The special is the story of Bardock, a low-class Saiyan warrior. At the outset of the story, his son Kakarotto is born on Planet Vegeta, and prepared to be sent to Earth in order to destroy all life on the planet. Meanwhile, Bardock and his crew are on an assignment to exterminate all the life forms of Planet Kanassa. After the planet is seemingly devoid of all other life, Bardock and crew rest up and celebrate their victory... Until one remaining warrior catches him off guard and decides to give him the "gift" of seeing the future. This gives him the ability to see the destruction of Planet Vegeta, and almost the entire Saiyan race along with it, at the hands of their master, Frieza. Also, he sees the salvation of the planet Earth through his son Kakarotto.
Meanwhile, this prediction becomes reality when Frieza decides to destroy the entire Saiyan race. Within Frieza's spaceship, Frieza is being briefed by his top two henchmen, Zarbon and Dodoria, in regards to the occurrences in their routine interplanetary galactic trade and conquering. Recent news reveals that the Saiyans' strength constantly grows after each battle. Zarbon informs Frieza that a band of low-class Saiyans had taken over Kanassa in just a few days. Dodoria states that the job to take Kanassa had been in the pool for months, and that not even Frieza's elite squadrons could take Kanassa so easily. Frieza, Zarbon, and Dodoria contemplate the fate of the Saiyans due to the growing power of the species and decide to take action in order to avoid further repercussions, as the Saiyans might pose a great threat to them in the future. Zarbon advises Frieza to eliminate the growing threat before it poses a greater problem. Dodoria and his elite fighters are ordered to eradicate Bardock and his teammates.
Bardock dismisses the visions he had, and goes to join his team on Planet Meat, but soon discovers his friends are all dead. Bardock's team was massacred by Frieza's henchman Dodoria and his elites. He battles the ones responsible, and defeats them all, but is easily overwhelmed by a single mouth blast from Dodoria. He is left severely injured, but manages to make it back to Planet Vegeta. Though Bardock attempts to convey the danger that they are all in to the other Saiyans, since he has now realized that Frieza is going to destroy them all, everyone laughs at his claim and Bardock alone begins one final assault against Frieza.
Killing many of his minor soldiers and sending the Final Spirit Cannon to Frieza himself, Bardock seems about to change the future. However, Frieza counters this with his Supernova, which assumedly kills Bardock. But the attack kills many of his own soldiers, and destroys Planet Vegeta itself, all while uttering a maniacal laugh. As he is assumedly dying, Bardock sees one more vision of the future: his son Kakarotto facing Frieza. Being assured that Kakarotto would be the one to kill Frieza. Bardock gives a small smile as he disintegrates along with the planet. As the planet is on the verge of blowing up, Frieza continues laughing at its destruction, as well as telling Dodoria and Zarbon to watch the "beautiful fireworks" (in the English version, he reacts as though he were watching a spectacular show). After his body is no where to be seen, Bardock wishes his son, Kakarotto, to take care. At the same moment, Kakarotto, who is still in the space pod, wakes up.
Elsewhere, having just completed an assignment on a far-off world, Vegeta is informed by Nappa (in the English version it is one of Frieza's minor soldiers who tells him) of his homeworld's destruction. His pride keeps him from expressing his shock, and he remains outwardly emotionless. Soon afterward, Kakarotto's space pod touches down on Earth, where he is found by Grandpa Son Gohan, and giggles happily in the old man's arms. Gohan then decides to care for the boy as his own grandson, and renames him Son Goku. The film ends with a montage of Goku's many heroic deeds on Earth, leading to his battle with Frieza.
- Masako Nozawa as Bardock & Son Goku
- Ryusei Nakao as Frieza
- Sho Hayami as Zarbon
- Yukitoshi Hori as Dodoria
- Kazuyuki Sogabe as Toma (known as Tora in the U.S)
- Yuko Mita as Seripa (known as Fasha in the U.S)
- Takeshi Watabe as Panbukin (known as Shugesh in the U.S)
- Kozo Shioya as Toteppo (known as Borgos in the U.S)
- Shozo Iizuka as Nappa
- Ryo Horikawa as Vegeta
- Kazumi Tanaka as Malaka
- Banjo Ginga as Toolo
- the late Jinpei Azusa as Grandpa Son Gohan
- Joji Yanami as the Narrator
- Sonny Strait as Bardock
- Sean Schemmel as Adult Goku
- Stephanie Nadolny as Infant Goku
- Linda Young as Frieza & Fasha
- Christopher Sabat as Zarbon, Borgos, Vegeta, & Grandpa Gohan
- Chris Forbis as Dodoria
- Mike McFarland as Tora & Toolo
- Chris Rager as Shugesh
- Phil Parsons as Nappa
- Chris Cason as Malaka
- Kyle Hebert as the Narrator
- Although it bears the Dragon Ball Z logo and opening, Bardock - Father of Goku is a prequel to Dragon Ball; the special takes place 12 years before the events of the Emperor Pilaf Saga.
- In the English version's plot, Frieza apparently wishes to capture Kanassa because those who dwell there develop psychic powers. However, in the original story, Bardock's crew had no idea why Frieza wants to capture Kanassa.
- In this special it is shown that Bardock fights his way through Frieza's men to get to Frieza himself. However in the anime, when Frieza speaks of the event in a flashback, it is shown that the men Bardock fought in the special were actually with him on an attack against Frieza, which is actually a dubbing error on FUNimation's part.
- Vegeta is shown to have been on a far-off world at the time of Planet Vegeta's destruction, whereas an episode of Dragon Ball Z reveals Vegeta is shown to have been on Frieza's spaceship at the time of Planet Vegeta's destruction.
- King Vegeta does not appear in this movie despite that he was killed in the same time period.
- At the end of the special, baby Goku is shown to already be the happy loving boy he is in Dragon Ball when Grandpa Gohan finds him, despite the fact it had already been established in an episode of Dragon Ball Z that Goku displayed tendencies typical of infant Saiyans and did not lose them until he hit his head. In addition Grandpa Gohan finds Goku a small distance from his pod during the day, while in Reunions it was implied he found him near his pod during the night. Strangely, this special actually has earlier features that have the same scene from Reunions.
- In one of Bardock's final premonitions before his death, he sees Goku standing face-to-face with first-form Frieza. Goku never met Frieza in his first form. Though it can be argued that Bardock only knows of Frieza in his first form, as Frieza stated no one has seen his final form or any of his other forms beyond his first form. So Bardock would have no idea what it would look like. Which is why he sees Goku staring down his first form. Bardock's visions are also somewhat symbolic than objective, meaning they usually don't have to look exactly like how they would transpire. However, as this special was aired before Goku took on Frieza in the manga, that can be explained that Toei didn't know about it (Goku faces first form Frieza on the cover of the 23 volume of the manga).
- It is also noted that Goku actually met Frieza in his first form after he was resurrected in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’. It lasted for a short time before transforming to his final form.
- The scene where Goku's space pod approaches Earth shows an Earth nearly identical to the real world Earth, with North and South America clearly visible.
- In Dragon Ball Kai (the recut and rebroadcast version of the Dragon Ball Z), the first episode used the footage of this special in the very beginning of the first episode. Even in Dragon Ball Z movie 5, the same footage was shown, even though it was seen on Cooler's spaceship.
- In the original American DVD release with subtitles, Bardock's name was spelled as "Burdock". It has been changed to the more familiar "Bardock" in all recent DVD releases of this special, however other movies released as Double Features still use the "Burdock" spelling.
- Akira Toriyama has stated that this is his favorite movie.
- One of the eyecatch sequence features a bunch of Saiyans in the background. Some of these Saiyans are actually rough sketches of Bardock's team that were done prior to the special's release, and many of them were changed drastically for the final special.
- While traveling to Planet Vegeta to destroy it, Frieza says that it is "as red as a Blood Ruby". Blood Rubies were a major part of the plot for Dragon Ball movie 1; at the end of this movie, Shenron removes all of the blood rubies from the Earth, and it is unknown what happened to them after this.
- This was where the music from The Tree of Might was first heard, outside of the films.
all information on Dragon Ball Z TV Special 1 came from http://dragonball.wikia.com/wiki/Dragon_Ball_Z:_Bardock_-_The_Father_of_Goku