Wednesday, 24 October 2012

02 The Imperial Alliance's Surprise Attack!

"All power to the main shield in a concentrated laser beam"

Episode 2: The Imperial Alliance's Surprise Attack!
UK Video: Space Quest for F-01
US Video: Volume 1: Save The Earth
DVD: Star Fleet - The Complete Series - Disc 1

Having downed X-Bomber Captain Orion wants to proceed to Earth and destroy it, but Commander Makara reminds them of their true quest: to find the F-01. To that end she interrogates Captain Carter, taken prisoner at Pluto, using the Laser Memory Disimilator. He knows nothing and she is unable to obtain information from him. Makara orders him treated so he does not die. At Moonbase a concerned Lamia attempts to contact X-Bomber but is unable to raise them. She & Kirara drive out to the crash site but come under sustained assault from Imperial Alliance fighters. Shiro, Hercules & Lee revive themselves and give her covering fire to reach the relative safety of the ship. Doctor Ben has the pilots shift the ship's position towards the enemy and then opens the ship's neck to reveal it's laser cannon which destroys four of the five carrier vessels, just Captains Orion's escaping. Dr Benn contacts General Kyle on Earth and the crew begins repairs to X-Bomber. Earth Defence Force's Ocean Patrol Fleet has arrived at Pluto but is lured into space by the Imperial Alliance's FG operation, involving holographic ships, which allows Commander Makara to take her cruiser to Earth where she confronts General Kyle demanding the location of the F-01. She gives him one hour to comply....

The thing that stuck in my memory from this episode was the unveiling of the first of X-Bomber's BIG weapons, the twin laser cannon in it's neck. The Look In pull out centre piece promo says this is called the Breast Cannon but I can't remember hearing this one used in the series. Here it wipes out four of the carriers that were involved in downing X-Bomber. Of the ship's arsenal this is the one we'll see the most of over the series.

I also know this episode nearly off by heart. You see during 1984 Star Fleet was repeated in the LWT ITV region and I had my mother record the episodes on audio tape for me. (we didn't get a VCR till 1989) This was the first episode I recorded and kept and loved it.....

But knowing it so well caused irritation in later years. People moan that Star Fleet never had a proper video release in the UK but there were three separate tapes released. The first that I knew about we'll cover in a few episodes time. But one day in.... 1990 I think? I wandered into Woolworths in Kingston and found two video cassettes with familiar covers: The Thalian Space Wars and Space Quest for F-01. I was on my way to the Dentist at the time (funny how these details stay with you) and had no money on me (I was a sixth form student so got free treatment) so had to go to the Dentist, go home to get some cash, go into town and hope they were still there. Which they were. Space Quest for F-01 concentrates on the F-01 storyline and starts from around the ad break in this episode where the Alliance commence the FG operation. But what I wanted to see was the action sequence of Lamia driving out to X-Bomber and the cruisers being attacked......

Then around 2000 when I first got online at home I discovered that there was an eight tape US VHS release of Star Fleet. NTSC tapes represented no problem to me by then so I tracked down all eight volumes which each contained 3 episodes each. However, and like the early Doctor Who video releases, the episodes were butchered to remove the next time & end titles of the first episode & second episodes and the opening titles on the second and third episodes. In addition a number of other small cuts were made to bring each volume down to an hour's run time. So in goes Volume 1, I watch then first episode, ooh here's the crash, Lamia decides to drive out to X-Bomber..... and there's the crew waking up with a big chunk of the action as Lamia is attacked missing. I've never been able to identify all the other cuts but I knew this bit was missing.

In fact THE first thing I did when I got Star Fleet - The Complete Series on DVD was check that this sequence was intact and it wasn't the US tapes re-edited!

There's two major revelations in this episode: the first is that Captain Carter is still alive and has two hands: later events made me question this and watching episode 1 through this time I noticed you never see both hands at the same time. Since one later episode has a definite example of flipped footage I was on the look out for a scene where we see both hands at once and you get it here when he's strapped to the Laser Memory Dissimilator. The other is what the enemy are searching for: the F-01. Absolute honest truth: 9 year old me thought that the F-01 was some mighty weapon and thought it was going to be the big red robot seen in the end titles and not yet glimpsed in the series... which was obviously going to turn up and lift the crippled X-Bomber up off the moon.

One of the games you can play with Star Fleet is to try to identify which minor role is played by which voice artist. We know the cast for the first episode which is displayed on captions at the end of every episode:

Dr. Benn - Peter Marinker
Shiro Hagen - Jay Benedict
Barry Hercules - Constantine Gregory
John Lee - Mark Rolston

General Kyle - Kevin Brennan
PPA (Perfectly Programmed Android) - John Baddeley
Lamia - Liza Ross
Captain Carter - Garrick Hagon

Commander Makara - Denise Bryer
Captain Orion - Sean Barrett
The Imperial Master - Jacob Witkin

Already we've heard various Moonbase, Earth Defence Forces staff & pilots and Imperial Alliance Termoids that we can't be 100% sure of. I'm particularly annoyed that I've never been able to identify most of General Kyle's staff but I'm pretty sure I know who the female staff member is in this episode: Denise Bryer who voices Commander Makara. Why? Because she sounds just like Mary Falconer in Terrahawks, who Bryer also voiced. Bryer is the only actor to work on both shows, which use similar puppetry techniques. Terrahawks was in production as Star Fleet was aired so comparisons are inevitable leading some people to believe that Gerry Anderson was involved in creating Star Fleet (he wasn't). Denise Bryer has a long history of voice work, including a very early Anderson series The Adventures of Twizzle & Four Feather Falls where she worked alongside her then husband Nicholas Parsons. Other roles including performing as voice artist on Hector's House & Noddy as well as the films Return to Oz & Labyrinth.

All the titles for the Star Fleet episodes are taken from their Japanese broadcast, but I've actually altered the title of this episode slightly: the Japanese name is The Gelma Fleet's Surprise Attack! which uses the Japanese name for the Imperial Alliance. There's a couple of other places where I'll make an English substitution.

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