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A Question of Conscience

Starbase is handed the tricky problem of determining which (if any) accounts are true. On the one hand is a lizard-like alien claiming to be the survivor of his race after a mutual kill radiation war between his homeworld and the planet nearest it. On the other is a surprisingly large battleship (which once again has had no trouble reaching Earth undetected) whose human-like occupants claim to be the last survivors of a planet murdered by the bioweapons of the lizard-alien and who demand the old fellow be handed over for justice.

In fact, there is not a consensus on Starlab about which story is true by the time the situation resolves itself in the two race's final battlefield.

This is as far as I can tell the only episode of this show written by J. Michael Straczynski (and according to the URL it never aired). While it was predictable as hell and one side had to hold onto the idiot ball pretty hard for the resolution to work, at least I didn't feel like ramming sharpened pencils into my ears to make the sound stop, which puts it well ahead of the other episodes.

The Leukocyte Maneuver

Following up on a report of a weird energy pattern, Jon and Buddy end up trapped inside a godlike alien who has doomed itself and them by turning into a giant Leukocyte as a gesture of greeting. With the clock ticking down, they have to work out how to re-energize the entity to save it and themselves.

And that is the final episode.
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A Dream within a Dream

An exploration ship returns with its captain reportedly dead in a maelstrom, all but one of the crew in a deep sleep, dreaming the same dream, and the one conscious officer in a state of "Mind-shock". The officer's babbling includes something Buddy recognizes as an Edgar Allan Poe quotation Ingrid once mentioned to him [1].

It turns out the captain isn't dead but as he explains in his call to Starlabs, he is pretty short on supplies. Buddy, Jon, Maura and Ingrid board the Solaris and race off to retrieve the captain.

Although they get a head's up that the planet is a planet of Illusions, this does not help at all and they all succumb to visions of a decidedly Poe-esque nature. Happily the captain can resist the effect and wakes everyone.

Even more happily, the planet has given the captain an idea about what is going on and a bit of exploration confirms it: the world is from a parallel universe, contains the remains of Edgar Allen Poe and the visions are powered by the niche in humanity's imagination Poe enjoys.

As the world returns to its home realm, the Solaris and its crew escape to safety.

Given the nature of Poe's fiction, I am not sure humanity is doing him any favours by creating an afterlife of sorts based on said fiction.

1: Which I will point means Buddy both listens to Ingrid and remembers what she says.

The Parallax Deception

Sonar T. Foom returns to investigate who tried to kill a researcher involved in age-reducing research. Happily, the number of people who knew what the researcher was working on is quite short and the actual criminal left a train of clues a mile wide so this isn't too difficult. It turns out to be someone who wanted the scientist to use her research to design weapons, something the woman had sworn off and he is the sort of murder who is easily tricked into a confession by a cunning detective. Well, a cunning detective who can call on the services of one of Britain's many talented actresses but it turns out Foom is such a detective.

The scientist is a friend of Maura's and as it turns out she dies from the after-effects of the attack on her life. Despite having been dead only half an hour, her demise does not seem to upset Maura at all. What did upset Maura came earlier, when she suddenly discovered her friend had shed 20 years of age.
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The Himalayan Parallel

Maura, Jon, Buddy and some idiot with a ray gun are sent to exotic Tibet to investigate an alien space craft spotted landing there. Their route takes them through India (which we don't see much of, although Buddy gives the impression of being one of those tourists who thinks he is hilarious) and into Tibet.

Accompanied by an enlightened local (borrowed from the "High Lama", I think), they survive the dangers of the Himalayas by the unusual method of actually listening to their guide. The space craft turns out to be very small, not something that would have transported anything living.

A Yeti shows up to investigate the craft, which the Yeti has no trouble opening. The humans chase the Yeti off and snoop around in the craft; it is filled with tools and spare parts.

The next day they track down the Yeti and due to a minor error of judgment, the idiot with the gun celebrates his civil liberties by gunning the harmless alien down. Happily, the wound is not immediately lethal so the alien is able to explain how and his mate were marooned on Earth centuries ago and how they extended their lives with cold sleep so that one day their children, still on ice, could one day return to their own world.

The idiot with a gun feels just bad about killing a harmless alien but eh, these things happen and in his defense, the alien greeting howl was easy to misinterpret.

Although the ISA has super-ultra-zippy fast FTL and although Jon and Buddy seem to know where the alien homeworld is, Buddy and Jon make sure the ancient alien craft is probably capable of making the journey and then sent it and its infant cargo off back to the alien homeworld.

Maura turns to admire Buddhism in a vague late 1970s pop-sci way, which is at least better than Buddy's snickering at how different from him the Indians were.

I believe this is the final episode that aired.
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The Madonnas of Zanzibar Alpha P 1

The Madonnas of Zanzibar Alpha P 2

Buddy gets an unexpected visit from the Amazing Daphne, a tattooed lady from the circus based on Barnum Five. She turns out to be an old friend of Buddy's and in short order Buddy and all his friends (including Hot Librarian Ingrid, Buddy's girlfriend; their flirtatious banter will bring all the joy of a painful catheterization) get free tickets to the circus.

Daphne, who talks like Mae West for some reason*, has an undiagnosed medical condition that she is inclined to just ignore. It turns out to be an easily treated ear condition.

In episode two, Buddy and Ingrid have an audience with the circus psychic, during which mysterious references to the Madonnas of Zanzibar Alpha get made. On the way back to Earth, Buddy and Ingrid's ship gets lost, marooning them on a planet that turns out to be none other than Zanzibar Alpha! After a pleasant conversation with one of the Madonnas, Buddy and Ingrid come to their senses and learn that the whole thing was a shared hallucination inflicted on them by the circus, who think this sort of thing will really bring in the punters.

(I am guessing it might but most of the illusions people spin for themselves won't be as philosophical as Buddy and Ingrid's. And I guessing most of that was Ingrid. Buddy was the one who basically summoned up Shelob at one point)

What is it with SF and consent issues?

There's some gratuitous German at one point, which seems to exist to establish Ingrid is Dutch and not German and to fill some time. Speaking of filling time, once again I have no idea why this was a two-parter.

* This is as good a place as any to mention there's a Steve Martin "Excuse Me" reference in this.
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Earthlight pt 1

Earthlight pt 2

The story abandons Starlab and the usual characters in favour of a very
special story about a civilization trying to rehabilitate worlds tainted
by a virus of pure evil spread by rape-happy gargoyle-like entities. In
particular, a world known as "Terra-Lou". Or perhaps -Loo.

Yeah, so the word "evolution" gets tossed around in this two-parter in 
SFish sort of way: more evolved beings are those that do things that 
please the writer. Read more... )
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No bus rides means not inflicting more episodes on myself. I've made the decision that I will only listen to the episodes that actually aired because if listeners 30 years ago did not have to suffer through them, I don't have to either.

I'm thinking SF68 as a palate-cleanser. I did actually consider whether I wanted to listen to a product of Apartheid-Era South Africa and decided yes, because at this date that won't be construed as me supporting the policies of the National Party and also because I've listened to stuff from the US produced during the Jim Crow Era and from Canada, whose Indian Act was reportedly inspirational to the National Party.
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I listened to this out of order because I knew I would not have time for a two-parter.

Seeds of Time

I keep meaning to mention that the episodes now include ads from the olden times, for products from Cadbury and Peter Paul (the two having merged in 1978; Hershey acquired them in 1988, I believe).

In this episode we learn that Jerry, the hapless loser who nobody listens to (I think the official job title is Starlab Controller) reads pornography of some degree of hardness while on duty. On a similar note, Buddy and Jon seriously consider leaving their ship on autopilot to go play handball down in the cargo bay during standby for docking space in a region of space where there are several other space craft they know about also lurking around and one they don't know about.

That last one turns out to be a craft of unknown origin, one that follows them back to Starlab. The ship allows the humans to take it on board and study it, trusting them not to simply dissect it. It does not make any attempt to communicate that we see.

Meanwhile Maura is disappointed to discover that David, the love of her life, has inconsiderately gotten married (and fallen in love why not) in the interval between Maura and David's bitter break-up and being assigned to duty on Starlab. She feels they need to discuss this for some reason.

David is then somehow convinced to enter the alien starship, where he is duplicated by the placenta compartment inside the vehicle. By the time anyone realizes something is up, David has been duplicated.

It seems years ago, a First Contact went horribly wrong; starfarers contaminated a world with a disease that was benign to them and death on wheels to the natives. To make up for this, the essential seeds of the natives were stored in space craft. To obtain their new forms, they would have to borrow a form from some other living being. Anything would do, even a flower, but in this case the survivor opted for David.

(why not the forms of the visitors who exterminated the natives? Never explained. Maybe they were all uggos).

An Adam needs his Eve and David2 has his eye on Maura, whom David still loves. It does not take much convincing for Maura to allow the alien to duplicate her as well and so David2 is joined by Maura2 (Maura is curious whether she will sense David2 and Maura2's sexy times but this is left unresolved).

I can see no way in which duplicates of two people who broke up the first time they were together could fail to find anything but complete happiness stuck on an alien world together, with none the issues that drove them apart dealt with. There's no way Maura2 being a workaholic like her original could possible cause a problem with a duplicate of the guy who dumped Maura over her preference for work over love and I am equally certain adding babies to the mix will only make things that much better.
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The Infinity Factor Pt 1

The Infinity Factor Pt 2

This time Jon and Buddy get assigned to fly the Hyperion, which has been fitted out with a cutting edge super-light drive (how this differs from regular FTL is not explained except that it is something only "an infinity of light" has experienced). To everyone's surprise the ship does not go super-light but instead vanishes.

The Hyperion is in a region unknown to the ship's navigational devices. Tom, the guy who designed the super-light drive, gives some surprisingy exact directions for someone in a region of space unknown to man; it turns out they are in an alternate universe Tom visited during earlier undocumented tests of the drive, although not one he was planning to revisit quite so soon.

Back in our universe, Starlab works out what happened from the fact that their sensors tell them the Hyperium was shrinking to subatomic size and from what they learn from Tom's notes. This unfortunately does not allow them to help the Hyperion.

The locals are dependent on an ion generator to maintain balance and health; one tribe has stolen a vital component from this (how he could do this if it were working is not explained). As it turns out Tom is friends with the people from whom the device was stolen, whose righteousness he never doubts.

Although the villain schemes to take his enemies prisoner, he does not know they are now accompanied by two men carrying weapons of unfamiliar design and so all confrontations end in ignominious defeat for the villain's forces (Interesting, he never kills anyone for failing him). In the end the villain is easily defeated and forced to hand back what he stole.

The ion generator is repaired; as a side effect the villain is turned into a jolly man who cannot recall quite what he was up to before. As another side effect, Tom has a useful insight based in epic philosophical gibberish that helps him understand what all was going on.

Tom says good-bye to his native friends and promises to return as soon as he faces the music for not telling the authorities that the super-light drive is also a universe-hopper.

Why are there humans in the other universe? We never find out.

Tom is apparently supposed to be Asian and he speaks English as Americans circa 1980 imagined Asians spoke English. So do the natives, even when talking to each other without Tom, Jon or Buddy around (except there I think the writers are going for a simple but good-hearted native vibe). This is from about 20 years too late but it gives much of the flavour:

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

I can tell you this involves small blue space elves fleeing to Starlabs to beg protection from someone who wants to kill them. I cannot tell you more because the method used to make the space elves sound alien also made them totally incomprehensible to me and I got tired of listening to nonsensical trilling about ten minutes in.

Oh, one detail I noticed: The Soviet Union is still around in 2026. We don't get told more than that.
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The Mystery of the Egyptian Necklace pt1

The Mystery of the Egyptian Necklace pt 2

While transporting the Tutankhamun exhibit back from the planet Thanatos, a British space ship is tricked into assisting what turns out to be an undamaged ship full of armed space Egyptians. In short order the crew of the ship transporting Tutankhamun are overpowered and two items are stolen from the exhibit; a small skin sample from the mummy and a necklace. Read more... )
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The Kilohertz War

We finally find out why it is even though Maura has expressed deep reservations with using the SET team Buddy is on [1] that's the team the ISA turns to and this is because the other ISA teams are even worse. Read more... )
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The ISA Conspiracy pt 1

The ISA Conspiracy pt 2

The ISA Conspiracy pt 3

Humans find an alien artifact found on the Moon surrounded by fifty dead aliens (who don't look like the statue); the statue looks like a classic gargoyle and has been on the Moon where it is for about a thousand years. It is sent back to Earth for study. Read more... )
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The Keeper of Eight pt 1

The Keeper of Eight pt 2

Tragedy strikes when yet another scientist dies tragically, this time because aliens stole the hydrogen plasma he was working on. Research Director Dr. Maura Cassidy is also on hand; she is found safe inside a sealed container with no means of ingress large enough to not involve toothpasteifying any human passing through it, which is a bit of a puzzler.

Read more... )
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Resurrectionist of Lethe Pt 1

Resurrectionist of Lethe Pt 2

A tragic accident leaves a scientist dead and his wife vulnerable to some psychological manipulation by disgraced* scientist Todmaster, who is now running the space graveyard where Earth's great are sent. Todmaster - oh, crap, I just got the significance of his name - has been experimenting in the Forbidden Arts of Look-Alike Androids and he uses them to convince the bereaved that he can bring their loved ones back to life. This in turn allows him to steal secrets (military secrets for the most part), presumably to sell them.

Spoilers for this and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Read more... )
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Night Riders of Kalimar Part I

Night Riders of Kalimar Part 2

Valuable and yet curiously unresearched glowstones* have been found on the inhospitable world of Kalimar. In short order grizzled prospectors from all over the Milky Way have descended on Kalimar. Chaos will no result and because the ISA is tragically under-staffed, SET Captains Jon Graydon and Buddy Griff, the same two guys who get assigned to all of the crises, are picked to establish law on Kalimar. As it happens, Dr. Moira Cassidy hitches a ride because she's interested in the planet. Read more... )
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The Starsmith Project pt1

The Starsmith Project pt2

Suddenly aliens attack, stealing vital parts for a new FTL amplifier intended to secure Earth's supremacy over lesser races! And apparently the ISA doesn't really have a lot of people to call on because once again the SET crew who gets tapped is SET Captain Jon Graydon and his buddy SET Captain Buddy Griff. One thing we learn early on is that Buddy really needs to get laid, because he's hitting on everyone he meets and speculating on people who he could hit on if it turns out they exist.

Buddy almost gets wish for a Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter except what he actually gets is a Mad Emperor's Beautiful Daughter, not human (or especially human looking) and not interested in the little horndog. He doesn't seem much interested in her.

In any case, it turns out the aliens are not stealing the device because they have imperial designs but because their sun is going out and their atmosphere is losing its precious the writer made some crap up. Attempts at diplomacy fail but happily a solution falls into the characters' laps and all is well.

I got a rather Edmond Hamilton vibe off this two-parter. In particular I was reminded of his Interstellar Patrol, which also involved a general lack of any grasp of scale or basic science and which also feature alien societies faced by entropic doom. The Legion always took care to exterminate any endangered species, though, whereas the ISA cheerfully hands over the technology on which the security of Earth, attacked by rampaging aliens one episode ago, depends once they decide the new aliens are worthy of it.

I couldn't help but notice some stuff seemed to happen purely to push the plot in certain directions, like how it turns out alien shape-shifters are peculiarly vulnerable to the effects of hyperdrive but only when wearing someone else's shape.
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Alien Worlds: 01-The Sunstealers Pt 1

We're quickly introduced to our cast of characters, given a bit of tragic back story for tow of them - this better not end in romance, guys - and given the first problem facing our heroes: the Sun is going out. Our two rocket jockeys are fired off towards the Sun, to what end is not clear, and while the station Poindexter has worked out what could be causing the problem, nobody is listening to him. This may be because his voice actor isn't very good (but his lines aren't that great).

In short order, the two rocket guys have found and been captured by the source of the problem, which is aliens! Sun-stealing aliens! Who in their defense don't seem to have anything against humans specifically. Our extinction is merely the necessary cost of keeping their civilization powered and who can argue with that?

This name-drops Arthur C. Clarke but the influences are considerably more pulpy than ACC: think Buck Rogers, Tom Corbett: Space Cadet, Rockets in Ursa Major or the contemporary Canadian show Johnny Chase: Secret Agent of Space.
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Despite the name, this file about the old radio show Alien Worlds is pretty short on facts, but it makes up for this with bold (and repeated) assertions. Happily the show was high enough profile to warrant a Wikipedia entry.

B5 fans take note:
Writer(s) Lee Hansen
Ron Thompson
J. Michael Straczynski


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