Starhunter 2300–Pandora’s Box (2003)   4 comments

Tanya Allen as Percy Montana

EPISODE #12

With Pandora’s Box the second Starhunter series crosses over into its second half; there are twenty-two episodes.  This episode also marks the return of the dreaded Orchard, albeit mostly in people who live in fear of it speaking of it.  We will see faces of Orchard leaders in episode #14.

This excellent episode contains references to Greek mythology.  We begin with Pandora’s box (or covered jar, as the case might have been), out of which flew evil spirits, the ills afflicting humankind.  These ills might have been the Keres, female spirits who do the will of the Fates and who specialize in unpleasant ways of dying, such as violence and disease.  Ancient Greeks said that the Keres hovered over battlefields and sustained themselves physically on blood.  Unfortunately, Pandora closed her box (or jar) before hope could escape.

Consider this source material while reading what follows.

The Keres Group is a well-known consortium of research scientists.  Its well-publicized good works have included curing dreaded diseases and promoting peace–“all the good stuff,” as Rudolpho says.  That seems hopeful, does it not?  “But wait, there’s more,” to quote Ron Popeil.

Appearances are often deceits in Pandora’s Box.  Remember that as you continue to read.

Dr. Schofield, head of research at the Keres Group, and his chief aide, Whyndham,…

…monitor a controlled negative energy explosion in another solar system, that of Pulsar 1342, to be exact.  This explosion destroys the fourth planet in that system and dooms the other planets to fall into their sun in time.  If there is intelligent life in that solar system, said life might be doomed.  (The Keres Group indeed!  And there is even a box in this tale.)

Aside:  I have decided not to present the material in this episode in the order in which characters come to realize it.  Pulling back the curtain gradually works well dramatically, but full, up-front disclosure is best for my purposes here.

Negative energy, by the way is an originally theoretical, now (in the episode) realized power source that can open a portal for a ship to enter hyperspace.  This form of energy plays a prominent role in the latter half of Starhunter 2300, so remember this fact.

An undisclosed amount of time passes after the negative energy explosion.  Eventually, though, its shockwave, an electromagnetic pulse, reaches our solar system.  It rocks the Transutopian, causes Percy to spill her coffee, and drains the ship’s engines of half of their power.

How did we lose half of our power?  Where did that power go?

Percy and Marcus puzzle over how the ship’s reactors lost half of their power.

Percy

Shortly later, in the bowels of the ship, Percy and Marcus discuss how to boost the ship’s power.  Percy suggests a risky solution, but Marcus objects, saying that it is not elegant.  Marcus, you see, likes elegance in engineering, not just ballroom dancing.

Percy and Marcus

But they follow Percy’s plan anyway.  It is somewhat successful, restoring the ship to 3/4 power.

The Tulip is en route to the Keres Group Research Station, for the Keres Group has hired Travis and company.

Whyndham and Dr. Schofield

Dr. Schofield explains to Travis and Callie at the Research Station that an imposter has infiltrated the Keres Group and stolen a black box containing a sample of the Tethys virus, to which they are developing a vaccine.   Travis recognizes the imposter as Alrick Quennell, a Raider.  The Group has not publicized the matter yet for fear of creating a needless panic and a great scandal, the head of research says.  Schofield agrees to pay Travis 100,000 credits, and the bounty hunters go on their way.

Whyndham and Schofield, although polite to the bounty hunters’ faces, speak contemptuously of them in private.  It  is horrible, they agree, to have rely on…bounty hunters to save their necks.  Schofield reminds Whyndham, however, that an Orchard vessel is scheduled to arrive soon.  The consequences for the Keres Group will be dire if they do not have the black box and its contents in hand at that time.

Travis and Rudolpho

Travis and Rudolpho, being capable bounty hunters, are quick to track Quennell to Clarke Station.  They apprehend him in a restroom.  First, however, Quennell slips the black box into the next stall, to one Kingsman, a student.  Quennell, now in the Tulip‘s brig, sends a transmission to other Raiders on Clarke Station.

Kingsman

Raiders at Clarke Station pursue Kingsman, who has the black box.  He steals a garden-variety shuttle and the Raiders pursue him.

Percy

The two ships come into range of the Transutopian.  Travis gives orders, prompting Percy (the actual owner of the Tulip) to call him “bossy” as both a noun and an adverb.  Travis does manage to fight off the Raiders and rescue Kingsman, who comes across first as a spaz, a ditz, and a really bad liar.  (He is a bad liar.)

Travis

But at least Travis has both Quennell and the black box, so now he can report the good news to Dr. Schofield and schedule the return of both.

If the story were simple, it would end here, and there would be no point to the existence of the episode.  But appearances are often deceits, and the story is not simple.

The Intrepid Crew of the Transutopian

Travis and company still think that the black box contains a lethal virus until a few facts come to light.  First, Marcus realizes that negative energy reduced the ship’s power.  Then he informs the rest of the crew of his discovery, at which point Caravaggio, the A.I., tells them that the black box, which is either receiving or sending a signal, is emitting a signal similar to one part of the negative energy shockwave.

Quennell

Next, Travis speaks to Quennell in the brig.  The Raider tells what little he knows.  He had been in a bar when he overheard a drunken Keres Group scientist bragging about a top-secret project.  The worlds will never be the same, the scientist boasted.  Within two weeks both the scientist and the man to whom he spoke had died under suspicious circumstances.  So Quennell infiltrated the Keres Group as a security consultant and stole the black box, with the sole purpose of getting it away from the evil scientists.  The Raider has no idea what is inside the black box, except that the key to unlocking the mystery of the top-secret project is in there.

Percy

Percy and Rudolpho, due to their shared history, know much about the Orchard.  Both suspect that the Orchard is involved, and they are nervous about what will happen next.  They should be.  “I think something’s coming,” Percy says.

Schofield and Whyndham

Schofield and Whyndham, at the Research Station, plot to prevent the Tulip and its crew from leaving once it arrives shortly.

The Data Recorder Inside the Black Box

Caravaggio opens the black box, which includes not a virus, but a data recorder.  The box is sufficiently durable to survive the destruction of a planet–in this case, the fourth planet in orbit of Pulsar 1342–unscathed.  The scientists have developed a weapon of destroying not just a planet, but a solar system.  Now that the crew of the Tulip knows about this “underground” project of the Keres Group, what will they do?

The Keres Group’s Tractor Beam

Whatever it is, they must act quickly, for the Keres Group tows them in.

Percy, Marcus, and Kingsman

Appearances are often deceits.   Quennell, a Raider, is actually on the side of the angels, the respectable scientists are really murderers and general scumbags, and Kingsman is not useless after all.  The student accidentally creates dark matter, a process Percy and Marcus replicate to restore the Tulip‘s engines to full power.  They will need it.

Marcus and Callie, carrying the black box and bringing Quennell along, board the Keres Group Research Station.  (Rudolpho is on the Bridge.)  Travis leaves the black box, Schofield pays him, and Whyndham and some guards escort them out of the room.  Quennell is to go to a detention cell and Travis and Callie to their shuttle–or so Schofield says in public.  But neither Travis nor Callie nor Quennell are that stupid.  Schofield’s real plan is to kill them all and destroy the Tulip.  There must be no witnesses.  Travis and Callie overpower Whyndham and the guards.  Then the bounty hunters and Quennell flee to their shuttle and depart.

A Sudden Departure

Rudolpho gives the order to use full power to break away from the Research Station.  The Tulip flies away and the shuttle docks with it.

Schofield, for some reason, does not care that Quennell and bounty hunters have escaped.  He no longer wants them dead.  I guess that he has the right to change his mind about such matters.  But the scientist is no longer calm when he opens the black box and finds the data recorder missing.

Schofield Agonistes

He screams.

All in a Day’s Work

There is short-term happiness, for everyone aboard the Tulip and played a part in striking a blow against the bad guys.  That is hopeful, is it not?

Percy and the Data Recorder

Yet this is a Starhunter 2300 episode, so somberness must prevail more often than not.  Percy and Rudolpho sit on opposite sides of a table, wondering when the Orchard will come after the crew of the Tulip.

Travis and Quennell

Elsewhere, Quennell tells Travis that the Keres Group’s financial backers will come after him and the crew of the Tulip.  So Travis encourages the Raider to repair his ship and depart–to get a head start.  Neither Travis nor Quennell know what Percy and Rudolpho do, which is that the Orchard has been financing the work of the Keres Group.

Shortly later, an Orchard vessel arrives at the Research Station…

…and fires, destroying it and killing all people aboard.

Pandora’s Box establishes much ground essential to understanding the arc of the second half of Starhunter 2300.  So paying attention to this episode is vital to the series itself as it continues the journey to its final episode, which entails hyperspace.

The original Starhunter (2000-2001) is a wonderful series.  I enjoyed it immensely when I watched it all the way through the first time.  Each time I revisited the series I appreciated it more.  Then I discovered Starhunter 2300, initially at Hulu.  It was good, I thought, but below the standard of Starhunter.  My estimate of the second series’ worth increases, however, as I spend more time with it.  The original series is still better and more unified, but this one is excellent in many ways, too.

Next:  Stitch in Time, a tale of parallel universes and people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2011 COMMON ERA

All images in this post are screen captures I took using Power DVD.  As always, I encourage the viewing of any Starhunter or Starhunter 2300 episode only via  a method consistent with United States copyright laws.

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