Robotech, In Brief: Deja Vu

“Well, I don’t know what you’ve got in mind there, Lieutenant, but I say let’s not stick our noses where they don’t belong.”

“And after all, it’s highly unlikely that you’d be able to get much out of him. He’s probably been programmed against divulging anything in the way of information.”

“I’ve got a feeling that’s the case. Anyway, I’ll never be able to sleep at night ’til I get a chance to see him myself.”

“Okay, if it means that much to you, let’s do it. But HOW do we do it?”

WHAT HAPPENS: As their flagships drift through the debris cloud of Expeditionary Force fighters, the Robotech Masters and their Robotech Elders discuss locating the Protoculture using Zor Prime as their eyes and ears. On the planet below, in the laboratory of Dr. Miles Cochrane, Nova Satori suggests to Gen. Emerson that moving Zor Prime to a more human environment might prove beneficial in their efforts to get information out of him. Meanwhile, Sean Phillips tries to visit Marie Crystal in the hospital, but she slaps him, screams at him, and shoos him out of her room. Sean bars Dana from entering lest she get a similar treatment, and as the two of them look around they notice heightened security. He mentions that the whole ninth floor has been blocked off. There, Nova asks Zor the last thing he remembers. He recalls being a soldier on a military base, and after that he remembers meeting Nova. In-between, though, he remembers fire and explosions and when he thinks too hard about it he gets a tremendous headache. Later that night, Dana dreams of losing to Zor’s red Bioroid. She runs to the simulator for a rematch and totally wastes his holographic counterpart. Later, in the barracks commons area, Sean tells Dana he’s found out who’s on the ninth floor of the hospital — the captured Bioroid pilot. Dana insists that she has to see him, and she has a plan. With a phony work permit, Angelo and Louie drive a bogus maintenance van into the hospital parking structure. From a phone terminal, Bowie calls Nova away with a story about a meeting with Gen. Emerson. Sean bursts into Marie’s room and, with the help of two members of the 15th dressed as orderlies, whisks her away on a stretcher. Dana enters Marie’s room, opens the window, climbs up the side of the building with some suction pads, and peers through the window above. She is shocked to see Zor Prime. Just then, on cue, Angelo arrives on the ninth floor in a dressing gown. He insists he’s allowed here. The GMP guards try to call to verify this, but Louie cuts off the line. With Angelo keeping the guards busy, Dana confronts Zor, drawing a pistol on him. They fight, and he seizes control of the gun. He has no idea why she wants to kill him, doesn’t seem to remember what a Bioroid is, and when confronted with what he’s done insists that he’s not responsible for his actions. Bowie arrives on the ninth floor in a lab coat and tells Angelo that his wife’s room is on the eighth floor. He leads him back to the elevator and whistles a tune. That’s Dana’s cue to get out, but Zor asks what that music is. He recognizes it — he tells Dana a girl named Musica used to play it. Dana tells Zor to try and remember more, but Nova returns, furious; Dana leaps out the window and makes her escape.

THOUGHTS: This is one of my absolute favorite episodes of the second generation of Robotech, and I have a feeling it’d be top ten material even if I ranked all eighty-five episodes of the series. Even if the mecha action is all dreams and holograms, it’s strikingly staged and directed, but moreover, the 15th’s caper to get Dana in to see Zor Prime is just super-fun. Angelo wandering around in a bathrobe like a crazy man and beating the snot out of GMP guards, Bowie in his oversized lab coat, “Ion guns don’t rupture,” and Dana kicking Zor Prime in the face while wearing that crazy-short skirt. The last five minutes of this episode are just perfect. The short and sweet answer to the question, “Why do you love the 15th Squadron?” is “Deja Vu.” “Star Dust” and “Outsiders” had me intrigued. “Deja Vu” made me a fan of Dana and the boys for life.

The recap and opening narration recasts the ship and fighter group from the SDF-3 Pioneer Mission in “Outsiders” as reinforcements from Space Station Liberty; the narrator even goes so far as to call it “Attack Wing Liberty.” In the original Southern Cross animation the ship was from the planet Liberté, a world closely allied to the planet the original Southern Cross anime is set on, Glorie. It is from that planet that Space Station Liberty gets its name, hence the error. I once had a fellow Robotech fan insist that the narration had to be right and there had to be another, second, ship and attack wing that came in between episodes, especially given that the narration mentions Veritech Fighters, which were not part of Recon-1’s arsenal. Never mind that this wouldn’t be the first time the narrator has called non-transforming fighter jets Veritechs. I’d applaud anyone who could squeeze a good story out of this that didn’t feel utterly derivative of “Outsiders,” but it strikes me as such an obvious error, and if there’s one thing the second generation has entirely too much of, it’s random fights that don’t move the plot along. Let’s admit it’s just a narration flub and move on.

The tone of the Robotech Masters’ discussion of the humans has changed drastically since “Metal Fire.” They’re far more condescending — perhaps a result of their analysis of the human and his memories in “Star Dust” — and speak more openly about destroying mankind in order to seize the Protoculture they need. It is worth noting that the most harsh dismissal of humanity comes from the Robotech Elders, who were not a party to the earlier discussion.

Zor Prime remembers being a soldier on a military base. Was he with the military, or is he just assuming he was a soldier because he remembers being in a military base? He appears in a Southern Cross uniform, but is his mind just drawing in the uniform based on recent memories? Or are these false memories the Masters gave him? He’s also seeing weird arms reaching out for him and himself as a baby. Heaven knows THAT imagery isn’t meant to be taken literally, though given that Zor Prime is a clone the latter imagery makes a kind of sense. As for all this talk of him being a human being, this identity concept could be fed to him via the neurosensor. The Masters want the humans to think Zor Prime is a brainwashed human, so that’s the identity they imprint on him.

The idea of Zor knowing Musica, of him being close to her, is something I’m surprised Team McKinney and the comic writers who followed in their footsteps never ran with. Starting here and running through the rest of this generation there are hints that there’s a connection between the two, but it’s never really properly fleshed out. Did the original Zor know Musica, or her clone-predecessor? Were they close? It’s left a little bit ambiguous, but there’s something there, and I sort of wish someone had tried to fill that in.

Weird to see Dana of all people throwing around the word “alien” like it’s a slur right to Zor’s face. She’s been hanging around Angelo too long. Also weird to see her threatening Zor Prime when she’s the one who spent all of “Metal Fire” trying to urge everyone not to kill the enemy. Clearly all these weird visions of Zor and the Red Bioroid are messing with her head. I’m thinking the death of George Sullivan, despite never being mentioned again, has probably also hardened her a bit and reminded her that this is war.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: First appearance of Zor Prime in the context we’ll know him for most of the rest of the series, a bewildered and angry man suffering from an identity crisis rather than a malevolent Bioroid commander.

DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL: Nine. She brings the entire 15th Squadron into a plot to break into a military hospital and threaten a prisoner of war’s life. This is some serious insubordination.

DOES BOWIE SULK? He whines that “[Musica’s] not one of them, I know it!” He may not be as visibly down, but he’s just as preoccupied and annoying.

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One thought on “Robotech, In Brief: Deja Vu

  1. Unfortunately, this is one of those episodes that always manages to fall through the cracks when I re-watch portions of Robotech – probably because of the lack of mecha and space battles. It’s too bad too since I agree that it is a fun episode. It’s also why I’m glad you mentioned the Zor-Musica angle. Since it had been a while since I last watched this episode, I had forgotten (or maybe not realized at all) how early they established that connection and was quite surprised to see it referenced.

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