THE ARK — “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” Season 1 Episode 5 — Pictured: (l-r) Tiana Upcheva as Eva Markovic, Christie Burke as Lt. Sharon Garnet — (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

Review: Who Doesn’t Like A Good Old-Fashioned Radiation Leak? – Ep. 1.5

I’m not gonna lie to you good people, I like a nice, toxic, deadly radiation leak in the icy cold blackness of space. I’m sure the leadership and crew of Ark 1 weren’t thrilled at its slimy green arrival, nor the bodies that lay about after being trapped with the deadly gasses, but folks – I Iike it. It’s a little gem of a sci-fi trope that I don’t tire of. Much appreciated, “The Ark.”

In the fifth episode of this SYFY offering, titled “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back,” the hearty crew of Ark 1 once again found itself on the edge of obliteration until one selfless, somewhat lying lad, sacrificed for the greater good. While Khan would have been delighted by my “icy cold of space” comment, and Spock fans can’t help but be gleefully aware of the “needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one” vibe at play, I was simply enjoying some fun storytelling and the continuation of backstory upon backstory.

THE ARK — “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” Season 1 Episode 5 — Pictured: (l-r) Christie Burke as Lt. Sharon Garnet, Reece Ritchie as Lt. Spencer Lane — (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

It feels as though “The Ark” has really hit its stride, really found its rhythm and rhyme in terms of tension, vibe, storytelling and more than a little fun along the way. It’s a show that, when it ends, I’m anxious to get through another week to see where it’s all headed. I think that bodes well for a show like this. Let’s face it, the sci-fi shelf life isn’t a long one for many shows, but after watching Dean Devlin and his cast of merry monarchs wrest essentially 4+ seasons from the fantasy-adventure gem, “The Outpost,” I’d not wager against him.

SPOILERS AHEAD. You have been warned.

In episode 5, the folks aboard the Ark are once again confronted with potential disaster with the radiation leak. Bulkhead doors are shut automatically, people are trapped and eventually die, and it’s clear that if they can’t get a handle on this, Gilligan and the Skipper’s three-hour cruise will have been a far happier jaunt. But a hero is never far away, and usually a little unexpected.

THE ARK — “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” Season 1 Episode 5 — Pictured: (l-r) Tamara Radovanović as Jelena Griff, Steven Moore as William Mulcahy, Arsenije Berić as Ralph Gregor, Christina Wolfe as Cat Brandice — (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

Felix Strickland’s murder investigation comes full circle as, through some interesting investigation and timely slips of information, we find out that Baylor Trent had not only used Alicia Nevin’s tablet to try and frame Garnet, but also Alicia. Now, quick point – I find Alicia Nevins a little too giddy, a little too unfiltered, a little too “I’m perpetually excited” in a schoolgirl way. I admit, the character bugged me. But, thanks to her hallucination in the previous episode, we got a look at her mom-zilla and suddenly I have grace for this character. She’s literally a puppy let outside for the first time – “squirrel!”

And through Baylor’s hallucination, we find that he’s part of a secret order devoted to something special that’s on the ship. He’s got a job to do and, in the end, he was willing to use anyone to keep his secret – that he killed Jasper Dades, who, in that other classic trope, knew too much. And with that revelation, the timer is set in motion. As the ship approaches its tipping point from a radiation death standpoint, Baylor decides that the only way to save the mission is to save the ship. Fortunately, we are given a fun little rundown on Baylor’s unique skill set. Lock picker, anyone?

THE ARK — “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” Season 1 Episode 5 — Pictured: Pavle Jerinic as Felix Strickland — (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

I gotta say, actor Miles Barrow does a good job of pulling you in. There’s a real sense of commitment to the cause in his face as he volunteers. It’s intense, it’s passionate and it’s stone-cold focused on making sure that the secret cargo is kept safe. I liked what I saw – but happy he’s dead in all that radiation sickness glory. Of course, you could kind of see this coming as he was standing in the way of the relationship of the century in Alicia and Angus. Nerdy sexual tension is something special, isn’t it? Now that Baylor has made the ultimate sacrifice to save the ship, we now are set for some more action and romance. So let it be written, so let it be done!

The real interesting twist in the Baylor saga was that he was able to sell the plan to Lt. Lane. A little private conversation and Lane, who once again spent considerable time trying to undermine Lt. Garnet, was all for the youngster going for a run through radiation poisoned halls. So, as the ship was being saved, the real question was how Baylor convinced Lane, who gave Garnet some BS answer to that question, an answer I guarantee she didn’t buy.  Fortunately, Lane proceeded to show us the answer behind a couple hidden doors in the ship.

THE ARK — “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” Season 1 Episode 5 — Pictured: (l-r) Richard Fleeshman as Lt. James Brice, Reece Ritchie as Lt. Spencer Lane, Tiana Upcheva as Eva Markovic, Stacey Read as Alicia Nevins, Christie Burke as Lt. Sharon Garnet — (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

Turns out, Ark program creator William Trust and his wife are sleeping comfortably in his and her pods. Shocking moment, right! I have to be honest here, after listening to Baylor talk about “balance” all the time and then reflecting on his hallucination with his mentor/lover, I’m feeling a little vibe of cultishness about this whole revelation. And judging by the trailer for the next episode, were word of Trust’s presence on the ship to get out, there could be trouble. Apparently, he’s not a thoroughly popular chap. Interesting twist, isn’t it?

Honestly, it’s one thing after another with this ship. I can see why having them sleep in hidden seclusion all the way to their new destination was probably a wise strategy. This promises to be another juicy story point.

Let me harken back to the hallucination episode. That was such a fun way to give us some really valuable backstory. I continue to be delighted by the little nuggets of information that drips out about so many of the main crew. I think backstory is vital to give characters fuller dimension and to make them curious entities to us. I keep asking myself, “What’s the deal with this person?”

THE ARK — “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” Season 1 Episode 5 — Pictured: Christina Wolfe as Cat Brandice — (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

Lane has been of particular curiosity for me. Yes, he’s played by Reece Ritchie, whom I’ve come to really enjoy in anything he’s in, but the character is exasperating on some levels. Five episodes in, he just can’t let his enmity towards Garnet go. I mean, he’s hung up on her joining the crew just before the left? That she’s a clone who could implode at any minute (he just learned that)? I mean, it’s been a little too heated for too little reason for my tastes. She even throws him the olive branch of being her “No. 2,” but he just can’t stop trying to undermine her or, worse, eliminate her.

We even got a nice shot from Dr. Kabir about a “small penis” in regards to Lane. I thought he’d softened a bit in episode 4, then he’s trying to get her voted out in episode 5. Once again, at the end, they shake hands and he seems to have softened, but now that he’s become the keeper of the “trust,” what direction will that take him?

Cat Brandice (Christina Wolfe) and Eva Markovic (Tiana Upcheva) are two fantastically strong, focused, direct women characters that, though they kind of shimmy through the plotline in understated ways at times, you can’t not enjoy when they are on the screen. Cat has been forced into an empathetic role, a role she doesn’t necessarily want, but one that she seems to have an accidental aptitude for. She’s seen and been through a lot and even though she doesn’t value that experience, it proves vital on many levels.

THE ARK — “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” Season 1 Episode 5 — Pictured: (l-r) Cosmo Kay as Nathan Stark, Miloš Cvetković as Sasha Novak — (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

Markovic is the de facto lead engineer and there’s a ton on her shoulders and she’s just got this “I’m exhausted, but I’m doing it” vibe all the time. She is tough as nails, emotionally hurting and terrified to let anyone down. I like these two characters a ton and like the way they impact the scenes they are in. It’s never boring or wasted. What a gift, right?

The leaders of “The Ark,” Brice, Lane and Garnet, are slowly morphing into just that – leaders. They bickered and fought and undermined the faulty attempts at leadership early on, but time and circumstances are starting to not only spark some mutual respect, but also creating true leadership skills and abilities. It’s subtle, but I note a marked change from early on. They are getting there and it’s fun to watch.

In fact, most of the main characters have slid, no matter how clunkily, into the roles they will have moving forward. The ship that lost its entire command structure is slowly but surely rebuilding. While we’ve seen the worst of a leaderless group (let’s call them a mob), we are starting to see the best of what happens when leadership that is focused on the “we,” rather than the “me,” is projected outwards. I like where the show is at as it enters its second half. And what’s with Brice’s knee?

And with that, Ark 1 continues on its way – secrets and all.

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