Oh thank God. Oh thank you dear sweet merciful lord. This is it. One more part and I can put this behind me forever unless someone finds a copy of episode 3 and sends it to me (don’t do that). We’ve got about thirty-six minutes of this ridiculous thing left, and there’s a whole lot of plot threads to tie up before we say goodbye to this cast of characters and resolve this complicated story. Fortunately for us, it seems like all the characters are heading toward a fateful confrontation at the banquet about to be held for the Orion crew, and I’m sure that will make for an epic setting for the tense final battle of—
Nah, just foolin’. Of all the things which are going on in this plot, like maybe one of them is actually going to get resolved. For certain definitions of “resolved”. Instead, can you guess what they’re going to do instead?
If you guessed “Introduce a bunch more bullshit plot threads that go nowhere,” you’re right. If you didn’t, hi, welcome to A Mind Occasionally Voyaging, where I write fake documents about an alternative history of Doctor Who on Saturdays and essays about adaptations and spin-offs of War of the Worlds on Wednesdays, except when I can’t be bothered and instead post something adorable about my children. You might want to catch up on the last fifteen posts in this series so you understand why you ought to have seen this coming.*[Technically, I would have also accepted “Waste a bunch of time with pointless whining about “special interests” that goes nowhere, but the other answer is better]
But before we get to nothing happening, first, we have to finish up last week’s nothing happening. Oh yes, we are not quite done with the exciting drama of Ronald Ratkin, the world’s richest man; Tosh Rimbauch, the world’s douchiest man; Ethan Allen Ratkin, the littlest child soldier; and Nancy Ferris, suddenly the standard-bearer of La Resistance.
Ratkin finishes buttering up Rimbauch and advises him to wait until after the banquet to air his expose. Once Tosh leaves the room (and, thank God, the series), Ratkin proceeds to monologue a bit about what a moron Rimbauch is and how easily he has manipulated the fat idiot into doing his work for him. He tells Hoover Jones that Rimbauch, “Becomes so caught up in his own rhetoric that he lets his guard down.” This seems to imply that Ratkin is setting Rimbaugh up for a double-cross, but one never comes. And it’s hard to imagine what the double-cross would be. I mean, the only possible thing would be if the evidence he’s given him of DeWitt’s infirmity were fake. But it’s not. There’s no reasonable setup here against Rimbauch. Unless maybe they mean to put in in a Glenn Greenwald sort of position. But isn’t Ratkin taking a pretty big chance here that if Rimbauch is subpoenaed over releasing the President’s confidential medical information, he’ll sing like a canary?
On the other hand, it’s pretty clear Ratkin has absolutely no concern over getting caught; he’s above the law, immune to subpoenas and law enforcement and vulnerable only to something like the heroes of an ’80s action-adventure show. So why bother with all this bullshit. I mean, seriously, he’s devoting all sorts of time and energy and money into keeping his plans a secret, suppressing the media, defaming the administration, secretly undermining societal institutions on all levels. But why? It’s clear no one can do anything to stop him. And his cover-ups aren’t even working: children on the street knew about his kidnapping of Nancy Ferris, that he was the one behind the ice sectioners’ strike, that he was the one preventing water purification efforts. Yet he persists in this farce.
After Ratkin and Hoover Jones have a good laugh at the idea of giving the crippled DeWitt a “run for her money”, Hoover expresses some sympathy: “It’s not her fault she was in your way.” “It was her responsibility to move before I ran her down,” Ratkin answers. And he pledges that she will too “Know what hit her”.
Ratkin calls Evans, who is still working on his mindwipe procedure, and tells him to have “Mrs. Rochester” returned to her relatives, so he can kill her in the privacy of his own house once he’s used her as bait to lure Ethan back to the compound.
“Not very far away,” the narrator tells us, Ethan comes to the same conclusion, and tells Nancy that he wants to spring his mom from Steinmetz before Ratkin can. Nancy warns him that, “Your father is a very powerful man, and a brilliant one.” Ethan insists that Ratkin taught him everything he knows.
Except that poor people exist. Or how capitalism works. Or really anything at all. Seriously, there’s this whole claim that Ratkin has been grooming Ethan to be this perfect heir, which is completely undermined by the way that he’s actually raising him to be utterly naive and completely isolated from the world. This is not the way you raise an evil heir to your evil empire. We all know this. You send him to military school then give him a million dollars to start him out in shady real estate dealings and advise him to engage in illegal discrimination, then let him doctor your will to disinherit your other son’s family.
You know what would make way more sense than this whole family dynamic? If the mind-wipe technique Evans is working on is really just step 1 of a mind transfer procedure and Ratkin actually intends to possess his son’s body and thus gain immortality.
I mean, that would be a fucking stupid ridiculous sci-fi-soap-opera plot worthy of nothing but laughing derision. But it would still make more sense than the plot we’re actually given.
Ethan, who is now being written completely differently, muses on “What kind of a man,” Ratkin must be to have treated his mother so badly. Nancy pontificates that, “Many rulers have treated women like dispensable child-bearing machines.” Ethan declares that, while he won’t allow himself to be used to hurt his father, he’s “not a child any more” and will prevent his father from doing any more harm to others, using his deep and detailed knowledge of his father’s “stratagems and gambits”, though, presumably, no knowledge whatever of what his father’s business actually is.
Kyle returns and asks if he can tag along to the Orion banquet. Nancy doubts she could get anyone not on the guest list in, and does not bring up the fact that she’s currently a missing person presumed kidnapped by Ronald Ratkin and probably wanted by the FBI as a person of interest. She also worries about Kyle’s safety since there’s “all sorts of opposition to Mission Red, and not just from Ronald Ratkin.” Also, “Who knows if the Martians are really friendly?”
After Nancy leaves, Ethan promises to find a way to get Kyle into the banquet. What the hell is Kyle’s stake in this again? Kyle reiterates his disbelief that Ethan is a Ratkin, but again, decides to go along with it. In accordance with the narrative laws set by the great Scoobert Doo, we cut away when Ethan starts to explain his plan, thus assuring its success.
This is, by the way, the last we will hear from Ethan Allen Ratkin and Kyle Jordan (Wasn’t he the Green Lantern?). Bye, kids.
“Meanwhile”, on Mars, possibly two days earlier, I’m not sure, the real Orion crew has found and repaired the Martian warship. Pierelli declares that it’s not so weird, “Once you get used to manipulating living tissue.” Yeah, the ship is organic, because of course it is, even though Orion-1 was supposed to be made from the same metal as the 1938 warships. Gloria isn’t showing any signs of losing her Martian powers this time, and in fact feels great. She won’t lose them for the remainder of the episode. It is acknowledged, but never explained. Gloria does muse a bit on how she being among the Martians, she feels for the first time in her life like someone really, like, gets her, you know?
Are they going for a reveal that Gloria’s actually a Martian changeling? We know that Martians can adopt a form indistinguishable from a human, so is it possible she’s meant to be some kind of advance scout who was dropped on Earth Son Goku-style? Or maybe she’s only half-Martian, and her dad was a survivor of the ’38 invasion who went native. That’s not a terrible twist, though it’s hard to imagine this reveal will actually mean anything by the time they get around to it.
Nikki Jackson pulls the commander aside to tell him what he’s already worked out for himself: the ship isn’t big enough to fit seven. Commander Ferris, his Star Trek Commander’s Hat low on his brow, tells her that he’s working on it, and to keep quiet for the moment. After Mark objects to naming the ship “Orion-2”, not wanting to be, “Two to Jessica’s Orion-1,” Gloria suggests calling the ship “Ares”, which she pronounces wrong. I mean, she pronounces it “Are-ees” rather than “Air-ees”. You might be able to make the argument that she’s pronouncing it in the Greek, rather than English way, but close as I can tell, that would be more like “Are-ess” rather than “Are-ees” (No, I do not know IPA. Sorry). I wouldn’t bring it up, but she made a big deal out of pronouncing “forte” correctly before. I do wonder, though, if it’s coincidence that her preferred pronunciation is indistinguishable from “Ari’s”.
Once Gus finishes the repairs, Ferris tells everyone about the ship’s inadequate seating. Thank God he didn’t let Nikki tell them forty-five seconds earlier. For the sake of padding, he lists off the reasons for each crewmember to stay: Pierelli to maintain the ship; Townsend to communicate with it; Talbert to navigate at relativistic speed; Morgan in case anyone is injured; and Jackson because they’ve been building up this whole thing with Nikki and Jessica needing to have a big showdown.
Nikki objects to leaving Ferris behind, but he’s stalwart. Everyone objects, in fact, citing his wife and the fact that Nikki is kind of a bitch. No one says a single word about leaving Rutherford behind, not even Rutherford. He pretty much gets that he’s completely pointless.
So, bye Rutherford. Ares launches, and Nikki orders them to maximum speed. Then she immediately backs off when she finds out that maximum speed is about .83c, and they’re not confident on their ability to decelerate quickly enough to make a controlled landing. They back down to a mere 20,000 kps, which will get them to Earth in four hours, rather than fifteen minutes. After a long-winded explanation about momentum being a cruel mistress, they move on to a long-winded explanation of how the reason they can see out the front of the ship is because Gloria ordered the front of the ship to turn invisible, and now it’s not a “reflection”, but a “simultaneous telecast”. Note that she says she turned the ship transparent, so what she actually did was just make a window. But the explanation, which goes on to compare it to the Martians’ own camouflage ability, presumes that what she’s actually doing is having the inside surface of the ship mimic the colors of light striking the outside surface — something more akin to a chameleon, maybe.
Talbert goes on to explain that they aren’t going fast enough to notice any relativistic effects, which is true, but because those only kick in “within 50,000 kilometers per second of the speed of light”, which is bullshit. I could be all nerdy and pedantic and talk about how ordinary real-world astronauts experience measurable time dilation, but okay, I’ll grant that picking up a second or two isn’t really anything to make a big deal over. But generally speaking, you should take relativity into account whenever you’re talking about speeds greater than one tenth of the speed of light. Which, admittedly, they’re not.
By the time the explanations are over, they have to start decelerating, since apparently the brakes suck on these Martian ships. This gives everyone an opportunity to pontificate on how, “Waste is the way of the universe,” as they are sad about leaving Ferris behind, having to “sacrifice so many good people because of the evil plots of a few.” Gloria muses on how war is irrational, while Talbert considers it a universal law. Gloria goes on to explain how she finds pain, bigotry, greed and suffering completely alien to her, and that she finds the Martian philosophy closer to her own than any she’s heard on Earth. Yep. I’m calling it: she’s an alien.
“At that very moment”, we’re told, Jessica Storm finally introduces her boss to her new shady business partners. Ratkin is snarky about the circumstances of her return: the official story is that a “malfunction” aboard Artemis killed the rest of her crew, and she was rescued by Orion.
Does it feel like something’s missing here? I mean, they’ve skipped straight from Orion calling in to let them know they’re on their way home to Jessica being in the “Hiltmore” hotel in Washington with the clone crew. We never actually cover Orion’s landing, their debriefing, how the clones somehow managed to convince NASA that everything was on the up-and-up despite the fact that their skills at passing for actual humans is somewhere in the Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons From Mars range. And now Jessica Storm, who as everyone knows was sent to Mars by Ronald Ratkin to assassinate Orion’s crew is not only at liberty, but has been given access to the celebratory banquet? I mean, okay, they’ve established that for some reason, even if they had rock-solid proof, they still wouldn’t be able to actually take legal action against Storm because of “protests”, but what the fuck is she doing being invited to the banquet?
Oh, and have you noticed what they haven’t said a single word about? The fact that Earth is deadly to Martians. Y’know, the one thing that you pretty much have to have in order to be an adaptation of War of the Worlds. Anyway, Jessica introduces Ratkin to the Tor over the video-phone. Keep in mind that the Tor haven’t revealed their true forms, as far as I can tell, and still look like “living shadows”. Also keep in mind that the Tor don’t actually speak, but use Martian intermediaries to translate their aroma-based communication into telepathy. So Jessica Storm has used a high-tech ’90s video-phone to introduce Ronald Ratkin to an invisible alien who doesn’t speak. Also, the Tor isn’t physically present with Jessica, but appears via projection. Science!
He is “honored” to meet them, and recognizes that it’s “convenient” that the Tor have no need for “primitive” names, since it puts their enemies at a disadvantage. Tor proceeds to explain how his species is dependent on Quorrium, which would be destroyed if humans try to extract water from the Martian rock, which is why they want him to prevent any further human exploration of Mars. And I’d say here that it seems like they’re giving a way an awful lot about their own weaknesses here, but we’re something like seven million hours into this production, and never once has it mattered that one side knows something the other side doesn’t, so whatever.
The Tor offer to make Ratkin supreme ruler of Earth in return for stopping the space program. Ratkin points out that he’s taking over the world just fine without them… But then they basically just say the exact same thing again, and Ratkin is like, “Wait, you mean you’ll make me the supreme leader of the Earth and all I have to do is promise humans will stop going into space? Sign me up.” He agrees to their terms, warning them that it would be unwise to betray them.
The plan the Tor propose is flatly ridiculous enough that it will presumably work like a charm in this stupid world: Ratkin will use his communications satellites to transmit DeWitt’s address at the banquet on every station around the world, whereupon the clone crew will seize the podium and declare that the Tor are making Ratkin the sole proprietor of all water in the universe.
Ratkin, presumably in need of a clean pair of pants, reflects on how he’ll soon have everything he’s ever wanted (except for his son back), and will make Jessica rich and powerful as a reward. We cut back to the Tor Master, for some Mua-ha-hahing about how they’ll soon have complete victory. The banquet will surely be “what they call ‘simulcast'”, and the Tor will “use their own technology to defeat them.” Because as it turns out, the Tor have the ability to beam people up via television.
A bit late in the day to bring that up, isn’t it? Yeah, despite there having been no previous indication of such a thing, the Tor have a technology so ridiculously far in advance of anything we’ve seen here, that it’s basically impossible to reconcile with anything else we have seen or heard. The Martians, recall, are like a million years more advanced than the Tor, but they don’t have teleportation. Also, the Tor can jam any human communication at will, so I’m not sure why they’re even bothering with this bullshit. “Once we have conquered Earth, no world will dare oppose us again,” the Master Tor says.
Oh, and by the way, let’s say goodbye to Ronald Ratkin now. This is it for him.
But I can’t linger on that ridiculous bullshit, since we’ve got a lot of ridiculous bullshit to get through. The Ares approaches the dark side of the moon and locates the Tor ship. More time gets wasted on exposition about how Ares can camouflage itself to look like space, and the Tor can’t detect them because their sensors are primarily smell-based (Ares has too mild of an odor to be detected). Gloria reminds everyone that smell and sound don’t travel in space. Ares intercepts part of the conference call between Jessica, Ratkin and the Tor, learning the location of the banquet. Gloria laughs off the suggestion that they might be able to “beam down” to Earth, since this scene was probably written before they decided that beaming was a thing that could happen in this universe.
As they land, Doctor Morgan reflects on how much she likes passing through the clouds: “It’s like flying in heaven.” Because we haven’t really had enough pointless time-wasting so far. Gloria introduces them to the marvels of Martian GPS to help Talbert navigate, and then talk turns to armaments. With audible and creepily sexual excitement, she tells them there’s a veritable arsenal on board, but most of the weapons can’t be operated by humans. Why do the Martians have hand-weapons anyway? They can manipulate matter on a molecular level with a touch. Actually, how the fuck did the Martians lose to the Tor when a Martian can pretty much turn anyone they like into a puddle of goo just by poking them?
Come to think of it, if Martians can alter their biology at will, why did they succumb to Earth bacteria back in the ’30s? I mean, other than “This sequel has completely forgotten that and will not bring it up.” Anyway, if you were hoping that we’d get to see some heat rays… You should be used to disappointment by now. Gloria presents them with a small hand-weapon that can disintegrate a human at a distance of half a kilometer. The mechanism isn’t specified, but they’re genetically coded to their operators and operated telepathically. They land Ares at the Hiltmore Hotel and set off to find their duplicates. Nikki leaves Gloria and Talbert aboard the ship with orders to go back and retrieve the others if they don’t hear back. Bye, guys.
Some classical music transitions us to Nancy Ferris. Her adventures in trying to reach the Hiltmore Hotel while evading recapture by Ratkin are… Not described. Instead, she announces for our benefit that she’s right outside her husband’s room. Somehow, she’s found his room number and gained access, apparently without anyone noticing. You’d think if she asked for him at the front desk, they’d have called up to his room. You’d think there’d be security, given that, as we keep being told, there are many who oppose Mission Red.
You would be wrong about these things. He answers the door with, “Can I help you?” and then, in a deadpan that is so thorough that I actually did get a smile out of it, “Oh. Yes. Nancy. My wife. I was told that you were missing. Enter, please. I am glad to see you.” She explains that she’s in disguise, due to having been in hiding for weeks.
Weeks. It’s been weeks.
Never mind. Press on. We’re almost there now. It takes Nancy a while, but she does eventually start to pick up on the fact that something might be a little off about her husband, pointing out that he hasn’t even kissed her yet. “Ah, yes, a kiss,” he says, sounding for all the world like Donald Trump Jr. trying to demonstrate that he is a real human being by placing photos of his family on his desk, facing away from him. Nancy gives him a sarcastic thank-you after a passionless kiss, and he returns a sincere, “You are welcome.” She asks if he’s acting strangely because the room is bugged. “Bugged? Ah, yes, bugged. I have no knowledge of such activities.” He suggests that he’s tired from the trip, and Nancy almost buys it, until she remembers that the real Jonathan is usually a useless klutz for weeks after a space trip, and he seems fine to her.
When he barely reacts to being told about their house burning down, the jig is up, and she accuses him of not actually being Jonathan Ferris. He apologizes, and actually sounds rather sad about it as he declares that he’s been ordered to kill her.
It’s just at that moment that the real Orion crew busts into the hotel room to rescue her. Jessica Storm arrives a second later with the other clones, giving Nikki a chance to flirt with herself, because at this point why not? Nancy challenges the Orion crew to prove their authenticity, and Nikki explains about the real Ferris having remained behind, which she finds convincing, since she knows her real husband would gladly stay behind on Mars to avoid coming home to her.
Jessica threatens them all with a Tor hand-weapon, and Nikki responds by declaring herself immune to being shot
for plot reasons because she’s Jessica’s nemesis, and therefore Jessica needs her alive to have someone to beat at things. Jessica insists she’s okay with that, and starts to explain the plan for the benefit of the Orion crew. Weirdly, though, the Tor decide to interrupt her at this point and reveal their true intentions.
WHAT. IS. EVEN. THE. FUCKING. POINT?
After accusing the “smelly insects” of tricking her, Jessica tries to warn Ratkin to fire his missiles. I guess over a cell phone or something? I mean, she just says “Ronald, fire missiles!” out loud to no one. It doesn’t matter, though, because the Tor have blocked her signal. We get one last bit of pointless padding when the Tor explains that a rebellious Martian slave erased all of the Tor’s records about human biology, which is somehow relevant to why they need to wait for the banquet to put their plan into action. Jessica promises that the military will destroy the Tor, and if not them, Ratkin. The Tor counter that within a week, all humans who refuse to be relocated will asphyxiate. I, um, I thought they were going to beam everyone up, so how does “choice” figure in here? “The choice is yours, Jessica Storm. Only this time, you have no choice.” Oh. Okay then.
And that’s game. The narrator assures us that the story will be continued “soon”, but he is wrong and thank God. I think he suspects this as well, since he refers to “Episode 5”, but doesn’t give a name for it as he had previously.
End of Side Four. Please stay tuned for the final analysis…