamia pleads with Shiro to go with them. The Imperial Master's planet moves out of the Thalian Zone and commences it's journey to Earth. Shiro asks his Father if they can take Lamia with them. After she argues that she must return with them the pilots vote to take her with them and Professor Hagen accepts the decision. Hagen informs Captain Halley as X-Bomber launches for Earth he prepares to following the Skull.

On the Star Fleet DVD X-Bomber creator Go Nagai expresses a desire to have an Imperial Alliance mecha foe for Dai-X. Well that's effectively what you get here with Calliban's death ball, a machine loaded with weapons which gets turned on Dai-X. It's a fab piece of design right down to it's screw thread tracks for moving it. It really is a match for our heroes robot, knocking it flat on the floor at one stage. But Dai-X has a few new tricks for it too: we saw X-Bomber's shield back in episode 4 now Dai-X reveals it's shield: a rectangular red panel projected in front of the robot. The shot of Death Ball's flame hitting it and being halted, but just lapping slightly over the top of the shield is one of my favourite effects shots in the entire series. Dai-X then deploys it's X-Tracers, white energy blasts fired from the X-Crest on his head. This *might* be the same weapon used to destroy the first Death Ball in episode 19 but the effect is very different, more a series of pulses than a constant blast.

X-Bomber meanwhile fires what is termed a Laser Blast here but was called it's Laser Torpedoes in it's only previous outing in episode 8. There the four blast were pink, here they're yellow/orange.

The destruction of the Death Ball is pretty spectacular and just watching this episode in isolation you'd think Calliban has perished with it. But the next time trailer reveals he's still alive and back on the Alliance Battlecruiser. Yes we get to see the Imperial Master and his home planet this episode as seen in the previous next time trailer but they only appear fleetingly and right at the end of the episode.

The first run of this episode in the UK (in the LWT region at least) occurred on a Sunday so I missed it as I was at church. The LWT 1984 repeat run either never got this far or aired in on a Sunday morning when I couldn't watch. But when I went to secondary school in 1984 one of my new friends there had recorded this episode and still had it on tape so in 1985 it became the first episode of the series I saw after the original run had finished. I wouldn't see any more Star Fleet footage until finding the videos in Woolworths c1990 and none of the 3 episodes I'd missed until c2000!.

The Japanese name for this episode is M13 Limitless Battle. Some of the episode appears on the UK compilation tape Space Quest for F-01, but how much depends on what version you have. On my earlier version we get Halley learning of the intended assault on Earth, Lamia warning X-Bomber's crew and X-Bomber leaving for Earth. On the latter version all this material, plus all the material taken from episode 23 and a good proportion of that taken from episode 24 is missing. A more complete version of the episode appears on the US videotape Volume 7: Attack of the Bionic Robot.

Sunday 11 November 2012

20 Collinian: All-Out Attack Begins!

"an amazing weapon for a planet that has renounced war"

Episode 20: Collinian: All-Out Attack Begins!
UK Video: Space Quest for F-01
US Video: Volume 7: Attack of the Bionic Robot
DVD: Star Fleet - The Complete Series - Disc 4

X-Bomber approaches the planet Collinian, with the crew haunted by the recent death of Dr Benn. Touching down they are reunited with Captain Halley and inform him of Dr Benn's death. Shiro and the pilots ask Halley's permission to bury Halley on Collinian. Commander Makara orders Captain Orion to attack Collinian. Shiro demands answers from Halley causing Lamia to run away, tortured by the knowledge that people have died because of her. Halley goes to find her and attempts to explain their destiny together. The crew of X-Bomber decide to attack & destroy the Imperial Alliance on their home planet to ensure a lasting peace. They decide to request help from the people of Collinian. Halley tells the X-Bomber crew that there's someone he wants them to meet. He takes them to a building containing a huge weapon. The pilots wonder what a planet that has renounced war is doing with such a weapon. They then meet Professor Hagen, Shiro's father, Lamia's guardian and the designer of X-Bomber. Calliban announces he has created a new weapon to destroy Lamia and leaves the battlecruiser bound for Collinian. Professor Hagan reveals he went into deep space seeking answers about Lamia's origins. His ship malfunctioned and he was was rescued by the Skull then taken to Collinian where he constructed the laser cannon in anticipation of the day that the Alliance would attack the planet seeking Lamia. They are summoned to the palace for an audience & dinner with the king of Collinian. Makara decided to lure X-Bomber into space while Calliban attacks Lamia and launches the drone carriers. During the dinner the Alliance attack begins. Halley stays behind to protect Lamia as X-Bomber launches into space. On the surface of Collinian Calliban's new death ball stands ready as Captain Orion's fighters attack the palace and the Battlecruiser retreats luring X-Bomber further away from the planet.

A quieter episode after the previous one, a moment's reflection which is probably what was necessary after the death of Doctor Benn. But crucially this episode properly introduces (after flashback appearances going back to episode 3) Professor Hagen, Shiro's Father, who I think is voiced by Garrick Hagon, the man credited as playing Captain Carter but who also voices Captain Halley. Effectively he now fills Doctor Benn's role in the series..... which almost reduced the impact of the character's death if he's immediately replaced with a similar one. Maybe killing Doctor Benn in the same attack that Lamia gets captured and then having the crew without a leader for a few episodes may have worked better....

Couple of interesting visuals in this episode. Dr Benn's tombstone confirms his name to be Ben Robinson which is a little odd. The spelling is different from the titles and the English use of the word Doctor typically follows with the first name and not the surname. The other comes as X-Bomber is launching: sitting there on the launch pad beside it is the same ship that Professor Hagen was in when he was rescued by the Skull.

Ooh a big cannon that the peace loving planet have never used: do you think that is that going to get fired in the next few episodes??

Last episode we got to see Calliban's Death Ball in the next episode trailer even though it only appears right at the end. This episode's next time trailer treats us to shots of the Imperial Master and his home planet and we won't see those until the end of the following episode.

The Japanese Name for this episode is M13 All-Out Attack Begins!

This was the first episode since episode 13 that I saw on original transmission. Episodes 14-19 aired on a Sunday while I was out but following a lengthy break this episode was shown on a Saturday with the following episode (21) the next next day and the one after that (22) the following Saturday. It was also, for various reasons we'll explore later, the last episode of the original transmission run that I saw. I didn't see it on the 1984 repeat run and indeed can't even be sure it was shown.

Significant portions of this episode appear on the UK compilation tape Space Quest for F-01 as well as featuring on US Video Volume 7: Attack of the Bionic Robot.

Saturday 10 November 2012

19 F-01 Assassination Plot

"My friends we will soon reach our destination"

Episode 19: F-01 Assassination Plot
UK Video: Space Quest for F-01
US Video: Volume 7: Attack of the Bionic Robot
DVD: Star Fleet - The Complete Series - Disc 4

Commander Makara is angry at X-Bomber's rescue of Lamia her scientist Caliban comes to the bridge to show her the bionic assassin he has developed to kill F-01 against the Imperial Master's orders. Lamia recovers from her ordeal on X-Bomber weakened and struggling to communicate with Captain Halley on Collinian. X-Bomber detects a deserted spaceship. The pilots visit it in the Dai-X fighter and find nothing there but the Cyborg assassin hides in Legtrack returning with them to X-Bomber. X-Bomber encounters a spherical object in space approaching them. They take evasive action but the sphere follows them at hyper speed and opens fire on the ship. X-Bomber is damaged and launches the Dai-X fighters which immediately combine into the Dai-X robot. With the ship all but empty the Cyborg stalks the corridors finding Lamia's room and attacking her. Kirrara defends her enabling her to sound the alarm summoning Dr Benn who orders PPA to recall Dai-X. Dai-X fires a laser beam from the X crest on it's head destroying the sphere and the pilots set out for X-Bomber. Dr Benn shoots the assassin wounding it, but it makes another attempt to kill her catching Dr Benn with it's serrated claw before he kills it. The pilots return to the ship and X-Bomber resumes it's course for Collinian. Makara is angry at the failure of Caliban's assassin and he begs for one more chance. X-Bomber nears Collinian, and are contacted by Captain Halley but Dr Benn collapses in his chair mortally wounded by poison from the Assassin and die. The pilots vow to continue their mission as Shiro states that there will never be another man that could take the Doctor's place.

Huge, huge episode for the series. You have to start with the ending though: killing one of the lead characters? In sight of his goal? Harsh by itself and very harsh for a children's series. Yes Dr Benn died heroically defending Lamia but you can't help feeling that if he'd sought medical help immediately he might have lived..... I've got some thoughts about the timing of the death too, but that relates to a huge surprise in the next episode so I'll save it till then.

Then we have the series new character Caliban, the silver skinned Imperial Alliance scientist Caliban. He's got a bionic lens covering his right eye but it seems to be a piece of machinery rather than the creature like implants seen on other Imperial Alliance officers. I'm not 100% sure but I think Caliban is another character voiced by Garrick Hagon, previously Captain Carter and now Captain Halley.

The first of Caliban's ball like Death Machines appears in this episode (and the second appears in the next time trailer despite not appearing till the end of the next episode!) which gives us the first opportunity to see Dai-X fighting in space as opposed to on the ground. We've known it can fly since it's first appearance in the Jupiter battle where it forms in the air then lands but this is the first time it's engaged in combat while flying. With the arms stretched out in front it can use the missiles and Super Cannon (pink blasts again) but here it needs to be upright to deploy the constant laser blast from the X shaped crest on it's head - a mini version of X-Impulse? It's the only time we see this weapon used though they;ll be a very similar one in two episodes time.... This is the first time we see the two halves of brain con coming together to form the head of Dai-X: we've previously seen it in two halves as a fighter and then together as a head but not as it transitions through the two states. It's the third time the pilots all wear their space suits (episode 5 & 18) but the fifth time for Shiro (above plus 12 & 14).

This episode is the first to appear on US Video Volume 7: Attack of the Bionic Robot. The back cover here is interesting as it shows Shiro meeting one of the staff at Star Fleet command. An enlarged scene (but smaller image) can be found here (top right) which shows Lee & Hercules in the room too. Publicity image or one cut from the Japanese promotional episode 0, presumed also to be the source of the shot of PPA flying in Braincon with Shiro seen at 2m50s into this video (screenshot here)? Sadly this promo is another item missing from the UK DVD which would have added value to the set.

The bionic assassin segments of the episode (but not the death ball sequences) appear on the UK Video Space Quest for F-01. When I started obtaining Star Fleet episodes on video from people I knew this was one of the first complete episodes I saw. This was also the last episode of Star Fleet to air in the Sunday morning run of episodes in 1983 at around the end of February/start of March (I can't be precise because I don't have airdates for later episodes)

As well as being the last episode in which his character Dr Benn appears, Peter Marinker is credited in the interview by voice director Louis Elman on Star Fleet - The Complete Series as effectively taking over the direction of the final half dozen episodes of the series when Elman is called to another project. Peter Marinker's extensive CV goes right the way back to working on Z-Cars in the 60s and includes an episode of the Professionals which I've seen and own. His first credited voice over work was on Monkey providing a number of supporting roles, although I've seen it claimed he worked on The Water Margin prior to this. This has led to a career in voice over work - if you're watching an English dub of a Japanese Manga production then he's probably involved - but he's also appeared on film in Event Horizon, the Sylvester Stalone Judge Dredd and Love Actually. Dr Benn isn't his only role in Star Fleet, although it's the one he's credited for, as he also provides the voice of the narrator.