Due South: s02 e11 – Starman

Due South

For the first time on Due South I’ve watched an episode that completely failed. Neither funny nor clever, nor serious nor convincing, the very premise upon which it was based was a washout from start to finish, or rather non-finish because the ‘story’, by its very nature, could not be given a concrete ending.

The premise was simple: let’s bring back compulsive liar Ian MacDonald, once again played by Rino Romano, to annoy Ray Vecchio again and cause problems from him and Benton Fraser. Judging by the episode as a whole, that was the only point, as if MacDonald alone was enough for the episode. Certainly what they came up with for him to do had had very little consideration.

The episode began with a misleading open. Ian’s in bed in a Motel room, fingering an impressive engagement ring and talking to Audrey McKenna, who’s in the shower and who emerges with wet hair and the traditional man’s shirt that only just covers her private area which, as she is Amanda Tapping, later to be a prominent element of the Stargate franchise in all its parts, is no hardship. Ian’s proposing. Audrey looks shocked, as well she might do, having only met Ian in a bar late last night and hooked up with him for healthy life-enhancing sex. But before she can resist his slipping the ring on her finger, the door is kicked in, a bright light envelops the room, making things all Close Encounters, and the long-legged Audrey is dragged away, protesting she needs more time. How intriguing. More time for what? Is she a spy? A double agent? Getting a pair of jeans on? Is Ian under surveillance? What sinister thing are we watching?

In fact, thirty five minutes later, we learn that what we are watching is a prominent technician on an Army base being dragged back to her duties in a ridiculously OTT fashion, without rational justification, and that the ‘more time’ she needed was no more than one or other of handing the ring back or just shagging him again.

But this was what the episode was about, setting up a fake drama and then scrabbling to fill in time. Ian heads straight to Chicago to seek the assistance of Bennie and Ray to solve the question of his fiancee being abducted by aliens, presumably because Bennie is the only person under the sun gullible enough to listen to him. Ray won’t have anything to do with him – Ian’s previous appearance, in season 1’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Little’ was the episode in which Ray’s beloved Buick got turned into a fireball – but gets sucked deeper and deeper into a quagmire, the way he so often does. What the episode fails to persuade us at any time, unlike the usual formula, is that Bennie is right to pursue the matter.

The motel is in the Illinois town of Roswell, yes, the one with that secret base. There’s even an easter egg where we see Hangar 57. Ian has a travel firm, running UFO tours. Like every word that comes out of his mouth it’s an egregious lie, and Ian lies relentlessly, spinning out fantasies and delusions of grandeur way beyond the point of rationality, and when we see his passengers are all OAPs being conned, it does not improve his character. He’s meant to be funny but instead he’s everything Ray thinks of him, which does not work in favour of the story.

Anyway, to get to the point, Audrey works at the base where, as we near the end, we see she has a senior position in a lab that, it is strongly implied, is working on alien contact, but of course that can’t be more than implied and then dropped as if it is red-hot. To try to get to the bottom of this, Ian invades the base in his silly rocket-topped bus not once but twice, supported by Fraser who, understanding that for once Ian is being extremely serious about loving Audrey. Once is plausible, twice is ludicrous.

Strictly speaking, the number of crimes the trio have committed would result in at least thirty years imprisonment, providing the military don’t charge them with sedition, which involves large amounts of electricity. Improbably, given how utterly stupid Bennie and Ray have been to get themselves into this situation, the Canadian Government and the Chicago PD plead for leniency (admittedly on the grounds of Diminished Mental Capacity) and they’re let off. This is a proper Deep Space Nine moment where something has happened that is so monumentally game-changing that the series has to be transformed out of all recognition as an inevitable consequence of it – realistically, the show is dead, because no-one will allow Fraser or Vecchio to carry on after a boner of this size – but will be completely ignored next week.

There are two endings. Audrey comes to talk to Ian. She wants to return the ring but he wants her to keep it. She shyly admits he was nothing more to her than a cute shag and they make a date that night for another fuck, notwithstanding that her boss, the Colonel, has told Ian that if he so much as sees him within five miles of the base, he will shoot him between the eyes with the biggest ordnance the military are developing: ahh, romance.

The other was more problematic. The pensioners are played as half-dotty. Amongst them is a husband and wife. She keeps referring to their son, who is a pilot, who she has not seen in years and misses. It will come out that he was killed in action, though she believes he has gone to the stars. The show unwisely includes a scene where lights are used to imply that a UFO has landed and contacted the pensioners, and as ‘it’ rises to leave, the old lady whispers ‘Goodbye, son’. It’s not a bad scene in itself but it is out of place in context. It would have been a genuinely touching moment in a much better episode, in which that kind of hedging of bets would have been a grace note but here, no.

So we have had an absolute flop of an episode. It’s very disappointing, especially after last week. Let’s see what comes next before making too much of a judgement.

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