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Series / Star Fleet

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Left to right: Lamia, John Lee, Shiro Hagen, Barry Hercules and Dr. Benn with the Dai-X standing above them and the Imperial Alliance battlecruiser top left.
Star Fleet is an early '80s Japanese Science Fiction show with character and mecha designs from Go Nagai. Known in Japan as X-Bomber, the show is notable for using miniatures and marionettes rather than cel animation, giving it a very unique look. Also distributed in France and Spain under the title Bomber X.

The year is 2999, and Earth is at peace after a long stellar war. This peace is shattered by the arrival of Commander Makara and her giant Imperial Alliance battlecruiser. After making light work of the Earth Defence Force, they approach Earth and threaten to destroy it unless the Earthlings hand over F-01. The people of Earth have no idea what this even is, and the Alliance isn't buying any pleas of ignorance.

In order to counter the attack the EDF launch the experimental X-Project, consisting of the prototype battlecruiser X-Bomber and three fighter craft that can combine to form the robot Dai-X.

With the attack repelled, the crew of the X-Bomber set out to discover the secret of F-01, a secret they must discover before the Imperial Alliance do, or the universe is doomed.

Not hugely successful in its native Japan, the show was very popular in the UK. The combination of being superficially similar to the much loved Thunderbirds, and the fact that the show didn't shy away from many tropes that were mostly unknown in kids programming in Britain at the time made it a Gateway Series for British kids of a certain age. It even inspired the album Star Fleet Project, where Brian May and Van Halen performed together.

Lots more information about the series can be found at the SFXB homepage.

Oh, and this has nothing to do with that Starfleet. Or that other Star Fleet.

Star Fleet provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: The crew were chosen because they came top at the academy.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • Orion, who spent much of the series as the most cowardly and reluctant of the villains, shows considerable bravery and determination in his suicide mission. His demise was certainly a lot more dignified than the panicky deaths of Makara and Caliban (And he almost managed to bring down the X Bomber, to boot.) It's hard not to feel sorry for him.
    • Caliban shows some Noble Demon qualities when Makara tries to shoot Orion down, figuring he's deserting. Caliban talks her out of it, saying that Orion's suffered permanent injuries by then and all he wants is the chance to have a soldier's death.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: X-Bomber's opening and ending themes, originally performed by Japanese hard rock group Bow Wow, were replaced in most other countries. Among the most notable examples are:
    • The English dub (Star Fleet) has an Expository Theme Tune by Paul Bliss, which later inspired Brian May's Star Fleet Project.
    • The French dub (Bomber X) had a theme composed and sung by Shuki Levy and Haim Saban of Saban Entertainment fame.
    • The Italian dub (which retained the title X-Bomber) had a theme composed by Fratelli Balestra, and performed by the Balestra Brothers under the pseudonym "The Condors".
  • Anyone Can Die: Very unusual in kids shows shown in the UK at the time, less so in Japan.
  • Artistic License – Military: Captain Orion being subordinate to Commander Makara is odd considering "Captain" is a higher naval rank than "Commander". He could be an army Captain, but that raises the question of why he's put in command of an Imperial vessel at several points. Or the Imperial Alliance just has a different ranking order than Earth.
  • The Battlestar: Makara's ship is both armed to the teeth with guns and loaded with transport ships that carry fighters to battle. X-Bomber is a lesser version, since it has an arsenal of weapons and also houses the three Dai-X fighters inside itself.
  • Big Bad: The Imperial Master. Emphasis on the big.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Shiro, Hercules and Lee. Shiro is the thin, Hercules is the big, and Lee is the short.
  • Bittersweet Ending: By the end of the series:The good guy wins, the Big Bad is defeated, but Lamia, one of the main characters, has to sacrifice a life on Earth with her friends and her budding romance with Shiro in order to restore the peace in the universe.
  • Bug War: The Termoids are a race of Insectoid Aliens the Imperial Alliance uses as soldiers, crewmen and pilots for their Mook Mobiles.
  • Bowdlerise: The English version of episode 8, "An Attack Beyond Tears", cuts some rather graphic scenes of the alien Mon-Mons being shot or blown up on screen.
  • Butt-Monkey: P.P.A., at least to Hercules, who makes him his verbal punching bag. Sometimes justified.
  • Combining Mecha: Dai-X. It is composed of three fighters: Braincom, Mainbody and Legtrax. No points for guessing which part of Dai-X each of those forms. Somewhat strangely it's mainly used to fight enemy fighter ships and tanks by smacking them out of the air or stepping on them, instead of fighting enemy giant mecha. The only time Dai-X fights a comparably giant enemy is Caliban's Death Ball near the end.
  • Compilation Movie: Two Compilation movies were edited (poorly) for VHS release in the UK in 1983.
    • The Thalian Space Wars
    • Space Quest for F-01
  • Cool Starship: The X-Bomber, a Super Prototype starship capable of transforming into a Humongous Mecha.
  • Derelict Graveyard: X-Bomber is trapped in one during Episode 7.
  • Disappeared Dad: Shiro's father, Professor Hagen Until he comes back near the end of the series.
  • Dub Name Change: A majority of the names were changed for the English dub. The only ones retaining their original names in the main cast were Dr. Benn and Lamia, the former probably due to his name being seen written in English on his tombstone, or that his name is the most English sounding.
  • Dying as Yourself: Captain Carter is freed of his brainwashing after being shot by Shiro, allowing him to die with his own mind.
  • The Empire: The Imperial Alliance. It's unknown who they're an alliance between, but they're a conquering alien force out to rule the universe.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Makara and Orion's eyepatch-like symbiotes, which designate them as high-ranking Imperial officers.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Captain Carter, after being captured by the Imperial Alliance and brainwashed into serving them.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: While there's no gore in the series, Makara's death at the hands of giant robot Dai-X, literally, is pretty grim for a kids show. Of course, compared with the other works of Go Nagai...
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: Launch Imperial fighters!
  • Foreign Re-Score:
    • In addition to the Alternative Foreign Theme Song as mentioned above, the English dub was given a completely new music score.
    • To a lesser extent, the French dub also has certain scenes re-scored, but otherwise retains most of the original Japanese soundtrack.
  • Foreshadowing: In a flashback from Episode 5, showing Shiro at the academy being unable to hit the target. Carter, reprimanding Shiro's poor marksmanship, tells him to shoot him in the heart of his bulletproof jacket. Shiro is reluctant, but is roused to by Carter calling him a coward unworthy of being in the academy. Shiro shoots Carter, who comes up to him and congratulates him on proving he can aim and shoot at the same time. This sequence foreshadows Episode 12, when Shiro is forced by Carter to kill him after being freed from Alliance control. As Shiro holds the dying Carter, he repeats what he said to Shiro at the academy; "Shiro, Good Shooting."
  • A Good Way to Die: Orion's death was on his own terms proving to himself and his superiors that he wasn't a coward in the end.
  • Harp of Femininity: Lamia's shown playing one in the flashbacks to her upbringing.
  • The Heavy: Commander Makara is the one helming the hunt for the F-01 and the X-Bomber for most of the series.
  • Irony: Throughout the series, Makara and Caliban dismiss Orion as a weakling and a coward... And yet Orion spends his final moments making a suicide run on X-Bomber and dying a warrior's death, while Makara and Caliban panic and run like cowards before meeting their end when Dai X storms their flagship.
  • Last Stand: The Final encounters with Orion, Makara, Caliban and the Imperial Master at the series end.
  • Magical Girl: Lamia essentially becomes one after completing her transformation into F-01, complete with tiara, wand and frilly dress.
  • Matte Shot: Makara and Orion when they are in the same shots with the Imperial Master puppet.
  • Mighty Roar: The Star Fleet version of Big X will often emit an eerie, machine-like roar during battle. It seems fitting though, what with some of the Imperial Alliance members referring to it as "monster machine".
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Caliban, the top scientist of the Imperial Alliance and the one who designs most of their war machines.
  • Never Trust a Title: The show is in fact about the exploits of a single ship and its crew. Inverted in the Japanese version, however, where the "X-Bomber" is the ship that that title refers to.
  • "On the Next Episode of..." Catch-Phrase: "Don't miss the next episode of Star Fleet!" The last previous switches out "next" with "final."
  • People in Rubber Suits: The giant robots and the Big Bad are both depicted through an actor in a suit, as opposed to puppets like the rest of the characters.
  • Planet Spaceship: The Imperial Planet in the last episodes. Despite not resembling a planet at all, it gets referred to as such in the show. Planet is a pretty good description, given the size it has to be to accommodate the gigantic Imperial Master.
  • Poster Girl POV Boy: Shiro is the main protagonist and acts as the audience's POV, while Lamia is the Living Macguffin who the show's plot ultimately revolves around.
  • Ramming Always Works: When Orion attacks the X-Bomber his laser fire only causes superficial damage, but his suicide ramming of the X-Bomber cripples it and forces it to stop for repairs.
  • Recap Episode: There were 3 recap episodes - in a series that spanned only 25 episodes!
    • Episode 9, "Target: The Captain" - Commander Makara faces trial and execution for her past failures, and persuades the Imperial Master to review some of her past battles in detail.
    • Episode 13, "Battle to the Death: X-Bomber vs. the Imperial Alliance" - Shiro, Hercules and Lee reflect on their ongoing war with the Imperial Alliance, and the events leading up to the death of Captain Carter.
    • Episode 18, "Commander Makara's Promotion" - Following the capture and imprisonment of Lamia, the X-Bomber crew reflect on their situation, while Makara and Orion celebrate their victory. This episode was never officially released outside of Japan.
  • Redemption Equals Death: An unusual version of this where it's a villain trying to redeem themselves in the eyes of their superior.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Caliban appears seemingly out of nowhere toward the end of the series as Makara's tech-guy.
  • Schedule Slip: The reason there's three recap episodes in a 25 episode show? The production staff started with little marionette experience and struggled to complete episodes on time.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: X-Bomber is lost in deep space toward the middle of the series, but are roughly able to make it home from deep uncharted space in a rough one month. They get around at Hyper Speed most of the time anyway. During the return to Earth they're even specifically using a dangerous double Hyper Speed to make up for the head start the Imperial Master has on them.
  • Shout-Out: The show is referred to as being a filmed in "Supermariorama", a clear shout-out to Gerry Anderson's "Supermarionation" series.
  • Skeleton Government: The closest the Imperial Alliance has to a legislative-like body is the Imperial Council, which from what we see is comprised of two Yes Men to the Imperial Master who parrot all his orders.
  • Space Sailing: The Skull is a spaceship that looks like a regular sailing ship.
  • Stock Footage: Most every battle scene and launch scene contained stock footage from earlier episodes.
  • Story Arc: Almost every episode contributes to the arc.
  • Suicide by Cop: After getting free from alien control, Captain Carter can't accept living after all the terrible things they have done and requests Shiro to kill them. When he refuses, they attack him to force his hand.
  • Suicide Mission: Orion's final attack on the X-Bomber. He's completely outmatched and knows it but is determined to give it his best shot.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Professor Hagen, who appears after the death of Dr. Benn in Episode 19.
  • Taking You with Me: When his ship is crippled during the battle with the X-Bomber, Orion deliberately rams the X-Bomber, destroying his ship and himself. The X-Bomber survives but suffers heavy damage.
  • Terrible Trio: One gets formed on the Imperial Alliance side after Commander Makara and Captain Orion are joined by a brainwashed Captain Carter. Later on, Caliban gets summoned to Makara's flagship and forms another one with Makara and Orion.
  • The Symbiote: Makara has some sort of living eyepatch... thing where her left eye would normally be.
  • Title Theme Tune: The French version.
  • Transformation Sequence: Dai-X. Surprisingly for the time, all of Dai-X's transformation sequences during the series are made without Stock Footage.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: Makara makes it abundantly clear that it's THEIR time measurements she's counting. Yet the deadline for the aliens to capture F-01 is the turn of the millennium by Earth's calendar.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: The X-Bomber.
  • Unit Confusion: The show sometimes uses "parsec" as a nebulous measurement of time, seemingly derived from the misconception of the term resulting from its usage in the first Star Wars film.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The second recap episode has the crew remember things differently from how they happened.
  • We Only Have One Chance: Used in many episodes.
  • When the Planets Align: Happens at the climax of the final episode.

Alternative Title(s): Bomber X, X Bomber