And I’m back on Defiance, but this time it’s one specific episode. I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times aired on June 10th in the US and June 11th in the UK, and it has such obvious parallels with the over-arching plot of the Aneka Jansen stories that I had to comment.
If you haven’t seen the episode and plan to, this article is going to contain pretty major spoilers, so watch first. If you haven’t read Steel beneath the Skin and plan to, there are also some spoilers, but they aren’t quite as major seeing as they are pretty much given away in the cover blurb. Anyway, due to spoilers, I’ll continue after the break…
In I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, a human is discovered on the wreck of a Votan spaceship crash-landed near the town of Defiance. He is found in a hyper-sleep “bag” and, when he wakes up, we discover that this is a Commander McClintock, the leader of one of the crews of the International Space Station, supposedly lost in an accident in 2013. It seems that the Votans may have been responsible for the destruction of the ISS 30 years earlier. Bad enough, but things get worse.
After McClintock tries to kill the town’s mayor it is discovered that he is not who he seems to be at all. McClintock is dead, replaced by a surgically altered Indogene imprinted with his memories. (The implications for the overall plot of TV series and game will be interesting, but that’s not what I’m here to discuss.) Unsure of what, or who, he is, McClintock apparently commits suicide, though in a nice twist for a modern TV show he is later seen meeting up with his wife, now over 60 but still clearly happy to see him.
Now, I could see the plot of Steel Beneath the Skin unfolding as I watched this. In Steel a modern Earth woman wakes up to discover that she has been asleep for a thousand years, the world has changed, and she is now a simulation of her own mind running on a computer in an artificial body. She has to go through the same process as McClintock does in trying to work out who she is now. I was happy to see that the writers of Defiance seemed to have the same view on this as my characters have. It certainly asks the same questions.
What does it mean to be human? Is “human” a product of evolution and genetics, the physical structure we see when we look in a mirror? Or is it the mind inside that body?
And what are we? Are we the thought processes which make up our mind? The memories which form the structure behind that mind? Or if you took all those memories and put them into a new body, would you then have someone else?
In Defiance, McClintock seems to decide, and Nolan essentially states, that the replacement version is McClintock. He has the same feelings, the same memories, the same mind as the original human. We somehow know that he is not going to keep his true nature from his wife (she would find out eventually, he bleeds silver blood), and we also know that she isn’t going to care so long as he feels about her the way he did before he went missing. Aneka’s friends quickly come to believe that she really is a simulation of a real woman who lived on Old Earth a millennium gone, and that simulation deserves the right to be considered as a person, as Aneka Jansen, not a fake.
With Aneka there is an added dimension. McClintock was programmed to kill state officials, but it was the Indogene part of him that had that mission, and that was gone by the end of the episode leaving a being with the memories of a human man to live out his life. Aneka is a computer program, in essence, and we have no way of knowing, as yet, whether there are elements in her mind programmed to behave in ways the original Aneka would not have. Her friends are sure that she is who she says she is, but she is not quite so sure. Only time will tell whether her worries have any foundation in fact.
Either way, it was interesting to see someone else’s view on this identity crisis played out on the small screen.