Friday, October 6, 2017

Battle of the Planets: 70's Sci-Fi Animation

by G. Jack Urso 


Battle of the Planets! G-Force! Five incredible young people with superpowers. And watching over them from Centre Neptune, 7-Zark-7 — Watching, warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies from beyond space. G-Force! Fearless young orphans protecting Earth's entire galaxy. Always five, acting as one Dedicated. Inseparable. Invincible! 

                                                 —       Opening Narration to Battle of the Planets
Battle of the Planets originated in Japan as Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972-1974). In 1977, producer Sandy Frank licensed the series following the excitement generated by Star Wars. Indeed, one can see the influence of Star Wars not only in the design of the backwards slanting title, but also in the title itself — Battle of The Planets — the soaring orchestral music, and the addition of the robot 7 Zark 7, a close rip-off of R2D2 in both design and name. The series began syndication in 1978 and was usually broadcast weekday afternoons after school hours and before the 6 p.m. news. Although the current copyholder does not allow uploading episodes from the series, Battle of the Planets: The Movie is available on the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel. The complete episode list is available below at the end of this article.

Frank whittled the original 105 Gatchaman episodes down to 85.  The Japanese series was more violent than Battle of the Planets, showing characters die, and included the occasional swear word.  People didn’t swear in Battle of the Planets, and they didn’t die either. 7 Zark 7 often noted in his expositions between scenes that characters who appeared to die on screen (when a ship exploded for example) parachuted to safety or otherwise somehow escaped unharmed. Gatchaman's action took place on Earth while Battle of the Planets went interplanetary  and visited Earth-like planets. The Science Ninja Team Gatchaman was renamed G-Force. G-Force's ship, the God Phoenix in Japan, was changed to just the Phoenix for U.S. audiences. The masked archenemy Zoltar, a hermaphrodite named Berg Katse in Gatchaman, suddenly had a sister in Battle of the Planets.

One of the best decisions Frank made was to hire Hoyt Curtin to compose the theme song. Curtin, who also composed the theme for Jonny Quest, produced the opening credits music for Battle of the Planets that nearly matches the Jonny Quest theme in tempo, pacing, and excitement, and is regarded as a classic in its own right. Similarly, Frank didn’t skimp on the voice cast. Instead of unknown actors, Frank chose some of the era’s better-known film, TV, and vocal talent, including Casey Kasem (Mark), Ronnie Schell (Jason), Janet Waldo (Princess), Alan Dinehart Jr. (Tiny), Alan Young (Keyop, 7 Zark 7), Keye Luke (Zoltar), and Alan Oppenheimer (Commander Gorok and others).  

Despite the watering down of the original episodes, Battle of the Planets quickly found a ready audience in U.S. youth eager for any kind of outer space fantasy with masked villains, giant spacecraft, robots, and heroes with superpowers — and G-Force delivered! For many late Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Battle of the Planets was their introduction into Japanese anime and it is no coincidence that there was a corresponding rise in interest following the series broadcast.

In the wake of the initial release of Star Wars in 1977, it seemed like every Hollywood producer and network executive made a bid for a piece of the action. Soon, along came a wave of TV shows that sought to capitalize on the phenomenon. Battlestar Galactica (1978) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979) are the two most think of in this regard, but there were a plethora of other shows including Quark (1977), Logan’s Run (1977), and several Saturday morning live-action efforts, such as the related series Space Academy (1977) and Jason of Star Command (1978), among others. While Gatchaman predates Star Wars, Battle of the Planets is a premier example of the influence of George Lucas' masterpiece on pop culture. 

The current copyright holder of Battle of the Planets prohibits uploading any  individual episodes of the series, but a complete episode list is provided below. For a small flavor of the series, Battle of the Planets: The Movie, a compilation of three episodes of the series, is available on the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel. It is noteworthy for retaining some of the original more-violent Gatchaman content not in the Battle of the Planets series. Unfortunately, Alan Young was replaced as the voice of 7 Zark 7 and the opening theme was remixed with a stronger rhythmic base, making one appreciate the original performances all that much more. 
             Battle of the Planets: The Complete Series Episode List
1
Attack of the Space Terrapin
44
The Sky is Falling!, Part 1
2
Rescue of the Astronauts
45
The Sky is Falling!, Part 2
3
The Space Mummy
46
Raid of the Red Scorpion
4
The Space Serpent
47
Mammoth Shark Menace
5
Ghost Ship of the Planet Mir
48
Fastest Gun in the Galaxy
6
Big Robot Gold Grab
49
Giant From the Planet Zyr
7
Ace From Outer Space
50
Secret Island
8
Fearful Sea Anemone
51
Giant Space Bat
9
The Jupiter Moon Menace
52
Attack of the Alien Wasp
10
A Swarm of Robot Ants
53
Decoys of Doom
11
Space Rocket Escort
54
Zoltar Strikes Out
12
Beast with a Sweet Tooth
55
The Great Brain Robbery
13
Perilous Pleasure Cruise
56
Raid of the Space Octopus
14
Thing with 1,000 Eyes
57
Silent City
15
Microfilm Mystery
58
Peril in the Pyramids
16
The Alien Beetles
59
Rage of the Robotoids
17
A Whale Joins G-Force
60
The Alien Bigfoot
18
Mad New Ruler of Spectra
61
Invasion of the Locusts
19
The Sea Dragon
62
The Space Safari
20
Magnetic Attraction
63
Museum of Mystery
21
The Musical Mummy
64
Peril of the Praying Mantis
22
The Fiery Lava Giant
65
The Awesome Ray Force
23
The Bat Ray Bombers
66
The Duplicate King
24
Race Against Disaster
67
Defector to Spectra
25
The Ghostly Grasshopper
68
Panic of the Peacock
26
The Galaxy Girls
69
Mission to Inner Space
27
Curse of the Cuttlefish, Part I
70
Spectra Space Spider
28
Curse of the Cuttlefish, Part II
71
Super Space Spies
29
Demons of the Desert
72
Cupid Does It to Keyop
30
Siege of the Squids
73
Tentacles From Space
31
Orion, the Wonder Dog of Space
74
Island of Fear
32
The Fierce Flowers, Part I
75
The Awesome Armadillo
33
The Fierce Flowers, Part II
76
Invasion of the Space Center, Part I
34
The Space Rock Concert
77
Invasion of the Space Center, Part II
35
Prisoners in Space
78
Save the Space Colony
36
Victims of the Hawk
79
Charioteers of Changu
37
Raid on Riga
80
Vacation on Venus
38
Seals of Sytron
81
Rockets Out of Control
39
Giant Gila Monster
82
G-Force Defector
40
Capture of the Galaxy Code
83
Strike at Spectra
41
Raid on a Nearby Planet
84
G-Force in the Future
42
Keyop Does It All
85
The Conway Tape Tap
43
Peaks of Planet Odin
N/A
  
                         

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting and entertaining blog. Battle of the planets is son’s favorite series. At first, I was always forced to see the episodes but later on I started to like it.

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