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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, Recap 27: Armada

And today, I'm back to recapping. Because it's fun. And it saves me from thinking of actual blog posts. :-)

Rather suitably, considering how the last episode ended, this episode is called "Armada."

Dramatic Battle Music!

Today's episode begins with Ranger One flying through a star system. Waldo and Shane are in the cockpit. Shane points out that Waldo is the expert in "hyper relay stations" and asks what he thinks knocked out "the unit." Waldo tells him that he'll be the second to know.

Well, yeah, that's kind of how this works. Unless you're the Borg. Shane is unexpectedly patient and asks "Well, what do the instruments say?" with only a hint of irritation. "Nothing definite." They're getting interference. He points out that Saturn's so damn big, anything could be lurking back there. Waldo thinks it's neat, but Shane suddenly starts the beginning of an interesting sounding curse "Great Howling Hopping-"

When suddenly we see a flash of red light beyond Saturn's ring. It's the Crown Armada! Waldo says that the Queen must have a new hypershunt design. They fly in close to check the Armada out, and Waldo's all "How could she get such power?!"

Well, she IS an evil tyrannical dictator. I'm guessing she's not one for spending tax payer money on public works. Goose just says they can ask questions later.

Shane presses a button and zips them through the Armada, which is good, because at least three small QueenShips are now chasing them. Goose calls them "Bushwhackers" Waldo asks pleasantly how "running for our lives" appeals to him.

We cut away to the crownship before Goose actually answers that, which is probably for the best. On the crownship, an underling reports that the enemy shields are going down and he's lost power. The commander orders tractor beams.

As Ranger One is caught in a pretty green beam, Shane tells Waldo to "get set." Then suddenly, he powers on the ship, breaks free from the tractor beam, then essentially dive bombs a Queen ship. I love you, Shane. Having now blown shit up, Goose is more than willing to hightail it out of there. Waldo asks him to wait a moment, and then tractor's a bit of wreckage to bring back "for analysis."

Andorians keep trophies. Gotcha.

Goose says he was just going to suggest that, and Waldo retorts "Then you're quite brilliant." Okay, I kind of want to see more Waldo-Shane interaction. Their banter is odd, but entertaining.

Just after Ranger One zips off, a new ship pops out of hyperspace. This one is a bit more lavender than red. And the music has become swanky. Oh! It's Lazarus Slade! I wasn't expecting him. But the swanky music should have been a sign!

The Queen is less pleased than me though, as she sends an incoming transmission through Slaver Lord. Hey, weird question. Why doesn't she just put a slaver lord on Slade's ship and talk through that? Less chance of interception after all. She's annoyed that he already lost a ship. She insists that the armada was HIS idea, so he better not fail her.

That's not how *I* remember it, but it's the prerogative of dictators to rewrite events to suit themselves. Apparently Slade was the one to supply the new space drives that got them here in weeks instead of years. Good to know! He dramatically intones that he's her key to final victory.

The queen hisses that victory must be quick, before her subjects realize how thinly her forces are spread. Slade dramatically tells her that "Today, Earth will be [hers]." And promises psychocrystal slaves beyond number. You're kind of a dick, Lazzy.

You're lucky you're a cyborged Dr. Strange, or I might have to not like you.

At BETA mountain, the Rangers and Waldo are in Q-Ball's lab. Waldo reveals that the Queen's hyperdrive is powered by a new type of star stone he'd never seen before. Q-Ball points out that star stones are incredibly rare, and asks how they explain how she got enough to power an Armada.

Um, maybe you should ask her? Also, how many different kinds of star stones ARE there?

Zach asks Niko if her P-S-I (he spells it out, which seems weird to me) can help. Niko agrees to try. She does her mojo and glimpses Captain Kidd tossing a stone back and forth.

Meanwhile, BETA's on full alert, and Senator Wheiner appears on screen to live up to his name. He's all "You MUST do something!" I think Walsh just figured on letting the Queen take over and enslave them all, idiot. A female senator pops up demanding "Shall we wait until they're at our door?!"

Fortunately, this idiocy is broke off by Slade popping up on the viewscreen. I love you, Slade. He orders them to surrender or be crushed. After his transmission ends, the senators appear back on screen all "We'll never surrender!"

In Walsh's swanky office, Walsh, flanked by Doc and Zach, explains that the Crown needs Slaver Lords. Slade's first goal will be to eliminate BETA and spare civilians. Walsh explains that finding the Armada's weakness is the main goal.

Zach then explains that Rangers Niko and Gooseman (to this day, I'm still not sure which one's luckier. The one with no last name, or the one with a stupid last name,) are on their way. Their mission is to investigate the star stones on Captain Kidd's home planet. Walsh announces that they'll send out all available ships against Slade to buy time, and BETA Mountain must be prepared for a final stand.

I wonder if this is supposed to be a season finale of sorts. It kind of works as one. Anyway, we see a bunch of nameless cannon fodder dashing to Interceptors and taking off. Aw. Goodbye cannon fodder. We get Walsh's voice over announcing that this is humanity's most desparate hour.

That's a lot of shiny silver ships.

In the mass of red (and lavender) ships, Slade gets his own dramatic pronouncement: "Forward to Conquest!"

It's a battle of melodramatic proportions! Or will be!

Meanwhile, Niko and Shane are on Kidd's home planet, which is a fairly nice place. Kind of jungle-y, and there's what looks like a giant log with windows. Kidd's ship is parked in front of it, and we hear Shane drawl "Nice place you have here." He's totally going to blow it up.

Kidd by the way is lounging on a couch, with a small mammalian thing, and umbrella popping pilot guy hovering about. The mammalian thing introduces itself as Luigi. Amusingly, Niko and Shane turn to stare at it a moment, before turning back to Kidd. Niko insistantly asks if Kidd will help them. Goose adds that if he doesn't, the Queen wins everything. There'll be no human technology, kiwi food or andorian hyperdrives.

Might also point out that she'll increase her take-over-shit army a couple billion-fold too. Kidd breaks under their persuasive pressure and finally says "Okay!" And asks them if any of them have seen Mrs. Kidd. He looks mildly paranoid at the thought.

Luigi looks up from his fruit long enough to say that Mrs. Kidd's in the Galley, Skipper. "Then hearken to me, mateys, while the Mrs. is in the henhouse." he says, and I love Kidd so much right now. "It's like this," he tells them. And we cut away to the fleet of course.

Damn you, show. I wanted to hear that. The fleet looks spiffy though. And at its head, the Laredo, which seems to be a flagship. Doc and Zach are at stations on the ship, which is weird, 'cause you'd figure they'd have naval officers for that, but okay. Zach tells them that Slade's likely to be in the back, farthest away from the actual fighting. I would watch an episode that was just Jerry Orbach-as-Zach mocking various villains. Nat of the awesome mustache is in the command chair and the screen flashes "Red Alert." He orders preparation of fighters.

The music of melodrama continues to roar as focus moves to the Queen ships. There really are a fucking lot of them. The music continues to be dramatic, until Nat yells "First wave, away." Now the music gets all 80s and dance beat-ish. Because that's how humanity rolls my friend.

Lazarus monologues that this will be a glorious triumph, and the Board of Leaders will bow before him. He hasn't noticed the music change or he wouldn't be so confident, I'd reckon. Of course, he does order that they make sure the flagship stays behind the fighting.

Aw, show, making the villain a coward? I'm disappointed. You're usually much better at avoiding cliches.

We zoom in on a VERY baby-faced guy in an interceptor who identifies himself as "Wolverine leader." Aw, fellow, I suspect you're about to die. They fly in to attack the ships and are promptly pursued by Crown Fighters. They clip one of the Interceptors (it's a squad of three) but the other two manage to slide behind them and shoot their asses off. Nice!

The space battle is fairly intense and interesting.

Someone reports to "Commander Blake" that the fighters are undergoing heavy losses. Nat orders them called back. Awesome! Nat of the awesome mustache has a last name! He then orders the Destroyers sent in. The music likes this and gets all dramatic again. Doc leans over to Zach and asks when they make their move. Not until they can get a shot at Slade.

On one of the Destroyers, a clean cut gentleman with an elegantly slim mustache calls himself Admiral Subata and announces that they're heading in. The music likes this as well. Subata orders them to maintain maximum range and fire at will. As soon as the fellow hits the button, we get the opening beat of the themesong again.

I love how utterly biased the music is. Heh. Slade orders Cruisers to annihilate them. The Destroyers seem to be having more luck though. They're blowing up quite a few ships and the sky is lighting up with red (Queen) and blue (BETA) lights and explosions. It's pretty!

Battles are fun to watch, but hard to recap. Take it from me though, it's neat! Despite their general success, the Destroyer crew worries, as the QueenShips shields are "too powerful." Ack. One of the Destroyers gets blasted to wreckage. Aw. Slade gets enthusiastic and orders them to close in on the enemy and eliminate them at "close range."

Scientists. :-)

His underling points out that they won't come into close range. Slade, annoyed, orders a bombardment. "Blast formation."

Times like this, I kind of wish I had even the vaguest sense of tactics. He's good at the evil laugh.

Back on Kidd's planet, he's finishing "So you see, Rangers..." God, that was a long-ass story. But Kidd does tell us how he turned some useless stones into fake star stones with some kind of pendulant device. Apparently, when he heard Slade wanted star stones, he popped off a bunch on him. (Luigi is in the background, eating.) Shane clarifies for those of us in the audience who have trouble picking out exactly what Kidd's saying: Slade's using fake stones for the Armada. Kidd triumphantly says he made a bundle off him.

I'm sure that's a comfort to the families of the dead folk on the Destroyer. But then I shouldn't be too mean. Kidd DIDN'T sell Earth out after all, and he doesn't have to be telling Shane and Niko this now. In the background, Luigi jumps down and runs into the kitchen, where a giant white hen is apparently cooking. She has many horns on top of her head, and a blue chin thing and tail. Can you tell I know nothing of chickens? She greets Luigi happily. Luigi whispers something in her ear, and Mrs. Kidd shrieks "He sold WHAT?!"

Back with Kidd, Shane gets confirmation that the stones aren't stable. Kidd confirms and tells them that if they do something with a grav wave at certain cycles, the stones will go up like nova.

Um. Kidd, you're awfully cheerful about what might be the deaths of thousands of people. Niko is delighted too though and realizes that they can do it by adjusting their weapon beam. It's somewhat less creepy, because in her case, it at least means saving the fleet. She runs up and hugs him.

This is of course when Mrs. Kidd comes storming in, rolling pin in hand. In the background, Luigi titters and waves. I think I hate that monkey even more than I hate the one on Kidd's shoulder. Kidd starts babbling placating things and calls her Petunia, while Shane exercises the time-honored male tradition of getting the fuck out of the line of fire, grabs Niko's hand, and flees for it.

Hand holding, hmm? And by HIS initiative this time. Interesting.

Niko awkwardly calls out a "Thanks for everything!" because she's a nice lady. Kidd comes running after, all "Wait for me!" Heh. Alien domestic violence.

Meanwhile, on Earth, BETA mountain raises shields. Huh. I didn't know it could do that. Awesome. Apparently the Armada is now past Mars. Eek.

Walsh, Buzzwang, Waldo, Zozo, and Q-Ball watch the screen in trepidation. Walsh asks Waldo how long the forcefield will hold. Waldo tells him that it won't be for long. Zozo looks nervous, probably because there is no fire.

In space, the music gets more eighties, as they launch a new set of fighters and exchange fire with the bad guys. It's more intense now. Earth is visible in the background. We see a few more of the ships get destroyed. Ouch. Slade orders one group to destroy the space station and the others to proceed to BETA mountain. The station seems to be making a good showing.

Meanwhile, in the command ship, Zach reports that the Armada has passed them. He sounds right indignant about that too. Another fellow reports that the battlelines are being pushed toward Earth, and the Death Card is bringing up the rear. Blake decides it's time to attack ad powers up. It joins in the fight.

You know, as much as Zach seemed to be accusing Slade of cowardice before, it seems notable that BLAKE wasn't joining in the fight either. Granted some of that's to set an ambush, but some of that is probably to keep the Commander of the Fleet in a position where he can continue to call the shots. So maybe it's less that the show is portraying Slade as cowardly as it is portraying Zach as unreasonable. Which is not terribly out of character, much as I love Zach.

It is pretty satisfying though when Slade gets the report of another ship attacking and is over confident that the Armada will deal with it, only to find out it's coming from behind. Nat manages to blow up one of the ships escorting Slade's, Slade orders groups three and four to destroy the ship, while the rest aren't to stop "until BETA mountain is vaporized!

The station is still in one piece. Which is impressive. Meanwhile the flagship is losing shield power. They can't take too much more. (I love when sci-fi people say "We can't take much more of this." It's totally a stage cue for the cavalry.)

Zach orders them to prepare to ram. I'm not sure why Nat Blake isn't calling the shots anymore, but he doesn't seem to mind so I won't either.

Slade's underling reports that the enemy battle cruiser is nearly finished, and Slade grins and says they'll join in at the end.

BETA's under heavy fire. But they do have guns, which helps. But suddenly the shield seems to blank out! Eek!

Actually, it's only down 50%, but that's enough for Walsh to open communications with the Board of Leaders. He starts a very nice speech about everyone making him proud to serve BETA and the Federation but they must prepare the population of Earth for the "brutal days ahead."

We're saved from hearing the rest of Walsh's undoubtedly eloquent defeat speech by the sudden arrival of a very familiar ship. And of course, the resurgence of the theme song. Shane notes the Laredo and orders tractor beams. Shane mutters to Kidd that this had better work. Kidd gives the cycle number and Niko locks it in.

Doug Preis doesn't really have a good voice for yelling "Fire," I think. At least not when voicing the Shane Gooseman drawl. It makes him complimentary to Jerry Orbach though, who can't do agony well but does bellow orders phenomenally.

Anyway, they explode one ship very nicely. Goose congratulates a pleased looking Kidd. They dive into the fray, slicing through the enemy ships like hot knives through butter.

Niko pops up on the BETA communications line to announce calmly that the enemy ships can be destroyed by tractor beams at 2-million cycles. Walsh just lights up at this. Aw. Zach and Doc hear it too. Doc quickly converts the Laredo's weapons, while Q-Ball converts BETA's own weapons. There's lots of green lights and exploding QueenShips.

Slade is not pleased and orders the retreat. But first, he intends to make one last attack, and sets himself on collision course to the Laredo. Eek. The tractor beam isn't working either. Zach notes that he must have a different drive system. Well played, Slade. Doc is upset: none of the guns have any power. Zach has a plan though and orders them to stay pointed at Slade. He runs off. Then he activates his implant and BODILY moves one of the guns into position. He opens some canister, taps his badge again, and shoves his now glowing arm straight inside. It lights up and fires.

...okay, Zach, you win badass of the episode.

Slade breaks off the attack and flees to hyperspace.

Back at BETA, Walsh gives a speech about how the Queen's suffered the biggest defeat in history. The League of Planets will stand ready...blah, blah, blah. The crowd shot's neat though. And hey, women in there too! Awesome!

End of episode.


Okay, that was definitely a season finale type of episode. It was pretty awesome too. It was good to see Kidd and Slade again.

I was particularly happy to see that despite the cliched coward characterization that it seemed like the show was aiming toward with Slade, he finished up with what amounted to be a suicide strike toward the Laredo. Yeah, he broke it off and ran for it, but only after Zach made him realize he wasn't going to be able to get close enough to make a dent.

There's a difference between "suicide strike" and "stupidity."

It was good to see Kidd again too. I've always liked his three-dimensionality. He's amoral, but not really a bad guy. He didn't really sell out Earth or anyone else to the Queen. At the same time though, he was a bit too gleeful about the potential to sabotage the Queens' ships for my taste. Yeah, they're an evil army, but... I don't know. There's a lot of death there. It's uncomfortable, which I'd guess is a good thing.

Speaking of, there was a LOT of death in this episode. I definitely think that the series, post Psychocrypt, has gotten a bit more mature in terms of storytelling. Before Psychocrypt, there was a lot of violence, but not a lot of death. The first time an enemy died, for sure, was in the Moby Dick episode, and we didn't get ally deaths at all until the Black Hole episode. Lately the show seems to be more willing to allow for that kind of thing.

If this episode had a weakness, I'd say it was probably in that the Rangers didn't have that much to do. They got to talk to Kidd, shoot things, and take part in the battle, but the battle itself was more of the centerpiece of the episode. At least until Zach's nifty badassery at the very end. The battle was fairly exciting, don't get me wrong, but it's not more interesting than the characters.

Also, it would have been nice if they'd mentioned Eliza at some point, but there's probably no point in shoving salt into that wound for Zach when there's fighting to be done.

The plus side to the battle is that we got to see some more people in authority and where divisions of power sat. I kind of expected Walsh to be commanding the battlefleet, but it makes more sense that he's commanding BETA Mountain instead. I'm surprised that Nat of the awesome mustache is apparently high enough rank to command an entire defense fleet, because I'd always gotten the impression that he and Zach were of equivalent rank. Oh well. :-)

It's awesome that he FINALLY has a last name too. I wonder if we'll see Subata again. People who get names tend to pop up here and there in this series.

I'm kind of unclear about whether the fleet from this episode is the same as the fleet attacking Kirwin or not. It looks similar. But in this episode, the Queen says that the armada was Slade's idea. And there was no sign that the armada possessed fancy hyperdrives last episode. Then again, they wouldn't have needed them since the first episode established that Kirwin is within her attack range.

Oh well.

I'd definitely like to see more Waldo and Shane interaction. We never really get to see Waldo without Zozo, but those two had a pretty entertaining dynamic. I'd like to see more of it. :-)


  • At April 15, 2009 4:21 PM, Blogger Elizabeth B said…

    They never do get the ranks to make sense: Commander Blake is commanding the whole fleet, but it's admirals who do that. Like Subadai. Except... not? (BTW, I do think it's supposed to be "Subadai," which is a Mongolian name. I looked it up, because I am a humungous geek. Also because I used it in a story.)

    I love this episode. We get to see the League fleet in action! There's desperation! We find out Slade (who leaves Death cards as calling cards at the scenes of his crimes) has a ship called the Death Card, because he talks a tough line but he's really a coward!

    The Niko-hugging-Kidd thing was max cheese, though. I've never liked it. Speaking of Kidd, it turns out that originally he was supposed to be more menacing, but he kind of got turned into the Harry Mudd of the series and got played for comedic effect instead. Not that it didn't start early; I still can't watch his pilot's little umbrella pop up without laughing hysterically.

    Zozo looks nervous, probably because there is no fire.I LOL'd.

  • At April 15, 2009 4:55 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Walsh is a Commander too, though, isn't he? It might be more of a reflection on the use of "Commander" as a division Commander than the Naval Rank. (i.e. "Commander-in-Chief" as an extreme example). I'd imagine it's more like the Air-Force model, where I believe it's a position, not a rank.

    It probably doesn't matter as long as it's internally consistent. If we see "Commanders" of obviously lower rank than Admirals, then I'll start kvetching. :-)

    "Subata" is a Japanese name though. :-) Since both Mongolian and Japanese are Altaic languages, it's very possible that Subata and Subadai were once the same name. My undergrad major was Japanese, so my first inclination is probably to "hear" the Japanese version.

    And you know, I completely forgot about Slade's death cards while writing this recap. Otherwise, I'd have caught the ship name sooner. :-)

  • At April 15, 2009 5:05 PM, Blogger Elizabeth B said…

    All we know for sure is that Walsh is the head of BETA. Its exact relationship to the Space Navy is never really explained, IIRC.

    In my fanfic I made the Ranger Corps and the Space Navy part of BETA and invented a Bureau of Planetary Affairs to cover terrestrial stuff. (So all those random unnamed dudes in blue we see guarding things are BPA soldiers.)

    It's possible we're supposed to consider Walsh a CiC. Hard to say. They left so much out because explaining it just wasn't important. Viewers won't put up with too many "As you know, Bob" moments! :)

    It's interesting because it looked to me in the series finale "Heartbeat" like Subadai was the guy in charge, not Nat Blake. Go figure.

    Cool to know about the common roots of the two names, BTW. Thanks! :)

  • At April 15, 2009 5:12 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'm sure I'll kvetch about the seeming inconsistency if I remember by the time Heartbeat comes along. :-)

    Possibly we could assume that Nat's an Admiral as well and just called "Commander" because he's the Fleet Commander in this case, or because of the Laredo.

    I won't try to theorize about BETA vs. the Space Navy yet myself. :-) At least not until/unless we see him interact directly more with Blake or Subata/Subadai.

    Right now, I'm inclined to interpret BETA as a separate entity entirely from the Space Navy, focused on Alien Affairs rather than Exploration. But I might change my mind as I see more of the series. :-)

  • At April 15, 2009 8:38 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    ...I am the sort to say I won't theorize and then in the same breath, start getting into theories anyway. Heh.

  • At April 15, 2009 8:45 PM, Blogger Elizabeth B said…

    Hahaha yes but you see I am of the not at all humble opinion, based on your recaps, that you are really kinda brilliant, so I am delighted to cut you all the slack you want! Win!

  • At April 16, 2009 9:49 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    This WAS an exciting episode! I love how Senator Weiner seems to be the Kent Brockman of the future..."I for one Welcome our Slaver Overlords!"

    Slade's a good villain, he's obviously bad, but not stupid. And Kidd is always fun.

  • At April 19, 2009 3:01 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    I have to agree on the Waldo-Goose interaction. I love it when the show displays unusual pairs and how they work together.
    One more thing besides the ranks and the types of star stones that deserves speculation is how hyper drive, hyper space, hyper shunt and hyper relay work. Is a ship with an hyperdrive enough to move through space or does it need gates (kind of like highways in space)?

  • At April 19, 2009 3:17 PM, Blogger Elizabeth B said…

    Hi, Delora! We've never seen any sign of gates; GR ships seem to be able to jump from anywhere. Hyperspace itself is depicted by red streaks. Hmm, I wonder if that's supposed to represent the redshift that occurs when light moves away from the viewer? I will have to go watch "Lord of the Sands" again--it has a few scenes that take place within hyperspace. (I know there are lots of others, but I can't bring another to mind right this moment.)

  • At April 19, 2009 6:30 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I don't think gates are required either. I'm thinking specifically of the episode where Goose and Macross ended up on Annie's planet. It looked like it was simply a matter of break it and fall out of hyperspace.

    Haven't seen the episode Elizabeth mentions yet, though. :-)


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