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Delta Space Mission

Entry updated 30 August 2021. Tagged: Film, TV.

1. Romanian animated tv series (1983; original title Misiunea spatialã Delta). Created by Victor Antonescu. Directors include Victor Antonescu, Călin Cazan, Laurențiu Sîrbu and Mircea Toia. Writers include Victor Antonescu. Thirteen eight-minute episodes. Colour.

The creator, Antonescu, was involved with only four of the episodes. In that era of Romanian animation a director only had the resources to produce two episodes a year, but the Studio was required to make 13 in two years – so the work was farmed out to different teams, each headed by a director. With little or no coordination between the groups, there were some inconsistencies between the different sets of episodes and, dissatisfied, Antonescu left the project after making his.

In the thirty-first century, the Delta Space Mission's base ship is a huge sphere, reminiscent of the Death Star in Star Wars, though more benevolent in purpose. Antonescu's episodes centre on the crew of one of its exploratory Spaceships, a young couple and a Robot. Their adventures involve (1) plummeting into an ocean where the traditionally microscopic is giant (see Great and Small), with the ship being swallowed by an enormous amoeba as it divides; (2) crashing into a planet inhabited by Dinosaur-like creatures; (3) a volcanic disturbance trapping the trio underground, where they discover an ice-bound alien spacecraft: the robot examines a device therein and identifies it as a Time Machine, using it to Teleport them to safety – albeit turning the couple into children, though the robot is then able to restore them; (4) the final story involves defective robots. The animation is clearly constrained by a small budget, with the stories undemanding; the first and third episodes are the most interesting.

2. Romanian animated film (1984; original title Misiunea spatialã Delta). Animafilm. Directed and written by Calin Cazan and Mircea Toia. Voice cast includes Mirela Gorea. 70 minutes. Colour.

Note: though IMDb [see under links below] lists Antonescu as a co-director ("uncredited") and co-writer (at the expense of Cazan), the film's credits are as shown above; Antonescu, when discussing the television series, does not mention involvement with the film.

In 3084 the Delta spaceship prepares to go on a research mission to another galaxy and is about to be fitted with an advanced super-Computer (see AI). Alma (Gorea), a beautiful red-haired Alien journalist – seen previously in the fourth of Antonescu's television episodes and accompanied by her small frog-like companion – is being briefed on the mission and is introduced to the computer just before it is transported to Delta. Unfortunately the computer is enraptured by her.

Once installed on Delta, the computer uses its resources to kidnap Alma. It first sends a machine that successively transforms rock, seawater and an artificial structure into giant humanoid creatures; but they fail to catch her and she leaves Earth. Later the computer sends spacecraft in pursuit, forcing her to crashland on a nearby planet. Two men try to rescue her, but they too are attacked. Despite putting up a fight, Alma is abducted and taken to the Delta. The men follow, and – after scenes recalling the attack on the Death Star in Star Wars – are eventually captured. The computer now talks to Alma, unaware that her companion has crept inside its workings to sever its wiring, swiftly – and rather anti-climatically – closing it down, with echoes of HAL being turned off in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

Though the plot is unoriginal, this is still a solid sf film, much better animated than the television series; there was clearly a bigger budget. Unusual camera angles keep the viewer's interest and rotoscoping gives realistic character movement although, as with the series, the faces are unconvincing; the alien planet's scenery is memorably designed, resembling a cross between brain cells and surreal fungi. This was the first Romanian sf feature film. [SP]

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