“What are they doing injecting the clones with anti-pain serum?”
“Because with the serum they become immune to pain and can stay in battle til the bitter end.”
“It has come to this?”
“That is their fate. War is their sacrificial altar. It is the Robotech way.“
Within the ruins of the SDF-1, Nova Satori tells Bowie to escort the prisoner to headquarters, but Bowie wants nothing to do with the military anymore. Despite Dana’s protests, Nova draws her pistol and gives the order again. Musica tells Bowie she’ll go peacefully, but Bowie won’t let her. He tells her that he thought Nova was his friend. As Nova watches Bowie’s stern, protective look, both her resolve and her arm begin to shake. Zor reaches around and takes her gun. He explains Musica’s function in the Masters’ society, keeping the clones calm and under the Masters’ control. Realizing the ramifications, Nova asks Bowie if they can just pretend she never saw her. Above the planet, the Robotech Masters are told that poor bio-energy output has led to a decrease in judgement and fighting ability among all personnel. The Masters order the transport ships to switch to automatic and all functioning clones to move to the flagship. They are warned that this will decrease the bio-energy supply onboard their ship beyond safe levels. Consequently, all invalids will be transported to Earth as a sacrifice. Finally, the ongoing Protoculture mutation will reach critical levels in four days. Across the flagship, clones are injected with anti-pain serum so that they may fight to the death. Aboard the Tristar, Emerson tells Leonard that the counterattack must begin now. Otherwise, the way things are going, the fleet will be unable to hold out. Leonard tells him that his failure has made a frontal counterattack a useless effort. Emerson demands support and Leonard balks at Emerson ordering him around. Leonard is then informed of a small enemy ship descending to the planet’s surface. He tells Emerson that he doesn’t want this happening again. As Emerson resigns himself to his fate, Leonard tells him that Bowie has gone AWOL with an enemy agent. A shocked and defeated Emerson assures Leonard that he’ll do his duty to the end and salutes. He then orders all squadrons to prepare for a direct invasion of the enemy command ship. On the surface, Battloids stand to defend the Earth from the Bioroid threat. The enemy troop carriers that land safely unleash waves of clone soldiers that march in formation against Earth’s Robotech defenders, unfazed by injury. The carriers that remain in the skies level entire cities with fission beams. News of widespread destruction reaches Commander Leonard, and he orders all squads to assemble at Monument City. Suddenly, a communication comes in from the Robotech Masters ordering the evacuation of Earth within thirty-eight hours. Otherwise, the planet will be destroyed. Leonard tells the Masters they refuse to give up the planet, but the Masters tell him this is an ultimatum; the Invid have detected Earth’s Protoculture and are on their way. Leonard hesitates, then asks for a week. The Masters give him two days. As they sign off, Leonard repeats his final order. Aboard the Tristar, Emerson, wincing in pain, orders all squadrons to return to Earth to defend the front line. He arms the self-destruct mechanism. Lieutenants Brown and Crystal, having abandoned their AGACs, run to the bridge to retrieve Emerson. They drag him into an escape capsule and abandon ship mere moments before the Tristar, its nose rammed into the side of one of the Masters’ flagships, is blown to bits. Their capsule is soon picked up by a passing enemy transport vessel. Back at the ruins of the SDF-1, the area is swarming with GMP officers and police robots. The 15th Squadron spies a Bioroid transport approaching the ruins. The clones, in turn, spot Zor and Musica among the humans. From the mound, Zor orders them to stop; otherwise, they risk destroying the Flowers. He issues an ultimatum to the Robotech Masters, that this must end. The transport departs. Zor tells Dana to retrieve their Hovertanks, and tells Nova to order her subordinates to lie in wait for them. In cities across the planet, people are herded into shelters as Robotech defenders take their places in the streets, awaiting the coming onslaught. Far above the Earth, Marie, Lt. Brown, and General Emerson have been brought before the Robotech Masters. Emerson is stunned that Leonard gave up the planet. The Masters are surprised by his reaction; they understand that Emerson long desired a peaceful settlement, and assure him they seek the same. Emerson doesn’t believe them. When the Masters call him stupid, he tells them he knows their initial landing point is SX.83, the site of the SDF-1. Marie adds that they’re after the Flower of Life, and Brown chimes in with the fact that without it they’re doomed. The Masters ask to know what the people of Earth know of their history; Emerson says they know the Masters’ weak points and goals, and tells them if they won’t make any demands, perhaps they can help one another. The Masters insist that the Invid will wipe them out. “We can’t allow your presence to disrupt the stability of our Robotech continuum! Your stubbornness merely shows how primitive you are,” the Masters insist. Emerson laughs. “We’ve shed so much blood already,” he says with distaste, “and this is how it has to end!” The Masters are soon informed that SX.83 is occupied by Zor Prime, Musica, and the 15th Squadron. The Masters tell Emerson that Earth has run out of time. As the 15th Squadron watches Monument burn, a voice calls out from Sean’s Hovertank’s radio demanding to speak to Zor. It’s one of the Masters. Zor rushes to his Hovertank, and the rest of the 15th follow suit. Zor claims he holds the key to the planet’s survival. The Masters disagree and show him that they have Emerson, Marie, and Lt. Brown prisoner; they’ll release the hostages in exchange for Musica and their evacuation of this area. Zor agrees and asks for conditions. The 15th will be brought aboard the Masters’ ship for a prisoner exchange. Bowie attacks him, telling Zor that he will not allow the Masters to take Musica. However, Musica stops him. The exchange will proceed. A transport containing the 15th Squadron heads for the Masters’ flagship. When it arrives, the Hovertanks of the 15th launch and follow a hovercraft towards Emerson’s location. At the end of a long, well guarded hallway the caravan comes to a halt and the 15th is told that from here on, only Musica and two others will be allowed to continue. Dana, Bowie, Musica, and three guards proceed and are greeted by Emerson and the two TASC pilots. Emerson is glad to see Bowie, but Dana interrupts the reunion, telling him that they have to get back to the squadron. Before they can, one of the Masters’ guards grabs Musica. As he slips away, a guard triumvirate attacks. Outside, Sean hears a shot and rams his Hovertank through the doorway, blasting the guards. A few feet away, Dana and Bowie are locked in a firefight, Bowie protecting Musica. Emerson notices a sniper and runs to Bowie; he gets in front of his godson just in time to take a shot in the back in Bowie’s stead. As Emerson falls, his face tense with a look of shock and pain, the enemy sniper is blasted repeatedly until he hits the ground. Bowie assures Emerson that he’ll be okay and asks forgiveness as he grips the general’s hand, but Emerson insists he is to blame and tells Bowie and the others to learn from his generation’s mistakes. “In the future,” he says, “two different races of people must learn to coexist in harmony. The future is up to all of you. Goodbye, Bowie.” He closes his eyes and dies. Bowie falls and cries on his godfather’s chest. As the 15th engages Bioroids inside the ship, Zor has forgone his Hovertank for the Red Bioroid. “Where are you, Robotech Masters?” he asks. “Your lives are in my hands, and you shall do as I command!”
A breakneck apocalyptic rush of an episode. “Force of Arms” may have a grander scale and “To The Stars” has the resolution of the Rick-Lisa-Minmei love triangle along with Khyron and Azonia’s final moments, but this has such a remarkably bleak feeling of desperation on both sides, and it’s not even the actual last episode. There’s one more to go after this! The smaller scale of this apocalypse, with enemy transports annihilating cities from within the atmosphere, makes it feel to me like a much harder punch to the gut than the almost incomprehensible scale of the Zentraedi Rain of Death. The sight of people rushing to shelters and making their exodus from their ruined homes hits far closer to home.
Based on my previous thinking, Zor’s vague statement, “I must do everything in my power to keep the Invid Flower of Life in the proper hands,” takes on a sinister undertone, especially given that, despite his earlier claims, he remarks here that there are still bits of his memory clicking into place; the Masters and the narrator keep harping on this idea that the Invid are a far greater threat than the Robotech Masters. The inherent problem with his statement is that I wouldn’t call the humans’ hands the proper hands because they have no idea what to DO with the Flower of Life. Their understanding of Robotech is still extremely limited. Who else would be the “proper” hands? Anyone but the Masters, I’d wager. Bear in mind that Zor Prime’s goals, as becomes clear through the latter half of this episode and throughout the next, are to do whatever will cause the most damage to the Robotech Masters. Even Dana has this figured out. I’ll speak more to this next time, but he really doesn’t seem to care who’s in the crossfire. Think about it: you don’t really see him worrying about the Invid.
It’s strange that Musica’s function within the Robotech Masters’ society hasn’t been brought up before now; I almost get the sense that the Masters overstate her importance just to get Zor Prime aboard the ship so that they can do away with him once and for all. However, given that it is Zor Prime himself who first explains her function, it’s probably just sloppy end-of-the-series, let’s-get-this-over-with writing.
This episode has an awful lot of “bleed” from the original SOUTHERN CROSS story. Just in the last episode, the Masters were saying that once the Flower of Life contaminates the Protoculture it becomes useless to them, but now the Flower of Life is treated as their goal by both Zor, who should know better, and Marie Crystal and Dennis Brown, who the Masters make no effort to correct. The evacuation of Earth also makes little sense given all the Masters want is to secure the Protoculture located at the ruins of the battle fortress. (Perhaps there’s a bit of malevolent altruism to it; every time the Masters bring it up, they also bring up the danger of the Invid. I guess that was the ROBOTECH writers’ workaround.) Leonard and Emerson’s talk of developing and pioneering and such makes sense in the original SOUTHERN CROSS where the planet is a colony world, but talking about Earth, the cradle of mankind, like that comes off as a little strange.
One thing I do like is that Emerson finally gets his face to face audience with the Robotech Masters; he’s wanted to try and negotiate all this time, and he finally gets his chance. A shame it goes badly; when they essentially spit on his proposal, he laughs in their faces. Maybe he does this because now he sees the futility of it, that the end result of negotiations with these arrogant bastards would have gone this way no matter what, that he spent at least half the series butting heads with Leonard over something that could never have ended well.
FIRSTS OF NOTE:
Rolf Emerson is the first major casualty of the second generation’s cast of characters. Despite only one episode to go, he won’t be the last. Also, this episode features the first face-to-face meetings, both over video and in person, between the leadership of the Southern Cross and the Robotech Masters themselves.
DANA’S BRATTINESS/INSUBORDINATION LEVEL:
Dana feels weirdly secondary in this episode; Bowie and Zor are the ones who defuse Nova, and then Zor takes command of the effort against the Robotech Masters. She doesn’t really make any of the big decisions. So, um, zero, I guess. Unfortunately, if I remember “Catastrophe” right, that’s where the needle will stay.
DOES BOWIE SULK?
Worse, Bowie suffers mightily. In turn, however, Zor suffers his rage, as Bowie lets out one of the most honest-sounding moments of anger in all of the ROBOTECH television series; there’s a kind of amazing crack and edge to actor Craig Schaefer’s voice when Bowie attacks Zor following his agreement to the Masters’ bargain. It’s bad enough that Bowie had to fend off Nova’s attempts to take Musica away. Then Zor makes this bargain with the Masters, Musica for General Emerson and the two TASC pilots, which could mean their eternal separation. Things get worse in the final couple of minutes of the episode, when Emerson takes the laser blast for Bowie. Mind you, it’s blunted a little bit by Bowie calling him “my good friend.” That always sounded hokey to me, and like a clear admission by the writers that the relationship was different in the original Japanese series, where they were father and son.