EPISODE REVIEW: Defying Gravity: “Fear” (Episode 7)

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Whole lot o’ hallucinating going’ on tonight. I suppose I could kvetch about them doing a Halloween episode in September, but then the Simpsons have been doing Halloween episodes in December for more than a decade now. I guess I’m used to it. That notwithstanding, however, I’m not sure how I feel about this episode, it’s a bit to character-heavy, and a bit too “Out of Gas” (Firefly reference) coming right on the heels of some other character-heavy episodes. There’s not a lot of plot or narrative momentum here, and what there is feels kinda’ fake, kinda’ tedious, like all those “Ship in danger” subplots from TOS.

PLAY BY PLAY

2042 - On Mars, a really bad dust storm has blown in. The landing party is only 100 meters from the lander when it takes off and strands them. Something is wrong with the two that got left behind, however…

2047 (Halloween) - Eve has a ‘pulse’ - a hallucinatory telepathic event precipitated by “Beta.” Her temperature spikes, she has visions. In Beta’s audience chamber, she sees Shaw on mars mission, and decides Beta wants her to talk to him.

Zoe is back at work, getting stared at, and putting on a brave front, telling people she’s in no pain, she’s fine, having a hysterectomy is no big deal. AJ tries to tell her something, however, and she snaps at him. He beats a hasty retreat. Jen is debating whether she’ll be a slutty pirate or a slutty vampire, “Either way, fishnets.”
Zoe: “Ted likes fishnets?”
Jen: “All guys do. It’s genetic.” (It’s true, you know) Eve approaches Ted to try and figure out why Beta wants her to talk to him. She tells him that she’s lost someone, just like he did when they meet for drinks. Zoe plans to just go home and quietly recuperate, but Nadia’s passive/aggressive faux concern pisses her off, so she decides to go to Major Toms to meet up with the others. Jen finds out that Ted is dressing up as “Dr. Ra” from some unnamed science fiction show, so she decides to go as an alien communications babe from the same show. Alas, Ted is drinking with Even, and stands her up. Zoe, meanwhile, dresses up as a pregnant astronaut. She gets massively drunk, pitches a fit at Donner, creates a scene, then pukes. After some awkwardness about who should do what, AJ takes her home. There he tells her he knows all about the abortion, but it’s ok ‘cuz her path is in space and the baby’s path is elsewhere, and, y’know, abort as many fetuses as you want ‘cuz they’re just going to be reincarnated anyway, right? Right? Am I right? Grrrr.
Eve tells Shaw that based on her pouring over the telemetry from the 2042 mission, the two folks they abandoned would never have survived the last thousand feet of their journey…

2052 (Halloween) - a candy company has paid $10 billion to have the crew of the Antares film a candy commercial 35 million klicks from earth. No one - excepting the candy company - are particularly thrilled over this notion, but money’s money. Alas, on earth, Eve is feeling a Beta Pulse coming on, and the crew of the ship are showing signs of it, too. Eve warns Shaw, but tells him not to tell the others, even though they both now know that several of them are having Beta-Hallucinations, and other members of the crew are definitely off their game. Roy Shaw, the child of Eve and Ted, is 4 years old, and he’ll be trick-or-treating as Dr. Ra, but he’s afraid of the dark.

They cook up a cover story saying a tainted batch of HALOs are causing them to have psychotropic trips, and ground control tries to scrub the commercial, but the candy company and the crew put up a fuss, so they try to do it anyway. The commercial entails an EVA with the astronauts carrying candy buckets. Basically they’ll fly in to position, open a banner with the candy company logo on it, and say “Trick or Treat” - the end. Seeing his dad freak out on TV, Roy Shaw gets scared, and doesn’t want to go trick or treating.

As they try to exit the ship, Shaw is paralyzed by his Martian Storm vision, Donner is seeing his dead girlfriend, Zoe is hearing baby cries, and everyone is going to hell Jen remains unaffected, and tries to get them to go outside, but Donner scrubs it. As soon as they’re back inside, everyone is feeling better, and the money they didn’t make from doing the commercial will come out of the science budget for the mission. Zoe thanks Donner for keeping them inside, and they both admit that they’re happy the others are along. Zoe confides in him about the dream she’s been having - going naked out the airlock - and as she’s telling it to him, he basically cuts in and tells her the rest of her dream. He’s been having it for two months.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with tainted HALOs, does it?” Zoe asks.
“No,” Donner realizes.

Back on earth, Roy Shaw - a timid and nervous kid - can’t bring himself to go Trick or Treating with the other kids, but he is at least going around Mission Control.

OBSERVATIONS

Of course we’ve long established that they’re just ignoring light speed lag in communications on this show, but I like to keep track of these things. They say they’re 35 million kilometers from earth, which is 21,747,991 miles. Light travels at 186,000 MPS, or about 12 million miles a minute, so the communications lag *should* be about 117 seconds each way. Ergo, Jen’s little “I thought you said you were going to wear a mask” exchange with Rollie back on earth should have taken about 3.8 minutes.

Donner says he’s been having the dream for about two months, he started having ‘em only a day or two before he ended up replacing AJ on the mission, so that suggests they’re about 56 to 62 days out from earth, which suggests an average speed of between 350,000 and 390,000 miles a day, or lets say around 15,400 miles an hour. That’s actually just about right for interplanetary transit speeds. Kudos to the producers for figuring that out.

Of course this is a bit confusing, since in the second episode Mike Goss said that Shaw could tell the crew what the true nature of their secret mission is ‘In 47 days, when they go in to orbit around Venus.’ Obviously, they’re still well away from Venus, so I’m going to just chalk that up to a typo, or whatever.

Eve mentions that she’s lost someone just like Shaw has. Her hallucinations would seem to indicate she had a young child that died years before, or possibly both a husband and a child. We can’t say for sure what happened, but I got a sense of a car accident out of it.

Paula hallucinated about her dog, Hector, who looked to have been hit by a car.

Evram hallucinated about the girl from the war again.

Nadia kept seeing someone she didn’t recognize on the ship, walking away from her. He looked a lot like Evram, but wasn’t Evram.

Jen and Wassenfelder appeared to be completely unaffected, Zoe, Eve, and Donner were affected, but still basically level-headed and functional, but Paula, Evram, and Shaw were utterly paralyzed by what they were seeing.

Why is Beta doing this? It seems like he was trying to prevent them from shooting the commercial, but why?
Claire, the flight surgeon back on earth, is aware of Beta, and the hallucinations, and has evidently been so for some time. Goss knows, of course. Who else knows what’s really going on? Neither here nor there, but Claire’s demeanor and delivery reminds me heavily of Dr. Lam (Lexa Doig) from the last couple seasons of Stargate SG1, and of course though Lam was a completely different unrelated character, she was played by the actress that played “Andromeda” from Andromeda Ascendant. Dunno if this intentional or not, but I just wanted to mention it.

Huh. Mike Goss wasn’t a jackwad tonight. Not a little bit. In fact, he was almost cool.

The Antares is expected to be “Swinging by Mars” in about a year.

Ten Billion Dollars is a hell of a lot of money to pay for a candy commercial, don’t you think? I mean, even if we assume heavy inflation…geez. “Comet Candy” (Obviously supposed to be Mars Candies, Inc) must have deeper pockets than Bazooka Joe.

“Dr. Ra” is obviously a thinly-veiled analogue for Spock from Star Trek, what with the pointy ears, the stoic demeanor, and of course they substituted the secret heavy metal rock star devil sign for the Vulcan salute. That was actually kinda’ funny, really. Malik Yoba, who plays Shaw, gets some of his best scenes in this episode, and has some good lines, but unfortunately they’re hampered by that stupid alien monobrow he’s wearing as part of his “Ra” costume.

Zoë’s “Cursing” scene was pretty funny, actually.

What’s the deal with Nadia’s vision? She’s seeing someone she doesn’t recognize on the ship, and my hunch is that it’s in some way an allusion to Beta’s presence there.

As the Pregnant Astronaut, Zoe is - as Evram points out - pretty clearly over-compensating.

Man oh man oh man oh man did AJ’s little speech at the end piss me off. Up until now, we’ve been led to believe that AJ is a pretty religious Hindu. He even has a religious freakout in the first episode. In this episode, he gives a speech that is unmistakably pro-abortion, but as far as I know (And my knowledge is limited on this), most Hindus oppose the termination of pregnancy. Many oppose it under any circumstances ever, most oppose it unless the mother’s life is in danger, with a large number that would say it is bad, but allowable in some extreme circumstances, or so I’ve been led to believe. (Again, I may be wrong). Added to which, his little “Reincarnation makes it all better, the baby will just be born as an ocelot or something” justification kinda’ makes a mockery of both concepts, doesn’t it? I mean, where do you draw the line on that? “Well, yeah, 60 million people died in World War II, but they would have eventually died anyway, and now they can be bunnies! Woo-hoo!” That doesn’t strike me as the Hindu view of these matters (Though, again, not a Hindu, dunno for sure), it strikes me more like a dopey California attempt at “Spirituality.” You know, the kind of “I don’t actually belong to any religion or believe in God, per se, but I do like to sit on the ground with my friends and hum occasionally, and strip-mine the deeply meaningful beliefs of other cultures for my own shallow purposes.” That kind of thing.

If anyone out there reading this is a practicing Hindu, liberal or conservative, I’d actually like to know your take on this. It just felt wrong, somehow to me.

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