"We just dropped in to say hello.
We really can't stay long."
We really can't stay long."
-Jason now locked up by Zoltar and the Spectran goons offers his wry humor alongside Princess, Keyop, and Tiny-
The next installment of Battle Of The Planets opens with a nice glimpse of Mark enjoying a bit of downtime flying. "A pair of wings, a stick and the wild blue yonder. It's great to get away from the crunch and the grind once in a while." Mark is seen really letting go and enjoying his passion - the pastime of flying.
In the sky, it's not long before Mark encounters Colonel Cronos of Riga in Battle Of The Planets, Episode 11, Space Rocket Escort. It is the first appearance of Cronus in the series. The genius character design work of Cronos should be noted. Adorned in red, with black goggles and a desert-styled soldier cap, there is an air of mystery about this man. Once again Tatsunoko put great detail into character work and Cronos was one of their very best.
Mark quickly transmutes into the G-1 Sonic Jet from his bi-plane to give chase. A sweet game of cat and mouse ensues as Cronos taunts Mark in the skies and challenges his flying abilities. Mark knows its Cronos and calls his flying "wild." Mark checks in with Chief Anderson at his vacation headquarters away from Center Neptune, security headquarters Camp Parker.
Anderson has not granted clearance to Cronos for security reasons. There must be an explanation. It turns out Zoltar, a male/female (?) of many faces, has impersonated Cronos before. The team is unable to contact Riga to confirm for "security reasons."
Anderson explains Earth has been building the FY-9 for Riga. With production now complete, G-Force will escort the craft to Riga. Unbeknownst to G-Force, Spectran goons have sabotaged the vessel. It's not until they reach outer space that the FY-9 alters course to Spectra. The jig is up!
The only real lapse in plausible logic here is that G-Force is unaware the ship is now in Spectran airspace. How could a professional group of assassins who have no doubt been to Riga in the past not know the route there? And don't tell me Spectra has cut off communications leaving G-Force in the dark severed from 7-Zark-7. The team has got to be better than that and they are. They wouldn't be navigating without a compass and a full dossier on their mission. It just doesn't add up.
The FY-9 commandeered by Spectra attempts to fire upon G-Force, but they are saved by the real Cronos and three red impulse jets as they take out the missile. Why would Cronos fire upon the FY-9 wonders Mark. Come on, G-Force is smarter than this. Will G-Force be forever confused in Space Rocket Escort? Will there be a misunderstanding regarding Cronos? Will G-Force figure it all out in time? Mark launches in his G-1 and takes the fight to skies solo.
Vintage 1970s, CHiPs-like music accompanies the aerial combat fun. CHiPs (1977-1983) was a popular dramatic police series that highlighted the California Highway Patrol through two motorcycle officers Jonathan Baker and Francis Poncherello affectionately referred to as Ponch and Jon. That show lasted six seasons and 139 episodes - another real childhood treat.
Cronos fires a delayed missile that attaches itself to the FY-9. Riga ordered the craft and they can no doubt do what they need to do. Cronos is clearly a veteran with extreme comfort flying the not-so-friendly skies of Battle Of The Planets.
Mark gives chase after Cronos to determine what the hey is going on. Miraculously Mark is still not putting this mystery together. Jason contacts Mark informing him the planet doesn't look like Riga. G-Force is beginning to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Has Cronos sold out to Spectra? Mark has his questions and intends to get the answers.
Back at Center Neptune Susan informs 7-Zark-7, after a little sexual innuendo, that G-Force is near Omega-2, a planet in the Crab Nebula that is under Spectran control.
As the Phoenix is pulled closer to a volcano via tractor beam (you've gotta love the tractor beam trick) from the FY-9, Cronos himself begs the obvious question of Mark on everyone's minds, "doesn't he understand the problem?" Meanwhile, Mark is still confused.
Cronos worries time is running out for G-Force with the time bomb's timer ticking away and the Phoenix just yards away from ground zero. To make matters worse, in the interim, the rest of the G-Force team is knocked out cold by the fumes inside the volcano.
With Mark thick as a brick this time around, Cronos lands his Red Impulse to speak with Mark face to face and sort things out. The G-1 lands. The two men come face to face and engage in hand to hand combat. This is a classic comic book move whereby a misunderstanding occurs between two heroes.
With Cronos halting Mark's attack, he informs him that Zoltar has hijacked the FY-9 and they cannot allow it to fall into enemy hands, thus the attached bomb. Mark is forced into one of those Ohhhhh, I get it now moments. Finally, it's time to save the rest of G-Force and the Phoenix. Side by side the two men have less than five minutes to enter the secret volcano lair and save the team.
Cronos fires his trusty gun off at the cuffs holding G-Force and frees them all with speed and precision.
In an interesting moment, as the quintet escapes to the Phoenix, Cronos looks on and he spins his gun back into his holster in the same fashion as Mark does with his sonic boomerang. This image/scene is a foreshadowing of things to come. It is in effect suggestive of a a genetic component that echoes identical skills between these two men, Cronos and Mark.
Chief Anderson contacts the team rather steamed. Princess notes he's a "regular bear when he's mad isn't he?"
Meanwhile, Mark discovers a new found respect for this Colonel Cronos again making his first official appearance in Battle Of The Planets.
Sadly, the significance of the FY-9 is never explained of course. But the good news is Space Rocket Escort is one of the more plot heavy, plot-intensive episodes to date with a number of moving parts, a significant and even important guest star in Cronos that will hold greater significance in the future and not a whole lot of excess filler. In effect, Space Rocket Escort actually makes a big leap forward in the Battle Of The Planets mythology actually expanding upon it.
Science Ninja Team Gatchaman title: The Mysterious Red Impulse.
Up Next: Beast With A Sweet Tooth.