Robotech, In Brief: False Start

“Do you have anything to say for yourself, in your defense?

“I think a hot shower would be pretty nice.”

“WHAAAAT?”

“And if I could just change my clothes, maybe a manicure or something.”

“It’s obvious I’m dealing with a moron …”

WHAT HAPPENS: In the barracks of the 15th Alpha Tactical Armored Corps, news circulates that Sean Phillips, has been thrown in the brig for making a pass at a colonel’s daughter. Dana Sterling, their acting CO, arrives and leads them on a “practice drill” on their hovercycles, despite the protests of Angelo Dante, who tells her that all of Southern Cross is on yellow alert following the attack on Luna Base. Without him, the 15th tear through the streets of Monument City and stop at a Tactical Armored Space Corps installation just outside the city. There, Marie Crystal takes issue with Dana’s leadership style. Taunts and jeers lead to a full-on brawl. Sirens herald the arrival of the Military Police, and Dana orders her men to make a break for it. Dana jumps her cycle and knocks over a GMP robot on her way back into town. Night falls, and Dana sleeps in an dingy alleyway. She is awakened by Nova Satori of the GMP and a team of officers. Meanwhile, General Rolf Emerson is informed of a large unidentified spacecraft coming into Earth orbit. Morning comes. Dana, after begging and pleading with Col. Fredericks of the GMP, is released from the brig on one week’s probation; she is let go as Sean is brought back in. The Masters’ flagship approaches the Earth. Emerson refuses to fire, despite everyone’s belief that these are the invaders that attacked Luna Base. At a remote outpost, Captain Komodo is told that landing craft have started their descent. He ignores orders and launches three missiles at the flagship. One breaks through and hits its target. After being told of the launch, Emerson orders all troops to red alert. The landing craft release skysled-mounted Bioroids. At the barracks of the 15th, Angelo and Bowie are lamenting being left behind when Dana arrives to lead them into battle. The 15th man their Hovertanks and speed to the battlefield. Switching to tank-like Gladiator mode, they turn the tide until the arrival of the Bioroids’ red commander. Dana switches to Battloid and engages the Red Bioroid personally. With the help of some covering fire from Louie Nichols she pins the commander down, but a stray shot from Louie winds up hitting the Bioroids’ landing craft instead. They suddenly retreat. As the sun sets over the horizon, Nova arrives at the victorious 15th’s barracks with Sean in tow and informs them that he’s been demoted to Private 2nd Class. Dana is now the squadron’s permanent commanding officer.

THOUGHTS: Due to the way this episode was reedited from its original Japanese counterpart, it starts off with a moment of blurted-out narration and dives right into introducing some of the character dynamics and setting up Dana as a playful, reckless leader for the 15th. The original episode opened with Jeanne Fránçaix (Dana) being let out of the brig, and her departure from police custody in the second act involved kicking Lana Isavia (Nova) in the shins and making a run for it. I suppose this reediting is to blame when Dana tells herself that she’s been in the brig for ten days, while the news bulletin we see immediately after she’s released claims the Masters’ flagship appeared just last night. The commanders saw it the same night Dana got caught by the GMP — there’s nothing to suggest the narration is wrong when it places these events in the same night BESIDES Dana’s internal monologue. So either the United Earth Forces sat on this for ten days and are lying to the public — unlikely since the Masters were supposed to arrive in Earth orbit in two hours, and their approach seems pretty steady — or Dana’s sense of time is screwed up.

Speaking of Emerson, the narration strongly suggests that Emerson is at Space Station Liberty when the Masters are en route — except that he’s obviously on Earth the next evening, AND is visible on the upper command deck when we first cut to headquarters. The dialog obfuscates but still suggests the fact that the Masters were probing the satellite we see, and then just as it delivered an image of their ship to headquarters, they destroyed it; this is, in fact, the exact scenario the newscaster reports right after Dana is released from the brig. Is the narrator also trying to suggest that the satellite we see is Space Station Liberty? If so, it’s terribly difficult to ignore the fact that we see the very same satellite in pieces right after Emerson & Green discuss the possibility that the newcomers are Zentraedi. Maybe the show wants us to think it’s a second satellite-looking thing that just happens to look like Liberty. Heaven knows this wouldn’t be the first time the Robotech TV series asked us not to believe our eyes. I’d suggest that the previous episode’s communications loss between Luna and Liberty would also point to Emerson not being up there, but given the ambiguous length of time between the previous episode and this one, communications could well be up and running again.

Explain to me why Dana is introduced in this episode as the “cutest 2nd Lieutenant in the Tactical Armored Corps” and is referred to by Rochelle as “Lt. Dana Sterling” at the end of the episode, but she introduces herself to Marie as “Sgt. Dana Sterling.” Just not used to her new rank, perhaps? Also, Angelo knows that Luna was attacked by the Robotech Masters while Emerson is assuming the new arrivals are Zentraedi. The fuzzy image Emerson’s going off of doesn’t even look like a Zentraedi ship! I’m also wondering why Emerson is so certain the Protoculture supply was their objective when all the enemy did was come down, fight for a bit, then retreat.

Funny, while everyone remembers the Sparks that served under Gen. Reinhardt in The New Generation (and The Shadow Chronicles), Frank Catalano (Rand) plays an earlier, different Sparks serving under Captain Komodo. What’s with that name coming up in both generations?

All in all, I love Dana in this, and the art and animation are fantastic, but the Robotech team does their best to make bits of it terribly confusing and disjointed. Who knows what when? How long between then and now? Where are we again? And seriously, what’s up with Space Station Liberty? What a mess.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: First televised appearance of General Emerson, and first appearances of Colonel Green, Colonel Rochelle, Angelo Dante, Louie Nichols, Captain Komodo, Zor’s Red Bioroid, and the Veritech Hovertank.

DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL: On a scale of 1-10, a solid 8. A full 10 would have been the behavior Jeanne displays in the original Southern Cross episode; here Dana MERELY kicks Angelo in the shins, accuses him of sexism when he questions her orders, drags the squadron on a joyride that scares the crap out of everyone on the road, gets into a brawl with Marie’s squadron, and knocks over a GMP robot.

DOES BOWIE SULK? No, in this first proper Masters episode he’s a man of action! He throws the first punch in the brawl between the ATAC & TASC pilots.

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2 thoughts on “Robotech, In Brief: False Start

  1. Oddly, the inconsistencies in this episode don’t bother me as much as they probably should. I’m not entirely sure why this is so since I’m usually a stickler for these things, but I suspect that it’s because I tend to be more forgiving of dialog flubs when it is clear that they are mistakes that slipped past the editors rather than intentionally poor writing or editing. At least, this is how Angelo’s comment about the Robotech Masters appears. There is no way he could know (even if he privately suspected) that the aliens were the Robotech Masters. Some writer probably got ahead of himself and lost track of the timeline, so it’s easy (for me) to dismiss this as an honest mistake.

    Space Station Liberty is another matter – it is confusing and I’m not sure what the intent was.

    It’s interesting that you mention this, but I never got the impression that the narration ever implied that Emerson was on the station. I see what you mean now, but I never took it that way. It always seemed plain to me that he was on Earth. I do agree about the confusion with communication satellite though. It does seem like the narration is trying to suggest that the satellite we see is Space Station Liberty. Clearly, it is not, given all the other references to the com sat (before and after), but if that satellite isn’t Liberty, then the narration basically becomes a gigantic non-squinter – referencing an object that has nothing to do with anything on screen at the moment. It’s kind of funny, but if we ignore that one random line from the narrator then the whole scene actually makes sense (which wouldn’t be the first time that happens :/ ).

    You bring up an interesting issue concerning Emerson’s comment about the alien’s objective. I agree that it is problematic, but for slightly different reasons. I think it is perfectly reasonable that Emerson believes the aliens are after the protoculture supply – not so much because of their behavior during the battle but simply because they are at Earth. After all its not like this would be the first time aliens have come ’round looking for the stuff, and the humans do know that the Masters are out there somewhere (hopefully engaged with the REF on their home world but possibly not) as well as rouge Zentraedi, both of which want protoculture. The problem I see is that no one, not even Emerson, seems to do anything about it. I haven’t watched ahead, so my memory of the later episodes may be incorrect, but I seem to recall that this plot point is pretty much dropped after this episode and isn’t picked back up until near the end. But I may be getting confused again :P

    Oh yeah, I love the addition of the Dana/brattiness and Bowie/Sulk tracker

    • Edit:

      On second thought, “Perfectly reasonable” is probably a bit too strong. I should replace that with “Not unreasonable.” I think Emerson did use the term “Know” which suggests he is basing his assessment on evidence beyond mere suspicion (no matter how reasonable that suspicion might be), which I admit doesn’t really fit with what we see.

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