Welcome back to Ultraman Connection’s Watch Club! I’m EJ Couloucoundis, Editor-in-Chief of Ultraman Connection.
And I’m Sarah Last, staff writer and content creator for Ultraman Connection!
I don’t know about you, EJ, but I’ve been very much looking forward to this installment of the Ultraseven Watch Club!
Oh Sarah, I have been psyched. Off the top of my head, there are only two episodes I can think of that excite me more: one in a few weeks, and one at the end of this little journey we’re taking. With that in mind, let’s talk about Ultraseven Episode 6, “Dark Zone”!
Before we do, however, let’s take a moment to once again discuss exactly what Ultraseven wanted to do, as a series, differently from its predecessors in Ultra Q and Ultraman. Though both shows were more than willing to delve into the strange and unkempt places in the universe, Ultraseven seems a lot more interested in exploring the human soul… and what that soul can drive people to do.
There were some dark and dramatic moments in Ultra Q and Ultraman, but it seems like a lot of the conflict in those shows came from humanity accidentally stumbling into dangers far beyond what they could manage on their own. In this series however, so far, every single one of the threats has been the result of a direct targeted assault against the Earth. Examining how humanity can stand against such threats, and how they choose to respond to those dangers, takes on a new dimension. It really tests humanity in a way that distinguishes itself from its predecessors.
In addition, Seven really isn’t like Ultraman, and by proxy Shin Hayata. There was a natural culpability to Ultraman’s actions—he was as much Hayata as he was the Ultra, and thus he kind of had to act on humanity’s behalf as a general rule. Dan Moroboshi, on the other hand, is an illusion. A face worn by an alien to walk among humans. The only reason for Dan to participate in the battles he does is his own sense of morality. And sometimes, like this week, that morality, and his place among humans, gets tested.
We start with Dan and Amagi returning from patrol, just as the Ultra Guard HQ picks up a strange signal. Anne, meanwhile, has returned to her own quarters to relax when she finds a mysterious shadow in her room!
It seems as if we’re hurtling into another mysterious invasion plot. So far in the show we’ve encountered mysterious disappearances, mistaken identities, and aliens trying to take over human beings for their own nefarious plans! So, it’s no surprise when the first reaction from Dan — and likely the audience as well — is panic.
But then something unusual happens. The mysterious shadow talks to our main characters! They try to explain themselves and make it clear that they’re in pain and need help.
In the franchise to this point, let alone in the Ultraseven series itself, I can count on one hand the number of times where another alien seeks to open a non-threatening dialogue with humanity.
It’s really nice to hear, but I admittedly was… disheartened by how fast Dan pulled his gun on the shadowy alien, an Alien Pegassa. He puts it away quickly, but it really goes to show how full-tilt the paranoia — reasonable paranoia considering the previous five episodes of the show — is with him, and to a certain extent, humanity as a whole.
I mean he did sneak into Anne’s room; I’d be a little alarmed too!
I guess! Though, they did poke him with a newspaper and shine a light on his face first, and he didn’t attack or anything.
The Pegassa has been injured on his attempt to land on Earth and has been recuperating in Anne’s room. He’s been hiding because he’s terrified of humans. There’s a candidness and an honesty that personally does a lot to illustrate significant parts of this series for me, in how the species of the universe view humans. They are scary. They’re irresponsible, destructive, and constantly lobbing junk into space! Dan is in the minority for protecting them.
Even then, the Pegassa speaks of his home city with equal parts admiration and regret. He describes the marvel of technological advancement that allows them to live self-sufficiently, producing their own air, water, and food. But in the same breath, he also describes such dizzying heights of scientific progress as “inconvenient” and says that one day humanity too will come to regret their own technologies, and long for the days of simpler things, like flowers which grow naturally rather than having to be artificially produced and commodified.
It all seems rather cryptic at this moment, but it casts the rest of the episode — and honestly, the rest of the entire series in a much more tragic light.
Still, the fact that an alien is opening to humanity at all and seeking to share something or allowing others to understand where he’s coming from, is a remarkably novel event in this series. It’s rather sweet. Just like the Pegassa says, for a few minutes it really seems like humanity and these aliens can be friends.
For a few minutes, that is.
It really… hurts. This episode hurts a lot. In a good way, of course, but there’s something heartbreaking to me about the way things must progress, not just because of what is done in this episode, but the bitter understanding that it’s likely nothing could have changed it in the moment, due to choices made by previous generations.
You see, Pegassa City, the spacefaring home of the Pegassa people, has suffered an engine failure, and is hurtling on a collision course with Earth. Requests are made by the relatively friendly Pegassa for the Earth to simply “alter its orbit,” but that’s not doable, obviously. And unless they can, Pegassa City and Earth will collide, and both worlds will be completely destroyed.
Meanwhile, Dan and Anne don’t know about this at all! They don’t even know that their mysterious guest is a Pegassa alien, they’re just sitting around and enjoying their friendly chat with him.
On rewatch, one line here particularly stood out to me, the Pegassa mentioned that “Eternal life” had become something of a “theme” in their scientific progress for their society. This seems like a wonderful goal on its surface, but the tone used when speaking of that technology was rather somber, as I mentioned. Here, the consequences are made terrifyingly clear. While the Pegassa have ensured a self-sufficient, stable, and pleasant life for their city…they are caught by surprise when that same technology suddenly brings them on a literal collision course with other lives who are not as technologically gifted.
It might sound like I’m blaming the Pegassa aliens, but the real tragedy of this episode and how this conflict unfolds has two sides. First, the Pegassa in no way wanted this to happen. You can hear how much the Pegassa who was befriended by Dan and Anne is shocked and saddened by the realization that the Earth might be destroyed by this collision. But their dialogue also clearly makes the point that humanity has the exact same goals and mindset directing their own progress. The dilemma which faces both civilizations is something that is shared by them, rather than being uniquely the fault of one or the other.
However, what the Pegassa do not expect right up until the end is that humanity is far more developed than them at one discipline: the science of destruction. To prevent the Earth’s destruction, against Dan’s recommendation, the “backwards, primitive” humans fire a nuclear missile at Pegassa City.
That’s not their first reaction, though. Before they go with the literal “nuclear” option, the Ultra Guard tries their hardest to communicate with the Pegassa city. They fly to the city, send out desperate radio broadcasts, and wait until the last possible second to count it as hopeless.
Of course. This isn’t an indictment of either of the two factions here; both are forced into the final positions they end at here. The point remains though, that most aliens, represented by the Pegassa here, think very little of humanity, considering them barely above barbarism. And to a certain extent, they’re right. Even in Ultraseven, a version heavily in the realm of science fiction, mankind has not escaped the societal issues that bind the souls of men to Earth.
And yet, despite that, they have in their possession the power of the sun, devastation that can exceed the most powerful alien races in the universe. Like the Pegassa agent said before, you can wish to go back to the days of hunting with stone axes and simple tools, but you cannot turn back from what you have done — what you have made.
Pegassa City, expecting little from the primitive primates that cannot even adjust their planet’s orbit, is annihilated in the nuclear blast, saving Earth at the cost of another species. Dan can only watch, horrified and heartbroken in equal measure, because even the mighty Ultraseven could not find another way.
When I first watched this series, this episode immediately made me see all the preceding events in a different light because of that tragic conflict, and how it plays out here. The question was no longer just “how can humanity survive against this threat?” but rather “what will humanity be forced to sacrifice in order to survive?” Based off the Pegassas’ reactions to humanity, and their refusal to respond back to the warnings the Ultra Guard sent before they were forced to destroy the city, I always got the sense that the universe of this setting was bleak, desperate, and full of other conflicts which are only hinted at in this show.
Seeing how many aliens have tried to invade and conquer the Earth so far, one might conclude that such destructive weaponry and callous survivalism has become necessary in the larger context of the universe.
To reinforce that point, and how it reframes Dan’s own fight to protect humanity and the Earth, there’s really no big Kaiju fight in this episode. The only time we get to see the Pegassa’s “true” alien form is at the very end, when Seven confronts him following the destruction of his people’s city.
I think right before that fight begins is when things become truly bleak, as the Pegassa begs Dan and Anne to find a way off of Earth; he was sent to blow up the planet by his own people and is unaware that his world is already lost. He rushes out, willing to shoulder the burden of all the lives lost himself.
Dan, of course, tries to explain what has happened, just as the Pegassa releases a bomb to drill down into the Earth’s core. Unwilling to believe that his people are gone due to their superior science, the alien refuses to back down, and Dan transforms into Seven to stop the detonation. Briefly battling and wounding the Pegassa, he allows the alien to escape in an act of mercy before destroying the bomb.
There were no winners this episode. Neither Pegassa City nor Earth proved themselves as better or right. All that is left is the long shadows cast by this grim event…and the hope, by Dan and Anne, that the Pegassa sit in those shadows, perhaps one day to return and try friendship again.
If you’ll excuse me, I need to go stare at a wall for a good long while, thanks.
This episode breaks my heart every time I watch it. If Ultraseven wasn’t such good TV, I wouldn’t hurt this much, but I always do, and it always works. I consider this episode the start of one of the great peaks of Ultraseven’s story, as this, alongside the next couple of episodes, delve into the philosophy underpinning the show in a way that cannot be missed.
With that in mind, next week we’ll be checking out another favorite episode of mine, Episode 7 “Space Prisoner 303.” See you next time!