Battle Of The Planets

Battle Of The Planets

This series aired in daily strip syndication across the United States, Canada and the UK between 1979 and 1981. It was common for stations to “bicycle” tapes – air them and then ship them to the next station in the chain – for daily syndicated shows at this time, so there is no set official airdate for these episodes. See below the episode list for more.

Originated in 1972 in Japan as Fuji TV’s hit anime series Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman), Battle Of The Planets was the result of syndication mogul Sandy Frank’s desire to capitalize on the Star Wars craze sweeping America in late 1977. Frank settled on Gatchaman as being the easiest to adapt (not surprisingly, since Gatchaman itself had been inspired partly by American superhero comics), and set about having his writers and a new voice cast translate and redub the series for American audiences.

But it wasn’t that easy.

7-Zark-7The high violence quotient in Gatchaman meant that the series would be impossible to translate as-is for afternoon children’s TV timeslots. Each Gacthaman episode requried trims – some major, some rather drastic, meaning that a varying amount of time would have to be filled from episode to episode. This led to the creation of the robot 7-Zark-7 and his robot dog, 1-Rover-1. New animation featuring these characters was generated, and new dialogue written, often to reassure young viewers that each adventure’s high body count was acceptable because the alien soldiers were actually androids and robots! At first, the new characters never met the original Gatchaman characters, but gradually new animation of the Gatchaman characters was generated to include them on 7-Zark-7’s viewscreens and, later, meeting the robot in person (though the difference in American and Japanese artwork styles made the difference between the original Gatchaman footage and the new animation featuring those characters acutely noticeable).

Battle Of The PlanetsOther, more superficial changes were made: where the original Gatchaman took place entirely on Earth, with an alien entity influencing a rogue megalomaniac’s constant grabs for world domination, Battle Of The Planets also filled time gaps left by the deleted violent scenes with new animation of the Phoenix journeying through space to other worlds where G-Force’s help was needed. (Naturally, these other worlds wound up looking a lot like Earth on the ground level, but Sandy Frank demanded a “space” element to further capitalize on the success of Star Wars.)

Other aspects of the now-international production blended somewhat more gracefully: American composer Hoyt Curtin was granted special dispensation from his contract work for Hanna-Barbera to create new music for Battle Of The Planets, including a new theme song. His music fitted almost seamlessly along the early ’70s stylings of Battle Of The PlanetsGatchaman composer Bob Sakuma, whose music was left intact whenever possible (when it wasn’t butchered by the edits). While an album of Sakuma’s music was available in Japan from the late ’70s onward, fans didn’t stop lobbying for an album featuring both composers until an official Battle Of The Planets soundtrack was issued in 2001, arriving alongside the first DVD releases.

Entire plot threads from Gatchaman were omitted from Battle Of The Planets, namely Joe’s slowly worsening physical and mental health and the gender-bending nature of Berg Katse (renamed Zoltar in Battle Of The Planets); indeed, the last 1/5 of Gatchaman was never even seriously considered for translation to Battle Of The Planets episodes because those plot threads were so prevalent, and the episodes were simply too violent. Scripts were written, and pre-production undertaken, to create completely new episodes featuring the Gatchaman characters without using any of the original Japanese animation at all.

In the end, however, none of those stories were ever animated: Battle Of The Planets’ competition in the television sci-fi arena had become too formidable, with live-action shows such as Jason Of Star Command, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers In The 25th Century each trying to rival the spectacle of Star Wars. And with the first Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, looming in 1980, Sandy Frank decided to put an end to Battle Of The Planets before the show outstayed its welcome (and probably to avoid incurring the cost of having to generate new animation in-house). Battle Of The Planets remained a popular fixture of syndicated afternoon TV through the early ’80s.

In the late 1980s, another attempt to translate Gatchaman to English was undertaken at Turner Broadcasting, resulting in the series G-Force: Guardians Of Space. Fans have heavily criticized the latter-days series despite the fact that it more closely resembles its source material by reinstating some of the previously cut fight scenes and omitting the Sandy Frank-created robot sidekicks; the voice acting is often panned, along with the across-the-board replacement of much of the music – either Sakuma’s or Curtin’s – with endless drum machine loops. However cheesy Battle Of The Planets may have been with the deletion of countless scenes and the addition of cute robots, English-speaking fans seemed to prefer what they perceived to be the “original” show.

A handful of U.S. DVD releases and a complete-series DVD box set in England brought Battle Of The Planets back to its fans in the early 2000s. But with the 2007 lapse of Sandy Frank’s rights to further exploit the Gatchaman footage, future availability of this variation on Gatchaman is uncertain.

  1. Attack Of The Space Terrapin
  2. Rescue Of The Astronauts
  3. The Space Mummy
  4. The Space Serpent
  5. Ghost Ship Of Planet Mir
  6. Big Robot Gold Grab
  7. Ace From Outer Space
  8. Fearful Sea Anemone
  9. Jupiter Moon Menace
  10. A Swarm Of Robot Ants
  11. Space Rocket Escort
  12. Beast With A Sweet Tooth
  13. Perilous Pleasure Cruise
  14. The Thing With 1000 Eyes
  15. Microfilm Mystery
  16. The Alien Beetles
  17. A Whale Joins G-Force
  18. Mad New Ruler Of Spectra
  19. The Sea Dragon
  20. Magnetic Attraction
  21. The Musical Mummy
  22. The Fiery Lava Giant
  23. The Bat Ray Bombers
  24. Race Against Disaster
  25. The Ghostly Grasshopper
  26. The Galaxy Girls
  27. Curse Of The Cuttlefish Part I
  28. Curse Of The Cuttlefish Part II
  29. Demons Of The Desert
  30. Siege Of The Squids
  31. Orion, Wonder Dog Of Space
  32. The Fierce Flowers Part I
  33. The Fierce Flowers Part II
  34. The Space Rock Concert
  35. Prisoners In Space
  36. Victims Of The Hawk
  37. Raid On Riga
  38. Seals Of Sytron
  39. Giant Gila Monster
  40. The Capture Of The Galaxy Code
  41. Raid On A Nearby Planet
  42. Keyop Does It All
  43. Peaks Of Planet Odin
  44. The Sky Is Falling! Part I
  45. The Sky Is Falling! Part II
  46. Raid Of The Red Scorpion
  47. Mammoth Shark Menace
  48. Fastest Gun In The Galaxy
  49. Giant From Planet Zyr
  50. Secret Island
  51. Giant Space Bat
  52. Attack Of The Alien Wasp
  53. Decoys Of Doom
  54. Zoltar Strikes Out
  55. The Great Brain Robbery
  56. Silent City
  57. Peril In The Pyramids
  58. Raid Of The Space Octopus
  59. Rage Of The Robotoids
  60. The Alien Bigfoot
  61. Invasion Of The Locusts
  62. Space Safari
  63. Museum Of Mystery
  64. Peril Of The Preying Mantis
  65. Awesome Ray Force
  66. The Duplicate King
  67. Defector To Spectra
  68. Panic Of The Peacock
  69. Mission To Inner Space
  70. Spectra Space Spider
  71. Super Space Spies
  72. Cupid Does It To Keyop
  73. Tentacles From Space
  74. Island Of Fear
  75. The Awesome Armadillo
  76. Invasion Of Space Center Part I
  77. Invasion Of Space Center Part II
  78. Save The Space Colony
  79. Charioteers Of Changu
  80. Vacation On Venus
  81. Rockets Out Of Control
  82. GForce Defector
  83. Strike At Spectra
  84. GForce In The Future
  85. The Conway Tape Tap

More notes on dating these episodes: numerous sources seem to agree on a rough date of early September 1978, so for the purposes of this guide an arbitrary date of Tuesday, September 5th, 1978 has been assigned as the airdate of the first episode (Monday the 4th would’ve been Labor Day, a national holiday and also the airdate of the then-ubiquitous MDA Muscular Dystrophy Telethon – a date most stations, if they weren’t airing the telethon already – would’ve avoided competing with as the telethon was a ratings giant at the time). The dates assigned to this and subsequent episodes may not necessarily be the date that the episodes in question aired in your local market, but should be a rough approximation of the show’s air schedule. Episodes aired Monday through Friday, and (again somewhat arbitrarily) this guide will assume that, after its premiere in September 1978, the show went into reruns when not in a major “sweeps month” for Nielsen television ratings in the U.S.


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