90s Rewatch – Earth: Final Conflict S1E5, “Old Flame”

There are spoilers in this one today, folks. You done been warned.

In today’s adventures of the alien-infested twenty first century, the nefarious Taelon decide to gift humanity with a new music conservatory in celebration of the first dumb ape learning to play a Taelon instrument. Those androgynous bastards.

Alright, that’s not fair, and given that this episode initially begins with the hoary old “alien musical instruments are so complex humans have a hard time learning to play them” trope, it’s actually a pretty decent episode, particularly in comparison with what we’ve been seeing for the last few episodes. And the Taelon are, in fact, growing a conservatory in celebration of this event. Boone is of course providing security for this particular shindig, as one might expect a Companion Protector to do, and is rightfully startled when he realizes that the musician in question is none other than a lost love, Elyse Chapel. The two quickly hit it off again, despite the fact that Boone has only been a widower for the last two months, and the relationship moves with a startling intensity that threatens Boone’s cover as he begins to prioritize the relationship over the investigation of a stolen shipment of plutonium.

The photo of Gene Roddenberry on Dr. Belman’s (Majel Barrett) desk is a nice touch.

This is, as I said, one of the better episodes so far, because it asks an interesting question– if the implants that give Protectors enhanced mental capacity (among other things) can also mess with the Protector’s emotions and motivations (typically, redirecting all loyalty to the Taelon), what is to stop them from messing with other emotions, such as love, attraction, or lust? Now, the episode ultimately takes this in another direction, but it’s a decent question to ask of the narrative, particularly after last week’s episode basically missed everything interesting.

As far as where the narrative did go, that’s actually not a bad angle, either. Boone never had a relationship with Chapel. He’s never met her before, and she is, in fact, working with for the Taelon as a quality control test on the Protectors. The memories are, in fact, an artifact of the implant, designed to test the Protectors– and their CVIs– and make sure everything is working as it is supposed to. When Chapel reveals to Boone that she is eager to work against the Taelon agenda, she is testing the implant-driven loyalty vs the implanted memories of love. My biggest complaint with this situation is that it would have been wonderful as a slow burn across multiple episodes, but that’s not the sort of show Earth: Final Conflict is. That wasn’t the kind of show anything really was at this point, save for maybe Babylon 5.

High Points:

  • Interesting questions asked– what is the scope of the CVI’s influence? What can Boone trust? What can’t he?
  • The scene of the new conservatory being grown actually really worked for me. Nice touch that they didn’t just start with a weird looking building.
  • Nice bits of world building with the cold-fusion conversion of a nuclear power plant, and cars with some sort of device (The fuel cells mentioned before?) placed in the gasoline ports as a sort of after the fact conversion.

Low Points:

  • The Taelon “Tubes” is a nice try at an alien musical instrument, but it comes off more as dancing than an instrument.
  • Stealing the plutonium is a threat to the Taelon? Come on, Sandoval, there are more things to blow up than just your alien buddies.
  • The ultimate impact of the twist is undercut when Da’an reveals that it happens to every Protector, not just to Boone– despite the past hints that Da’an suspects something isn’t quite normal with Boone.

Previous Episodes

Season One

Joshua Young

Joshua M. Young lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, son, and two more feral cats than the optimal number of feral cats. (That is, zero.) He holds a Master of Divinity from Ashland Theological Seminary, and yes, he's quite aware that writing this kind of stuff isn't exactly what you'd expect from a trained theologian. A life long lover of science fiction and fantasy, one of his earliest memories involves some confusion with a Klingon Bird of Prey and an X-Wing in the middle of a theater showing The Search for Spock, and, once upon a time, he could select the desired Robotech novel from his bookshelf, in the dark, by the feel of its spine. (Don't ask why that was a necessary skill. He couldn't tell you.) He has been published in numerous anthologies, including Planetary: Mercury, Planetary: Venus, and Tales of the Once and Future King.

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