Sunday, December 11, 2011

Perils of the battle ship Yamato...and Broadway, just off the pier


From the first time he sits in command of the ship re-christened Argo, Captain Avatar’s in hot water: if the engines aren’t ready to start, the attacking Gamilon carrier will finish them off before the mission begins!
One of the earliest problems Avatar faces is the simmering resentment from Derek Wildstar, who blames the captain for his brother’s demise. Orion, the engine chief, tells Wildstar the captain lost his only son in the same attack, but Derek won’t come to terms with this until he encounters his brother’s crashed ship while on a mineral retrieval mission on Titan.

The tactics, and the captain’s decision making, intrigue me. I’m going to tell you about six mind-bending problems. After the page break wait the answers! But if the answer key’s just too prosaic a way to discover them, I highly recommend you just watch the second part of the Search For Iscandar, starting with episode six of the awesome first season of STAR BLAZERS! In fact---that’s a much better way to discover the traps, too! But here goes…

Meanwhile, our remaining t-shirts are available at Convention Special Price, for $12 each plus $3.00 for shipping & handling.

As a boy, I loved Derrick Wildstar and Nova, but Captain Avatar remained the most distinctive of cartoon icons this side of Spider-Man, for me. I always thought of the program in later years---until I forgot my childhood by and large for a while---as the ship with the cool space ships, but the center of its identity is the voice of Captain Avatar, sailing out in space with the responsibility of each and every one of us on his shoulders.

Yet, as I watch him again for the second or third time since those years... as though I need a break from drama before I can hope to care about a fictional battle again (though writing it up puts me just a post or two left from finishing this incarnation of the blog, which then becomes a book, while I pick up Attic Greek lit)...

... I think of a hilarious parody version I cooked up the other night, who believes he’s a bum sitting on a sidewalk somewhere imagining all of this, making whatever whimsy imaginable the ship’s directed, at the dread and finally outrage of much of cute, once-harmless outer space beings. And he’s decided to be the ally of some poor unwitting underdog who can’t get free of his help…

Marc Kane’s guess is this is what my subconscious did with that homeless man who flipped out and followed us as we moved to three different tables in Wendy’s on 1st and Broadway, demanding to know where we lived repeatedly, before yelling threats as he backed out and continuing to glare and point from the street after I’ve remembered the rules and made the manager get his ass out there and take care of it right, so we could just get our food bagged up and go!

Okay, that's out of the way. True story. Let's pick up with the Battle at Pluto---the bookend to the beginning of the series, a rematch that now pits the Yamato against the source of the planet bombs that are destroying all life on Earth within the year. The mission is to leave the solar system for Iscandar and the Cosmo DNA technology there, to retrieve for Earth's renewal before it's too late. Yet, Derek Wildstar rightly recognizes they must put an end these launches---a Gamelon adjunct declares they fire twenty a day at Earth! The challenge, having discovered this base, lies in the tactics.

The most violent possible solution available offers no subtlety. This Wave Motion Gun also burned out components previously upon firing, but it's almost certain to annihilate any opposing force in battle.

If only the very biggest and best weapon in Yamato---the original name of what's here called Argo---were suited for every great obstacle. Then, we'd have something as tediously formulaic as 1980s fair like Voltron, whose expectations worked great on a weekly basis, but here, the same solution NEVER works twice, and the consequences of the Wave Motion Gun, their grand daddy of the arsenal courtesy Queen Starsha's Wave Energy converter plans fueling their 148,000 light year race in 365 days' of time on their otherwise-doomed home planet. So, the shock cannons...they can't, Captain reminds them, simply blow up every planet that has a base, for in this case there's life, and what hypocrisy for Earth to betray the nature of what they do? This cannon has no known limits demonstrated in range or power to its once-battle tested existence.

But that's just the beginning of the problem in the rare two part episode; the Gamelons seek to lure them into the limited range of the Reflex Gun, which relays its potent discharge via a trio of planetary satellites used to triangulate its firing vector. Its basis from the Plutonian surface is unknown. The peril begins when the Reflex Gun can finally hit the approaching Argo and begins smashing it to pieces! What will Avatar do? Spoiler hidden below, but I guarantee these and the three episodes on each side of it are WAY better than the first STAR TREK that came out the same year!

So what about those? Well, the one before had the challenge of replacing the element needed to ensure their Wave Motion conversion continues, as well as the turning point of troubled Wildstar's new career, alongside the appealing Nova and IQ-9.

The one before THAT, they come out of their first space warp from the moon to Mars only to encounter a bizarre continent floating within the atmosphere of Jupiter, and rely on their untested Big Kahuna gun, only to be shocked by its relentless devastation. Cool settings for those learning their planets the first time in school! I hadn't intended to include it, but with that story you're set up for Avatar's reluctance to use WMG, and comprehend why the wily tactics in the next three stories.

But along with the Reflex Gun two-parter, you've got to LOVE the asteroids field of Minerva battle. These three in a row make back-to-back stunning battles centered on the ship.

I'd toss in the non-battle episode, ten, with 6-9 as an hour and a half way to blow your time on space opera love. We watch the Star Force interact with each other and with loved ones left behind, as they leave reliable range of visual communion with Earth (more on their communication's evolution later. I applaud its emotional range and human interest and humor and great character studies, but that's about a different kind of tactics: how does Avatar deal with a world on which he leaves behind now no family of his own? The immense loneliness of his task broods beside him every battle, yet not one drop of self-pity is in evidence for this scarred survivor.

The Desslock mines and Octopus System Storm are riddle-like challenges requiring endurance and Jenga-esque deliberation and,in one case, extreme caution and a subtle touch, and then in the very next, a bold labia-out hunch flown straight into a gigantic raging cosmic fire!

I’ve been saddened as I've witnessed the Captain’s reduced role halfway through the season; Dr. Sane’s monitoring his health, deteriorated by radiation poisoning. But you can’t keep a man like that down! He even wears his skipper cap during surgery.

You know what? I need a minute to chill before I reveal the solutions. Let's have some spring water with Captain Avatar on the floor of his room. If we get too crazy and I don't come back with the spoilers, just watch the second collection of THE PATH TO ISCANDAR, Star Blazers Season One, while he and I shout by the window to our far-away home. Maybe he'll laugh his ass off with me about the delusional maniac lost in space, getting lucky with directions.


With the Reflex Gun reflected off the satellites surrounding Pluto, the Gamelas score direct hits on the Argo, which crashes into the ocean (I know) below. In the water, Captain decides to lay low; “they’ll think they’ve got us.” With three hours’ air supply, the Star Force sends a team including Wildstar, IQ9, Sandor and Homer to find the source of the Reflex Gun. (I just thought about the air supply problem; I can only assume the damage crippled their life support system, or how would they get through space?)

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