You guys, I am so excited to recap this episode. While the first three episodes of Space Cases were alright, this is where our story begins in earnest–this is where we get MYTH ARC.
Funny, to think of how little we knew about the characters and their world up until this point. We knew that there was a war, that Harlan’s father was killed in it, and killed by Andromedans. We knew that Goddard was a famous commander in this war. But we’d never even heard the word “Spung” before. What, you’ve never heard of a Spung? Well, prepare to have your MIND. BLOWN.
We open with a shot of a shuttle spinning through space just outside the Christa. It’s letting out a high-pitched tweet. Radu confirms that it’s a distress signal. He and Harlan are at the ComPost alone, apparently just killing time; that’s one of the things I like about the show, how you get a real, persistent sense of idleness (especially in the first season), where the kids are just killing time, waiting for trouble to come along to entertain them.
Little does Radu know . . .
Harlan claims to be captain of the Christa, and the shuttle’s passenger tweets back. She sounds cute! Harlan says that they have to respond. Radu agrees that they will let the cute-sounding girl through the airlock, so long as he can pretend to be first officer.
(I find this to be realistic teen-boyness.)
Harlan and Radu hightail it to the airlock and debate whether or not the girl is human or Andromedan. Radu says that with that voice, she must be Andromedan. I imagine another universe where we actually got to see multiple Andromedan characters, including some girls, and am very happy for a moment.
Goddard shows up to yell at them just as the airlock is opening. They all turn in SHOCK and SURPRISE.
“No way!” spits Harlan.
“Uh oh,” murmurs Goddard. But our buddy Radu gets straight to the point.
“SHE’S A SPUNG!!!!” (he says it in all-caps, just like that.)
Ahem. Sorry. I forgot that you have no idea what Spung are. This is a Spung.
Cut to credits.
I should note that my totally legal copy of this episode has the Ellison voice-over, rather than the theme tune. This is great, because it actually sets the tone for bits and pieces of the rest of the episode. The eye of the future sees them! Whose eye could that be?! Is it just me, or does it look a little . . . lizardy?
We return from commercials and . . . wait, pause. Did anyone else catch that name?
Yep. This episode really does feature the totally famous-in-SF Katie McInnish. You might know her from such shows as Lizard High and Spung Academy. Doesn’t her resonant and manly voice just kill you? Oh my!
Harlan tells Elmira that Goddard is the ship’s cook, and he looks like he’s about to blow the top off his pot, if you know what I’m saying. This leaves Radu with Elmira, but he thinks she has Spung cooties, so he runs after the others. Harlan wants to be a good person and help Elmira, but Radu is filled with fantastic hatred and racism. She’s a Spung!!! A SPUNG!!!
Harlan convinces Goddard, and Radu looks like he’s about to cry. Fangirls around the world say to themselves, “C’mere, Radu, I’ll comfort you and pet your long, beautiful hair.”
We cut to the mess hall, where Elmira makes her repairs. Everyone is standing around watching, except for Radu. Who is yelling. Remember when I mentioned that part of his appeal is that he’s kind of scary? He sputters that he can never trust Elmira–the Spung enslaved his entire race. Her people started a galactic war.
Aaaand we have back story!
Elmira tells him that she was just a child during the war, as was Radu–which raises the question of whether Radu was actually a slave during the war himself. Though you wouldn’t know it from the show, Radu is only supposed to be about eleven. Makes the war a very recent event indeed, if he was a child when it all went down.
Goddard tells Radu that the Spung are also totes sexist. Their females don’t fight or have anything to do with policy decisions. Why, it’s a wonder that they’re even allowed to wear clothes. Elmira agrees–that’s why she struck out on her own.
Harlan says they should trust her. She can’t be held accountable for the mistakes of her people. But, as Radu points out, Harlan is usually a big fat racist about Andromedans. Catalina makes this awesome face. Yep. He’s got a point.
Still, Goddard says, they need to proceed with caution. Elmira agrees, and offers “the use of her talents” in exchange for being allowed to stay long enough to make their repairs. Catalina is a one-girl Greek chorus during this scene. She makes this face, which suggests to me that I’m no the only one who thinks that sounds pervy.
But apparently she’s not referring to, er, that. She’s an oracle. She sees the future. She’ll tell all their fortunes! But Radu is pretty much instantly hysterical.
IT’S A TRICK! WE CAN’T TRUST HER! SHE’S A SPUNG! AAAAAUUUUUUGH!
Everyone ignores him, because he’s a woobie.
The next scene features Elmira preparing to read everyone’s fortune. This is a really, really interesting scene as it both foreshadows events that occur later in the episode and events in the far future–including some we never got to see because this shiz got cancelled.
Also, Elmira’s fortune telling methods are, erm, unconventional.
These are her predictions:
You can’t see who’s coming here, but Catalina disappears.
A chilling fate I see for you, but you will soon be very blue.
A sneeze in time will make it true. All the trouble starts with you.
Dreadful moans down every hall–for days your ghost on every wall.
Some of the predictions seem to come true immediately. Elmira’s “sparkly dust” makes Bova sneeze, and he electrocutes Catalina. Catalina “disappears” and becomes Suzee, her invisible friend.
While Rosie turns herself blue and Davenport freaks about her impending ghostitude, Harlan has a nice moment with Goddard where he worries about having potentially endangered the crew. This marks some major growth for Harlan, as Goddard points out. It’s nice to see the attention paid to his growth arc–four episodes in and Harlan is already slowly taking on the true mantle of captain.
Elmira continues to try and fix her whatchamacallit, and the sound of a velvety-rich bass comes through. Her distress signal’s been intercepted, and
Sulu someone is coming for her! Elmira ignores this message, though, and tells some more fortunes instead.
Think of where this all began and then you’ll understand the plan.
Well, alrighty, then.
A hole in space that glows with light will take you all the way tonight.
. . . sexy?
Not many STARDOGS live to say they’ve seen what you have seen today.
Not really so much a fortune as a description of the present, but okay.
For somewhat contrived reasons, Harlan and Goddard leave, and Radu is ordered to stay with Elmira (BUT SHE’S A SPUNG! A SPUNG! AUUUUGH!)
And here is where I admit that I’m not the best Space Caser EVAR. I don’t entirely buy what follows–the central romance between Radu and Elmira.
We’re quite literally fifteen minutes into the episode when Elmira tells Radu his fortune–Fire and darkness you will tame/”Hero” added to your name/Noble Radu, worthy and brave/those who scorned you, you will save–and when Elmira begins expounding on fantastic racism (Harlan doesn’t hate Radu; he’s afraid of him because he threatens his preconceived notions–just as Elmira threatens Radu’s) it just kind of comes out of nowhere. Elmira hasn’t seen Harlan act hatefully toward Radu (in fact, they get along pretty well in this episode), and there’s nothing here to imply that Radu has felt anything other than rage and spite toward Elmira. And yeah, I know eleven-year-old boys can be turds when they like girls, but there’s just not enough nuance–or room for enough nuance. This single conversation constitutes the entirety of their romance. Radu is all “I hate you!” and Elmira’s all “No, you don’t,” and then Radu shrugs and admits that he doesn’t. “We both are very much alike, Radu,” Elmira says, “We’re both outsiders.” For a second, Radu looks like he doesn’t believe it, and frankly I don’t either. It’s just too undercooked.
This is one of those times when I really, really wish the show had been an hour long. Even when you’re dealing with teens, it’s difficult to fast track this kind of complex character development and nuanced society-building in a span of twenty-two minutes–if not downright impossible.
Oh, also, they start arguing about Warlord Shank, which is weird because Elmira never told anyone who Warlord Shank is, but Radu seems to already know.
For some reason, Radu helps Elmira escape through the airlock. She rewards him with a kiss, and I appear to be nothing more than a heartless lizard when I say, “Still not buying it.”
Let’s talk about consent. In the end, Radu admits that the reason he helps Elmira escape is not because they have anything in common but because she can see the future. Their interactions constitute all of fifteen minutes, during which time she asserts–without much evidence–that they’re the same. Through most of the episode, Radu is screaming and sputtering hatefully about how she’s a Spung and shouldn’t be trusted. She seems to love him because she knows she will love him someday. Is she, then, truly choosing to love him? Is he?
Tricky thing, writing soulmates. Especially when they only get a narrow sliver of time over which to interact. It’s not “instalove,” not exactly, but I always felt it seemed like love without particular reason–and this, despite liking both Elmira and Radu very much as characters.
Hey look, Hikaru Sulu! I mean, A SPUNG! AAAAAUUUGH! Harlan tries a Kirk Maneuver (basically, wild bullshitting) to get them out of this mess, but Sulu doesn’t fall for it. But then THE WHITE CIRCLE appears. They take off through it while Elmira distracts George Takei, and end up “where it all began”–the same spot where THE WHITE CIRCLE dropped them off last time, seven years from home. They have a conversation about how Elmira probably died. And then Radu sprinkles some fairy dust around, predicting she survived. And inappropriately wacky music plays.
Dun dun dundun dun dun duuuun!
Famous Guest Star Rating: 10/10 — GEORGE TAKEI! GEORGE EFFIN’ TAKEI!
Radu Fangirl Rating: 4/10 — Despite a romance-oriented plotline, he’s mostly just a jerk to Elmira. But hey, I guess some girls like that?
Radu Woobie Rating: 8/10 — By “woobie” I mostly mean “scaryangstpot” here. He’s really, really pissed that Elmira’s peeps enslaved his.
Currently shipping: Radu/Elmira, but next time with character development please?
Tune in in next week for episode 1.05, “Young at Heart,” and until then, ZaBaGaBe!