Space Rocket Escort by Grumpy Ghost Owl
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Gatchaman and Battle of the Planets are the property of Tatsunoko Studios and Sandy Frank Productions, respectively. Copyrighted material is used for the purposes of review, and in some cases, satire (when I think something's really stupid.) All views and opinions expressed are those of the reviewer. The recipe is genuine and has been tried and tested by the writer.


This is one of those episodes that is hard on my walls, because I keep wanting to bang my head against them.

Space Rocket Escort opens with an exterior underwater shot of Center Neptune and those three orange fish with the yellow heads -- let's call them Larry, Curly and Moe. While Larry, Curly and Moe swim through the frame, the camera zooms in on Center Neptune and 7-Zark-7 starts his introduction in voice-over.

"In a huge space complex like Center Neptune, far down in the ocean depths," says Zark (and, uh, dude, you're like, just below the surface, here... I mean, free-divers would laugh at you, metal man) "we do a great variety of things to keep peace and maintain order in our vast galaxy." The camera cuts to a close-up of Zark, wearing his nasty little birdstyle helmet.

Keep the peace and maintain order, huh? Is it just me, or does that sound slightly sinister? I mean, if a spokesperson for the CIA said that, would you get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, or would you sort of glance at the people standing next to you and maybe start to shuffle toward the nearest exit?

There's a funny little beepy ping noise and Zark's facial LEDs flicker. "Uh-oh," he says, "that's Security Chief Anderson's signal." Lucky you, Zark, the boss is calling. The camera angle changes and we see that Zark, in his horrible little helmet and cape, is standing at his main console. "It means he wants G-Force in the briefing room right away! I'll have to contact Mark."

Great. Maybe you'll stop narrating at us, now.

Cut to a shot of some clouds. The grey fluffy kind with dark mysterious shadows in them. The camera pans left and through the clouds, in some clearer air, is a light aircraft. We zoom in and it's the G-1 in civilian mode, with its regular pilot (Mark) flying it. The lad's looking a bit grim, today. Maybe it's the clouds. They don't look like friendly clouds.

Mark pulls the stick hard back and to port, which, without any apparent associated rudder input, flips the G-1 over and into a steep descending turn. The sky is suddenly clear and he's descending over water. There's a narrow spit of land jutting out into the pale, sparkly water, and a shot from ground level shows the machine coming in fast over some palms.

The G-1 flies low over the treetops, whipping up the branches and scaring the birds out of the trees. Apart from scaring the birds, I so get where Mark's at right now. Low level flying is a lot of fun.

Mark looks down and smiles. "A pair of wings, a stick, and the wild blue yonder," he says happily. (That's 'wide' blue yonder, sweetie. It's 'wide.' If it were 'wild,' we would not be cleared to fly in it.) Mark gazes out the window some more, and then we hear his thoughts (we know it's his thoughts on account of his lips aren't moving and his voice is all echoey like they've sent that nice Mr Kasem down the hall with a microphone to do the recording in the gents'.) It's great to get away from the crunch and grind once in a while, thinks Mark, and in accordance with the laws of dramatic irony, his communicator sounds.

Mark raises his wrist and says, "I copy, Zark," into his communicator.

"Report to Security Chief Anderson immediately, at Camp Parker," Zark says.

"Big ten!" Mark says, and pushes the stick forward.

As the G-1 flies along straight and level, Mark's expression changes and he glances to his right.

"I wonder what the emergency is?" Zark says in voice-over. "They don't always tell me everything."

Fancy that. Why ever not?

The music goes a bit... sort of... interesting, now, with a quickening tempo as it gets itself all worked up with synthesised violin. A musician told me once that strings are the hardest to synthesise because synthesisers work on pressurised air being shot through little nozzle doodads, like an incredibly complicated harmonica built by engineers on drugs and costing thousands of dollars. This actually sounds more like a cross between a violin with a sore throat and a kazoo. Or possibly, to borrow a phrase from Terry Pratchett's novel Soul Music, "Like a cat trying to go to the lavatory through a sewn-up bum." I should probably say, at this point, that if you do actually know what a cat trying to go to the lavatory through a sewn-up bum really sounds like, and you are not a competent, registered animal health professional, you should probably consider getting pills for it. And I don't mean the cat.

Now we see the reason for both Mark's discomfiture and the cat-bum music: it's a little red aeroplane.

But it's not just any little red aeroplane. It's one of the Rigan Red Rangers. I know this because I recognise the red and white livery, the serrated tail fin (which must be really inefficient in aerodynamic terms and show up like a humungous blip on any radar system) and a nacelle that looks like it needs serious orthodontic work.

"That's an alien plane!" Mark says, eyes widening. The alien plane swoops down low over the G-1's canopy, its jet wake turbulence tipping the smaller, piston-driven machine over on its back. We cut to the cockpit of the alien machine, and, yes, it's your favourite and mine, the master of negotiable mortality, Colonel 'Just-Slap-Some-Correction-Fluid-On-My-Death-Certificate' Cronus! Cronus watches the effect his wake turbulence has on Mark's plane, and sneers.

I don't like Cronus.

Quite aside from the whole life and death business with Cronus, his behaviour is arrogant and smarmy. He likes to rub Mark's nose in the idea that Cronus knows something Mark doesn't. Having said that, when the chips are down, Mark can count on Cronus. This man would lay down his life for what he believes in, and maybe even for Mark -- but would it be for Mark the individual, Mark the Lost Son, or Mark as the Commander of G-Force? Whatever the answer, in the meantime, while the chips aren't in a state of critical down-ness, Cronus is a jerk.

And buzzing a piston job with your jet for laughs is the act of a jerk.

Mark gets his plane back under control, and decides to transmute. His wristband does the sparkly thing and we see some effects which result in the little tailwheel piston job turning into a nosewheel jet job.

As jets go, the G-1 is actually a rather friendly-looking little machine. It's got a cute ickle paint job and a bulbous little canopy. Compare it with something like a big nasty pointy F-15E Strike Eagle and you see why Mark has to fly it around in disguise all the time: he's a fighter pilot, and they've given him a machine that's just so cute. It must be so embarrassing when he has to see the other pilots in their big nasty pointy aeroplanes and he's got... cute.

Anyway, Mark formates on the intruder and takes a good look out of the canopy. Recognition dawns. "That looks like Colonel Cronus from Planet Riga!" Mark tells us in a convenient exclamation of expository surprise.

"Hello, my friend," says Cronus. This is how friends behave on Planet Riga, is it? "Can you still fly that thing?" Arrogant, smarmy... probably right about the G-1.

Mark makes a sharp turn to port and slices across in front of Cronus' bow, to which he responds by turning in to the G-1 and dropping his nose underneath. "Come on, G-Force," Cronus goads, "show me how good you Earthlings are!"

With friends like these...

Okay... I know that in the movies like Top Gun and that, the maverick pilot who takes all the chances and gets away with it is the hero, and the people who stick to the rules are idiots, but it's a truism that there are old pilots, and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots. And besides, even in Top Gun there were consequences: Anthony Edwards bought the farm, remember?Anyway, my point -- yes, there's a point to this -- my point is that if you are a senior commissioned officer in the armed forces of an allied world, and you know enough about G-Force to recognise the G-1 in its civilian form, and you choose, duly armed with the knowledge that this is the one and only G-Force Commander the Federation has, to put the Commander -- an irreplaceable military asset -- and his machine -- an extremely expensive military asset -- at risk by pulling a stupid, jerk-faced, dumb-assed stunt, then you deserve to be busted so far down the ranks that you're going to need a stepladder to tie your shoes.

"Great flying -- gotta be Cronus," Mark says. It isn't clear whether he was aware of Cronus' dialogue. I get the feeling from his reaction that he wasn't privy to it, which of course, makes it a monologue, so rather than make a standard intercept, Mark deliberately put himself smack in the middle of the crosshairs of an 'alien plane'.

Right after we get through Cronus' court martial, I think Mark needs a rather stern talking-to about intercept procedures.

Cronus then flies straight and level in Mark's crosshairs and laughs (smarmy little...) "Still pretty good, Mark," he says (hey, isn't mocking the hero in monologue supposed to be a sign of evilness?) "I'd like to stay around, but I've got other business!"

Cronus' jet cruises off, maintaining straight and level flight, with the G-1 following. Cronus puts his kite into a steep turn and sets himself up on a collision course with the G-1.

That rap sheet is just getting longer and longer, isn't it, Colonel?

"Yow!" Mark exclaims, which is probably an appropriate military term. The Rigan jet performs an aileron roll and passes over the top of the G-1 at close range, inverted. What an idiot. "He sure flies wild, like Cronus," Mark says to himself, unflustered and unscathed. "Wonder what he's doing so far from his home planet? Maybe Anderson knows," he reasons, and points the G-1's nose at Camp Parker.

Cut to a shot of Camp Parker. Just to be sure, Zark says, "That's Camp Parker, security headquarters when Anderson is on vacation."

Not much of a vacation, if you ask me. Talk about bringing your work home. I mean, I used to bring my cell phone with me on vacation (and, yes, I used to get calls) but to bring security headquarters with you on vacation... that's what I call stress in the workplace. Chief, I totally bow to your workaholism. (Heart attack by fifty five, I reckon.)

We see the back of Anderson's head and shoulders. He's standing in a very Anderson-esque pose, staring out the big picture window. Maybe he's seeing the big picture. I once worked with a guy who used to do that a lot. He'd stand at the fire escape door, which had two big armoured glass panels in it (they were allegedly bullet-proof, but I never encouraged anyone to test the theory) and he'd lean against the door frame and gaze out at the landscape, deep in thought. When he went on leave and I had to cover for him, one of the first things I did was go to the fire escape and lean against the door frame to stare out of the window, just in case it gave off any mystical managerial boss-vibes, or something. Nothing happened except that I saw one of the local ravens pinching a discarded sandwich out of a garbage bin.

You probably have to be a lot higher up the chain of command than I was to be able to stare out of windows properly.

Anyway, we hear Mark's voice. "I didn't get a good look at him," Mark says, and the camera angle changes so we can see Mark is standing behind Anderson, and the latter is listening. "But he was flying a Rigan fighter plane, and he flew like Cronus."

This last gets Anderson's attention. He turns his head slightly. "Cronus did request clearance to come to Earth," Anderson says, "but for security reasons, we had to refuse him."

So Cronus is a security risk, now? It's going to take days to read out all the charges...

"And it's strange," Anderson continues, "we haven't heard from him."

Mark's expression is one of wide-eyed surprise. "Why suspect him?" he asks. Read the rule-book, lately, Chicken Boy?

"We were tricked before by Zoltar," Anderson explains, "disguised as Colonel Cronus. My job is to suspect everyone until they're checked out."

Mark looks dubious at this. "One way to check this," he suggests. "Contact Riga. Find out if Cronus is still there."

Finally, Anderson turns away from the window. "We can't," he says. "Again, for security reasons."

Is it just me, or does that sound totally lame?

"As you know," Anderson says (I wonder if his first name is Bob?) "we've been building the FY-9 for Riga. It's equipped with the latest technology."

Mark still looks somewhat gobsmacked. "Yes, I heard about it," he says, so why is he gobsmacked? Is it because he's reeling over Cronus being suspected of being not-Cronus? "It's pretty hush-hush."

"It'll be delivered today," Anderson says.

Mark folds his arms and looks down at his shoes. "And you want G-Force to fly it to our sister planet, Riga," he concludes.

"No," Anderson says. "Special pilots will do that." As opposed to pilots who have self-esteem issues and don't feel special, right? "G-Force will escort."

Mark looks up. "Right," he says.

"That pilot you tangled with bothers me," Anderson says. Yeah, he bothers me, too. Cronus is a jerk. "Spectra has spies everywhere." Oh, right. Yeah, that, too. "Zoltar could have learned about the FY-9. You know what would happen if that new plane fell into his hands!"

Um... he'd have a stolen plane? What would happen? Go on, what would happen?

"Don't worry," Mark says. "We'll fly a tight escort to Riga."

Now we cut to the spaceport, with some suitably bracing musical accompaniment which, fortunately, doesn't sound as though any cats were involved.

And I'm not going to find out what would happen if the FY-9 fell into Zoltar's hands.

Now, let's take a moment to think about the asyouknowBob session that Chief Anderson just gave us. We've got a new plane, designated FY-9, built for the Rigans. It's being delivered today, to be flown by 'special' pilots with a G-Force escort to Riga. Chief Anderson fears that Zoltar may know about the FY-9 and try to steal it. He has denied Cronus the security clearance needed for Cronus to come to Earth legally. Someone who looks, sounds and flies like Cronus is on Earth.

Anderson is bothered. He doesn't want the FY-9 falling in to enemy hands.

Now, let's watch what happens next.

A tow unit passes by three men in civilian clothing, who have to scramble to get out of the way of an extremely large wheel. The wheel is one of four belonging to an extremely large, bird-like machine. It's a big kite, as tall as the control tower, and her shape puts me in mind of an origami crane. I have never been able to get the hang of origami, but I am almost at combat-level when it comes to hosido, the ancient art of arranging the garden hose back around the tap.

We see a group of men in red and yellow flight suits. One of them is smoking. Health laws are obviously very lax in the BotP universe. A voice sounds over the PA system: "Code three, pilots: ready to board." The pilots look up. "Space bus will provide transportation."

Space bus, huh...

The camera pulls out and we can see the bum end of the FY-9 moving away down the tarmac. "That's us," says one of the flight crew. "Let's go."

The door to the crew lounge opens, and five uniformed goons step inside, assault rifles at the ready.


Anderson is really worried that Spectra may try to steal the FY-9. He's taken Measures to try and keep this from happening.

Now we have five uniformed goons, with weapons, waltzing into the pilots' lounge at the spaceport.

Did we not consider upgrading spaceport security for the occasion, Mister Chief of Galaxy Security? How do you smuggle five assault rifles into a spaceport if the security is up to snuff? Especially if said rifles are attached to five adult males wearing enemy uniforms?

Lucy, you gots some 'splainin' to do!

We cut back to the FY-9, that giant blue and orange origami crane. The tow unit departs, leaving the big bird by herself.

We see five men in the orange and yellow jumpsuits leaving the pilots' lounge. One of them exposits, "They'll never guess we're Spectra in these outfits!"

The counterfeit flight crew get into a large elevator which takes them down to the 'space bus,' which looks just like an ordinary on-the-ground bus. They embark, to some ominous music, and the space bus, which gives off some very not-spatial exhaust emissions, pulls away.

Things do not bode well for the FY-9.

Now, while the Spectrans are taking their bus ride, let's ask ourselves why there were no security doors, no locks, no sensors and no security personnel at the space port? Especially when Chief Anderson supposedly has his knickers in a knot over the security of the FY-9? This is not going to look good at his next performance evaluation.

The space bus arrives at the FY-9, which suddenly looks smaller. In fact, compared to the bus, it doesn't even look as big as a Boeing 737. Control towers must be very small in the BotP universe. And buses, possibly, very large. Especially if they are space buses.

The back end of the bus lifts up the same way those airline catering trucks do, carrying the flight crew up to the deck of the FY-9. They board, and it's all too easy.

The FY-9's canopy closes and we pull back for a view through the control tower windows. "Clear all runways," orders the controller (we had civilians on the tarmac, no security around the crew lounge, allowed uniformed, gun toting enemy soldiers into the complex, and now you're worried about air traffic?) "Tower to FY-9, clear for take-off."

The music goes all dynamic as the FY-9's engines fire and she rolls down the runway, wobbling slightly.

Here's another question for Chief Anderson: how did Zoltar get hold of the flight manual to train his men to fly the FY-9? Checked the want ads, lately, Chief?

The FY-9 goes into a very steep climb, her wings sweep back and her nose cone rises. She starts to level out and a much smaller blue aircraft comes swooping in to frame: it's the Phoenix. The Phoenix formates above and behind the FY-9, clear of her wake turbulence, and is dwarfed by the bigger machine.

"Hey, she's big!" Tiny observes. This is his professional opinion and I respect that... but compared to the 'space bus,' I dunno...

"Giant!" Keyop agrees, and warbles a few broken syllables. "Big bird!"

"A flying high-rise!" Princess joins in.

"I'd sure like to pilot her," Tiny says, and this, too, is his profesional opinion. In light of his previous comment, is he suggesting that size matters?

"We're reaching orbital velocity," Mark says. Oh, please, not another jargonfest, please! The BotP scriptwriters have a really nasty habit of writing in jargonfests whenever the team is assembled on the bridge of the Phoenix and it's painful when it happens. "She'll be getting clearance for space flight soon." Whew. The two spacecraft continue to fly in formation. Without jargon. Yay!

Now we cut to a space shot, with 'space shot' music. Zark narrates this for us, so that we know what's happening while we watch the matte filler. "FY-9 and the Phoenix are in deep space," says Zark. As opposed to deep something-else, maybe? Oh, wait, they haven't figured that part out yet! "I have my scanners following them," Zark continues, as the camera passes through the exact same groupings of stars over and over, "everything seems in order... Uh-oh! The FY-9 is changing course! It's headed away from Riga! Toward the Crab Nebulae (sic)." Nebulae is the plural of Nebula. The last time I checked, there was only one Crab Nebula. You know, like Highlander... there can be only one (this Crab Nebula -- an interstellar dust McLeod -- chopped the heads off all the other Crab Nebulae in a series of movies where each sequel was lamer than the last one. Then there was a TV show, and now there's only one Crab Nebula.) "The FY-9 and the Phoenix are now headed toward Spectra!" Zark exclaims. "And I've lost my audio contact with the Phoenix!" Oops.


I don't know what to say.

Really, I don't.

So, while I have a think about it, let's take a look at Recipe of the Episode!

Recipe of the Episode:


Chocolate mousse was a great favourite in the seventies and early eighties, then it went out of fashion for a while. These days, it's coming back into vogue, and this recipe gives a beautifully light, fluffy, velvety dessert. One reason for this is that there is no gelatine in it. Since there is no gelatine to 'set' the mousse, you must use fresh ingredients and make sure the egg whites and cream are well-whipped. You can use any high quality dark chocolate to get a good result, but my favourite for this is Nestlé Club Mild. If you use cheap cooking chocolate or compound chocolate to make this, expect an inferior result. It's the same old story: fresh, quality ingredients will give you a fresh, quality dish.

250g dark chocolate
300ml thickened cream
4 eggs, separated
1-2 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream

Break chocolate into small pieces. Place in a microwave-safe bowl, microwave 2 minutes on medium high or until melted. Allow to cool slightly.

Whip egg whites to soft peak stage.

Whip cream until soft peaks form.

Whisk egg yolks into melted chocolate and then add the Bailey's Irish Cream.

Fold in cream.

Gently fold in egg whites.

Spoon mousse into individual serving dishes.

Refrigerate until firm. Serve topped with a small dollop of cream and grated chocolate.

We now return you to your irregularly scheduled episode review.

Okay, this is totally weird.

For argument's sake, let's say that the Phoenix's navigation system was slaved to the FY-9 for the escort. This would have meant that the Phoenix was flying the tight escort that Mark promised.

However, the Phoenix has not one but two pilots aboard, and three other people who are also qualified to fly the command ship.

So, where were the nav checks?

Where were the TEN MINUTE nav checks? You know, the ones you make every ten minutes to ensure that you are still on course and not heading for outer Whoop-Whoop, the side of a somewhat unforgiving mountain, or in the case of astrogation, an inconveniently warm supernova or something?

Why haven't G-Force worked out that they're not going to Riga?

Even if you could rationalise this away by saying that maybe the Spectrans used a sophisticated software programme which altered the navigational input whilst providing false data feedback to the crew of the Phoenix to make it look like they were heading for Riga, the Phoenix has a big window at the front, and whilst I am aware that Riga is a fictional planet, I would have some trouble accepting that G-Force could not tell the difference between it and the Crab Nebula (singular) using a device known to pilots as the MkI Eyeball.

I'm just asking, you know?

We cut to an atmosphere shot, and the FY-9 is looking slightly wobbly as she bounces through some turbulence among the cumulous tops. There's some dramatic music to help us cope with the resulting airsickness. The Phoenix is still in formation astern and to port. Cut to the FY-9's cockpit, and the crew are all looking smug and sneering, as they are obliged to do under the terms of their Evil Henchman contract.

"Ha!" says the Evil Henchman in the command seat. "We couldn't have a better escort. Zoltar should give us a medal!" What for, I wonder? Sneering behind the backs of enemy stupidity?

"They must be asleep back there," the co-pilot remarks. "They don't seem to notice we're not heading toward Riga."

Er... They're actually within an atmosphere, at this point, so wherever they are, they've kinda... you know... arrived. As opposed to heading toward.

"Let's not press our luck," says the pilot. "Now's our chance to wipe out the Phoenix with one of their own weapons!"

"We're in Spectra territory, now," says the co-pilot, getting an asyouknowBob of his very own, "and our new jamming device cuts off any communications from Earth." He presses a blue button on his console and we see the Phoenix framed in a targeting display. She's well away from the centre of the cross hairs, however.

The pilot sniggers. "G-Force is in for a big surprise," he predicts, as a missile glides out of a bay into the airstream. The missile launcher swivels through a hundred and eighty degrees to point astern.

We see the Phoenix still in formation. Inside, Jason's hands slap, palm downward, on to his console.

"Nothing!" he exclaims, rising to his feet. "I've been trying to contact those FY-9 pilots but they don't answer!"

Mark looks nonchalant as Keyop, stretches, yawns and warbles. "Dull company!" G-4 says dismissively.

The air-to-air missile manages to look fast and menacing, even when it's perfectly still.

The Phoenix drifts closer to the centre of the FY-9's targeting display, but just as she approaches the middle of the cross-hairs, three fighters close with the FY-9 from abeam the port side.

It's those serrated Rigan fighters again. The cavalry's here, and they have their own space directories so they presumably know where 'here' is.

Only, our kids don't realise yet that they need the cavalry.

"Riga sent us a fighter escort!" Mark observes.

"About time," Jason says.

Mark is on his feet, the better to watch the new arrivals. Keyop and Jason join him to see the Rigan fighters closing with the FY-9.

The pilot of the FY-9 looks outside to see three Rigan fighters providing an impromptu air show off his port wing. "What's that?" he exclaims. Tracer fire erupts from one of the fighters, and passes underneath the FY-9's fuselage. There's a hail of gunfire, and the Rigans manage to sever the missile launcher from the FY-9.

They don't appear to hit anything else, even though they've spent several thousand rounds of ammunition between them.

This is obviously some advanced fighter tactic thing.

Princess stares at the scene in disbelief. "They're firing on the FY-9," she says, just in case nobody else had noticed.

"Riga planes firing on the ship they ordered?" Jason says, mental gears struggling to mesh.

Keyop chirps and warbles. "Pilot error," he manages to say.

"It's no error," Tiny says. "They're not from Riga."

Mark has both hands on the console, and they're shaking... with rage? With frustration? With a food allergy? "They are," he corrects. "That's Cronus again!" He turns and runs from the bridge. At this point, I have to wonder, is Cronus' flying style so aberrant that Mark can spot it from the Phoenix, is Mark really that intuitive, or is Mark just really good at wishing the universe is the way he wants it, and then really lucky that it often turns out to be just that?

Princess calls his name, to no avail. No listening skills, that boy.

Mark is aboard the G-1. He releases the docking clamps and launches. I am yet to work out the physics of how this is achieved, but it seems improbable. Anyway, the wings swing forward and the cute little G-1 is airborne.

The Rigan fighters are circling the FY-9 in a series of strafing runs, but the FY-9 appears to be impervious to their ordnance. Cronus lines up a shot and fires a very small (red) air-to-air missile that lodges in what looks like the seam of a belly hatch. A light plays around the barrel, suggesting a timer of some type. His squad form up on him and they retreat. Cronus looks back over his shoulder and says with quiet regret, "Hate to waste a beautiful new ship." He's a pilot all right -- security's been compromised, people injured or killed, the relationship between Earth and Riga damaged, and he thinks it's a shame about the machine.

The G-1 follows the fighters.

In the FY-9's cockpit, the crew are pleased with themselves. "They turned tail and ran!" the pilot says, grinning, "and we didn't fire a shot!"

"What a prize!" the co-pilot says happily. "Zoltar will be happy to get his hands on this giant Earth space ship!"

Meanwhile, Mark is still in pursuit of the Rigan fighters.

Point of interest, here: are the Rigan fighters spaceworthy, or did they get here aboard some kind of mother-ship?

I'm just asking.

"I've gotta find out," Mark says, and is stopped in mid-monologue by the chirp of his communicator. "Yeah, Jason, what is it?"

"Something strange," Jason says. "Every line doesn't answer and someone's jamming our line to Zark!"

"Hang on," Mark says. "I'm going after Cronus. If he is Cronus," Mark adds, almost to himself.

"Something else, Mark," Jason says. "Take a good look around. This isn't Riga."

Oh-KAY. Let's think about priorities, here: we're having trouble with our comms. That's important. But is it as important, as urgent, as vital -- or even as critical -- as the news that we're on the wrong planet?

It may just be me, but I would say not.

Then again, maybe Jason was just, you know, working his way up from the bad news to the really bad news... or something.

"Yeah, I noticed," Mark says, and, well, hey, that's not so bad, then. Doesn't seem to be bothering him, none. Like, oh, right, I'm on the wrong planet. Never mind, I'll just catch this guy who may or may not be Cronus and find out what's going on, and if he turns out to be some kind of enemy spy, I'll deal with that when it happens, sort of thing.

At least he's keeping a cool head in a crisis.

"I think we've been steered wrong," Mark says.

By George, he's got it!

"Courtesy of Planet Spectra," he continues. "Stick with the FY-9," he orders. "I'll go solo."

Because he's a Hero.

He's got the cape and everything.

Now, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, we get Zarked! That's so not fair! We should get some kind of warning, like a shot of Nerve Center, or Larry, Curly and Moe or something. To have Zark suddenly burst into a fit of narration in the midst of the action is really disconcerting.

Anyway... "That's Cronus' plane in the lead," Zark says. "Mark would know him anywhere. Maybe he's sold out to Spectra. Whatever it takes, Mark will find out what's going on!"

Belatedly, and following the fade-to-black part where the station break would be, we see Zark ascending in his little transport tube. He's shed the nasty little helmet and cape in favour of an equally nasty number seven sweater. "I've tried everything," he complains, and it's jargon time: "stress scanners, dysfunctional space probes" -- say WHAT? -- "even sublineal bypasses" -- sounds painful, do you need health insurance for that? "And not a sign of the Phoenix, nor of the FY-9. They've simply vanished." Zark arrives at his little ready-room arrangement, and continues talking. "I feel a little guilty, taking a ten second oil break at a time like this, but there's nothing I can do until my monitors start picking up something." He picks up an old fashioned oil can and applies it to one of his antennae. "Ah," he sighs, "oil really hits the old rusty spot." So would an angle grinder. "Ten-forty weight," he reads off the label. "Non-additive. Perfect for all occasions!" He leans back and rests his horrible little metal hands behind his domed metal head, and I hate him. The comm unit next to him sounds, and he answers, "Center Neptune Control."

"This... is Susan," says Susan in her best five dollar a minute Are-You-Lonely-Call-Now phone line voice. Just when you think things can't get worse, they do.

"Oh!" says Zark, antennae bouncing in a disturbing manner. "Hello, Susan."

"I've got something I think may interest you," Susan breathes. Maybe she was programmed by an asthmatic.

"You certainly have," Zark declares, and this was supposed to be a family show, wasn't it? Like, the censors never noticed the double entendre. "I mean, you're loaded -- I mean, I'm interested."

Susan laughs. She knows she has all the power in this twisted mockery of a relationship. "My scanners have made contact," she purrs. "Star field quadrants on computer print out. The Phoenix and the FY-9 are now flying over Omeg-2."

"Thank you, Susan," Zark says, "and put it on my monitor, please."

The whole Zark/Susan thing is just... unpleasant, really.

We see a monitor with a yellow background and what looks like a variant of Tetris in magenta blocks. Clearly it's some kind of advanced data encryption, understandable only by robots.

"That's a primitive, uninhabited planet in the Crab Nebulae, (sic) under the control of Spectra!" The camera zooms in on the screen, then cuts to the FY-9, flying over Omeg-2.

The Phoenix closes on the FY-9, staying on her port side and slightly aft. Jason watches the FY-9 with suspicion. "Hang close, Tiny," he says, "that new super space ship isn't going where it's supposed to."

Uh, yep. That would be right.

Keyop is reclining in his seat, hands behind his head, seemingly unconcerned. He makes some warbling noises. "Space pirates," he suggests.

Princess is looking winsome, one finger at her chin. "It's Mark I'm worried about," she declares.

Tiny, however, is on the job. He leans forward, peering at the readout on his console. "Where are they taking it?" he wonders.

Everyone else is suddenly paying attention. "Whoops," Keyop says.

"I think they know we've finally got their number," Tiny postulates. And how many light years did that take, dearie?

Something is clearly happening, because Jason springs forward and cries, "Pull away!"

"I can't," Tiny says. "We're losin' power in the turbo-jets." Oh, great. Jargonfest.

"My communication scanners are still jammed!" Princess reports.

"Kick in auxiliary power," Jason orders.

"I hate to mention this," Tiny says, working the controls, "but all power units are blanked out."

We move to the cockpit of the FY-9 so that the crew can explain to us what just happened.

"Look!" says a crew member, "G-Force is powerless in our traction beam!"

So now we know.

"We'll pull them right into the volcano with us!" the pilot declares.


That doesn't sound very nice.

The FY-9, with the Phoenix in tow, heads for the cone of a large volcano. There is white smoke billowing from the crater.

I take it the manual on the FY-9 did specify an operational temperature range. Did it take volcanoes into account, one wonders? Will this invalidate the warranty?

Meanwhile, Mark is still following the Red Rangers.

"I still don't get it," Mark says to himself."Hitting their own plane."

The lead aircraft -- the one flown by Cronus -- breaks out of the Rangers' vic formation and arcs back toward the G-1. It looks to be lining up for an attack run.

"Cronus," Mark breathes in disbelief.

"What's Mark tailing me for?" Cronus asks nobody in particular. "Doesn't he understand the problem?"

Cronus' plane circles around the G-1, and Mark clenches his teeth. "I don't know what you're trying to do, Cronus," he says, "but it sure smells all wrong."

That would be a 'no,' then.

Cronus climbs, and circles back. We hear his thoughts: Mark, get away. Go back to the Phoenix! "They could be in trouble, and there's not much time left," he finishes the thought aloud.

A tactical readout on his console shows an orange dot at nine o'clock, about half way from the centre of the cross hairs. Whatever that means.

We cut to the underbelly of the FY-9, which has its gear down. Secure in the fuselage is Cronus' little red air-to-air missile. So the tactical display must have something to do with that.

The camera pulls back to reveal the FY-9 and the Phoenix parked in a large, domed hangar. Aboard the Phoenix the bridge is filled with red vapour, and G-Force are unconscious.

Back in the sky, Mark is still after Cronus.

The little orange dot on Cronus' screen is still at nine o'clock, but it's getting closer and closer to the centre.

Cronus and Mark are both closing in on the volcano, which continues to belch smoke. Cronus lands his plane in the grass just below the mountain, then he exits his plane and watches Mark land the G-1. Cronus stands up, the sun catching his visor, then Mark pops his canopy and leaps, blocking out the sun, as if to say, 'I can beat you up,' because it always seems to come down to a pissing contest between these two. It's so Oedipal.

"Now what's it all about, Cronus?" Mark demands.

Without waiting for an answer, Mark charges. Cronus trips him up and Mark cartwheels, recovers, and charges again. Cronus blocks the attack, and Mark makes another recovery to land poised to have another go.

Cronus simply looks smug.

Mark throws a wild punch, which Cronus blocks with one hand, far too easily. "I thought you knew that Spectra agents hijacked the new space ship. That's why we were attacking it." Mark snarls with apparent disbelief. "I shot a time bomb into it," Cronus explains, "and it's ticking away right now."

"A bomb?" Mark is aghast.

"We'd rather lose the new plane than have it fall into Zoltar's hands," Cronus says.

"The Phoenix!" Mark exclaims, horrified.

"Right," Cronus says. "Your team may be in a lot of trouble." Why is it that G-Force are perfectly capable of holding their own until the Red Rangers show up? If the Red Rangers are so good, why isn't this show about them? I'm just asking. "That volcano and the space ship are both going to blow any minute."

The camera pans across the top of the crater, where plumes of smoke or steam are rising. We see that Mark and Cronus have made it to the top, and are standing, Cronus with his arms akimbo like he's got something to prove, Mark simply staring into the depths. Both men leap down to a tiled floor, and the camera focuses on a hatch of some kind. Mark opens the hatch to reveal another level below them: it's the hangar with the FY-9 and the Phoenix.

"We've got less than five minutes, Mark," Cronus warns.

Mark doesn't acknowledge this but drops through the hatch. He lands on the nose cone of the FY-9 and looks down to see some goons standing around cradling their rifles, and his team, shackled to a wall.

Familiar laughter floats through the air, and it isn't Woody Woodpecker. No, you guessed it, our special guest tonight, appearing direct via satellite, is Zoltar, Despotic Ruler of the Evil Planet Spectra! Welcome to the show, Zoltar. Sure enough, the Z-dude is appearing on the big screen, and the big screen itself is flanked by two guards on either side. "Welcome, G-Force," he greets his captives. Always polite, those evil villains. "I know you're not willing guests, but it is pleasant to have you here, anyway."

Jason's expression is a pretty good indicator of his opinion at this point. "We just dropped in to say hello," he parries, remembering that good guys, too, can show good manners even when they're hanging on a wall in shackles. Courtesy costs nothing, you know. "We really can't stay long," he says.

Keyop struggles and chirps. "Long enough!" he protests.

"Don't be impatient to leave," Zoltar chides. "This will be our very last chance to visit together!" He laughs. He has a high opinion of his own humour, which seems to be another standard evil villain trait.

"It may be your very last chance, Zoltar," Princess says. "Mark is still free." Good heavens, girl, didn't anyone ever tell you NEVER to interrupt your enemy while he's making a mistake?

"Your G-Force leader will never find you here," Zoltar assures her. "And I'll gladly welcome him if he does."

An alarm sounds, and Zoltar reacts. "There's an intruder! Activate the robot guards!"

Oh, so it's going to be bloody.

Whenever there are robot guards involved, you just know they're going to get their fundaments handed to them.

"Don't let him get away!" Zoltar orders. "A medal and promotion to the one who captures him!"

Um, so, robots like medals and can get promoted? To what? Broadband?

Cut to a shot of Cronus, standing with his sidearm at the ready. Two panels swing around in the wall to reveal two 'robot' guards with rifles. Cue the sonic boomerang, which knocks the rifles out of their hands.

Mark is revealed to be standing atop the FY-9.

Princess looks up at him. "Welcome to the party," she quips.

Mark leaps down from the nose cone to land on the floor next to Cronus. There's so much dramatic irony here that the episode ought to have been entitled, Oedipus in Space, or something. Mark and Cronus exchange a smile.

"Don't stop now!" Jason protests. "Do something about getting us outa here!"

It's nice to see that G-2 is finally clear about his priorities.

"Surrender, Colonel Cronus," Zoltar says, thoroughly rolling his 'r's. "My robot guards have you both surrounded."

Cronus seems to find this amusing. "They're no good," he says, "if you're not able to see them and push their buttons." He takes aim with his sidearm and fires a series of shots that shatter the manacles holding the rest of the G-Force team.

How fortunate that he didn't miss.

The timer on the red time bomb continues ticking. "The time bomb's running down," Cronus says. "Everybody out fast!"

Mark catches his boomerang, and the G-Force team leaps for the Phoenix. "Bomb warning," Zoltar's voice announces over the PA. "Use emergency exits! This is not a drill!"

It's nice to see a despot who really cares about his robot guards.

G-Force board the Phoenix. "Bomb Warning!" Zoltar repeats. "Use emergency exits! Get out fast!"

Cronus, seemingly unconcerned, spins his gun and holsters it. Then, and only then, once he's had his little moment of posing, does he break into a run.

The Phoenix launches and flies clear of the crater. An interior shot shows us that Cronus is aboard it. Keyop stutters and warbles. "Time bomb?" he queries.

"Any second, now," Cronus assures him.

The time bomb timer hits zero and the FY-9 blows up. Black smoke belches from the volcano.

We see the Phoenix cruising straight and level, with the G-1 and Cronus' fighter formating off the right wing. On the bridge, Anderson is communicating via tele-comm. "Thank goodness you're all safe," he tells them. "I've been trying to get through to you for hours. Where's the FY-9? What happened?"

"We'll explain later, Chief," Princess says.

"Thanks a lot," Anderson says, giving rein to a brief flash of sarcasm.

"No offence, Chief," Princess says, staving off any potential escalation to irony, "but we're still putting the pieces together."

"Return to Earth immediately," Anderson orders. "Over," he says, and then closes the channel before anyone can reply.

"Regular bear when he's mad, isn't he?" Princess observes with a smile. "Now, let's hear from you, Colonel. What really did happen?"

And she sounds like she's flirting with him. Which is really, so very off. Princess as Lolita I just don't get. It does sort of tie in with the whole Oedipus (or Electra, in Princess' case) thing that seems to pervade this episode, and this is supposed to be family entertainment, so let's just leave it at, 'Eeeeww.'

Cut to the two fighter jets still in formation abeam the Phoenix. Mark and Cronus share another smile across their wings. "Have a good flight home," Cronus says, "and I'll see you again, my friend." Mark looks disappointed. More dramatic irony. Cronus is such a jerk!

Cronus waves, and peels off as Mark says, "Sorry I doubted you, Colonel."

And now, because we have sinned, it's time for Zark.

"I finally un-jammed my scanners," Zark says (oh, joy) "just in time to see that secret, secret Spectra base blow up." Secret Secret Base, huh? It was in uninhabited Spectran territory. Why did it need to be secret? If it was supposed to be like Zoltar's equivalent of Area 51, then it's most likely a case of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted: the Spectrans already know that there's life outside their planet.

Mark turns his fighter and docks with the Phoenix "The Spectra humanoids got out safely," Zark continues, "but we lost our FY-9. If Cronus hadn't been at the spaceport when that plane was hijacked, Zoltar might have succeeded. He even had G-Force flying escort!" Cronus was at the spaceport?

Cronus was at the spaceport?

So... Cronus was at the spaceport, he knew that the FY-9 was being hijacked, he didn't tell anyone from Galaxy Security or warn G-Force... Nice one. Jerk.

The Phoenix flies into the sun, and we see a shot of dear old Mother Earth from space. "Well," Zark says, "it's good to see the Phoenix heading back to Earth."

Zark is back on duty at Nerve Center, and he's wearing his horrible little G-Force uniform rip-off. He burbles on about how wonderful G-Force are and how he wishes he could work more closely with them, but his job is a lonely one, and he has no companionship.

At this point, 1-Rover-1 barks, as if to say, 'Well what am I, tin-boy, chopped liver?' and Zark pats the robot dog on the head. "Of course, 1-Rover-1, I have you," Zark says.

"And don't forget... me," Susan breathes, like an emphysema sufferer without oxygen.

Zark assures Susan that he never forgets her, although he should be able to forget someone he never met. Susan tells him to be patient, to much twanging of antennae. Susan promises to meet him one day, and he giggles. It's horrible.

Remember when I reviewed Spectra Space Spider and I made that comment about when characters get the stupids, the smarts pass down the chain of command? In this episode, everybody got a highly contagious and virulent mutated viral form of the stupids, so I guess the only smart person must have been the guy who cleans the toilets in the G-Force Ready Room, and nobody thought to ask for his help.

I hope they get smart again for the next episode. G-Force are no fun when they're stupid and even less so when Cronus has to bail them out.

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