In the late 1970s, if you were a child, you most likely had Star Wars fever, which made virtually anything space-related a big deal. You most likely watched Battle of the Planets and wished you could buy the enormous Millennium Falcon toy.
The 1972 publication of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, a Japanese anime series, in America led to the creation of Battle of the Planets. Battle of the Planets was the most well-liked anime series in the country by 1979, airing in the late afternoon on 100 network stations.
The show was utterly fascinating, especially for teenage geeks. The programme was extremely distinctive in that it provided kids with their first exposure to Japanese animation.
The young viewers of this sci-fi television programme loved it and gave it positive feedback. The entire show will be broken down in this video because, well, sometimes old IS gold.
What was the show all about?
Battle of the Planets debuted in September 1978 as the first English-language version of the popular anime Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. It was many children’s first exposure to the vivid world of Japanese animation. The series was fantastic and really entertaining for fans. The show portrayed the story of five young orphans who were taught nearly from birth to battle the forces of evil from other planets, as we learned from the trumpet music and old-timey voiceover.
The origin story of Battle of the Planets is quite the interesting one. Sandy Frank attended the MIP-TV conference in Cannes in April 1977. It was here that Frank first saw the Japanese anime Gatchaman, produced by the Yoshida brothers’ Tatsunoko Production. After seeing the success of Star Wars in May 1977, Frank decided to release the series in the United States. The title of the American adaptation of Frank’s series was Battle of the Planets. Without consulting the original scripts, Frank allowed new footage and recruited writers to develop lines to fit the appearance of the animation. The Battle of the Planets adaptation made by Sandy Frank Entertainment in 1978 used 85 out of the 105 original Gatchaman series episodes.
The plot follows a villain named Zoltar and his wicked henchmen as they strive to destroy or conquer the planet Earth on a regular basis. G-Force, a group of five young kids – Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop, and Tiny, with their high-tech cars, weaponry, and love for bird-like outfits are continually opposing his efforts in this villainous direction. Each member of the defensive squad possesses tremendous superpowers that have been strengthened via cerebration. These orphaned teenagers have vowed to protect Earth and the Federation from Zoltar, the ruler of the planet Spectra. 7-Zark-7, G-digital Force’s assistant, coordinates G-Force’s missions from Earth’s Center Neptune.
Battle of the Planets is not the same as Gatchaman and they are distinctly different when it comes to plot and themes. The difference is due to extensive editing done to make the show more palatable to an American audience by deleting contentious parts like as graphic violence, profanity, and nudity and replacing them with elements similar to the popular feature picture Star Wars at the time.
In truth, the name “Battle of the Planets” was an attempt to link the series to Star Wars fame. While the existing Gatchaman was earthbound, dark-toned, and ecologically themed, the adaptation transformed it into a kid-friendly outer space tv-series with robot characters, keeping some environmental tropes, which is why the other planetary systems to which G-Force traveled during missions looked so much like the Earth. Cutting sequences, dubbing, and informative voice-overs were used to change or delete the setting, violence, offensive language, and most major deaths.
To make up for the other discrepancies, a robot named 7-Zark-7 was introduced. He was stationed at Center Neptune and kept an eye on G-Force. He performed descriptive voiceovers and light comic relief roles, which not only filled the holes in the storyline but also cushioned the time lost during editing.
This device is heavily influenced by recent Star Wars films, with 7-Zark-7 having a visual look similar to R2-D2 and a slightly camp demeanor akin to C-3PO. Additional animated footage of G-Force members Mark and Princess conversing with Zark, as well as a picture of Mark on a video screen in the control room, was used to help his addition flow more seamlessly with the existing Gatchaman footage, though there is an evident quality difference between both the Zark and the Gatchaman animation.
It was a stylish outer space show that captured the attention and imagination of young audiences.
Exploring the initial episodes – where the story took us!
Battle of the planets focused on the five unlikely orphaned heroes who banded together to save the Earth from evil forces and surprise attacks from hostile planets, galaxies, and their rulers, with their missions being supervised by a little guardian robot called 7-Zark-7.
The episodes open with their memorable and iconic narration of who the G-Force are and how they stand together, united in the face of evil as Earth’s main line of defense against inter-planetary attackers. The first episode is titled ‘Attack of the Space Terrapin’ and focuses on a massive radio-control kaiju that emerges from the water as rains pour down heavily on it. Immediately as the creature is spotted, a red alert sounds and the military readies itself for battle.
They fire at the massive creature repeatedly but to no avail and there’s only one team that can help – the G-Force! 7-Zark-7 alerts the heroic team and they set off, transform into their hero suits using their fancy transmuting watches and make their way towards the out-of-control monster.
We see their special gadgets and vehicles that help them combat these villains. They gather in their control room with their robotic guardian and discuss the details of the mission after which they set out to hunt this invader from a planet named Spectra. This planet is the main antagonistic planet in this series and evil creatures originating from it attack the Earth and the G-Force, throughout the show.
They make their way towards the scene of the action where the military was still engaged in a battle with the beast and finally come face to face with it as it wages war and destruction. The G-Force expertly uses all their skills in tandem with each other to coordinate and quickly take down the monster.
While some attack it from outside, the others work on intel within. This episode also shows us a glimpse of the bad guys as they board the most powerful spaceship from Spectra to take down the invaders. They are met by a small army of soldiers, but the G-Force disposes of them quickly as if they were nothing. They defeat the bad guys and we are introduced to the ‘Luminous One’ who calls all the shots from Planet Spectra and is hell-bent on capturing and conquering the Earth and by extension, G-Force.
However, the episodes aren’t super straightforward and towards the end of this episode, the G-Force is forced into a tough spot when they realize that the bad guys had planted a bomb in their Phoenix spaceship. However, despite the initial panic, they manage to make it out of their alive, without a scratch.
The second episode is titled ‘Rescue of the Astronauts’ and focuses on a space mission. The robot, Zark is tasked with monitoring the return of two astronauts who had been on a space mission. Zark explains to the audience how the Phoenix, which is the battleship used by the G-Force, is capable of flying up to the moon or even Mars however, astronauts still use rockets for their mission and Zark was in charge of monitoring it.
We watch as the astronauts guide their rocket back to Earth, helped by the control room. They begin their descent to Earth and it all seems to be going smoothly. They land in the water, but before they can get out, they are pulled underwater by two manta-ray-looking creatures and taken to a deep, dark part of the ocean.
The G-Force is immediately alerted to come and rescue the astronauts. All five of the heroes assemble and while they usually squabble with each other, they come together at the end. They sit in their headquarters and receive information by which they learn that these returning astronauts had managed to get recorded evidence of alien bases on Mars and their disappearance was in retaliation of the same.
However, we find that the villains here are the same group of evil aliens from Planet Spectra who report to the evil mastermind – Zoltar. They had been constructing bases on Mars to aid in their takeover of Earth and did not want the people of Earth, especially the G-Force to find out about their transgressions.
The G-Force takes their ship down into the depths of the ocean in an attempt to locate the two astronauts but trouble strikes when the ship goes out of their control and is on the verge of getting stuck in an underwater volcanic eruption. They manage to evade it with the help of their combined effort and emerge unharmed from the water. However, they have to go back underwater to complete their mission.
They finally locate the massive underwater weapons and military base created by Spectra forces under the command of Zoltar which they classify as the most major threat to Earth’s security yet. They realize that they have to infiltrate the base, save the astronauts and then destroy it to preserve Earth’s security.
They stealthily begin carrying out their mission, each doing tasks best suited for their individual abilities. They manage to infiltrate the base but are caught by the Spectra forces. A battle ensues but the G-Force emerges victorious and they manage to free the astronauts along with gaining the cassette with the information of the secret bases on it. However, Zoltar gets extremely angry at this turn of events and orders the destruction of the Phoenix. But as we all know by now, the Phoenix is not that easy to destroy and the G-Force expertly navigates through the difficulties to save the ship and each other.
The third episode of the series is titled ‘The Space Mummy’ and involves the G-Force being sent out to space to investigate the cause behind a series of unexplained and frequent aircraft crashes on a new planet. There is a recurring theme here of the bad guys being Zoltar and his lackeys from Planet Spectra, guided by the Enlightened one. The story progresses with a new incident in each episode that the G-Force has to investigate and they end up having to fight the villains.
Sandy Frank intended to retain the episode order intact when adapting Gatchaman. However, because Tatsunoko had sent them the film reels out of sequence and had also arrived late, the dubbing team had to translate the episodes in the order in which they were received.
As a result, some episodes that originally maintained continuity with earlier stories have had those references taken out, and viewing some episodes in the Gatchaman order will reveal events that did not occur in the original. As a result, a new order of episodes was established.
All about the G-Force
Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop, and Tiny were cast as members of the heroic G-Force in the show Battle of the Planets. Mark is the cool, calm, and collected leader of the team, while Jason who is second in command, is an absolute hothead. Princess was the engineer of the group and it was her presence that opened the show up to a larger female audience as girls felt included in the adventure.
Tiny was the group’s Pilot and Keyop was a young kid who spoke via a series of clicks and beeps – making them an unusual motley crew of heroes. G-Force defends Earth against invasions from the planet Spectra and other extra-terrestrial threats. Zoltar, a malevolent, masked figure, was the most notable field commander of the Spectra forces. Zoltar would get commands straight from the “Luminous One,” an entity he referred to as such. The Luminous One would appear as a floating head with a ghostly appearance. Throughout the series, no one ever explains who or what this entity is in any detail.
To face and defeat swarms of enemy soldiers and conquer other hurdles, the G-Force team would use a blend of martial arts abilities, ninja-like weapons, and their “cerebonic” talents. The G-Force members’ bird-like costumes incorporate wing-like capes that can fan out and act almost identically to parachutes and/or wingsuits, allowing them to drift or glide down to safety from altitudes that would otherwise be catastrophic. They were skilled heroes.
The Phoenix was the G-Force team’s primary ship, capable of carrying, transporting, and deploying four smaller vehicles, each controlled by one team member. One of the four cars was a futuristic race car which was driven by Jason that had different secret weaponry and was camouflaged within the Phoenix’s nosecone. The “galacti-cycle,” a futuristic motorcycle Princess rode, was kept in the Phoenix’s left-wing pod.
The Phoenix’s right storage capsule carried Keyop’s “Space Bubble,” an all-terrain, tank-like vehicle capable of VTOL while also being a submersible vessel. Finally, a future jet fighter piloted by Mark was stationed in the top rear section of the Phoenix command island structure, with its tail fin serving as the Phoenix’s center tail fin. Tiny, the fifth crew member, was given the task of piloting the Phoenix instead of one of the detachable crafts.
The Phoenix’s transition into a flaming bird-shaped vessel capable of handling nearly any extraordinary scenario by acting like a big, super blowtorch known as the Fiery Phoenix was a frequently featured story element. In the series, the Phoenix’s primary weapon was a stockpile of rockets known as “TBX missiles.” It also featured a powerful solar-powered energy cannon on occasion, albeit the team had the displeasure of using it on very cloudy days.
The G-Force members communicate using a wristband communicator gadget that also allows them to rapidly transform or “transmute” into their G-Force outfits or back into ordinary clothing. Other weapons included Mark’s sonic boomerang, a bird-shaped boomerang with razor-sharp wings; Jason’s and Tiny’s multi-purpose gadget guns, which can be outfitted with grappling hook and line, drill bits, and other items; and Keyop’s and Princess’s yo-yo bombs, which can be used as bolas, darts, and explosive devices. Other notable weapons include feathers with a sharpened steel quill that can be used as deadly throwing darts and mini-grenades fashioned like ball bearings with spike studs.
Zoltar – the mean, spunky villain of the show
The most visible leader on the planet Spectra is Zoltar. While he does not rule that world, he does command the majority of Spectra’s missions against the Federation and its supporters. Zoltar is frequently referred to as Spectra 57’s supreme ruler. Tiny, Jason, Keyop, and Princess have given him additional colorful names including “Purple Party Pooper,” “Purple Creep,” “Purple Pirate 51,” and “Ol’ Kinky.”
His past is unknown, although he does have a sister named Mala Latroz, who claims that Zoltar comes from the planet Spectra. He sees himself as the incarnation of Spectra, and he wishes to live indefinitely. He knows his way around a recording studio and has some surgical skills. Outside of his distaste for Earth and G-Force, little is known about Zoltar’s likes and dislikes. We do know he enjoys chess, is terrified of ghosts, and panics when he hears the sound of whistling. He also enjoys a glass of wine to commemorate his successes.
It’s almost as mysterious as the man himself how he keeps control of Spectra’s armies. The Spirit seems to be constantly annoyed with Zoltar, as though he is on the precipice of permanently replacing him. He’s called Zoltar an idiot and a fool right to his face, and he’s even told him to stop sniveling. Zoltar keeps claiming that Earth will be captured so that Spectra can steal its natural resources. However, the Spirit claims that he has before heard Zoltar’s arrogant remarks and dazzling promises. He observes that Zoltar usually returns from Earth empty-handed and that he always blames his losses on G-Force.
To deceive people, Zoltar frequently disguises himself. Sometimes his disguises appear to be little more than masks and costumes, but other times he appears to change his entire appearance. Zoltar once stated that he possesses extraordinary abilities that enable him to shift or alter into the identical resemblance of another person. He has assumed the identities of a flute player, characters like Colonel Cronus, Chief Anderson, and President Kane’s stewardess, among others.
He appears to be quite knowledgeable about G-Force and its organization. He is aware, for example, that G-Force has Cerebonic implants. Jason’s name and membership in G-Force are known to Zoltar. In addition, Zoltar seems to recognize Mark as a G-Force member even while he is dressed in civilian clothes. He also has the annoying ability to push transmissions through viewscreens in Center Neptune, Federation Headquarters, and on the Phoenix.
Zoltar is an extremely crafty mastermind, and he always prepares for the worst by including escape cars in his plans. He’s had these on most, if not all, of the Spectra bases and machines he’s controlled. Zoltar’s personal ship has also rescued him from bases on several occasions. Zoltar carries a pistol on occasion and carries small bombs in his mouth that he can throw at opponents. The Spirit advises Zoltar to save himself first and foremost, an instruction that Zoltar easily follows.
G-Force has had Zoltar in their hands on countless occasions, and it irritates Mark that the cunning villain manages to elude captivity time and time again. The Spirit fills the room with a brilliant flash that knocks the G-Force asleep the one single time Mark is able to get a grip of Zoltar and remove his mask. Zoltar manages to flee, but not before Mark notices Zoltar’s long, flowing blonde locks. Following that, Mark speculates that Zoltar might be female, which Tiny dismisses.
When Zoltar is able to demolish the main Research Center building, he achieves his biggest triumph against G-Force. When Zoltar’s strike destroys this crucial undersea building, several members of G-Force, including Chief Anderson, are almost killed. This shows that he wasn’t a shambling villain, he was super intelligent and knew how to get things done which made the constant tension between him and the G Force more palpable.
Marvelous Verdict on this awesome underrated gem
The combination of American cartoons and Manga resulted in this highly stylized product. Battle of the Planets is without a doubt the best-animated series ever done. This cartoon has it all: a hauntingly wonderful theme tune, fantastic animation, and fantastic narrative lines. The classic Godzilla approach to monsters is admirably maintained in Battle Of The Planets: they emerge from oceans and volcanoes. They’re enraged, and major cities must pay the price. What is the explanation for all this violence? Just for the sake of it.
Through Battle of the Planets, Sandy Frank brought Tatsunoko’s Science Ninja Team Gatchaman to America. The names were changed to protect the innocent or because they erroneously believed that American children would not be able to identify with Japanese names such as Ken, Joe, and June.
So, what are you going to do? Casey Kasem, Ronnie Schell, and Janet “Judy Jetson” Waldo provided the voices for Mark, Jason, Princess, Tiny, and Keeyop. 7-Zark-&, a robot with blatantly inferior animation, was included to reinforce the ties to the then-popular Star Wars. The show was relocated from Earth to space. People died from time to time, although not in the same numbers as in Gatchaman. Spectra forces were always ejected from exploding jets and ships, just as they were in the later GI Joe series. The adult plot, though, set this apart from the typical animated fare.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers resurrected the genre created by this show. Both teams ‘transmute’ through wristwatch, wear color-coded clothes, language and plot are irrelevant, and their combined special abilities rescue the day. The concept of a superhero team with a secret home life was also introduced in this episode. Each character had a personality tic: Mark was the leader, solely focused on his objectives, Jason was the outspoken campaigner, and Princess kept the emotional side together. Regardless of their differences, they’d eventually join together in the flaming Phoenix, the whole being larger than the parts of its parts. That’s what made it so much fun on the playground: each of your pals had a position that suited their personality.
The characters have genuine emotions and motives. They seek vengeance, experience envy, and anxiety, have relationships and get hurt. Even after being highly restricted, the battles were fantastic. The criminals were not mistaken; they were openly evil. The heroes didn’t always come out on top, at least not always totally. Personal growth and ongoing sub-plots were also present. It was a refreshing departure from Superfriends and Scooby-Doo.
In Japan, the series was hugely influential, sparking a slew of imitators, including live-action Power Rangers shows. It gained a cult following in the United States, but accomplished little to lay the groundwork for better-animated shows, at least not right away.
Later on, admirers of the show would make their way into the television industry, importing an increasing number of Japanese animated programs. Japanese television shows and manga comics now account for a significant portion of juvenile entertainment. Rather than bootlegs, the DVD renaissance had eventually brought the unedited Gatchaman, as well as the revised BOTP, to American homes. There’s even talk of a second season and/or a new show. Even if it’s a little out of date, there’s still a lot of fun to be had here.
This is the epitome of traditional animation. It’s out of date when compared to today’s animation. However, it was a classic in 1978. Speed Racer, a classic and one of the best shows, was created in the same Japanese Animation style. To sum up, if any middle-aged adults want to relive their youth by viewing what was undoubtedly the best program during their childhood days, I recommend watching a few episodes of Battle Of The Planets to get your adrenaline pumping and relive wonderful memories.
By 1979, the show had become the most popular anime series in the United States. Sentai Filmworks has licensed the Gatchaman franchise as of June 2013. Gatchaman, a long-delayed CGI film based on the property that was set to be released in 2011 by Warner Bros., was officially canceled in June 2011. In August 2013, a live-action Gatchaman feature film was released in Japan. Hidive has made the series available to stream since 2018. It is safe to say that we don’t get to see such shows anymore – they simply don’t make cartoons like this anymore but a reboot would definitely overjoy fans. Have you watched Battle of the Planets? Let us know in the comments section below!