Friday, April 17, 2009

CSI “A Space Oddity” Goes Where No CSI Has Gone Before

All Photos from CBS

In this light and entertaining episode of CSI (CBS) “A Space Oddity” the show pokes fun at the sci-fi genre and its fans. It seems to take the old Star Trek culture and throws in a bit of the “new” Battlestar Galactica’s as well – including quick cameos by BSG star Grace Park, who is seen in the crowd right before (new) Battlestar Galactica’s producer Ron Moore yells, “You suck!”

But let’s start from the beginning. There is a sci-fi convention going on, it’s the 4th annual WhatifitCon, and Hodges (Wallace Langham) is there. He’s watching a scene from the old (fictional) sci-fi show “Astro Quest” and haggling with a dealer on buying the original “space force micro probe” that was used by Commander Artemus Bishop on the show. He buys it, and then runs into his work colleague Wendy (Liz Vassey) who is dressed as “Yeoman Malloy”. She proceeds to comment, “You have a micro probe” a comment that most men would get offended by if they weren’t really holding a sci-fi micro probe in their hands. But things get dicey when someone finds a dead body at the convention – it’s Jonathan Danson (Reg Rogers), who is working on a remake of Astro Quest – a “redux” of the show. Hodges places a call to Captain Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) - and when Brass doesn’t seem to know who he is, Hodges has to tell him he’s from Trace. When Hodges tells him where he’s at, Brass asks him where he got his number. When Hodges tells him they have a situation, and Brass asks him to be more specific, Hodges tells him, giving a the classic "Dr. McCoy" Star Trek line – “He’s dead, Jim.”

When the CSIs come to investigate the scene, Nick (George Eads) tells Hodges and Wendy to beam themselves back to the lab to get them out of their way. While Nick and Riley (Lauren Lee Smith) work the scene, Brass speaks with Melinda Carver (Jaime Ray Newman) who has been putting up the money for the Danson’s project. Brass wonders if that was a motive for Carver to kill Danson.

While everyone is working on the case, Hodges is busy fantasizing about Wendy, placing them both – in his mind – in various scenes from the show. Very, very funny stuff, and right on target as far as the mimicry of the original Star Trek series.

Later. the lab support team, along with Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda), are back at the lab, watching a video taken from the night before. It showed Jonathan Danson talking about the Astro Quest Redux that he was working on, which is grittier and darker. In fact, it was a great – and funny – parody of the newer version of Battlestar Galactica. This is where Grace Park and Ron Moore are spotted, and I think I may have even caught a fleeting glimpse of Rekha Sharma, who played Tory on the new BSG. It seems that Danson couldn’t measure up, in his mind, to the original mythology of the show because those people were “fictional constructs”. He decided to go into this new darker direction, and when he shows a clip of his vision of the new show to the audience, we get a rather visceral reaction from the crowd, and Ron Moore yells out “You suck!” I am sure that Rom Moore heard words just like that when he did his own remake and vision of Battlestar Galactica.

Despite the fact that the team finds evidence that Danson used the convention set as a place to have a “whole lot of geek love on the command chair” (as Nick said), it seems that Danson’s escapades aren't what got him killed. It was his vision of Astro Quest Redux that did it, and by none other than Dr. Penelope Russell (Kate Vernon). Russell said Danson stole his entire idea from her. By the way, Kate Vernon had a prominent role on this last season of Battlestar Galactica as well, playing Ellen Tighe (who turned out to be a cylon!).

Sorry. I digressed for just a moment into sci-fi nerdery.

The whole case served as the perfect backdrop for the show to have some fun as it parodied the genre and Star Trek, both in Hodges’ fantasies, and in some of the lines delivered by the cast. For example, when Brass enters the upstairs sci-fi playroom of two sci-fi geeks much to their surprise, he states dryly, “Red alert.” And when “Super” Dave (David Berman) is asked by Doc Robbins (Robert David Hall) to finish stitching up the body, David says, “I’m not a seamstress. I’m a coroner’s investigator, dammit!” Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 40 years, most viewers should be able to pick up on all the references to Star Trek.

Staying somewhat in the background this episode was Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne) and Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger). This was fine with me, because the show needed some lightening up a bit, and Marg is looking a little too scary lately. There was one scene she was in where her face looked a little alien to me. I think it’s time for a new look for Marg.

It’s the inner struggle of the geekish Hodges, who has normal desires where it comes to Wendy, that is the real point of interest in this episode. But, he’s hampered by rules covering relationships at work, plus his own inability to express his true feelings. Using the normal geekery of sci-fi as a backdrop couldn’t have been more perfect for the both of them as they navigate a possible step forward in their relationship.

CSI “A Space Oddity” was highly enjoyable. I think the show excels when they get away from the dark, seedy side of their murder cases. Death is never funny, but in this case, I think it’s OK to make an exception.

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