Depending on where you come from you might know the subject of today’s post under a different name. Â In Japan it was called Gatchaman (or Science Ninja Team Gatchaman if you prefer!), whilst in the rest of the world it has been known as both G-Force and Eagle Riders. Â Here in the UK, we knew it as Battle of the Planets.
The show originated in Japan in 1972, but was brought to the western world in 1978 by Sandy Frank Entertainment, who cut the original episodes up to remove some of the more violent moments, added a few new characters and generally made the show more palatable to western tastes. Â This meant poaching a fair few ideas from Star Wars, including an epic sounding theme song and a token R2D2 like droid, but more on that later.
Battle of the Planets followed the adventures of G-Force, a team of five youngsters who defended the Earth from attacks from outer space, normally perpertrated by the evil Zoltar (an absolutely perfect name for a villain if ever there was one!). Â They travelled through space in a ship called the Phoenix, which in great Japanese tradition had a number of mini vehicles which the different members of G-Force could use. Â The Phoenix could also transform into a fiery bird like craft called the Fiery Phoenix, which looked brilliant and was often the easiest way to save the day at the end of the episode!
G-Force were Mark, Jason, Tiny, Princess and Keyop (not sure of the spelling – it may have been Cheop, but it was pronounced Key-Op). Â Whilst you often saw the team members in their civilian clothes at the beginning of the episode, for the most part they wore their special uniforms, which in keeping with the name of their ship had a bird like quality, with big capes that looked like wings and helmets with coloured visors that also looked a bit bird-like.
Mark wore a white uniform and was the notional leader of G-Force, whilst Jason wore brown and often clashed with Mark over his decisions. Â Tiny also wore brown and was rather more portly in stature than the rest of G-Force. Â He was good in a fight but generally ended up stuck on the Phoenix as he was the main pilot of it. Â The only female member of the team was Princess, who unsurprisingly wore a pink uniform with a very short mini skirt, and last but not least there was good old Keyop, resplendent in his yellow uniform. Â Keyop was the smallest of the five (presumably the youngest) but he always sounded a little robotic because whenever he said anything he would start with a lot of strange chirping and stuttering sounds.
The main addition to Battle of the Planets from the original Gatchaman series was the undersea base Centre Neptune which kept a watch out for alien invaders. Â It was looked after by a little droid called 7-Zark-7, who was so obviously inspired by R2D2 it’s untrue. Â 7-Zark-7 was a bit of a worrier as I recall, but he did a good job of helping G-Force none the less. Â He also had a pet, a robotic dog called 1-Rover-1, and was perhaps a little smitten by the main computer of Centre Neptune, who was called Susan (I kid you not) and had a rather sexy sounding voice!
All in all there were 85 episodes of Battle of the Planets, which were put together from 105 episodes of Gatchaman. I remember sitting glued to the TV whenever it came on, and each episode was a topic of conversation in the school playground the next day, as all my friends were hooked on it too!