Astra Lost in Space
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Astra Lost in Space ?
Send in the clones! Last week's revelation that Quitterie and Funi possess identical DNA sets off a cascade of further revelations (hence the episode's title) that begins to stitch together a fairly complete portrait of the conspiracy these kids have been a victim of. For those (like me) who have been trying to piece together the mystery themselves, it's a fun moment where we can see what we were right about and what we couldn't have been more wrong about. That's not to say, however, that this episode is solely about soaking in its own plot twists. Astra Lost in Space turns what could have been a purely expository episode into a heartfelt reiteration of its core themes about survival and found families. As much as I love a good space mystery, my emotional connection to these kids is what's kept me invested in their plight, and I'm more excited than ever to see them get home.
The big conclusion everyone on the ship comes to is that they're all clones, and in most cases, clones of their parents. Combined with the work Zack's father has been doing on transplanting memories, it seems like this was a gambit he and some of his close allies were working on in order to become effectively immortal, swapping their old bodies for younger ones as needed, a la Kaiba. The only problem was that human cloning was illegal, and the ongoing legislative push towards mandatory DNA sequencing would have exposed their plan. Senator Esposito did his best to campaign against the measure, but when he failed, the group had no choice but to cover up their tracks. And since even corpses leave behind DNA evidence, their best recourse was (apparently) to disappear their children into the far reaches of space, never to be found again. Oh, and they can also control that wormhole thing somehow. That part isn't really explained.
For my money, I think I was on the right track last week. The most important missing piece of information is that human cloning is illegal, which maybe we were expected to assume, but who knows what kind of future bioethics laws their society could have had. Without it, it doesn't make sense why all of these parents would have wanted to kill their own children/clones, but with that knowledge, the pieces fall into place. There are, of course, some lingering concerns as well. Aries, notably, doesn't fit the rest of the group's profile, as she possesses a loving mother who, at least on the surface, doesn't appear to be an older version of herself. Charce abandoned his home, and neither his mother nor his father show up for the Secret Bad Parents Club meeting, so it's not clear whether he's a clone or not. I don't think he is, however, and that ties into my theory that he's also the traitor.
With so much riding on the line, it makes sense that everyone would want some insurance that their coverup would be carried out, hence the presence of a traitor who could adjust for any hiccups along the way. That also might explain why there was a return ship prepared for them (or more specifically, prepared for one person). Given how dangerous their trip has been, they probably expected more of their kids to be dead by now, with the traitor cleaning up any stragglers before they'd reach home. As for why Charce would do this, perhaps he was promised a way to get Seira back—that is a way of transplanting Seira's consciousness into her own clone, Aries. Is this a stretch? You betcha! And this would open a whole lot of other questions, like Aries' age not matching up if this was, by all accounts, a last-minute plan to save their hides. Maybe Aries isn't a clone but a close enough relative for the procedure to work? Who knows, but given that we're now dealing with clones, cryosleep, hyperspace, memory transplants and the like, I'm sure Astra will be able to slap together some kind of fun explanation. Whatever happens, I still stand by Charce being the most suspicious.
To be honest, I don't care too much about Astra's answers making airtight logical sense, because I'm ultimately more invested in the character drama and how that ties into the revelations. Several episodes ago, I mused on how all of their parents seemed like real pieces of garbage, and now we know why: they are all huge pieces of garbage. What an aptly damning metaphor for the ways bad parents will project themselves and their own desires onto their children, robbing them of their own agency. These people never even saw their clones as people, let alone as their children. They only cared about protecting their respective investments and prolonging their own lives, for no discernable reason other than the fact that they could. Luca's original, an artist, perhaps encompasses this all best. He didn't even attempt to form a bond with Luca, and he talks about Luca's intersex body in creepy fetishistic terms completely divorced from any desire to empathize with what gender non-conforming people go through. He's doing this for fun. I can't wait for these kids to wipe the smug smiles off their faces.
The Astra crew has been through so much, and the emotional heft of their families' long betrayal plot weighs heavy at first. They all break down in tears, but the fact that they all cry together is their salvation. They're all family now, and the bonds they've formed on this journey have been forged stronger than the tenuous and abusive ones they've been suffering all their lives. They're their own people, and they can forge their own destinies. It's so heartwarming, too, to see Kanata check in on each member of the crew to see how they're handling everything. They care about each other, and they can't wait to return home, together and liberated. Their spirits raise high enough to have a hilariously adorable scene of everyone dying at Zack and Quitterie's announcement of their engagement. The freedom to be yourself and goof around is invaluable, and I love seeing these kids laughing together.
Of course, it wouldn't be an Astra episode without a last minute twist, and this one in particular comes after some masterful misdirection. The rest of the episode wrestles with the aftermath of the clone revelation, so the audience naturally gets caught up in resolving that plotline, only to be reminded at the last minute that Polina is still around. And, surprise, she's not from Earth! More specifically, though, she's not from their earth, which is called Astra. She is, however, definitely from ours, as evidenced by the Seattle dog tags they recovered from her friends last week. Thus, we can probably conclude that she's been asleep from much, much, much longer than 12 years. While her mission failed to find another habitable planet, another Astra-type ship did, and they terraformed a new planet where humanity has been living for (presumably) over two millennia now. This is a wild twist for Astra to have held onto for this long, and in the moment I was delighted with how blindsided I was. That their home planet might not be “Earth” was something I'd definitely considered before, but it had taken quite the backseat while all of these other more relevant twists played out.
Astra Lost in Space doesn't rewrite the sci-fi playbook by any means, but it's been smart and economical in how it doles out both its central mystery and its worldbuilding. It's a super solid adventure yarn that knows how to keep its audience on their toes with every installment, and it grounds even its most out-there twists with its lovable and diverse main cast. It's just a good-natured and fun show, and it's been consistently outdoing itself lately.
Steve is lost in space, but he can still stream anime so it's okay. A communications relay has been established on his Twitter.
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