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Presented below is a very early Battle of the Planets article from Spain. It was the lead four page story featured in the February 9, 1980 edition of Supertele magazine.
ON SUNDAYS, "BATTLE OF THE PLANETS"
HOW TO BEAT EVIL IN 85 EPISODES
The subject of outer space has captivated anyone and everyone for many years. First was the arrival of the books and newspaper comics. Then, the planetary and galactic films came about on a regular basis from the early days of the cinema.
FROM THE JAPANESE “KOJI” TO THE AMERICAN “MARK
Films with actors such as those in “Journey to the Moon,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” or “The War of the Worlds,” had noticeable success, but fantasy writers and specialists were halted by technical and economic constraints, and also, by the low level of scientific understanding the vast majority of viewers had at that time.
From the revolutionary new approach of American blockbusters - which was earlier reserved exclusively for biblical themes - Hollywood set out to conquer film markets with large scale-budget adventures with incredibly sophisticated techniques, whose great exponents in the field were without a doubt, “Star Wars,” “Superman” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
Of course American television also attempted science fiction from the very beginning. Memorable productions included “Star Trek,” “Lost in Space” and more recently “Space: 1999.”
A JAPANESE ENCLAVE
But then again, the system that has indeed contributed the best to the cosmic fantasy is that of “comics” and cartoons. Interestingly enough, this field looked like a private enclave in which only the Japanese could thrive. Let's remember the unprecedented universal success of “Mazinger-Z", responsible on the other hand, for an avalanche of films of the same origin, but yet of lower quality that flooded during several months in Spanish homes that showcased “permitted programs.” Of course, in the United States they had long before tried animated space adventures, with not much success, and almost invariably with previously existing characters. Let's mention, with titles translated directly that haven't yet been shown in Spain, the most modern ones: “Partridge Family 2200 AD (based on the ‘Partridge Family’ series”), “Yogi’s Space Race” and “The Perils of Penelope Pitstop".
The British tried their luck with series starring puppets, like “Thunderbirds,” produced by the married couple Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who were also responsible for the “Space: 1999” series, starring Barbara Bain and Martin Landau.
Last year, with an extraordinary budget for this type of production - more than five million dollars - and encouraged by the success of films like “Star Wars,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica”, North American television began to air the series “Battle of the Planets,” that is currently scheduled to air on Sunday on TVE1 after the show “Fantastico 80.2” The information provided at that moment by TVE about “Battle of the Planets” emphasized, in particular, the absence of violent and traumatic sequences for children. A show for all audiences that will last on our screens for year an a half.....They leased the entire eighty-five episodes of the series, without knowing if they would be liked or not! Hopefully, taking in count the meticulous care of the Americans in this type of children's programs, success comes along to an unlikely and colossal (for the duration) screening attempt.
Presumably behind all this, a marketing campaign is being prepared, therefore the Spanish market will see an invasion of trading cards, toys, games and costumes inspired by the characters featured in “Battle of the Planets”, something similar to the one produced by “Mazinger-Z” and the rest of the cartoon series aired by TVE.
EXPLOITING THE SUCCESS OF THE GALAXIES
On first thought, “Battle of the Planets” seems very suspiciously like “Star Wars.” It wouldn't surprise us if that was a case of merely “stretching out” the same theme in the millions-making film: there are human qualities, forces of good and evil, robots and human beings fighting against fierce invaders trying to conquer Earth…
Focused on the adventures of G-Force, the name given to a commando group in charge of patrolling Earth and its galaxy, the show, according to its producers, has been meticulously designed to maintain suspense, action and fantasy without resorting to the use of violence or terror. It's a relentless fight against evil - personified by the incoming invader robots from the ecologically depleted planet Spectra.
The defenders of the Earth, G-Force, consists of five young people with powerful skills commanded either directly by Dr. Anderson, or through the robot “7-Zarak-7”3, the true nerve center of the computer that compiles all the information concerning the safety of the planet and its space surroundings.
The ship “Phoenix,” the means of transportation and attack of G-Force and its crew consists of Mark, the commander who leads his impetuous assistant, Jason. With them also flies Princess, the only woman on board: intelligent, brave and attractive. The fourth member is the friendly “Keyop”, a robot that due to a manufacturing error, can’t speak properly. Finally Tiny, the super pilot of the “Phoenix” vehicle that deserves special mention as it's able to transform from a conventional spacecraft to a “formless” shape with the ability to escape from any danger. G-force’s quintessential enemy is Zoltar, evil leader of Spectra’s forces, who is constantly trying to invade Earth using robots, remote controlled tanks, robot-planes, mechanical monsters, etc. Zoltar needs to conquer our planet because his dying planet has lost almost all of its natural resources. Zoltar receives orders from a superior force known as The Spirit, which is also called the Luminous One, due to the fact that it is never represented except by two eyes glowing in a monitor screen.
“Battle of the Planets” can’t have in all, a more straightforward storyline. It brings into play the two forces that have moved men around from time immemorial: good and evil, love and hate, attack and defense. These elements, somewhat rough, that divide the universe into two irreconcilable sides, may be the basis of the success or failure of the series. The only setback is that regardless of success or not, we’ll have a “battle" for a long time.
1 - TVE - Televisión Española the state-owned TV station that aired Battle of the Planets.
2 - "Fantastico 80" was a Spanish variety show that aired from 1978 to 1981.
3 - "Zarak" was spelled this way in the article.
Special thanks to Adriana S. Garratachea for her great help in translating this article!