“Believe me, Rolf. This was the only way.”
“I hope to God you’re right.”
WHAT HAPPENS: The 15th Squadron arrives in the heart of Monument City for some “patrol duty.” In reality, they’re out for a night on the town. Meanwhile, the central government meets to discuss a recent attack; it seems the Robotech Masters have wiped out a suburban settlement. Chairman Moran demands to know how they were caught completely off-guard. Commander Leonard tells him the best course of action now is to strike back. General Emerson believes they’ll just be throwing away pilots’ lives. Moran signs off on Leonard’s plan. Morning comes, and squadrons of fighters lift off to intercept the Masters’ flagship. Their missile barrage is blocked by a web-shaped barrier system. Between the barrier and the Masters’ defense batteries, hundreds of lives are lost. At a military laboratory, Prof. Miles Cochrane and Dr. Samson Beckett study the wreckage of an enemy Bioroid. They conclude that whatever piloted it was human. At the barracks of the 15th, Angelo is sure the fighters could have broken through, but Louie finds that the ship’s design renders a frontal assault impossible. He explains that the ship’s engine appears to be a variation on a fold drive. Dana brings him to Cochrane’s lab; there, he sees that based on the available information the enemy ship doesn’t have a centralized power system. Instead it has a bio-magnetic induction network, drawing power from pushing and pulling apart Protoculture molecules. If they can destroy its equilibrium, they can bring it down. Later, at the barracks, Dana begs Bowie to talk to Emerson to get approval for this mission; Emerson raised Bowie after his father went out into space. Louie and the others present his findings at headquarters. While Emerson tells them they don’t have the pilots to spare, Dana’s confidence charms him and he wishes her good luck. Another wave of fighters is launched at the flagship, a distraction that allows a landing craft to break through the enemy barrier and drop the 15th Squadron’s Hovertanks on its hull. The 15th zip through trenches and ram through Bioroids as they race to their goal. A stray shot reveals the bio-magnetic network; Dana and Louie follow the energy to a shaft leading to the reactor that harnesses the bio-energy. One shot down the hole from Dana’s Hovertank’s arm-mounted cannon sets off a chain reaction; as the Hovertanks jet away, the flagship falls to Earth.
THOUGHTS: This episode’s eyecatch — again, at least in the original broadcast version — is given by Colonel Green, a character who hasn’t even been named on-screen: “It is my duty to inform you that Robotech will be right back!” After hearing the Macross Saga voices over and over again, it’s a nice change of pace, and a neat touch for them to use a minor though ever-present supporting player.
It’s interesting how about a minute into the recap of the previous episode Dana takes over as narrator. I kind of wish Robotech did this more often; the show can get narration-heavy, and adding a cast member’s spin can liven it up a bit, especially someone with Dana’s bubbly energy. However, I assume the recap was added to cover for editing out the setup for the tail end of the episode, where Dana buys that very 80’s dress right out from under Nova and Marie’s noses. Clearly she found it during the 15th’s night on the town, but all we see of that downtime is Sean trying to pick up a pretty lady out shopping. Weird that this character material is hacked out when it was the strength of the Macross Saga’s character drama that made it so successful. Is it because the producers feared Dana shopping would be “too girly”?
Once again, the series just hands out information: a newscaster in the opening minutes refers to the Masters’ battle commander as Zor. This leads to another weird fixation by the writer of a particular episode; like “renegades” and “your aide” before, this episode has Southern Cross brass constantly referring to Zor as leader of the Masters’ forces, despite never having been given his name. The last time that name was mentioned was back in “Southern Cross,” when a newscaster offered that these “renegades” were descendants of Zor. Where does this information keep coming from?
Between the suggestion last episode that the enemy is human and Emerson’s grim ponderings that the war is now brother against brother, I wonder if he’s thinking now that maybe the Robotech Masters have turned members of the Expeditionary Force that went out looking for them against their own kind.
Back in “False Start,” Col. Rochelle uttered the classic Star Wars line, “I have a bad feeling about this.” This episode offers another Star Wars parallel, the fight through the trenches to fire the shot down the shaft to take out the enemy’s battle fortress. It’s well directed and animated, and the use of humanoid craft does change the feel of it, but it doesn’t make it any less derivative. It’s not the last Star Wars parallel this generation of Robotech is going to offer, either.
Watching Louie picking off Bioroids to cover Dana makes me wish strongly for Louie to get a more combat-oriented role again if we ever get a sequel to The Shadow Chronicles. Analysis and strategy based on scientific observations aren’t his only strengths. Speaking of which, I wonder where he got his original data; is he hacking into the Southern Cross military scientists’ mainframe during downtime? Certainly that would be the explanation were the show being written today.
It’s another lopsided episode, with a sort of weak first act helped only by Sean getting figuratively shot down and the drama of Emerson and Leonard butting heads for the first time, but a strong second act helped tremendously by Louie Nichols coming to the fore with some reasonable-sounding technobabble (at least to a layperson like myself) and the 15th Squadron doing what they do best.
FIRSTS OF NOTE: This episode features the first appearances of a few background supporting players, including the highest ranking member of the civilian government, Chairman Moran, and two of the scientists studying the Masters’ technology, Miles Cochrane and Samson Beckett.
DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL: Going out on “patrol” as an excuse to go out drinking and shopping brings the needle up to a mere three, but Dana’s crying and wailing to twist Bowie’s arm knocks it up to a solid four.
DOES BOWIE SULK? He almost gets that look on his face when Dana begs him to use his father’s old friendship with General Emerson to get her and Louie an audience with the General, but he agrees pretty quickly. Clearly he’s dealt with Dana’s stubborn fake crying acts before.