Robotech, In Brief: Star Dust

“I know where to get all the information we need. That’s right, I’ve got a way to get it straight from the GMP!”

“You and what army!”

“But ma’am, those files are top secret!”

“C’mon, give me a little credit. One of their top agents is working for me — without his knowing it, of course!”

WHAT HAPPENS: Within the downed flagship of the Robotech Masters, the Masters probe the mind of one of the captured humans. They see no knowledge of Protoculture. However, the Masters find the humans worrisome, and decide it is time to plant a spy. Zor Prime is to become their eyes and ears among the humans, equipped with a neurosensor that will ensure control of him. Meanwhile, Commander Leonard observes the destruction of the captured Bioroid pilot’s body, to Dana’s horror. She and Bowie go out that night to a piano bar where Bowie introduces her to singer George Sullivan. As George puts the moves on Dana, the Masters order one among their fleet to Earth to rescue the flagship. When Dana slips backstage to see George again, she is horrified to see him typing away at a computer marked with a GMP insignia. Later, three TASC shuttles go up to attack the approaching enemy ship. With the TASC’s attack having little effect, the 15th Squadron is mobilized that morning. Dana breaks off and meets George on a cliff overlooking Monument City. She tells him she knows he’s with the GMP. George explains that his kid sister Marlene was killed during a Bioroid attack. Since he deserted his post, the GMP took him away; he’s been working for them ever since. Dana invites him aboard her Hovertank to put his data to use. The 15th battles the flagship’s Bioroid defenders as Dana arrives. George works out that the ship’s weak spot will be exposed when the two ships attempt to link up, and sends targeting data to Dana’s battle computer. Dana takes a sharp turn avoiding a Bioroid and George flies from his seat, landing on the Bioroid’s skysled. As the enemy ship descends, the Bioroid holding George knocks Marie Crystal’s Logan out of the sky; Sean switches to Battloid and catches her. Meanwhile, the skysled’s engine explodes, taking George and the Bioroid with it. Zor’s Red Bioroid knocks Angelo’s Hovertank over; he watches as the flagship shoots Zor down. The downed flagship rises up to meet its rescuer, and the coupling points deploy. Dana approaches and, as cables join the two ships, fires her Gladiator’s main cannon to no avail. The two ships rise into the sky.

THOUGHTS: This was my first post-original-airing episode of Robotech Masters in the mid-1990s, and as such watching it again delivers unto me the warm fuzzies. I know another friend’s very first episode of Robotech was a later Masters episode; I wonder how many dyed-in-the-wool Masters fans came in mid-series. Most of them? All of them? Several of those early episodes are really quite painful, and in fact the one immediately prior to this one gave me a splitting headache. Starting with this and the next two, though, made me a fan for life.

I think it’s interesting how the Masters, after watching the memories of the young man they probed, dismiss the notion that this species is Zentraedi. Have they lost track of so many Zentraedi over the millenia that they figured Earth could easily have been some lost Zentraedi colony? I also think it’s funny that capturing a human leads them to pooh-pooh the notion that the humans are Zentraedi, while Supreme Commander Leonard jumps to that conclusion (at least publicly) after the humans capture one of the Masters’ people.

It’s weird how once the notion of a spy is broached one of the Masters immediately decides it will be Zor Prime. “The clone so resembles him that they will take him in as one of their own,” another adds. What this suggests to me is that unlike the pale clone society that lives in the Masters’ flagships, Zor Prime is a proper full-on duplicate of Zor, a reproduction of a member of their society from the days before they were all white-faced, weird-voiced triumvirates — when they themselves were more human-looking. In the past I’ve pondered why the Masters sent in so valuable a resource as a spy. I think the implication here is that he’s the only one of their party who could pass for human, so it’s a risk they’ll have to take.

It says a lot about how ticked Dana is at the high command about this whole “the enemy are micronized Zentraedi androids with robot souls that are remote controlled” thing that she’s not even trying to pass off her trip with Bowie into town as a patrol or training mission or anything. She’s just getting hammered and letting Bowie play the piano, it’s as simple as that.

I have to say, while most of the acting in Robotech still holds up for me, even some of the stranger and more stilted performances, the fellow doing George Sullivan is laughably bad, especially at the outset when he’s talking about his “romantic image.” It’s a shame he’s such a poorly-acted cipher; his story is supposed to be the emotional core of the episode. Unfortunately, his story is so banal that it barely works in the original Japanese episode.

The background music behind Dana and Bowie talking about George, right before Dana learns the awful truth, is a strange piece that doesn’t appear on any of the soundtracks. The music as Dana showers and dismisses George’s “Marlene” as some old rock singer girlfriend with too much makeup sounds like it’s the same cue.

This episode is a major turning point; the Masters’ ship lifts off, Zor Prime is downed, and Sean rescues Marie. Yet, it feels so low-key. The animation and art are good, but the direction, by and large, is nothing to write home about. On top of that, these are overshadowed by George’s story, a stock plot about a badly acted one-off character. Still, some intriguing moves by the Robotech Masters and charming banter from the 15th Squadron shine through, and the battle sequence has a few cool bits that would look even cooler if you were joining the series already in progress, as I was that first time. It’s alright, good enough that I bit; the next two would then reel me in.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: This is the first episode where the Masters’ voices sound as they will for the rest of the series, with the red and yellow-collared Masters sounding almost the same and the green-collared Master having a gruffer voice.

DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL: An even six. She doesn’t raise much hell, but she barges in on the destruction of the Bioroid pilot’s body, yells at the Supreme Commander, and snaps at Col. Fredericks. Then she totally skips out on her patrol to drink a whole bottle of booze and let Bowie do his thing. Not setting a good example at all.

DOES BOWIE SULK? A little bit, when Dana runs off to say goodnight to George, but overall he seems in fair spirits. After all, he got to play the piano. That’s all he really wants out of life, isn’t it?


4 thoughts on “Robotech, In Brief: Star Dust

  1. Good point about Zor being able to pass for human because he isn’t pale or having a weird voice, I never thought of that. As to why they’d let him go, I got the impression that the Ropbotech Masters considered him a failure. Once Zor Prime was unable to recreate his discovery of Protoculture he was essentially useless to them, so rather than waste the resources they spent on him (since their society was in decline, after all) they made him a Bioroid pilot. After all, sending him into combat over and over is just as much a risk as making him a spy.

  2. I never really thought about it, but now that you bring it up, a later Masters episode (when they are captured inside the flagship) was also my first post-original-airing episode.

  3. Fer: It’s a French DVD cover, and actually they’re all quite good, if a bit early-2000’s-desktop-Photoshop-job. They use a lot of great art that for whatever reason ADV didn’t have access to, or rights to, or whatever. I used one of the Macross Saga ones for — what was it, “Private Time?” I really wanted to use the Palladium Books VHS cover for this episode, though, as that was the tape I had. I spent so many nights looking for a scan, but while I tracked down most of them, I couldn’t find all of them. Very, very irritating.

    I’m not sure what I’ve thought and haven’t thought before as regards Robotech anymore. I could be having some of these ideas for the first time, or I could be having them AGAIN for the first time. That’s the problem when you’ve spent almost every day for a decade-plus thinking about Robotech. But it just occurred to me listening to the dialog word-for-word that, hang on, he’s making a point that Zor Prime so resembles the original Zor that the humans will take him in. That’s a weird point, and it says a few things about the development of the Masters’ society — and I almost mentioned it in the post, but this could in some way point back to the discussions that Exedore and Gloval had about a common ancestry between humans and the Zentraedi. Having studied the humans now, the Masters seem to get how similar they are, even as they scoff at humans’ biological development. They wondered if the humans were Zentraedi — clearly they saw something familiar there. Certainly an avenue to ponder.

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