Robotech, In Brief: Dana In Wonderland

“Please do not feel badly. You are freedom, and my life means nothing.”

WHAT HAPPENS:

Within the Robotech Masters’ flagship, Zor Prime holds Dana Sterling and Angelo Dante at gunpoint. However, he can’t keep his Bioroid’s aim steady. Dana tries to reason with him. His blaster charges, and Angelo tackles Dana to get her out of the way. The shot goes wild. Angelo leaps to his mecha and returns fire. The Bioroid tackles Angelo’s Hovertank, knocking down the wall behind them, and flees. With Zor gone, Dana and Angelo rendezvous with the rest of the 15th to resume the mission. Dana suggests they locate the bridge and storm it. Louie figures it should be towards the center of the ship. The 15th Squadron explores the ship on foot, coming across a population center. Sean takes the lead as they try and mingle with the crowd. Guards approach and Bowie, Louie, and Dana duck down a corridor. Angelo takes a seat while Sean is distracted by a female triumvirate. Based on his attempts at flirting they decide that he’s damaged and inspect him. They begin to undress him and further inspection proves he’s ticklish; he can’t stop laughing. Dana intervenes and the clones call for guards. The 15th splits up. Sean and Angelo lead the guards down a straightaway while Dana, Bowie, and Louie take the low road and lose their pursuers. Sean and Angelo duck down an alleyway and lay low as the guards fan out. They circle around and catch the guards from behind; Angelo knocks one out, and the guard’s gun lands right in Sean’s hands, allowing Sean to blast the rest of their attackers. Meanwhile, Musica’s sisters tell her that alien soldiers have invaded the ship. Despite their protests, she leaves to seek them out. Elsewhere, Dana enters a chamber filled with beds. She lays down on one and, as she shuts her eyes, it activates, surrounding her with a strange light. Bowie and Louie find her and shut it off, waking her. They hear someone coming and duck under the beds. It’s the girls from before. The triumvirate disrobes and leaves to “sanitize” themselves. When they’ve gone, Dana and the others pull on the discarded robes and move on. With guards on their tail, they duck into a sort of lounge. They are each served a blue liquid and told to drink it and proceed to the bio-scan chamber. They do so and find themselves in capsules designed to detect disorders of mind and body. The Masters’ equipment finds that their minds are dangerously unstable. They are brought to a room filled with conversion stabilizer units, designed to harmonize the mind. The three are given another round of blue drinks and told to lay down on the stabilizers. The technician serving them calls in to report the unusual scan readings and to alert her superiors that one of the reprocessed clones is behaving strangely. Indeed, while she told Dana and the others that this clone was now in harmony, he’s mindlessly lurching about like a zombie. Dana tries to throw her blue drink at him, but misses and hits a control panel; suddenly, all the stabilization chambers are open and the clones are staggering out. The technician alerts the guards. Dana, Bowie, and Louie make a break for it, using the clones as cover. They stumble across a transport; Dana hops in and starts it up. Louie and Bowie are forced to take cover from gunfire as Dana speeds away. Another transport gives pursuit, and Dana quickly discovers that she can’t control her vehicle. It swings upside down and she falls out onto a giant slide; her transport crashes as she bursts through a glass covering and bounces off a sleeping clone. He awakens and asks her if she’s alright. She asks where they are. He explains that this is the district interim center for purging and replacement. Those who are found guilty of individual thought are brought here, their consciousnesses placed in temporary bodies while they operate holographic trainers in hopes of restabilizing. Her new friend’s rehabilitation isn’t going so well, as he still has individual thoughts. Dana watches a clone collapse during treatment and tries to help her up. The others tell her it is forbidden, which ticks Dana off. She attacks a console and is ordered by staff to come with them for full body replacement. Dana grabs her friend by the arm and runs. Meanwhile, Sean and Angelo, disguised as guards, find their transport is being summoned to the main control center. That sounds like the bridge to them, so they hop in and let it go. As the Masters double their guards to try and locate the 15th, Musica continues her own search. Bowie and Louie, tooling around in a hovervan, find her first. Bowie jams on the brakes and runs to her side. They find a spot in a field of otherworldly plants to sit, remarking to one another how nothing else matters now that they’re together. Unfortunately, Karno and a team of guards finds them. He orders Musica to step away, but instead she steps in front of Bowie. Louie runs the hovervan at the guards and tells Bowie to run, but he doesn’t get far before he’s captured. Louie ditches the van and finds himself in front of what appears to be the nerve center of the ship, a mass of living Protoculture. He fires his rifle at it, but the shot ricochets and knocks the gun out of his hand. Tendrils extend from the living Protoculture, bind him, and then send a shock through his body. Dana and her friend enter a room of bodies hooked up to machines and contained within pods. She assumes they’re dead, but her friend explains that these are the true bodies of those found to be unbalanced, left in suspended animation. Guards charge in and begin firing, killing her friend’s original body. Dana charges at the guards, felling them with a flurry of kicks and chops. They run into a sort of nursery and hide behind one of the cradle pods. The clone hands her a transmitter which will provide her the location of the main control center. As Dana tries to sneak away, he stands up to surrender to the guards. When they catch sight of her they begin firing. One of the guards has her in his sights and fires, but her clone friend leaps in the way, taking the shot. He dies in her arms and she, too, is captured. Finally, Sean and Angelo find themselves cornered in the main control center, under heavy fire. They turn back behind their cover only to find themselves face to face with Karno and another legion of guards. They soon join the rest of the squadron in captivity.

Dana Sterling w/ Tirolian clone original production cel with background, from my personal animation art collection.

Dana Sterling w/ Tirolian clone original production cel with background, from my personal animation art collection.

THOUGHTS:

This is such a strange episode. Most of it features Dana witnessing firsthand what happens when one of the members of the Robotech Masters’ clone population steps out of line. Scans, strange blue drinks, separation from the body, computerized training exercises — extreme control procedures designed to maintain order and, I’d go so far to say, to get the point across that every element of their entire society is the property of the Robotech Masters, including your mind and body. We also get to see how things seem to be breaking down just as the Clonemasters warned in “Clone Chamber,” as the conversion stabilizers clearly aren’t working and the holographic training doesn’t seem to be working out for the clones stripped of their original bodies, either. Is it the drain on the Protoculture reserves, the presence of the 15th Squadron, or maybe a bit of both?

I wonder, are the temporary bodies constructed of the lifelike android parts we saw the last time the 15th Squadron was aboard one of the Masters’ ships, back in “The Trap”? Is that what those were for? That would be an interesting connection, and would explain what makes these bodies different from their original bodies in a world where your original body is a clone of someone else to begin with.

It’s surprising, given the nature of their last actual encounter in “The Trap,” that the scene between Bowie and Musica works so well, but I’d give the credit for that to all the scenes of longing, all the sequences of the two of them building each other up in their minds, that we’ve had in-between. Musica was scared of Bowie at first but the more she thought of him and his attempt to play her Cosmic Harp, the more intrigued she became. My only question is, when did she learn English? The guards speaking English, that makes sense; the Bioroid Terminators were barking commands at the 15th last time. But the civilians, including Musica, understanding the 15th Squadron doesn’t make a whole lot of sense based on Bowie and Musica’s original encounter in “The Trap.” There’d be no reason for the Masters to pass this information on to the civilian populous. Likewise, I see no reason for the 15th Squadron to know the Masters’ language — I doubt the Southern Cross has deciphered the language, especially with Leonard in charge, and even if they have, there’s no way those five would have achieved anything approaching fluency.

I don’t even know where to begin regarding the Living Protoculture. Louie seems convinced it’s part of the computer system, and he’s a sharp enough guy that I don’t think we have any reason to think otherwise. Does it feed additional power into the computer — it’s supposed to be Protoculture, which we know as a power source — or is it an organic component to the computer, along the lines of the Invid’s brain computers?

I love how much is packed into this episode. There’s the alien culture stuff, weird bits of science, exciting chases, and a few good chuckles here and there courtesy of Sean and Angelo. (I love how Sean can’t knock down the guard with a metal rod, but one good punch from Angelo takes care of him.) And, as with most of the second generation, it raises all these questions and clears up so few that we can still be talking about this stuff a quarter century later without any definitive answers. I’m sure that bugs somebody out there, but I’m having fun with it, so that’s just too bad!

FIRSTS OF NOTE:

While it’s the 15th’s second foray into the culture of the Robotech Masters, it’s their first look at the workings of the civilian side of their civilization, though primarily they’re given some insight into some of the structures designed to maintain control of the civilian population.

DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL:

The Robotech Masters would give her a ten; I might give her a two, or maybe a three, if only because her moral outrage at the workings of the Masters’ civilization got her totally sidetracked from the mission at hand. Kudos, though, for not getting totally preoccupied with losing Zor. Given how much she fixated on him back in Monument City I’m a little surprised.

DOES BOWIE SULK?

Bowie got reunited, albeit briefly, with the girl of his dreams. What do YOU think? Then, once he was captured there was no time for sulking. Maybe next episode.

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