This The Ark review contains spoilers.
It appears The Ark went for the old “space hallucinations” episode quite early in its run. There’s a reason this trope is such a staple of sci-fi storytelling, of course; exposing the fears and fantasies of the crew members reveals a lot about their personalities with very little effort. The problem is this method often emphasizes quantity over quality, and such is the case with “We Weren’t Supposed to Be Awake,” an episode that uncovers more mysteries that aren’t quite as compelling as those that are in the process of being solved.
It’s all well and good, for example, to learn that Garnet is a clone and not a bloodthirsty murderer. The genetic manipulation performed on her and her sister may have been unethical, but it makes sense given the dire circumstances on Earth and the uncertainties involved in colonizing another planet. And obviously Garnet’s immunity to the toxin in the comet water provided a convenient if somewhat implausible resolution to this week’s The Ark. All that is understandable.
But hidden among the enlightening character moments are hints of a conspiracy within the officer ranks, revealed by the spectral Susan Ingram as she reminds Baylor that he needs to find “like-minded” people among the remaining crew. The fact that she recommends Lieutenant Lane suggests a certain fundamentalism may be at play, but it’s super vague and not all that compelling. Frankly, making sure Baylor doesn’t hurt Alicia is probably more important to fans, even though he seems to have dismissed Susan’s wishes in the end.
As for the other details the hallucinations revealed, some are more interesting than others. Eva seeing Harris wasn’t unexpected, nor was Angus enjoying a dolled-up version of Garnet, although the latter provided a humorous epiphany for the young scientist. But learning about Felix’s husband and daughter added a bit of depth to an unexplored character, and Brice’s fears concerning his medical record reminds viewers of a hanging thread that will no doubt pay off in a future installment of The Ark.
But Alicia’s mom, Kabir’s mentor, and Cat’s suspicions regarding Eva… these are all just window dressing to what amounts to a predictable, derivative episode that isn’t helped much by hand-waving scientific solutions from kid wonders Angus and Alicia. Want a mass-produced solution to a deadly contaminant? We’ll whip one up! Need a space sample analyzed that ends up being an entirely new element? No problem!
It’s likely that Angus’ big reveal was supposed to be mind-blowing, but the final shot of the lieutenants meaningfully gazing out into space (see header image) honestly came across as a bit ridiculous. And how on earth do you go from a new element being responsible for the damage to the Ark One to an alien weapon being deliberately deployed? That’s a bit of a logical leap, isn’t it? Not that aliens wouldn’t be welcome in The Ark, but it all seems so abrupt, especially since viewers are preoccupied with conspiracies and secrets elsewhere.
Anyway, it wasn’t The Ark’s finest moment, but the episode served its purpose of delivering a ton of characterization in one fell swoop. The crew members are definitely becoming more well-rounded, and that shouldn’t be dismissed; it was welcome development. However, the methodology of the “space visions” is well-trodden ground in science fiction, making this far from the most impressive story to date. Whether the alien element will overshadow the murder investigation or other ongoing mysteries remains to be seen, but hopefully the next story will show a little more creativity in its execution.