Monday, November 20, 2017

The Orville Season 1, Episode 10: Firestorm

This week on The Orville we got a so-so episode that felt way too familiar. Firestorm wasn't terrible, but it could have been better, and I'd have enjoyed it a lot more if it wasn't a tired pastiche of at least ten other modern Trek episodes.

Because the episode felt so familiar, most viewers probably realized early on that none of what was happening to Alara was actually real (especially after the "death" of a major character). After that it wasn't a case of what's going on, but why is it happening.

Heck, this episode wasn't even original by The Orville standards! They already did the "Alara Thinks She Doesn't Have What It Takes To Be An Officer" shtick earlier this season, in Command Performance! How many times can they rework this same plotline? I can't wait to see her lose confidence in herself again in the season finale.

My biggest beef with the episode is that it feels like a cheat. The whole plotline relies on knowledge the audience isn't given. That's not fair. You've got to give the audience a fair chance at solving the puzzle. You can't deliberately leave out clues and vital information just to make your story work.

It didn't help matters that the episode's explanation was so convoluted I had to watch it twice to understand it! The whole thing gave new meaning to the word "contrived."

On the plus side, there were some excellent performances this week, particularly by Halstan Sage as Alara, and Penny Johnson-Jerald as Doctor Finn. Both of them really stepped up their games in this episode.

There was also a fun little cameo by Robert Picardo, aka the holographic Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager.

Now for the bad news. This week Fox announced that The Orville's already minute thirteen episode season is being cut short by one, due to "scheduling problems." I have no idea what the hell that even means. 

I'm positive they finished filming the season weeks or even months ago, so the "scheduling" problem can't be due to actor availability or something like that. Since this is Fox, I'm assuming it has something to do with the goddamned NFL. Networks always give precedence to football.

Fox has assured Orville fans that the thirteenth episode will eventually air in Season 2 (whenever that starts). So now the question is how will that affect Season 1? 

If Episode 13 is just a normal, standalone story, then I guess there's no problem (other than having to wait a year to see it). If it features a season-ending cliffhanger though, then it's gonna suck to have to wait a year to see it.

If Episode 13 does end in a cliffhanger, then why not bump Episode 12 to Season 2? Then they could go ahead and air the Season 1 cliffhanger as planned.

Remember, this is Fox we're talking about, so whatever they do, I'm sure they'll screw it up really, really badly.


The Plot:
We open with an impressibly beautiful shot of the Orville struggling to make its way through a violent plasma storm. Why are there always so many storms in space? And why can't they just fly around them? Anyway, the ship takes a massive hit from a bolt of plasma lighting or something. This causes major damage in Engineering, as a large beam falls on a redshirt, er, I mean Lt. Payne, pinning him to the floor.

The other engineers try to move the beam, but it won't budge. Chief Newton calls the bridge and says they need Alara's super strength, and she races to Engineering to help. When she gets there, a conduit suddenly bursts and spews flames across the room. For some reason, this causes Alara to freeze in her tracks. Newton screams at her, and she finally snaps out of her trance. She runs around the fire, flinging pieces of rubble aside. Unfortunately Payne's already dead. Lt. Payne, we hardly knew ye! Literally!

Cut to Lt. Payne's funeral, as the entire crew assembles in the shuttlebay. Mercer says a few words, and Chief Newton performs a eulogy for his friend and fallen comrade. Alara sheds a tear, blaming herself for Payne's death.

Later we see Alara in a holodeck gym, er, I mean a gym in the environmental simulator, as she wallops a punching bag to deal with her guilt. Kelly and Doctor Finn enter the sim, and tell her Payne's death wasn't her fault. Finn says his injuries were so severe he'd likely have died even if Alara had freed him. Alara hisses that she froze when she saw the flames, and now Payne's dead because of her. She thanks them for her concern, but politely tells them to mind their own business.

Alara then goes to Mercer and submits her resignation (for the second time this season). Mercer very wisely and professionally tells her he has complete faith in her, and wouldn't want anyone else as his Chief Of Security. He suggests she try and find out why the fire made her freeze.

Alara calls her parents long distance and talks to them. Unfortunately they're absolutely no help at all (hey, things are the same all over the galaxy!). Her father says a military career is beneath her, and urges her to come home and finish her schooling.

She angrily tells them she's not coming back to Xeleya, and asks if they know of any reason why she'd be afraid of fire. Her mother admits there was a house fire when Alara was just a baby. She fell asleep, a fire broke out, Alara's cries woke her, and the two climbed out a window. Her mother never mentioned it to her because Alara was only eight months old when it happened, and couldn't possibly remember it.

Alara walks down a corridor, deep in thought. She stops when she sees a creepy looking clown at the end of the hall. It stares at her for a few seconds, then suddenly runs at full speed right toward her. It knocks her down and disappears around a corner. She follows, but it's nowhere to be seen.

She then reports to the bridge, tells Mercer she's obviously going insane and asks to be relieved of duty and confined to Sickbay. Mercer has Isaac scan the security footage for the Clown Alara saw. Amazingly it shows up on camera, proving it was real! Mercer tells the bridge crew to split up into teams and search for the Evil Clown.

Alara and Bortus search the shuttlebay. For some reason it's dark inside, and of course the lights won't come on. Bortus wanders off the check the upper level. Suddenly Alara's attacked by the Clown. They grapple, and she's surprised that it's just as strong as her. It grabs her phaser and shoots at her a few times. They battle again, she gets the phaser back and shoots at the Clown, disintegrating it.

In the briefing room, Alara says the Clown must have set the phaser to kill instead of stun. Mercer puts the ship on Yellow Alert, and tells everyone to keep their eyes open for more clowns. Kelly and Alara then chat as they walk down a corridor. Kelly enters her spacious quarters, but when she opens the door, she falls into an infinite void. Alara manages to grab her and pull her back into the corridor.

The two report to Mercer, who worries that the entire crew's going nuts. He speaks to Doctor Finn, who says she'll run brain scans on everyone, and begins with Alara. For some reason she straps her to the table (with indestructible metal bands), then starts acting really creepy and out of character before running off to get her instruments.

Nurse Park enters, sees Alara strapped down and tries to free her. Suddenly Finn appears and shoots Park dead with a phaser. She then pulls out a scalpel and starts to slice open Alara's stomach. Fortunately Alara manages to free her hand from the restraints and punches Finn across the room.

In the Brig, Mercer questions a decidedly unhinged Doctor Finn, who starts rambling about Lovecraftian monsters lurking in the depths of space. She warns Alara they're coming for her.

The senior staff then meets in the Enterprise-D's conference room, trying to figure out what's going on. Kelly wonders if the plasma storm affected the ship somehow. Suddenly the room's 
invaded by thousands of tarantulas. The crew runs out of the room, grabs some phasers from a nearby weapons locker and heads back in. Of course the spiders are all gone.

For some reason, Mercer suggests heading back into the plasma storm to search for clues as to what's going on. That doesn't make a lick of sense, but let's just go with it. Alara warns him that the storm almost destroyed the ship the first time through it— they may not be so lucky again. Isaac says it might be possible to modulate the deflectors to make them more effective against the plasma energy.

Alara and Gordon walk to Engineering to help Chief Newton modify the deflectors (um... do either of them know anything about deflectors?). On the way, a giant CGI spider appears, eats Gordon and scuttles back down the corridor. This of course is the point in the episode where the audience figures out that none of this is real, and it's somehow a dream or situation.

A shaken Alara races to the bridge, but finds it strangely empty. She sees the ship's heading back into the plasma storm. She frantically tries to contact Engineering, but there's no one there either. She then realizes everyone else on the ship has apparently disappeared.

Suddenly the ship's rocked by a plasma bolt, which knocks out the power. She runs through the spooky, darkened corridors to Engineering, where she inexplicably finds Isaac. He explains he was on the bridge when everyone disappeared, and came to Engineering to try and modify the deflectors.

As they try to restore power, Alara says she saw Gordon die right in front of her, and there was nothing she could do to save him. Isaac says he's sorry to hear of Gordon's death, but they need to work quickly in case the alien creature returns. Alara thinks a second and says she never mentioned that Gordon was eaten by a alien spider. Whoops!

An infuriated Isaac then attacks her, and the two have a pretty impressive, stunt filled superstrength battle. She eventually overpowers Isaac and knocks him out. Alara then does her best Ellen Ripley impression as she strips off her jacket, takes a phaser rifle out of a locker and runs down a corridor..

A battered Isaac appears in the corridor (man, half this episode takes place on their corridor set!), and tells Alara the ship will run red with her blood. He sprints toward her and she fires, seemingly killing him. Just then the ship's rocked by another plasma bolt, and the computer announces the inner hull's been compromised and starts the evacuation warning.

Alara runs through the halls toward the shuttlebay. Suddenly we see that she's actually in the holodeck, er, I mean environmental simulator, as Mercer, Kelly, Doctor Finn and Isaac watch from above. Finn says they need to shut down the simulation now, as Alara's vital signs are dangerously high.

Mercer orders Isaac to shut it down. Unfortunately Isaac says he doesn't have the authority, as Alara has evoked Directive 38. Mercer helpfully explains that's a rule that allows the Chief Of Security to override all authority on a ship, even the captain's. He says it was designed as a safeguard in case a ship's captain is compromised in some way. But if a Security Chief invokes the rule and is wrong, it's a career-ender. Isaac says the only thing they can do now is wait for Alara to complete the simulation.

Alara makes it to the shuttle bay as the ship shudders and explodes around her. She opens the shuttlebay door, just as Isaac, who just will not die, appears behind her. They fight again, and she knocks him across the bay. She jumps into a shuttle and starts it up.

Suddenly Isaac pushes a crate of flammable materials into the center of the bay door and shoots it, causing it to explode. Alara sees a wall of flame now blocking her path and freezes. She then steels herself, shakes off her fear and flies the shuttle through the flames and out of the ship. As she clears the Orville, it violently explodes.

The simulation ends, and a very confused Alara finds herself standing in an empty holodeck. The others enter and she asks them what the hell's going on. They explain she's been in the holodeck the whole time, and finally finished the simulation. She asks who the hell did this to her, and Mercer replies, "You did."

Cut to the convoluted explanation of this episode's ending
. Apparently after Mercer refused to accept Alara's resignation, she ordered Isaac to create a traumatic simulation for her, to help uncover and overcome any other hidden fears. He populated the simulation with the various phobias of the crew, which explains all the clowns and spiders. Kelly says the simulation started in the corridor right before she first saw the Clown.

Alara asks why she doesn't remember any of this, and Doctor Finn says she partially erased her memory— at her request. After all, she wouldn't be scared if she knew the situation wasn't real. Mercer says he should court martial her for invoking Directive 38, but says he's letting her off the hook since no one got hurt— and because she passed every crisis that was thrown at her. He tells her there should no longer be any doubt that she's capable of doing her job. Let's hope so.

• Despite the fact I wasn't crazy about this episode, I did appreciate the fact that it kept me guessing as to just what was going on. When Alara saw the fire and froze, I assumed it was going to be a "Character Has A Debilitating Fear And Has To Learn To Overcome It" episode. 

I realized that was wrong when she saw the Clown and Doctor Finn started acting all squirelly. Then I was sure the ship had picked up some sort of evil alien entity inside the plasma storm.

I knew all that was wrong the instant Gordon was "killed." There's no way they'd off a major character this soon on the show, so I realized nothing we were seeing was actually happening. Alara was either hallucinating everything or she was in an elaborate holodeck simulation. 

Hats off to the creators though, for some nice bits of misdirection to keep us guessing as long as possible.

• Since the bulk of this episode takes place inside the holodeck, er, I mean environmental simulator, we can blame any mistakes, incongruities or continuity errors on Isaac, who wrote the program.

• There were some absolutely gorgeous closeup shots of the Orville at the beginning of this episode, as the ship flew through the plasma storm. I wish someone would hurry up and put out a model kit of the ship!

Firestorm featured a lot of Engineering technobabble, and as near as I can tell many of the terms were mentioned here for the first time. Chief Newton says, "Sir, we've lost both quantum phase inducers in the upper engine! I need to divert all available power to the containment regulator now!"

I'm assuming "quantum phase inducer" is similar to TNG's warp field generator, and the "containment regulator" is the equivalent of that show's antimatter containment field.

• When we see Alara in the boxing gym simulation, she's wearing a red shirt & trunks again.

She wore red back in About A Girl when she boxed Bortus, who was wearing a blue outfit. Apparently whenever the Orville crew works out, they're required to wear gym clothes that are properly color coded to their departments!

• I don't really have anything to say about Gordon, John and Bortus' love of holodeck dueling, but I had to include photos of 'em in their French noblemen outfits & powdered wigs!

• It was nice to see Mercer acting like a true captain in this episode. When Alara wanted to resign her commission, his response was measured, logical and confident, and shows just how much Mercer's matured and grown into his position since the pilot. Well done!

• In an effort to find out why she's so afraid of fire, Alara makes an awkward call to her parents. Her impressively-eared father Ildis Katan was played by Trek alumni Robert Picardo. He was the holographic Doctor for seven seasons on Star Trek: Voyager

Her mother, Drenala Katan, was played by actress Molly Hagan. She's a working actress who's guest starred in hundreds of TV shows. She looks really familiar to me, but I honestly don't think I've ever watched a single show she's been in.

• Man, Alara's parents are intellectual snobs, who value intellectual careers over physical professions. They actively belittle their own daughter, badmouth her career choice and even imply her intelligence is below average! They're even a bit racist toward humans! Here's a sampling of their dialogue:
Alara's Dad: "We just want what's best for you. And we feel a military career is beneath you. It's what any parent would say to their child."Alara: "Any parent on Xelaya. You do realize that there are planets where a military career is a very honorable thing. The humans view it with great respect."Alara's Dad: "Well, yes, the humans. The hillbillies of the galaxy."
At first I thought it was just her parents who were jerks, but Alara's "Any parent on Xeleya" line implies the whole population's that way!

• This week Alara mentions her planet's name is Xelaya. I could have sworn that back in Majority Rule she told Lysella she was from Xelayan. I even remarked then that it sounded odd for the planet to be called that instead of Xelaya. I guess the producers agreed with me!

• On the various Trek series, Gene Roddenberry's vision of Starfleet was that of an organization devoted to science and exploration, not a military service (that concept kind of got blurred as time went on, but whatever). 

In this episode we find out in no uncertain terms that the Union is the military organization, as Alara's father tells her he thinks the military is beneath her.

• Alara informs Mercer and the crew that she's just encountered and evil clown. Isaac then asks, "What is a clown?"

How can Isaac not know that? A few episodes back in Into The Fold, he "accessed his Earth files" to read Peter Rabbit to Doctor Finn's horrible kids. If he's got the complete text of that story rattling around in his head, there's no reason for him to not know the word "clown."

This is probably one of those mistakes we can blame on the holodeck simulation. Although Isaac supposedly programmed the thing, so... why would he make himself look like an idiot in it?

• Loved the Evil Clown's little party favors that shot out of its frilly collar when it roars. It kind of reminded me of the Dilophosaurus' frill in Jurassic Park. Clever!
• Where the hell was Bortus when Alara was fighting the Evil Clown in the shuttlebay? Yeah, he said he was going to check the upper level, but surely he had to have heard the fight below and wondered what was going on.

Again, we can probably blame this plot hole on Isaac's shoddy simulation.

• Kudos as well to Penny Johnson Jerald, who gave an admirably creepy performance as a Doctor Finn possessed by some unseen space entity. The second she appeared in the episode, I knew there was something off about her. 

I think it was the way she was casually leaning back at her desk, which is something she doesn't usually do. It was a nice, subtle little indicator that you might not pick up on the first time you see the episode.

I also loved her eerie, sing-songy speech to Mercer, telling about the nightmarish terrors that live in the darkness of space:
"Captain! Do you ever sit in your quarters and look out the window? Do you ever stop and watch the darkness out there? It's very, very dark in space. Looks so empty. But there are terrors lurking all around us in the infinite shadows. You can't see them but they're there."
Something about the way she said it made my skin crawl a bit!

• For a few minutes I was sure the show'd killed off Nurse Park— and in his second appearance, too! Luckily his "death" turned out to be part of Isaacs holodeck program.

• The giant alien spider was pretty well done too— especially for a TV budget!

• I really like the Red and Yellow Alert indicators in the Orville's corridors. They sort of did this a bit in TNG, but never to this extent.

• If you look closely at the images above, you can see that whenever Alara uses a control panel, the various buttons briefly light up when she touches them. I wonder if these are some kind of actual high tech touch screens, or it's a subtle CGI effect? Do we even have screens that can light up like that when touched?

I'm kind of leaning toward CGI, because once I noticed the buttons I started watching them closely, and they don't always light up in every scene.

• Near the end of the episode when Alara peels off her jacket and goes all Ellen Ripley, the music actually sounds a bit like that of ALIENS! Nice touch!

• I've had a lot of fun all season pointing out that the Orville is a horribly designed ship. Nowhere is that more evident than in this episode. This week we get a really good shot of the view directly outside the shuttlebay— which is blocked by the center engine ring! 

Every time a shuttle takes off or lands, it's got to thread its way between the rings to get to the bay! Who thought that was a good idea? Couldn't they have put it on the bottom of the ship or something?

• This episode fixed a problem that always bugged me on TNG and the other modern Trek shows.

Whenever we'd see someone sitting in a holodeck recreation of a ship, the simulation would end and somehow they'd be magically standing upright. Realistically, if someone was sitting in a holographic chair that suddenly disappeared, they'd immediately fall backwards on their ass.

In this episode, Alara's flying a holographic shuttle. When it suddenly disappears around her, she actually stumbles a bit as she struggles to stay upright! Wow! 
Well done, guys!

• This Week's Incongruous 21st Century (And Earlier!) References:
Were there any this week? I guess we could count the fact that Gordon and John talk about "hobo clowns." Surely by the 25th Century poverty would no longer be a thing on Earth. Unless I missed something, that's about the only thing I can think of.

Oh— I was gonna mention that Possessed Doctor Finn had some pretty primitive medical instruments like scalpels and forceps and such, but those were all part of Isaac's holodeck program, and probably don't count.

Man, there were a crap ton of them this week! As much as I've grown to like this show, sometimes it's still shocking to see just how much they've lifted wholesale from TNG and other Trek shows.

As I said earlier, Firestorm was a mishmash of many different modern Trek episodes (most from TNG).

The Orville flies through a violent plasma storm.
This happened in too many episodes to name on the various Trek shows.

After the ship passes through the space storm, Alara and the rest of the crew begin experiencing terrifying hallucinations.
In Where No One Has Gone Before, the ship passes through a space cloud, and the crew begin experiencing terrifying hallucinations.

When Doctor Finn starts acting strangely, Mercer suspects she was possessed by an alien entity when the ship went through the plasma storm.
In Lonely Among Us, Captain Picard begins acting strangely, and the crew suspects he was possessed by an alien entity when the ship when through a strange cloud.

At one point Alara discovers the entire crew's disappeared, and she's the only one left onboard the ship.
In Remember Me, Doctor Crusher is unknowingly trapped inside a static warp bubble, which perfectly recreates the Enterprise-D and everyone on it. As the bubble contracts, the crew begins disappearing until she's the only one left onboard the ship.

In the third act, we find out Alara's actually inside an elaborate simulation of the Orville, and has to "win the game" in order to escape.
In Ship In A Bottle, the sentient holographic recreation of Professor Moriarty traps the crew inside an elaborate holodeck simulation of the Enterprise-D. 

I'm confident there were many other Trek episodes that were copied here, but these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

This week we get our first ever (I think) look at the Orville's conference room. Amazingly, it's almost an exact copy of the one on the Enterprise-D. Seriously, every detail is faithfully reproduced here— the highly polished conference table, the high-backed chairs, the view screen on the far wall and even the bank of windows with a view of space beyond. If I didn't know the TNG sets were all dismantled thirty years ago, I'd swear they just filmed this scene on the Paramount soundstage.

The Orville's brig also looks suspiciously like the one from TNG as well, right down to the forcefield generator around the door.

This episode also gives us our first ever look at an Orville phaser rifle, or whatever they call their weapons. As you might expect, every version of Trek has had both a handheld and rifle version of their phasers.

By the way, when Alara takes off her jacket, grabs the rifle and goes all Ripley on us, it was very similar to the Voyager episode Macrocosm, in which Captain Janeway did the same thing to hunt a gigantic virus that invaded the ship. Captain Picard did much the same in the Star Trek: First Contact movie.

At one point this week, Kelly enters her quarters and almost falls into an infinite void.

The scene's virtually identical to one in the TNG episode Where No One Has Gone Before, in which Captain Picard steps into a turbolift and almost falls into an infinite void.

• This Week's Best Lines: 
Isaac: "What is a clown?"
John: "Big red 'fro, lots of makeup, big ol' floppy shoes, scary as balls."
Gordon: "Wow, you're describing my mom."

Gordon: "Was it like a circus clown, or a hobo clown or what?"
Alara: "What's the difference?"
John: "Hobo clowns are the most dangerous because they're hungry!"

Mercer: "We'll divide into teams. Isaac will remain on the bridge and continue to scan. All weapons are to be kept on stun. We want the clown alive."
Gordon: "Captain?"
Mercer: "Yeah?"
Gordon: "I think it's only prudent to caution everyone to watch out for pies."
Mercer: "At this point, anything is possible, so yes, pies, seltzer bottles, balloon animals. Be alert!"

Alara: "I'm telling you, there was nothing human about this thing. I should have been able to snap him like a twig, but he was strong. Those fangs."
Gordon: "Vampire clown."
John: "Shut up!"

Bortus: "There is an alligator in the cargo bay. I successfully crushed it with a chair."
Mercer: "Where did it come from?"
Bortus: "I do not know. Regardless, it is crushed."

Kelly: "Isaac, what about the plasma storm? Is it possible that it affected us or the ship in some way?"
Isaac: "How so, Commander?"
Kelly: "I'm not sure. This is gonna sound like I'm talking out of my ass..."
Isaac: "Then please try to ennunciate."
(ahh, literal humor!)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 6: Helen Hunt

This week on Legends Of Tomorrow we get a so-so episode that's elevated by some fun Hollywood history, as well as a couple of wonderfully comedic performances by Victor Garber and Franz Drameh.

Garber may be leaving the show soon (probably in the mid-season break), but the show's really getting their money's worth out of him before he goes. We saw him in dual roles last week, and in this episode he plays a Professor Stein whose mind's been transferred into the body of his pal Jackson. And to top it all off, he actually gets to appear as Firestorm this week! Fun!

Did you get the subtle message in this week's episode? You know, the one that says women are totally awesome and can do no wrong, while all men are just a bunch of ass-grabbing old doody-heads who mess up everything they touch? I can understand if you might have missed this understated, nuanced theme, since you were probably busy being beaten over the head with it repeatedly.

I have absolutely no problem with the show featuring strong female characters. But not at the constant expense of the men. If the Legends producers want an all girl power show, then run off and make one. Don't undermine every single male on this show, to the point where they become caricatures who exist solely for the female demographic to laugh at them.

Still not digging Zari as a member of the team. She was great a couple weeks ago in Phone Home, but in every other episode she's appeared in she's been a big dud. Is Tala Ashe simply a bad actress? Does she not care about the show and is just phoning it in? Or is the problem with the writers, who haven't figured out what to do with her character? Whatever the problem is, I hope they solve it soon.

I also wish the writers would just spell out what the hell's going on with all the totems. How many are there, just the three we've seen? Or are there more? Where's the totem storyline going? Do the writers have a story arc mapped out, or are they just making it up as they go along?

Ever since Victor Garber announced he was leaving the show, I've been concerned about Firestorm. He's unique in comics, since— as far as I know— he's the only superhero who's made up of two people, who have to get along in order to form and control him. Take away one of those people, and he's just a Human Torch clone.

Sadly, it looks like that's exactly what they're doing. In this episode Professor Stein mentions something about separating himself from the matrix so Jackson can have full control of Firestorm. I've not heard news of any more new cast members joining the show, so it looks like Firestorm's going to be losing the one thing that made him special.

Lastly, I'm preparing a class action lawsuit against the producers of Legends Of Tomorrow. There was not one scene featuring Helen Hunt in the entire episode! Frauds!


The Plot:
Note: To try and minimize confusion here, I'm gonna refer to Professor Stein's mind in Jackson's body as "Steinson," and Jackson's mind in Stein's body "Jackstein." Clear?

We begin at a film studio in 1937 Hollywood (or more accurately, Hollywoodland). A woman slowly sashays through the Warner Bros. backlot. Apparently this woman's so beautiful that she causes all the men around her to lose their minds and stumble over one another. 

An angry director asks his assistant why actress Hedy Lamarr's not on the set of his new picture, Helen Of Troy (what a coincidence!). He then sees the mysterious woman and is so struck by her beauty, he hires her on the spot. When he asks the woman her name, she says she's Helen. Helen of Troy. Of course she is.

On the Waverider, Atom continues his experiment to separate Professor Stein from the Firestorm matrix, leaving only Jackson in control. He hooks up Stein and Jackson to a dodgy looking mechanism and activates it, and of course it promptly explodes. As the dust settles, Stein and Jackson realize their minds have inexplicably switched bodies! Stodgy old Professor Stein's consciousness is now in Jackson's young body, and vice versa! Com-O-Dee!

White Canary calls the crew to the bridge, and says they've detected a new anachronism. Steel explains that in 1937 Hollywood, an actress appeared from out of nowhere
 one who was so beautiful that movie studios literally went to war over her. Canary says they're flying there to set things right. When she finds out that Stein and Jackson have switched bodies, she benches them until they can reverse the problem.

Steel, Vixen and Zari infiltrate Warner Bros. Studios and scope out the situation. They see Helen acting in a film, and Steel says she seems familiar somehow. Suddenly a couple of stagehands begin fighting over Helen, causing her to run away in distress. Steel realizes where he's seen her before, and says there's only one woman in history who had that effect on men— Helen of Troy! Zari follows Helen, and sees her stupidly get in a car driven by Eddie Rothberg, the head of rival K & G Studios. He drives off with her as the head of Warner Studios runs after him, actually shooting at the car (!).

Back on the ship, the Legends say they thought Helen of Troy was just a myth. Steel, the resident history expert, says she was apparently real. He explains that Helen and her lover Paris accidentally set off a war that lasted for ten years, as tens of thousands of men fought to the death, all for her beauty.

Heat Wave wants to know why it's a big deal if Helen stars in a few movies. Steinson explains that Helen is defiling classic Hollywood films by replacing the original actresses. Canary agrees and says they need to capture Helen and get her back to her own time, ASAP. Gideon says Eddie Rothberg is throwing a ball that afternoon to show off his new prize actress.

The Legends infiltrate the ball and look for Helen. For some reason, Steinson gets to go on the mission this time. He notices actress Hedy Lamarr among the guests, and tells her he's a big fan. She's puzzled, saying she hasn't acted in any American films yet, and probably never will, because she's been replaced by Helen.

Zari spots Helen in the crowd and uses her wind powers to make her spill her drink on her dress. A distraught Helen then runs to her dressing room to clean up, and Canary and Zari tag along to confront her. They tell Helen they know who she is, and they're there to take her back where she belongs. Helen says she was a virtual captive in Troy, and the gods answered her prayers and transported her away. She refuses to return to Troy and goes back to the party.

Canary and Zari follow her, and see Helen standing next to her agent... Damien Darhk! GASP! He's accompanied by Kuasa, who he's apparently recruited as part of Mallus' army. Also with him is Madame Eleanor, who we met last week in Return Of The Mack. Apparently Eleanor is really Nora Dahrk, Damien's daughter (!).

Darhk makes Canary and the Legends an offer— break up the team and return to 2017 immediately, or he'll hunt them all down and kill them, one by one. Just then Heat Wave, Steel and Atom begin fighting over Helen, which starts a huge brawl among the entire ball. The Legends beat a hasty retreat.

Back on the ship, Canary informs the others of Darhk's threat. Steel says Darhk will likely try to kill them all whether they disband or not, so they might as well try to stop him. The rest of the Legends agree. Since the guys obviously can't be trusted around Helen, Canary, Vixen and Zari decide to pester Helen about leaving again.

The gals visit Helen's house and plead their case to her. Just then, groups from both Warner and K & G Studios converge on the house and fight over Helen. The brawl erupts into gunfire, and the women take Helen back to the ship with them.

On the Waverider, Helen's impressed with the futuristic technology. Unfortunately little of it's currently working, including Gideon. Steinson explains that Hedy Lamarr wasn't just an actress, she was also a scientific genius who invented much of the technological principles the Waverider was built on.

Apparently after Helen prevented Lamarr from becoming an actress, she gave up her science career as well, meaning huge chunks of the ship are disappearing because they were never invented. Steinson says they'll be trapped in 1937 unless they can restore Hedy Lamarr's acting career.

Steinson volunteers to pay a visit to Lamarr, who's now working in a studio call center. He tells her she's destined for greater things, and persuades her to quit her job and speak with the Warner Studio head. When she asks who the hell he is and why he's so interested in her, he explains that he's half of a nuclear powered superhero (!). Amazingly she seems to accept this, instead of immediately calling security as a normal person would do. As they run out of the building, they bump into the Darhk's. Damien uses his powers to immobilize them both, and senses the Stein-Jackson brain mixup, which he finds hilarious.

Just then Canary appears and challenges Damien to a duel— no superpowers allowed. For some reason he agrees, and the two have an old fashioned Hollywood sword fight. Atom, Steel and Heat Wave then arrive and begin fighting Nora Darhk (I guess they were allowed to leave the ship since they wouldn't be around Helen?) . Back on the Waverider, Vixen and Zari are keeping an eye on Helen. Suddenly Kuasa flows into the ship, takes human form and attacks.

Canary gets the upper hand and disarms Damien. Suddenly she's Force-choked by Nora Darhk. Damien gleefully explains that Canary said he couldn't use his magic, but didn't say anything about Nora. Wa-wahhhhh.

Jackstein wanders in and sees Steinson and Hedy Lamarr hiding. Lamarr, who somehow instinctively understands exactly how Firestorm works, urges the two men to form Firestorm and defeat Darhk. Steinson's horrified, saying that in their current state, merging could cause a catastrophic nuclear explosion. Lamarr bats her eyes and tells Steinson to trust her. The two men form Firestorm, but in their muddled states, he now looks like a flame-headed Professor Stein, rather than Jackson! Cool!

Firestorm blasts Nora, who releases her Force hold on Canary. The Darhk's then teleport away. With the threat ended, Firestorm separates, and for some reason, Stein and Jackson's minds are back in the proper bodies.

On the Waverider, Vixen and Kuasa are still fighting. Vixen says that Kuasa's a disgrace to everyone who bears a mystical totem (so that's like... three people, right?). Kuasa then picks that moment to reveal she's really Vixen's granddaughter. As that's sinking in, Helen sneaks up behind Kuasa and stabs her in the back, causing her to turn into water and presumably drain out of the ship somehow.

Hedy Lamarr thanks Stein for believing in her, and says she's already got a new movie role. And just like that, the Waverider's restored, as its components wink into existence again. Atom says Gideon's placed Canary into a medically-induced coma, so she can star in the big upcoming Crisis On Earth X Arrowverse crossover, er, I mean recover from her injuries.

Zari tells Helen she has to go back to Troy in order to preserve the timeline. Helen begs her not to take her back to her horrible former life. Zari researches history, and finds that her disappearance apparently didn't affect the timeline in any negative way. She then takes Helen to her home year of 1253 BC, but drops her off on the hidden island of Themyscira— home of the Amazons and Wonder Woman!

• Once again, someone from the distant past falls through time, lands in the modern world and can somehow speak and understand English. This week it happened to Helen Of Troy.

They actually attempted to explain this a couple months ago in Aruba-Con. In that episode Rip Hunter explained that Julius Caesar could speak and understand English due to a side effect of time travel called "Temporal Linguistic Dysplasia." Basically it allows anyone from any time period to conveniently comprehend any language.

That's all well and good I guess, but it doesn't explain how Helen— who's from a time long before Christ instantly seems to grasp the concept of motion pictures and the ins and outs of the movie industry.

• There were lots of fun bits and facts about the early history of Hollywood in this episode. They even got the "HollywoodLAND" sign right!

The famous Hollywood sign was first built way back in 1923. At the time it was intended to promote a new housing development in the hills above the Hollywood district of LA. Originally each of the thirty foot tall letters were covered in light bulbs, and the sign would flash on and off flash in segments. First the "HOLLY" section would light up, then "WOOD" and finally "LAND." Then they'd all go off and the entire sign would flash on again, and then the whole thing would start over. 

Amazingly, the sign was only intended to be up for eighteen months. By 1924 though, the Golden Age Of Hollywood was in full swing, and the sign became an integral part of Tinsel Town, so it decided to leave it standing.

In 1949 the "LAND" section of the sign was removed, to properly reflect the Hollywood district, not the housing development. Also in that year, the Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce decided that illuminating the sign was becoming way too costly, and the thousands of bulbs were removed.

By the 1970s, the sign had begun to deteriorate, as parts of the wood and sheet metal letters fell down. In 1978, Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, launched a campaing to restore the sign. The entire thing was replaced with forty five foot tall letters, this time made of steel.

Because knowing is half the battle!

• I really liked this episode's 1930s era title cards.

They did a good job of capturing the design of that era. Of course the title cards aren't quite perfect (you knew I'd have some problem with them, didn't you?). Back in the 1930s the letters on a card like this would have been painstakingly hand painted. This is a Photoshop job, because I can spot the "chisel" text filter a mile off.

• Atom rigs up a machine to separate Professor Stein from the Firestorm matrix. Due to comic book science, this device is made primarily of large tubes of water that bubble when it's activated. Sure, why not? 

• When Atom's device explodes, it somehow causes Stein and Jackson's minds to switch bodies. When Atom sees this, he exclaims, "Oh, pancakes!"

I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I think that's a line from one of the versions of Freaky Friday.

• Franz Drameh did an absolutely amazing Victor Garber impression in this episode. Sadly, the opposite wasn't quite true, as Garber's Jackson impression wasn't quite on point. 

Part of this may be because Jackson just doesn't have as many verbal ticks as Stein. But I think the real problem was that Garber— and the producers as well— were uncomfortable with a white man imitating a black man's vocal mannerisms on TV. Especially in our current ultra-sensitive PC culture that becomes triggered and offended by literally EVERYTHING. You know I'm right about this.

I'm betting this sensitivity issue also explains why no one questioned why there were so many people of color attending the party, in an era when there were very few black actors. And also why 
no one called the cops when a "colored" man grabbed Hedy Lamarr and ran off with her. 

We all know that none of those things would have been allowed to happen in the real 1937, but apparently these days political correctness trumps historical accuracy. Hooray for our wonderfully enlightened society.

• Believe it or not, Austrian-born actress Hedy Lamarr really was a scientific genius!

Lamarr's film career began in Czechosolovakia, where she starred in the 1933 film Ecstasy (in which she actually had a nude scene!). She left her husband and fled the country, ending up in Paris. There she met Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM Studios. He offered her a job, and she acted in films from the 1930s into the 1950s.

In WWII, Lamarr and composer George Antheil developed a frequency hopping radio technology that prevented US torpedoes from being jammed by the Axis powers. This technology is still being used today in Bluetooth devices and wifi!

Celia Massingham plays Hedy Lamarr in the episode. Eh... she's a reasonable facsimile I guess, but they could have done better. I think it's the eyebrows. Tweak them and give her a more appropriate 1930s era hairstyle, and she wouldn't be half bad.

Oddly enough, a couple years ago Marvel's Agent Carter series featured a character named Whitney Frost, an actress who was secretly an evil inventor. Frost was obviously based on the real life Hedy Lamarr.

• Speaking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this episode features a Hollywood director named Mr. Coleson. Different spelling, but I wonder if it was somehow an homage to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

 When the Legends are preparing to move out, Steinson says he needs to use the restroom first. Heat Wave then looks thoughtful, says, "Good idea" and follows him.

Um... a couple weeks ago we learned that the Waverider only has one bathroom. Did the two go in to pee at the same time?

• Supposedly Helen's beauty is so great that it mesmerizes men, making them fight one another just to get closer to her. At one point Canary benches all the males on the team so they won't be spellbound by her.

I'm honestly surprised that Canary herself wasn't affected by Helen's beauty. She's bisexual, but prefers the ladies, right? So I was sure that right after she badmouthed the guys for letting their emotions run wild, she'd take a look at Helen and immediately act the same.

Last week I noted that the newly introduced character of Madame Eleanor was listed in the credits as "Eleanor Darhk," despite the fact she was never called that in the episode. I wondered if she really was Damien Darhk's daughter or not.

Welp, looks like she is! This week Damien introduces her as Nora Darhk, "the apple of his eye." As usual when it comes to Damien Darhk, I'm not even gonna try to figure out just when he had time to father a daughter, or if it's even possible for her to exist.

Also in this episode, Damien confirms that he's recruiting a team for Mallus— one that features evil versions of the Legends. So far he has Kuasa, who's the reflection of Vixen, Nora is the opposite of Zari (I guess?) and he's the evil twin of Canary.

• Late in the third act, Helen helps out Vixen by stabbing Kuasa in the back. This causes Kuasa to involuntarily turn to water and flow through the grating on the Waverider's floor. I hope there's a drain down there somewhere, or else she's gonna be sloshing around the bowels of the ship for the next few episodes.

• After being around Steinson for just a few minutes, Hedy Lamarr seems to instantly grasp the intricate scientific concepts surrounding Firestorm. She starts spouting technobabble about stable nuclear reactions and even quantum entanglement.

Woah, woah, woah, slow down, Hedy! This episode takes place in 1937. Was quantum entanglement even a thing back then? It sounds like a fairly modern concept. Genius or not, how the hell could she even know about something like that?

Well, I checked, and believe it or not, Einstein and his fellow scientists discovered quantum entanglement in 1935! So Hedy Lamarr really could be familiar with it! Well done, writers!

• The coolest part of the episode had to be the appearance of Firestein! The minute I saw that Stein and Jackson's minds were switched, I hoped that meant that the Firestorm persona would be too. Sure enough, it was!

• Wondering why Canary gets knocked into next week, and placed in an artificial coma by Gideon? Me too. I'm sure it's to do with the fact that she's participating in the big Crisis On Earth-X crossover event that airs in a couple weeks. Apparently Canary needed time off from her own show so she could guest star on Supergirl and/or The Flash, hence the awkward and hastily tacked-on coma scene.

• Holy DC Extended Universe! At the end of the episode, Zari takes Helen to the year 1253 and deposits her on Themiscyra, aka Paradise Island. Home of Wonder Woman!

It was a fun to see Themyscira mentioned on the show, but... how the hell does Zari even know of its existence? It's supposedly a secret, mystical island, hidden from the World Of Man. And even if she somehow did know about it, how the hell does she know the address? Did Wonder Woman go around blabbing to the world about where she's from and how to get there? Apparently it's none of our business, as the matter's never addressed.

• This Week's Best Lines:
Jackstein: "Whoa! Look at my hands. They're white."

Steinson: "And mine appear to be African-American."
Jackstein: "You can just say 'black,' Grey."

Steel: (to Steinson and Jackstein) "You're the Professor, and you're Jax! Switched!"

Canary: (sighing) "Must be Tuesday."
(OK, I get the joke here— she's saying ridiculous things like this happen on the time on the ship, even on dull, boring Tuesdays. But wouldn't it have been funnier if she'd said "Must be Friday?" As in Freaky Friday?)

Steel: "1937, Hollywood, California. A beautiful woman mysteriously appeared and threw the entire film industry into chaos. She apparently was so beautiful that both Warner Brothers and K&G Pictures went to war over her, and it got ugly, fast. Literal backs were stabbed. People died."
Zari: "Those Hollywood idiots probably had it coming."
(Oh boy, a "Sleazy Hollywood Actor/Producer/Director" joke! There's no way we'll get tired of hearing those in the next... two or three decades)

Canary: "Well everyone go put their best digs on, because we are gonna save Hollywood!"

Steel: "Yeah, until the Kardashians destroy it."

Steinson: "What's what's wrong?" 

Jackstein: "I'm wasted, man. My joints ache. I feel like I'm walking under water, and I have to use the bathroom, like, all the time!"
(sounds like the Professor needs to get himself to a urologist, stat!)

Steinson: "Hedy LaMarr. The most beautiful woman in the world. Not only is she a talented actress, but she is a genius. Brilliant and beautiful."

Heat Wave: (leering at Lamarr) "I'd do her."
Steinson: "Trust you, Mr. Rory, to take something precious and debase it."

Hedy Lamarr: "What did he mean about your other half? Are you married?"

Steinson: "Oh, you mean Jefferson. Yes, I suppose in a way we are married, too. It's hard to explain."
Hedy Lamarr: "You're a homosexual."
Steinson: "No, I'm one half of a nuclear-powered superhero, except the two of us accidentally switched bodies."

Damien Darhk: (to the Legends) "Oh, goodie. The cavalry has arrived. Oh, how I missed those whimsical outfits of yours.
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