Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Monday, April 08, 2013

Earth Final Conflict Review: 1x06: Float Like a Butterfly

So, now that I've remembered I have a blog, I thought I'd use it to revive (again) an old project.  So here we go: writing reviews for obscure 90s science fiction shows that only I remember or care about.  Hee.  Also there are eeevil butterflies.  And the Amish!

Visiting the Amish

"Welcome to Paradise."

So this episode starts with a picturesque horse and carriage, while someone speaks in German.  There are some scenes (church, a dinner with corn) that indicate we're seeing either a flashback or the Amish.

The latter seems more plausible as a group of children (complete with tagalong sister) discuss a "metal scarecrow" and sneak off for kid related hijinx.  They go to a barn where we see the object: which is green, blocky and doesn't look like any scarecrow I've ever seen.

not a scarecrow

Then the kids leave and a butterfly lands on the object, disappears, and after a moment, a whole slew of butterflies emerge.  Those are surprisingly sinister butterflies.

Maybe if I do these reviews more often, I'll stop being surprised at how pretty the opening theme is.  Maybe.  :-)

Anyway, after the themesong, we're at Boone's nifty office.  Boone has apparently been doing some post-grief spring cleaning and brought things to the office.  These include what looks like a handful of LPs (hilariously Lili asks if he can still find something to play them on.  Youngsters), and a fishing pole that used to belong to his father (apparently he had to promise to teach his own kid to fish.  Thank you Boone's dad, now Boone and I are sad!).

Boone and Lili's trek down memory lane is interrupted by one of the Amish fellows who "sincerely hopes" they'll be able to help him.

Back at the Amish village, farmers are loading vegetables in preparation for market, and one fellow, Rufus, is kind of sinisterly quiet.  Then he pours gasoline on his head and lights a match.  Kaboom.

Back at the office, Amish guy, Boone and Lili are watching the newscast in which poor Rufus is carted away.  The newscaster attributes this to "Companion Reaction Syndrome" or CRS, and Amish guy agrees.  In response to Lili's skepticism, he asserts his own cred: he's a Harvard trained doctor and had been working at "Mass. General" when the Companions arrived.

Boone asks him his take and the guy elaborates: there'd been no suicides for 200 years, but there have been three in the last two weeks. Sandoval interrupts the discussion via 1990s Skype. He wants to know why Boone's been looking up CRS.  Boone introduces Amish guy as "Doctor Elijah Good from Paradise Pennsylvania."

Da'an pops on screen and apologizes to Dr. Good.  Da'an gives Boone permission to investigate.  Dr. Good is pleasantly surprised, and after he leaves, Da'an expresses admiration for the Amish's tradition and non-violence.  Boone, rather pointedly, adds that they don't try to impose their beliefs on others.  Da'an reminds Boone that he is a representative of the Companions and urges success.  Da'an is a little creepy.

Lili recommends Boone bring his fishing rod.

The Doc comes home to his adorable kids and wife.  The wife is quiet and seems disapproving.  She asks if Bishop Hagen knows about Dr. Good's request for help.  Dr. Good says that he doesn't have the equipment to examine the dead properly.  There's a bit of a philosophical schism: someone named Amos thinks bringing the bodies to Lancaster for an autopsy is to desecrate them.  Dr. Good is afraid of more deaths.  His wife warns him of community consequences, but tells him to look into his heart.
Boone and Lili head out through shuttle pilot interpretive dance, while the not-a-scarecrow glows. 

As they arrive, Boone talks fishing with Dr. Good's kid.  Dr. Good is a busy sort it seems.  Dr. Good gives them the tour, while other Amish people watch.  They discuss the new death (Rufus's kaboom), and Dr. Good's studies.  Apparently there are contusions, Dr. Good hasn't figured it out.  Boone cuts to the chase, will the Amish let him work with "the English" (meaning non-Amish), Dr. Good says he must.

The kids discuss the "metal scarecrow" and decide to keep it secret a bit longer.  Those kids are kind of stupid.  They poke it.  They leave, and more eevil butterflies fly out.

Boone and Lili poke around the dead body, Boone wants to do some fancy scan, but Dr. Good points out the lack of even regular scanners.  Meanwhile, a scarier Amish guy comes in and claims that Dr. Good betrayed the community.  The unpleasant scene is interrupted by screaming.  Someone's tried to gas himself.  Dr. Good tries CPR, and then an injection.  Nothing works.  Lili finds the barracade that the guy had used, while the body's mouth opens: a butterfly flies out.  EEEVIL! 

eeevil butterfly
The Amish elders are questioning Dr. Good publically.  Dr. Good defends his request for an autopsy and having brought "the English."  Lili is upset, stating it's not a trial but a public hanging.  Amos (who is Bishop) states that he has no choice, but Dr. Good insists he does have a choice.  Nonetheless, the community all turn their backs, except for Ms. Good who embraces him.
Now only Boone and Lili can talk to him though.  Lili is upset.  Dr. Good still honors his traditions though.  Boone may have found a solution for the immediate dilemma: if he brings the equipment to the community, the doctor would and could run the test.

Probably not in keeping with tradition

Dr. Good finds some irregularities via 90s graphics.  Meanwhile: the kids are doing kid things and have spotted a butterfly. Idiot kids.  They trap it in a jar.

Lili and Boone bond with the Good children.  Boone discusses his dead dad while the kid discusses wanting to spend more time with his.  Later, Doctor and Mrs. Good talk (even though she's violating the edict) while the butterfly escapes from the kid's jar.  It flies around the house like ominous butterfly death.

The next morning, Mrs. Good seems very listless.  She is cleaning something, and then drinks the cleaning solution.  Fortunately Dr. Good is nearby and finds her.  The butterfly flies away.  She lives.

Finally the kids (who get names: Jedidiah and Rachel) tell Lili and Boone about the "metal scarecrow" and they run to investigate.  Unfortunately, it's gone.

Elsewhere, Amos looks for his dog, while the camera watches him behind an ominous green filter.  This can't be good.  Amos finds the metal scarecrow and does not run away like a sane person. 

Instead he pokes it, proving stupidity knows no age/culture.  It starts glowing.

Back at the barn, Lili spots the evil butterflies, and one attacks Boone and draws blood.  Boone vaporizes it with the skrill.  Lili picks one up: the wings are razor blades and it's heavy.  She scans it while Boone investigates the vaporized butterfly goo.  The butterfly is a machine.  They put everything together: evil butterflies caused the wounds, and the suicides were intelligence gathering on the limits of the human body.

Lili and Boone want to take it to Doors for study.  Lili's going to call while Boone checks on Sarah Good.  Dr. Good and Boone talk.  Dr. Good blames himself for not being able to keep them safe.  Boone points out that he didn't have much of a choice, the problem brought itself to them.  As usual, Sandoval manages to interrupt (via global) and demand an update.  Boone details the tests they've done, he does not mention the wounds, or the metal scarecrow.  Da'an accepts the explanation, but Sandoval looks skeptical.

Doctor Good notes that Boone omitted key details, and Boone compares the Taelons to the Amish elders. Lili, meanwhile, has sent the message and is in the process of reporting to Boone when she notices she has company.  A lot of company.

Not good
Boone comes running, while the device continues to loom menacingly.  The shuttle is completely enveloped in butterflies.  Boone shoots at them with the skrill, but no luck.  And any stronger of a blast could vaporize the shuttle.  Which means that Boone's little banana clip weapon is a scary mofo.  Just saying.

The shuttle's hull is about to break.  Boone has a CVI flash and puts it together: the butterflies are only attacking people/living things.  It thinks the shuttle is alive.  Boone orders her to cut all power and stay really still.  Nervously, she does so.  The butterflies fly home to their metal scarecrow.  Boone orders Lili to stay inside, so she promptly follows him out.  Boone starts shooting the butterflies, but there are too many, so he and Lili (after some banter about following orders) shoot at the metal scarecrow.  Also to no luck.  Lili notes the vaporized butterfly sludge crystalizing.  And Boone has an idea.  They run straight for the device, and shoot the butterflies as they fly over it, causing the sludge to fall straight onto the device.  The butterflies fall out of the sky, while Boone looks exhausted.

Afterward, Boone and Lili talk: Doors has the device, which they call "the mother drone".  Boone calls this the most deadly Taelon experiment yet, but Lili wonders how this could have happened without Da'an's knowledge.  Boone thinks he might have known after all.

The elders, for their part, (there is no sign of Amos) have decided to lift the ban on Doctor Good because he acted in good faith for the community.  Everyone is happy.  And Boone gives his father's fishing rod to Jedidiah, on one condition: he has to teach his father to fish with it.  A monarch butterfly flies past and everyone is creeped out, but then enjoys the sight.  Hopefully it is not evil.
--

New Characters/Developments:

Dr Good Dr. Elijah Good: An Amish doctor who is seeking outside help for his community.  He was trained at Harvard and is experienced with medical technology, but still believes strongly in Amish ways.

They aren't all that brightSarah, Jedidiah, and Rachel Good: Elijah's wise wife and slightly stupid kids. I couldn't get a good shot of all three, so you get the stupid kids instead.

Bishop AmosBishop Amos: An Amish elder who represents the more traditional mindset within the community.

Paradise Pennsylvania: Amish communities still exist in the post-arrival Earth, not without some difficulties.

Companion Reaction Syndrome: apparently a phenomenon of psychiatric disorders that happens when people can't reconcile the arrival of the Taelons with their own world view.

The "metal scarecrow": It's big, bulky, green and spits out butterflies.

Skrills: can apparently vaporize a shuttle!

Boone: Has a dead dad and a fishing rod.
--

Review:

So, as an opening disclaimer, I know absolutely nothing about Amish society, so I have no idea how accurate the depiction is in the episode.  I did like that the episode seemed, by and large, to be very respectful to the Amish way of life as portrayed in the episode.

I liked how they established straight out that Amish =/= stupid, or even uneducated.  Our main Amish viewpoint character is a Harvard educated doctor.  The episode doesn't really state whether he was born Amish or became Amish later in life (there's no reason to think he wasn't born Amish though, and it seems that if he hadn't been, it'd be something that the others would have brought up during the trial.)  Doctor Good has somewhat more modern ideals: he wants to use modern technology to perform an autopsy to find the cause of death for example, but he also vigorously defends his society's shunning of him and their cultural practices.  He's not a modern guy paying lip service, he genuinely believes in his traditions.

Sadly, the main counter viewpoint, Bishop Amos, is basically a caricature who gets almost no lines, though I thought the moment where he rests his hand on Dr. Good's shoulder to get him to stop the CPR attempts on the one victim was good.  A quiet, human moment.

The episode was better than the last one, in my opinion, by far, but it did have some flaws.  I thought it tried to do a little too much at once.

The main theme of the episode, to me, was choice.  Or maybe it's the absence of choice, when forced by circumstances.  Doctor Good, of course, is the main example.  He was the one who chose to come to "the English" for help.  As Boone points out though, he had to do this because of the problem that was forced onto their community.

The suicides that weren't are another example.  Initially it seemed to be Companion Reaction Syndrome, which in and of itself raises an interesting issue of choice, since it had been a wide spread reaction to the arrival of the Taelons and the disruptive effects this had on human life.  Of course, the ultimate reveal was that it wasn't even that, the strange device had been making them act in self destructive ways to measure human capabilities.  There was no choice at all.

And of course, the few glimpses we get of Da'an and Sandoval re-emphasize the nature of choice.  Sandoval has been programmed, and as far as Da'an knows, Boone is as well.  They may appear to act of their own will, but they're not.  They're brainwashed.

But we do see real choice in the episode: Dr. Good reaching out to Boone, Ms. Good's refusal to shun her husband, Boone and Lili taking the device to Doors, the elders choosing to lift the ban on Mr. Good.

I enjoyed seeing a glimpse at how another culture has survived the arrival of the Taelons, and some of the interesting after effects of first contact.  (CRS really is a fascinating idea.)

Where I think the episode fell flat was the tacked on sub-theme of Boone and the damn fishing rod.  There was already a really nice dynamic between Boone and Doctor Good, who are both guys that combine modernity and traditionalism in their own unique ways.  Both men are workaholics but family men (even though Boone was robbed of his) and have some level of isolation from their colleagues and friends.  They had an easy, believable kinship.  There was no need for the added father-son strangeness.

Boone's got a dead dad.  So what?  He's also got a dead wife.  Dr. Good doesn't spend a lot of time with his son.  Okay.  I don't think the fishing pole is going to fix that.  The show had established in the pilot that Boone had some hope of raising a family, but it seems like, if the show were going to explore that missed chance dynamic, it could have done so in its own episode, rather than getting tacked on here.

I won't mock Kilner's acting like I usually do in these recaps, because this episode was very much Boone at his best: quietly wistful, quietly supportive, quietly intrigued, quietly awkward.  He does quiet very well.  It's when they have him get loud or get mad that I have problems.

Now the interesting thing about the "mother drone" is how much it doesn't look like standard Taelon technology.  What we see of Taelon tech is all sleek and curvy, purple and shiny.  This is squat, green, blocky.  It's very strange.
Finally, as stupid as evil butterflies are, I bought them as a threat.  I think because of the swarming.  And the whole flying out of the mouth thing.  Eww.

5 Comments:

  • At April 08, 2013 3:33 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    In the immortal words of Bart Simpson..."No one suspects the Butterfly!"

    Bwhahahaha!

    Seriously though, I am rather surprised that they used the Amish. It's the Mennonites that you have to look out for.

     
  • At April 08, 2013 7:47 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    It was so hard not to make a Simpsons crack throughout the entire recap!

     
  • At April 09, 2013 3:52 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    To quote Bart Simpson..."No one suspects the Butterfly!"

     
  • At April 29, 2013 9:46 PM, Anonymous Just another Companian said…

    OK... keep em coming. As one of a few (it would seem) die hard Flat Planeteers, I appreciate your attempt at keeping the Bridge between the X-files and Star Trek open.

    And yes, Sandoval was the original interrupting orange. Such exquisite timing.

    Oh, and as for the Global - that was an MCI sponsored device. MCI was actively developing the Global (or some version of it) for retail sale. In 2006 they went under, being bought by Verizon. Now the MCI brand is used for some Verizon Business accounts, and who would benefit more from a Global than businesses? The prototype is still out there, as far as I know.

     
  • At November 04, 2013 4:34 AM, Anonymous Addwin Net said…

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