Resin Heroes

Space: Above and Beyond Review #10: Stay with the Dead



Originally aired December 3, 1995

Lt. Nathan West arrives aboard the USS Saratoga alone and seriously wounded with the rest of the 58th arriving KIA in body bags. West is having problems come to terms with the death of all his friends but when he can’t stop thinking “stay with the dead,” West realizes that the 58th might not all be gone after all.

Nathan West in hospital

Nathan West in hospital

“Stay with the Dead” is another Space: Above and Beyond episode that was much stronger than I remembered. This episode is an interesting study on what some combat vets go through after the battle’s over as well as having some interesting elements of cutting back and forth between Nathan West in the hospital at present with a brain injury and flashing back to him on the battlefield with the rest of the 58th.

The 58th are sent to a planet called Keres to rescue the 61st who were sent their to rescue the 72nd. But it’s a Chig held planet and the enemy has no qualms about booby trapping wounded Marines to kill anyone trying to help the injured. The 58th gets into a position where it’s a matter of them saving themselves rather than the 61st.

Paul Wang stalks the Chigs

Paul Wang stalks the Chigs

Much of the episode is told via flashbacks, glimpses really, that West has of the fight with the Chigs. Everyone on the Saratoga is convinced that the 58th are dead (spoiler alert, we’re not yet half way through the season, they’re not) but West has his doubts. But are those doubts a symptom of his injury or real?

In “Stay with the Dead” we get a good look at medical treatment in 2063. This treatment is a bit more advanced than it was back in ’95 when the episode aired but not more advanced than it really is today 19 years later. We also see some 2063 treatment options doctors use to treat vets with PTSD. Their solution is pretty brutal; to wipe the memory of the soldier to a point before the trauma. And no trauma = no PTSD. I can’t imagine that without consent given by the soldier for this to be done, which West never gives, this would be something that could ethically be done yet that’s what almost happens to West.

The big issue I have with this episode, other than a few small things which are below in the “Goofs,” is realistically anyone with the kind of wounds that Nathan West suffered in battle would be shipped home for better treatment. In three days West goes from recovering from his wounds to the doctors ready to wipe his memory which is BLAZING fast for medical treatment. Front line medical facilities are generally in place to provide immediate treatment and to stabilize the patient before shipping them off to better facilities behind the lines. And West, with a brain injury who’s going through an extreme version of PSTD would almost surly eventually be on a ship headed back somewhere safe before the memory-wipe.

Wounded and booby trapped  Hatfield

Wounded and booby trapped Hatfield

The twist with “Stay with the Dead” is that the living 58th had switched their uniforms with the dead 61st using htem to lure in the Chigs to an ambush. But things go wrong and much of the 58th were driven away during a counter attack leaving a wounded West to “stay with the dead.” And since the team from the Saratoga who recovered West also recovered the 61st wearing the uniforms of the 58th they think it’s the 58th who are dead and not the 61st. But at the last minute, just before the surgery, West remembers and is able to convince T.C. McQueen that the last hope the 58th have is with West having an unaltered memory.

I’m starting to come to the conclusion that while SAaB does have a season long story, mankind vs the Chigs, it’s probably a mistake to watch each episode with 21st century Lost/Sopranos/Battlestar Galactica/The Americans sensibilities where each episode is a direct chapter in this story. Watched alone without tying it directly to the previous or next episode, “Stay with the Dead” really works. We have a broken a battered West with a brain injury and an uncertain future. “Stay with the Dead” doesn’t really work taking into consideration that ALL of the 58th were suffering physical and mental injuries after the previous “Choice or Chance” so why were they on this mission in the first place or that the next episode, “The River of Stars,” starts with West back in the pilot’s seat and seemingly okay.

Alone, most of the SAaB episodes work but back in 1995 the series wasn’t to the point of having a cohesive season-long story.  Grade: B.

 

Stray observations:

The 58th in their dress blues

The 58th in their dress blues

Portable devices in 2063 have graphics akin to the Apple Newton/Palm Pilots from the 1990s than smart phones of today.

New members of the 58th include Lyndon, Tell and Shankowicz.

Del Gato is a member of the 61st.

The battle takes place around December 3, 2063, or 68 years after the episode aired.

Commander S. R. Kanellos is the Chief Medical Officer of the Saratoga.

“Spammed” is Marine jargon for being killed. Perhaps this is a reference to the dead being buried in space in metal coffins?

One of the members of the 61st killed was a Lt. named Kristen M. Burris who was born in 2041 and who’s service number was 926-42-37008.

 

Favorite dialog:

'T.C.' McQueen in dress blues

‘T.C.’ McQueen in dress blues

Nathan West: “Every time I close my eyes I hear this familiar voice over and over, ‘stay with the dead.'”

Dr. Kanellos: “Actually, it’s recommended by the VA.”
‘T.C.’ McQueen: “Then something must be wrong with it.”

Dr. Kanellos: “I’d like to believe would come along way since the 20th century.”

Hatfield: “Don’t come over here, I’m rigged!”

Hatfield: “You killed my buddies, you shot me in the gut but you can’t touch my soul.”

Vanessa Damphousse: “We can’t help him.”
Nathan West: “It don’t mean we shoot him.”

Cooper Hawkes (upon entering their bunk empty of their personal materials): “We were only got three days!”

 

Goofs:

Are there only one nurse and doctor aboard the Saratoga? The same nurse and Dr. Kanellos who treat West when he first arrives on the Saratoga are the two who treat him while he’s recovering in the hospital and later on and are the same who start the mind erasing procedure on him in surgery.

It seems a stretch that the 58th would switch uniforms with the 61st since I can’t imagine the Chigs would be that detail oriented when confirming the dead. And it’s even more of a stretch that no one aboard the Saratoga would notice that the occupants of said uniforms don’t match the 58th after they’re brought to the ship.