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As I mentioned in the Gender, Diversity and Politics post I find Ravi painful to watch.

Debris Section, The Last Day is the episode of Planetes that almost made me like Ravi.

The Tag

The tag deals exclusively with the corporate complications from the meltdown of the Tandem Mirror in His Reasons. So far it has cost Technora 800 billion [1], and damaged Technora’s public image.

The solution is to put a buffer between Technora and the Jupiter Development Project by shuffling the project off into a separate company, and putting someone disposable in charge.

From the perspective of the Technora board, the disposable someone is Dolf.

As Dolf leaves the Second Division, Norman Schwimmer is put in charge of both Second and Third Divisions. Schwimmer was seen in Turning Point and has little reason to like the Debris Section.

Act One

Schwimmer also doesn’t waste any time: Act One starts with the announcement that the Debris Section is being disbanded.

Most of the characters in the Debris Section don’t handle this news well. The speculation rapidly turns to how bad things can get for the individual members, with Edel being the one to say “Fired.” Fee correctly picks this as revenge for the events in Turning Point, and Ravi is blaming Fee as a result.

It turns out that although separated Ravi has seven kids that he still needs to support. Ravi is going to try to persuade the bosses to change their minds through his comedy routines.

Look at the difference in the body language...

Look at the difference in the body language…

Ai runs out of the main room to tell Hachimaki of the news. He heard what they were saying inside, and doesn’t seem to care. The sense of Hachimaki’s withdrawal here is almost palpable, and I almost felt like yelling “you damn fool” at the screen whilst this scene was running.

Ai is fully subscribed to the importance of debris collecting being more important than profit, but Hachimaki just isn’t caring.

Hakim is wondering why Claire is on the promenade rather than at work. Claire has been relieved of all duty, partly because of her errors, and partly because of her association with Dolf. Claire jokes about going down to Earth to get married. After a brief silence Hakim mentions that his homeland is Mananga in the middle east [2]. The poverty from triggered a civil war, probably the one that was the reason for the memorial plate in Outside the Atmosphere.

Mananga is now such a basket case that elections can only be held with INTO’s help. The growing connection between Hakim and Claire is interesting, and being carefully nudged along.

Fee inspecting the Toy Box for the last time?

Fee inspecting the Toy Box for the last time?

Fee is in her own space suit doing an external check on the Toy Box before launch [3]. Doing so on the last trip is something of tradition among sailors. Yuri opens a private channel to discuss the impending end of the Debris Section.

Fee is fairly calm as she can collect debris with other companies. It isn’t the first time Fee has changed companies, and what was done to Dolf is clearly irritating her.

Ravi looks stupid (again) and Lucie is bored (I hope).

Ravi looks stupid (again) and Lucie is bored (I hope).

Ravi is doing what passes for his comedy routine [4], and is “rewarded” with a promise of a promotion to manager in General Affairs. Actually the most interesting part of this scene is seeing Lucie, and other flight attendants, at the dinner. They are clearly there for decorative purposes [5], and are equally clearly unimpressed by the whole business.

Hachimaki is studying the manual of EVA operations when Ai interrupts him. Ai mentions that EVA will be the least of their worries if the Debris Section is disbanded.

Hachimaki hints at the future when he says that there are other places he can do EVA. He is also surprisingly dismissive of the importance of collecting debris. Ai resolves to save the Debris Section all by herself if she has to, but Hachimaki barely notices when Ai stalks off.

Ravi is on the phone to his kids sharing the news of his coming promotion, and promising all kinds of gifts. The telling moment in this conversation is when one of his daughters asks “Who will keep space safe? “

Gigalt is complaining about being in hospital, but Hakim reminds him that not being fit endangers the entire team. This is when Hakim mentions that he’s quitting the OSA.

Ai is trying to force her way in to see Schwimmer, but is getting nowhere. Claire arrives and tells her it is useless.

That regular tactics won’t work for someone at the bottom trying to defeat someone at the top. This is an interesting comment coming from Claire, and one that will acquire more meaning later.

The Chief is attempting to put up a banner in the Debris Section, and failing badly. This is when his depression hits, and the Chief actually gets some sympathy from Edel [6].

The mission is underway and Ravi’s presence onboard has surprised Hachimaki. The somewhat subdued Ravi is holding a photo of his kids and mentioning that they really are corporate drones. Hachimaki is again studying the EVA manual and barely paying attention to the conversation.

The Toy Box receives a distress signal, and Fee moves to respond. Ravi approves, mentioning that rescuing a spaceship is the perfect end for the heroes that keep space safe.

Act Two

The derelict is an old work boat that is at least 20 years old. Fee takes control of organising docking, and planning the rescue.

The target ship still has pressure and circulation; the only systems that are down are the flight systems. As they board they hear an argument going on.

The (not so) bad penny turns up again.

The (not so) bad penny turns up again.

Well, well, look who’s here: the director from Fly Me to the Moon. This is when Fee notices some nearby debris with a relative velocity of zero.

The director is now doing journalism since he sold the last film for a lot of money. Ai is predictably unimpressed with this as they enter the bridge.

The ISPV-7 Control Section is denying permission for the Toy Box to retrieve the debris they spotted. No reasons are given, and an order to return to base is handed out.

This is when the journalists become certain that this is an INTO data mine designed to disable the flight systems of ships that get too close. They came up to expose this.

This naturally enrages the Debris Section, except for Ravi, and Yuri points out that this is an emergency evacuation orbit used by Russia and the E.U. [7]

The mine will shut down all navigation systems, including the fishbone. The only way to get there is with the space suit face computer shut down, and no lifeline.

Hachimaki steps up, it is an extremely difficult EVA but he needs to prove to himself that he can do this.

Yuri has a plan to fool the mine so that the Toy Box can close and hit it with the remote arm.

Ravi tries to order them to stop, and Fee points out that there’s more to the world than Technora. Ravi’s monologue about his children’s dreams does inspire a little sympathy in the viewer, but clearly not in the team.

Once again Fee is awesome, and reminds the team that regardless of what may happen tomorrow, they are still debris haulers today.

On board ISPV-7 the Chief and Edel are handing over the final documents needed to shut down the Debris Section. This is when a control section staffer comes in to tell Schwimmer that the Toy Box is sending out an EVA worker.

Schwimmer pulls out an emergency shutdown mechanism that can kill the systems of any Technora ship. It is apparently an anti-terrorism measure, but requires the Division Director and the Section Chief to enter their security codes.

I like the reflection in the face plate.

I like the reflection in the face plate.

Ai is worried about Hachimaki as he flies through space towards the mine. Hachimaki is determined prove that he can handle an S-class EVA, and guiding himself by lining himself up with his thumb.

Back on ISPV-7 I would suggest to the Control Section manager that calling the Debris Section Chief “scum” is not likely to encourage his co-operation. In fact this is when the Chief digs in his heels and pretends to forget his security code. Seeing Edel smile in the background as the Chief stalls really makes this scene.

As the journalists start filming, Hachimaki is completing the rendezvous with the mine.

The Control Section manager is physically threatening the Chief.

As Fee reaches out with the remote arms on the Toy Box, the Navstar connection drops out. Schwimmer’s voice comes over the radio: he has cut their connection to Navstar that they were relying on to fool the mine.

The Chief actually attacks Schwimmer at this point, particularly when Schwimmer casually condemns the crew of the Toy Box to death.

This is when the systems on the Toy Box go offline and switch to emergency power. Apparently all of the systems are being affected on the brand new Toy Box.

Edel is not to be taken lightly.

Edel is not to be taken lightly.

With her contract hours over Edel is no longer employed by Technora. Cue the violence that Edel is apparently very good at, much to the distress of the Control Section.

The crew of the Toy Box are listening to the Chief’s desperate calls for Schwimmer to give back “his people”, and to the sounds of Edel’s involvement.

Meanwhile Ravi is staring at the photo of his kids and hearing his daughter ask “who will keep space safe?” This is Ravi’s first moment of truth in this episode, and his decision sends him off the bridge of the Toy Box.

Edel is having fun with the security guards. Hachimaki is trying to do something to the mine directly. Yuri can’t get the Toy Box’s arm to work.

With only 10 minutes of emergency power left, Fee is preparing to carry out the Captain’s responsibility to her crew when something starts rumbling.

Fee catches on immediately: Ravi is in the disabled work ship. It is an old ship with a remote arm that is on a separate system to the flight systems.

This is when Schwimmer comes on the line to threaten Ravi’s promotion, and also to threaten to fire him.

I really think that Schwimmer is too much of a caricature of a villain, especially coming seconds after Fee is clearly considering abandoning ship.

Nevertheless this is Ravi’s second moment of truth in the episode, and one he passes with flying colours.

Ai congratulates Hachimaki on a superb EVA as he is unsuiting. This is when Hachimaki announces that he’s quitting the company, and that he’s done with being a debris hauler.

This is only a little cliff hanger to end the episode on. Honest. 🙂

Summary

Debris Section, The Last Day is a Day in the Limelight episode for Ravi and the Chief that works surprisingly well, whilst also bringing parallel stories together.

For some time there has been a parallel plot with the Jupiter Development Project that has only been incidental to the main characters, but central to Dolf’s storyline.

The sudden convergence of the plotlines hits the Debris Section like a hammer, and provides the unexpected opportunities for the Chief and Ravi to shine. The Chief never annoyed me as much as Ravi did, but there’s a real satisfaction to seeing the Chief earn sympathy, and even respect, from Edel in this episode.

In the crunch Ravi has to choose between money, and earning the respect of his children. He makes the right decision, and the handling of it is beautifully scripted. This is almost enough to make me like Ravi and overlook how generally cringe worthy Ravi is as a representation of India.

One thing that Turning Point and Debris Section, The Last Day have put into perspective is the extent to which Schwimmer is a parody of the corrupt corporate executive. It makes him hard to take seriously, and is another unexpected weakness at the fringes of Planetes.

Despite this fault, Debris Section, The Last Day is an astonishingly effective episode that shows most of the characters in the Debris Section to good effect, and hinges the series to the focus on the Jupiter Development Project.

One interesting side effect from focussing on the Chief and Ravi is that it emphasises Hachimaki’s continuing withdrawal from the group. Despite this I remember being surprised by Hachimaki’s quitting the Debris Section when I first watched this episode, and it is still a bastard of a way to end the episode.

This is a strong episode, if not necessarily a fun episode.

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: Gender, Diversity, and Politics
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



[1] This is in dollars presumably, since Yen basically drops a zero.


[2] Since there isn’t a real country called Mananga, it is probably a result of balkanisation.


[3] This proves that Fee wasn’t bluffing when she threatened to go out and get Colin’s camera in Part of the Job.


[4] This is one of the sequences in this episode where Ravi is still painful to watch.


[5] At least I hope they are only there for decorative purposes…


[6] Albeit very understated sympathy, Edel is still quite reserved at this point.


[7] It seems that the nations that became part of space development avoided balkanisation.