EPISODE REVIEW: Eureka: "One Small Step" (Season 4, Episode 19)

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A freak accident with the FTL drive causes Deputy Andy to be stranded on Titan, and the Eureka folks race to get him back before the extreme environmental conditions do permanent damage on him. Meanwhile, Taggart is back, and when Taggart is around, some crazy scheme that may involve pretty much anything is bound to go out of control. In this case, it’s genetically-manipulated bats that literally crap acid. Of course, the bats cause this week’s mayhem in GD.

It’s a pretty run of the mill Eureka episode except for one thing: the writers completely humanizes the romance between two A.I. machines, and not in a bad way. Admittedly, the idea is weird — I still can’t imagine how two machines can spend an “intimate time” together (Andy’s words), and not in a Bender/Futurama way — but it’s to the writers’ credit that the machines’ affection for each other, as well as how much the humans care for them, shine through. We actually end up rooting for the A.I.s to survive their respective challenges and get back together with their digital memories intact.

It’s also great that Taggart is back. Matt Frewer is hilarious in the role and he has always been one of my favorite semi-regulars in the series. We learn a little bit about this version of Taggart’s relationship with Jo (he proposed to her, she turned him down), and they seem to have a companionable relationship going again. I do hope he’ll be back in more episodes for the last season since he’s apparently going on the Titan mission, too.

Wil Wheaton as Parrish serves as this week’s red herring. He is an alternate for the Titan crew, and when one of the crew members’ science experiment goes awry and Parrish steps up to take his place, suspicion falls on him. It’s pretty thin gruel and could have been done better, but Parrish comes out to be almost sympathetic in this case. He gets to be an astronaut for all of a few minutes before he injures his legs and gets disqualified from the mission anyway.

This episode is not as laugh out loud as the other recent episodes, but it is still above average for the series. My favorite parts include the scene where Carter breaks the news to S.A.R.A.H. about Andy’s troubles on Titan, and, later, the scene where he gives her Andy’s message when Andy looks like he won’t be making it back. We never really see S.A.R.A.H., we only hear her voice, and still her personality manifests to us, mostly through Carter and his interactions with her.

I also enjoy Henry’s and Grace’s short (and low key) scenes together. They have a great working relationship, with no petty competitions or jealousies, and they are a great counterpoint to the other characters’ romantic squabbles as exemplified by Jo’s and Zane’s almost passive-aggressive treatment of each other.

As for the science, I give up. I won’t mention how it takes 8 minutes or so for light to reach the Earth from the Sun (~ 100 million miles) but communication with Titan is practically instantaneous (~ 1000 million miles), without even taking line of sight into account.

Or that the temperature on Titan is only slightly higher than liquid nitrogen and anything that comes in contact with it will probably behave like it’s been dipped in liquid nitrogen a la Terminator 2.

Or that “protonation” is not normally described as a violent ripping apart of subatomic components but is usually known in high school chemistry as an acid-base reaction.

Or that Titan’s atmosphere is predominantly nitrogen (> 98%) and methane is probably not “corrosive” as the word is typically understood.

Or an FTL slingshot.... (bangs head against the wall)....

Nope, I won’t talk about those things, and a few other head-to-wall contact-inducing items, because Eureka is still a fun show with great characters and a pretty good (albeit science-challenged) writing team.

Looking forward to the season finale and the launch of the Astraeus (presumably). It should set us up nicely for the next, and final, season.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Short answer: Yes. Unless you have an objection to robots cohabiting, I can not think of a good reason to dislike this episode. The show's usual themes of loyalty and perseverance are front and center, but added to these is the machines overcoming their respective predicaments and, in the process, teach their humans a thing or two about relationships, specifically Carter/Allison and Jo/Zane.

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