Gatchaman Episode 46: “Gatchaman in the Valley of Death”
BOTP episode: “Giant Gila Monster”
This in another episode, like episode 30, that until very recently I think I may have only ever watched once. I just thought of it as “that episode that has no one except Ken in it,” although I could remember its general plot better than I could episode 30’s.
It begins with foreboding music, and a bleak landscape of barbed wire fencing and a guard tower, as snow falls heavily all around.
It’s a border crossing, situated on a bridge, and clearly one belonging to a country that is quite particular about who enters or leaves, as the presence of a vigilant, machine-gun toting guard attests.
The road leading towards this crossing is snow-filled, and empty…
But not empty for long. Headlights appear, and now a man in an orange car is speeding towards the border crossing. A border official, standing beside a traffic barrier, is waving a beacon to presumably alert the car to stop. But the man in the car merely rests his arm on a briefcase that’s on the seat beside him, and keeps on going, fast.
As he nears the traffic barrier, there are more border officials standing there in the snow but he ignores them, smashes through the barrier, and keeps on driving.
Several guards now open fire on the car as it speeds on its way across the rest of the bridge, riddling it with bullets.
The driver just keeps on going though, tearing along the snow-covered bridge in a sports car that’s probably rear-wheel drive –he must have some very good snow tires on it! However, the windshield is riddled with cracks now from the bullets so the driver simply punches out a section of it with his fist so that he can see to keep on going, and then one of the car’s doors comes off too. At any rate, he –whoever he is- gets away.
Now we see a large mansion of some kind, and it’s snowing here too. “An illegal entrant into Einshutan, was making a break for it at the county’s border” the narrator informs us. “Meanwhile, the Prime Minister receives word of the mishap.”
Some member of the Prime Minister’s staff at a communications panel is telling him that the border control guards “failed to capture the fugitive.” “Disastrous!” says the Prime Minister of Einshutan, staring out a window at a building that features the “onion domes” that I generally associate with Russian architecture.
This episode is starting to seem like something out of a John le Carre novel –it definitely has a “cold war” vibe. The Prime Minister continues “If it had been a spy or secret policeman, it would have been handled differently!”
But now we see that someone else is in the room too –a woman sitting in a chair, who looks familiar…
“I never dreamt that a Galactor member would ever turn traitor,” she says, “This never happens –talk about biting the hand that feeds you!” With that, she pulls out a cigarette, and lights up.
Still looking out the window at the falling snow, the Prime Minister demands “How can you be so calm? If the traitor sells that information to the ISO or the Science Ninja Team, we’re all toast! Lord Katse’s going to be furious! Can you imagine what would happen if Galactor’s secrets were exposed?”
The woman exhales some smoke and replies “Don’t get so upset, it’s no big deal,” coolly. Yes, she’s certainly one person who doesn’t have to worry about Katse’s wrath! “Galactor will handle the situation,” she concludes. Now, the Prime Minister turns his head to look at her and she meets his stare confidently and takes another drag on her cigarette before stubbing it out in an ashtray.
Hmm, I guess we haven’t seen her since episode 33. She’s changed her hairstyle again but her face –especially her eyes- are about the same. She’s wearing a lot of purple, with a red turtleneck too –that might also be a hint.
“The briefcase the traitor ran off with has a hidden transmitter inside it,” she says, and she stands up and heads for the door. “He won’t be able to run for very long. We’ll track him down.”
Outside, she gets into a car that is also red and purple. Yes, they’re definitely dropping hints. The Prime Minister is watching from his window as she drives off into the snowy night. Driving along the road, she reaches for her coat’s lapel and activates a button on it.
Now, interestingly, we see a large room in a Galactor base somewhere where goons and a Captain of the Week are listening to Katse speak while watching a rather blurry and fake-looking image of him on a large screen.
“With the transmitter, I know where the traitor is heading. He plans to sell Galactor’s secrets to the International Science Organization. Go, Ranger Unit of Galactor! Capture the traitor and execute him! Then burn the briefcase he took with him!”
We see the Capain listening to this. His uniform is boring –he’s got a mask but it’s not much different from a goon’s, and he doesn’t have any horns or a cape or anything fun like that. But, he is fairly efficient. Immediately, we see a large dome on the ground in some barren, icy ravine opening up to release a fleet of small Galactor ships into the air.
These ships are all different shapes, and one of them has a tail, so you just know they’re going to combine into something…
Now, we cut to Ken’s airfield. He’s in a hangar, working on his plane.
My BF is a certified pilot for single engine prop planes. I have long been trying to get him to figure out for me just what kind of plane Ken has (when it’s in its civilian mode).
His suggestions thus far have been a Yak-54:
Or a Van’s RV-7:
Unfortunately, while both these planes are low-wing, tail-draggers with dome tops, they both can hold two passengers and we will shortly be reminded that Ken’s plane can only carry one passenger. So, the mystery continues…
The BF thinks that what Ken is doing is “tightening up the engine mounts that attach the engine to the frame. They can come loose with vibrations sometimes.”
He also pointed out that if Ken is doing this work himself, then either is plane is classified as “experimental” (and therefore subject to certain restrictions) or Ken is an FAA-certified mechanic. I had to explain that there is probably not an “FAA” in Utoland.
However, “fugitive” traitor that we saw escaping earlier is now at Ken’s airfield and approaching the hangar –still carrying the briefcase. There’s no snow in sight and Ken is wearing a t-shirt, so we must assume that this man has made it a long, long way from Einshutan. As Ken stands up, finished with his tinkering, the man points a gun at him.
Ken’s more annoyed than anything else. Obviously, he’s fairly used to having guns pointed at him. “What the hell do you want? Look, man, I don’t have any cash.” (Here, I really think Ken is telling the truth!) But, the man doesn’t want cash –in fact, he says he’d even give Ken some, as long as he takes him flying.
“Where to?” demands Ken.
“Nope, not going to tell you till we take off,” replies the man, with the gun still pointed at Ken.
“Sorry, but this plane’s a single seater,” says Ken, thumping on it with one hand.
The man is not going to be thwarted by something like that; he points to another plane instead. Ken points out that the other plane doesn’t belong to him (I wonder who it belongs to? Does Ken earn a little $$ from renting hangar space or from tie-down fees?)
“Quit arguing with me and just get in the damned plane!” says the man, beginning to lose patience. “They say the customer is always right,” replies Ken, “But they weren’t talking about scum like you.”
But the man is determined, and still brandishing the gun, he instructs Ken to drop the wrench that he’s holding behind his back and get moving.
“Don’t try anything funny and I’ll pay you well,” he adds, “Plus, you’ll get to take a little trip with me.” Um, is that supposed to make Ken feel better?
So, they go over to the other plane, that isn’t Ken’s. It’s very likely (says the BF) either a Cessna 172 or a Cessna 182.
“Right, and as an added bonus I get a gun in my face, huh? Thanks a lot,” says Ken sourly, but he is getting into the plane.
Once Ken is seated, the man gets into the other front seat, but is immediately alarmed to see that Ken is digging in his back pocket with one hand.
He shoves the barrel of his gun against Ken’s head, but Ken reveals that all he was taking from his pocket is the pair of blue gloves he wears when flying.
“Look, man, if you want to make it with this bad guy thing, you’d better learn to cool it!” says Ken crossly.
“You’re a pretty cool-headed bastard for a kid,” admits the man.
Now, as Ken is putting on his gloves, he presses his bracelet briefly and it makes a pinging sound.
Once again, the man is alarmed. “Calm down, man, I can’t take off without making some noise!” retorts Ken, but presumably his plan to alert others to his predicament via his bracelet has just been thwarted.
Ken starts the Cessna’s engine, and the prop starts turning. “Don’t mess with me, kid,” says the man, “You try anything funny, I’ll blow your head off.” Well, shooting the pilot of your plane is probably a bad idea! I’m assuming this man can’t fly himself, or what would he need Ken for? At any rate, Ken huffs “I get it! Stow the heat –I can’t fly with it in my face!”
So, they take off. Some time passes, and they’re still flying along.
Inside the plane, the man still has his gun pointed at Ken, who’s watching the man warily.
Ken announces that they’re at cruising altitude, and wants to know where they’re going. “Just keep heading south as far as you can, until we run out of fuel,” is the answer he receives.
But, Ken suddenly puts the plane into a dive. “What the hell’s the big idea?” yells the man, falling forward in his seat.
Devious Ken says “Sorry, I’m doing the best I can –I just got my pilot’s license last week!” With that, Ken puts the plane through a series of barrel rolls.
His passenger is yelling to Ken to press the left pedal to level out the plane (I guess he does know something about flying), but then he actually vomits a little bit.
Gross! (Although I can sympathize, being rather prone to motion sickness myself.) At least it’s not your plane he’s puking in, Ken!
So now, Ken sends the plane into a spiral dive, unbuckles his seatbelt, and proceeds to punch the man in the face.
Suddenly, the interior of the plane also seems to have become larger too.
With regard to the matter of doing barrel rolls and spiral dives in a Cessna 172/182, the BF notes that such acrobatic maneuvers are illegal (if there is an FAA) as the plane isn’t certified to perform them and they will make the electrolyte acid come out of the battery, oil come out of the engine and fuel leak out the wings. He does think, though, that a pilot could get away with doing them as long as they don’t do them for very long.
Now, Ken and the man are struggling over the gun, as Ken also tries to choke him with one hand.
Meanwhile, the plane is still in a spiral dive, and the ground is getting closer…
However, Ken switches from choking him to punching him in the face repeatedly, and I do mean repeatedly!
The man manages to knee Ken in the stomach, causing Ken to let him go. Ken leaps away to far side of the plane’s cabin as the man points the gun at him. The man fires the gun, and misses Ken, but the bullet does sever the cable that controls the plane’s rudder (the vertical flap on the plane’s tail).
Somehow now, the plane is no longer rotating, but it is still diving.
“Don’t mess with me, kid,” growls the man, keeping the gun pointed at Ken, but Ken now moves to grab the yoke (which controls the plane’s aileron flaps on the wings and the elevator flaps on the tail, says the BF). “Cool it, man! We’ve got a bigger problem!” he yells.
“So you say that now, after punching the hell out of me?” demands the man.
“Look behind you!” snaps Ken, “The tail wing’s [rudder’s] control cable is severed! At this rate, we’re going to crash!”
According to the BF, Ken is telling the truth here. “The plane would be extremely unstable and the pilot would have to land before the plane goes into an uncontrolled spin. It would be very hard to land, because the plane would be oscillating and unstable. A gust of wind or too quick a motion on the controls could put the plane out of balance, with no way to recover.”
“If you hadn’t been waving that gun around, this wouldn’t have happened!” Ken adds, accusingly.
The man says “I’ve got a hunch you’re lying to me, kid,” growls the man, but he does put the gun away inside his coat. And Ken, somehow, seems to have the plane flying fairly steadily now.
“You’re too much of an ace to have scored your pilot’s license last week, pal” says the man now. “You’re pretty sharp, huh?” says Ken, looking amused. “I tell ya, kids nowadays just can’t be trusted at all,” he mutters.
“Just drop it, and start looking for a clearing, tough guy,” says Ken, now looking out his window. “We’re going to have to make an emergency landing.”
The man doesn’t like this one bit! He reaches for his gun again and yells “No way, we can’t! Keep flying!”
“Look, that ain’t happening,” replies Ken, with calm certainty. He then proceeds to inform the man that the only way they can avoid having to land is for the man to climb outside the plane and fix the control cable to the rudder.
“Fix the cable?” says the man in disbelief as we see the plane’s rudder, flapping back and forth. Ken says he can’t do it, as he has to fly the plane, and the man wants nothing to do with the idea either.
The BF doesn’t think it would be possible to fix the cable while in flight and notes that even on the ground, you can’t stand on the body of a Cessna 172/182 anywhere except the wings –the plane’s body isn’t really strong enough to support a man’s weight. I’m thinking that Ken likely knows all that but is hoping that the man might be gullible enough to go out there, and then Ken can rid of him more easily.
So, Ken reaffirms the necessity of an emergency landing, adding firmly “I know that your escape is important, but our lives are too.” Holding his briefcase in his lap, the man seems to accept this, and now the plane is getting pretty low to the ground, in some hilly looking terrain.
The rudder is still flapping, and Ken yells “Damn it, this isn’t going to work!” as he starts trying to guide the plane lower. He tells the man that they’re going to have to lighten the plane if they want to clear the trees, and tells him to toss out the briefcase. The BF says even 40-50 pounds of weight can make a significant difference, but that opening the door of an already unstable plane, while in flight, is probably a worse idea.
The man is horrified at that idea and insists he can’t, while clutching the briefcase protectively.
“Look, man, if you don’t we’re going to crash into that forest. We’ll be dead –get it?” yells Ken sternly.
The man pulls out the gun again, clearly wanting Ken to attempt to land regardless. Ken once again insists that they’re dead if he doesn’t ditch the briefcase, and that planes like the one they’re in never come equipped with parachutes. However, he glances into the back seat as he says this, and lo and behold, there is one parachute.
“I guess someone loaded the plane for sky-diving. Go ahead and take it,” Ken says, tossing the parachute towards the man, “This is the only one.”
The man stares at it blankly.
“That way, you and your stupid briefcase will be able to make it out of this safely,” says Ken, staring ahead grimly.
“But what about you, kid?” asks the man, suddenly showing some concern for Ken’s fate.
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll make it out of this somehow,” says Ken.
So, the man’s got the parachute on and he’s preparing to jump out the door. Clearly the plane is at a higher altitude now than it was shortly before when Ken first began trying to land. Now it occurs to Ken to ask the man where he’s headed.
“I’m thinking of selling this info I’ve got to the ISO or the Science Ninja Team,” says the man. Ken’s eyes widen in surprise and he cries out “What did you say?” but it’s too late. The man has already jumped out of the plane, even as Ken yells “No! Wait!”
At least Ken is able to visually confirm that the man’s parachute has opened correctly, but now Ken still has the problem of landing the damaged plane to deal with.
However, the plane is certainly lighter with one less passenger and Ken is managing to keep it mostly above the trees as he tries to land. However, he’s looking very far from calm, and the plane’s wings are clipping tree branches now. If he were flying his own plane, he probably could have just solved the whole landing problem by transmuting himself and his plane now. But couldn’t he have just transmuted himself and also jumped out of this plane when it was still higher in the air and used his cape’s wings to glide down to the ground? Maybe, very considerately, he wanted to stay with the plane and land it so that its owner (whoever that is) will get the plane back damaged instead of destroyed.
Nevertheless, Ken is able to get past the trees and bring the plane down (somewhat roughly) in a grassy field that’s far from flat. He is only just able to bring the plane to a stop right at the edge of a high cliff.
Ken gets out of the plane, and is annoyed to see that one of the plane’s tires is now flat, but naturally, he is relieved that plane didn’t go over the cliff. It seems that Ken is standing at the top of a deep ravine, and in the distance he can see the man’s parachute, descending into the ravine…
Watching the man descend, Ken wonders what kind of information he’s hoping to sell the the Science Ninja Team. He raises his wrist to call the others on his bracelet, but nothing happens. “Damn! The impact from that landing must have broken my communicator,” he says.
He stands there and broods for a moment, but suddenly he sees that fleet of little Galactor ships that we saw earlier, flying overhead. “Galactor!” he snarls, and ducks out of sight behind the plane’s tail as the ships pass by.
The ships all descend down into the ravine, and Ken concludes that they must be after the man, though he’s not sure why. But, Ken leaves the plane where it is and starts climbing down into the steep ravine himself (which doesn’t look like it would be easy!) I guess he’s also assumed that he can’t transmute, because he stays in his civvies.
Meanwhile, the fleet of Galactor ships has reached the ravine floor, and now they do indeed combine together to form what I think is a chameleon lizard (due to its arched back and bulbous eyes). I don’t think chameleons have horns, but it’s close enough.