Robotech, In Brief: A New Recruit

“You may know, Lieutenant, we have a problem with Zor. He’s here, but he’s not here. His memory’s completely wiped out, and we badly need to debrief him.”

“But sir, debrief him right here? Now?”

“No, not now! What’s the matter with you? Just listen to me a moment, Lieutenant. Zor’s now under your personal direction.”

WHAT HAPPENS: Dana Sterling’s exercise regimen is interrupted by a call from headquarters. There, she is told that Zor is under her personal direction. As a half-Zentraedi herself, she is thought to be the ideal person to acclimate this alien personality to a human military environment. She cheerfully accepts the assignment. Shortly, she introduces Zor to the 15th Squadron. They’re filled with mistrust and anger, save Louie, who has to be shooed away from the 15th’s newest recruit. Zor is put through his paces in a firing range simulator and gets a perfect score. This raises the ire of Eddie, a junior member of the 15th. Later, Sean’s carrying a bouquet for Marie Crystal, who’s getting out of the hospital. Dana, dressed for an afternoon out, nearly runs him down. She tells him it’s for a “debriefing session” with Zor, which turns out to be a day at the amusement park. Dana drags him onto the “space tunnel” ride. The tunnel’s repeating patterns send him into a flashback. When Dana’s harness snaps open, he sees Musica in her stead. He quickly recovers and pulls Dana back into the ride. The following day, as Dana searches for him he’s with Nova looking over slides depicting the arsenal of the Robotech Masters. As he lingers on an image of the ruins of the SDF-1, a shadowy figure appears and he hears the words: “Earth is the final source of Protoculture, the basis of our power, the lifeblood of our existence. Our foremost goal is to control this life force by conquering Earth.” With that, Zor passes out. He is returned to his room and sedated with these words on his lips. Meanwhile, the Masters observe all that Zor has seen and are not impressed. However, they believe that his exposure to this half-Zentraedi is causing his memories to return. To prevent the humans from learning more from him they decide to control him directly. Commander Leonard believes the best course of action based on Zor’s memories is an immediate attack; Emerson, however, thinks that they could open negotiations with the Masters. Leonard and his staff shoot the idea down and prepare for another attack. Meanwhile, Dana tries to chase Zor down, but he won’t talk to her. When he returns to the barracks Louie greets him with a model of his Bioroid, but Zor claims he doesn’t remember it. Eddie then confronts him; he believes Zor is lying and remembers everything, including the death of Eddie’s brother. Zor apologizes, but Eddie decks him. He winds up for another punch, but Angelo steps in the way and takes the blow. Eddie flees, crying. Zor decides that he doesn’t want his memory back. Sitting in the exercise room of the barracks, he angrily tells Dana as much. This upsets her, and in frustration she kicks a free-standing mirror. It collapses and shatters; as Zor stares into the falling shards, he remembers running through a tunnel, avoiding Bioroid Terminators, and eventually arriving in Musica’s chamber. As the Terminators arrive, Zor holds Musica captive. He shoves her aside and they begin to fire. As he watches her fall, he returns to the here and now; he tells Dana what he saw and insists that he’s some sort of clone or android, that he killed Eddie’s brother. He punches the wall-mounted mirror before him, smashing it until he bleeds. Zor calms down as Dana tends to his bleeding hand and he apologizes for what he’s said. Seeking answers, he approaches General Emerson’s office, but as he overhears Rochelle telling Emerson how reckless another attack will be, he listens in on the conversation, providing the Robotech Masters with the information they need.

THOUGHTS: A solid episode, and this is what I meant when I was talking about the actor playing George Sullivan being not up to snuff. George was wooden and cheesy in a way that felt unreal. Paul St. Peter’s performance as Zor Prime, though, is strange and awkward, but I think it works for the character. He’s a somewhat confused and disoriented alien, but he has these strange flashes of humanity, as St. Peter catches Zor’s slightly smug expression and delivers the lines accordingly, like when Dana tells him she’s in love and retorts, “That word has no real meaning for me.” I think Zor sort of gets it and is trying to dodge Dana’s budding infatuation. He’s weirdly mannered and a bit stiff, but still somehow engaging.

The shadow that appears when Zor begins remembering the words and thoughts of the Robotech Masters appears to be that of the so-called “inorganic sentry” that appeared in “Dana’s Story;” obviously we see the same shadows of the Robotech Masters during their observation of all Zor has seen, since the footage comes from this episode. But perhaps as Zor looks at the three mounds he is being warned by that same sentry. I mean, honestly, if such a thing exists, who would have set it up? Zor himself, I’d assume. Perhaps it is resonating with Zor and unlocking his memory as a warning, in an attempt to help him protect his precious Protoculture Factory from his corrupt descendants. It makes a kind of sense, wouldn’t you say?

Speaking of things making or not making sense, the decision to give Zor a place among the 15th Squadron only makes sense if you buy the idea that the military actually believes Zor is human; given all the tests they’ve run on him, they must’ve come back with that very conclusion. You’d also think Leonard would be having fits about Zor joining the 15th Squadron, but he’d already signed off on Emerson doing whatever he saw fit with Zor; I guess all Leonard cares about is results, and he does get those to some extent thanks to Zor’s fevered mumblings. I do like that the 15th Squadron, Dana and Louie aside, doesn’t like him or trust him at this point. That much is totally realistic. Dana giving him the benefit of the doubt sort of works, too, given their previous interaction, her weird infatuation with him earlier, and her obvious attraction to him.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: It’s hard to tell with all the yellow-shirted 15th Squadron tankers, but if this isn’t Eddie’s first appearance, it’s the first time he’s had a speaking role.

DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL: I’d call it a three; somehow I doubt a day out at the amusement park giving Zor goo-goo eyes is what General Emerson had in mind when he turned Zor over to her for debriefing.

DOES BOWIE SULK? A bit. Zor’s been with them not one or two days and already Bowie’s complaining about Dana and Louie giving the new guy so much attention.