In an opening wildly divergent from other episode openings, we start with a shot of the Christa flying through space. But then we cut to the ship’s interior, late afternoon (or whenever), where Harlan is playing with some tinker toys.
Radu walks up, scaring him, and the space pyramid collapses. They have a fight, which nicely delineates their relationship: Goddard’s told Harlan to be nice to Radu, but Harlan “encourages the others to treat [Radu] like he’s invisible.” We actually haven’t seen any of that in the show, that I can recall, but I guess it’s believable for a ship full of eleven to however-old-Harlan-is-year-olds. Harlan then declares that he’s going to ignore Radu from now on and stomps off to finish his model in private, proving that he’s a big baby.
He also gets in this zinger: “My, my, my, isn’t it quiet without an Andromedan on this ship?”
Harlan goes to hide out in the engine rooms, where the crystals are going crazy. He spills glue on the engine, which then zaps him (and a console). Ominous! Cut to credits.
(I still sing along to the theme song, every single time.)
There’s turbulence on the ship. Goddard adorably whacks his head, then asks THELMA what the problem is. She informs him that “a power surge in engineering momentarily destabilized the gyros . . . the problem is in the protomix master core.” All this is delivered while standing much too close to Goddard, and I wish they would stop with the technobabble and get on with the kissing.
THELMA bumbles down to the engine room to do some percussive maintenance, namely, kicking the engine. I declare this to be the best joke on the series so far. Harlan wakes up and realizes that both he and the console are invisible or insubstantial or something. THELMA walks right through them.
Harlan runs off to ask Catalina for help and there’s a nice Doctor Who reference. Seems she’s been reading up on Gallifreyan science. “I can’t make heads or tails of it! ‘Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow’? What’s that all about?” I guess it would be much clearer if we were talking about destabilized gyros.
Harlan realizes that Catalina isn’t talking to him, but Suzee. And he looks so sad, you guys. His woobie-ishness is at Radu levels right now.
Harlan, in classic Harlan style, deals by insulting Radu and sputtering. Also is it just me or does Radu’swig look weird this week?
Harlan continues to cope “like a Harlan,” which is Andromedan slang for “acting like a tool.”
Davenport and the students have a little discussion about how they hate each other, and damn, if I don’t think that Davenport has a point. She’s a getting-business-done kind of lady (though I thought she learned to have fun on occasion last week? Continuity seems to slip here a bit), and, as she says in one heart-rending line, “I wouldn’t mind being nice if you gave me any reason to be.” The students have played one mean prank on her after another. Sure, they’re kids–space cases at that–but Davenport seems consistently hurt by their jokes and they just keep at it. Harlan especially.
In the next scene, we see Radu and Catalina hanging out in the engine rooms. Weirdly, despite their friendship, Catalina starts trash talking Harlan–saying she feels smarter when he’s around because he never understands the course material. And Radu, nice guy that he is, stands up for him.
“He’s stickin’ up for me?” Harlan exclaims. I find it hard to believe, too.
Except . . . well, back in the AOL days, I remember reading Radu’s backstory on his “character card” which was this massive (like, 2 MB) file you could download with extra background information, and I always better understood his character in light of that. Radu comes from a society that values the group far more than the individual. So of course, Catalina’s trashing of Harlan wouldn’t fly with Radu. However, the nature of his praise is significant. “He says what’s on his mind,” Radu says. “You kind of have to admire that, in a way.” The show’s paratext also explained that Radu was volunteered for Starcademy due to his inability to fit in with the group. He was a stronger individual than most Andromedans. Though the actual text of the show never reveals this fact, it’s nicely seeded in to his character in lines like these.
(If you ever want to really understand Radu, read Geography of Thought by Richard Nisbett. Andromedans are really just Japanese.)
Radu then nicely stands up to himself to Catalina, pointing out that she often makes jokes about him, too. She denies it, but then THELMA rattles them off. They’re really just every racist joke ever with the word “Andromedan” plugged in.
(Did you hear the one about the Andromedan whose wig was totally distracting?)
There’s a subplot in here that takes up all of five minutes about Rosie making fudge for Davenport but accidentally putting glue in it that’s really not worth talking about. Oh, and Harlan finally realizes that the ship is about to blow up.
He runs around the trip trying to warn people and mournfully saying stuff like, “You’re all going to die and I’m going to have to stick around forever knowing I could have saved you.” Sad Harlan is saaad!
Meanwhile, Radu rallies the troops. He points out to Goddard how long Harlan’s been missing. Davenport asks Radu why he “of all people” is so concerned about Harlan. We get some more Eastern-style thought: “We’re a team. We need all our members.”
Down in the engine room, Goddard discusses the disappearing console. THELMA drops in this tidbit: “The Christa has been known to rearrange itself.” Remember this; it will become relevant later!
In the classroom, everyone hangs out while Walter Emanuel Jones delivers a pretty great monologue and shows off his missing finger. He then screams his apologies, like the sulky baby that he is. Luckily, Radu doesn’t wear those cinnabon ears for nothing.
Either that or someone just pointed a laser pointer at the wall.
Via a lot of screaming they figure out what’s gone wrong. “THE RADIATION LEVELS ARE RISING!” In a fine display of “duck and cover” logic, they all stand about eight feet back.
Sorry, kids, but I really don’t think Goddard’s arms will save you.
They reverse the polarity of the neutron flow (hells yeah!) and everything is back to normal.
After last week’s lighter fare, this is a really solid episode. There’s some pretty sophisticated acting (and hamming) from Walter Emanuel Jones and really nicely done character development between Radu and Harlan. We also get a glimpse of the complexity of Radu’s character, even if the motivating factors go unexplained. Probably my favorite so far!
Harlan woobie rating: 8/10. He’s just so sad and invisible.
Harlan jerkass rating: 8/10. While invisible, he can’t resist getting some digs in against Davenport. I really feel for her sometimes.
Eastern psychology rating: 10/10. The writers really seem to understand how all of Radu’s motivations have their source in group unity and happiness. Nicely done!
Currently shipping: Goddard/THELMA . . . ? Oh well, it’s pretty much all we’ve got.
No recap next week, as we’ll be featuring a guest post from YA writer Rachel Carter on time travel in SF! Tune in in two weeks for our coverage of episode 1.07, “Desperately Seeking Suzee,” and until then, ZaBaGaBe!