So here we are at the end of the first half of the season, and I find I’m much more invested in this show than I anticipated. Yeah, I’m not unaware of its failings, most of them related to the technical side of things, but I find I’m responding well to the very decompressed storytelling, the slow character arcs, the relaxed pace. It’s not ‘ohmigod the Prosthetic Forehead Aliens of planet Cliché VII are going to destroy civilization’ ever week, nor is it ‘ohmigod, the Prosthetic Forehead Aliens of planet Tedium X need to learn an important lession about life, taught in the most didactic way possible.’ Instead, it’s more workaday. I just sorta’ like that.
A lot of websites decried this series as “chick stuff’ or “Grey’s Anatomy in Space,” and the advance word was, of course, that this show was intended as a sort of “Gateway drug” to get women hooked on SF. I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I don’t know if it’s worked or not (I assume it wouldn’t), but I think a much more useful - and possibly unintentional - aspect of the show is that it might serve to introduce some of the more stereotypical male members of the audience (Trekies, I’m looking at you) to the concept that human drama isn’t a bad or scary or shameful thing, and that if you can fit it in with the gee gosh wow stuff, it just makes things better all around. So, if it’s intended as “SF 101” for chicks, or “Emotions 101” for mouth breathing dudes, I find I don’t really care either way, I’m just kind of digging the show.
That said, tonight was a pretty hard episode for me to watch, and I could definitely see a younger version of my self abandoning this series for ever after what they did tonight, but we’ll get to that below.
PLAY BY PLAY
After stringing us along for two and a half weeks, Zoe takes the abortion pill. As fate and politically motivated scripts would have it, she happens to take it on the day that the cadets are doing a training section on trauma. They’re taken to a hospital and divied up in to groups. Some of the old timers take bets on when the notoriously vasovagal Donner will puke or black out. Paula and Wassenfelder are assigned to watch a druggie taking some new untraceable designer chemical, so they do, and of course they get to bickering, she calls him a poser, he calls her a religious fanatic. Wassenfelder gets along swell with the druggie, but Paula clearly has no sympathy for the guy.
Donner and Evram end up getting involved in a gunshot wound case, which the resident surgeon is botching because there’s so little gun violence in the future that he doesn’t know what to do. As the victim codes, Evram just takes over the surgery, and Donner assists, and he doesn’t pass out, though he’s clearly only barely holding it together.
The druggie codes, and the doctor can’t bring him back, but Paula won’t let it slide and does CPR on the guy for a while, just because there’s a chance. Claire, meanwhile, asks Evram out for a drink, and he says ‘yeah.’
Jen and Zoe don’t do much important, but Zoe talks to a pregnant doctor lady about regrets and choices (sigh), and the doctor excuses Zoe because she isn’t feeling well. Donner leaves, too. He gets to talking to her about a pig his uncle slaughtered when he was a kid, and therefore he can’t stand the sight of blood, and Zoe passes out, obviously in great pain. Donner picks her up and carries her back in to the hospital, where they immediately give her care, and Jen immediately fesses up to the pregnant doctor lady that Zoe took an abortion pill. AJ overhears this, but says he won’t betray her, and when things are better, he goes to tell Donner everything is ok.
When Zoe wakes up, Eve is there, telling she’s had an emergency hysterectomy, and that the cover story will be “you had a cyst that burst, and we removed it.” Everything is all nicely covered up.
Evram is taking a blood sample from Donner, and having trouble doing it. It takes him six tries to hit the vein, and even though Paula was bugging him, that ain’t right. He tells Donner it’s a weird reaction of his pain meds for his back, lying, of course. Jen, meanwhile, enlists Zoe to help her birth her illegal rabbit. Zoe is obviously pissed at this, and the reasoning behind it appears to be lost on Jen.
AJ is allowed back on the floor.
Wassenfelder is being a wad, and picking on Paula for her faith, which she takes very seriously (Though last week gave us some reason to doubt some of her sincerity). Wassenfelder just can’t stand this, and is riding her pretty hard, so Shaw sends them both to the cargo bay to move some huge boxes around in the zero gravity. Of course Wassenfelder is a dick and pushes a box when Paula isn’t ready, the huge crate hits her, and cuts off her thumb. Wassenfelder sounds the alarm, then freaks out, but because Jen is playing ‘hide the bunny’ and Evram is having flashbacky problems, everyone is late getting to surgery.
Evram (Eventually) takes charge, and has Donner and Zoe help him out, but the situation quickly gets out of hand when the doctor starts having full-on flashbacks of the kid trapped in the collapsing building in the war. Presently he’s able to soldier through it, and with Donners’ help they basically re-enact the gunshot wound thing from a half-decade before, with Donner sticking his finger in the wound. Her life is saved.
Meanwhile, Wassenfelder is in the cargo bay and finds Paula’s thumb, and rushes it to Evram just as he’s about to chop off the remaining stub. With super genius 21st century technology, she should regain full use of it by the next episode, or the one after that.
Nadia points out to Wassenfelder that he’s completely useless, but “Sometimes you find a thumb.”
Afterwards, Jen fesses up to Shaw that Evram’s been having flashbacks, and they confront him about it. He explains that during the war, he was in the army and called in a strike on what he thought was a rebel stronghold, but which turned out to be just a school full of kids. While trying to rescue the only one left alive, a beam collapsed on him.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a (foul-mouthed) Christian and a Republican, so I had a hard time with this episode revolving around Zoe’s abortion. There were a number of reasons for this: Firstly, my own moral indignation. Duh. Secondly, after stringing us along for five weeks, teasing us with what happened in the past, and throwing a couple of what seemed (To me) to be fakeout signals, she just kills the kid. They threw so many signals that she had an abortion in the previous 5 episodes, that I took it to mean it was all just misdirection. It’s 35 years in the future, after all: obviously, she didn’t have the kid, but just because there’s only two options available *today* doesn’t mean that will always be the case. I mean, travel used to be only by land or sea, right? Then we came up with air travel? So who’s to say there isn’t another option out there that will become available in the next generation, particularly given the obvious technological advances these people have.
My own personal favorite, the one I was betting on, was that she had the baby removed and put on ice for re-insertion at some more convenient time later on. They appear to have some limited suspended animation abilities in this world, so that should theoretically be feasible. Hell, it’s practically on the borderline of being feasible today to remove an embryo from one person and implant it in another, provided the recipient has been adequately hormonally prepared. Let me rephrase that: It is *not* possible to do that today, but it is an entirely plausible extrapolation of our present medical technology, and it’s an option that - with funding and research - could be available in 5 to 10 years. So there’s your third option right there. And if we can *ALMOST* do that, then how is it possible that 35 years down the pike, we *STILL* won’t have a third option?
So the conclusion of the baby arc runs very disappointing for me. I mean, this *is* a science fiction show, SF shows are all about ideas and showing us things that are on the edge of possible, or at least conceivable, about opening our minds up to change and stuff like that. It would have been a great way to introduce a solid - and thought provoking - SF concept that could have opened up a whole lot of interesting discussion and debate. I mean, would pro-abortion types oppose or support a third option? Has the concept ever occurred to them (Probably not)? If a third option were available, would they support it, or oppose it on the grounds that it might make their own stance less politically viable? Would conservatives accept such an option? We’re frequently known for opposing thing simply because they’re new, strange, ‘not what nature intended’ and so on, so the way the right would react to something like this is every bit as interesting as how the left would react: A lot of *US* would probably oppose the concept of postponing or transplanting unwanted pregnancies simply because such a thing is a hard concept to wrap your brain around, and it’s clearly not mentioned in the bible. I think such a stance would be a mistake, frankly. We’re talking about life and death here, and any time you can come up with an alternative that makes the ‘death’ option less of a certainty, that’s a victory, don’t you think?
So that’s what the show *COULD* have done, but instead they decided to make a political statement about…well, frankly, I’m a bit fuzzy on what they were going for here. Why they decided to declare fealty to something that’s been a fait acompli since 1973, I don’t really pretend to understand. We’re told that in 2052 Abortion is illegal in the US (Though evidently not Europe), and I guess they’re making the kneejerk “Keep it legal and safe” stance, but, really, why? Since Abortion became universally legal in the US (Under Richard Nixon, btw, not the demmycrats), there has never been any serious talk of delocalizing it again. Never. Political rhetoric on both sides stacking up to high heaven, yes, but actual organized political maneuvering to remove it? No. Not a bit. Reagan wrote a book about how he wanted to end abortion, and he appointed 3 supreme court justices during his term in office. He could have easily reversed Roe v. Wade if he wanted to, but he never, never, never attempted to do so. Why? Ultimately, it wasn’t a politically viable move.
And let’s assume that it *was* delocalized - let’s assume that it’s a compromise that Obama has to make to get his health program passed, and he gussies it up in some pretty words - that would never happen in a million years, but let’s assume it did: it would still be legal in the US under *State* law. Aside from maybe Utah, I can’t think of a state in the country that would actually move to criminalize it within their borders. Why? Again: Not politically a viable move.
So why the show strings us along for six weeks to show us 1973, rather than opening up the floor to new ideas, clever end-runs around the problem that the future might bring, they decided to make a heavy-handed statement that basically hasn’t needed to be made since Richard Nixon’s 2nd term.
I’m also annoyed that it was a girl’s club surrounding the abortion. All of them bend over backwards to cover it up, “It’s a stupid ol’ law,” endanger their careers and the program itself, not one of them says “No, dammit, this is wrong!” or “Wrong or right, you’ve screwed the pooch darlin’, and we ain’t endangering our careers for your sorry ass.” I know plenty of women who oppose abortion, I find it hard to believe the opinion would have been so solidly on her side, and on the side of ‘ignore the law.’
And it makes me think less of Zoe, and I really liked her, dammit.
So I’m fairly pissed off about that, if I’m honest. Their lack of vision has let us all down. And, yes, I am annoyed that I came up with a cleverer plot twist than the writers did.
Paula is from Jersey City, New Jersey. I had just assumed she was from Latin America, owing to her rather pronounced - but inconsistent - accent. I apologize. That was unthinking of me, but, you know, it *IS* an international crew.
Where is the ISO headquarters, anyway? They talk about “Heading down the coast,” but it’s never clear where they’re talking about. Wherever they are, it’s fairly clear they’re not in Texas, using the Johnson Space Flight facilities there. It looks like Cascadia, which is like the worst place in the world to launch something from, so where is ISO headquarters? It does seem to be near their launch facilities, but since the launches we’ve seen are at night, there’s no recognizable features. (I’m fairly certain the stock footage was from Vandenberg, though.)
Jen says her bunny is the first live birth in space. That’s not true. There’ve been literally scores of ‘em. The Soviets have been doing experiments with gestation in space since the earliest days of the Salyut program, and we did a lot of them on Skylab, both in the early 1970s. These always go very badly, by the way. Live births in space are possible, but horribly traumatic on the mother, owing to decalcification and blood flow problems, and the babies invariably are horribly deformed by developing in a weightless state. Duplicate spines are not uncommon, bone malformations, you name it. Bad mojo.
AJ is briefly in this episode after his conspicuous absence last week, however Rollie is conspicuously absent this time out.
The scene where Donner sees the blood on his hand and pukes outside the hospital was pretty funny, as was him getting hit by the door earlier. His narration, the title, and the whole ‘pig’ thing seem fairly extraneous, however. Yeah, I realize he’s the star, they’ve got a format that revolves around him, but it just seemed more like shoehorning this time out.
Evram has identified himself as having full-blown hallucinations. How long ‘til Shaw tells him about Beta? Why would Beta want Evram to hallucinate? Evram’s bit about never remembering the patients he saves, since there’s nothing to learn from them was pretty cool.
They can force-grow a new thumb in “About a month?” They can have a re-attached thumb working fine again inside of two weeks? Crazy! So we can prognosticate on trivial matters, but have to make disingenuous political statements to avoid going off the party line elsewhere? Disappointing. Disappointing.
So does anyone out there know how the ratings on this show are doing? I deem it highly unlikely that we’ll get a second season out of it, but I’d really like to know any specific numbers, if anyone’s heard anything.