Thursday, July 31, 2014

“I want to give you all my love”: No Way! 463 People Disappeared?!

What it comes down to is that we were compelled to write it. That's the main thing.

It started, like most things do, with a vision. Some people say visions are messages from somewhere else telling you what you need to do next. But I don't think that's true, personally: For us...for me...It's more of a brief flash of some image or feeling, always without any sort of context. We never comprehend the things we see as we see them. You have to understand that when we touch the visions we see are not clear at all-More...fuzzy and muddy. Those are words you could use for it. But the vision is still there, and it's my job to bring it to you because, in my experience, visions usually tend to mean something. So now I suppose you want me to talk about the things we said and the order in which we said them. R-really? I mean, isn't the story already enough for you? I've already said my piece. I'm a storyteller, not a philosopher. I just do my job and consider myself lucky to be able to do what I do. I can't possibly be that interesting to you, can I?

Well, fine, I guess you wouldn't have called me here for any other reason...

I'm of the mind that things happen because we know they're going to. Planets orbit their stars in the silent darkness as they always have, casting day into night and into day again. I don't believe that space is an ocean, but I do think that our words, our songs and our mantras flow through us just like water flows through the oceans (which reminds me, I need to check the tide charts for Ocean Ridge. We're going on vacation soon, you know). The very best we can strive for is to be able to channel this flow in a way that can help us. When we do this, I think we can feel a bit the arcs and rotations of the universe. Those philosopher guys who spend all their days in the casinos spinning wheel after wheel hoping that *this* time it will be different understand maybe some of this, but they're so focused on spinning around and around in circles they never get to the point of realising they're in the wheel too.

But look at me. Here I go on and on again like a silly broken record. This isn't what you wanted to hear me talk about, was it? Well, what we saw that night was a ship adrift in inky night. It was an enormous ship clad in the loveliest shade of blue you've ever seen. It was sparkling and glowing, illuminating the darkness around it Except, not really. It was more like the idea of a ship...but also the idea of a ship not being there. It wasn't like it was there one moment and gone the next, nor was it like it was both here and gone at the same time. It was as if these two images kept repeating and following each other forever. And then it just stopped, before we'd even had time to process what had just happened. This sort of thing is always confusing at first, but we did have a clue, so that was a place to start at least.

So we got to thinking, what sort of story could we tell that would allows us to share a part of what we'd seen with all of you? Was the cosmos trying to tell us something? And what could we do with the knowledge that had flowed through us, limited though it might have been? What we came up with looked something like this...

The mere fact I'm writing this means I am somewhat forced to spoil what is unarguably the most ambitious and clever story in the entire first series. But, considering you can readily find Dirty Pair episode lists anywhere from Teatime in Elenore City to Wikipedia to the actual Dirty Pair wikia wiki (not to mention this show is as of this writing pushing thirty years old), there's not a whole lot of purpose in keeping this episode's trump card a secret. Or rather, I should say episodes, because “No Way! 463 People Disappeared?!” totally bucks this series' convention by being part one of a two-parter.

The magnitude of this is not to be overstated. Not counting the occasional reoccurring character or offhand mention of the Leaning Tower of Damocles, the only other time Dirty Pair has referenced a previous episode directly has been “Do Lovely Angels Prefer Chest Hair?”, which was only the second episode ever made and came out months and months ago before anyone knew what the show was going to be like in the first place. Dropping a “To Be Continued” here is a stroke of genius and comes as a genuine shock, reminding us of the gravity cliffhangers used to have the potential to evoke. It's not like today when everything is expected to be part of some ongoing serial or story arc: Back when television was episodic, cliffhangers were akin to pulling the rug out from under your audience precisely because they were so rare and unexpected. There's a reason so many of them tend to be remembered as television landmarks.

And this one absolutely is, because between its two episodes, this is a triumphant masterpiece of a story that's a serious contender for the show's very finest hour. It's the highest stakes and most dramatic this show has ever been, but also the most charmingly piquant. Dirty Pair has more than earned the weight it throws around here: It's heartfelt, emotional and moving on any number of levels and each and every one of them is an exercise in sci-fi perfection. If you're only going to watch one Dirty Pair story, I can come up with very few that encapsulate everything that's great about this show better and tighter than this episode and its conclusion.

One of the big reasons this is the case is because “No Way! 463 People Disappeared?!”/”We Did It! 463 People Found!” (hereafter “The 463 two-parter” or just “The 463”) is essentially everything episodes like “Come Out, Come Out, Assassin” and “Pardon Us. Trouble's On the Run, So We're Coming Through!” were trying to do, except successful. Hell, more than successful, more then a home run, this is a grand slam: Far from being a farce or a parody, it's a deeply moving, emotional and powerful story woven together expertly with an endearing and delightful sense of gentle humour and brevity. It's got an intricate and captivating central mystery populated with a really fascinating cast of characters, each and every one who goes on to play an important role in the case and its ultimate resolution.

A true to life ghost ship lands at a planetary space port, with all 463 passengers seeming to have simply vanished into thin air without a trace. Chief inspector Eddie Jones, Kei and Yuri's local contact, has an emotional investment in the case as his daughter Melody is among the disappeared and his son Arthur misses her terribly. Eddie's also going through a divorce: Melody lives with her mother and was coming to visit her brother and her father when she vanished with the rest of her fellow travellers. Even so, Eddie acts very erratically, arousing the girls' suspicions. There's a mysterious hooligan who seems to be deliberately targeting the Angels, and Yuri has a hunch Arthur knows more then he's letting on. What seem at first to be tangential bits of character development and minor bits of exposition all eventually prove to be of tremendous significance, and the way the episodes tie up all their disparate story elements together is a work of art.

Lest you think the show's newfound pathos has doomed Dirty Pair to self-indulgent grimdark, the show doesn't hesitate to point out its own medium awareness by, among other things, flagrantly violating every single rule of epic two-parter storytelling and giving away its big resolution in the title of next week's episode, which the girls cheerily and helpfully recite for us in the post-credits teaser. Oh, you thought Dirty Pair would preoccupy itself with maintaining dramatic tension and suspense over the course of the week? Why ever would you think that? *Obviously* Kei and Yuri are going to win and the missing 463 passengers are going to be found. That's a given. The truly savvy move lies within shifting our curiosity about “what happens next” to other areas, namely, our investment in the plight of the divided Jones family, which is where it's really supposed to be. Just like with “Criados' Heartbeat”, this is a story that's high stakes and well done enough to serve as a season finale, and Dirty Pair once again adamantly refuses to deliver the patriarchal pleasure of a narrative climax that doing so would entail.

(I can't help but think here about something Rick Berman once said in regards the Star Trek Voyager episode “Living Witness”, where the EMH curates a museum exhibit in a possible 31st Century chronicling the exploits of the Starship Voyager. The original writer, Joe Menosky, wanted the museum in the Alpha Quadrant, but Berman made him change it to the Delta Quadrant because he felt it would supposedly “spoil” the planned eventual revelation that Voyager would make it home, even though that was basically a bleeding obvious foregone conclusion from about the fist episode.)

But what really reminds us of the true purpose of this series is Kei and Yuri themselves, who make a point to lighten the mood whenever it's needed. The girls have never, ever been depicted better: Colourful, animated, kindhearted, charming and devastatingly competent, they are unquestionably the narrative's prime movers, yet they remain strictly marginal figures, albeit conspicuous ones. Kei and Yuri reveal their true selves to us once again through their actions, but also in little vignettes interspersed throughout the plot, occasionally (literally) cutting in but never stealing the spotlight, because this isn't their story. This is the story of the Jones family on multiple levels, and Kei and Yuri are here to do what they do best, and better than anyone else: Healing the universe by reconstructing reality and being utopian role models to those in need.

Well, that's the gist of it at any rate. I don't really need to go on any further, do I? I mean, you can all watch the episode yourself-It's right *there* after all. But I suppose you'll want to know about the people and the love stories and the computer magicians and the ocean tide. Fine, fine, I'll talk more about all that as soon as I stoke the fire.

To Be Continued

1 comment:

  1. Love the article thanks Josh. Great framing device of the storyteller round the campfire. Yes the real story in this tale is a human one of a broken relationship with the real twist being that the plot flagged as the main one is actually secondary, and the mystery of the plane is just the backdrop for the real drama. The voice acting at times in this episode is pretty wonderful and full of sensitivity.