Season 2, Episode 4: “Sympathy for the Deep”
Plot synopsis (blatantly stolen from Wikipedia): A parapsychologic experiment gone terribly wrong has driven the residents of the peaceful Miranda Colony to near insanity, including Captain Bridger’s old girlfriend, who pleads with him for help. When the seaQuest arrives, they too are affected.
I’m…I’m genuinely frightened by the synopsis. I think I’m probably going to need to re-tool after this one. Like, maybe just liveblog Maron or something. Nora Zehetner, man. Nora Zehetner.
00:00:00: So we start with a welcome video wherein a woman with super awesome hair is welcoming people to Miranda Colony. They’re super friendly. You can tell, because the camera pans away and everything is, like, on fire and such. I think this is how BioShock started.
00:00:30: Close in on a panicky guy. He runs away as a group of angry looking people come running through a door. I think there were twelve episodes of Community that parodied this sort of intro.
00:01:30: Crazy running guy busts into a room wherein there’s a woman named Laura. He tells her he’s modified a drill to work as a pulse rifle. She tells him he needs to sleep, which seems odd because, y’know, angry mob and all. Still, she hits him with a hypospray of something.
00:02:15: Laura leaves the room. No one is in the hallway. Uh oh. It’s gonna be one of those things. Also, it turns out she has kids.
00:02:45: Laura looks in a mirror. She’d aged, like, 40 years. Ooh ooh ooh.
00:03:00: Beard Power Bridger is getting coffee. Turns out that coffee beans are $200/kilo. That’s a fuckton, since coffee beans are currently just over $2/pound, which would be about $4.50/kilo. But this is also a world where speeding tickets cost $930. So…yeah. Also, I by whole bean coffee by the pound from Caribou Coffee. It’s $14.99 for my preferred blend (Starlight). Just thought I’d throw that out there.
00:03:50: Laura calls Beard Power Bridger and asks him for help “before we all die.” Oh, the melodrama!
00:06:40: Blah blah blah opening credits, seaQuest traveling, somebody makes a crack about how the only emergency they’ve ever had on Miranda Colony was a shortage of herbal tea (which, for the record, would be a major emergency in my book). And we’re there. Also, Dr. Smith wants to go over. Beard Power Bridger asks why and she says she feels fear. Because, yes, she’s a fucking empath now. I’m not saying this is a blatant rip-off of Counselor Troi or anything, but, seriously. I think it’s a blatant rip-off of Counselor Troi.
00:07:10: They’re immediately beset by people who want to board seaQuest and go home. Then we meet Exposition Guy of the Week. He’s the guy in charge of the colony.
00:08:00: Exposition Guy informs us that they founded the colony ten years ago because of fears of food riots and everyone had to sign a pledge to be non-violent. Thanks, Exposition Guy!
00:08:15: Crime’s been on the rise for four weeks. Four weeks.
00:09:00: Laura tells the seaQuesters that people have started mutating. So she takes them to see a guy in the infirmary. He’s grown horns and fangs.
00:09:10: Beard Power Bridger doesn’t see any such thing. Dun dun dun!
00:09:45: Laura informs Bridger that she was afraid that was the case. Exposition Guy looks pensive.
00:11:00: And now we devolve into a very 1990s discussion of mental health. Dr. Smith is on the, “They need help!” side. Ford is on the, “They’re fine and we’re just giving them excuses to be assholes,” side. This would have been a super relevant topic in 1994, as we were just at the beginning of widespread pharmaceutical intervention for mental health issues. That’s the problem with sci-fi: they’re using a future situation to discuss a present issue. Now, in 2014, which is 5 years before the episode actually takes place, this conversation is as out of place as a discussion of whether the 1994 Ford Mustang is a better car than the 1994 Chevy Camaro.
00:11:30: Beard Power Bridger sends Piccolo to make sure no one is sabotaging the colony from the outside. Y’know, because he has gills. I’m sure the whole, “We can do all kinds of gill-related things!” plan sounded great at the time.
00:12:25: Dr Smith accuses Exposition Guy of running a police state.
00:13:15: Laura attempts to sexually assault Beard Power Bridger.
00:13:30: This scene is interrupted by weird noises and waves of…something. We switch to two stock characters in riot gear asking each other if they heard something. Achievement Unlocked: Cliché!
00:14:30: An attractive young woman runs around the corner and asks for help from our stock character friends because people are looting her store. They follow her and find a pair of extras from Miami Vice walking out of her store with wastebaskets full of oranges. They then follow their natural inclinations and shoot the pilfered items with their stun guns before shooting the criminals, who get up, like, two seconds later and run away. They then turn and advance on our unlucky shopkeep and it immediately gets super rapey.
00:14:40: Dagwood shows up. Hooray Dagwood! They attack Dagwood, which doesn’t end well for them.
00:15:25: Dagwood gets on the radio and says he needs help because “everyone’s going crazy.” The camera zooms out and we find Exposition Guy looking on and acting all suspicious. Then he starts hearing the strange noises. That’s the perfect time for a commercial break!
00:18:25: We come back from the break to Beard Power Bridger asking Brody why his guys attempted to assault a shop girl. He comes back with the classic, “Maybe she was asking for it!” defense. Beard Power Bridger ain’t taking none of that and orders some other dudes to arrest him. Dr. Smith informs Bridger that everyone on the ship is giving in to their basest instincts and shows him some graphs that, she says, indicates everyone on the ship is turning into a psychopath. Then Bridger threatens Darwin, because this entire scene happened in the room where Darwin hangs out. Then he realizes, “Holy shit, I’m threatening a dolphin. What’s wrong with me?” And everyone momentarily gets back in control.
That’s kinda funny, because I watch a lot of nature shows. Dolphins are total dicks. Darwin’s probably loving this, since he’s in his element now.
00:19:50: So we go to Piccolo. He’s swimming around and whatnot and finds Exposition Guy doing…something…to…some part of the colony. Then Exposition Guy leaves. Piccolo tries to chase him but gets all electrocuted (which seems like a problem, since he’s in salt water, but we’ll ignore that) and then he starts choking and tells the folks on seaQuest that his gills are missing. Bridger just so happens to walk onto the bridge at that exact moment and finds Darwin, who also apparently decided to head to the bridge. So Bridger just turns to Darwin and says, “Go find Piccolo. He’s out there somewhere.”
Narrative convenience is strong with this one.
00:20:45: Darwin rescues Piccolo in a matter of moments. In the process Ortiz discovers some stuff in the water. Lucas immediately identifies it as a “chaos path.” Wait, what’s that? Jurassic Park came out in 1993? You don’t say!
00:22:30: So…seaQuest heads out to chase the chaos path. Shortly thereafter they run into a chaos cloud, which is, according to Lucas, a total reversal of the laws of physics or something. It then tries to suck the seaQuest in. This might just be the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.
Interestingly enough, Googling “chaos cloud” only takes me back to the debunking of a Weekly World News article from 2005. So apparently the script writers really pulled some magnificent bullshit out of their asses for this one.
00:23:45: They defeat the chaos cloud through the power of…realizing it’s a figment of their imaginations. Y’know, a figment that apparently did manage to drag the sub down towards the bottom.
00:24:45: They discover someone is messing with the charts by realizing out that the trench from which the chaos cloud emanated was too featureless and filled with repeating patterns. So apparently they managed to predict the debunking of bad photoshops…
00:25:55: Brody checks in. Things be real bad on the colony. Turns out Dagwood is unaffected, so Bridger suggests asking him for advice. Dagwood’s solution? Get everyone together to tell stories and sing songs.
Brody’s response, “What, kinda like church, huh?” Turns out that Dagwood doesn’t know what church is. Oh, he’s incorrigible!
00:27:55: Laura shows up at Dr Smith’s door and asks if she’s a telepath. Dr Smith says yes. Laura says she knows that the privacy laws means Dr Smith can’t scan anyone without consent and she wants to give consent.
I believe I offered up my utter confusion as to the sudden arrival of telepathic powers with the last episode. It’s pretty obvious now, though. Privacy laws and consent to being scanned come from Babylon 5, wherein that sort of thing was a key plot point from the get-go. This is a show that really, truly has no identity and is just casting about for a reason to exist.
00:29:00: Smith tells Bridger that she’s discovered Laura was raised in an abusive home and was totes afraid to agree to marry him but really wanted to. That seems like a breach of all kinds of professional ethics.
00:32:00: Lucas, our resident kiddie hacker genius, figures out that there was some sort of research colony at the bottom of the trench. It was financed by Exposition Guy. Then Dr Smith shows up and informs everyone that Brody discovered that someone tried to evacuate the colony. Because that’s totally her job. There’s apparently no chain of command on this sub at all.
Either way, the folks from the opening credits take a launch to go track down Exposition Guy and get to the bottom of the mystery.
00:35:55: So they track Exposition Guy down to an island. He immediately admits that he’d built the other colony as a research station for telepathy, because telepathy only really works underwater (also conveniently explaining why it suddenly showed up recently, but not explaining why it wasn’t a thing during season 1). Then he tells them that he used the other station to syphon all the evil off of Miranda Colony, which worked great for 10 years, but everything broke right before the crime and rioting and whatnot. Now there’s a giant knot of pure evil at the bottom of the ocean. Also there was some discussion of Freud thrown in to try to give this an air of legitimacy.
00:36:30: We cut back to the colony where everyone’s freaking out. Brody begs someone to start singing. So we launch into a corporate rendition of – wait for it – “Amazing Grace.” Of course.
00:38:00: Back to seaQuest, wherein Beard Power Bridger is giving everyone a chance to leave. Ford says that the crew has already decided to go kick evil in the arse. He has to know it won’t take very long, since there are only, like, five minutes left in the episode.
00:38:55: Back to the colony. Some random woman starts yelling, “The angel of death is coming!”
00:39:30: A screen switches on. It’s Bridger’s (dead) son, begging him to turn back.
00:39:35: Exposition Guy says it’s reaching critical mass and becoming conscious. I have no idea what that could possibly mean.
00:40:20: They crash seaQuest into the colony filled with evil energy. Because, hey, why not?
00:41:45: Beard Power Bridger and Exposition Guy go running over to the station and, um, break a fluorescent light bulb tube. Hooray! The day is saved!
00:43:10: Beard Power Bridger orders Ford to “fire the lasers, fire everything, right down to the magma bed. I want this thing destroyed forever.” First, I don’t think seaQuest had lasers before today. Second, why didn’t they just do that in the first place? Third, apparently there’s magma, like, three inches below the bottom of the trench in question.
Fun fact: Robert Foxworth, the actor who played Exposition Guy, went on to play General Hague on Babylon 5, Admiral Leyton on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, President Emerson on Jeremiah, and Chairman Ashwan on Stargate SG-1 (in an episode directed by Peter DeLuise, no less). That means that he went on to play random authority figures in four of the top ten sci-fi series of all time.
1. Babylon 5
2. Star Trek: TNG
3. Doctor Who
4. Star Trek: DS9
5. Stargate SG-1
6. EXO Squad (yes, it was a cartoon. No, I don’t care)
7. Star Trek: TOS
8. Stargate Universe (tragically cut short on its way to greatness)
9. Jeremiah (also tragically cut short and marred by J. Michael Straczynski’s signature tendency to flail madly trying to tie off plot points and whatnot after finding out the network doesn’t like him)
10. Orphan Black (seriously, if you’re not watching Orphan Black you’re doing everything wrong. The show is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Odds are very good that it will end up in my top 5 by the end of the second or third season)
Note that seaQuest DSV does not make the cut.
Yes. That is a thing. Thank whatever higher power you believe in for the YouTubes.