Robotech, In Brief: Khryon’s Revenge

“My race was Protoculturally devoid of everything but the genetically engineered desire to fight. My people evolved as toys for our creators, the Robotech Masters: toys of destruction!

WHAT HAPPENS: Admiral Gloval arrives at the Factory Satellite for an inspection. During his tour a production line malfunctions and shuts down, perhaps permanently. Meanwhile, light years away, the Robotech Masters order the generation of another Zor-clone and, with the blessing of their Robotech Elders, begin the long journey to Earth. Back on Earth, Rick Hunter’s Veritech squadron is ordered to New Detroit City, where Zentraedi renegades have stolen a Zentraedi resizing chamber. Rick and his team stop them dead in their tracks. In his downed ship up north, Khyron learns of this failure and tells Azonia he will go after it personally. As the resizing chamber is restored to its rightful place, the mayor of New Detroit tells Rick that he can’t help provide security for it, as most of the population is Zentraedi. Kyle steps in and insists that the Zentraedi have a right to control the chamber themselves; he leads a crowd of angry citizens in a chant of “Leave here now!” and Rick is forced to withdraw. Khyron’s forces launch for New Detroit at the resizing chamber is secured in New Detroit’s expo center. The mayor is giving Kyle and Minmei a tour of the center’s performing arts stage when there’s an explosion. New Detroit’s civil defense forces are no match for Khyron’s Powered Armor-clad troops. As chaos rains on New Detroit, Exedore delivers a report on the history of the Zentraedi people: soon after the discovery of Protoculture 500,000 years ago, the Robotech Masters’ civilization created the Zentraedi as a police force. Programmed only for war, they began fighting amongst themselves, and the civilization of the Robotech Masters began to crumble. Khyron seizes the resizing chamber, as Exedore explains that while mankind and the Zentraedi are genetically similar, they are in fact not the same. Later, Claudia tells Rick and Lisa that something has happened in New Detroit. Furious, he takes off in Skull One, but the damage is already done. The combination of the resizing chamber and loads of micronized Zentraedi dissatisfied with peace is all Khyron needs to raise an army.

THOUGHTS: Over the last few episodes the word “Protoculture” has been seeded in wherever the writers could drop it: the resizing chamber is “the Protoculture chamber,” while on the Factory Satellite we hear about “Proto-bolt adjustments” and “manual Protoculture shutdown.” Exedore and Gloval toss the term and derivtatives around in their explanation of Zentraedi history: humans “are not Protoculture” but the Zentraedi are a result of “Proto-genetic engineering.” The overuse is starting to grate.

The Robotech Masters play a confusing linguistic game: they talk about Protoculture, then mention culture, as in a civilization, and they do this TWICE. They appear in footage borrowed from later in the series with newly invented dialog overlaid; there was no reason to be “clever” and confusing like that, especially when the term “Protoculture,” repurposed from Macross, originally referred to an ancient culture. Their dialog rambles on, and the scene itself is made up of footage from two different episodes, “Outsiders” and “Deja Vu,” which take place in two different locales, leading to two wide shots not adding up at all.

I wonder how Gloval knows about the history of the Zentraedi and the Masters; Exedore is surprised, which means he’s not the one who imparted this knowledge. Maybe it came from documents salvaged from the SDF-1 and translated with the help of the Zentraedi. What I find most interesting is that the history he tells doesn’t refer to the things Dolza told Rico, Konda, and Bron or the stories Exedore told about a previous encounter with an open society. This history tells only of a race of giants whose power and ego caused infighting and bred chaos throughout the Masters’ empire. It suggests that the history of the Zentraedi and the Masters is far more complex than later spin-off material would have you believe. This is also where Exedore suggests that human and Zentraedi aren’t as identical as previously suggested; it doesn’t overwrite as much as sidestep the discussion two episodes ago, admitting they might have a similar predisposition for war but for different reasons.

I haven’t even gotten into the real meat of the episode, in which Kyle’s anti-military heckling hands Khyron an army. Part of me thinks Kyle went as far as he did just to jerk Rick around in front of Minmei, but Kyle’s loathing for the military runs so deep that it’s not inconceivable that he’d do the same to any agent of military authority. While I was uncomfortable with Gloval’s plans to watch and control the Zentraedi’s movements and work assignments a few episodes ago, I can’t help but disagree with Kyle’s sentiments — not just because he’s such a jerk, but because control of the resizing chamber is a complex liberty versus public safety issue, as this episode’s events prove. The power of a giant can so easily be abused.

The character art has Toshihiro Hirano’s fingerprints all over it again, and the battle sequences feature more hand-to-hand, close-quarters combat than any episode prior. Despite Kyle’s infuriating behavior, the intriguing history and sharp visuals make this one a winner.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: Nothing truly noteworthy; I guess it’s the first time we’ve seen Khyron in a Powered Armor, and the first time he’s seen combat since the beginning of the Reconstruction era.

RICK’S STATE OF MIND: Frustrated with Kyle’s knee-jerk, disingenous military-hate, and frustrated with himself for giving in to it and the angry crowd he raised. He’s feeling the weight of his responsibilities, and he also appears to be getting sick of the comparisons between human and Zentraedi penchants for war, especially in light of Exedore’s latest report.

DOES MINMEI SING? No, mostly she blankly stares at Rick and chides Kyle for being so mean to him.

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4 thoughts on “Robotech, In Brief: Khryon’s Revenge

  1. Yes, this is where establishing the backstory pretty much runs headlong into some garbled translation of original Macross backstory. I’m not saying that this couldn’t have been avoided with a little more care, but it does show.

    Still, “OMG sad Exedore!” gets me every time. Poor guy.

  2. The above quote from Exedore is great, and it is used to enormous effect during the closing sequence of this episode.

    As far as protoculture goes, unfortunately, I have to agree with you about its recent overuse. I am generally of the belief that the Robotech continuity, when viewed just within the specific confines of its constituent parts (animation, novels, etc), is fairly consistent (or at least ambiguous enough not to be inconsistent), but I have to admit that this episode is probably the most damning counter-argument to that assertion. But perhaps it isn’t quite that bad. As you note, the additional Zentraedi history provided by Gloval does suggest even greater complexity, which I would regard as a good thing.

    I probably need to re-watch this episode, because now that I think about it, I’m a bit confused on the point about the respective human and Zentraedi predispositions for war. On the one hand, Exedore seems to be discouraged about the prospects for peaceful coexistence between humans and Zentraedi as well as being upset about his people having been developed for the express purpose of violence, and yet, by the end of the episode, he and Gloval are both lamenting the fact that even advanced civilizations have never abandoned warfare. This would seem to suggest that the Zentraedi really aren’t any worse off in the long run. But I’m probably missing something. Interestingly, the speech Dr Lang gives Rick (if I’m not mixing up my episodes) reminds me of the reality check Rand administers to Scott in Symphony of Light (although I’m more sympathetic to Rick’s point of view in this case).

  3. Pterobat: It’s only slightly garbled, mostly around the Zentraedi-as-Protoculture, humans-as-not-Protoculture bits. Gloval’s telling of the history of the Zentraedi, the “war among the giants,” if you take as valid and add up to the other things we know about Zentraedi history, simply adds another wrinkle, another tale to the generations of conflict that preceded Earth’s involvement in the Robotech Wars. I sort of remember the day I first saw this episode back in the late ’90s, long after having read all the novels, and having my mind blown — “What do you MEAN there’s a whole ancient Zentraedi Civil War back there that nobody bothered to remember and play with?!”

    One point I didn’t make quite so clearly: Exedore never says humanity and the Zentraedi DON’T have a common point of origin, which given that the Zentraedi were created by the Robotech Masters, points towards a common origin for us and THEIR people, and makes things terribly complicated when you start tying together humanity living in the “shadow of the Robotech Masters” (common origin, or just living subject to Tirolian propaganda since the early 2020’s?) (and the Haydonites being the “children of the Shadow” (Shadow here, Shadow there — just as confusing as the culture/Protoculture nonsense the Masters go on about in this episode, though this is more due to after-the-fact Shadow Chronicles meddling) and all that other stuff the Regess goes on about in New Gen.

    Brian: It’s not Lang, and it’s not in this episode; you’re thinking of “The Robotech Masters” where they have the FIRST roundtable about the history of the Zentraedi and their possible connection to humanity, and the character you’re thinking of is the nameless extra that Daley & Luceno spun into Dr. Lazlo Zand. He’s the one that browbeats Rick over the head with humanity’s predisposition for war and mentions the failures of the League of Nations and the U.N. That’s where they really get into humanity and the Zentraedi being the same, though it is true that Exedore makes the point about no advanced civilization turning their back on war at this episode’s end. I suppose the difference is that while as a species humanity will never rid itself of war, the Zentraedi, as they’ve known no other way of life up to now, just aren’t mentally and physically equipped for any other way of life. Exedore’s used to gathering information, strategizing, really using his head, and Rico, Konda, and Bron, despite being used primarily as comic relief characters, are INTELLIGENCE OPERATIVES, also used to non-combat operations, information gathering, less glamorous and conventionally exciting work. Almost all the rest, though, are used to the adrenaline hit of the thrill of combat, the glory of battle. Bear in mind, Miriya’s still a combat pilot. SHE hasn’t left that life behind. Breetai’s still doing what he’s always done, only flying the flag of a different nation. But all those former soldiers on Earth, they’re having to live a new way of life that they didn’t necessarily sign up for. Therein lies the difference that causes Exedore to beat himself up: humanity may always be at war, but not all humans are warriors. But all Zentraedi have the need for war programmed into them, and the fear that Exedore and Gloval share is that they’re all a bunch of time bombs waiting to explode. Hence Exedore’s pessimism — and, as you allude to, Rick’s justified anger at the comparisons “Zand” and Exedore make between humans and Zentraedi.

    As I alluded to above, I’ve actually worked out my personal take on how all the continuity points of the history of the Zentraedi and Robotech Masters tie together; part of it appears in a digression in my post on Sentinels (coming next Monday night), and if I still have it all in mind after I’m done with the TV series I might serve up the rest of it as blog fodder sometime in the fall, in amongst my other plans for the blog going forward. We’ll see.

  4. ^ Ah thanks! It seems I did mix up my episodes. I watched several over the past weekend, but they all kind of blur together now. I guess I’m going to have to watch ’em again :P

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