We cold open with a shot of a tiny Andromedan floating outside the Christa. Radu’s gone outside to fetch a teddy bear that was floating through the void of space for Rosie. She expresses completely rational concerns about contamination, but he dismisses them because, cute!
“OH IT’S SO CYUUUUTE!” Rosie gushes, and for a moment, I’m not sure if she means the teddy bear, or Radu. This is probably precisely the moment when thousands of twelve-year-old girls (and some boys) entered puberty. Squishy Andromedan. Teddy bear. LOVE.
I wonder, not for the first time, if it was weird for Kristian Ayre to be considered such a heart-throb. Don’t get me wrong–he’s a good looking guy. But I don’t think most nineteen year old actors cast in kid’s shows expect that sort of attention, particularly when they’re put in long, frizzy wigs and given cinnabon ears.
(I also wonder if he has google alerts on. Christ, this is awkward.)
Rosie thanks Radu for his help and he flies his woobie flag hard, explaining that Rosie is the only person on the ship that’s nice to him at all. Aww, he’s sad and lonely! Aww!
It occurs to me that Radu is a warm, fuzzy, safe kind of love interest who in some ways seems to be quintessentially 90s; he’s meant to be harmless, sweet, approachable. Like JTT! In contrast, I imagine that Harlan Band would be better crush-fodder today. Jerks seem popular among post-millennial teens. I’ve heard it has something to do with a vampire or something.
Anyway, Rosie says she’s going to do some more tests on the bear, and Radu says something slightly puzzling: “On this ship? Can’t be too careful.”
This is non-sensical because, of course, we know nothing about this ship or life on this ship because it’s only the second episode. A-ha, but wait! It turns out that we have our first instance of executive meddling. Nick execs moved this episode up because they thought it was more action-packed and grabby. Sadly, however, the formula that worked so well for “Hey Dude!” just doesn’t work for character-driven sci-fi like Space Cases. The shuffling of episodes, even this early on, screws up a lot of this episode’s narrative, as we’ll soon see.
(Oh, and the teddy bear glows purple.)
Radu instantly becomes ill from the fuzzy glowing thing. This stuff’s virulent, man–or maybe the plot is just rushed along again because we’re in a universe where all problems must develop and be resolved within a half hour. Harlan comes loping down the hall and Radu sees him as a horrific alien thing.
This would have been a nice opportunity to foreshadow the
Spung non-spoilery alien enemy. But instead his make-up just makes him look a little bit like Neelix from Voyager crossed with Garak from Deep Space 9 and yes I’m a nerd whadoyawant.
“What’s the problem?” Harlan asks, “You’ve never seen anyone from Earth before?” If this were a show where the writers were allowed more time and depth, this would have been a hint at Radu’s deep Andromedan angst to be the only one of his kind in practically the entire galaxy. Maybe he once feared that humans looked like this. But, no, this is Nickelodeon; no such luck. Any readings as deep as all that would be saved for their AOL homepage.
(I’m not kidding. Viewers learned many, many details about this universe on AOL — notably the reason that Radu keeps his hands covered at all times.)
The version I have of “Who Goes Where?” isn’t the original as it aired–it features the theme song which was added in repeats (complete with braided-hair Harlan Band, Suzee, and various other spoilery deets). It’s too bad, really. The original introduction, narrated by Harlan Ellison, is completely epic:
Of course, the identity of “the Eye of the Future” would be one of the show’s great unsolved mysteries. And here’s where I admit that, at thirteen, I was often kind of dense. I always thought the Eye of the Future was the same thing as THE WHITE CIRCLE when clearly, it’s not. I mean, they don’t even look the same.
(I am probably being doubly dense and “the Eye of the Future” is just
Elmira unspoilery alien babe of various prophetic abilities.)
All this isn’t to slag on the theme song, though. It’s great–catchy and classic. To this day, if you sing “yeah yeah yeah yeah” to individuals of a certain age (namely, me), they’ll begin spouting all the lyrics. For good measure:
(Man, I could listen to that song INFINITE TIMES.)
We return from credits to see Radu screaming. Then he abruptly recovers. “I’m fine!” he says, glowering, as he walks away, and we get our first reference to Radu’s superhearing.
“Andromedans–they’re all crazy!”
“I heard that!”
“How could you not with those ears?”
“I heard that too!”
We segue into the second scene rendered slightly incomprehensible by episode order shuffling. Radu goes to mess and takes out a purple tube, which he hallucinates is full of snakes. Of course, since we’ve never seen this place at all, it’s not entirely clear what he’s doing there. We don’t yet know that those tubes usually contain spacemeats and other fine delicacies. He collapses at the table and begins a pretty hilarious internal monologue:
You’re losing it Radu, losing YOUR MIND. You’ve got to tell someone but who can you trust? NONE OF THEM!!!
What are you losing, Radu? Only YOUR MIND!
Cut to Rosie. She enters the bunkroom she shares with Catalina, who is dressed in purple spandex and rainbows. I may or may not have this outfit in my closet right now. Seems it’s the Rejoicing Festival on Saturn. Catalina’s supposed to spend the entire week dancing. I always found it interesting how she feels obligated to continue worshipping seven years away from home, despite the fact that transparently finds it a pain in the neck.
We cut to the
compost Command Post, where we’re plunged into yet another plotline that would have made more sense later in the season. Goddard wants Harlan to practice on helm more, and specifically practice with Radu on navigation because he doesn’t work well as part of a team. Radu comes sliding into the room and looks all sorts of frakked up. We learn this enticing bit of info about Andromedan biology, which is only going to get juicier as the episode goes on:
“He doesn’t look right. Last time he looked this out of it was because his internal atmosphere was off kilter.”
“Yeah, he’s not going to start venting steam from his ears again, will he? Andromedans have weird biology.”
However, this also raises several questions: how long have the kids been on the ship at this point, and how long were they in class together before that? It’s not at all clear when “last time” was, a sense only exacerbated by those pesky executives and their danged meddling.
THELMA takes Radu’s temperature and barometric pressure and forecasts snow. Radu sneezes and blows snow out his ears.
“That’s ridiculous!” Goddard says, and I’m inclined to agree, but hey, xenobiology on a kid’s show! At least they tried.
Meanwhile, Davenport’s found a pile of books, which the kids, for the life of them, can’t figure out how to operate. There’s another reference to developments which will now occur later in the series thanks to executive meddling–Rosie “still” wants to be a doctor. Meanwhile, Bova wants to become a scientist. I’m sure his Spock haircut has nothing to do with that. Specifically, he wants to be a xenobiologist, which is pretty nifty.
Catalina dances around the room and is awesome.
Radu exits the ComPost screaming at Harlan–something which would seem out of character, I suppose, if his character were better established. There’s more hilarious internal monologue (Of course! They’ve changed! But they think I’ve changed! It’s a plot! It’s a plot!) and we get this sad angry woobie shot of doom.
Harlan knocks Catalina over and she realizes that she can get out of religious service by faking a broken ankle. Honestly, there’s just something odd about this subplot–it’s the kind that would only work in metaphor in children’s programming. I can’t imagine a show where an ambivalent Jewish kid skips out on her Torah classes, at least.
Radu storms in on Bova. His eyebrows are covered in frost and his paranoid internal rambling continues. “WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!” he screams, and then runs into the wall.
“Interesting choice,” comments Bova, and wins the episode as well as the universe.
Goddard keeps instructing Harlan at helm. There’s a really nice paternal undercurrent to their relationship that feels rare for this type of TV–he seems like a genuine teacher, and the students genuinely learn under his tutelage. We never get a fast-forwarded training montage. Rather, the growth is earned. Nice work, 90s TV writers!
Goddard sends THELMA to fetch Radu, who promptly attacks her. He runs through the ship, letting out savage screams. After he breezes by Bova, flailing, Bova checks out the carnage. And we find that Radu’s dismantled the entire mess hall.
You know, I take back what I said about Radu being merely a safe, sweet, 90s love interest. Because we learn here for the first time that he is (as the theme song states) “really super strong”–and kind of potentially scary. It’s easy to dismiss Harlan’s early fantastic racism as just that, but part of what makes Radu a complex, interesting character is the bruiser lurking beneath his fuzzy, sweet surface. It also gives him a stealth bad boy edge.
Goddard confirms this. We learn some backstory (!); Goddard fought Andromedans during the war, and “with their strength and endurance, they don’t have to make sense to be deadly.” Davenport is a bit worried about Goddard’s racist rhetoric, but he points out that it’s a matter of survival. I suddenly feel a bit like I’m trapped in an episode of True Blood. Racism metaphors are a little weird when you make one of your races a gaggle of mindless killers.
And this episode goes out of its way to prove that Radu is, in fact, incredibly dangerous. He even attacks Catalina, screaming “YOU’RE NOT MY FRIENDS!”
Luckily, Catalina has a secret weapon. A secret weapon which would make much more sense if this episode were in its proper place! She lets out a sonic scream. Cinnabon-ears can’t take it.
Catalina is 110% more awesome than Sookie Stackhouse, by the way.
Radu arrives at the ComPost (looking, er, a bit under the weather?) just as Goddard pipes in a warning: “Mr. Radu is extremely dangerous.” Harlan, being an idiot, decides to fight him. He does some impressive power ranger flips while Radu hulks out and smashes GRRR AARRRGH BLARRGH!!@!
Rosie figures out that this has all been caused by a virus on the teddy bear (surprise!) and tries to logic Radu out of his illness. She discovers that he’s thrown Harlan out the airlock. Gasp! She begs him to trust her, raising her heat-conductive hands. He grapples with her, but her heat somehow cures him. Completely and utterly. Hmm.
Radu wrenches the airlock doors open with his
bare gloved hands and drags Harlan inside. It’s a well-done scene, and very dramatic. Goddard and Rosie snuggle in relief. Harlan and Radu writhe on the floor, breathing heavily.
We cut to the ComPost, where Harlan, ranting and raving, insists that Radu can’t be trusted. But, you know, the dude just attacked everyone on the ship; I don’t entirely blame him.
Then Radu heads off to dance with Catalina. And Rosie dances with Harlan and Goddard spins Davenport and she giggles because sexual tension and THELMA does the robot and Bova rolls his eyes at everyone because, whoa, what a bunch of dorks.
It’s a pretty satisfying ending to a pretty satisfying episode, and one which–though poorly positioned due to vile network execs–begins to unravel why, precisely, Kristian Ayre ended up being the first love of many a young lad or lass. Radu’s sensitive, sweet, and capable of immense kindness–check out that grin he gives Catalina when he shouts “ZaBaGaBe!” at her–but also, like contemporary teen love interests like Edward Cullen and Alcide from True Blood (what, teenagers don’t like 7-foot tall oft-naked werewolves? I beg to differ), capable of ripping someone’s face off.
Executive Meddling Rank: 5/10 — On the official SC website, Peter David reveals that Nick execs demanded a few plot changes here that had a positive impact on the script. But the reshuffling of episodes is really confusing, with characters revealing traits not explained until much later.
Radu Fangirl Rating: 8/10 — This Radu-centric episode illustrates the inherent bad-ass darkness in our favorite Andromedan while also allowing him to be kinda sweet.
Radu Woobie Rating: 6/10 — The revelation at the episode’s outset that Radu has few friends is aww-inducing.
Currently shipping: Goddard/Davenport, Harlan/Radu for a hot second
The SC rewatch series is taking next week off (but keep an eye out for an interview with Norton jury member, YA author, and veteran recapper EC Myers instead!) Tune in in two weeks for Episode 1.03, “A Day in the Life.” And until then, ZaBaGaBe!