Episode 2: Star Of Desire

This is about the third time I’ve watched Outlaw Star, but the first time I’ve done so with something approaching a critical eye. What surprises me in this rewatching is how remarkably well put together the show is. In outline, “Star of Desire” isn’t very interesting. Melfina, the naked girl in a suitcase, wakes up. Everybody goes into space to an outlaw hideout. Melfina becomes less naked. Gene and Hilda piss people off. There’s not a lot there, but it is told well enough that it doesn’t become dull.

But to just say “this is well told” is a cop out. Let us be specific. “Star of Desire” if filled with ‘reversals’, little surprises that keep the show humming and us interested, even when the content isn’t inherently interesting. When they escape the pirates and Gene is finally fulfilling his dream of going out into space, he gets sick. He’s nervous, he shakes, and has to hold Melfina’s hand to get through the ride. This is the first sign of physical weakness that we’ve seen in Gene’s character, making him a little more 3-dimensional.

When they arrive on the outlaw satellite “Blue Heaven”, Gene pulls a gun on a friend of Hilda’s. Instead of being talked down and embarrassed, he pulls the gun away and admits he was bluffing. After getting into an argument at a bar, Gene pulls out his knife. Hilda holds him back, pulls out a nifty little taser-weapon and wins the fight all by herself. It is the small unexpected details that let the exposition roll right off our backs, placed in the parts where the otherwise mundane content could cause our attention to flag.

In this episode we also learn that the universe is roughly divided into 3 sections, space forces, pirates, and outlaws. This is, I suppose, a useful shorthand to summarize all the conflict in the galaxy, but I don’t like it. It is simplistic, and silly, and as the next episode shows factually incorrect: where do the K’tarrl K’tarrl fit in to this simplistic scenario? How about the merchants who sell equipment to any “side”? The problem I have with this little setup is that it tries to make an element of the setting explicit when it would have been better left implied, since these black and white terms make the universe seem contrived, and thus uninteresting. Not a major disaster, but a little disappointing. Factionalization in a story world can be fun, but it needs to be a little more complex than order/chaos/outsiders.
Rating :A-

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com