Sometimes, as I'm watching Battle of the Planets, I get this feeling that 7-Zark-7 is supposed to be omnipotent or something, or at least he thinks he's omnipotent. He claims in Episode One that he controls the Transmute! process. He's claimed that he's the one who gets G-Force out and back for every one of their missions. In Episode Three, he supposedly discovers a new planet (that was hiding behind Venus), and conveniently has said planet named after him. Well, it's no different in this episode. The show opens with Zark going on about him being in charge of designing and construction of a new space ship or something. And he's supposed to have this ready in time for the big Intergalactic Air Show. Zark informs us of this as he is reclining back on his bed thing or whatever it is that he lies on in his ready room. He is interrupted by a call from Susan "That will be $3.99 for the first minute" From Planet Pluto. Susan congratulates Zark on his space ship in that voice of hers that makes every word that comes out of her mouth sound very dirty. She praises Zark for his "wonderful imagination". Zark giggles (which is something he should never, ever do) and replies, "You should only know how I imagine you." (ewww!) Susan says that Zark is making her turn a deep rusty red, while Ms. Ann feels her lunch slowly creeping up her throat. Thankfully, Susan then gets to the point of her call. She's spotted a very unusual space craft coming from the hostile planet of Ergos. The ship looks like a bi-plane, and naturally Susan makes the word "bi-plane" sound dirty, too. Zark thinks the plane/ship is headed for the Intergalactic Air Show and thinks that things should get interesting. Susan says bye and makes that sound dirty, too. Zark tells us that Susan really "charges his accelerators." Ms. Ann needs to take a shower now. A long, hot Lysol shower.
Next, we're at the air show. Zark, in a voice over, tells us that it is a really proud day for him and for G-Force. For out of all the pilots in the Intergalactic Federation, Mark has been picked to fly the new Space Scout. Zark is worried, which is standard operating procedure. He explains that the plane is of a radical new design and it can go really, really fast. (That's it in a nutshell, because I don't feel like scanning back to get the exact quote right now. The DVD player on my computer is not precise in that regard and I always end up going back too far and I really don't feel like watching Zark and Susan flirt with each other again. But I digress...) Zark babbles on about worrying over G-Force (They make medication for anxiety, Zark. Look into it.) While he is going on about his neuroses, we see Mark and Chief Anderson out on the tarmac. Mark is wearing a helmet and flight suit and he looks just like Speed Racer (which is a funny thing, since the production company that made Gatchaman also made Speed Racer.) Chief tells Mark that it's all up to him. If the ship performs well, it could strengthen galaxy security. Chief says, "Make it a good test." Mark replies, "I'll turn her inside out, Chief." And Chief Anderson is probably thinking, "No, you nitwit. Just fly the plane."
Mark takes off. Back on the ground, Chief Anderson, Princess, and Keyop are watching the take off (and I'm wondering if Jason and Tiny had better things to do and didn't come to watch this.). Keyop blips out, "Super Mark!" And Princess replies, "I'll say!" And I'm thinking, "Do you think everything the guy does is perfect?" The control tower asks him how he's doing. Mark replies, "Beautiful. She's flying like a homesick angel." Then Mark sees something ahead. It's a bi-plane. There is someone standing on the bi-plane. Back on the tarmac, Chief Anderson goes, "What is that thing?" Then Keyop stutters, "Pull up, Mark!" While he is saying this, we see that Jason and Tiny are there after all so maybe they didn't have better things to do that day.
Then we get a close-up shot of the dude standing on the bi-plane. How shall I describe this individual? He looks like a very flamboyant Captain Stubing (from the Love Boat for those of you who are old enough to remember that show.). He is wearing a purple and white cap, a purple and white jacket, and fuchsia scarf that flutters in the breeze behind him. He has longish blonde hair. And he's wearing purple thigh high boots. I am not making this up. But that's not the worst of it. His face appears to be that of the skull of a Texas Longhorn, complete with the long horns. I kid you not. Mr. Texas Longhorn Head cackles out, "So! You have a new toy. Let's play!"
Mark is like, "Who's that?" Out of the wings of the bi-plane come these whips. First he whips Mark's plane, and after he's hit, Mark lets out the cry that sounds like he's a sick cow (Casey Kasem doesn't do emotion all that well.). Mark's plane goes crashing into the water. Back on the tarmac, Chief Anderson looks shocked, but says in a very unemotional tone of voice that Mark's down and "that thing" forced him into the ocean. (Seen it, already.) Keyop is righteously outraged. He raises his fist and lets out an angry grunt that quite frankly I didn't think the little guy was capable of making. He yells out, "I'll get you!" Princess goes, "Mark!" Jason is behind the two of them and doesn't say anything. Out over the water, we see smoke and then someone coming down via parachute. It's Mark.
Mr. Texas Longhorn Head starts thrashing the planes on the ground and just generally making a mess of things. Somebody doesn't know how to play nice. Every time he strikes, he goes, "There!" Now the airport is one flaming wreck and Mr. Texas Longhorn is cackling evilly. Back in the water, Mark is floating on the surface and he is contacted by Chief Anderson. Chief asks Mark if he's okay. He is, but the plane is a "total wipeout." Mark thinks that they have a new enemy to cope with. Chief agrees and says, "It's Captain Doo-oo-m", drawing out the "o's". (And I'm glad he's got a name so I don't have to type out Mr. Texas Long Horn Head over and over again.) Keyop goes, "Trouble." Princess goes, "And big!" Then Jason says, "He's that space pirate from Planet Ergos." Jason just said the smartest thing so far in this episode. Chief tells Mark to hold on, and then tells the others to get to the Phoenix and pick up Mark. They all say "right!" and leave. I should mention that during this whole test flight/Captain Doom sequence, Tiny basically stood there and said nothing.
Now the Phoenix is airborne and closing in on Captain Doom. Doom gives a little spiel about G-Force not learning their lesson about challenging the power of Doom's laser whips, which don't have any lasers on them or coming from them. Doom turns his plane around and heads straight for the Phoenix. Tiny says that they're on a collision course, and because the MSTing instinct I have has kicked in, I say, "with wackiness". Doom's laser whips that don't shoot lasers whip at the Phoenix. Mark brags about how the Phoenix isn't that easy to destroy and tells G-Force that it's time to show Doooooom (Mark draws out the o's, too.) what they're made of. Then Jason goes, "It's our turn." He walks up to the Big Red Button (with 70's disco music is playing in the background.) and for once, nobody stops him. Jason fires a missile, but a big glass or Plexiglas or Kevlar or something bubble closes around Captain Doom. Now his plane looks like the Pope Jet and Doom looks like the Texas Long Horn In the Plastic Bubble. The missile has no effect on Doom or his Pope Jet. Mark calls the plastic bubble thing a force field, but I've never seen a force field like that. Most of the ones I've seen are made of some kind of energy. The whips come out and The Doom in the Plastic Bubble whips off a piece of the Phoenix's rudder rather easily. So much for being difficult to destroy.
Now Doom is bored and decides to head off. The bi-plane transforms into a rocket, just like The Transformers (Robots in Disguise!) do when they change from vehicles to robots. Doom takes off. Tiny goes, "Look at that baby go! It's doing Mach 8." Then Mark says, "You'll see us again, Doom." Then Princess says, "Only if Tiny can land the Phoenix without a rudder!" And then the rudderless Phoenix heads home.
I assume that the team is back at Center Neptune (although at this point in the series, we have yet to get those infamous "ready room" sequences). Chief Anderson is looking through the world's biggest microscope. It's so big, it's base is a raised platform and the Chief has to sit in a chair. It's also got these big wheel crank things on it. He's looking at some shiny rocks. He says, "This is fantastic!" And Mark wonders if the scientists were able to get a sample out of the smashed rudder. They got the sample all right, but they don't have a clue as to what it is. It's harder than any other metal and it seems to be indestructible (but they have fragments of it on the piece of rudder. Go figure.) Keyop groans or something. Princess wonders that since it's indestructible, how can they fight against it? Tiny says someone has to know where that weird stuff came from. Chief Anderson theorizes that the weird stuff came from an asteroid that had wandered into the galaxy and was captured by Planet Ergos. Chief believes that if he's right, only Ergos would know if there is a defense against it. Mark says that G-Force has to find the asteroid. Tiny thinks it's impossible to do so. Chief Anderson thinks that it might not be so impossible. Zark reported an unidentified flying object 200 million miles beyond Venus. The Chief is hesitant to send G-Force on this mission because the team will be defenseless against this "weird stuff". He doesn't want to ask them to risk their lives against something they can't defend themselves against. Tiny volunteers the team to go and is determined that they will come back alive. The Chief says if the entire team feels that way, he won't try to stop them. He'll send them off with his blessing.
So the team heads off to find this asteroid and we now get footage that was lifted from a different episode during the sequence. But this time they don't go past Saturn (unlike in Episode Three where they go the scenic route past Saturn to get to a planet that is on the other side of Venus.). They reach Ergos, which looks suspiciously like the Moon. We then get this montage of everyone's faces, except for Keyop, who does the same cheer that Jinpei did in Gatchaman Episode Five (he punches the air and then his helmet falls over his face.). They approach the Moon, I mean Ergos, and the craters have somehow disappeared and it now looks like they're in orbit over Europe.
They're now over the planet. I guess back in the 70's, the Phoenix was really advanced for it's time because they are capable of having laser printed documents. Cool beans, I guess. Mark looks at this map and finds out that they are near the spot marked by an X. The Phoenix starts going down over the spot. It's in some mountains. As they're going down, the entrance to the place opens up and Ms. Ann can't help but notice that the entrance looks like a giant sphincter. Yes, Ms. Ann is a sick monkey. There are missiles waiting to be launched. Mark sees that and orders evasive action just before two missiles are launched. Tiny puts on the jets as the missiles come close to the ship. Then the same two missiles launch at the Phoenix again. The Phoenix dodges them. The ship is going down towards the Giant Sphincter. Tiny says, "There's Ergos. Let's take 'em out!" Mark says no because their missiles might not get through their force field. He decides that faking them out is better. He tells Tiny to do his "wounded bird" act. Tiny expresses his disappointment at having to stay behind while the others go out. Two more missiles nearly hit the Phoenix, and Tiny starts the smoke. As the ship goes down, the other four fly out and land on the ground near the Giant Sphincter.
In the previous scene, we don't see Jason at all and Ms Ann has a theory that it's because when he took one look at the entrance to this base, he thought to himself that it looked just like a giant sphincter and was sitting at his station either laughing himself silly or trying not to laugh himself silly out loud. For some reason I can picture him doing this. I can actually hear him saying, "Oh my God! That looks like a giant sphincter!". Call me silly or whatever. But yet again, I digress...
Inside the Giant Sphincter, a goon who looks suspiciously like a Spectran Green Guy informs Captain Doom that the Phoenix has gone down. Doom says, "Well done! Now we're going to be the conquerors of Earth instead of Planet Spectra." Outside the base, the four members of G-Force run like hell to get inside, as the opening to the Giant Sphincter is closing. They make it inside just in the nick of time. Then the screen goes black for a Commercial Break.
Next, we see Zark pacing around babbling about how much he wishes he could be out fighting with G-Force. Um, yeah, Zark. You wouldn't last a minute out there. But then he goes on to say how lonely he is. What? Is 1 Rover 1 not good enough for you? Trading double entendres with a sultry disembodied voice not hacking it? Then he says G-Force is like his family. Yeah, and Zark is the crazy relative that lives up in the attic that no one wants to talk about. Then he flies over to his monitors. Then he goes on EVEN MORE about the fact that he's worried. GAH! Did Zark forget to take his meds today?
Fortunately, we're rescued from Zark by a shot of a mountain. Then we go through some mines, and inside this base thing. G-Force is clinging to the ceiling and we see them drop one by one. Then Mark wants to know, since they made it in, what do they do now? Um, you're the commander, shouldn't you at least have a plan? Keyop wants to "sock it to 'em" and says so by raising his fist into the air. Jason says, "Down boy!" Then says that this mission is too dangerous and maybe Princess and Keyop should go back to the Phoenix. (Ooooh, Jason, that was not a good thing to say.) Princess says that maybe Jason should go back to the Phoenix. Then Mark gets all parental and yells at them to knock it off because "we've got a job to do". Then they split up. Princess and Mark go one way (like usual. They went off together on missions a lot as I recall.) and Jason and Keyop go in another direction.
Princess and Mark skulk along a wall. Mark peeks around the corner and sees a guard who looks suspiciously Spectran rather than Ergonian. Mark thinks to himself that they'll put him out for an hour. Um, Mark? Shouldn't you just put him out for good? Or at the very least a few hours? I mean if you put him out only for an hour, he's going to wake up and come after you. We see feet running, and then the next thing we see is the guard bent over a railing and Mark standing next to him. We don't get to see how Mark knocked this guy out because the Standards and Practices Lady listed in the End Credits won't let us. Princess comes up and both of them look down a very deep hole. It's supposed to be dark, but we see blinking lights coming from an opening at the bottom. Mark wants to get a closer look. Princess tells him to be careful, and Mark tells her to cover him. Then he goes down the ladder. As Mark goes down the ladder, guns pop out of the wall. Princess warns him about this. Mark looks behind him and sees the guns. In another film hiccup courtesy of the Standards and Practices Lady in the End Credits, Mark is suddenly upside down and there are laser marks on the wall behind him. He tosses off his Sonic Boomerang and breaks the guns. As the boomerang flies around, it sounds just like the Jetson's space ship (which is another reason why Ken Washio is a better G-1 than Mark. Ken's Birdrang doesn't make such a goofy noise.). Then he flies down to the floor and catches the Sonic Boomerang. Then he does this thing where he twirls it as he's putting it back in the holster like he's in a Sergio Leone movie. Then he yells into his communicator (which is really unnecessary) at Jason to fill him in on what they're doing.
Jason and Keyop are in this very brown room. Behind them is this bug mech/vehicle thing for some unexplained reason (but I suspect the Standards and Practices Lady in the End Credits knows why it's there.). And I'm sure, off camera, Jason mumbles a few choice words about Mark's tone of voice because Mark really didn't have to yell. Jason says that they're in front of some kind of generator. "Whatever it is," he goes on. "It won't be here much longer. We're about to put it out of business. Stand by. You'll hear the noise." Then Jason and Keyop pull out their weapons and assume the "ready for action" pose when they are interrupted by Captain Doom. "Earthling fools!" he calls them. "Did you think you could invade the Planet Ergos without being observed by our forces? Your presence was detected the moment you arrived." Then Doom, in a chatty mood, goes on to say, "And now fools! You will pay for your invasion." Doom orders Jason and Keyop to throw down their weapons. They do, but Jason tells Keyop to be ready to move and fast.
Meanwhile, Mark and Princess have reached that room at the bottom of the big hole. There is a big computer with lots of blinking lights on it. Mark says it looks like an important unit. Thanks for stating the obvious, Mark. He asks Princess if she can figure out what it does and in a hurry. Princess said she'll try. She goes up to it, and Ants In His Pants Mark goes, "I hate to push, Princess..." Then don't! Princess goes up to this big ass computer she's never seen before and you expect her to know right then and there what to do? Geez Louise, Mark! I'd like to see you try it. In fact, I would love it if Princess had replied to him, "You think you're so smart, bird boy, you do it!"
Suddenly, this scythe thing comes down towards Mark. He jumps in front of Princess to protect her from the owner of that scythe thing, a giant mechanical mantis. The mantis rears up, and Mark in probably one of the dumbest things I have ever seen him do (please tell me why he is the commander?), hides behind this pipe, pillar, pole thing. So naturally, the mantis slices the pole in half, but Mark jumps out of the way just in the nick of time. He jumps up, narrowly avoiding another slice from the mantis. Then Mark goes back to stand in front of Princess again. Now there are two mantises (or is it manti?) coming at them. Mark lifts Princess up onto his shoulders and they do a two person Whirlwind Pyramid. They whirl away, narrowly avoiding a slice and dice by the mantises. The mechanical bugs slice and dice the big computer instead. Mark and Princess whirl out of the room and run away. As they are leaving, the computer blows up.
Now they are going up the ladder. Mark helps Princess up the ladder, when she spies Captain Doom. Mark looks up, and sure enough, there is Doom with his whip. Doom's got them now and tells them that they will pay dearly for the damage they have caused. I wonder if Doom will take it in installments? Then he lashes out his whip, breaking one side of the ladder. Mark and Princess are hanging there. Doom lashes out again. He almost hits Mark. Then he breaks off the other side. Mark and Princess are dangling there. Doom is about to lash yet again, when Mark asks Princess to use her pitching arm. She launches her yo-yo, which wraps itself around a railing and she pulls her and Mark to safety.
Back in the brown room, Something Happened That We Didn't Get To See. Because Jason and Keyop now have some guns they didn't have before and they are shooting at the reactor/generator thing. The Standards and Practices Lady has Jason tell us that "these weapons they found should take care of the generator." I think I have a pretty good idea what the Standards and Practices Lady wouldn't let us see. Jason and Keyop took out a few goons and it wasn't pretty. The weapons they found did the trick because the generator blows. Back where Doom is with Mark and Princess, an alarm goes off. Doom gets distracted, and Mark uses the distraction to karate chop the whip out of Doom's hand. Mark ends up with a handful of Doom's coat. He gets a little peeved, but Princess tells him to let Doom go. They should get out of there before the place blows. Mark agrees, and then tells Jason and Keyop to "rendezvous! Rendezvous, and move it!", which will eventually be sampled by the Cuban Boys for their Battle of the Planets theme remix.
Jason and Keyop haul ass back to the entrance. Jason pulls down the lever that opens up the Giant Sphincter. He and Keyop jump on top of the missile launcher thingy, then jump up into the Phoenix, which arrived just in time to pick them up. Tiny asks where Mark and Princess are. Jason replies that they're on their way. Then Tiny goes, "Here they come!" Mark and Princess make it up to the missile launcher thing, but behind them a giant vat of molten something that was hanging from the ceiling tips over and pours out molten something. Mark and Princess have trouble climbing up the missile launcher thing. And I'm wondering why don't they jump up like Jason and Keyop did? They didn't seem to have any trouble doing that. But in the background, High Tension Music is playing , so I guess Mark and Princess are just trying to be dramatic or something. The molten something is getting deeper and then Mark looks up to see that the Giant Sphincter is closing. He lashes out that whip towards the Phoenix, it wraps itself around a pole, and the two make it up to the Phoenix just in the nick of time.
Now back on the ship, Mark orders Tiny to get going. Tiny tries, but the heat from the molten something has jammed the lift system. Mark gets all bitchy and tells Tiny to hurry up. If I were Tiny, I would tell Mark, "You think you're so smart, bird boy, you fly this thing!" But Tiny doesn't, because he has the patience of a saint and he switches to jets and the Phoenix takes off. Just in the nick of time. Behind them, however, is Doom, who says that G-Force hasn't seen the last of him. Doom also must have gone back for his jacket, because he's wearing it again.
Now the Phoenix is flying over the water. Next we get a shot inside the cabin. Zark chimes in about how he can empathize with human mothers and natters on about his anxiety problem. And I say that he don't know jack about how human mothers must feel because he's probably never had to get up from a sound sleep to hear a child crying, only to go down and see what's wrong and discover that the child has thrown up all over their bed and the vomit is all over the bed, the floor and the kid or to see a child get hysterical in the doctor's office when the doctor has to apply the anesthetic to the child's forehead so that he can stitch up the cut the child received because the child's father is stupid and leaves rusty metal things lying around the yard for the child to trip over and cut themselves. And I don't think Zark could have handled the blood that was running out of the wound either. But I digress...
The bottom hatch opens up and Mark tosses the whip into the ocean. Way to pollute the water. Not to mention that the whip could have been useful for, oh, let's say...RESEARCH! Methinks Mark forgot the part when Chief Anderson said that the scientists had no clue as to what that whip was made out of. Way to go, Mark. That's using the old brain.Now we're back at Center Neptune. Zark has been joined by One Rover One. Zark babbles some more about the ship he built, when who should drop by but Princess! Or should I say a badly drawn version of Princess. Hanna-Barbera Princess (I know HB had nothing to do with this show, but I don't really care), who is missing the red bird insignia on her uniform, dropped by to tell Zark that he can rebuild his space ship again. Then she leans down and plants a kiss on his dome. And I'm thinking that Princess is either really desperate because Mark wants to wait until the wedding night, or she'll kiss about anything. I lean more towards the former. Zark tells us he feels all "tingly" inside. Thanks for sharing, Zark. I didn't want to know.
Thoughts from Ms. Ann:
When I watched this show as an eight/nine year old kid, (yes, I was 8 when BoTP debuted in 1978. That makes me in my late 30's.) Mark always annoyed me because I thought he was too preachy and not much fun to be around. Jason was the cool one. His vehicle was cooler. His weapons were cooler. He was just...cool! After watching all 105 episodes of Gatchaman, Mark annoys me even more. I personally would like to see Mark get locked in a room with Condor Joe, so he gets the attitude adjustment he so desperately needs. Mark, that is. But that's just me.
This episode was very silly. What got cut out was more glaringly obvious than other episodes and in some scenes, they didn't even try to explain what we missed. And the thing about Jason and Keyop finding guns bothered me because it's such a cop out. Even at the age of eight, I knew that they didn't just happen to find those guns. Something happened that didn't get shown on television. The part where Mark knocks out the goon "for an hour" is another example. The knocking him out for an hour part aside, it was just poorly explained and glaringly edited.
And it's episodes like this one that make me wonder how Mark got the job of commander in the first place. He's not too bright and overly pushy, too, which is why he actually needs to be locked in a room with both Gatchaman and Condor Joe for a long overdue attitude adjustment.
This also marks the first episode where we get the "Hanna-Barbera" versions of certain G-Force characters. I just want to know what happened to Princess that her face got smashed in like that? And how could someone overlook the red bird insignia that every single member of G-Force has on their chests?
And if you think you're saved from this silliness in the Gatchaman version, think again. *evil grin*