Well, it is good to continue reading Year Two, the revised novelization Omnibus. First time around starting the Omnibus, I had actually stopped very early on (in the middle of "The Metamorph") when I realized there seemed to be new loose ends and found out there was added continuity and decided I really ought to get the other Powys books and read them in order. I had bought Year Two first because when I became active in fandom again in 2007, it looked as if the Omnibus was going to sell out pretty soon and I'd better get moving. Now, besides restarting with "The Metamorph" (see review), I finally get to forge ahead.
First, though, a bit of viewing background. The televised episode is for me not among the tops of the season, though it is far from the bottom. One thing that surprised me upon viewing this episode again in 1992, for the first time since the 1970's, was wondering where the missing episode was, between "The Metamorph" and "The Exiles" -- it took me awhile to realize there wasn't one! The new Psychon character apparently integrated rapidly into Alpha, though in subsequent episodes, it was clear (albeit subtle) that there was still adjustment and change over time, on both sides.
Still, I always felt there was a gap. The original novelization followed "Metamorph" with some bridging aspects in parts of at least the next story that followed, which, though not labeled directly as such, was of "The AB Chrysalis" (ABC).
Actually, that brings up a minor tangent on names. The original novelizations had chapters that were smaller than the original episodes, meaning it took a few chapters per episode. It did not label separate episodes. In some ways, that was fairly effective, trying to smooth over the "borders" between episodes. I'm not sure this always worked well in other ways, though. The Omnibus simply divides by episode name, eschewing chapter or numerical labeling at all (though this extended review still refers to these episodic division as chapters). This multi-webpage review will perhaps bring up points relating to this tangent (where it is less tangential), from time to time.
In my opinion, there was one problem with the original novelization's attempt to smooth the way from "Metamorph" to ABC, however. I was fine suspending disbelief on the changed "timing" of ABC, deciding (my speculation) that at the time, Butterworth perhaps ignored the Days After Breakaway times in Y2 and finding better connections, or perhaps the DAB's not being originally scripted until the final stages of filming. It was actually the writing at the end of "The Metamorph" novelization implying they were picking up explosions that were then those of the chlorine planet. What I couldn't figure is why that would be so close to the Psychon system, or why Maya wouldn't have known more about it in that case. I appreciated the inter-episode bridging attempt, but do not know how the choice of episode came about.
I went along with it at the time, though, and enjoyed some nice additions in that novelization that did show some aspects of Psychon and Terrans finding out more about each other. The crisis so immediately followed Psychon that Maya ends up in an Eagle mission to the chlorine planet, and some of her computational abilities make a quick appearance, and she starts adjusting to the systems, and fitting in socially. So the original novelization had much more clear signs of such than the episodes' more subtle (perhaps eye of beholder) signs.
With the new novelization, I was curious of course to see how "The Exiles" was novelized in and of itself; but also to see how, given this earlier bridgework from "Metamorph" to ABC had to be torn down, what might appear in its place going from "Metamorph" to "Exiles" in the revised novel.
In terms of Maya starting to adjust, there was good replacement for that in the new novelization. It was done nicely, in some more detail this time. She was again portrayed as adjusting rapidly. However, it more realistically shows it is not without some problems. This includes references an interesting reaction from an unexpected source that I thought was creative (more in the Mild Spoilers section later on this webpage). Helena's mostly happy about the progress, though, seeming almost giddy at one point (worded in a way, however, that I had trouble making sense of it).
Much of this was in the summary of what appears to be a large emplaced loose end to an entire other story (novel?) that I have not seen in evidence anyway, but what I assume is an in-development story that sounds rather intriguing but... missing. Or maybe it is simply an open end posited as an event that occurs between Psychon and the Golos area, though it sounds detailed enough to be a summary of another whole story. I'm intrigued. The episodes indicate about two months in between, and the novelization seems to assume plenty of time in between as well, for an "unfilmed" adventure, so to speak.
Oh, that reminds me.... I had to chuckle at a good line Helena used in discussing that incident for her log: "Following events on the planet Ekimmu—already recorded on film...."
Also, appropriately enough as it turns out, there are a lot of references to another Powys Novel, namely Survival.
In fact, there are various new tie-ins, some in addition to ones already in the earlier novelization, some as replacements for prior references. Whether these are to Y1, "The Metamorph," foreshadowing future events in Y2, or to Y1 timeframe Powys novels, these all work well, across the board. Where these are changes between novelization versions, they all appear to be improvements, so far.
Also, nice little explanation about Helena's role recording logs in Y2.
As to the core of "The Exiles" story itself....
One of the interesting points of the episode and the novelizations is the life support problem. There was a statement in Y1 about life support factors limiting Alpha's population, and now in this chapter/episode as well. Koenig decides they cannot take on 53 more people here. This was an already understandable difficulty in the series, including in this situation where it interferes with what at first seems like the chance to rescue 50+ people.
There is also Koenig's suspicion about Cantar and Zova. Though he's always been pretty canny about such things, he still takes some striking actions here. The broadcast episode set this up sufficiently, I think, but it did seem fertile territory for more development. There was some in the earlier novelization, by referencing, very briefly, events in Y1, not specifically but in general, if I recall correctly. This version expanded on that further, and very well.
There are various points of difference between the episode on Omnibus, which I'll cover in some detail in the Mild Spoilers section several paragraphs from now; but in summary at this point, I found some positive, some puzzling, some just pacing changes, and some that "work either way."
The Omnibus "adds" in the episode's ending, whereas the original novelization had an abrupt shift to the next story in the altered order of that series ("Beta Cloud"). Well, not totally abrupt, because it was being set up in the later parts of the original "Exiles" novelization. Still, I think the revision is improved for reaching the climax and going to a denouement for this chapter rather than launching right into setup for the next.
So far, in comparing (from just a few chapters) the earlier novelization attempts at drawing episodes into a coherent whole, and the first few attempts at doing so in this version, I am already preferring this new take. It is too early to make overall conclusions, but here are some impressions from the first few....
The original novelizations made it seem like the poor Alphans are barely finishing one crisis when they're into the next -- again for at least the first few I've compared while reading the Omnibus. Like I said, I do recall appreciating the effort when I first read the earlier novelizations in the mid-1990's; I think I was left wondering why it was done with such a sense of claustrophobic timing.
Already, I'm starting to like that there is a similar attempt to flow from episode to episode in the Omnibus as well, but using different methods which do not give that sense of over-compressed timing, drawing up better connections within Y2, to Y1, to Powys novels, etc.
So this novelization stands well with the broadcast episode, adding more detail (positive), making some changes that often work but sometimes didn't for this reviewer. There is a lot more character depth added, even if occasionally at the cost of compressing the plot slightly in a few points (a more than fair tradeoff in this particular case), while themes remain intact, or are improved with drawing more on past incidents as a continuity of Alphan experience. Where this new version shines the most are in the changes from the original novelization. In some ways, this is comparing apples and oranges because of the differences in episode order between the two novelization versions; but to me the start of this version's "Exiles" is much more effective at the beginning, especially considering early integration stages of a new character, and making that more realistic, as well as "restoring" the episode's original ending as a denouement that works better in this case than just trying to launch directly into the next encounter.
Overall, the Omnibus has a much better version than the original novelization, and in fact, I think it often exceeds the original episode, not by a wide margin and not on every point, but well regardless.
After this point follows a more detailed analysis of some points, with what could be considered some mild spoilers for points in the Omnibus. If needed, the Reviewer's Introduction has more detail on what that means in this context, as it is a little different than in most of my analyses. If you don't want spoilers for this chapter, you can continue to the review of the next chapter. Otherwise, continue on to....
Detailed Analysis with Mild Spoilers
John feels some guilt over Mentor's death, not necessarily over having to defeat Mentor, but that it was John's actions which left Maya without a father and her original home. Interesting and very unexpected addition, and I like the way Helena's observation over John's struggles reconciling this segues into Helena wondering (in an essentially positive way) about her own deepening relationship with John and their possible future.
Interesting line about more of the Alphan males seeming to "intuit Maya's true nature" than the females. At first, the line seemed kind of dropped in there. (I'm not sure if it was in the original novelizations, but that's not really the point here.) At first, I wasn't sure if it was leading to anything or just an observation made in passing. However, it does refer to recognition about trying to deal with tragedy, with implications elsewhere in this chapter about Maya largely just not talking about it much at these early stages, so I think I can see the possible meaning behind this, that the men appreciate her outward stoicism about it, and many of the women find it a little standoffish? I'm not certain of this speculative interpretation.
I liked the improved characterization about Maya and Tony. In the earlier novelization, his initial attraction just sort of lurched into a scene sort of abruptly, with a few comments about her to John that sort of fell flat to this reader. In the revisions, Tony is shown as not being so sure about the idea of making Maya the science officer, yet Helena has noticed he seems to be attracted to Maya as well, and we later get a scene (written in reprise) of a talk between him and John about Maya in terms of his and other Alphans' reaction to her -- professionally and personally. This is an improved approach, story-wise, with more depth to the initial stages of this, with more subtly. In fact, by the time Tony delivers one of the lines present in the original novelization that fell flat there, it rings much more true here.
Plus, there are more details about Maya and Helena having a relaxed conversation, as friends already, while Maya's also learning more about human culture. This scene adds more "behind the scenes" detail not present in the episode. This also leads up to the practical joke the two women play on John.
There are more signs of John and Helena's relationship, not only in the more relaxed scenes, but in other ways. In the novelization at one point, John's trying to draw on their relationship, while talking in a Medical context. He's trying to smooth over something he did that has made her angry, but his attempt to smooth over in this way is roundly rejected. "Realism" that every real relationship has its occasional fault lines or missteps.
I thought it somewhat unusual (in both versions of the novelization), that when Zova returns to Alpha, it is to Command Center (CC), and that John had brought Helena's clay self-portrait to CC some time earlier. That did not work well for me. I just thought it was out of character for him, even though he and Helena were clearly in love at this point, and that this sometimes that can change one's reactions. Still, I'm not sure I saw any reason for moving that whole scene to CC. Perhaps an early script had it taking place there? The broadcast episode having all this happening in quarters instead, with John, Zova, and Maya being the only ones present, holds up better for this scene, in my opinion. The latter seems more "in character" for John, and I think was a subtle development for Maya as well, that he brings her along.
Events in the Golosian control room feel a bit more compressed in some ways and expanded elsewhere in that scene in unexpected ways. There's something about preserved ancestors that I did not entirely follow on first read. Of course, the Golosians do have this technology, so I wonder if they perhaps are preserving their ancestors in hopes of finding cures later on, to extend there life longer and allow them to dispense more of their wisdom? Regardless, it makes it feel like this technology is used more often than just exiling some dangerous insurgents.
Once Helena pierces that protective film on Cantar, he seemed to age even faster in the novelization, with less cat and mouse between him and Helena. In the episode, however, the cat and mouse was perhaps more of a visual aspect; I'm neutral on this change. The aging, otherwise in common with the episode of course, has always struck me as highly fictional -- but one I've never had trouble "suspending disbelief" over.
Zova feeling that Cantar is dying and how it shocks her and allows the Alphans to cut her lines while they are in space is an interesting alternative interpretation. This eliminates the curious Exile ability to view events on their hands and makes more of a direct connection between the two, which by itself actually works well; but it also eliminates some of the setup John had in mind to perhaps undo Zova, but that is a minor point. Overall, either way works about as well, plot-wise.
Warning: These are spoilers to events in other Powys Media novels, especially Survival. They are brief but somewhat stronger spoilers, referring to key facts in those novels. If you have not read them, I would strongly suggest refraining from reading the following part of the review.
I touched briefly on the suspicion Koenig had about the Golosians from early on. The older novelization touched briefly on a reason not expressed in the episode, but the Omnibus went even further, taking additional steps towards further characterization on this plot point that is rather striking and "realistic."
There is bitterness and remaining mourning over the loss of Victor, and the circumstances of betrayal, that run deep, particularly in Koenig. John being Victor's close friend and Commander of Alpha, and responsible for the decision to trust the Leira, is taking the loss of Victor hard, and this is well-threaded through the revised "Exiles" novelization, in appropriate places. Butterworth uses this new background to explain well some of Koenig's reactions, in more detail than the episode had. This was done well.
Also, I've always found it interesting that Tony, generally untrusting at first but never paranoid (IMO), is actually more trusting of Cantar than Koenig is. Yet using more recent experience admixed explains or at least supplements very well regarding Koenig's reactions here. I took them at face value in the episode, but they are better characterized here. Interesting, unexpected, and effective bridging.
In fact, such efforts in this chapter draw heavily from the Leira encounter. Though effective, it could have threatened to be a little heavy handed too, but it nicely avoided that, in part because there is a statement in the Omnibus about the similarity triggering bitter memories. Drawing out the point about the similarity was a good move, I think, removing any question there might have been in my mind about leaning so heavily on one "recently-added" past tragedy. Nicely played.
Next: Review of "One Moment of Humanity"
Review of Y2 Omnibus (Intro page)
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