DAY NINETEEN: Gloval's Report

(10) I don't think I've actually sat through "Gloval's Report" more than twice. Then again, I only really got into ROBOTECH on video, through tapes bought randomly on family out-of-town shopping expeditions (the first, I think I've mentioned, was the first FHE 100-minute-edit tape bought at the Suncoast Motion Picture Co. store at a mall in Tulsa, OK in 1993) and laserdiscs ordered through my parents' Columbia House LD club catalog. Even with as piecemeal a viewing experience as I had until ADV started putting out their DVDs in 2001, I always had the full story from the top, so "Gloval's Report" was watched maybe once on my laserdisc, and once or twice to whatever extent it was on the third 100-minute-edit tape. I'm fairly certain on subsequent viewings, whatever of "Gloval's Report" remained on that FHE tape got fast-forwarded through to get to "Homecoming."

(9) There are only two interesting things to me about "Gloval's Report." The first is that all the dialog in the recapped sequences is rerecorded and even, in some cases, rewritten. This leads to bits like the mustached green-clad Veritech pilot in "Countdown" having a different voice and ordering his subordinates to "switch to Veritech mode," which really doesn't make a lick of sense. While much of the first half is a little iffy, after the commercial break the line readings are by and large so similar that it only stands out when a line is changed here or there.

(8) Gloval makes the claim that the barrier system can't do more than the pinpoints due to the poor output of the remaining functional reflex engines, and not the fact that it is powered by a bizarre energy bleed reaction coming from the space where the fold system used to be. Given that this is an official report, I wonder if he thinks the actual story there is a little too outlandish for headquarters. "Doctor Lang found some strange sparkly energy reaction where the fold drives used to be and told me he could make a barrier out of it."

This is actually the only factual error I found in Gloval's narration, though he does repeat Roy's claim of the Zentraedi being about 50 feet tall. Actually, what he says is "nine or ten times" the size of human beings, which would be closer to sixty!

(7) The second interesting thing about this episode is what the ROBOTECH production team wound up doing with it, padding it out to seventy-three minutes or so -- feature-length -- and using the resulting feature, "Codename: Robotech," as a sort of pilot, an introduction if you will to the TV series. Still recaps all the same stuff, just expanded to actually offer some insight into the characters rather than just plot point after plot point. "Codename: Robotech" was actually the first installment of the ROBOTECH franchise to air, way back in March of 1985. To be honest, I'm not sure if I've ever sat through the whole thing; if I did, it was an Nth generation VHS copy my pal Ian sent me a year or two before the DVDs hit store shelves, and I was probably preoccupied with something else at the time, probably some odd flamewar or the other on the old RTMB.

(6) Since the recap takes the form of Captain Gloval's report to headquarters, there's very little in the way of character material repeated between scenes of him talking into his recorder. A lot of battle footage, explanations of what new maneuvers and devices were used to defeat the enemy, what they learned about the Zentraedi in that particular battle, and so on. Rick and Lisa only get name dropped in his recap of the events of "Blind Game" and "First Contact." The only Zentraedi to appear prior or following the longest recap sequence, from "First Contact," is Breetai -- and that's only his fight with the Vermilion Team. The format requires that the footage adheres to what Gloval knows firsthand and secondhand from Lisa's report in "Blue Wind."

The neat side-effect of this is that aside from the space fold itself, most of "Space Fold" is out. In fact, you barely see any of the bad animation from the previous thirteen episodes. Since it stops with the interrogation from "First Contact," nothing from "The Big Escape" or "Blue Wind" even appears.

If you're a kid who just wants to watch a bunch of neat airplane and robot stuff, the first half of the episode delivers in spades. It's all robots and stuff exploding interrupted occasionally by scenes of a middle-aged man talking into a microphone. But they didn't want to animate much this week, so he only appears occasionally as a transition between episodes.

(5) I swear, if you wandered in at the halfway point, you'd think for some reason they looped back around to episode #7. Like I said, the "Bye Bye Mars" line readings are dead on to the original episode, and once you get back from the eyecatch/bumper, it goes right into dialog; there's no indication of the recap episode format until Lisa gets finished overloading the reflex furnace.

(4) I'm not as up on modern anime shows as I was four or five years ago, but I remember even then one still got the occasional recap episode. I recall GUNDAM SEED DESTINY having maybe four, once even a recap only a couple of weeks after the previous recap (shades of "Phantasm" only two episodes after "Gloval's Report," only less clever). WOLF'S RAIN famously had four recap episodes in a row right in mid-season, which I'm sure turned off a heck of a lot of viewers. I wonder, while it's terribly useful for keeping your show on the air week-to-week despite a bump in the production schedule, is there any real utility in a recap episode in a DVD and video-on-demand world? Does anyone watching ROBOTECH on Hulu get to "Gloval's Report" and actually watch it, or do they just jump over it and go straight to "Homecoming"?

There is, I think, utility in something like "Codename: Robotech," particularly if it's used as a primer when a show's coming back from a hiatus or a season (or half-season) break, like the mid-season break ABC did after the first six episodes of their "V" remake. But unless your show is overly complex (like, say, the Laughing Man storyline of GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX) or running ridiculously behind schedule, I don't see the need for an episode like this today.

Then again, like I said when I was talking about "Blue Wind," it's obvious that there was something going on behind the scenes of MACROSS that made this episode necessary. You don't have an episode that relies on stock battle footage to the extent that "Blue Wind" did unless something's going completely wrong, and I'm fairly certain that this and, later, "Phantasm" were slipped into the schedule as something of a corrective measure.

(3) The longest dialog scene that is recapped is Lisa, Rick, and Ben's interrogation at the hands of the Zentraedi, which includes some minor variations in the dialog -- Dolza is a lot angrier and more boastful with the humans; there's a bit more back-and-forth between him and Lisa -- but importantly, all the key dialog is the same. This is a very important scene, and clearly the ROBOTECH production team knew it and kept the variations to a minimum, occasionally using them maybe to underscore a point, but never to muddy the waters. To their credit, the actors repeat their original line readings in most instances with pitch-perfect accuracy, and when they don't, it comes off as more interesting than distracting.

(2) Backtracking to the recap of "Countdown," Gloval repeats what Exedore said in "First Contact," that humans and Zentraedi appear to be genetically related. Where did Gloval get this information? I mean, I can buy that following a battle a scientist on-board the ship got a hold of some genetic material and did some testing on it. However, I seem to recall later on a big point is made, I think during "Wedding Bells," that they just did some gene analysis on Miriya and made this very same discovery. Maybe that's just when Gloval feels comfortable making the fact public, I don't know. I'm just a teensy bit annoyed at the show's willy-nilly attitude towards dropping these bits of information in without actually including them in the story, or worse (as in the case of Lisa during "First Contact" and "The Big Escape"), characters arriving at long-shot conclusions based on scant-to-no evidence that turn out to be both correct and major plot points.

(1) Captain Gloval talks with Lisa about the ill omen he had about this ship, "that something terrible would happen to us, that we would be changed forever." Lisa tells him he wasn't necessarily wrong. Thing is, he doesn't have the slightest inkling just how right his omen will prove to be.

"Be with us for 'Homecoming,' next on ROBOTECH!"

(0) So there's this non-profit organization devoted to archiving local Chicago television for educational and nostalgic purposes, including local TV broadcasts and commercials. This is one such bit from their YouTube channel, which like the SPACE GUNDAM V clip, I'm sure I've posted before, but it's worth a second look, if just for the interesting note that the local announcer refers to Gloval as the captain of the Macross, not the SDF-1. This is the commercial bumper before ROBOTECH, the eyecatch/bumper (actually, the same one that appears in "Gloval's Report" -- hey, maybe this is actually from the first Chicago broadcast of that episode!), and the commercials that aired during that episode of ROBOTECH. It's the sort of thing that makes me wish someone had tapes of MY hometown's local broadcasts of ROBOTECH; oddly enough, that and TRANSFORMERS were shows that my mom didn't record for me when I was a kid, though that's probably got a lot to do with how obsessed I was with watching them when they were actually on.

Anyway, have a look at someone else's nostalgia. To be sure, though, just the look and feel of those graphics and the sort of muddy sound are enough to push my nostalgia buttons. I remember the days when TV looked like this. In fact, I kind of miss it. *sigh*

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  • I could agree with the intimation that "recap episodes" have always been more for the benefit of production staffs apparently not permitted to just rerun an episode than for the viewers... but I suppose I do have a soft spot for "Gloval's Report." I could only see Robotech when it was first airing when I was visiting my grandparents, and only knew it was on a channel that would show one episode Saturday morning and the next Sunday, so I was getting the story in disconnected bits and pieces. This episode did sort of pull things together for me, and even showed me some things I hadn't seen before.

    By Blogger Keith Palmer, at 20 July, 2010 10:31  

  • Yeah, that's the version of the Gumby theme song I remember. And hey, I never knew Jonathan Frakes had been on Voyagers!

    By Blogger Fer, at 20 July, 2010 14:02  

  • Are the earlier posts in this series available in the archives? Nice stuff btw.

    By Blogger Martin, at 21 July, 2010 17:22  

  • WPPW-TV 60 is the place I first saw "Robotech" as a kid. I've seen the clip with the compiled channel breaks before. Definitely brings back some memories.

    By Blogger Shawn, at 21 July, 2010 18:10  

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