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:

X-Bomber:

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

Dai-X

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!

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