Canada's east coast was a cold, cold place in the middle to late 70s in the winter. Barely into the school year, the shadows started to lengthen, the days got shorter and colder. Bitter arguments were had with single-digit aged kids and their parents as to what constituted an acceptable Hallowe'en costume. Nobody wanted to wear anything over or with a snowsuit, but that was practically what you needed. The dreams of many a cool Hallowe'en costume died a very padded and loserish looking death.
And the other battle was over what was an acceptable time to come home. In the pre-"medicate-the-kids-with-Ritalin-and-keep-them-tethered-in-the-basement-with-Nintendo" 70s, the rule was come home after school, and come home before dark. Dark in the winter was around 5-6pm, and that meant breaking those rules to watch "G-Force" with your friends. Or, by its actual name, "Battle of the Planets".
Oh, we neighbourhood kids did the rounds of each others' panelled rec-rooms and suchlike, watching the animated adventures of five orphans and their spacecraft. We knew EXACTLY what time it came on, and the moment the trumpet fanfare hit, we were STOKED.
"Five.... acting as one"... Mark, Princess, Jason, Tiny and Keyop. We begged for digital watches, large chunky battery sucking LED devices, as gifts so that bringing the wrist in front of the face and yelling "Transmute!", (their battle cry and precursor to transformation into epic hero), would be more realistic. There wasn't much actual violence in the show, but there was enough excitement to make us bounce off the couch cushions and generally make any and all adults retreat to the mini-bar in the living room.
The premise of the show was simple. Earth was constantly under threat from alien invaders, more specifically the nefarious planet Spectra, led by a rather feminine looking villain in a hood resembling a Baphomet, named Zoltar. Zoltar himself answered to a rather vaginal-looking disembodied face with a pair of glowing eyes with no explicit name. Spectra would develop some kind of Godzilla villain type robot, which would fly to Earth, blow some stuff up, the G-Force team would fly into place, shoot at it, and save the day. Zoltar would make his escape and try again. They worked some more adult themes into it - betrayal by friends, people aren't always what they seem, etc. But it was a pretty standard plot by numbers, with heavy deus ex machina. But hey, we were SEVEN YEARS OLD.
Mrs. Northover screamed at us for tossing the pillows off the couch and treating the arm of said couch like the motorcycles ridden by Mark upon occasion. Mark was the ostensible leader, a white-cloaked cat with a Shaun Cassidy haircut, numbered shirt and flared jeans when he wasn't saving the universe dressed as a swan. Schoolyard games almost came to blows over who got to pretend to be either this cat or Jason. Jason was a brooding kind of character who was the kind of kid girls would go for later in life, the guy with the chip on his shoulder but not actually evil. Princess of course was a girl, so no boy would ever want to play as said character, and since none of the girls were into that show, her character was notably absent from schoolyard games.
Nobody was quite sure what Keyop was, except for having the world's strangest speech impediment ever, like someone who failed ESL simultaneously trying to do a really bad R2-D2 impersonation. The unpopular kid was stuck with that role.
The spacecraft pilot, Tiny, was a rather obese and docile creature who typically stayed on board the Phoenix and kept it in place while the others saved the day. They each had a specific kind of weapon as well - Mark had a boomerang dart with retractable wings, I think the other weapons included a feather and bolos. The largest, most placid kid got that one, to his dismay. Lots of sitting around doing nothing.
It was really a perfect storm. Japan and France had done tons of shared projects, leading to their output being us kids being fed a heavy diet of anime-based manga in school, given Canada's obsession with producing francophone children in the Trudeau days. Goldorak, Albator, and others were the gateway drugs for the more Americanized version which made up a heavy percentage of after- and during-school activity.
Well, thanks to the glory of YouTube, I've caught a couple of episodes, to see how well it's aged.
Dude, they're dressed in bird costumes. Dude, what the HELL? I don't care if I get to save the universe time and time again, is a swan costume the best thing you could find for me to wear? I'd walk off that job on principle.
Dude, there's no violence. I note with great interest that though buildings are levelled, spacecraft destroyed and batteries of missiles fired between spacecraft, the missiles were often ineffective, and those that did destroy craft (usually the military's) destroyed drone planes. Buildings were clearly stated to have been successfully evacuated in time before the Giant Space Bat of DOOM with the force ray levelled the city.
Dude, it's so disco it hurts. Never mind the epauletted gold lame cape of 7 Zark 7 (vide infra), the soundtrack was so 70s, complete with "wocka wocka" guitar and lush strings, it hurt. Add to that that I have a sneaking suspicion Zoltar's voice was done by the guy who voiced over Mr. Han in Enter the Dragon, and I get some serious handlebar moustache and red turtleneck vibes.
Dude, the animation is the damn same I think I saw that same animated sequence of missiles being fired before. Japanimation is often guilty of that and other "shortcuts" (freeze frames, static action shot with sparkly backgrounds, reusing footage, etc) but man, they really pushed the envelope with the use of that shot. Three times in fact. In this episode. Six times in the previous one. This turns out to be easily explained. This and the next item are due to the fact that they completely retooled the show from the source material. In essence, like a rap artist, they "sampled" from the original episodes, wrote new dialogue, and stuck filler animation and exposition in between to make it work, sanitising out the violence, sexual themes, and suchlke.
Dude, 7 Zark 7 was LAME Okay, so the whole thing stitching this quilt of different bits of animation together was some expository narration and setup and denouement bits by a rather silly antennaed gold-and-blue ripoff of R2D2. He had a rather pathetic crap robot dog called 1 Rover 1 that flew by means of a tail which doubled as a rotor, more believable than Zark's habit of flapping his gold disco cape and flying the seven feet or so across the room. Inexplicably, he also chose to shower in the middle of the control room, an oft-repeated animation. That most definitely did not stand the test of time - the voice actor's effeminate musings assuring us that noone got hurt was kind of needed to make it a kid's show but dude, I thought it was harsh then and it's worse now. The only thing that salvaged the character somewhat was his penchant for getting erect antennae whenever a fellow computer system, with a voice like a sex phone operator, made idle suggestive chitchat with him. This was clearly an attempt to soothe the pain of the truly harsh disco soundtrack that was his leitmotif.
The fact that Zark never actually interacted with the rest of the show at all (the excuse being that he was monitoring deep space from Neptune, far awy from Earth and therefore not able to interact with the rest of the cast in real time) should have tipped us off to the fact that the character's insertion had nothing to do with the original story.
Because, lo and behold, the original was something called Gatchaman, and as previously mentioned, it was a far more violent and darker thing. Zoltar's character was supposed to be a hermaphroditic mutant. In the end of the American series, they revealed (as "he" was unmasked) that Zoltar wore lipstick because he was in fact a woman, which was a headfuck par excellence to us kiddies. Okay, Zoltar dressed kinda swishy and wore lipstick, but he had a deep, aggressive voice. When that show aired, the kids who saw it spoilered it for the rest, and there were HEATED ARGUMENTS and FISTS over the OUTRIGHT FUCKING LIE that Zoltar was a GIRL, and... it led to some girls coming in and swinging for some of us cause they didn't like the sexism inherent in the more vocal assertions amongst our midst.
Okay, so it was patched together from a far cooler show. Keyop's voice acting was lame and 7 Zark 7 was an incredibly loserish character (the speech pattern of Keyop was done to hide the fact that the same actor did both characters). The intro to the show is about three minutes long, as is the outro animation, which never changed. It's basically the same stock footage over and over. Zoltar's lieutenant had a heavily permed mullet, and they worshipped a giant malevolent vulva. But you know what? To a group of seven year olds at Lamira Dow Billings elementary school on the cusp of what was then the outskirts of Beacon Hill in the late 1970s, it was the coolest fucking show ever.