Dedicated, Inseparable, Invincible (Except When Confronted With Carnivorous Plants): Part 4

When we last left The Fierce Flowers, Princess was still trapped inside a now-miniaturised Fierce Flower, and G-Force were wrestling with the moral complications of weighing up the need to set the malevolent plant life ablaze on a scale that would cause Bob Flowerdew to sink to his knees shouting "NOOOOOoooooooooooo" against the possibility that they might still be able to locate and rescue their teammate. Which it has to be said is something of a better recap than 7-Zark-7 manages at the start of the second episode. After consulting a computer, wittering about how the newly released spores "wait only for rain to bring them sporouting into menacing life" and informing all and sundry that he will be maintaining a Red Alert until further notice, he whizzes down a transporter tube thing into his usual command centre, indicating that - despite his solemn promise at the end of the previous episode - he did indeed leave his post before Princess was rescued.

As if to underline the fact that Princess hasn't been rescued yet, we see the rest of G-Force moping around at that sandwich place that she had been looking after in the previous episode. Jason and Tiny snark at each other over who's the most responsibe for the situation, Mark volunteers that "I never thought I could get so angry at a bunch of flowers", and Keyop indulges in an extended bout of a-a-aaaaaaaaaing, resulting in him shedding a lone splashing tear that shows Princess disco dancing in its reflection. "Mark's taking it harder than all of us", observes Tiny, "he and Princess, they had good vibes". Whether they were related to disco dancing is left to the viewer to decide.

Over at the laboratory, Chief Anderson has deduced that water acts as a catalyst for the plant growth - you don't say - and that they need to find a chemical that will permanently prevent this. He then goes off on some odd contextless free jazz improvisation about them thriving in the vicinity of volcanos and proliferating in swampland and even growing in the hottest deserts, all of which has about as much relevance to anything seen in either episode as a plot strand from Lost, and gives the impression that a significant amount has been cut from this episode too. Something that is only strengthened when G-Force react angrily to seemingly nothing, and slope off leaving Chief Anderson to mull over his findings while a flower in a tank rages behind him.

It's not the only one raging, either, as in an alarming sequence of quick cuts we see a small army of flowers parading through the sewers, smashing through concrete and so forth. "Luckily we had advance warning and had evacuated all people from the threatened cities", notes 7-Zark-7 in a handy distraction from the obvious snips made to the footage, though he doesn't see fit to offer any such explanation for the flower that suddenly emits a light beam thing that cracks open the ground; a property that is never referred to again. And as if all of that that wasn't enough, a TV news report implies that the flowers are now intentionally starting fires. Visually dazzling as all this may be, it's also highly bewildering and decidedly off-script, so perhaps it's fortunate that at that precise moment, Mark's communicator picks up a signal from Princess.

Yes, she's still alive inside that flower, and has worked out a way to send a distress call without her horticultural captor noticing. G-Force immediately set off to rescue her, and 7-Zark-7 notes that "she means a lot to me" and reiterates again that he won't leave his post until she's back, but there's a complication; the 'Federation Council' has voted to send in attack units in an attempt to eradicate the flowery menace. 7-Zark-7 bemoans that he warned them that this would only release more spores but that they didn't listen; we can only assume that he didn't actually try very hard at all. G-Force are going to have their work cut out for them, though, as without the aid of an explanatory scene, Zoltar and company have already located Princess and tied her up in a weird electronic bondage thing (perhaps the reason why we didn't get to see an explanatory scene), and are hoping to lead them into a trap.

Chief Anderson, meanwhile, is busy having a snarky one-sided conversation with the flower in the tank when he cuts his hand (on a... handrail?), and the drops of blood that consequently splash onto the bouquet-unfriendly specemin cause it first to throw an almighty tantrum, then to keel over and conk out. From this he deduces that they are unable to withstand exposure to haemoglobin, but the fact that they'd been merrily digesting females left right and centre gives another unpleasant suggestion that we're being redubbedly shielded from some less than enlightened overtones in the original.

Meanwhile, G-Force have tracked the signal to 'the city's old water plant', and after smashing through the wall in The Phoenix, they do some natty business with backflips, electric lasso/tightrope hybrids and - of course - metal bird things, and easily overpower Zoltar and company, who beg for mercy and... Mark lets them go because of 'morals'? There must have been a proper reason in the original. At the same time, Chief Anderson and 7-Zark-7 unleash a spray that they've synthesised from 'an iron molecule in haemoglobin combined with water', which puts paid to the flowers and they fizzle out en masse in an extraordinarily protracted sequence that puts the climax of The Evil Dead to shame.

There's just enough time for a couple of wisecracks and morals from the departing G-Force (no prizes for guessing who said what out of "it'll be a while before I buy flowers again", "they look so pretty and harmless" and "they should never have been taken from their home planet") and it's over to 7-Zark-7 and 1-Rover-1 for some rounding up; "Zoltar will have to come up with something else now, and of course he will, that's why I keep a twenty four hour watch... I don't think my trigatron(??!?) could have stood up to many more hours of pressure like that", and "[bark]" respectively. "I'll be alright as soon as my electrobank gets a quick one-hour recharge", muses the former, though it's clearly going to have to wait as this is indeed one of the episodes where a badly drawn rendition of one or more of G-Force comes to visit him. And on this occasion it's Princess, almost unrecognisable apart from her costume (and even that's a little debatable), who thanks her robotic associate and kisses him, causing the episode to end on a rather worrying 'BOING' sound. Ironically, the producers of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman would probably have cut that out of Battle Of The Planets.

So, that's The Fierce Flowers, and while it's some considerable distance from being a truly representative example of Battle Of The Planets - even aside from all the nearer-the-knuckle-than-usual content, there's no sign either of the Firey Phoenix or of Zoltar's grovel-inducing floating head thing superior 'O Luminous One' - it's not remotely difficult to see why it made such a lasting impression on everyone who saw it the first time around, many of whom probably couldn't even name a single other episode title (not even Attack Of The Space Terrapin). It's an uncomfortable collision of cosy action thrills and spills and dark futuristic-yet-primal terror - almost like a crossover between Castle and Ring - and was certainly far removed from the sort of troubles encountered by the well-spoken flat-capped youngsters that were prone to hanging around God's Wonderful Railway. Some may well now scoff at its chopped and changed sanitised nature, but you do have to ponder on how many people later got into other 'cooler' areas of film and TV and what have you precisely because of Battle Of The Planets, and in any case, there's a very strong sense that in some ways these episodes may actually have been made worse by the re-editing. There are a lot of gaps and leaps in logic that your mind is left to fill in, and the puzzling nature of the narrative jumps can sometimes leave you wondering if they'd left out something that was actually worse than it really was. Erm, if that makes any sense at all.

After the first episode's appearance as part of Buzzfax, according to the Radio Times billing, 'Buzz' was back along with 'Results of Back Page Puzzle'. And you can't really get a stronger underlining of just how different The Fierce Flowers was from anything else on offer than an immediate handover to some semi-animated bits of Ceefax smugly explaining how to decipher some Clive Doig-posed code. After all, it's not like there was some other imported entertainment on offer that morning to compare it favourably against...