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.

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