1 9 7 8 – 1 9 8 5 (USA/Japan)
85 x episodes
Battle Of The Planets was adapted and translated from a Japanese animated series entitled Science Ninja Team Gatchaman.
That series began in 1972 and ran for an incredible 105 episodes in its native country, and was so successful it spawned a further 100 episodes in two sequels called Science Ninja Team Gatchaman II (1979) and Science Ninja Team Gatchaman Fighter (1979).
At a cost of over $5 million, a team of Hanna-Barbera graduates, headed by producer Sandy Frank, tore the show to pieces, re-titled it, edited out all the gratuitous razor blade decapitations, re-wrote all the storylines and added new linking sequences with a friendly robot to jigger things along a bit.
The new series was also given a new theme tune – sounding for all the world like music for the opening ceremony of a gay Olympic Games . . .
The basic premise for Battle Of The Planets was that the Earth is constantly under attack from the dying planet of Spectra, which has used up all its natural resources and is now seeking to plunder ours.
The ruler of Spectra was called the ‘Great Spirit’ and was a disembodied floating bird head who hissed out orders to his henchmen via a television screen.
The real villain of the show, however, was a seven-foot drag artiste called Zoltar – replete with red lipstick, unfeasibly large pointed bat-eared headdress and maniacal laugh.
Each week, Zoltar would launch another fearsome plague on Earth in the shape of a giant ‘space terrapin’, a ‘space serpent’ or a ‘space squid’. You can see the pattern emerging, yeh?
By the end of the series it was all getting quite ridiculous, with the Earth being attacked by armadillos, cuttlefish and furry seals.
The Intergalactic Federation was obviously disturbed by these events and sought to protect the Earth from the attacks, electing five orphaned teenagers to do the dirty work. The five donned skin-tight bird suits and used their cerebonically-enhanced powers to save the world with clockwork regularity.
Mark was the leader – a butch, tousle-haired no-nonsense pretty boy (who rather let the side down by being voiced by Casey Kasem – better known as Shaggy from Scooby Doo).
His sidekick was Jason, the arrogant impulsive one, and they were joined by a stroppy Women’s Libber called Princess (pictured above), continually flashing her white panties, and ‘Tiny’ Harper, who wasn’t, but was instead rather overweight and dull and wore his lycra far too tight . . .
Rounding out the team was Keyop, the one with the speech impediment. Standing only a few feet tall and dressed like a duck, Keyop squealed like an imbecile and sported a pronounced overbite.
Together the teenagers made an unlikely band of feathery freedom fighters called ‘G-Force’, united by their well-worn catchphrase “Dedicated, Inseparable, INVINCIBLE!”.
G-Force were called to arms whenever they received a call from Center Neptune, a top secret world defence base located 900 fathoms under the sea off the west coast of America. Sending the five orphaned teens into perilous danger each week was a kindly but desperately fey robot especially designed by the American animators to top-and-tail the action-packed storylines.
The robot in question, 7-Zark-7, was in a wholly different class of animation from the rest of the stylish Japanese original, and his R2-D2-inspired design was, frankly, rubbish.
Even more camp than Zoltar, 7-Zark-7 was a hypochondriac who asserted his heterosexuality by constantly flirting with a disembodied female voice called Susan (voiced by Janet Waldo, who had been Penelope Pitstop a decade earlier), who spouted disturbing double-entendres via an intercom on Pluto . . .
The formula remained largely unchanged for the duration of the 85 American episodes.
Confusingly, the series was re-issued for American television in 1987 under the title G-Force with the silly stories re-written for a second time.
It was hastily re-edited and all the voices completely re-recorded by different actors. As a consequence, the principal characters had to endure the indignity of even more ridiculous names: Tubby ‘Tiny’ Harper was saddled with the rather cumbersome moniker ‘Hoot Owl’ and Zoltar got a much-needed injection of testosterone to become ‘Galactor’.
Best of all, the annoying Keyop was appropriately re-christened ‘Pee Wee’, which jolly well served him right!