DAY EIGHT: Bye Bye Mars

(10) At the end of "Blitzkrieg," the most basic Macross-era status quo has been set up. Rick is now in the military, piloting his iconic red & white VF-1J. His relationship with Minmei is in a weird place -- she treats him like he's her boyfriend, but with none, and I mean NONE of the benefits of that status. He and Lisa, meanwhile, have a relationship built on mutual visceral dislike. They really, really don't like one another. The inhabitants of Macross City are going about their day-to-day lives as best they can while living inside an alien-constructed space battlefortress being pursued by a vast armada of giant extraterrestrials. The Zentraedi, after suffering their first major loss to our heroes aboard the SDF-1, have finally decided to step up their game. The stage is now set for new players to enter the game.

(9) Today's addition to the cast is the commander of the 7th Mechanized Division of the Boturu Fleet, Khyron -- "Khyron Zari" according to Exedore when he's complaining about the legendary Backstabber's discipline, "Khyron Kravshera" if you take James Luceno's ROBOTECH #19: THE ZENTRAEDI REBELLION as law. (Kravshera was the character's surname in the original MACROSS.) The Macross Saga's answer to the "evil prince" archetype, played by Greg Snegoff doing a sort of a young James Mason thing with the accent. (He used the same voice for the blonde "evil prince" character in Saban's MACRON ONE the same year.) One of the all-time great "spanner in the works" characters, Khyron is an ill-tempered, violent alcoholic pleasure-driven sadist who honestly doesn't make much sense in the context of a genetically-engineered prefab warrior culture. While Exedore's offhand remark about Khyron getting drunk and wiping out a division of friendly forces doesn't set off any warning bells at this point in the narrative, once we get a deeper look at the inner workings of the Zentraedi, within the next several episodes, the question of how someone like Khyron can even be starts to nag.

The obvious answer is that Khyron has seen things and been places that other Zentraedi have not, has had experiences that would lead less violent and battle-happy Zentraedi to abandon their posts and lead very different, un-Zentraedi lives (t'sen-mot, if you will, and I tell you, I'm a little scared that I remembered that word off the top of my head), but instead they've just turned him into the warped warrior he is today, a creature that still kills under the Zentraedi banner, but does so solely for the pleasure and glory it brings him. Much, much later, when he becomes the primary antagonist of the Reconstruction era, he plays at being affected by Minmei's song before turning around and doing a little cultural demonstration of his own. While one could handwave that away as Khyron just being numb to it due to the exposure of having been holed up on Earth for two years, it is the one and only time we see Khyron exposed to the human displays that so affect other Zentraedi. And right here, from the get-go, he is clearly the most human Zentraedi we meet -- placing bets on how many of his division's ships will collide with Breetai's, and again the remark Exedore makes about his drunken behavior -- and in fact the most human Zentraedi we will EVER meet. The other Zentraedi commanders we meet have a sort of composed, aristocratic air to them, like royalty; Khyron, then, comes off as the black sheep of the family, the all-but-disowned child, the one nobody talks about who spent all his inheritance on wine and women. Other Zentraedi commanders stand all the time; Khyron likes to be comfortable. He sits down, pours himself a drink, relaxes and enjoys the fireworks.

That is, unless he's in the mood to strap on his armor and take it in from a ring-side seat in his Officer's Pod. Obviously he's lower on the totem pole than the other commanders we meet, subordinate to Breetai and later Azonia. But obviously he doesn't HAVE to go out into battle. He clearly WANTS to. He relishes it, drinks it as deeply as his alcohol and enjoys it even moreso.

(8) Rick is still freaking out about his own mortality. You know, Rick, you start daydreaming about dying while at the controls of a fighter plane, those dreams are gonna come true sooner rather than later. And once he's done for the day, he hears Vanessa telling everyone the latest propaganda and that starts nagging at him, too. He is not a happy guy. Makes me think, back in "Transformation" when Roy tells Rick that he's never seen him so depressed, the last time Roy and Rick were around one another for any real period of time was, what, eight years ago, when Rick was eleven? I'm gonna say Rick's probably been a moody guy for a while now, probably since his dad died (assuming the graveside scene in the Comico Graphic Novel is still canon-ish), and he's probably been masking that for a while with his air circus daredevil bravado. Which is all gone now, now that he's Mr. Lonely New Recruit Fighter Pilot Guy.

(7) Rick tells Minmei that the military is lying to everyone about the casualties they incurred and the kills they made, and that the truth isn't anywhere near as rosy a picture as they're painting. Minmei grabs Rick by the arm, dismisses the facts as too depressing, and tells him to cheer up. While I don't admire her dismissive attitude, you do have to admire her spirit and her devotion to positive thinking. She's clearly getting more out of life than the realists in the room.

(6) When the gibberish data starts coming in from Sara Base on Mars, Kim doesn't have any idea where it's coming from, even though RIGHT AT THE HEADER it reads -- well, it says "Salla Base," but if you know your Japanese transliteration you know what the animators intended.

Now, both Gloval and Exedore have said that Sara Base was wiped out in fighting with other human beings, anti-unificationists or somesuch foe. The way the prologue in "Boobytrap" presented things you'd think it was sometime in the nineties, since the narrator intones that global war was ravaging the Earth at the time of the crash, though the intention in MACROSS was that the fighting was a RESULT of the alien spaceship crash, one final war that resulted in the founding of the unified Earth government. This is the take that Tommy Yune went with in the last decade's comic book story "Mars Base One," yet this base's final end was actually "revealed" to be the result of the approach of a Zentraedi scout vessel that "wasn't supposed to be in the area" (hence Exedore not knowing about it and believing the story he got from -- well, I'm not sure WHERE he got his story from) which was destroyed by a prototype Grand Cannon powered by the base's reflex furnaces.

Now, base sole survivor Karl Riber claims that the Zentraedi ship sent out a distress signal before exploding, which doesn't make any sense since the ship's captain A) didn't want anyone else to know about his discovery, because he was a generic Khyron-alike glory hog, and B) died throttling his second-in-command on the bridge before they could fold out and evade the cannon fire, because again, generic Khyron-alike bastard. Also, if any Zentraedi HAD gotten the message, Exedore would know about it, and wouldn't have issued Breetai with the story of Sara Base's end being at human hands.

Also, being the sole survivor, I doubt Riber would have wiped the computer systems of any information on the alien vessel. There's nothing in dialog that indicates he did this, and I would assume that any information that Exedore had on the Sara Base would have come from the base itself, via the Cyclops recon ship that we see swooping over the base at the outset of the episode. The only reason the official cover story would be in the records of the base would be ... IF THE COVER STORY WERE TRUE.

That also wasn't the first time it was claimed that Zentraedi took out Mars Base Sara; the Palladium Books RPG long held that it was Zentraedi that took out Sara Base.

Anyway, sidebar about annoying comic book stories over. Back to the show itself.

Lisa's whole desire to go to Mars is to see if the aforementioned Riber, her fiancee who was posted there, might still be alive. After all, if something's still transmitting someone could be down there manning it. We see Lisa with Karl Riber in a flashback, and I swear, she could only be thirteen tops. This never seemed weird to me when I was twelve or thirteen myself. Karl got himself posted to the Mars Base to get away from all the fighting on Earth, being something of a pacifist. Lisa, a military brat raised by a stern pragmatist, seems to be attracted to guys who don't like fighting, which seems to be the only manifestation of any sort of rebellion in her entire personality.

The reason the SDF-1 winds up on Mars is because the Zentraedi have cleverly managed to knock the great ship way off course, and while Lisa's all for checking out the signal they're putting out because of her hope for Karl to be alive, Gloval and Claudia are tempted by the prospect of leftover supplies. Sure, they've made it past Saturn and through the asteroid belt, but there's still a long way to go and with seventy-thousand civilians on-board as well as a crew in the thousands, they've got to be burning through food, water, fuel, and other essentials like crazy.

(5) Back in the late 90's I actually reedited this episode to match the version of the story in Daley & Luceno's second ROBOTECH novel BATTLE CRY. (I spent a lot of time reediting ROBOTECH in the late 90's. I blame the 100 minute FHE edited tapes through which I rediscovered the show.) The key difference is that all of the little scenes jumping back to the Zentraedi were missing, meaning that the nature of the Zentraedi trap was unknown until it was sprung -- or rather, until Khyron's reaction to one of his impulsive troops gave the game away. While you miss out on bits like Khyron shooting down that undisciplined fool when he gets even more impatient than Khyron, I honestly think the shock to the viewer would have been worth it. But then, ROBOTECH is by and large really bad with the overexplanation and revealing too much ahead of time -- and while sometimes it's the fault of the narration, more often than not it's the fault of the original Japanese programs.

(4) As pal Tolarin pointed out in one of the earlier comments threads, when Gloval realizes that defending the ship and the supply lines from as many Battlepods as Khyron has gathered is going to be nigh unto impossible, Claudia orders the activation of the ship's gravity control system -- you know, the system that tore away from the hull of the ship back in the second episode. And it's not like it's a translation flub, right after she gives the order it cuts to a shot of the same system we saw in "Countdown." Clearly it's been salvaged, repaired, and made to work properly since we last saw it.

This is the first episode where Destroids are treated the way they are for the rest of The Macross Saga -- as good guy cannon fodder, worse than those poor brown VF-1As you're always seeing picked off.

This is also, I'm almost positive, the only time anyone refers to Veritechs as Valkyries in the ROBOTECH TV series, when Gloval orders them and the Destroids to retreat and try to lure the Battlepods onto the base, so when Lisa blows the reflex furnace it will take them all out.

(3) When Lisa investigates the base, she finds a computer spitting out reams of data that, she assumes, had to have been activated from within the room. I'm going to assume she's right on that point, that for whatever reason there aren't any wireless controls at work here. What she won't admit, though, is that someone could have turned that on years ago and then died, or left it on before evacuating the base. She keeps on investigating, when Gloval calls her to blow the base up, which she's reluctant to do because she continues to hold out hope. It's only when Gloval calls for a suicide mission, namechecking Fokker to lead the charge -- her friend and coworker's boyfriend, AHEM -- that Lisa agrees to destroy the base.

And when she gets trapped while trying to flee the base, fortune places her right in front of Karl Riber's old room. She goes in, sits down, and completely loses the will to live.

(2) When ordered to bring Lisa home, Rick certainly complains -- like I said, they still hate each other at this stage -- but when it comes to the execution, he turns into a super badass, tearing apart waves of Battlepods and deftly switching from Fighter, to Guardian, to Battloid with his GU-11 blazing away all the while.

See, this is why I said LOSES THE WILL TO LIVE earlier and not, say, "She goes in, sits down, and figures this is it, so I'll just stay in my beloved's room," or somesuch thing. Rick breaks in, and Lisa just flat out tells him to GO AWAY. Is it that she figures life's just added insult to injury, that not only has she made it to Mars to find that her beloved fiancee is truly dead, and she's been forced to set the last place he lived to explode, and now THIS idiot is here to tear me away from that? Is that what's going on here? She hasn't completely shut down, she's standing there YELLING at Rick, telling him to go away and basically let her die. It's a bizarre reaction; the way she settles in is easy enough to understand, because there literally was no way out except to walk into Karl's room, but now she's given a chance to live on and she flat-out refuses it.

I'm gonna blame the hate. It's totally gotta be the hate.

(1) I don't want to be Mister Show-Off all the time, but I think it's worth noting that I own the original artwork for this shot right here, where Khyron shouts, "They're mad!" With the background, too.

There are times throughout the ROBOTECH TV series where I have to wonder if the folks writing the narration were actually paying attention to the show or just had sort of a broad strokes understanding of what was going on. Rick's looking down at Lisa from his Veritech, and the narrator says he's already starting to feel something for her when there is NOTHING he's done or said so far to indicate anything of the sort. The only time, until now, he'd even been in the same room as her was in the dress shop in "Transformation," and then later he was on the street with her when they remembered where they'd met each other's acquaintance. He didn't even remember her name earlier in this episode! When Claudia butted in on Rick and Roy's conversation about Minmei's birthday party, Rick asked, "Hey, who's Claudia? Is she that old sourpuss?" There's nothing there yet. Not until, I'd say, the trilogy of episodes where she and his Vermilion Team get stranded in Breetai's flagship -- their own experience not unlike his time with Minmei in the hold of the SDF-1.

In short, remember what I was saying above about ROBOTECH being bad about the overexplanation? This is one of those times.

"Be with us next time for 'Sweet Sixteen,' the newest chapter in the saga of ROBOTECH!"

(0) Last year in Japan there was a very fancy, very cool-looking MACROSS pachinko machine put out there that featured gorgeous newly animated clips of the cast and mecha of the original TV series. This is noteworthy because nearly every video game and comic and -- well, EVERYTHING that's come out for MACROSS since 1984 has used the designs from the movie DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE, with its more spaceworthy flightsuits, blockier-handed Valkyries, and green pointy-eared Zentraedi. And yet, as the animation from the MACROSS FEVER pachinko game shows us, the original TV series designs can be made to look totally awesome. The reason I'm posting this up for today is because the third clip in the below video features Rick and the Vermilion Team fighting Khyron on what appears to be Mars, and Khyron looks really sharp. Take a look!

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  • Leading off with a comment how "the most basic Macross-era status quo has been set up" for this episode happened to remind me how, though complicated circumstances, this was the one episode of Robotech I got on videotape in the 1980s, to sort of tide me along with the novels and role-playing games for a decade to follow. I can certainly think of less suitable lone episodes to try to remember watching Robotech by...

    "Khyron Zari" is something I haven't heard of before; I'd always thought Exedore's line was "Khyron, sir, he is a commander totally without discipline!" Of course, before "The Zentraedi Rebellion" I never imagined the Zentraedi (beyond the peculiar examples of "Miriya Parino" and "Kazianna Hesh") as havin last names at all...

    Holding a sort of "I think the Macross TV designs were perfectly fine themselves, and I sort of regret how the movie designs replaced them" viewpoint, I was exceedingly interested to start seeing the Macross Fever clips a while back. In any case, I'm now finding this episode-by-episode look back quite interesting, and I hope it'll continue on through the series and the generations ahead...

    By Blogger Keith, at 08 July, 2010 10:03  

  • The way I kinda imagined it is: the Zentraedi have a sort of spoils of war system that gives them distinction among their peers. A basic carrot of the idea of culture that keeps them from being simply biological robots and gives them a reason to come up with creative and weird strategies that a simple computer couldn't.

    Consider all the micronian items the Zentraedi spies will later bring back with them. Or the contests and glory hogging that Khyron constantly has going. The idea of posession of the Zentraedi Factory Sat that Reno has. Honestly, for all the talk that the Zentraedi are simply robot soldiers... they do have pretty strong emotional swings. If the Zentraedi were held in pure stasis like how they are depicted in Macross II, a Khyron like character simply couldn't exist...

    Instead, the Zentraedi have a truly BASIC culture dependant on status derived by victory in war, posession of forces, and typically strict discipline. Although, I argue that honestly, what the Zentraedi define as discipline seems to be rather light by our standards. Khyron doesn't follow orders, Miriya pursues an enemy based on an emotional response, Azonia doesn't follow orders, Breetai sides with the Micronians in the end. (SPOILERS!) The novels/comics Imperative seems more like the GREAT SUGGESTION it would seem.

    ((This also goes deeper into my argument that Khyron was actually the most human of all Zentraedi, just in a derranged sort of way... but we'll save that for the reconstruction era.))

    In short, in a previous conquest, Khyron wins himself some alcohol and partakes in it, Zentraedi law be damned. (Maybe the Disciples of Zor had a drinking problem. You try not to drink when you have to deal with the Masters, their Zentreadi, the Invid, and the whims of a mad scientist who help start this whole mess!)

    By Blogger Tolarin_Skylar, at 08 July, 2010 10:59  

  • Keith:

    I've listened to Exedore's line about Khyron's lack of discipline probably, oh, three times as many times in isolation as I've watched this episode trying to figure out exactly what that second word is. It certainly isn't "sir;" either Khyron is short of Khyronzari -- all one word, and I've certainly toyed with that idea, though I think there's too firm a break in the words for that -- or according to the TV series (and the TV series alone, since you're FAR from the only person who's missed this even after watching this episode over, and over, and over again) his full name is Khyron Zari.

    I missed my "deadline" for getting this post up by a half an hour, but I consider the 6:00 a.m. deadline merely symbolic; it's the time ROBOTECH aired locally back in my old hometown when I was a kid. That aside, I plan on covering all the animation (except ROBOTECH THE MOVIE: THE UNTOLD STORY, because even four, five, maybe even SIX years later, I forget, I'm STILL burned out from the time I spent three more-or-less sleepless days typing out a full transcript of the movie for HG) and a pretty fair chunk of everything else before the end of next June.


    I believe I even said -- bringing in the example from the Reconstruction era -- that Khyron is absolutely the most human Zentraedi we meet in the TV series.

    And certainly status and possession are things the Zentraedi hold dear, tokens of individuality within the vast machine. But when you see how completely hog-wild bits of human culture make the low level troops in Breetai's fleet, you get the feeling that for these Zentraedi this is something new, that your lower level Zentraedi do basically lead lives consisting of eat-sleep-fight, eat-sleep-fight, with only their names differentiating themselves from one another. Though it's likely things are different from ship to ship; Breetai's ship IS going to be a dull, straight-laced sort of place. Khyron's Queadol-Magdomilla, on the other hand, is probably, by comparison, Zentraedi Amsterdam.

    Keep in mind the fact that the reason we're watching THIS story about these characters is that this is the most significant story in their lives (no matter what any novels or comics might say to the contrary). Ergo, Miriya had probably never had that kind of a response to losing a fight before -- hell, she'd probably never even lost a fight before (and remember, it's Khyron who dangled the fight in front of her in the first place -- the little devil on her shoulder), Breetai was as loyal a Zentraedi soldier as had ever come from the cloning tanks before all this happened, and as for Azonia's insubordination -- as I recall, all of Azonia's blunders occur as a result of Khyron screwing something up beforehand; Breetai resumes command of the mission to take the SDF-1 more or less because Azonia can't keep Khyron on a leash. Though I suppose I'll see if my memory's failing me within the next two weeks ...

    Point being, the events we're seeing are all anomalies. With the exception of Khyron and maybe a few other useful rogue elements like him, the mighty Zentraedi war machine was running like clockwork until these pesky humans turned things on their head. The Imperative was working fine until it became cluttered up by the introduction of human emotion. And I suppose the only reason the Zentraedi got too close to that is because the task was to capture the SDF-1 nearly intact. If they did as Dolza does at the end, threw up their hands and just said to hell with it, the Zentraedi Imperative would have still been going strong for ages to come.

    Again, except in Khyron, because he be crazy.

    (Their Robotech Masters, on the other hand ...)

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 08 July, 2010 12:55  

  • You know, I really love that you're doing this, JLS. None of the bull or the fandom drama, just going back to basics. Very nice.

    I don't have much to say about your responses to these episodes yet: my fascination has always been with the Zentraedi, and the narrative hasn't done much with them yet.

    The opening to "Bye-Bye Mars" is one of my favourites, though; Khyron's introduction makes me laugh every time.

    To describe Khyron as the most "human" Zentraedi is decent shorthand, but part of me takes issue with it: one of the chief appeals of the Zentraedi was that all of them seemed like "real" characters from the start, rather than grim and soulless warriors (which is another thing lost in the transition to DYRL). The other characters may be more straight-laced than Khyron, but they have genuine warmth and personality.

    I'm also deeply invested in the idea that the Zentraedi, before human contact, were not much interested in one-upmanship, trophies, or internal competition. Some, like Miriya, took pride in their work, but for all their superficial trappings (and the readings of Bill Spangler), the Zentraedi were not a "proud warrior alien race": mostly just doing what they were told to do. The story works much better that way.

    By Blogger Amanda, at 09 July, 2010 00:06  

  • I always found the question of who killed the people of Mars Base Sara to be a reall mess. And I felt the comic only made it messier, pretty much for all the reasons you mentioned.

    Does the dialogue actually state it was humans? I remember Gloval only saying "the enemy." Although Riber's dialogue about wanting to leave Earth because of all the fighting would seem to imply that it was humans, that could also be only the reason why he left-- he could have still been there after the war ended and then during the rebuilding of the SDF-1. I used to think that Gloval was implying that Breetai's fleet attacked the base either on their way to Earth or when leaving Earth and heading back out to Pluto. Perhaps that was one of those worlds you theorized that they attacked when they were feeling bummed about having lost in the earlier episodes? ;)

    Personally I think the more likely explanation would be that the base was simply attacked during the Global Civil War after Riber joined it but before the SDF-1 arrived.

    LOVE the Macross Fever pachinko footage-- I've never seen that before!

    And I really have to agree with what everyone else has said-- I'm really enjoying your 365 Days of Robotech. I haven't had this much fun discussing the minutiae of the Robotech universe since the old AOL message board days.

    By Blogger Fer, at 10 July, 2010 21:03  

  • Fer:

    Well, Exedore's exact words within the first minute of the episode (post-opening theme) are, "Most of the inhabitants, sir, were destroyed in a battle with their allied forces ..." which I assume in Zentraedi terms means beings of their own kind. It sure as heck doesn't mean Zentraedi. On the one hand, you have to ask where he got his records of human history. On the other hand, if it was other Zentraedi who wiped out the base, he'd be the guy to know. That's always the bit I bring up. Gloval's talk of "the enemy" could point to absolutely anyone. Exedore's remarks are a little more clear-cut.

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 12 July, 2010 00:34  

  • Ahh, okay. Yeah, that DEFINITELY makes is sound like it happened during the Global Civil War. If it has to happen after the arrival of the SDF-1, you could say it was in the closing days of the war, or was by the Anti-Unification League. (Which still wouldn't be allies, but would be other Micronians, which might be all the same to Exedore.)

    By Blogger Fer, at 15 July, 2010 11:47  

  • I'm having a lot of fun watching these episodes again after many years. Consulting this blog after each episode enhances the experience further. Thanks for this blog.

    I'm looking for some help understanding a word of dialogue. What does Roy say after Rick says "I appreciate your confidence but why does it have to be that particular lady?" (Timestamp 19:43/23:59)


    P.S. I've consulted both the corresponding Comico comic series and the Jack Mckinney book hoping to find this line of Roy's dialogue but it is not present verbatim in either one.

    By Blogger Krusty, at 12 August, 2010 00:47  

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