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The Prodigal Son

Everybody's favourite episode, this one, or so it seems. I could claim that this is down to fabulous plotting, great tension and excitement, and the real excellence of the performances, but I'd probably be lying. It's mostly due to the fact that it guest stars John Colicos. I think everybody likes him. He's always been popular amongst sci fi fans, probably due to Battlestar Galactica (the proper version), although he's turned up all over the place over the years. As the artist Quinn in this episode he manages to be one of the real highlights of the series.

In this episode, the members of the Blackwood Project are summoned to a UN meeting, to brief several international heads of security on the alien situation; so we are finally going global. Before the meeting can begin, however, there's an adventure or two to negotiate. Thirty-six hours before a preliminary meeting with Uncle General Wilson, and forty-eight hours before the meeting at the UN, Harrison has a meeting of his own, with a reclusive artist that he's admired for years. This means a trip out into the world, which for some reason Harrison thinks is a good idea. Given that every time he leaves the safe house he gets trapped somewhere by an army of aliens, it'll come as no surprise to anybody (except Harrison) how this episode plays out.

It's John Colicos! Being beautifully atmospheric and slightly hammy, which nicely sets the tone for the rest of the episode.

There's a police car after him, with three policemen inside who are clearly aliens. They chase Count Baltar, and he fools them with trickery and just generally being more awesome than they are. Finally he kills one. Whoever Count Baltar is, he clearly knows all about the aliens, as he turns their catchphrase against them quite beautifully at this point.

"To Life Immortal... sucker."

Count Baltar, as it turns out, is "Quinn" - no other name - a reclusive, peculiar artist, of which the reclusive and peculiar Harrison is a fan. Harrison has been invited to meet him in his secret den, where he's shown the latest work of art. Harrison's delighted by the opportunity of owning it, although quite where he thinks he's going to put the bloody thing I have no idea. He lives in a secret laboratory underneath a country cottage, and the "work of art" fills half a warehouse.

Quinn waxes lyrical about the universe, and in the process slips in a reference to life immortal. Harrison realises that he knows about the aliens.

It's more than that, though. Quinn knows all about everything. Doctor Forrester and Sylvia van Buren - he even calls Harrison "Harry", as she does - everything about the battle against the aliens, and the upcoming UN conference. Quinn, it turns out, is no human artist. He's an alien, left over from the 1953 invasion, and somehow immune to the bacteria and radiation that are killing the rest of his race. Consequently the rest of his race want to dissect him to find out why.

Quinn plans to use the UN meeting for his own ends, and neatly scrobbles Harrison with the aid of a super forcefieldy wristband thing. Where he goes, Harrison has no choice but to follow. With snarking and the occasional glower.

Quinn is bizarrely affectionate towards "Harry" most of the time, but that doesn't preclude attempts to throttle him every five minutes. I think it's his new favourite game. He also has a nice line in backhands, that cause outbreaks of brilliantly OTT spinning about the set. His fun game of Torment The Pet Astrophysicist is cut short by the arrival of the alien policemen, though. Quinn and Harrison therefore head underground.

Quinn has some lovely booby traps lying about. I approve.

Tunnels! Much of this episode is taken up with running about in dark tunnels.

Harrison has missed the meeting with Uncle General Wilson, and Ironhorse is worried. "This just isn't like Harrison!" he bellows, for about the third episode in a row. Norton goes a-hacking to look for clues. Fortunately (for them), the aliens murdered an art dealer in order to track down Quinn, and this puts the team on Quinn's trail too.

Elsewhere, there are yet more dark tunnels. Harrison tries to persuade Quinn to join the human side, as that would be really awesome, and they could be best buddies, and stay up late to talk about space and stuff.

Quinn would far rather threaten to do unpleasant things to him, and mutter about sinister plans for the Earth. This does not deter Harrison in the slightest. Then some aliens start catching up again, and it's back to running about in tunnels.

Ironhorse and Suzanne go to Quinn's studio, where they meet a detective sergeant attempting to make sense of alien soup all over the ground, and other profusions of weirdness. Ironhorse does his favourite narrow-eyed expression and says that he doesn't know anything, in a tone of voice that makes it blatantly obvious he's telling lies.

Harrison has left a message, which leads to a bizarre moment of complicated thinking from Ironhorse and Suzanne. Q = a triangle clearly means that Quinn is an alien, as aliens do everything in threes. They translate it as being a delta sign rather than a simple triangle, however, and discuss how, in mathematics, delta represents base three, which is the method by which the aliens work. Huh? Still, it does give Ironhorse the chance to prove that he does actually have a brain.

Outside, Ironhorse theorises how Harrison may now be an alien. So he decides to ring him up and ask.

More running about in dark tunnels. Harrison's phone rings, which is brilliant. Modern cell phones don't work in secret underground tunnels, so clearly the ones back in 1988 were a whole lot better. Quinn throws it away, where the pursuing aliens find it, and its helpful "Harrison Blackwood" label. Cue dramatic chords and a malevolent stare.

Quinn has a secret underground base! It's a little room off from the subway tunnels, and it's awesome. It's full of techie stuff and steampunk gear, and it's like the Torchwood base in miniature. Except there's no pterodactyl living in the roof. (At least that I could see).

Once inside, Quinn entertains himself by tormenting Harrison for a bit with his forcefieldy wristband device thing. He's great, is Quinn. He switches from friendly to evil in the blink of an eye. His thirty-five years living as a human have changed him, but he's still alien, and still ruthless; just not in the uncompromising way of the rest of his species. He's the perfect antagonist for Harrison.

Harrison might disagree, but given that he's still making overtures of friendship even now, perhaps not.

Quinn spits venom about the human race and their pollution and violence, etc. He doesn't want to be friends. Well, maybe with Harry. Just not with anybody else.

He announces that Harrison is to speak for him at the UN conference, and put an ultimatum before the Council. The Earth will be given to Quinn to rule, and ninety percent of humanity will be wiped out to make way for alien colonists. The other ten percent will be given a reservation somewhere. Otherwise, defeat by the aliens is inevitable, and all human life will then be destroyed. Harrison is not greatly enthused by this plan.

Quinn tells him that he gets to choose the ten percent who will live. Oddly enough, this doesn't greatly thrill Harrison either.

The detective sergeant in charge of the case gets aliened. Not sure why. Possibly to make it easier to hunt down Quinn and Harrison, although it doesn't really make any difference. I think the writers just keep feeling they ought to stick in some above ground stuff every once in a while to give the rest of the cast something to do; which is a shame, as underground is definitely more interesting.

Running about in tunnels!

Also, secret trapdoors. Why there are so many tunnels and trapdoors in New York, I have no idea. Apparently the UN aren't terribly security conscious, as this particular trapdoor leads straight into the building where they're having their security conference. Which is a little ironic.

Quinn locks them into a translation booth with a funky laser lock. The amazing powers of dodgy special effects will keep them sealed in for half an hour. I assume the plan is to practice Harrison's "Let's kill ninety percent of the world!" speech, or Quinn just wanted to show off his laser skills, or something. I don't know.

Some aliens have followed them though, and thanks to the laser lock, which can't be opened by anyone or anything for half an hour, Quinn and Harrison are trapped.

Quinn offers up Harrison in exchange for his life, but the aliens are more interested in cutting him up to see how he works; with Harrison as a fun bonus on the side.

Harrison does his "Let's be friends, and you can come and be a human with me!" speech again. He's nothing if not persistent. Quinn isn't interested in being just another human, though. He wants to be ruler of the world. I guess it's hard to settle for being a freedom fighter in a secret lab underneath a country cottage when you've set your heart on being the supreme ruler of an entire planet.

Harrison builds a home-made flame thrower out of cleaning materials, and prepares for the alien onslaught.


All three aliens are rather impressively melted to death. Then it's back to running about in tunnels.

Ironhorse is also in the tunnels, looking for aliens and Harrison; and possibly a now alien Harrison.

Quinn fakes out the aliens who are chasing them by some sort of amazing light pulse energy bomb thing that he hides in his mouth. Then he blasts them all to kingdom come with one of their guns, just to be extra sure that they're finished.

You really don't want to get on the wrong side of this man.

Quinn decides there's time enough for just a little more intimidation, before thanking Harrison for the home-made flame thrower assistance, and then freeing him from the forcefieldy wristband thing. Then he disappears into the shadows, whispering that they'll be seeing each other again.

Ironhorse arrives, rather suspiciously, and wonders if Harrison is an alien.

Harrison offers to crack jokes to prove he's human, but wisely Ironhorse turns him down.

Then they go off to tell the UN (or about three people, which is presumably as much of a global conference as the budget would stretch to) all about the aliens.

Whilst, back up on the streets, Quinn slips away into the night.

This really is a very good episode. It has its faults, and I have no idea why Quinn thinks he can persuade the UN to give him the planet, particularly just by getting Harrison to ask them. Shouldn't he have tried scrobbling a world leader instead? He's such a good character, though. He knows everything. He's the super-strong, super-smart enemy that the aliens have been claiming to be all along; but he actually manages it, while they don't. His relationship with "Harry" is perfectly judged, especially in how it switches from friendly one minute to outright menacing the next; no more so than when he casually offers Harrison to the aliens in an attempt to save himself. Quinn should have been the main antagonist all along. For all that the steampunk Vorlons in their secret cave are cool, they have little personality, practically no mobility, and their plans are all rubbish. Plus they're only interested in killing everything, which doesn't exactly allow for much manoeuvrability in the plot. Quinn is half human though, or near enough; that makes him different. I want an entire series of Quinn vs Harry. With dark tunnels, underground bases, ruthlessness and a peculiar friendship. Instead, despite his promise to see Harrison again, this is the only time they ever met. I'd like to think that they did get together occasionally; but if they did, they didn't do it when there were any cameras around. That really is one hell of a shame.


( 4 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Feb. 13th, 2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
This sounds like one of the best episodes so far. It's about time they pulled out the big guns and introduced a worthy adversary for the team. And you know New York may be chock full of passageways, I just haven't found any yet. lol. I wonder if that idea took hold because of the 'Beauty and the Beast' series with all the tunnels and lairs and passages? Why not? We do have secret subway tunnels that were built and never used. There may be one they fixed up so people can tour. I will have to find out and go someday. :) Great review. I can tell you were really into this episode.
Feb. 15th, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)
I think every city has tunnels. They're great for storytelling. London has loads of the things, some dating back to Roman times, which inspired one of my favourite books - "Neverwhere", by Neil Gaiman. New York must have plenty as well. You should definitely go hunting for some, and report back. ;)
Feb. 16th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
Oh that's right, London…Brittania, It would have some very ancient Roman tunnels! I certainly will report if I find anything cool out there. I read up on the book "Neverwhere", it sounds fascinating. I'll have to check it out.
Feb. 16th, 2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
I love it. If you do decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it. :)

Fairly good TV miniseries as well, though made for absolutely no money at all!
( 4 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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