The first episode of Ultra Q, Defeat Gomess!, which aired fifty years ago on January 16th, is really impressive, and that's putting it lightly. While the plot could've been taken from any giant kaiju film, the execution, for a television series, is spectacular.
The entire episode has a sense of forbodeing, and Gomess, actually a reused MosuGoji suit, is brought to life at first in a cave system, and is actually not seen much in the first part of the episode. The effects, though simple, hold up incredibly well for a Showa-era production, mostly due to the fact that Gomess is shown sparsely and in amazingly well-constructed sets.
Litra's execution was less fluid, due to the fact that it was a bird-like creature and done with puppetry as opposed to suitmation, but it still had multiple bird-like movements. The fight between the two was surprisingly fluid, thanks to skillful camera work and editing cuts. There were obviously awkward moments, but overall the effects held up even to modern tokusatsu, albiet much less flashy.
The scientific details were... shaky at best, and felt slightly unnecessary. The Shout! Factory subtitles are less than satisfactory, and are very awkwardly phrased and sometimes poorly translated.
The characters are not very well introduced, for a first episode. We have the female photographer, the kid, the reporter, and the third wheel dude, but while it isn't easy to remember their names at first, they do have a sense of distinctness and we are able to see that the writers did put thought into their characterization, however subtle it may be.
The focus is not on the characters, however, it is on the monsters, even when they are unseen. The suspense is real, and the effects hold up well. It's easy to see how Ultra Q obtained good ratings and would give birth to a franchise that would hold up long enough for us to be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary.
Happy birthday, Ultra Q! You deserve it.