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Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: March 26?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Combat de titans © ProcidisIn the opening scene of this next to final episode, Cassiopeian general Teigneux (Pest) convinces his senate to give an ultimatum for unconditional surrender to Omega. But then he himself gets the same ultimatum from his former ally, Yama…

The general’s reaction is to arrest his senate, taking the final step to become a full dictator at last, and to declare war on Yama. Meanwhile on Omega Pierrot conceives a plan to harm the robot enemy from the inside, which he performs not only with the faithful Psi and Metro, but also Le Petit Gros and his girlfriend, Pierrot’s sister. By trickery, the five manage to be brought inside a Yama cruiser, where Pierrot places a bomb.

Some excitement is added, when after having placed the bomb the five are having difficulties leaving the ship, especially when Metro forgets an important code. Nevertheless, it’s the politics and the depressing battle scenes of Cassopeia’s ill-fated war that impress the most, not the antics of our heroes.

Yama’s might is shown by images literally flooded by space ships, and by battle scenes in which Cassiopeian cruisers are shot to pieces with a frightening ease. Nevertheless Le Teigneux persists almost to the very end, with his subordinates obeying with the motto of ‘Befehl ist Befehl‘. Thus Cassopeia heads to its own mass destruction, similar to Germany and Japan in World War II. Only when Yama threatens to blow up the entire planet of Cassiopeia itself, Le Teigneux gives in, and surrenders unconditionally. Now it will be Omega’s turn…

This episode’s images of war and mass destruction are very disturbing, and in no sense Barillé glorifies war, on the contrary. Although they had been the stock enemy in the past, the viewer is invited to sympathize with the Cassiopeians. Teigneux’s admiral is seen repeatedly in utter distress, torn between the general’s bullheadedness and the sheer hopelessness of his own duty, with his subordinates mourning the loss of human lives. Barillé raises the very question what cause would justify such loss, leaving the answer to the viewer. This is a very different take on war than the heroism of Star Wars, and a much more mature one, despite being aimed at children.

Watch ‘Combat de titans’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 25th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 24th episode: Le grand ordinateur (The Great Computer)
To the 26th episode: L’infini de l’espace (The Infinity of Space)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 23?, 1982
Rating: ★★★
Review:

La planète verte © ProcidisUnlike the majority of the episodes of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’, ‘La planète verte’ starts with politics: we witness a political conflict between Omega and Cassiopeia.

Like in ‘Les Sauriens‘, Cassiopeia tries to invade a green, primitive planet in the Andromeda section (something they would also try to do in the fifth episode). Only after more than eight minutes our heroes Pierrot and Petit Gros enter the stage. They check the planet, which turns out to be inhabited by intelligent plants, who have captured their invaders, including general Teigneux (The Pest) and ambassador Nabot (Dwarf) themselves.

This episode show us more of Cassiopeia than the two previous episodes. This society turns out to be very militaristic with Nazi-like characteristics. Because of Cassiopeia’s more prominent role, ‘La planète verte’ is more interesting than the previous two episodes, if not too exciting.

Watch ‘La planète verte’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 3rd episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 2nd episode: Les Sauriens (The Saurians)
To the 4th episode: Du côté d’Andromède (Towards Andromeda)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 9, 1982
Rating: ★★½
Review:

La planète Omega © ProcidisAfter the success of ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ (Once upon a Time… Man) Albert Barillé returned with the boldest and most artistic children series of his entire career.

Largely abandoning education, the raison d’être of his last series, he embarked on a fictional and after a while remarkably integrated story, set in the far future, telling about a United Nations-like intergalactic union, and its problems.

Even more than the previous series, ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once upon a Time… Space) is a vehicle of Barillé’s highly personal views on the world and mankind. The series expresses a strong love for nature and mutual understanding, and an aversion to imperialism, war and, to a certain extent, technology.

New is a strong spirituality, embodied by the mild, and vaguely South American-looking girl Psi, who possesses psychic powers. Unlike the other main characters, she had not been in the original series, and she is less stereotypical than the rest of the cast. Her role in this first episode (in which she’s introduced as ‘Mercedes’, but everyone calls her ‘Psi’) is still minor, but soon she would become as important as Pierrot (Peter), the series’ main hero.

Pierrot, like all other good guys from ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ has been redesigned and fixed into a single role. Pierrot now is a guy in his early twenties. Petit Gros (Jumbo), too, has changed. He is less dim, less strong and less obese than in the original series. In fact, he’s only recognizable by his red hair. His dad is equally slender and has grown a blonde mustache, while a stern-looking Pierre, head of the intergalactic police, is fixed at an older age (say 50).

The most surprising transformation may be that of Pierrette, who is head of the Union, and who has received a modern hairdo and some fancy glasses. By placing her as head of the union Barillé makes a strong feminist statement that was still pretty bold in the early 1980s. The only characters to remain the same are Maestro, and the two villains Le Nabot (The Dwarf) and Le Teigneux (The Pest). Remarkably, children are totally absent from the series.

In this first episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ Maestro conceives the little robot Metro, who would play a major part in the series, eclipsing his master, while Le Teigneux and le Nabot are introduced as the ambassador and general of Cassiopeia, a galaxy with militaristic ambitions, but which is part of the Union nonetheless. Taking time in introducing all these characters, there is very little action in ‘La planète Omega’. Nevertheless, the stage is set when the Union is confronted by an unknown spaceship of some supreme alien race…

Apart from Barillé’s original story and its classic characters, ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ is a highlight of television animation because of its great music by Michel Legrand and its superb backgrounds by Philippe Bouchet, Manchu and Afrula Hadjiyanakis. This trio clearly draws inspiration from contemporary science fiction illustrators like Lukas Foss, Colin Hay, Angus McKie and Tony Roberts.

The animation itself, by the Japanese Eiken studio, is better than in ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’, but it’s still mediocre and uneven, and especially the designs of Psi are far from consistent. This would remain a problem throughout the series, together with a sometimes terribly slow narration. These drawbacks, however, do not overcome the series’ merits, and ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ may be praised as Barillé’s masterpiece.

Watch an excerpt from ‘La planète Omega’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 1st episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 2nd episode: Les Sauriens (The Saurians)

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