Robotech, In Brief: Triumvirate

“Madness. Utter madness.

WHAT HAPPENS: Commander Leonard holds a major briefing for the local elements of the Southern Cross, offering the broad strokes of their upcoming attack on the Masters’ flagships, including the deployment of the new Auto Gyro Assault Choppers (AGACs). Afterwards, Marie Crystal lords it over Dana that she’ll be part of the first wave. Then Nova Satori tells Dana that the professionals will be taking over the effort to unlock Zor’s memories. Dana refuses to let go of him and storms back to the barracks. While the members of the 15th Squadron are frustrated to be held in reserve again, Sean and Louie admit that a frontal assault seems ill advised. Dana calls Zor up to her room, where she’s admiring herself in a three-way mirror. When Zor sees the mirror he recalls the importance of the triumvirate, the “three who act as one,” to the Masters. As the AGACs are loaded onto the TASC cruisers, Sean sees Marie off; he wishes her luck with such sincerity that she almost believes he means it. Meanwhile, Zor watches the fleet, relaying the visual to the Robotech Masters. The signal is interrupted when Angelo demands to know what in the blazes he’s doing. Dana tells Angelo she gave Zor free reign to go where he likes, as you never can tell what could trigger his memory. They watch the fleet lift off. The fleet rains fire on the Masters’ flagship to no effect. It returns fire and destroys one of the TASC ships with a single shot. As the Masters continue to tear the fleet apart, Zor and Dana take a walk through a grassy field just outside Monument City. She tells Zor how this brings back memories of home. Zor laments that he has no memories of home, only a hazy memory of an attack on a military base. Dana then has an idea; she takes off on her Hovercycle, and Zor and Bowie follow behind. Nordoff radios Leonard and tells him that a third of the fleet has been wiped out; he suggests retreat. Leonard asks why the AGACs haven’t been deployed. Nordoff doubts they’ll make a difference, but Leonard orders them deployed. Marie leads the choppers against the Masters’ Bioroid transports. Dana leads Zor and Bowie to the three mounds that mark the site of the final battle between the SDF-1 and the Zentraedi. The site gives Zor a strange feeling. He leads Bowie and Dana into an opening in one of the mounds. They pass through tunnels and corridors, following a blue light, until they arrive in a large cavernous chamber filled with strange plants. Zor observes that the flowers on these plants grow in threes. He senses that the plants are calling out to something. Dana suggests bringing the Supreme Commander to show this all to him, but Bowie assures her that he’d think they’re all nuts. In space, Marie blasts her way into one of the transports and, exploring with her Battloid, sees the enemy working in groups of three. She gives Nordoff the news, then blasts her way out and retreats, as ordered. Back at headquarters, Dana calls Gen. Emerson to tell him about their visit to the SDF-1, but he tells her that Marie has confirmed Zor’s recollection about the enemy working in groups of three. He assures her that Marie is safe, and what’s left of the fleet is retreating to the moon. When Leonard is told that the fleet has fallen back, he orders the second assault wave mobilized and ordered to rendezvous with the remains of the first.

Original cover art to the comic book adaptation of "Triumvirate" by Neil D. Vokes.

Original cover art to the comic book adaptation of "Triumvirate" by Neil D. Vokes (pencils) & Rich Rankin (inks).

THOUGHTS: Quick, during Supreme Commander Leonard’s big speech, look at the dude to Marie Crystal’s right in the background. That’s totally Jonathan Wolff standing there, right? Or am I just imagining things? (Hey, he could have been leading one of the fighter wings aboard Carpenter’s ship. Nothing says that EVERYONE on that ship had been there all fifteen years.)

Dana mentions leaving her home behind, and when Zor presses her about a boyfriend, she mentions a younger brother. Who is this mysterious Sterling son? Where was he at when Mom and Dad took off to the stars and beyond in 2022? I suppose “home” for Dana would be wherever her parents were stationed after the destruction of New Macross City and before they left with the SDF-3, perhaps somewhere in the wilderness of South America per The Malcontent Uprisings — certainly that would track with their surroundings when she brings it up. The only “tidy” explanation I’ve ever come up with for the younger brother is that he was born and died between The Macross Saga and The Sentinels, and his death not only drove Max and Miriya’s decision to leave Dana behind (keeping her as safe as possible), but may have even influenced their decision to join the SDF-3 (a change of scenery, far from painful memories). Mind you, this doesn’t jibe at all with Miriya’s characterization in Sentinels, but then, really, what does?

“It does seem familiar, but it all looks so different,” Zor says as he, Bowie, and Dana sit in the shadow of the three mounds. Somehow, deep inside, he knows what it is, doesn’t he? That’s why he takes the lead, and leads Dana and Bowie the way he does — he knows the way, and buried beneath the layers of nonsense the Masters have filled his head with, he needs to see for himself what’s happened to the Protoculture Factory. I wonder if he even knows more than what he’s letting on; he tells Dana point-blank that the Flowers of Life we see here are a mutation, that they’re feeding off a “tremendous power source,” and calling out to someone. The Flower of Life is supposed to be the primary catalyst in the production of Protoculture, but these Flowers are themselves feeding off that power. That is the obvious mutation at this stage; left to sit dormant these past fifteen years, the Flowers have burst from their containment and have adapted to survive off of the very power they’ve helped to create. And it seems that, having been “enslaved” by the Robotech Masters for so long, the Flower of Life is using that power to call out across the cosmos to the race with which they once existed in perfect symbiosis, the Invid.

Isn’t it absurd that as Dana drags Zor around trying to unlock the secrets of his memories, and Marie leads a force of men piloting transforming helicopters in space, Nova is making coffee for the military brass? Doesn’t she have some vital Military Police work to be doing? Or is she doing just that already, acting as Colonel Fredericks’s eyes at high command? Hmm.

An interesting episode overall, and the first real sign of Leonard’s stubborn defiance of reality; while Zor’s obserations are certainly undermining his efforts, sending up a second wave to try and do exactly what the first wave failed to do with exactly the same tactics is, as Emerson thinks to himself at the episode’s outset, utter madness. The space battles are dynamically rendered, and seeing Marie’s AGAC stomping around the enemy carrier brings to mind Rick Hunter’s brief look inside a Zentraedi ship in “Blitzkrieg” in a good way; mind you, she gets more out of her look around an enemy ship than he did. But most of all, I really dig how it lays the track towards the endgame of the second generation by bringing Zor to the ruins of his fallen battle fortress. It’s a shame it’s so understated, but the important points are still made: something has gone very wrong, and the clock is ticking.

FIRSTS OF NOTE: We’re given our first look inside the ruins of the SDF-1 and are witness to the first deployment of the final production model AGACs. This also marks the first appearance of the pink petals and twitching vines of the Flower of Life, the key to the secrets of Protoculture.

DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL: A seven, with bonus points for being especially bratty. She’s childishly possessive of Zor, to the point that she reams out her men for not keeping their eyes on him at all times. She even screams at Bowie before anyone’s had a chance to tell her what’s going on. Then, of course, she takes Zor to the off-limits sector where what’s left of the SDF-1 is buried. Dana knows full well that she’s in the wrong; that’s the first thing she tells Emerson, before he’s had a chance to say word one. (To which Nova says, “What else is new?”)

DOES BOWIE SULK? Nope, he seems pretty chipper today.

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One thought on “Robotech, In Brief: Triumvirate

  1. When I saw Carl Macek at a con in ’86, he said that the “younger brother” line was referring to Bowie, and the scenes of them always being together in the Sentinels seem to bear that out. Still, Zor knows who Bowie is, so why not simply say “with Bowie” to him? IMO, it’s probably because that was the original Southern Cross line, and they just let it through without much thought to the implications it created.

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