This is the one with some snogging in it.
Episode 11 – First Contact
According to the narrator, Lisa bravely volunteered for this mission – which does not dovetail at all with my recollection, that Captain Gloval pushed her into it. Then again, this episode seems to be working quite hard to reinvent the story slightly from the week before. It’s almost like they didn’t know that in the future DVD machines (and YouTube) would enable us to watch episodes over and over again!
For instance, Max Stirling is now clearly part of the small posse being beaten up by Breetai, though I’m sure he wasn’t in the scene in the last episode.
Also we are told that Lisa had a pilot on the Cat’s Eye who was killed in action, even though there was no sign of him last week – really, had the script-writer for this one even watched the previous episode?
Breetai is so badass. He fights all three Robotech mecha almost a standstill, and is only knocked out right at the end. Max escapes in his ship, but the other three Micronians – Rick, Lisa and Ben, are taken prisoner by the aliens.
Rick starts blaming Lisa for their captivity with a side order of misogyny. Because girls can’t be trusted in combat, says the man who once got shot out of the sky while watching the Miss Macross pageant instead of looking where he was going.
As Rick and Lisa have a blazing row, the aliens watch them in fascination – they’re not used to seeing men and women interact at all, and have never been introduced to the concept of URST.
“Well let me tell you, Miss Commander, fighting those aliens was not a walk in the park!”
Rick’s winning argument, apparently.
When Lisa stops fighting with Rick (by pretending to agree with him), she reveals her small video recorder, with which she plans to carry out recon on the enemy during their confinement.
At which point, the Zentraedi execute a space fold, taking all the ships light years across space to their home base.
Back on the SDF1, Gloval and the others realise that there is no sign of Lisa and her support crew. Roy Fokker is given the job of informing Minmei that Rick is missing in action. Which gives us a brief shot of him smoking against a wall while waiting for her – something so very unusual on television at all these days, let alone in SF or animation, that it was a real ‘time warp’ surprise! Sure, there’s Gloval and his pipe, but mostly the joke is that he never gets to smoke it.
Minmei’s response is to yell at Roy because she doesn’t like to be told bad news. Oh, sweetie. You’re really not going to cope well with post-apocalyptic Earth, are you?
Time gap! It’s been ten days for Rick, Lisa and Ben stuck in the spaceship, still going through the fold process (which seems to take a lot longer than that one time they went to Pluto). They wonder what’s happening back in Macross City – and weirdly, what we get next is a montage of Minmei’s exciting career developments to date. This space could be used to tell us what’s happening while the team are away, but in fact Rick is in all the montage bits, which are used to illustrate how he has been playing second banana to Minmei’s rising career.
The important detail here is that she has written a song called ‘My Boyfriend’s a Pilot,’ and finds Rick’s confusion about this hilarious. Talk about sending mixed messages!
Max, meanwhile, has hitched a lift on the Zentraedi war ship, inside a giant broom closet. He’s still inside his mecha, and scares off anyone else who tries to use the closet. No one is remotely suspicious about the scary robot living in the broom closet and comes back to investigate.
It’s Dolza! The commander in chief of the Zentraedi interviews Breetai and the Zentraedi spies (who confess to funny feelings in the face of the beauty pageant) about their experiences with the Micronians. He then calls the three prisoners to be interrogated.
To the surprise of Lisa, Rick and Ben, Dolza accuses them of attacking the Zentraedi, and of knowing the secrets of Protoculture (yes, first reference to PROTOCULTURE!). Rick is especially outraged at the idea that the humans are the aggressors in this conflict – which, fair enough, really. Dolza points out that the Zentraedi have the power to destroy the SDF1 and the Earth if necessary, super easily. And before I can even type ‘so why don’t they?’ Lisa starts thinking exactly the same thing.
I love take charge Lisa. She is so much better than ‘we failed just leave me here to cry and die’ Lisa, and sadly her character tends to flip from one to the other with little nuance in between. Still, we get her being confident for at least a few minutes, calling Dolza on his bluff and all but daring him to show them how powerful he actually is
Unfortunately, she’s miscalculated the power balance in their relationship.
Dolza picks her up and squeezes her between finger and thumb, demanding to know how Micronians turn themselves so small. It’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t know how humans are made. Rick and Ben try desperately to explain the birds and the bees in panicked voices while Lisa gets horribly squished. They manage to get as far as ‘when a man and a woman like each other very much’ and move on to the concept of kissing. Dolza demands that they demonstrate ‘this thing called kissing’ on each other. Rick and Ben are so not into that.
Lisa takes one for the team by suggesting she and Rick kiss, because she wants to record the alien reaction secretly. Rick is mortified and asks why she doesn’t kiss Ben instead.
Lisa: Because I’d rather do it with you.
So Rick and Lisa have a bit of a smooch, purely in the name of science, and the aliens basically react like my daughters do when anyone on TV kiss – “URRGHGHGHGH! Go away, yuk, blerk, THAT’S SO GROSS.”
Now they all have funny feelings in their stomachs.
After banishing the icky kissy humans from their presence, the Zentraedi regroup. This gives the junior officers, Konda, Rico and Bron, a chance to ask Dolza about this Protoculture thing that is apparently super important to the plot, but has NEVER BEEN MENTIONED BEFORE. Dolza reveals that the Zentraedi were once like humans – they lived, loved and created children biologically. But somehow along the way of their long history and making themselves into giant stompy warriors with Robotechnology, they lost the secret of Protoculture.
THIS IS NOT AN EXPLANATION.
To survive the next year or so of Robotech Rewatching, it’s important to know this: you are never ever going to get a firm, solid, clear, non-metaphorical explanation of what Protoculture is, how it works, and why we care about it. There are many theories, all of which are revealed as if they are a true thing. It’s love! It’s the ability to change size! It’s flowers! It’s tasty Invid food! No one really knows what it is, including the Zentraedi, and anyone who claims differently is selling something.
Just don’t worry about it too much.
Back on Macross City, Minmei’s celebrity status continues unabated. She sings ‘Stage Fright’ in a major concert, because no one ever got around to setting ‘My Boyfriend’s a Pilot’ to music. It is not clear whether she has more than three songs at this point, and how this constitutes a concert. Possibly she also does some miming and stand up comedy when not singing.
In the audience, Roy is miserable and Claudia stays by his side to comfort him. Because no one should have to suffer Minmei’s music alone.
This weekly rewatch of classic animated space opera Robotech is brought to you as bonus content for the Musketeer Space project. Thanks to everyone who has linked, commented, and especially to my paid patrons. You can support Musketeer Space at Patreon.
1 – So Much For World Peace
2 – Who Put Pluto There?
3 – To Be In Love
4 – Welcome to the First Chinese Restaurant in Space
5 – Saturn Ahoy!
6 – Death by Flashback
7 – Dating in Deep Space
8 – Beauty Queens & Battloids
9 – It’s Not Easy Being Vermilion