(Note: X-Bomber names in brackets)
Following the horrors of the Third Space War, our solar system is at peace once more and the EDF (Earth Defence Forces) intend to keep it that way. From their headquarters on Earth, via a massive Moonbase and outposts on various planets, the EDF maintain a watchful eye across space. When a vast alien battlecruiser of the Imperial Alliance (the Gelma Empire) wipes out their Pluto Alpha Base, the EDF, spearheaded by the elite forces of Star Fleet, find themselves embroiled in a new conflict over the mysterious F-01.
GENERAL KYLE (General Crowder): "One cannot negotiate with reptiles!"
The 60-year-old C.O. of the EDF presents an imposing figure with his snow-white hair and beard. Though clearly out of his depth facing the might of the Alliance and their puzzling demands to hand over F-01, Kyle remains steadfast and determined, never sporting anything less than the stiffest of stiff upper lips. Lose the beard, trim the hair and he's a dead ringer for Colonel White from Captain Scarlet! Kyle has two advisors at Star Fleet HQ: the youthful ginger-haired Number One and the elderly bald Number Two. Both are completely ineffectual. Kyle realises that mankind's only hope is the top secret "X Project".
PROFESSOR HAGEN (Prof. Ginga) "My child, there are things in our universe that cannot be explained by science."
Designer of "X Project" the revolutionary space battleship X-Bomber. While working at the EDF's Mars Institute, Hagen saw a spaceship crash-land amid a meteor shower. Inside it he found a capsule containing a baby girl wearing a glowing blue pendant. Adopting the child, whom he named Lamia, Hagen reared her in secrecy, but years later he mysteriously disappeared, leaving X-Bomber unfinished.
DOCTOR BENN (Dr. Ben Robinson): "Surrender is not a word found in the Academy manual."
Pipe-smoking scientist in charge of "X Project" following Hagen's disappearance, Dr. Benn was a close friend and colleague who not only completed work on X-Bomber but also looked after Lamia. A dedicated man of peace, Benn is nevertheless a stern and effective commander for X-Bomber. Logical and unflappable, Benn is regarded with something approaching awe by his young crew. Destined to die before X-Bomber completes its mission, he is buried on the planet Callinean. His gravestone bears the legend "Dr. Ben Robinson 2957-2999", which makes him 42 rather than his publicised age of 50.
CYBERDROID PPA PERFECTLY PROGRAMMED ANDROID (P.P. Adamski): "You insolent boys!"
Tiny spherical know-it-all robot created by Dr. Benn for analytical purposes. Supercilious and snotty, PPA fails to understand the annoyance it generates in the rest of the crew. Plainly not an android (a humanoid shaped robot), PPA can hover utilising winglike panels on the side of its 'head', and is equipped with a retractable claw to lift heavy or awkward objects. Though he could be dismissed as a poor man's C3PO or a precursor of the irritating Zeroids of Terrahawks, PPA (at least in the English dub) has a camp charm all his own.
LAMIA (same in X-Bomber): "I am F-01 I am the one you seek!"
Princess Lamia, to be exact, sole survivor of the Pizarees royal family of the planet Esper, a race of telepaths. At the celebrations for her birth, a mystic foretold that Lamia would inherit great powers with the coming of the new millenium in 3000 A.D. - powers capable of bringing peace or domination to the entire galaxy. Learning of this, the Imperial Alliance attacked Esper, but Esperian elders escaped with the infant Lamia in one of their intergalactic sailing ships. Knowing of the good reputation of the Mars Institute scientists, they jettisoned her in a ship over Mars. Aged 16 at the start of the series, and unaware that she is F-01, Lamia is in charge of radar on Moonbase and also acts as Dr. Benn's secretary. (!) Kind hearted, with an affinity with all living things, she also has a cold, distant side that reflects her mysterious origins. Generally rather wet, she does occasionally surprise us with a little Princess Leia-like spunkiness.
KIRARA (same in X-Bomber): "Hyuh, hyuh!"
Lamia's huge furry alien nursemaid-cum-bodyguard, found with her by Professor Hagen. Formidably strong, it can only communicate in grunts and growls, yet its tireless devotion to Lamia is clear. Kirara is killed during the final confrontation with the Alliance when it is blown into space while manning one of the Skull's laser cannons.
CAPTAIN CARTER (Captain Custer): "Remember, Shiro always trust your instincts."
Commanding officer of Star Fleet's Pluto Alpha Base, the front line of Earth's defences. With his long red hair flopping over one eye, shades, and a huge collared cape, Carter resembles a dashing Captain Harlock clone. A top instructor at the Star Fleet training academy before accepting the Pluto Base commission, Carter's body was never found after the base was destroyed. Captured by the Alliance, he was brainwashed and became Commander of Operations on their taskforce battlecruiser. His right eye covered by a scorpion implant and his left arm replaced with a biomechanical claw, Carter couldn't cope with his betrayal and dehumanisation when freed from Alliance control, preferring to die at the hand of his star pupil: Shiro Hagen.
SHIRO HAGEN (Shiro Ginga): "Gosh sakes!"
Brave but impetuous leader of the X-Bomber crew, Shiro is the ship's pilot and tactics officer, one of three 18-year-old cadets fresh out of training academy who are inexplicably chosen to head up the maiden mission of Earth's last best hope for survival. In Shiro's case the selection could have something to do with him being the 'orphaned' son of X-Bomber's inventor. Aside from firmly fitting the Nagai mould of reckless daredevil hero inheriting his wise elder's wonder invention, established by Mazinger Z's Koji Kabuto, he also slots comfortably into the space marked 'Luke Skywalker clone'. Shiro (pronounced Shy-ro in Star Fleet) is infatuated with Lamia, but too shy to reveal his feelings. Armchair psychologists should note that Shiro always keeps his helmet on, even in bed! Shiro means 'white' in Japanese, and Ginga, his family name, means 'galaxy'.
BARRY HERCULES (Bongo Herakles): "I'm gettin' very bad vibes here."
X-Bomber's main man, a superfly cool dude blessed with a polystyrene foam afro and a chin that could double as a lethal weapon, Barry is in charge of X-Bomber's weapons systems. Hercules has a brusque, no-nonsense attitude and a dangerously short fuse, but keeps his more sensitive side, especially his love for Lamia, well hidden. This, coupled with a wide competitive streak, results in a volatile relationship with Shiro. Sartorially he favours battle fatigues and his only relaxation seems to be his guitar (presumably because it proved difficult to get a puppet to play the bongos!) An excellent marksman, merciless in battle, Hercules is the perfect product of military training, totally indoctrinated by the rulebook: "When faced with an alien danger, you simply shoot. I learnt that at the Academy, so that's the way it is!"
JOHN "FATTY" LEE (Bigman Lee): "I love it when you talk about my life so cheaply."
Stuck in a butterball body topped by carrot coloured hair cut in a pudding basin style, and lumbered with the voice of a village idiot, Lee amply fills the stereotype of comic relief fall guy. He's dumpy and depressive, probably because he knows his chances with the lovely Lamia are as fat as he is! As a result he wisely keeps his head down and moans a lot. Lee is in charge of X-Bomber's tremendously exciting radar and communications systems, which is sad, but not surprising, considering he looks like a reject from Cloppa Castle.
CAPTAIN HALLEY (same in X-Bomber) : "It is our destiny to die as one!"
Captain of the Skull sailing ship, Halley cuts a heroic figure with his horned helmet, cape and katana-like sword. He shares Shiro's delicate features and long red hair and young Hagen suspects his involvement with Lamia is a romantic one, but Halley also hails from the planet Esper and his fate is to merge with Lamia at the new millenium. Halley saved Professor Hagen's life when the professor's ship broke down in space while he was searching for Lamia's homeworld.
COMMANDER MAKARA (Bloody Mary, aka The Angel of Death): "Annihilate them all!"
The chosen emissary of the Imperial Alliance, Makara commands its flagship battlecruiser. She's a sword-slinging psycho-cyborg superbitch who won't rest until X-Bomber is destroyed! Proud, ruthless and slightly unstable mentally, she is nonetheless devoted to the service of her master, until the strain of her repeated failures drives her over the edge and she becomes obsessed with destroying, rather than capturing, F-01. Makara has fiery red hair and three eyes to match; two belong to the tiny mask that covers her left eye. Though this appears to be a decorative part of her helmet it is in fact a sentient implant through which she communicates (in a male voice) with her master. Her right arm has also been replaced with a vicious-looking biomechanical replica. X-Bomber's nemesis throughout the series, she finally comes to a messy end under the fist of the Dai-X robot. In X-Bomber, she is only a Captain until promoted in episode 18.
CAPTAIN ORION (Lt. Kozlo): "By Your Divine Guidance!"
Makara's snivelling second in command aboard the taskforce battlecruiser, Orion (pronounced ORRY-on, for some reason) is the Klaus Kinski look-alike that bears the brunt of Makara's rage when her schemes inevitably fail, a relationship that echoes Stingray's X2 Zero and Titan, as indeed does Orion's Peter Lorre-clone voice! Despite the frequent tongue-lashings, Orion is desperate to win the approval of his mistress. When apparently fatally injured by a falling beam in episode 23, he asks Caliban if Makara is aware of his condition. "She is splendidly indifferent to your suffering" comes the reply, driving poor Orion to a suicide attack on X-Bomber. As with all the Imperial Master's subjects, one eye (the right) is covered by an ornate implant, in Orion's case in the form of a centipede. His left arm is mechanical, ending in a cruel pincer.
CALIBAN (Professor Gedora) : "I will bring you Lamia's head, Makara!"
The Alliance battlecruiser's resident mad scientist cum doctor (!) Makara calls on Caliban's perverse skills to construct a mantis-like cyborg assassin and an absurd-looking vehicle called the Death Ball, basically a large black ball on rollers, bristling with various weapons. The silver-skinned, frock-coated Caliban (or Cal-Liban, as Star Fleet's odd pronunciation code would have it) has a telescopic lens replacing his right eye and a mechanical right arm, not to mention a dreadful Russian accent.
THE IMPERIAL MASTER (Emperor Gelma): "People of Earth I am your Doom!"
Typical Go Nagai evil megalomaniac seeking total domination of the entire galaxy. As you do. Gelma is a monstrous figure standing about fifteen feet tall, swathed in a black cape, with a head seemingly composed of living rock embedded with human skulls and bristling with ornate blade like structures a relatively discreet design by Nagai standards. He's played by a man in costume rather than a puppet, presumably to facilitate his incessant gesticulations as he rants! Despite wielding a huge sword and being able to fire destructive beams from his eyes, he proves no match for the reborn Lamia. As a counterpoint to Star Fleet's General Kyle, the Imperial Master also has two advisors, though they only appear in the last couple of episodes and remain nameless. Equally useless as advisors, they are both from different alien species, and like all the other so-called Alliance subjects they appear to have been made into cyborgs with head and arm implants to control them.
TERMOIDS (Gelma Soldiers): "Your command!"
Chattering robotic cannon-fodder forces of the Imperial Alliance. Nervous, cowardly, and not terribly efficient, they pilot the taskforce battlecruiser, Drone carriers and Astrofighters. Their insectile appearance is reflected in their lack of individual names, though each has a number for example, the 'defector' used in Captain Carter's 'wooden horse' scheme in episode 12 is #0171 perhaps an oblique Star Trek reference, or maybe a homage to the London phone directory?
'The X-Project' is mankind's last hope of standing up to the might of the Imperial Alliance and finding F-01. X-Bomber is a revolutionary space battleship which, alas, must rank as one of the ugliest spacecraft ever designed, with an unfortunate resemblance to a broken-necked turkey. Still, she has a certain charm that grows on you, and while she may not be pretty she certainly packs a powerful punch, most notably the 'X-Impulse', a devastating energy blast emitted in an X-shaped beam from her four wings. Unfortunately this consumes vast amounts of power, leaving her drained and vulnerable, so it's very much a last resort. Still, the crew have plenty of other weapons to call on: hidden within the main body of the ship is the 'Brest cannon', powerful twin lasers. To fire them, the craft's 'neck' section must first be lifted. Each wing tip is equipped with laser torpedoes , or electromagnetic napalm (!) in the Japanese version and twin rear-facing lasers are at the base of the top wings, while three X-machine gun turrets, Millenium Falcon-style gun emplacements, are located on the top and sides of the hull. Finally, on top of the 'neck' section are two X-electromagnetic energy guns. The ship also has a protective force field, but for no obvious reason this is rarely used. Should the need arise to leave X-Bomber, it's equipped with shuttlecraft as well as 'space choppers'; space bikes complete with sidecar, as seen in episode 14.
X-Bomber also carries three independent transformable fighter craft which can combine to form the giant robot, Dai-X. Shiro pilots Braincom (Brainder), the smallest, fastest craft which forms the robot's head. Mainbody (Jumbody), flown by Barry, is bigger, slower but more powerful, and comprises the torso and arms, while Lee literally gets the butt end of the deal with Legtrack (Legstar), the robot's hips and legs. This craft has retractable caterpillar tracks for ground assault. When not in use the craft are docked on the outside of X-Bomber's hull (handy for Alliance fighters to take pot shots at!), Braincom on the underside, behind the 'neck'section, Mainbody on the port and Legtrack on the starboard sides of the hull. The pilots reach their respective craft via high speed conveyor chairs.
When the crew initiate the 'Dai-X Junction' and combine their craft into robot mode, Dai-X sports some formidable weapons of its own, the most powerful being the X-Tracers (X-Ray), a scaled-down version of the X-Impulse beams, which are emitted from the cross on the robot's face. Its eyes can also fire laser beams, though these are only used in the last episode. Opening chest compartments conceal silos for the 'Brest Missiles', while the left forearm fires two X-Torpedoes (Arm Missiles) and the right has the super cannon laser, which fires 'energy bullets'. However, all this firepower is infinitely less satisfying than using Dai-X's size and strength to pound Alliance forces to dust! For defence, Dai-X can generate a pink protective defence shield from its arms. Oddly, despite all the Dai-X toys having an enormous sword, no such weapon is seen in the series. A small model, flown on wires with working jets fitted in its feet, was used to show Dai-X flying, but once it came down to earth, the part was taken over by a man in a robot suit, as in the sentai battle team shows bastardised into Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.
All this firepower pales into insignificance against the weaponry of the Imperial Alliance. Makara's battlecruiser, looking like a bizarre mechanical catfish skeleton, is enormous, dwarfing X-Bomber during their encounters. It fires laser beams from its 'eyes', laser torpedoes from its 'nose', and its 'mouth' houses the deadly Delta laser, a smaller version of the main device aboard the Alliance's gigantic fortress base. Both are capable of blowing planets apart! The battlecruiser has a protective force field but rarely uses it, as its hull is impervious to most EDF weaponry. Only the X-Impusle can inflict serious damage on it. Aside from its own firepower, the battlecruiser carries a complement of heavily armed insectile Drone carrier ships, each capable of deploying six bug-like single-seater Astrofighters.
As you might expect, science isn't the strongest point of a space opera like Star Fleet. Spacecraft run on quantum power, quantum speed being the norm, while the larger craft are also capable of 'hyperspeed' travel, the equivalent of Star Trek's warp speed or Star Wars' lightspeed. X-Impulse uses 90% of X-Bomber's quantum power and can't be generated at all when energy readings are at sub-quantum level, as they so often are for dramatic effect. Things fall apart as the series nears its end, however; X-Bomber notches up sustained double hyperspeed on its race back to Earth, simply by overriding its computer controlled safety circuits in a move guaranteed to have Scotty screaming "The engines cannae take it!" Worse,Orion's Drone carrier manages to catch up with X-Bomber for his suicide attack. What the hell, it's only a TV show.
Last updated 14 December 2013