DAY FIFTEEN: The Big Escape

(10) Interesting tidbits abound in, of all things, the recap. In the previous episode Dolza suggested that he COULD destroy Earth, but he never says, either to our heroes or his fellow Zentraedi, that he plans to destroy Earth after seizing the SDF-1. The narrator also informs the viewer for the first time of the Protoculture Factory hidden on-board the SDF-1. Of course, the new viewer still has only a marginally better idea of what Protoculture is than Rick and Lisa, who have just seen the word thrown around by their captors without the proper context. All the viewer knows is that it is an important essential element in Robotechnology and, on top of that, in the development and evolution of the Zentraedi people.

(9) Rick comes up with a plan to take advantage of what all three of our captive heroes perceive to be a weakness of their foes and captors, their horrified gut reactions to seeing two people kiss, and Lisa dismisses it out of hand because she thinks Rick just wants to lock lips again. I get that it might make her uncomfortable, but surely she of all people should see the logic to Rick's plan and that it's life or death here, all ideas should be on the table. Hell, remember that Rick said to her last time, "You'd better make it a command." It's almost conceited of her to think after that kiss now he's just dying for another. Honestly, it looks to me like just as in "Blind Game," the writers are having Lisa dismiss reasonable ideas and decisions out of hand just because it's Rick who brings them up, someone she still doesn't have a whole lot of respect for, which has the side effect of making Rick look like the better, more mature, and more reasonable of the two -- building Rick up at Lisa's expense. Except that every time Rick snaps back at Lisa's angry dismissal, he comes off as a jerk, too, so it's not like they're building him up much ...

And then Ben interjects with some trivial remark or, as you see above, offering his lips up for the task, and Rick and Lisa get to agree on at least one thing: that Ben Dixon is a doofus.

(8) Dolza decides that in light of their inability to get any useful information from their Micronian captives -- they raised more questions than they answered with their shocking display -- the only way they can learn more about the humans' knowledge of Protoculture is firsthand, by inserting Micronized spies into the SDF-1. This is the first we hear that you can even do that with a Zentraedi, so there's that. As Breetai, Exedore, and Dolza confer among themselves, Rico, Konda, and Bron overhear the discussion and decide that they'll volunteer for the job. I guess the Miss Macross pageant piqued their curiosity.

In the time it took for us to watch that scene, Lisa decides to backtrack on her earlier complaint, admitting that for the sake of the mission, returning to the SDF-1 with the footage she's captured on her video camera, she'll agree to kiss Rick to stun their guard. Only once the actors are in position, the wrong audience comes along: Max sucker punched their sleepy guard and has come to their rescue.

Non sequitur of the day: after Max says, "I'd say the important thing right now is for us to all get out of here," Lisa chimes in with, "Okay, I heard that!" Heard what? What did she hear? Max doesn't say anything out of line for another, oh, fifteen to twenty seconds, when he puts Rick and Lisa in one uniform pocket and Ben in the other, so he doesn't "interrupt the lovebirds." You can almost hear him wink.

(7) Breetai refers to the Zentraedi spy volunteers as "Rico and those other two." In his defense, he does have an awful lot of Zentraedi warriors under his command. He can't be expected to know everybody by name.

The moment Max's disguise is put up to any sort of scrutiny this time out, he's caught. Puts me in the mind of video game stealth missions; if we got a new ROBOTECH video game featuring The Macross Saga, that could be cool. Try and wander around a Zentraedi ship in a disguised Battloid not necessarily without being seen at ALL, but without being looked at too closely -- you'd get a tiny bit of leeway, given that a lot of Zentraedi don't seem too terribly bright. It'd be fun to see if you could do any better job than Max did here.

While I've always liked Max and Miriya's video game dogfight in "Showdown," I'd say this is still my favorite Max Sterling moment in the ROBOTECH TV series:  his desperate escape, throwing the one Zentraedi soldier into the other, switching to Guardian, and bursting through Breetai's command bubble. It's a very well done sequence; I especially like the zoom in on the cockpit to Max's determined expression as the Guardian's coming towards the camera and the scene where he flies through all the holo-video screens, with the coat and Lisa's hair flapping in the wind. And as he flies his Veritech into the elevator, he lets out a "Buh-bye!" about eight years before David Spade made it an annoying catchphrase on SNL.

My other favorite touch: when Breetai, Exedore, and Dolza hear the sound of the jet engines, look towards the door to the bridge, and then Max unexpectedly bursts through the video screen they were just looking at.

Just like Breetai during his earlier losses, Dolza doesn't seem to get mad about the escape of the Micronians; he seems impressed more than anything else. Really, aside from Breetai upon hearing that the enemy had invaded his ship, the only Zentraedi you ever see get really mad is Khyron; some of the others get frustrated, but it's usually in a REACTION to whatever nonsense crap Khyron's pulling today.

The shot of the Zentraedi soldier leaping at Rick, Lisa, Ben, and Max makes for a dramatic visual, but it's easily the dumbest move he could have made to go after them. Also, the scream he lets out as the flames from Max's exploding Veritech burn him to ashes is probably the most horrific scream in all of ROBOTECH.

(6) "Do you see what I see?" Rick asks Lisa. Well, what Lisa CLAIMS to see is proof that the Zentraedi are all clones, explaining why all the aliens look the same. And hey, if you've been paying attention all episode long, she's kind of right: all the Zentraedi grunts who've been chasing them around do have the same character model. But Rick then turns around and asks her what the smaller containers are, and I'll give Lisa the benefit of the doubt here and say she gives it another shot, mentally goes, "No, wait, something ELSE is happening here," as she zooms in with her camera and remarks that what appears to be happening is the aliens are being shrunk down to human size.

Now, to be fair to Lisa, what is going on here is a KIND of cloning process. The smaller body is being cloned from the larger (which does beg the question, what would happen if the process were interrupted at a late stage, before the larger body is -- as I assume it is -- broken down). But this isn't proof of any sort that the Zentraedi are clones themselves, only that they have access to cloning technology used for a very specific purpose. Whether or not the Zentraedi actually are clones -- well, they're certainly genetically engineered, and later writers state that they're clones outright, going so far as to say that they're built off of a set of templates called The Three Hundred, but somehow I assume that those writers went in assuming Lisa is right, even though the footage clearly gives her no basis to go on.

Like Max said last episode, the Zentraedi aren't big on repair; Breetai's command bubble is going to be shattered for the entire rest of the series. But as I noted before, they do at least have a soldier with a dustpan to pick up the glass so nobody gets shards stuck in the soles of their boots.

Dolza tells Breetai that he's removing him from active duty, which makes me wonder what Breetai is doing from this point until he resumes the quest for the SDF-1 in "Paradise Lost." What does a Zentraedi do while he's on indefinite leave? All they know is war; does he hit some kind of cryo-sleep? Hit the gym? Read up on history and strategy? Dolza also tells Breetai that Azonia will be put in charge of the spies from here on out, and remarks that she's never failed him yet. Of course, she's never had to deal with a subordinate like Khyron before.

(And how DOES that work? Why does Khyron stick around if Breetai is dismissed? Maybe it's like I said earlier, you can't get rid of the guy once he's there. He just won't go away.)

(5) Rick and Lisa have a too-loud conversation about the evolution of the Zentraedi and its relationship with Protoculture. At one point Lisa uses the term "Micrones," which is one way of romanizing the MACROSS term that was corrupted into "Micronians." Lisa's wild speculation is just a stone's throw away from the story Dolza told Breetai, Exedore, and the three Zentraedi spies in the last episode. I can't decide whether that seems too clever of Lisa or if the thoughts she's throwing around are a bit obvious given the circumstances.

When Rick gets kicked across the room by the Zentraedi, he probably shouldn't be getting up anytime soon. He should probably also have some seriously crushed and cracked bones in his face, chest, and probably his back from where he hit the Zentraedi rifles. He should NOT be able to turn around and lift up a Zentraedi rifle to kill the soldier who's grabbed Lisa. I realize Breetai is orders of magnitude stronger than the base Zentraedi soldier, but he was pounding the living hell out of Rick's Veritech Fighter; you're telling me an ordinary Zentraedi soldier wouldn't put a human being in critical condition with a kick from his armored boot?

Once again, footage of blasts penetrating a living thing -- in this case, another Zentraedi soldier -- are cut out of ROBOTECH. This missing footage DOES appear in ROBOTECH II: THE SENTINELS when Rick has a ridiculously rewritten flashback to this moment.

Just as the Zentraedi spies lost THEIR footage of the Miss Macross pageant, Lisa loses her video evidence of what she's seen aboard the Zentraedi ship. Her superiors will believe and understand her report about as well as Rico, Konda, and Bron's understood theirs -- although as we already see here, Lisa's much better at putting the pieces together than the Zentraedi spies, having certain advantages over them like critical thinking and creative thought.

With the video camera destroyed, Lisa completely breaks down. We see the seeds here for the moment later on in the episode where she compares herself to the Zentraedi; with her mission a failure, she looks at HERSELF as a failure, and sees no reason to live on. And I'm not entirely sure what it is Rick says that turns her around. Is it just his stubborn refusal to go without her? Is it the smile he gives her as he says, "Sometimes women don't make any sense, even if they ARE officers." Or does it start to dawn on her that she's making the same mistake she did back at Mars Base Sara, throwing her life away over nothing, with Rick Hunter standing over her insisting she stick around?

Why do the Zentraedi keep on growling like they are monsters? I was willing to suspend disbelief on the one that grabbed Lisa because I assumed, okay, this is sort of what Rick and Lisa are hearing because they can't understand what he's saying. But when Rick grabs Lisa out of the dead Zentraedi's hand, a team runs after them growling and then saying "DON'T LET THEM GET AWAY! AFTER THEM!" and then growling some more. So my earlier theory doesn't hold water. They just keep growling like a pack of angry bears. It's weird.

(4) After being saved by a fall into a run-down, liquid-filled section of Breetai's flagship, Rick and Lisa take the time to speculate about the Zentraedi some more -- this time on the subject of their inability to repair their equipment, given that, yes, this part of the ship is in pretty terrible shape, though that disrepair IS what saved their lives. Rick wonders how many lives, civilizations, and worlds the Zentraedi have ended. What other 1980's cartoon series has its primary protagonist, at any point, ponder how much genocide the enemy has wrought upon the universe? I doubt there IS another.

Rick suggests the possibility that the SDF-1 is unique, and that's why the enemy is so interested in it, and Lisa expands on it, saying there must be some Protoculture device hidden on-board. Wouldn't it have been something if any of their speculation had turned out to be wrong? The novels and comics (and SENTINELS, to some extent) make the SDF-1 into a unique little snowflake, Zor's personal self-designed battle fortress and flagship, one-of-a-kind in the universe. The TV series has, in this episode, already established that the Protoculture Factory is on-board the ship, hidden away somewhere, but Rick's "one of a kind" remark could have at least gotten shot down; in the original Japanese series it was just one of many Supervision Army gun destroyers. Heck, even Macek, Daley, Luceno and the rest making it a customized variant of an established Tirolian Empire vessel would have broken the lucky streak they're having in their rampant speculation. Get these two to a racetrack right now, they'd make some serious bank.

Talk turns to their personal lives, with Lisa worrying that all she'll have when she gets home is another mission. That crack in the first episode that Vanessa made, "Lisa doesn't know about men, she's in love with this space ship," is sinking in, especially now that she's facing a life-or-death struggle from the front lines, as well as the loss of her video recording. The possibility of death is always a good motivator to reevaluate your life, and what she finds it's lacking is the stuff that makes life worth living. She points to Minmei for Rick -- maybe she doesn't have any time for him anymore, especially since she's a big celebrity aboard ship by now, but at least she's someone who'll care when he gets back. Rick assures her she can find somebody. "As beautiful as you are," he tells her, "I'd bet my life on it." I'm thinking this is the first time Rick's seen Lisa without the weird rolls in her hair; she does look a lot better without them. This is also probably the first time Rick's taken a good look at her when she hasn't been screaming at him.

(3) Rico, Konda, and Bron are promised their own battleship when they get back upon successful completion of their mission. Mind you, their mission is to gather information concerning the Micronians' understanding of Robotech, and what they wind up doing is bringing back TVs, record players, Minmei dolls, and boxes of breakfast cereal, so maybe that's why they don't get their promised reward.

Ben licks a GLOVED FINGER, holds it up to the wind, and decides which way to go. Same principle as Rick and Lisa, following the breeze, but ... he shouldn't be able to feel the breeze through his flightsuit glove. Meanwhile, Cam Clarke's voice for Max seems to have gotten higher and a little more nasal since the first half of the episode. Was he doing some other gig at the time and forgetting what Max's voice sounded like? Maybe he got a little sick halfway through?

Our heroes' lucky streak continues when they decide to leap on a conveyor belt loading supplies onto the one purple ship nearby, which just happens to be one of the ships under Azonia's command headed the same way they're going -- towards the SDF-1, to deliver Rico, Konda, and Bron.

(2) Oh look, it's Miriya. So far she just seems arrogant, telling Azonia that delivering spies into the SDF-1 is beneath her. When the Zentraedi soldier overseeing the transfer of the spies to the females tells them Miriya will be delivering them into the SDF-1, that's when we find out she's a legend -- known far and wide among the Zentraedi forces, male and female. I have no problem with her at this stage; I just find her profoundly uninteresting. As Miriya the Zentraedi ace, she doesn't play off of anyone; she has no peers to talk to, her relationship with Azonia is underdeveloped, Khyron only talks to her the one time to throw her off her game. Sure, she tears apart the enemy in battle, zipping about the battlefield like a bolt of lighting and firing missile barrages that destroy pretty much everything around her, but it's almost like she makes it seem too effortless. She is practically yawning her way through the fight.

Maybe the reason I find her so uninteresting is because in this way she's so similar to Lisa, the perfect professional military woman who has to be knocked down a peg or two by a man, but while Lisa has other relationships that round her out as a person, Miriya doesn't have that. She just gets to be an underwritten poor stereotype of a character.

Why are there Tactical Battlepods aboard a female Zentraedi vessel? The impression we're given -- and this goes for both ROBOTECH and the larger MACROSS franchise -- is that females only pilot the Queadluun-Rau (or Quadrano) Powered Armor. When the SDF-1 winds up in battle, we also see Fighter Pods (presumably reused animation from other episodes), and when Rick, Ben, and Max get the Battlepod working there are male Zentraedi soldiers milling about in front of them, so I guess the Battlepods are for them?

When Miriya suits up, the nameless extra she talks to has a male voice, the first of many nameless extras on the purple ships with green ship voices. Okay, as established above, there ARE male Zentraedi on the lower decks, loaded up I suppose as infantry and support troops, but this soldier is in a female Zentraedi uniform.

Once the radio inside the Battlepod is switched on, the opening to "My Time To Be A Star" starts playing. I get Rick finding the music familiar, since it's the same as the music used to promote the Miss Macross pageant. However, Max recognizes it as Minmei BEFORE the lyrics start, even though he cannot have heard the song before -- unless Rick got an early copy from Minmei and shared it or was listening to it with Max around. Which I suppose is possible.

(1) And for the record: second time we hear "My Time To Be A Star." I've always loved the way the Zentraedi spies say "We made it!" in unison right before the final lyric.

Even if I don't care for its pilot, I also really like the Queadluun-Rau mecha design, zipping through space with those giant thrusters making it look like a deadly comet, its design sensibility sitting halfway between the Battlepod and the Nousjadeul-Ger Powered Armor, but with performance, armor, and armament that trounces both by several orders of magnitude. I also like the idea of the one mecha designed for the female compliment of the Zentraedi warriors being easily the most deadly mecha seen in the first generation of ROBOTECH; notice that only one Queadluun-Rau was deployed in this battle, and wherever it went, death followed. Ironic; I thought the RDF was the side using Valkyries ...

With the spies deposited, the Zentraedi pull back, while a team of Veritechs grabs hold of the Battlepod containing Rick, Lisa, Max, and Ben. Our heroes get to go home. You'd think they caught Lisa's radio communication letting them know this is their missing people, but the claim in Daley & Luceno's novelization was that in a turnaround of the events of "Blind Game" the RDF thought they had captured one of the enemy. Certainly an improvement on the abrupt end to this episode, which doesn't even show us our heroes getting home. Three Veritech Battloids guide the Battlepod towards the ship, and then the episode stops.

"Don't miss 'Blue Wind,' the next thrilling chapter of ROBOTECH!"

(0) The end of the British MACROSS first episode parody dub. You know what I like most about this? The accents remind me of CLASH OF THE BIONOIDS. It's kind of like that, only if it was SUPPOSED to be funny.

"The other fellows are busting their balls up there! Show some gusto!"

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  • I still find it hard to be on board with the notion that Lisa was stiff and standoffish before now: she seemed like a perfectly well-adjusted person to me.

    Her comparison of herself to the Zentreadi has a nice symbolic complexity to it, but it falls apart when looked at literally: even if it might have been out of family obligation, Lisa still choose to enter the military, and is aware of life beyond it.

    (Ben is a doofus. Shut up, Ben)

    Much of Lisa's speculative exposition in this episode reminds me of what Fox Mulder used to do on The X-Files: if the main character comes up with a theory to explain the goings-on, and it's never contradicted, he's right on the ball. It's a little odd as a dramatic device, and I wish the story had come up with a better way to explain it.

    I'm a little slow on the ball, though, in that I still haven't shaken off my first assumption that micronization involved "shrinking" rather than whatever the chambers are supposed to be representing. It seems like cloning a new body and transferring the consciousness to it creates a lot more problems than it solves, and it's not like it's any more physically plausible anyway.

    (And if this is the case, why does the Robotech version of Breetai need anything to cover his face if he's "cloned" to a smaller body later on? Macross avoids the issue by never having Britai micloned...)

    So now we say good-bye to Exedore and Breetai for a good chunk of episodes. The spy trio are still enough to sustain my emotional interest in the series in this time, though Rico, Bron, and Konda are extremely weak when looked at as characters rather than symbols.

    Miriya and Azonia aren't terribly interesting characters to me: Azonia could have been an interesting character but is largely a cipher, with her conflicts and motivations persistently unexplored. Miriya, well, Jesus, I could rant all day about the problems there. Even in her introduction, she is insufferably arrogant, and it only gets worse later.

    Female Zentraedi as a whole, mind you, seem unfortunately to be largely fanboy bait rather than interesting characters. They may be more uniformly "perfect", but that's part of the problem, at least to me.

    I chalk the presence of infantrymen and Battlepods on Azonia's ship to a production error (though I have seen interesting fanart of female Zentraedi in infantry armour--interesting only because it exists, but the armour is largely the same), akin to the Robotech dub using male voices here but far more egregious. It just ruins the elegance of the story for it to be anything other than a mistake in production.

    The Quealduun-Raus are beautiful machines: naturally I prefer the TV series version, since it's a greater subversion of the Bubblegum Crisis-style armour I was expecting and dreading.

    However, it's always bugged me that female Zentraedi only had one type of mecha. If it was representing a gender division similar to Starship Troopers I'd have less of a problem, but males have armour *and* pods, and it just seems boring.

    (A "female Pod" did actually debut in a Macross video game, but it looked like crap.)

    By Blogger A.J. Wells, at 16 July, 2010 19:57  

  • While I admit I haven't taken in many "parody fandubs" before, the one you've presented over these three latest posts seemed generally quite good to me. I suppose, though, it does remind me of when I first went online, found the "Robotech FAQ," and read about a parody fandub named "Robotech III: Not Necessarily the Sentinels," which I've wanted to see ever since but have never had the chance to... hearing that it turned Gunbuster's Noriko into an older Annie did add an intriguing sort of touch to the first time I saw that anime, though.

    By Blogger Keith Palmer, at 16 July, 2010 19:59  

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