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The River of Stars
Space: Above and Beyond, episode 11 (1.11)
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2006 13:30:03
The 58th's ISSCV is crippled in a Chig attack and left to drift in the Eridanus region. Their makeshift Christmas celebrations are interrupted when the Chig fighter returns to finish the job.
Images of World War One dissolve into one another as Paul Wang, in a voice over, describes what has come to be known as "The Christmas Truce." British, French and German soldiers took a break from fighting on Christmas Day to bury their dead, exchange photographs and even play soccer. "The world," says Wang "had never seen anything like it before... and one hundred and forty nine years later, to the day... it's impossible to imagine ever seeing it again." And with that the screen dissolves into a fantastic space battle! A flight group of ISSCV's is scraping with a sortie of Chig fighters. As the battle rages, the 58th is hit! One of their thrusters is hit and locked into landing position! The ISSCV spins out of the battle! Out of sight!
The ISSCV spins! The choice is simple: shut down the engines and stabilize the ship or they will soon lose consciousness. However, if they shut down the main engine, there's the possibility of not being able to start it again... Nathan shuts down the engine and stabilizes the ship with the remaining fuel. Once the ship has stopped spinning, the Wildcards try to raise the Saratoga on the radio. No luck. It's dead. On board the Saratoga, McQueen watches the ISSCV's land. He counts them off on his fingers. No 58th. He grills the pilots on the flight deck for information concerning the last known whereabouts of the 58th. Stories conflict. No one seems to know what happened to them. McQueen demands answers. He wants ten SAR teams (Search and Rescue) teams dispatched to the area immediately. The damage aboard the ISSCV is extensive; they have to shut down the heat to save power for the radio and the cabin air systems. It's going to get cold soon. Shane takes note of the time and realizes it's twelve past midnight on December 25: Christmas. At that moment, McQueen's voice comes over the radio - he's searching for them. They attempt to call back but their transmitter is out - they can hear McQueen but he can't hear them. McQueen relays to the ISSCV that the Saratoga is conducting its search in the Procyon system. Wang sighs, brings down the optimism of the others: "We're not in the Procyon system. Far from it. We got kicked out in the firefight." The 58th toss around the idea of sending out a flare. Wang nixes it; they're drifting into enemy territory. A flare would announce their presence to the Chigs... On board the Saratoga, Ross confronts McQueen on his request for ten Search and Rescue units. "Searching for them in that vast a region of space would be the equivalent of finding a specific drop of water in the Mississippi River." McQueen vows to search anyway... Ross allows him to have three ships... with no fighter support. As the temperature drops in the ISSCV, the 58th huddle around the radio and wait to hear from McQueen. Suddenly, Chig fighters show up! The members of the 58th prepare for the worst... three Chig fighters circle the ISSCV, swarming, diving, then... Nothing happens. The Chigs leave. The 58th can only speculate as to why they were spared...
The ISSCV drifts through space. Shane decides that this is as good a time as any to distribute Christmas gifts. She passes them out to all the members of the 58th. Paul thanks her but tells her that he doesn't have faith anymore. He's seen too much killing... At that moment, an oxygen pipe breaks! The 58th figure they've lost at least another two hours of oxygen. Time's running out... McQueen maintains a vigil at the radio. He plays the 58th a recording from the Apollo Eight mission, when astronauts Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell read from the book of Genesis to the people of Earth. The 58th is moved and uplifted by the reading. Later, in the ISSCV, Wang hears strange noises over the radio... It's Morse Code! He takes down the message then runs to the window. He uses his sextant to locate something, then gets a closer look with his telescope: A comet! Heading for the ISSCV! Cooper asks him how he knew it was there... Wang seems afraid of his answer: "I don't know."
McQueen grills the Saratoga's astronomer and radio person for answers. They are confounded: the transmissions have a distinctly inhuman quality to them. They contain coordinates that indicate the position of the comet Yanelli-Wimberly. McQueen ponders all of this... On board the ISSCV, the 58th questions Paul about the validity of the transmissions. Wang takes offense: "There's a comet barreling down on us," he says, "that we wouldn't know about if I didn't get these RIGHT!" At that moment McQueen radios the 58th with news that the Saratoga is tracking the comet as well. Commodore Ross, in a touching moment, begins to play a Delta Blues version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" when suddenly - Strange signals come over the radio... Wang records then interprets them. It's telemetry data! Computations that, if followed, would allow the 58th to maneuver the ISSCV into the comet's gravitational pull. "It's telling us how to hitch a ride... In fact, back toward the Saratoga," says Wang. To follow the mysterious instructions however would require an act of faith. Not one of Paul Wang's strongest traits. But before any of this can happen however, someone needs to leave the ISSCV in a space suit to fix the angle of the engine damaged in the attack. In a revealing moment for Lieutenant Paul Wang, he volunteers to do it. He has faith. Paul leaves the ISSCV's airlock and floats in space! He has to race against the clock: he only has a few minutes of oxygen left in the suit... but he manages to right the engine! They have a shot at making it home!
On board the Saratoga, McQueen and Ross puzzle over the signal's origin. "You and I know where these signals originated," Ross says to McQueen. Indeed, its an enemy transmission. Ross believes it's setup, a trap set by the Chigs to ambush the Search and Rescue party. McQueen believes the signals are a gift. He urges the Commodore to dispatch a search team to Comet Yanelli-Wimberly. Ross finally grants McQueen his request. Back on the ISSCV, the 58th prepare for the 56 second burn they must execute to enter the comet's orbit. The guidance computers are out. Wang produces a sextant from his flight suit. "I'll guide you" he says," or, I mean... the stars will." The crew counts down before the burn. The air is tense as they strap themselves in for the ride. With only a minute to go, Shane re-offers Wang the Christmas present she bought for him earlier. He unwraps the gift - It's a paperback copy of "Romeo and Juliet." He's touched... The 58th take their places, the countdown starts... "Alright," Nathan yells, "let's get lit!" IGNITION! The ISSCV bucks! Then speeds toward the comet! They are carried into the comet's orbit! Their rescued by the Search and Rescue team! A Christmas miracle! Later, at a Christmas party in the Saratoga's Rec. Room, Cooper gives Shane a Christmas present: Three free games of bowling at the Saratoga's bowling alley. Paul attempts to give Nathan back his phototags of Kylen, but he's told to keep them. Wang decides to give them to McQueen... A symbol of Faith.
By Sarah Stegall on 08 Jul 2003 08:19:24
"The River of Stars
", the Christmas offering from "Space: Above and Beyond", is hopelessly sentimental, awash in emotionalism, and framed in predictability. I loved every minute of it.
The key to enjoyment of this show is to disengage the cerebral cortex and just throw your heart in gear. Morgan and Wong's dramatic leanings are towards melodrama, not documentary, so the question in any episode of their series is not "Is the action/dialogue/computer graphics authentic?" but "Are the emotions...
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