Robotech, In Brief: Dana’s Story

“Show us the life forms that protected this planet from the Zentraedi and who now have the Protoculture Factory.”

“Yes, Elder.”

“The humans who defeated our Zentraedi are no longer living, but their descendants seem ready to protect their planet with a similar degree of cunning and skill.”

WHAT HAPPENS: It has been fifteen years since the destruction of the SDF-1. Commander Leonard presides over the first graduation ceremony of the United Earth Forces Military Academy. Among those graduates are Dana Sterling, daughter of Max and Miriya Sterling, and Bowie Grant, nephew of the late Claudia Grant. Following the ceremony Bowie is moping in his quarters, wondering what he’s doing in the military. Dana stops by to try and cheer him up. She tells him the story of how her parents met, first on the battlefield during the Robotech War, and then in a Macross City arcade before Miriya tried — and failed — to kill him at the city park. As Dana finishes telling Bowie about their wedding there is a red alert. The newly minted graduates leap into action. Meanwhile, the flagship of the Robotech Elders looms behind one of Saturn’s moons. The Robotech Masters are transmitting footage of Earth to their Elders. They are first shown the mounds containing the remains of the SDF-1, SDF-2, and Khyron’s ship. Three shadowy figures appear on the screen to block their view, which the Elders take to be some sort of sentry, or possibly an Invid trap. The next thing they see are the planet’s new defenders, whom the Elders dismiss as so young and inexperienced. The Elders ask if the Masters are ready for their arrival, but the Masters wish to test the humans first. They launch a preliminary strike on Earth’s Moon Base and knock out communications with Space Station Liberty. Marie Crystal’s Veritech squadron, testing new Robotech mecha, is called in to fight off the Bioroid threat. The skirmish ends as quickly as it began, both sides having felt the sting of their first taste of combat in a generation …

THOUGHTS: It’s a clip show, with over half of the episode devoted to recapping the final moments of “To The Stars” and long stretches of “Farewell Big Brother,” “Showdown,” and “Wedding Bells.” The other half is setup and character introduction culled from future episodes “Outsiders,” “Triumvirate,” and “Clone Chamber,” some of it cleverly reedited and some of it nearly incomprehensible. Turning a military briefing into a mid-term graduation (The Macross Saga ended in January 2014 and this the anniversary of that) is the best bit. It plays naturally, and Leonard’s speech is a perfect introduction to the new setting. Aside from the Masters standing in for the more visibly aged Elders, the sequence of the Elders observing their goal and their new foes works well, too. Like many who’ve come before and since, I’m intrigued by the mention of this “inorganic sentry” that, to be fair, looks to be merely the Masters’ shadows projected on the monitor. (Daley & Luceno played with it in the novels, and this scene opens all of ADV’s original Masters-era DVDs.) As for that last battle, though …

I’ve been over the sequence three times this evening trying to make sense of it. I can see that the goal is to A) provide the skirmish that Angelo refers to in the next episode, and B) establish that communication with Space Station Liberty is down, setting up the episode “Volunteers.” Unfortunately, the footage is of little help. No moon, no space station, just a fleet of ships and a battle between the Bioroids and new Earth mecha that won’t be introduced for thirteen more episodes. (In the years since production it’s been decided that Marie Crystal’s squadron was field testing the new mecha when the communique from the moon base came in.) Funny how it stops so suddenly when the footage from “To The Stars” seems to go on and on. I seem to recall that being a limitation of the episode the footage comes from, but it’s still jarring.

Despite it only being fifteen years later, both Commander Leonard and the Robotech Masters act like the heroes of the Robotech War are all dead. Many of them are, yes — and notice how Leonard snubs Vanessa Leeds, a fact that’s caused some to wonder if she survived the destruction of the SDF-1. Tommy Yune once suggested to me the image of a broken Vanessa on life support, stuck in a wheelchair ala Star Trek’s Captain Pike in “The Menagerie.” If you ask me, if you’re not going to have her dead, just give her a facial scar, an eyepatch — maybe even a missing arm — and ship her off with the SDF-3. Fifteen years also seems a short span of time to be talking about “descendants;” yes, these are the children of those heroes, but just say that: “children.” Most of this graduating class was probably born in the immediate wake of mankind’s near-extinction in 2011; they’re old enough to vaguely remember looking up, alongside their parents, at Earth’s adopted defender rising for one last time — or, if they’re from one of the other North American settlements, they’ll recall seeing it on the news, or watching their parents cry over it in the next room. My point is that the show’s acting like it’s been more like twenty or thirty years when it specifically tells us it’s only been fifteen. Odd, then, with the show beating the “next generation” drum so hard that Leonard says that this is the first graduating class of the UEF Military Academy. Where did those that came before Dana and Bowie come from? Local militias? On-the-spot recruitment and pure hands-on training? Or is he just referring to a shiny new building, established in the wake of Monument taking on New Macross City’s role as the more-or-less united Earth’s central seat of governmental power? This seems the most likely case to me.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: Sentinels was the first chronological appearance of Bowie Grant, Commander Leonard, and the Masters’ Bioroid mecha, but this was the first time they graced our TVs with their presence. It’s also the first appearance of Marie Crystal and an early sneak peek at the Armored Gyro Attack Chopper, or AGAC. This also is the first mention of Space Station Liberty, which will be explained later.

DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL: Zero. Today she’s on the straight and narrow. This will not last.

DOES BOWIE SULK? Yes. He really doesn’t want to be in the military, and yet, here he is. Dana does seem to cheer him up, though.

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3 thoughts on “Robotech, In Brief: Dana’s Story

  1. I love that for this portion of the series, you’ve changed “does Minimei sing” to “does Bowie sulk.”

    Looking forward to your thoughts on these episodes. I say to be a true “Robotech” fan, you’ve got to embrace the “Masters” section of the original trilogy. This is where the real lore of the universe is revealed, and that’s the glue that binds everything together. I know that “Masters” is often cited as the least-popular branch of the franchise, but I really like it.

  2. When my local station aired “To The Stars” for the first time, they went straight to the end credits and skipped the preview for this episode. So I thought that Robotech ended with The Macross Saga and had no idea there was other generations coming. (I figured all that other stuff in the opening credits was them just trying to look spacy and be cool.)

    My girlfriend came over the next day, and so I (foolishly) chose to actually pay attention to her instead of watch what I assumed was a rerun of Booby Trap. As she was about to leave I turned it on and saw a clip from “Wedding Bells,” so I assumed they were rerunning them out of order. Then we cut to Dana and Bowie, and I’m like, who the hell is this?! What’s going on here?!?

    So I eagerly tuned in the next day, but having missed all the transitional dialogue from the previous episode I was totally confused about which character was Dana! (“That can’t be Dana, she’s got blond hair, and Dana had blue hair, and there’s a blue haired woman here, *she* must be Dana, but no, they just called her Nova, yes they ARE calling the blond haired one Dana, so where are Max and Miriya? Did they die in Khyron’s last attack too?!?”)

  3. Shawn> I couldn’t agree with you more. While the characters may not be as endearing as those from the other generations, this generation is the most crucial part of the entire story. I wish it got more merchandising!

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