Land Of The Dead

"Land of the Dead" is the 22nd episode of Starseeker and the sixth episode of the second season.

Plot Synopsis

Alexander Cole's secret passion for painting portraits is interrupted by Alina Branson who summons him to engineering. There, Captain Kenneth Hiller informs him that there was a remote attempt to access the ship's express dismay at Branson's attitude as she doesn't seem to be taking the hacker attack seriously. Cole suggests disconnecting the secondary core from the primary which will also cut off remote access to the self-destruct systems. Hiller lauds him for his thinking and, after he leaves, chides Branson for hers.

Branson, still aloof and uncaring, goes into a service shaft to conduct some minor repairs and is knocked out by an energy blast. A duplicate of Branson takes her place.

On the Command Deck, Starsie expresses displeasure that the secondary core was disconnected without notifying her first. Her objections are tabled, however, when a hull breach suddenly appears in the engineering section of the ship and Jaan Kerin is killed when he is apparently blown out into open space.

As the surveillance system in that part of the ship was down when the accident occurred, Cole conducts an investigation which turns up nothing other than it was an accident brought on by stresses to the ship. Branson convinces Cole to invite her to his cabin so that they can toast their deceased friend.

Captain Hiller has a conversation with Montoya Ward after he notifies Maddie Caan that Kerin is dead. He expresses frustration and fatigue and doubts that Starseeker will ever get home, saying that there is no joy on the ship. Ward informs Hiller that Cole is a painter (even though he tries to keep it a secret) and suggests that if he can find joy, Hiller can too. This gives Hiller some solace.

In Cole's cabin, Cole and Branson unexpectedly have sex. Branson appears to regret the decision even though she was the initiator. Starsie appears and seems angered that Branson and Cole have slept together. She informs Branson that the are running out of time and then tells Cole that nine more people have vanished from the ship. Cole leaves to investigate and it is revealed that Starsie and Branson are conspiring together — and that Starsie can pick up and manipulate objects.

In the meeting room, while Branson and Starsie are absent, Cole expresses suspicions about Starsie behavior which are only confirmed when the damaged survelance tapes that Starsie could not unscramble are unscrambled by Stanley, Micheal Vera Cruz' rudimentary A.I.. Cole suggests disconnecting Starsie, but before he can, Hiller uncharacteristically asks to see the rest of Cole's paintings. Cole, in a hurry, gives him his pass code.

In the primary computer core, Starsie tells Branson that the crew knows that Starsie is not their computer and tells Branson that it's now up to her to destroy the ship. Starsie says that she will delay Cole from coming after her. Cole arrives after Branson leaves and Starsie fights him, using the techniques of over 50,000 fighting masters — including Cole himself. After a one-sided fight, Cole is knocked down, but drops a grenade which explodes and destroys the computer core and Starsie along with it.

On the Command Deck, there is pandemonium as the explosion in the computer core all but cripples the ship. Hiller, however, is preoccupied with the discovery that Cole has painted over 300,000 paintings while on the ship. Knowing this is impossible, Hiller discovers that he himself has recorded over 32 million daily logs.

In the secondary core, Branson is trying in vain to access the autodestruct when Cole arrives, having figured out thanks to a simple mathematical error by Starsie, that Branson is an intruder as well. To put all doubt to rest, Ris arrives with the real Branson. After Ris suddenly disappears in front of them, Cole prepares to fire at the intruder, Hiller arrives and stops him deducing that Branson is not a facsimile… everyone else is. Branson confirms this saying that everyone and the ship is a computerized teaching tool on floating library called Memory Alpha that the real Starseeker discovers floating in space almost 5 billion years in the future. Memory Alpha, thrown from the Sol System when Sol goes supernova, has drifted for over 100,000 years and now the programs that had been left on when the sun was destroyed are beginning to decay and break down - hence the missing crewmembers. If the program is not rebooted (by activating the self-destruct) it will become too corrupted to run or even recover.

There is a complication though… some of the computerized crew members have had children — including Kerin and Maddie Caan. Branson promises to save the children (who would be erased in a reboot) and trusts the computerized Starseeker crew to destroy their own ship. Branson keeps her end of the deal by waking up in the real world and saving the children and Cole keeps up his by destroying the computerized Starseeker, rebooting and saving the program for future generations.

On Memory Alpha, Teacher, the stations holographic custodian, promises that he will look after Starseeker's children. Captain Hiller says good-bye to Teacher who informs him that Memory Alpha will continue to drift for 1.4 million years before it is discovered and utilized by a distant human colony. Hiller wishes Teacher good luck and Teacher tells Hiller that The Last Immortal waits at the end of the universe for him.

On Starseeker, Starsie informs Branson that she is not going to tell the captain about her indiscretion with computer Cole, but fails to understand why Branson risked the mission to sleep with him. Branson tells her that she has been thinking about what The Intruder said during "It Has Already Begun" and wanted to know if she should be with Cole. Starsie informs her that Branson isn't supposed to do anything with her life other than what she wants. Branson takes the advise and seems happy for it. Before going on duty, she secretly gives Cole a paint set.

Jumping ahead 1.5 million years, Memory Alpha is being used by humans again and the Starseeker children enjoy a life of eternal childhood.

Development

To say that "Land of the Dead" was a nightmare to write is an understatement. Although the idea behind it was solid, I just couldn't get the execution down.

The first draft of the episode was radically different than what appeared at the end. Initially, Starseeker encountered Memory Alpha floating in space and are invited to dock by Teacher who also offers to repair their ship. Hiller accepts, but Tempus strongly advises against it since it would expose the crew to centuries of future history. When Hiller refuses to heed his advise, Tempus takes over the ship with implants in his body before he is subdued by Cole. This lead to a very amusing scene where Cole, Valentine, and Caan (now a member of the security force) strip Tempus down to his underwear and then deactivate his futuristic implants one by one which, among others, allow him to see in infared, breathe in vacuum, and last longer in bed.

Even though I loved the scene, the episode wasn't working. The plot devise of getting the crew onto Memory Alpha and into the system was contrived and didn't work.

So it was rewritten again into a version that I hated even more where Hiller suddenly finds himself in a suburban neighborhood populated by Barack Obama, Chris Farley, John Lennon, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and Marylin Monroe. There are also versions of Hiller and an older version of Brin. In this version, Hiller - locked in the headnet and accidentally downloaded into Memory Alpha - had to join forces with the other historical figures to defeat evil historical figures who threaten their neighborhood.

Although there were several near-completed versions of this script that sucked and sucked harder, there were some elements that survived. Memory Alpha as a gigantic data repository and programs having children — the reference to Marylin Monroe and John F. Kennedy having a child is a direct reference to the suburbia script.

Connection to The Odyssey

In Homer's The Odyssey, which inspired many of the second season episodes, Ulysses must journey to The Land of the Dead to seek council from Tiresias, a dead prophet, and find out how to get home.

In Starseeker's version, the computerized Starseeker is The Land of the Dead as it houses the souls of the Starseeker crew long after their deaths.

The role of Tiresias is played by Teacher who informs Hiller that The Last Immortal awaits him at the end of the universe, a revelation that will finally point Starseeker on the route home.

Hints About the Twist

"Have you ever felt like you've been doing the same thing for so long that it's all you know? You feel like… you want something more but you can't have it?"

What seems like a weary statement at the beginning of the episode is actually a cry for help from a sentient computer program living the last 100,000 years in what must be a literal hell. Although Computer Branson does not experience the flow of time over 100 centuries, she does know that something isn't quite right and its affecting her personality.

Later, Hiller expresses this same feeling saying that he almost wants the hacker (which was actually the real Starsie) to destroy the ship instead of continuing. His excitement is peaked when he learns that Cole paints because it will be the first new thing he has experienced in several centuries. Asking for them in the middle of a crisis was an indication of this desperation for the new.

Hints About the Future

Once again, the statement by The Intruder in "It Has Already Begun" is referenced that Branson will mean a lot to Cole one day.

1.5 million years in the future, we hear the first reference to The Great Alliance which one member of the Starseeker crew will serve as its first president.

We also learn of other events mostly in name only: The Great Exodus, The Great Purge, and the already mentioned Ja'harahan War.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License