Space Precinct episode 2: “Protect And Survive”

This is a painfully literal title, since the main plot is Brogan and Haldane having to protect an alien businessman who witnessed the murder of a police informant (Burt Kwouk, giving a pop-eyed pidgin-English performance that should make all but the most hardened racists cringe), and who is being stalked by assassins who don’t want him to survive to the trial date. Geddit? Generic-sounding but painfully literal titles will turn out to be something of a pattern for Space Precinct.

The person who murdered the police informant is wanted for smuggling illegal immigrants and spreading the space covid (really) and yet the trial seems to hinge entirely on the murder. It feels rather like the writer forgot about the earlier crimes by the time he’d got to the last fifteen minutes.

Elsewhere, Brogan’s family are angry at him and it’s no surprise, since he seems unable to communicate the slightest thing. E.g., would it kill him to say to his wife “I’m not refusing to eat dinner because your cooking is bad, it’s just that by coincidence I’ve spent the afternoon chasing a suspect through a slaughterhouse full of the very alien creatures you’ve just served to me as cutlets”? Or provide an actual reason to his son for why he won’t let him go downtown bar vaguely growling about how it’s bad down there? It doesn’t seem like it would be breaking too much confidentiality to explain “I’ll be away for a few days because I’m protecting a witness” rather than just vaguely saying he has to work late? Yes, Brogan, your wife doesn’t understand you, because you’re just not giving her the information.

B plots this week also include a comedy piece where various secondary characters play an online game to try to win tickets to a sportsball match and alien psychic police officer Tookie coming down with the space covid, though both of these actually work in that they provide a reason why the villain is able to learn where they’re hiding the witness (Castle asks Orrin and Romek how she can contact Brogan and tell him Tookie’s come round, and the Creons are so busy with their game that, rather than follow protocol, they just tell her which hotel they’re keeping the witness at).

Elsewhere, the alien-witness plot leads to a lot of heavy-handed comedy racism which seems a little inexplicable. Last week, Brogan and Haldane were living in a multi-species society so integrated that they didn’t blink at maggots as a pizza topping, and yet this week they find prehensile tongues and deep-fried mice beyond the pale.

Come on, Brogan, show a little sensitivity.

Castle has two pieces of characterisation: 1) she doesn’t like it when Haldane sexually harasses her and 2) she really, really loves her partner Tookie and is very worried for her once she gets sick. The lesbian police officer was a solid trope by the mid-nineties (I think the earliest I’ve spotted it was in the late 1970s police procedural Strangers, though they generally pretended she was straight so as not to upset Mary Whitehouse), so it wouldn’t be too surprising if there was a subtext here. But there isn’t.

Finally, the acting is so stilted and wooden that I’m wondering if this isn’t secretly another Anderson puppet series on the quiet.

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Fiona Moore

Academic, anthropologist and SF writer, living, teaching and working in a global city.

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