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Following Extraterrestrial Girl was always going to be a hard act to follow. A Place To Cling To made it worse by trying to do too many things at once.

A Place To Cling To isn’t a bad episode of Planetes per se, just a surprisingly clumsy one.

The Tag

The tag dives straight into the story with Hachimaki and Ai clearing the fully loaded cargo hold [1] of the Toy Box. Employees from another company are impressed, but not surprised: as a pilot Fee is one of the current legends. Hachimaki comments that the top brass haven’t caught on to how good Fee is [2].

Act One

Fee and Dolf in simpler times.

Fee and Dolf in simpler times.

Dolf is using a laptop in a common area when Fee joins him for lunch. There is some fairly nasty gossip going on in the background. The initial topic of conversation is the accountant that Fee spoke to in The Lunar Flying Squirrels, and the photo he gave her. It turns out that Dolf has something else to discuss with Fee.

On an upper level of the same area Ravi is finishing his usual grovelling to other managers. He is setting up a welcome reception for some VIP.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Ravi is a character I’m uncomfortable with. I smell negative stereotyping of Indians that doesn’t match my positive experiences of working with Indian IT professionals.

Ravi notices Fee talking to Dolf, and immediately jumps to the conclusion of an affair. The resulting wild speculation in the Debris Section is unpleasant, although Ai’s loyalty is commendable.

The only amusing part is the transformation in the temp Edel when she realises it is quitting time [3].

The sequence with the Debris Section spying on Fee in the common area is also poorly done, apart from Ai’s continued loyalty and generally better judgement. Ravi decides to “network” to find out what’s going on.

Hachimaki and Ai have an encounter with Claire from the control section. Ai is trying to see Dolf to ask him directly. This leads to both a formal introduction and something of a shouting match between Claire and Ai. I think the honours go to Claire here, but it is a close run thing.

Cheng-Shin is beating Hachimaki at Go whilst Hachimaki describes the encounter between Claire and Ai. Once again Cheng-Shin’s interest in Ai is clear, but Hachimaki remains clueless. Apparently the breakup between Hachimaki and Claire was partly due to Hachimaki’s father, and Cheng-Shin doesn’t think that’s enough of a reason.

The things that matter to Fee.

The things that matter to Fee.

Fee is in her quarters receiving a letter from her son [4]. The little model of the Toy Box is cute. Fee flashes back to the meeting with Dolf which was really an offer of a promotion to manage the Control Section.

Fee is left wondering why the people in the photo joined Technora, and as she does so the view pans across her quarters. I think this makes it fairly clear what is the most important part of Fee’s life.

This is when Ai shows up to spill the beans.

A certain amount of violence and hilarity ensues, although Fee doesn’t do any permanent damage. Although Fee is reluctant to discuss the promotion, she does mention the old company that they used to work for.

Cue Ravi to fill in all the details of Traum Space Development that was bought out by Technora about 10 years ago. Traum sounds more like a partnership than a hierarchical company.

A slightly tedious scene at a cafeteria queue gives Ai’s jealousy another chance, only this time Hachimaki hears it and clears things up. Ravi also finds out about the promotion from one of Dolf’s so-called subordinates.

Meanwhile Claire is briefing Fee on a particularly nasty piece of debris that no other company has managed to snag. It was expelled from an INTO lab module and has stealth properties [5]. Oh, and it is highly heat sensitive so it expands a lot when in sunlight.

Snagging the ghost would be a major coup for Fee, Dolf, and Technora.

Meanwhile Ravi has spilled the beans to the Debris Section in Fee’s absence (again). The discussion somehow turns to the Debris Section completing the next mission without Fee. The goal is to prove that they are competent enough to survive without her. This is partly because that’s the motive Hachimaki attaches to Fee not telling them about the promotion.

Misplaced as it is, Hachimaki shows some good leadership here.

Back in control section there is gossip hinting that Dolf is in line for a promotion to the board. This gossip succeeds in intentionally pissing off both Claire and Fee, although Fee is a lot more obvious about it.

Act Two

Fee is briefing the Debris Section on the mission, and is surprised by the full attendance. Edel is part of the conspiracy and fakes a phone call pushing the mission back by six hours. The gang persuade Fee to rest.

There is a brief scene of Dolf closing a meeting with a more senior executive. He promises a result, bows, but calls the executive a parasite after the lift doors close.

As Fee is trying to rest, the Toy Box is underway and the crew are attempting to find the ghost by sight.

Fee is remembering the merger with Technora, and is unable to sleep as a result.

Back on the Toy Box the otherwise useless chief manages to spot the ghost.

Hachimaki and Ai head for the fishbone retrieval craft as Fee heads for Debris Section.

In Debris Section some nameless character mentions that Fee is supposed to be sick.

The fishbone is making a visual approach to the ghost. There are signs here that Ai has really gotten better at monitor work. Claire in control is warning them about the short timeframe until nightside exit.

In Debris Section Fee is getting angry over Toy Box having left the station, and is amused by a new piece of jewelry that Edel is wearing [6].

The beacons have been attached to the ghost, which gives Claire an accurate orbital reading, and Toy Box two minutes less to complete recovery. Ravi is utterly incompetent with the remote arm, and creates secondary debris.

Edel is telling Fee everything, including the motivations of the Debris Section. Evidently Edel is smart enough to know when not to stay bribed.

Hachimaki uses the fishbone to push the ghost closer to the Toy Box. To his credit Ravi admits his incompetence, but Hachimaki delivers the traditional inspiring speech. Ravi succeeds in grabbing it just as they exit nightside.

Things are getting nasty with Hachimaki and Ai trapped inside the liquefied ghost.

This is when Fee arrives in Control Section and starts snapping out orders. The Toy Box is large enough to cover the ghost in shadow, and Yuri is a good enough pilot to manage this.

Hachimaki and Ai head for the edge of the ghost to get at least partially clear, Ravi manages to get the ghost inbound, and Yuri closes the cargo bay.

Fee turns down the promotion in order to stay in the field, but has a final chat with Dolf. Dolf is trying to move up in Technora in order to achieve something of value to humanity, although it isn’t clear yet what that is.

However he thinks he has changed for the worse, but Fee asks him to climb back into the light.

To do his job the right way, so that Fee can be happy doing her job in the field.

Things To Come

This is the first real look at Dolf and his ambitions. The question raised here is whether Dolf will use the ends to justify his means.

The episode ends with an actual smile from Dolf, which I think means that Dolf came to the right answer. That said, Dolf will still deal with the darkness from time to time in the coming episodes.

Edel is slowly being revealed as a far more complicated character than just “the temp”. Like most of the major supporting cast, Edel will have A Day In The Lime Light episode later. As I recall it is one of the better episodes in the series.

Summary

The single biggest problem with A Place To Cling To is a lack of focus. The episode is trying to do far too much. It is trying to

  • Establish the Debris Section as more than a team, as true companions;
  • Once more demonstrate that Fee is purely awesome;
  • Humanise the cold, remote, Dolf;
  • Demonstrate Hachimaki’s growth as a character
  • Flesh out some of the back story for Hachimaki and Claire, as well as some other minor character stuff.

A Place To Cling To is trying to do all of this in 23 minutes, and has to rely on the highly problematic character of Ravi to keep things moving.

Ravi is the second major problem in A Place To Cling To. Ravi becomes more of a caricature every time he appears, and is one of the few wrong notes in the Planetes suite.

Overall A Place To Cling To is a necessary but flawed episode, with the flaws made more prominent by being placed immediately after the fabulous Extraterrestrial Girl.

Day 1: Outside the Atmosphere
Day 2: Like a Dream
Day 3: Return Trajectory
Day 4: Part of the Job
Day 5: Fly Me to the Moon
Day 6: The Lunar Flying Squirrels
Day 7: Sub vs Dub
Day 8: Extraterrestrial Girl
Day 9: A Place To Cling To
Day 10: Regrets
Day 11: A Sky of Stardust
Day 12: Boundary Line
Day 13: A Modest Request
Day 14: Scenery with a Rocket
Day 15: ???
Day 16: Turning Point
Day 17: In Her Case
Day 18: Ignition
Day 19: His Reasons
Day 20: Debris Section, The Last Day
Day 21: Endings are Always…
Day 22: ???
Day 23: Tentative Steps
Day 24: Tandem Mirror
Day 25: Exposure
Day 26: Debris Cluster
Day 27: Love
Day 28: The Lost
Day 29: And the Days we Chance Upon…
Day 30: Looking back at Planetes

Omake: English Cast Interviews

The disc two interview is with Jamieson Price (Yuri) and follows a similar pattern to the earlier interviews.

As it happened I was watching this just after A Sky of Stardust, and this added a lot to my appreciation of Mr Price’s work. Definitely recommended, but wait until after watching A Sky of Stardust to get the full effect (and avoid any spoilers).



[1] Oh and Ai is still jealous of Nono monopolising Hachimaki’s time in the hospital.


[2] Famous last words…


[3] There will be no screenshots of Edel’s transformation until In Her Case. Spoilers…


[4] I do wonder if the ship name Toy Box was inspired by Fee’s son.


[5] In other words that oh-so-peaceful INTO is conducting military research in space.


[6] Evidently Edel was bribed to participate, and Fee is no fool.