Robotech, In Brief: Crisis Point

“I can’t take any more of this. Please, tell me who I am, Musica. Why is my mind so full of nightmares like this?”

“You are Zor Prime, a clone of the first Robotech Master.”

“What? What are you saying?”

“Stop it, Zor! You mustn’t ask me for any more! They’ll deprogram you if they think you know too much!”



WHAT HAPPENS:

Prisoners of the Robotech Masters, the 15th Squadron argue about Zor Prime. Angelo chides Dana for trusting him, and Sean teases her about her obvious crush on the enigmatic alien. The Robotech Masters watch their foes with fascination. One suggests that the humans should be reprocessed into clones, while another believes destroying them would be more efficient. As the Clonemasters offer that Zor should be deprogrammed first, Clone Control sends out a bulletin that he has gone missing. Elsewhere, Musica mournfully plays her Cosmic Harp. Her sisters try to lift her spirits by joining her, but it doesn’t help. She wonders what things were like before the triumvirates. They tell her to cast such thoughts from her mind. Octavia hears voices outside and discovers from a guard that Zor Prime is missing, and that the fate of the humans rests on what is discovered in his memories. Upon hearing this, Musica flees. Shortly, Zor Prime wanders the streets of the ship’s population center. He sees Monument City around him. A hovercraft nearly runs him down, but Musica finds him and drags him into an alleyway. He comes to his senses and tells Musica of the city he saw. She suggests that it was the Protoculture site, which he visited with Dana and Bowie. At the sound of those names Zor has flashbacks to the 15th Squadron and the visions he had at the amusement park. Overwhelmed by the memories, he demands to know who he is. Musica tells him that he is Zor Prime, a clone of the first Robotech Master. Just then, an energy blast knocks him out. The Clonemasters have found him. Karno seizes Zor to prepare him for deprogramming, after which he and the humans will be destroyed. Musica asks Karno to stop, but he reminds her that she rejected him; he will not refuse his orders for her. Musica’s sisters try to comfort her, but as Allegra touches her shoulder Musica slaps her hand away. All three are stunned by the action, and Musica flees again. Guards arrive at the 15th Squadron’s cell to take them to their execution. As the 15th are led away, Musica finds a transport, starts it up, and leaps out. It knocks down two of the guards, and the third is so stunned that Sean easily fells him with a two-handed blow. Shortly, the 15th Squadron plus Musica, armed with the guards’ weapons, arrive at the nerve center of the flagship. Musica identifies the controls for the ship’s barrier, which needs to be taken down for them to escape. Angelo suggests tossing a few grenades and destroying the ship, but Musica will not allow it. Bowie adds that they need to find Zor. Angelo would rather start blasting, but Dana overrules him. They arrive at the deprogramming chamber where Zor’s memory matrix is being restored. Sean wonders why they’re putting everything back in his head if they’re just going to remove it again; Louie has no idea, but points out a series of gauges on the computer bank. Once all three are full, they begin firing on the computer bank. The 15th Squadron leaps down from the observation deck and trains their weapons on the Clonemasters. As Angelo and Louie free Zor, a Clonemaster punches a button on his gauntlet, revealing more guards. The 15th take them down. Musica tries to explain herself to Karno, but all he can see is that she is a traitor. She and the 15th flee on a hover-transport with Zor in tow. As Zor comes to, Bioroids swoop down for an attack. Angelo tries to dodge them, but crashes the transport and scatters the group at the foot of the ship’s nerve center. Quickly, they hide as skysleds touch down and the Bioroids search for their prey on foot. As his memories begin to resurface, Zor asks Musica why he was sent to Earth. She explains that he was the Masters’ spy. Just then, a battle alert sounds. General Emerson is leading his fleet against the flagships of the Robotech Masters. Dana orders her men to show the Bioroids what the 15th is made of. As his friends pit their blaster rifles against enemy mecha, Zor mulls over the information Musica gave him. As he walks away, Musica decides to take down the barrier. As she races up the spiral staircase, a blast from a Bioroid strikes its central column, knocking her back; Bowie rushes to her side and she tells him how to take the barrier down. He pulls the lever as Dana takes out the last of the Bioroids. The 15th’s escape is blocked by another wave of Bioroids. Just when things look hopeless, a blast comes from behind, disarming one of the Bioroids; Zor has arrived in his Red Bioroid. He leaps from his skysled and sends it crashing into the triumvirate, destroying them. Zor tells the 15th to go on, that he’ll catch up. They retrieve their Hovertanks, but Angelo wonders how they’ll make it out into space. They find a potential solution in a scrapyard pile of old skysleds. Dana asks Louie how long it’d take him to rig ’em up so they’ll fly. Outside, the Tristar is taking a pounding; Emerson informs all AGACs that they will disengage in five minutes. As the junked skysleds carry the 15th Squadron’s Battloids into space, Zor fells the last of his Invid Fighter foes. “I betrayed my friends,” he tells himself as he locks onto the flagship’s nerve center, “and now the only way to redeem myself is by betraying my people! Everything I touch turns to ashes! So be it! Goodbye, Dana.” He fires his blaster, setting off a chain reaction that tears the flagship apart. As the 15th mourn their comrade, a pair of mecha atop a single skysled escape from the flames: it’s Zor’s Bioroid and Hovertank. Aboard the Tristar, Emerson is informed that the five minute limit is up. He gives the order to pull back, but is then told of six enemy hovercraft incoming carrying a squadron of Hovertanks. The 15th are coming home. Meanwhile, aboard a cruiser escaping from the ruins of the Masters’ flagship, Allegra and Octavia whisper their lost sister’s name. As the flagship finally gives up the ghost, Musica offers her sisters a final farewell.

THOUGHTS:

A jam packed episode full of great moments as well as bits that don’t make a whole lot of sense. We’ll start with the bits that don’t make a whole lot of sense; mostly it’s that old standby of the second generation, people knowing things that they have no place knowing.

As the episode opens, the 15th Squadron acts like they all know Zor was a spy; maybe they’re inferring this based on his betrayal, but they act like they know for sure despite nobody having told them on-camera. Likewise, while it’s clear that Musica has some sort of high standing among the Robotech Masters’ civilization, she knows an awful lot about things that don’t seem to concern her, such as the fact that Zor is a clone of the original Zor, and that he has the neurosensor in his brain that transmitted all he heard and saw to the Robotech Masters. On top of that, how does she know that Zor went with Bowie and Dana to the remains of Zor’s battle fortress? The Masters were tracking his every move; perhaps they knew, but even still, why would Musica know this?

I find it interesting that one of the options the Masters consider for dealing with the 15th Squadron is converting them into clones when there’s little evidence that they’ve actually gone through with this before, despite their dwindling ranks; all they did with the humans they captured previously, based on what we’ve seen, is probe their minds for knowledge of Protoculture.

It’s never made entirely clear what the Masters want from Zor’s memory matrix and how it relates to what they’ll do with the 15th Squadron. It’s said a couple of times that the fate of the 15th hinges on what the Masters see in Zor’s memories, but why?

Zor’s behavior with Musica is interesting in how it relates to the state of Zor’s memory; he doesn’t recognize Monument City, nor does he remember Dana and the 15th. He does know Musica, though, and recognizes where he is within the Masters’ flagship. Is the fact that his voice is processed like the clone triumvirates significant? Does he only remember Bioroid pilot stuff when he’s talking like a clone? Hang on, though; he knew Dana and the 15th Squadron when he was talking like a clone at the end of “Mind Games.” Perhaps his damaged mental state is to blame; when Musica finds him, he’s sweating and hallucinating, and the last time we saw him before that he was unable to shoot straight. Given all this, it’s clear why the 15th Squadron has to wait for his memories to be fully restored before they can free him. What isn’t clear, and as Sean himself points out, is why the Robotech Masters are putting all his memories back in his head before deprogramming him. All I can figure is that it’s some sort of final check before the dump; that’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

Everything with Musica in this episode is melodramatic gold; she is no longer in sync or harmony with her sisters, she’s burned her bridges with Karno, she assists the fugitive Zor Prime, and from there she goes into outright acts of treason, all the while trying to reason that while she’s helping her boyfriend and his friends, she intends for no harm to come to her people. In fact, it’s noteworthy that the two most game-changing acts of the episode are made by Musica and Zor Prime, her dash for the barrier control (a baton picked up by her One True Love) and Zor’s vengeance-fueled attack on the flagship’s nerve center.

Speaking of Zor, one of the moments where ROBOTECH’s recasting of SOUTHERN CROSS’s brainwashed human Seifriet Weisse as the alien Zor Prime really fires on all cylinders is the moment where he stares down at that core and looks at everything he’s lost: he betrayed his teammates because of the Masters’ manipulations, but at the same time the Masters and their civilization are his own people. He has betrayed everyone around him; he is a man apart, on nobody’s side, which is why he finds this intended act of self-sacrifice so easy, and why he’s willing to play this out again before the end of the series. This separation he feels from both camps is why he’s such a dick to everybody, working his own agenda without any regard for anyone else’s feelings, from the moment he sets foot on Earth again all the way up to his final act.

I think this is the last, and perhaps weakest, of the allusions to STAR WARS, but the way they had to drop the defense barrier very subtly reminded me of Obi-Wan needing to drop the tractor beam to allow the Millenium Falcon to escape. I only say this because, A) it was made quite clear that they had to turn off the barrier before they could escape, B) both controls are suspended on high pillars, and C) it’s a bit from the Death Star escape the SOUTHERN CROSS producers didn’t use during the 15th’s last trip inside the Masters’ flagship. The staging was very different, but I’d chalk that up to the SOUTHERN CROSS production team just getting better at covering their tracks.

FIRSTS OF NOTE:

Thanks to Zor Prime, we have the first confirmed, on-screen destruction of one of the Robotech Masters’ flagships.

DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL:

One, maybe, for kicking Sean’s legs out from under him when he teases her, and for later overruling Angelo’s suggestion to complete the mission they came to do in favor of rescuing Zor. This actually proves to be the right move, as Zor gladly does the job for them. Don’t worry, she’ll be back in fine insubordinate form tomorrow.

DOES BOWIE SULK?

Nope, not now that he’s been reunited with Musica. Musica, on the other hand, spends the episode way mopey, even after she’s reunited with Bowie, now that she realizes that being with him means being separated from the world she knows, even if it’s a world she’s feeling more and more estranged from.

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3 thoughts on “Robotech, In Brief: Crisis Point

  1. Some of Musica’s knowledge seems plausible, but I agree about the neurosensor. That doesn’t seem like something that the Masters would want to disseminate, even to high-ranking clones. Then again, maybe there is some type of collective unconscious (a sort of biological internet) that the clones have access to. Given the nature of their society, the Masters may not even have a sense of secrecy with respect to their own people – viewing them as extensions of themselves or the ship – and so may just blabber on about any topic that crosses their mind as they hangout on their techno-mushroom. Or, since I’m already firmly in the realm of crazy theories, perhaps Musica’s cosmic harp was somehow instrumental in the functioning of the neurosensor. Of course, none of this is even remotely hinted at.

    Good point about that scene with Zor in the ship’s core. It’s kind of ironic, but a lot of the scenes in these later episodes work much better (for me) with the Robotech storyline and recasting of Zor. This applies to some extent to Musica as well although I will say that the original Southern Cross explanation of the barrier shield controls actually being the evacuation controls works much better.

    Question about the Firsts of Note: What about when Recon 1 rammed a flagship in the Outsiders? In the novels it didn’t destroy the alien ship, but in the cartoon, I got the impression that it did.

    • Re: Musica, my only guess is that she acquired some of this information in a very similar way to how her sister discovered that Zor Prime was missing, by overhearing someone with clearance that’s just high enough talking about it. Though I imagine that any clone with any knowledge of the history of Tirol and the Robotech Masters would be able to put two and two together regarding Zor Prime’s identity — and, as a Muse’s purpose is to play and sing songs, she would have a certain amount of cultural knowledge.

      Re: The destruction of one of the Masters’ flagships in “Outsiders” at the hands of the REF, I just reviewed the sequence of Recon-1 ramming the flagship. No wonder I forgot about that: the sequence is staged in the most ambiguous way possible. Yes, we see Recon-1 shoved down the the Masters’ throat, but as for the destruction of the ship, all we see is light reflected across Carpenter and his first officer’s face. We don’t see the ship explode. It’s weirdly inconclusive, and due to their sadness at the destruction of their home for the past fifteen years, there’s no cheer of victory. Nobody celebrates. The destruction of one of the Masters’ flagships should have been a big deal, but you just don’t see it in the footage. No wonder Team McKinney decided it didn’t happen. I can see how that conclusion could be drawn, and I can even see that the animation team probably intended for that to be the result, but all ROBOTECH actually offers as an answer to the question is a shrugging “maybe.” Still, I did change the language in the “firsts of note” to reflect the fact that Recon-1 may have destroyed the first flagship.

      • Yeah, I was mainly just curious what your take on the situation was. I agree that it is pretty ambiguous although my preferred interpretation is that Recon 1 did, in fact, take out the flagship. Admittedly, this is based on my own (selective) interpretation of the evidence (such as it is), but I still think the preponderance learns towards the affirmative conclusion.

        From a plausibility standpoint, I think it is reasonable. Unlike Carpenter’s ship in the novel, which is described as being much smaller than the SDF-3, Recon 1 is about the same size as the SDF-1 (or slightly smaller than the SDF-3). At a modest 2km/sec relative velocity (which is pretty slow in space), Recon 1 would have hit the Master’s flagship with a kinetic energy equal to about 10 megatons. And indeed, we see the ship plow through about 200 meters of the alien ship.

        Physics aside, which I admit can be a bit silly when applied to a TV show, the sequence of events, although far from dispositive, also suggests the destruction of the flagship. In the footage, we actually see two explosions although the second one, as you note, is indirect. The first occurs as the escape pod rockets away from the two ships. From the camera angle, the Flagship is seen from “below,” and Recon 1, which is now embedded in the “top” of the Flagship, can be seen peaking up from the other side. Recon 1 then starts to glow, first as just a white silhouette, then as a rapidly expanding ball of light that fills the screen. Right as this happens, we hear an explosion (presumably Recon 1 just blew up although we can see that the Master’s ship is still intact, at least from below). The camera shifts to the inside of the pod where we then see the two officers briefly lit by the light from the same explosion. About a second later, they are lit by another bright light which accompanies another explosion sound (what I take to be the Master’s Flagship blowing up – after sustaining severe damage from Recon 1’s detonation). At this same time, the music track shifts to “Mission Accomplished,” which is a pretty celebratory tune. The first officer does then lament the loss of their ship, but Carpenter chides him, saying that “She was a good fighter, and she never let us down, even at the end.” To me, this would be an odd thing to say if they had just vainly smashed their ship into the Flagship to little effect. Combined with the shift in music, and the two distinct explosions, this suggests (to me) that Recon 1 did, in fact, take the flagship down with her.

        As for whether the destruction of a Flagship should be a big deal… perhaps it should be. But, even when the Flagship in Crisis Point is destroyed, Leonard isn’t exactly impressed in the next episode. Moreover, unlike the Master’s fleet in the novel, which IIRC only had 6 Flagships, the fleet in the TV series clearly has several dozen. The loss of one doesn’t reduce the threat as much.

        All that said, I won’t argue that there aren’t alternative interpretations, but like so much of Robotech, I relish trying to fit the pieces together to argue (rationalize?) events and theories.

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