Robotech, In Brief: The Trap

“Lieutenant! Stop the Hovertank! I just saw that girl!”

“Are you sure she’s the one?”

“I’m positive! She’s one-of-a-kind! I’d know her any–what?! It can’t be! I’m seeing double.”

WHAT HAPPENS: The Hovertanks of the 15th Squadron enter the Masters’ flagship and, after losing a Hovertank to a team of Bioroids, are forced to leave two of their own at the entrance as they delve deeper into the ship. They’re forced to split up twice, with Dana taking Bowie and Louie, and Sean and Angelo each leading a team of their own. As Angelo’s men search for a lost comrade in a cavernous room of exposed tech, Dana’s team is boxed in by shuttering blast doors. She makes an exit by blasting a wall, and they dismount to see what’s inside. They soon hear strange alien music and try to follow it to its source. Louie leads them to a chamber filled with spare body parts: bio-technological hands, arms, and legs. With Louie and Dana focused on the gruesome sight, Bowie touches a wall panel and is dragged through. While Sean’s team explores a Robotech greenhouse, Bowie wanders cavernous empty chambers, following the music again. At the end of a long hallway, he finds a green-haired girl playing a harp of laser light. She can’t understand him, so he tries to play her harp. The girl takes over, and Bowie is transfixed by the sound. The scene is interrupted by two Bioroid Terminators. Bowie tackles one and ducks, causing one to shoot the other. He blasts the survivor and tries to calm the girl down, but she flees. With the last of his strength, one of the Terminators tries to shoot Bowie, but misses and hits the girl in the leg. When she runs again, Bowie gives pursuit. He thinks he sees her again — but wait, wasn’t her hair green? And as he chases her, there’s no laser burn on her leg. He stops when he hears a roaring sound: it’s Dana and Louie’s Hovertanks. Bowie joins Dana and, as they pass a series of Roman-style archways, he spots the girl — who is soon joined by another, identical girl. Louie points out that all the aliens are twins and triplets. Teams of Bioroid Terminators approach and attack. The Hovertanks speed away and encounter Sean’s group, who report that they didn’t see any sign of the aliens. Just then, Angelo’s team arrives and the Robotech Masters spring a trap, opening the floor up below them. The 15th find themselves in a garbage compactor and, as the roof starts to fall, Dana blasts the wall with her Gladiator’s main gun. The blast ricochets and strikes just beneath her Hovertank. The rest of the squad fears the worst, but when they approach the hole, they find Dana safe and sound on the level below. As the 15th regroups, the Masters plan their next move: to eliminate Dana. A snake-like cannon drops down, but Sean blasts it first. It fires wildly, taking out the lights and other instrumentality. Louie suddenly finds that his radio’s working; he can contact headquarters. The Masters order all exits blocked and Bioroids deployed. The 15th don’t stop to fight; they swerve around their foes and concentrate on escape. One final green Bioroid blocks the exit. Dana switches to Battloid and takes him out by clotheslining him as she leaps to freedom.

THOUGHTS: One of my favorite episodes of the Masters era, filled with cool pulsating alien tech, gleaming Roman-style architecture, and some neat fights and moments that force the heroes of the 15th Squadron to think on their feet. This also lays down the groundwork for the one solidly-constructed and non-dysfunctional human-alien romance in all of Robotech, between fellow musicians and kindred spirits Bowie and Musica. I really like how during this first encounter they try to keep up the alien vibe, with Musica unable to understand Bowie. It leads to some laughable misinterpretations on his part; after two of her people are killed right in front of her, one by Bowie’s own hand, Bowie tries to comfort her and tell her everything’s gonna be alright. You just tricked one of her people into shooting another, then killed that dude yourself, right before this girl’s eyes, and you think she’s going to trust you? Are you stupid? Note how when Dana suggests that Musica and her sisters are clones, all Bowie can say to that is, “Well, I guess she could be, but she was really beautiful!” Meeting her has put him on a kind of high like nothing he’s ever experienced before, the poor kid.

So Louie identifies these spare body parts as lifelike android parts, which in a pinch I guess could be what’s under those Bioroid Terminator armors. Everyone we see walking around the Masters’ ship is identified as a clone, so unless it’s medical limb replacement tech — Louie does namecheck cyborgs when mentioning how lifelike it is — the citizenry isn’t made of the stuff, assuming the 15th have their intel right. I guess even with all the lines Robotech crossed, they couldn’t get away with, “Hey, look, spare clone body parts!” The scene where Louie and the others find them still comes off as creepy thanks to Dana and Bowie’s reactions as well as the eerie ambiance of the room and the detail and gleaming texture of the limbs. If you look in the back there even appear to be skulls there.

I’m getting a bit sick of our heroes already knowing random stuff from “intelligence” the writers pull out of nowhere. Why couldn’t they come to the conclusion that these are all clones while inside the ship, looking out and seeing that everyone’s a twin or triplet? Why did Dana have to state that they already have this intelligence that the aliens are “clones of the original Robotech Masters”?  This adds nothing and undercuts the need for our heroes to be inside the ship. If they can work all this “intelligence” out without sending anyone in, why send our heroes into the lion’s den, where we wind up losing at least three members of the 15th Squadron, and nearly wind up losing Dana, if not for Sean’s quick trigger finger? It’s just infuriatingly narratively sloppy. The double and triple nature of the aliens is all they appear to learn, and according to Dana they already knew something along those lines!

Another Star Wars riff: the Masters toss the 15th into a trash compactor with laser-resistant walls. If I’m remembering this right, in the novelization someone even makes a crack about having seen this movie before.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: First appearance of Musica, Mistress of the Cosmic Harp, and her sisters Allegra and Octavia. This is also the first time we’ve seen the Robotech Masters since “Dana’s Story.” On top of that, it’s the first time any of the “generic” 15th Squadron tankers are named: Simon, Jordan, Road, and Cranston. Unfortunately for them, the first three are all captured or killed by the episode’s end …

DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL: The ricochet in the trash compactor that put all of her men at risk earns her a two during this otherwise fairly sober mission into the unknown.

DOES BOWIE SULK? Far from it; meeting Musica puts him on an emotional high he never quite recovers from during this episode.

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2 thoughts on “Robotech, In Brief: The Trap

  1. This is the episode for me where Masters turns the corner and really starts to grab me, although I really liked your observations about how the characterization really started growing in the previous episode.

  2. This is one of the few Masters episodes that I remember clearly from back when I first watched Robotech as a kid – probably due to all the creepy imagery. Its also one of my favorites too :)

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