Rhino has continued it release of Battle of the Planets with
the new 25th Anniversary Collection. The vague title might
throw some buyers for a loop, but this is the next set in the series following
Battle of the Planets Volumes 1-6 and Battle of the Planets:
Ultimate Set. Why they couldn't just continue numbering the volumes
(or better yet realase the whole series in a single set like they did in
Region 2) is beyond me. But in any case, it is great to have more
of this classic TV show that introduces many fans to the world of Japanese
A brief history of Gatchaman, Battle of the
Planets, and G-Force.
In the 70's there was a big push to make TV programing for children
non-violent. The networks, not wanting to make waves, began only
airing 'kid-friendly' shows on Saturday mornings and cartoons quickly went
from action/adventure shows to situation comedies. But then in 1977
something happened: Star Wars. This movie was such a hit,
that everyone started scrambling to get a science fiction shows on the
air. One of the first was Sandy Frank, a film syndicator, who came
up with a quick way to get a show on the air: he'd take a Japanese cartoon,
edit it for American TV, dub it, and he'd have a ready made show.
He secured the rights to the cartoon Science Ninja Team Gatchaman,
took the 105 original episodes and created 85 shows suitable for US TV,
changed the name to the more exciting (and Star Wars-like) Battle
of the Planets and successfully sold the show to TV stations across
the country in 1978.
Most of the violence and fighting was edited out, and new characters
were added to bridge the continuity gaps that these edits created:
The R2-D2 like robot, 7-Zark-7 and his companion robot dog 1-Rover-1 who
were stationed at Center Neptune. The show consisted of a team of
five orphans who made up the team G-Force; leader Mark Venture, Tiny, The
Princess, (another nod to Star Wars perhaps?) and Keyop. Together
these "five acting as one" would battle the evil Zoltar from the planet
Spectra who was determined to conquer the earth.
The show ran its course, and did well, but not spectacular. The
ratings to the show weren't strong enough to warrant adapting the sequel
to Gatchaman, but the show lived on in syndicated reruns and on cable for
Jump ahead to the 1980's when Frank's licence to the series expired.
When it did, Ted Turner's organization bought up the rights and redubbed
the show. This time they left in the violence, but to confusion of
viewers everywhere changed the name of the series and the characters.
This new version was entitled G-Force (the same name as the team
in Battle of the Planets) and featured Ace Goodheart (previously
Mark,) Dirk Darling (Jason,) Agatha June (Princess,) Pee Wee (Keyop,) and
Hoot Owl "Hootie" (Tiny.) Gone was 7-Zark-7 and the command center.
G-Force was edited, but not nearly as much as the Battle of the Planets
version of the show. Just about all of the fight scenes, violence
and death were left in, and Turner's version didn't skip nearly as many
shows as the Sandy Frank version. (Only two out of the first 87 episodes.)
As originally planned, most of the Gatchaman episodes were to be dubbed
in English, but as luck would have it only 85 shows were done before monetary
support for the project ran out.
After the dubbing and editing was completed, Turner broadcast the show
in 1986. For a whole week. (Though some sources say only three
show were aired.) G-Force then sat on the shelves unaired,
until the Turner owned Cartoon Network aired the entire series in 1995.
While G-Force was much closer to the original Japanese program,
in a lot of ways it is inferior to Battle of the Planets.
Sandy Frank, to his credit, spent nearly $5 million dubbing and editing
Battle of the Planets. Turner didn't spend nearly as much.
He didn't buy the rights to the music from the original program and replaced
it with a horrible synthesized tune that is grating on the nerves.
The dubbing is mediocre at best, with the cast not really taking their
So, that out of the way, how does this latest collection of Battle
of the Planets episodes fare? Pretty well. This show still
has some sentimental appeal, and the opening is still rather exciting.
The show doesn't have a whole lot of continuity, so if you've missed the
earlier DVDs you shouldn't have any problems understanding the show.
I thought the best shows were the two parters. There was a little
more time to develop the plot, which were a little more involved.
The cliffhanger in the first part of Curse of the Cuttlefish, where
Zoltar's agent S-9 captures Princess and Keyop and plans to use them as
bait to get the rest of G-Force, was pretty effective.
Not all of the shows were of top quality, but most of them were pretty
good. I thought that The Space Rock Concert was a little on
the lame side. In this episode Zoltar captures a rock band and forces
them to play, using their sound as a weapon that shakes apart anything
in its path. This was just a bit too silly for me.
The Battle of the Planets 25th Anniversary Collection contains
the following episodes:
The Ghostly Grasshopper
The Galaxy Girls
Curse Of The Cuttlefish Part I
Curse Of The Cuttlefish Part II
Demons Of The Desert
Siege Of The Squids
Orion, Wonderdog Of Space
The Fierce Flowers Part I
The Fierce Flowers Part II
The Space Rock Concert
Prisoners In Space
Victims Of The Hawk
Raid On Riga
Seals Of Sytron
The audio track to these shows wasn't restored, though it needed to
be. The two channel mono sound was very flat, with very little dynamic
range. There was some hiss in the background, and the whole track
was fairly scratchy. The dialog was understandable, but I was hoping
for a cleaner sound.
Like the audio, the full frame color video wasn't very good. The
colors were dulled and everything had a hazy look to it as if you were
watching the show through a light gauze. The image was soft, with
the lines being indistinct and slightly fuzzy, and the picture was also
a little dark. There was also a fair amount of damage to the print,
with dirt and spots being fairly common. That's not to say that the
image is unwatchable, it's just showing its age.
Unfortunately there aren't any extras included with this set.
The earlier releases of this series contained the original Gatachman
episodes, and I wish that Rhino had continued that practice.
This is still a fun show. Sure the animation is crude and the
plots are fairly simple, but if you have fond memories from when the show
was first aired, you'll enjoy this set. The video is certainly showing
its age, and the audio track isn't anything to get excited about, but at
a retail price of $24.95 for 14 episodes, this is a pretty good deal.