Do you remember this show? It had Alien invaders, giant robots, space battles and all the characters were puppets? Star Fleet was a unique show that pretty much had me glued to the TV during its airing way back in 1982 on ITV (one of three channels we had in the UK at the time), and it one of the first series I remember watching all the way through week in, week out for 24 weeks.
Ringing a bell yet? No… It’s okay…
The original show was called X-Bomber when it was first aired in Japan back in 1980 and wasn’t a particularly big hit. It wasn’t until it was reworked, retitled and redubbed in English, that it briefly becoming a popular show in Great Britain. I am though unsure if it ever made it to the USA – if it did, fantastic, because it was an amazing show.
It was a cross between Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds/Captain Scarlet shows, using their pioneering voice supermarionation techniques; mixing in Stars Wars and Robotech with its space battle sequences, then adding a liberal topping of Godzilla – using a man in a robot suit rampaging around model sets. It blew my tiny little mind (I was only ten at its airing).
X-Bomber was created by manga writer Go Nagai, and aired on Fuji TV, with a total of 26 episodes. The puppets of X-Bomber were controlled from below the set using rods, and as a consequence were generally seen only from the waist up. Whereas Gerry Anderson’s series were episodic in nature, X-Bomber had an overall story arc, with sub-plots and new characters being introduced as the series progressed, leading to a definite end.
Set in the year is 2999 and the Earth is at peace following the Space Wars. The safety of the human race is ensured by Earth Defense Force (EDF). Shortly before the turn of the fourth millennium, the peace is broken by the appearance of a gigantic alien battle cruiser. The EDF Pluto base is completely destroyed and the evil Commander Makara reveals that the same fate awaits the Earth unless the mysterious F-Zero-One is handed over to her. The EDF presses into action an untested, incomplete weapon, codenamed X-Project, from its hidden moon-base. The X-Project is revealed to be a powerfully armed spacecraft named X-Bomber – that contains the three-part modular giant robot Dai-X.
The series then follows the adventures of the crew of the X-Bomber, namely Doctor Benn, Shiro Hagen, Barry Hercules and John Lee who are joined by PPA – a maintenance droid, the Princess Lamia and her guardian Kirara. They set off to discover the nature of the F-Zero-One and try to protect it from the increasingly desperate Commander Makara and her menacing overlord- the Imperial Master leading their hordes of Termoids .
Eventually it is revealed that Lamia is the mysterious F-Zero-One, a powerful alien destined to bring peace to the galaxy at the turn of the millennium. The series continues with Lamia gradually discovering her powers while the Imperial Alliance attempts to capture her and destroy the X-Bomber. The series climaxes with the X-Bomber crew destroying Commander Makara, and Lamia finally confronting and defeating the Imperial Master and bringing peace to the universe.
With a sound track by Brian May, (of Queen fame), for a ten year old kid this show was totally awesome! And was my first exposure to manga style storytelling – plus you know Dai-X totally rocked!