Starhunter 2300–Painless (2003)   4 comments

Tanya Allen as Percy Montana


In April 1988, in the twilight of the dreadful first season of Star Trek:  The Next Generation, there aired Symbiosis, the anti-drugs episode of that series.  The government of the planet Brekka had long ago addicted the inhabitants of the planet Ornara to an alleged medicine for a plague.  Two centuries later, the Brekkans profited from the addictions of the Ornarans.  It was a very bad episode (even by the low standards of First Season TNG) notable primarily for the Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” speech that Lieutenant Tasha Yar gives to young and annoying Wesley Crusher.  Whether “Just Say No” functioned well as a brief public service announcement is a matter for discussion elsewhere.  I state categorically, however, that it worked poorly as an element of drama in Symbiosis.

If the first rule of comedy is to be funny, then the first rule of entertainment is to be entertaining.  Entertainment can convey a serious message well, as Painless demonstrates.  There are no clunky anti-drugs speeches here, just the visible effects of the abuse of said substances.  Seeing is far more effective than hearing.

Painless opens in a dark portion of Titan City, Titan, Saturn Federation.  Two young men inhale drugs and proceed to beat each other to death while laughing.

Meanwhile, boredom reigns on the Bridge of the Tulip.  Travis is playing with a rubber band, Callie is turning around and around in her chair, and Rudolpho is sleeping in his.  Finally, possibly for the heck of it, Travis shoots the rubber band at Rudolpho, who wakes up.

Roan Gerick’s Transmission

Then something happens.  Roan Gerick, an old friend of Dante, calls the Tulip, expecting Dante.  He is surprised to speak to Travis instead.  Gerick, you see, recalls holding the one-day-old Travis in his arms, and has a photograph of that event.  Gerick’s son, Sasha, was one of the two men who died in the opening scene.  So the father wants Travis to find the people responsible for the son’s death.  Gerick can offer only a paltry sum as payment, but Travis accepts the case.

There is a bit of exposition in this scene, for Caravaggio tells Travis that the message is for “Dante, your father.”  Certainly Travis knows the first name of his father, but some viewers might not.

Travis Montana

Travis and Callie take a shuttle to Titan City to meet with Gerick.  She makes conversation about Titan City, where Travis was born, but he evades her questions.  Something troubles his conscience, and Callie drops the subject.

Nigel Bennett as Roan Gerick

Actor Nigel Bennett, who is convincing as the grieving father, spent three years (1992-1993, 1994-1996) playing the vampire LaCroix in Forever Knight, a fascinating series about a guilt-ridden vampire, Nick Knight, who works as a police detective in Toronto, trying to atone for his sins.  Incidentally, Lisa Ryder portrayed Detective Tracy Vetter in that series during its final season.  She also appeared opposite Tanya Allen in some 1996 episodes of The Newsroom.

We keep returning to Tanya Allen.  And why not?

Back to our story….

We learn in various scenes that the drug in question is anesta.  It overrides one’s pain centers and stimulates the release of dopamine, so that one derives pleasure from pain while feeling invincible.  It has been a plague in Titan City for the last year and a half, and an average of seventeen people die of it every day in the city alone.  Sasha become addicted two months ago, which was when he changed and headed down the path to his premature death.  And the Anesta drug lord of Titan City is someone known only as Bliss.  This Bliss stays one step ahead of of police investigations, so attempts to infiltrate the drug dealing operation have resulted in the deaths of the officers.

Percy and Marcus

Back on the Tulip, Percy and Marcus are doing more unpleasant but necessary mechanical work while Marcus complains.  When he left the Raiders he expected a better future than this, he says.  He is wasting his life on this old ship, he continues.  He asks Percy if she is also disappointed with her life, but she remains silent.  We know from the previous episode, of course, that she does live in disappointment with her life.

Captain Dalyat

Gerick introduces Callie and Travis to Captain Dalyat, the officer handling Sasha’s case and many other drug-related deaths.  Alone, Dalyat tells Travis that she thinks he is “preying” on Gerick’s grief.  She is doing the best she can, she says, seeming to interpret the bounty hunter’s presence as a criticism of her efforts. Marcus, however, asks how he can help her.  He thinks that he can infiltrate the drug dealing organization, for, as we learn in subsequent scenes, Travis dealt in drugs when he was a Raider.

Travis returns to the Tulip with a sample of the drug.  Rudolpho, who cannot find a separate job for himself (to earn money; the man has three ex-wives and an adolescent daughter to support), argues with the captain about the low rate of pay.  Travis is unmoved.

Meanwhile, in Titan City, Dalyat reveals the full background of Travis Montana to Gerick.  She tells the grieving father that she knows how he feels, for she has lost a daughter to the same drug.  But, she says, “Travis Montana is one of the bad guys.”

Travis and Callie have a conversation crucial to the episode.  He asks if she knows Frankel, the very effective and controversial head of the war on drugs in the Mars Federation.  She does, for they served together in Special Forces prior to Frankel’s promotion.  Travis asks her to send him a message.

Mars, it seems, is far from idyllic politically, for the government is notoriously corrupt.  But at least there is not much of a drug problem there.  Frankel’s tactics, which run afoul of civil libertarians, seem to account for this fact.  He gives every appearance of being a straight shooter and an effective official.  Anyhow, as we learn in subsequent scenes, Callie asks Frankel to meet her at Titan City very soon.  He is supposed to function as bait to draw out Bliss.


Travis hands Percy a sample of anesta and asks her to analyze it.   Then he informs Callie and Rudolpho of his plan:  He will go undercover in Titan City and meet Xerc, a drug dealer whose image is in police records that Dalyat sent to the Tulip.  Xerc, presumably, will take him to Bliss.  Rudolpho states correctly that Travis is “trying to please a couple of dead people.”


Percy, meanwhile, is working in the lab when Marcus walks in.  He comments that pain is important because it “tells you when you’ve gone too far.”  But Percy, very quietly, replies, “Maybe no pain tells you when you haven’t gone far enough.”  Marcus answes, “Don’t be stupid, Percy,” and leaves.  Then Percy takes the drug.

Travis and Xerc

Travis and Xerc, it seems, go way back together.  They used to sell drugs in the Jupiter Federation.  Then Travis left the Raiders and became a bounty hunter.  Xerc has been in Titan City for eight months, working for Bliss.   Travis tells Xerc that he is selling drugs again and wants to see Bliss, to discuss options in expanding the market to Mars.  Frankel is corrupt, Travis tells Xerc, and Travis owns him.

Roan Gerick

Xerc believes the tale, which is good for our hero’s plan.  Unfortunately, Gerick overhears the conversation and believes it, too.  He confronts Travis and Xerc, who wants to kill him.  But Travis talks him out of it, and Gerick leaves unharmed.

Dalyat begins to confer with Rudolpho and Callie on board the Tulip.  The captain learns from Gerick’s most recent transmission that there is no more case.  And Dalyat plants seeds of doubt regarding Frankel in the minds of the bounty hunters.  Why has Frankel traveled back and forth from Mars to the Saturn sector under aliases multiple times recently?  Might he and Bliss be same person? Callie gives Dalyat the details of the next day’s scheduled rendezvous with Frankel before setting out with Rudolpho to rescue Travis from what they think is a trap.


Also on the ship…

Percy is under the influence of anesta.  This becomes obvious to Marcus when he observes her injuring herself and not feeling pain.  Then she attacks him before recovering enough sense to ask him to lock her up in the brig.


He does as she wishes.

Percy on drugs is a disturbing sight.  The normally quiet young woman becomes manic, with a wild look in her eyes.  And she keeps bloodying herself.

Roan Gerick

Travis and Gerick have a heart-to-heart conversation.  Each man has lost someone–Travis, his father, and Gerick, his son.  Gerick is grieving Sasha, whom, Travis says, the father needs to forgive.

Marcus Finds Xerc’s Corpse

Bliss has ordered the murder of Xerc.  The drug lord has also sent two thugs to kill Travis, who suffers a minor injury.  One thug does get away, however.

Dalyat/Bliss and a Thug

The thug finds Captain Dalyat, who is at another crime scene.  “Is it done?” she asks.  “He got away,” the thug replies.  Dalyat is upset.  She reveals where Travis, Callie, Rudolpho, and Frankel are supposed to meet.  “I want them all eliminated,” she says.  She has plans to expand her drug empire greatly after the Mars drug czar is dead.  The captain also vows that, if the thug fails her, she will kill him and everybody he knows.

Travis returns to the Tulip and finds Percy in the brig and Marcus minding her.  He and Marcus take the sedated Percy to the infirmary, where Caravaggio updates Travis on recent events.  So Travis departs for Titan City again, leaving Marcus to care for Percy.


Frankel and Travis arrive at the scene of a gunfight between Callie and Rudolpho (on the side of the good guys) and some thugs (on the side of Bliss, the evil drug lord).  Frankel tells Travis that he (Frankel) “agreed to be the bait, not the star attraction in a turkey shoot.”  Travis hands the drug czar a gun and the two of them join the gunfight, winning it, of course.  Then the thug from the various scene reveals that Dalyat is Bliss.

Dalyat’s Arrest

Our heroes arrest Dalyat, who says, “Well it took you long enough.”  She also reveals that she never had a daughter.  That was also part of her cover.  Dalyat also says that her conscience is clear.  This means, of course, that she has no conscience; she is amoral.  She asks Travis if his conscience is clear.  It is not, he replies.  But Travis is a hero because, despite his criminal past, he has a conscience and acts accordingly.

Travis and Gerick

Travis and Gerick part on positive terms.  The older man loans Travis a photograph of his one-day-old self.  Make a copy and return the original the next time you have a chance, Gerick says.

We may presume, of course, that Percy is in either the infirmary or her quarters, recovering from her drug episode.

Pay close attention to the trajectory of Percy’s character arc in Starhunter 2300.  She is headed for a meltdown–and a much needed vacation.  But I get ahead of myself.

Next:  Skin Deep, or why covering up plastic surgery is worse than having it.



All images are screen captures.  If you choose to watch Starhunter 2300, please do so in a method consistent with United States copyright laws.

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