Starblazers is one of my all time favorite shows. You can catch all of the episodes on Youtube now and it is worth the effort to dig into the series if you are of a science fiction persuasion.
As always with any story we dig through within this discussion, expect spoilers. I did link the particular cartoon in question today so if you want to check it out before I talk about it, feel free to get into some 1970s cartoon action.
Lost at Sea
You might end up seeing a bit of conversation about the show Starblazers as time marches forward. First and foremost, this was a cartoon I would race home from school everyday to see. We have a bit of the nostalgia thing going on here. But it is also a bit bigger than that. What we are looking at is a show with roughly 80 episodes that ran on American Television in the late 70s that captured the true spirit of science fiction at that time. What is most likely going to happen is from time to time I will break out a episode or a reference from time to time and probably use it to make examples. There may even be times that I use a specific episode to explore the story telling contained within.
The premise overall of the show is a battle between different civilizations, those of the Earth vs. the Gamalons. As it happens for most space opera style fiction like this, the Gamalons are an interloper race bent on the destruction of not only humanity but also the planet we call home. After years of war they have unleashed radioactivity that will destroy the Earth within the next year. Humanity has encountered a benefactor from the distant planet Iscandar that will give us a machine that will save the planet from the radioactivity. The problem of course is Iscandar is a vastly incomprehensible distance away and again we only have a year to reach the distant planet and return to Earth with the device. The Star Force has been given the plans for a interstellar drive that will allow them to make the trip but they have to face not only the rigors of space travel but also the Gamalans who are hounding them at every turn.
The episode we are going to look at right now is episode 10 of the first season “We will return!” The conflict itself has little to do with the episode as a whole. Instead we are shown something a bit closer to the reality of war. The crew is about to cross the last border of our solar system. They will no longer be able to talk to their families and friends on Earth. The connection to reality in this one struck me as all too real. This isn’t something that those who have never served in the military may be able to relate to, but for people like me it is a reality that we faced at one point in our career or another.
There was a point when we were out at see, the prospect of getting a call home would not present itself for a month or two from this moment so that five minutes on the phone was a treasured moment in time.
The main thrust of the episode revolves around Derek Wyldstar (gotta love the character names) and the family he no longer has. His brother had died in the first episode of the show before they started on their quest. The rest of the crew stands in line for their turn and throughout there are characters that we get to see their calls home. This is a harsh contrast for Derek’s lack of family.
Through out the episode this isn’t stated. It helps to have paid attention to the character development in other episodes. But that is the point. The rest of the crew is so focused on their families and friends, they don’t realize that Derek has no one but the crew. Well, everyone on the crew except Captain Avatar (those names!). His family is gone as well. We get to see both characters roaming the ship and doing busy work as best they can to get their minds off of their own loneliness.
Life at sea, in the middle of the ocean is much like being out in deep space. It may not seem like that until you have lived it. Out in the middle of the ocean there is no where to go. You will see more of the night sky out there than you ever will surrounded by the light noise of a city. Without ship to shore or land line communications the only way to find out anything is through letters (snail mail). Although that may have changed since the time I was in the Marines.
This episode could have been left out of the series and it wouldn’t have made a difference overall to storyline. But even then, it may be one of the most important sections of the series. This episode showed what the whole series was about: the need for human contact, the need to sacrifice for family and friends. What I like about this as well, it isn’t navel gazing for the sake of navel gazing. This moment actually moves the plot forward and allows the viewer to see something more than just the space battles and the struggles for survival.
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