Robotech, In Brief: First Contact

“It looks as though they have more of a fighting nature than we thought.”

“I think, sir, you’ll find that it happens only as a result of males mingling with females, an ancient practice long ago abandoned by the Zentraedi.”

“Yes, and rightly so! I can no longer stand to watch, turn it off! It makes my head spin and my stomach as well!”

Read my 365 Days of Robotech write-up on “First Contact” from last summer here.

WHAT HAPPENS: Aboard his flagship, Breetai takes out Ben Dixon’s Veritech in a single blow and disables Rick Hunter’s, capturing Rick as he tries to escape. Rick’s fighter auto-destructs, and Max Sterling’s Veritech is sucked outside the ship. Ben, Rick, and Lisa are studied and held captive; Exedore declares that they appear to be genetically similar to the Zentraedi. He decides the micronians should be brought before Dolza, their Supreme Commander, for an interrogation. Meanwhile, Max sneaks back aboard Breetai’s flagship. The Zentraedi fleet folds for home; this does not go unnoticed aboard the SDF-1. Roy Fokker catches Lynn Minmei at the Chinese restaurant to tell her the bad news about Rick, assuring her that he’s just missing, but Minmei assumes the worst and flees to the park to be alone. Back aboard Breetai’s ship, Lisa finds that ten days have passed since the fold operation began. The Zentraedi ships leave hyperspace and our heroes are shocked at the scope of the enemy fleet. As the ship enters the Zentraedi command center, Max steals an enemy soldier’s uniform for his Battloid. After hearing a report from Rico, Konda, and Bron, Dolza decides to conduct the interrogation on Breetai’s ship lest the micronians contaminate the central core. He fears they have discovered Protoculture. At the interrogation he asks the humans what they know of it. When Lisa refuses to submit to the interrogation, Dolza demonstrates the Zentraedi’s power; a fleet of warships reduce a planet to a barren rock. Seeing howthe Zentraedi haven’t destroyed the SDF-1, Lisa denies they have the power and is grabbed by Dolza, who wants to know how they become micronians. Rick and Ben exclaim that they’re born this way, from their mothers. Dolza orders a demonstration, and Ben tells him it starts with a kiss. Lisa offers to show them; she orders Rick to kiss her. The Zentraedi are appalled and Dolza sends the micronians out of his sight. The might of their foes, the constant talk of Protoculture, and the reaction the enemy had to a kiss gives Rick, Lisa, and Ben a lot to think about. Likewise, the Zentraedi cannot understand their own reactions; Exedore maintains it is a kind of weapon, but Dolza says that could only result from Protoculture. Rico asks what Protoculture is. Dolza explains that it is the essense of Robotechnology, developed by the Zentraedi’s ancestors. Through a series of wars with a micronian race, the secrets of Protoculture were lost, but they now have reason to believe they are located aboard the SDF-1. Back aboard that ship, Minmei sings her debut song, “My Time To Be A Star,” in concert as Roy Fokker and Claudia Grant share a moment, looking out at the stars, wondering what’s become of their friends.

THOUGHTS: There’s a lot to digest in this episode; after a bang of a start, the rest of the half-hour builds up both the Zentraedi backstory and the issue of Minmei’s career, which is clearly coming along more quickly than “Blind Game” had us believe. Rick was surprised that Minmei was “making a career out of this” when he was talking to her in “Blind Game,” while the flashbacks in this episode show her telling him about her television debut this coming Sunday. It’s difficult to reconcile. Perhaps Rick’s just disgusted by his would-be girlfriend having a career; given his staggering sexism towards Lisa in this episode, it wouldn’t be that surprising! Thankfully the series will trump Rick’s remarks with The Macross Saga’s own Miriya in the next episode and characters like Dana Sterling, Marie Crystal, Rook Bartley, and Sue Graham in the second and third generations. Meanwhile, Protoculture is first mentioned and is developed in a way consistent with Breetai’s handling of the SDF-1; if that ship contains these lost secrets, it’s obvious why Breetai would want to take it intact. In my previous viewing I tried to reconcile Dolza’s legend of Protoculture with future events and dialog; in short, I assume the “ancestors” Dolza mentions are the Robotech Masters, their progenitors, and the micronians the Zentraedi were at war with are probably the Disciples of Zor, the unseen group the Robotech Masters mention in the episode “The Robotech Masters.” That’s the tidiest way to tie these things together. A first time viewer, of course, will take these things at face value, just as Rico, Konda, and Bron do. (As an aside, I’d be plenty happy if these unseen Disciples of Zor were never revealed, but were teased once more in future Robotech storytelling, giving viewers another piece of the puzzle to capture their imaginations anew.) While this is all interesting from a world-building perspective, the most immediately entertaining scene in the episode would have to be Max hiding in a Zentraedi bathroom, kicking a hapless soldier in the gut, and stealing the poor guy’s clothes for his Battloid. After seeing that you can’t help but love the guy.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: This is not only the first appearance of Supreme Commander Dolza, but in his second scene he is also the first to speak — or rather, think — the word “Protoculture,” a mystery on which the remainder of the series will hinge. Minmei also has her debut during this episode, though like Rick, Lisa, and Ben, we miss it because we’re following them; we get to see a later performance, her first appearance on a different television program.

RICK’S STATE OF MIND: Frustrated and quick to assign blame for the fix they’re in, yet just as determined now as he was in “The Long Wait” to find a way out and home. He’s matured and grown into his role as a leader, but not as much as he believes given the way he’s talking to Lisa.

DOES MINMEI SING? As noted above, yes; this is the first performance of the song Daley and Luceno (a.k.a. Jack McKinney) called “Stagefright,” referred to in the OST track listings as “My Time To Be A Star.”


2 thoughts on “Robotech, In Brief: First Contact

  1. Rick is such an absolute tool when he speaks to Lisa that way; yikes.

    Hmmm…I like this episode, mostly for the Zentraedi’s appearance, and Breetai’s badassery. Interesting how Rico, Bron, and Konda are first portrayed here, covered in shadow and with deep, booming voices; so different from how we later get to know them.

    Although, when it comes to backstory, Robotech already has so many unanswered thingies and ill-defined bits, that leaving the Disciples of Zor mysterious would just add another hollow shell to the pile.Robotech has a lot of problems that can’t be overcome, of course, but the effort put into defining its backstory still leaves something to be desired.

  2. Personally, I see this as more of a feature rather than a bug. I suppose I might find such ambiguity annoying in other series, but (for me) it works for Robotech. I like the hints at larger but unspecified events, and the idea of the Disciples of Zor actually fits in well for a number of reasons. But I guess I already talked about this at length last year.

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