Lost In Space – Cogito Ergo Cometa
THE ARK – Season 1 Episode 4 – (limited spoilers)
Angus (Ryan Adams) discovers that the crystalline substance that dissolved Brice’s glove in Episode Two is something odd. “Whatever hit us is made of a completely unknown element,” he explains. “This is a basic element. Think high school chemistry. The periodic table. Except this element is not on the periodic table. It’s made of something that hasn’t been discovered on Earth, which means it probably doesn’t exist on Earth. That means it’s found somewhere else.” There are not many ways to fit a new stable element into the periodic table. Angus hints that the stuff may have been artificially created, very possibly by extraterrestrials.
Ark One mined water from a comet in Episode Three, and something got past the ship’s filtration system and into the drinking water causing the crew to hallucinate. As Dr. Kabir (Shalini Peiris) explains: “The foreign toxin is smaller than a water molecule. It’s a compound not found on Earth, so our systems couldn’t have been prepared for it. I ran the toxin through the GC mass spectrometer to get a better idea of what we’re dealing with. Its structure is similar to ergot alkaloids on Earth…This new toxin is targeting brain function, cardiovascular systems, and electrical signals in the body.”
Few molecules are smaller than water molecules and those that are either ionize in water or are a gas when water is a liquid. Angus says that the toxin is “a complex molecule. A combination of stuff that we’ve seen before.” The molecules of the ergot alkaloids we have seen are much larger than water molecules. The only way to make them smaller would be to decrease the distance between the atoms. Ark One has not traveled very far outside the solar system, and has already encountered an inexplicable element, and a similarly inexplicable compound.
Dr. Kabir tells Angus that “our hallucinations are tied to actual fears or fantasies in our brains” so it’s worth noting that when the alien alkaloid affects Spencer Lane (Reece Ritchie) he conjures up a fascist version of Lieutenant Brice. Alicia Nevins (Stacey Read) gets what she fears most, criticism from her domineering mother. James Brice (Richard Fleeshman) imagines that the doctor has him in restraints and is forcing him to surrender a blood sample. Angus Medford‘s imaginary version of Captain Garnet helps him identify the comet water problem. Ensign Trent (Miles Barrow) converses with (and kisses) a ghostly Susan Ingram. (We find out that Ingram, who apparently died when the cryobay collapsed, also recruited Trent into a cryptic cabal of unknown purpose.)
Acting Chief of Security Felix Strickland (Pavle Jerinic) is haunted by the husband and young daughter he left behind on Earth. Strickland is a tenacious investigator often to the point of impracticality. (His questioning often distracts critical personnel from important work.) Strickland is not military, and because of that he might be the person originally intended to be in charge of security. He has a mysterious assistant whose prime function seems to be the intimidation of suspects, and is never referred to by name.
Ark One is not where it’s supposed to be. The crew was awakened after sleeping for five years and the ship should be slowly decelerating as it nears the Centauri system. (It must match speed with the system before it can land.) It seems likely that someone woke up while the others were asleep, slowed the Ark, and changed the mission parameters without telling anybody. Proxima Centauri is not a very bright star, but the Centauri System is quite bright when viewed from Earth and if Ark One is heading in that direction that system should be the brightest thing on their viewscreen. It does not seem to be.
The ship has a NEPS propulsion system. According to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Association, here’s how that kind of engine works: “Nuclear Electric Propulsion converts thermal energy generated by a nuclear reactor into electricity, which is then used to ionise (positively charge) an inert gas propellant (Xenon, Krypton). In the final step, an ionized propellant is accelerated out of the thruster by an electromagnetic field creating a low amount of thrust, pushing the spacecraft forward.
Episodes can be streamed the following day on PEACOCK.