Welcome back to Watch Club folks! If you’re anywhere in the northern hemisphere right now, folks, you’re liable to be feeling the heat this summer, eh? I’m EJ Couloucoundis, editor-in-chief of Ultraman Connection.
And I’m Sarah Last, staff writer and content creator for Ultraman Connection! That’s right, we’re smack dab in the middle of summer while writing this week’s Watch Club article, so it’s funny that we get two episodes in a row dealing with frigid, arctic disasters in Ultraseven. But aside from the dramatic irony, I’ve really been looking forward to this episode for some time now. When I first watched the show, this one especially stood out to me for a number of reasons, which I’m sure we’ll see in due time.
Yep! Today’s episode is actually kind of important for helping to establish some pretty major rules regarding the Ultra species. I’m talking, of course, about Episode 24, “Showdown at 140 Degrees Below Zero.” And that’s -140 celsius. Good god, that’s cold.
For those of you at home who just checked Google, that’s equivalent to a temperature of negative -284 degrees Fahrenheit. To put it in perspective, the coldest natural temperature ever recorded on Earth was about -89 degrees C (-129 degrees F), so we’re talking about some ridiculously crazy meteorology this week.
Things immediately kick off with crazy weather in the episode too. The narrator describes the sky mysteriously darkening as an omen of “a world of absolute zero”.
Uh, Mr. Narrator, I hate to say this but absolute zero is -273.15 degrees C, not -140.
Uhhh… It’s the far off future, they changed the measurements. I’ll be real, though, -140 is far too close to absolute zero for my liking. And for SOME reason, Dan is driving the Pointer through this blizzard? Dan, come on. You gotta stop doing this sort of thing.
I actually love the image of Dan coming through the snow in this establishing shot, the model for the Pointer floating over the ground. It gives a feeling of a storybook starting up. Very Ultraman Taro.
I’m going to be honest, I keep forgetting the Pointer can do that. A very handy feature for very specific situations like this.
Hopefully the heating in that thing works too, because when Amagi reports back to base in the next scene, he says the temperature outside is -112 degrees! That’s already a record-breaking measurement and we’re only two minutes into the episode! Soga isn’t worried though, because the Ultra Guard’s base has a nuclear reactor to provide all the heat and power they need to keep them cozy.
Dan, on the other hand, is still stuck outside, and then the Pointer itself seems to break down in the middle of the treacherous blizzard! I do find it hilarious though, how Dan takes one look at the engine, decides he has no clue how to fix the breakdown, then slams the hood shut and decides to set out on foot. I’ve been there too, man.
Now, we immediately are introduced to a pretty hard fact about Ultras that’s true all the way to this very day: Ultras do not do well with cold. Subzero temperatures are a consistent weakness for Ultras whenever they’re exposed to it, without fail.
Now, to be clear, it is cold as hell in Japan at this moment. This isn’t an Ultra weakness, this is a living thing weakness. Ain’t NOTHING getting through this cold, and Dan, who knows he has this weakness… starts walking through the cold anyway!
To be fair, if there is one thing that defines Dan Moroboshi as a character, it is his willingness to commit to extremely self-destructive courses of action for the sake of protecting the planet. Or for the sake of getting back to the base to enjoy a cup of coffee with the rest of the team.
Hey, wait a second, the show states that Seven’s weakness — and presumably all the Ultras’ weaknesses to cold come from their origin on the “Land of Light” in the M78 nebula. That would make sense if the climate there was warmer than Earth because of the Plasma Spark, as we’ve seen. But Ultras also travel through space, which overall has an ambient temperature somewhere around 4 Kelvin, which would be about -269 degrees Celsius! Unless, this is somehow an issue with heat transfer since the cold temperature of space is more of a result of it being a hard vacuum with very few gas particles to transfer thermal energy. Since temperature is a function of the average kinetic energy of those particles, a Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution would indicate…
Ah, I seem to be getting very off-topic here.
…Sarah, it’s the 60s. The science might have been flawed. Also, the way space works is — hold on, I’m not going to fall into this too. Back to the story.
Back at the Ultra Guard HQ, most of the Guard sans Dan are trying to warm up. After all, it’s never this cold. Even in Furuhashi’s native Hokkaido, we’re a hundred degrees under the historic low. To clarify, if this is actually the temperature, this is the coldest the Earth has ever been.
And, once again, Dan is just… walking around out there.
I mean, with the Pointer out of commission, it’s not like he’d be doing much better still inside the car! No place is safe from this terrible snowstorm however, since a massive tremor rocks the Ultra Guard’s base, and they come to an awful realization — the atomic reactor which powers the entire underground facility has just been knocked off-line!
It’s rare that we see Captain Kiriyama panicking, but with last week, and now in this crisis, it really hammers in how dire the circumstances have become when we realize that he is terrified at the decisions he now is faced with. It’s almost as if he can’t bring himself to believe that the main source of power for the base, the beating heart of their entire operation, has been completely broken. Kiriyama immediately sends his team down to check it out, but all they can determine is that something literally drilled through the underground base to destroy the generators.
And that something is still there, and attacks them with an icy spray that forces them to retreat before they can fix the reactor!
With the base rapidly starting to freeze, the Ultra Guard equips their cold-weather gear and meet to discuss the creature beneath the base trying to turn them to popsicles.
It’s actually been a bit since Yamonaka has been the TDF rep in an episode, if I recall. I’m always used to seeing Takenaka and Manabe, but Yamonaka tends to show up in really dangerous episodes. An ill portent.
At this point, no one even knows what’s causing the blizzard, but the attack against the base seems to confirm that it’s a directed front to try and cripple the TDF itself. That’s confirmed as well, when Dan receives a vision — a message from the aliens behind the effort to destroy Earth’s best line of defense against such threats.
For all of their efforts, and the fact that this attack comes shockingly close to actually succeeding, I still can’t take the Pole aliens seriously because of their hilariously high-pitched squeaky voices. What’s really chilling though, is the absolute glee they take in bragging about the doom they’ve trapped Dan, and the rest of the Earth within, thanks to their icy onslaught. And even worse, Dan snaps out of the hallucination by realizing that he’s somehow lost his Ultra Eye in the blizzard!
Dan. C’mon. This happens almost every single week, do we need to handcuff it to him?
Seriously. It didn’t even get knocked off him or anything! Did they steal it while he was hallucinating?
Anyway, I love the Poles, they’re adorable. And apparently responsible for multiple ice ages in Earth’s past! That’s less fun.
With the monster away, presumably to laugh at Dan with its Pole masters, the TDF base crew immediately starts rushing in to fix up as much as possible before it comes back.
These scenes at the base are why I love this episode so much. It’s the same sets that the audience would be used to seeing by this point, the same banks of computer displays, the same corridors and hallways. But now everything’s frozen over, dark, and the team which we’ve followed, who we trusted in to fight their hardest to protect the Earth, are slowly falling to hypothermia and exhaustion under the terrible, freezing cold. Soon, the TDF’s head doctor is literally begging the captain and his commanders to order an evacuation. These shots, of the top leaders for the TDF weighing the costs of their own lives, their friends and teammates, and the lives of the Earth, in the shadows with no answers, are quite literally haunting.
Then we cut back to the Poles talking some truly foul trash to Dan. Five minutes until he dies. Cause of death? Rankin-Bass Nightmare. Also freezing and running out of the solar energy that fuels him.
That’s not good enough for the Poles, though, as they’ve pulled their monster Gandar from under the TDF base to finish Dan off for sure!
Just as we saw last week though, Dan never fights alone. He has the confidence of his fellow teammates in the Ultra Guard, but he also has back-up from his Capsule Monsters when things are REALLY rough! Miclas gets a better showing here than Windom at least. The ensuing fight does a good job of illustrating that Gandar is a tough opponent, but Miclas does his best hanging tough with him!
And in the meantime, buys Dan enough breathing room to find his Ultra Eye, transform, then… immediately fly out into outer space to recharge with solar radiation. Can Miclas — and the entire rest of the TDF base — hold out long enough for him to get back?
Yes, exactly enough. Gandar spends so long beating up poor Miclas that Seven is able to escape the Earth and charge back up in the roaring flames of the sun. At the same time, just as the TDF finally gives up hope, the power returns! The mechanics have fixed the destroyed components and the base can thaw again — and the Ultra Hawks can launch!
As Miclas finally succumbs to Gandar, the Hawks arrive, engaging in a four-pronged attack that badly wounds the monster — to be finished off by Seven, who drops to Earth and beheads and behands the monstrous mollusk with one throw of his slugger.
Let’s acknowledge that all of this was possible because Miclas took a truly ridiculous amount of punishment. Proud of you, buddy.
Before the Pole aliens leave, admitting defeat, they give one last statement which is strangely both heart-warming and chilling at the same time. Their plan only failed because of the Ultra Guard, once the team got their base back up and running through sheer tenacity. All Seven did this episode was buy them enough time, drawing Gandar away from the base long enough to make those repairs.
It’s going to sound really strange coming from me, but I honestly think a lot of the best episodes of Ultraseven focus very little on the Ultra themselves. Instead, these stories show how humanity lives up to his example in the most dire circumstances.
Next week, we’ll be taking a look at an episode I consider to be deeply, deeply important. It’s not as famous as The Targeted Town, or The Ultra Guard Goes West, but Episode 25, “Super Weapon R-1” is an episode that must be watched. See you then.