The 107th episode of Legend of the Galactic Heroes takes place almost entirely at the entrance of the Iserlohn Corridor. After moving in to protect a stranded ship, the Iserlohn Fleet is forced to defend itself against an ever growing Imperial force. Reinhard responds by personally going into battle against the desires of Müller and Mittermeyer, while battling his own deteriorating condition. In the midst of his battle with Julian, Reinhard finally succumbs to his illness and the Imperial fleets suffer. Julian and company then conjure up a plan to take advantage.
The episode begins with the narrator informing the audience that those who knew the situation knew that a conflict between Iserlohn and the Empire was inevitable. Then, the civilian ship New Century requests assistance from Iserlohn as they are stranded and trying to seek freedom. As soon as they get their communication off, a group of pursuers appeared on their radar. With the crew quickly expressing despair at their fate, a group of ships from Iserlohn quickly appeared.
On the Ulysses, Attenborough expresses some frustration with the timing of the call, but he knew they could not abandon the ship morally or politically. While Linz asks whether it is a trap, the others are assured that Reinhard wouldn’t use such a cheap tactic. They arrive just before the Imperial fleet, which asks for reinforcements since they are at a numerical disadvantage. The Imperial fleet then began firing on the Iserlohn fleet, which responded in kind hoping to buy time for the New Century to finish repairs. However, because of the location, the Empire was able to bring fleets in quickly and the scale of the battle grew with the Droisen fleet and reinforcements from Iserlohn joining. After 2 hours, Droisen ordered the fleets to move back in an attempt to turn the battle into a war of attrition as the Iserlohn fleet withdrew into the corridor.
Julian responded to the withdrawal by having an escort take the now repaired New Century back to Iserlohn, while requesting his own reinforcements. On the other side, the Empire brought in more reinforcements and prepared to attack again. Schenkopp asked if this was what Julian wanted, and Julian responded by saying Reinhard would want a battle before negotiations since he believed he would want evidence of blood shed for one’s ideals. He went on to explain that the battle was required to prove the merits of democracy from what Yang had told him about Reinhard. Attenborough asks how history would remember Reinhard, but Julian says that he would be remembered as a man whose accomplishments were worthy of the amount of bloodshed as sort of an efficiency argument. He then paraphrases a future historian by saying that only 100,000 lives were lost when Reinhard unified space. Schenkopp first asked if Julian was becoming a cynic, then reiterated that he was always up for a fight. If they took Reinhard’s head in his words, there would be no need for negotiations.
At times like this Schenkopp’s character remains an interesting study in the difference between the two sides. Being able to consistently argue against his superiors and maintain the respect of those superiors is something he never would have been able to do had Yang not run into him. Schenkopp and everyone else benefited from the non-traditional attitudes that ran through Yang’s fleet, but his persistence in voicing his contrasting opinions would never have allowed him to advance anywhere else.
As the Iserlohn fleet held its position just outside the corridor, with reinforcements ready in the case of something unforeseen, Reinhard received word on Heinessen about the battle. Reinhard announced to the other admirals that he would be joining them in defeating the Iserlohn forces, which Müller responded to by sighing. When Reinhard asks him about it, Müller stands up and questions both the significance of the Iserlohn force as well as the need for Reinhard to be there. Reinhard responds angrily by sarcastically asking if his role was merely to smile before the republicans’ challenge. Mittermeyer then speaks and asks Reinhard to return to his wife and child on Phezzan. Reinhard points out that Mittermeyer is in the exact same situation and questions why he alone is allowed to risk his life, which shuts Mittermeyer up. Reinhard then orders Oberstein to control things on Heinessen and Wahlen to stay behind due to his fleet being damaged. Then, after wondering whether Yang’s successor also fights no battles he has no chance of winning, he orders Mittermeyer to depart a day ahead and choose the location of the decisive battle. Eisenach’s, Bittenfeld’s and Müller’s fleets would also be involved in the battle, while Mecklinger would serve by Reinhard’s side.
Müller’s comment here is important, but I’ll revisit that later. The exchange between Reinhard and Mittermeyer is interesting here. Mittermeyer sincerely believes that Reinhard should be with his family, but in the process it revealed a number of possibilities about his own. One would be that he cares about the future of the Empire more than his own family and he also may have subconsciously failed to factor in Felix in his own arguments.
On May 29th, the Imperial forces deployed to Shiva, which was 12 days from Heinessen. Reinhard was suffering from another fever, but chose not to disclose it since it would have canceled the expedition. The narrator tells us that the quote “I’d rather fight and regret it, than not fight and regret it” was attributed to Reinhard without any known historical reference to confirm it, but it generally fit in with his personality. With the battle about to get underway, he made a call to all of the ships in which he said that no Kaiser under the Lohengramm Dynasty would ever wage battles in hiding, which would apply to his son. He concluded that no coward would ever be rule the Lohengramm Dynasty. After Mittermeyer observed that Reinhard always showed his back to his allies and his chest to his enemies, the heads of the fleets got the battle underway.
More revealing information about Reinhard’s governing philosophy is apparent in his speech. So committed is he to the idea of not commanding his forces from safety, that he is willing to do so in less than ideal condition and to stake his family’s name on doing so from this point.
Reinhard said that no tricks would be used and they would win through continuous fire. Attenborough made the first move by withdrawing, but Bittenfeld’s fleet held its position. Attenborough then told his fleet to pretend to counter, but Bittenfeld again responded cautiously. Attenborough wondered what good it did if Bittenfeld was tame and had to abandon his attempts to lure him into the crossfire area.
Julian had like Reinhard chosen to lead his fleet from the front, but didn’t feel the need to state it publicly. While it would be considered some of Yang’s influence, in this case, it may have been a bit reckless. Julian’s tactics in the battle were preventing Reinhard from going on an all-out attack, which he considered might be from Merkatz. However, the fever was quickly taking a hold on Reinhard and causing him to lose focus. Streit and Mecklinger walked over to check on him, but he regained focus enough to wonder if someone was cursing him. He went on to say how he has been cursed by many starting with Braunschweig, but Mecklinger said it looked like Reinhard was focused on another galaxy. Reinhard responded by saying he had to focus on controlling this one before looking at a different galaxy.
The narrator then went into the numbers behind the battle. The Empire was at a 5-to-1 advantage as far as ships and 10-to-1 in sheer manpower, which forced the Iserlohn fleet to operate their ships with a smaller number of people, but it allowed tactical ingenuity. This took the form of 10% of Iserlohn’s fleet actually being unmanned and made to look like an ace-in-the-hole force. The defense lines would have been devastated had the Empire focused their attack on this area, but Reinhard couldn’t see through the trick in his condition. In addition, Julian had automated the ships to occassionally feint forward so the Empire had to acknowledge the threat it posed. Also, they remained a last resort for directly attacking the Brünhild in the unlikely opportunity Julian thought Reinhard would fall for the trick.
Still, the remaining manned ships were suffering from a shortage of manpower. On one of the ships, one man said they needed octopi to man some of the stations. This led another one to tell a story of how he was part of 80 men who ate food meant for 300 after the wedding of an admiral’s son had been canceled. The other men began calling him a pig in jest, but it reflected the general mood of the fleet even in the midst of a hard battle. Even Poplan casually said he was going on a rampage as he prepared to left for battle.
Julian seemed to be the only one concerned on the Iserlohn side. If his tricks didn’t work, then their only hope was to drag the Imperial fleet into the range of the Thor’s Hammer, but that was unlikely to happen. Reinhard had taken an extremely cautious stance in this battle due to his condition, which confused his admirals, but it provided Julian with no openings. Mittermeyer praised his opponent and said the resistance must have been due to Merkatz, but they were left waiting for the order for an all-out attack.
Bittenfeld lost patience and charged his fleet forward in attack. Attenborough was unable to respond sufficiently and had to retreat, which led to Bittenfeld to call for orders to envelop the Iserlohn force before they could retreat. Streit informed Bittenfeld that Reinhard was taking a break, but the request would be given to him. Eisenach then began to attack on his own, just as Reinhard returned to the bridge to give orders. Upon grabbing the back of his chair, he collapsed. A shocked Emil and the rest of the crew scrambled to get a stretcher and doctors in.
As Reinhard was being carried out, Mecklinger stopped one of the doctors and demanded he figure out Reinhard’s condition and proper treatment. He then grabbed the doctor by the collar and demanded he live up to his status on the ship before releasing him and calming down himself.
Mittermeyer received the news of the collapse first and immediately ordered communications to be limited between his ship and Supreme Headquarters. He then mentally asked Reuenthal what he should do, and thought he would be observing in Valhalla with a glass of wine in his hand.
The communications cut off created numerous problems for the Imperial forces, most noticeably Bittenfeld, who lost his opportunity as Merkatz was able to secure the defense line and Attenborough was able to reorganize as he waited for the order to attack. Bittenfeld called Supreme Headquarters and asked for orders from Reinhard, Mecklinger told him to retreat for the time being. That answer did not satisfy Bittenfeld as he demanded to talk to the Kaiser himself or he would take a shuttle over to the Brünhild. Mecklinger then demanded he follow his command as Staff Officer, and if Bittenfeld had a problem they could discuss it after the battle in Reinhard’s presence. Bittenfeld then called Mecklinger a false poet and accused him of following the same tune as Oberstein, which Mecklinger responded to by saying the song of a jackal was good enough for a wild boar.
In the wake of the chaos on the Imperial side there are probably three things worth thinking about. Julian’s earlier thought about future historians could change if Reinhard cost millions of lives because he went into battle sick. Second, in the grand scheme of things, you can’t help but think that Müller was right in the significance of this battle. Finally, would Reinhard’s philosophy of commanding from the front be different if Kircheis were alive?
Meanwhile, Eisenach chose to retreat to a position which would allow him to respond quickly to a command to attack, but he would have to wait for a longer time than he expected. Müller was also getting pressure to attack from subordinates, but he insisted they wait until orders from Supreme Headquarters. He wondered why there had been no orders as he would his fleet normally would have been ordered to move by then.
Returning from the battle, Poplan made a call to Julian about communications he picked up which said that their was misfortune from the Kaiser. Julian interpreted this as Reinhard collapsing due to illness and quickly called a meeting. Julian started by saying that regardless of whether the information was true, it would explain the movements of the Imperial fleet and it presented an opportunity. Schenkopp then proposed sending a ship at the Brünhild and allowing him to make up for letting Reuenthal get away. Merkatz was then asked for his thoughts, and he said that while he thought the Imperial fleets would let them return to Iserlohn, it wouldn’t take away from the fact that their own war resources were declining rapidly. Schenkopp thought the matter was settled, but Julian insisted that he join the mission as well or it wouldn’t be approved. He said he wanted to negotiate with Reinhard rather than killing him. Schenkopp said that it would be a matter of who got their first. Julian concluded by saying he intended to return alive, but if something were to happen to him, Attenborough would be the one to succeed him.
As the men prepared to set off, Karin walked in and asked for Julian to take care. He was surprised that she didn’t ask him to stop, but she said that any man who stopped when a woman asked him to wasn’t worth it. She then asked that he stay by Schenkopp as her mother told her he was the most reliable man provided his feet were on the ground. After he ribbed Julian, Schenkopp made a request to Karin and Julian not to have children until they were in their 20s since he didn’t want to be a grandfather in his 30s. The rest of the men in the room laughed as the two struggled to hide their embarrassment.
Thoughts: We’re now 3 episodes from the end, and yet it feels much the same as it did with 3 episodes remaining in the 2nd season. Imperial plan gone awry and Schenkopp leading a mission to board a ship. Somehow, I think the result will be about the same. About Reinhard’s condition, I’m fairly certain the doctors have no clue or they know it is something incurable, but can’t bring themselves to go with that diagnosis. The number of unresolved plot lines is quickly dwindling.