Review Welcome to Paradox (1998) - episode 6 "Blue Champagne"

How did it taste? Like a goblet of Veuve Clicquot? Or a glass of MD-20/20 at bath water temperature?

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Member: Rank 5
Aired Nov 02, 1998 on Syfy

A lifeguard at the Blue Champagne resort, a virtual reality simulation, falls in love with an actress. What he does not know though is that she has been recording their intimate moments.


William McNamara ... Q.M. Cooper
Rachel Hayward ... Megan Galloway
Jennifer Copping ... Q.M.'s Girlfriend
Michael Philip ... The Host
Alex Zahara ... Markham Montgomery
Klodyne Rodney ... Coco-89
Selina Williams ... Leah (as Selina R. Williams)
Xantha Radley ... Executive #2
Daniel Bacon ... Executive #1
Michasha Armstrong ... Technician
Oliver Tan ... Frank (as Oliver Svensson-Tan)
Mikela Jay ... Girl (as Mikela J. Mikael)
Elizabeth McLaughlin ... Therapist


John Varley...(story)


Member: Rank 5
This is one of the good ones I remember from back in the day. When a story calls your attention and you still remember the punchline of the cosmic joke so well, it shows the story has staying power and a hell of a punch. Basically, we have the story of a man who falls in love, and is loves back. OK, not the most original thing in the world, but for him, it's earth-shattering and character-defining. It's something personal and meaningful is so many levels.

However, that unique experience is appropriated, repackaged and sold like any other product in the market, and eventually for him to feel as if he could live his dearest moment again, all he has to do is become a consumer himself and buy the most popular emotional experience like any other regular joe would do. His one-of-a-kind experience is still unique, but it's unique for every other person willing to pay for it. And that's all she's ever going to have of that time he fell in love. But shouldn't that be enough?

I wonder about the final scene in which Q.M. is in Blue Champagne resort all by himself re-living the moment he fell in love. I only noticed it this last time I watched the video. It makes little sense that the entire resort would be for his personal use, and that would rob the emotional impact for the viewer, because we all know this is now an experience he'll forcefully share with the rest of the world (or the rest of Betaville at least). But then it hit me, Q.M., alone, watching and feeling the most meaningful moments of his life, all by himself, is reflective of what he feels. To him, he's alone with Megan, but of course he's not. A bunch of losers is right there with him thinking they are alone as well.

John Varley is one of those authors whose name keeps popping up here and there if you read and watch a lot of SF. He wrote a great story this time, but I have to mention the fact that he stole the concept and even the term "feelie" from Huxley's Brave New World. I'm surprised they'd use the same term. Usually the writers of a television production or movie try to come up with an original name even if it's for the same old, tired sci-fi tropes. Take robots and androids, for instance. We have droids, replicants, synths, hubots, mechas, Cylons, skin-jobs, hosts, and all sorts of terms to refer to basically the same thing or a couple of similar things. They could've used a new term such as "sensies" for instance.

I hadn't noticed how leftist and anticapitalist this show is, but perhaps that's because I'm more aware of these things right now. So, naturally, the big villain is a corporation which uses the technology they control as they see fit and forces a woman into a kind of servitude or else they'll rob her of her basic right to move her body. The company "Feelie Productions" I think (or something like that) is not a monopoly, but things are almost just as bad, as they are dealing with an oligopoly of 12 companies. Remember: there are no small companies in this business. And they are all looking for the lowest common denominator that will maximize their profits, so culture and a message ("feelies that mean something") are a distant second place.

And the girlfriend is the moral reference who finds human truth and virtue in an agricultural commune. However one could look at the situation from another angle. In capitalism, technology gradually gets more popular and cheaper, and if market forces are allowed to flourish, soon the technology that made the sidekick possible would be widely available, and soon Megan would have access toa suit of her own, or at least an affordable alternative, so she wouldn't have to sell her soul to feel whole again. Especially considering she's a celebrity ad the star of the most popular form on entertainment in this reality.

Anyway, I love the interaction of the characters. QM begins as a dashing young man in search of some adventure, buit is open for something else. Megan begins seeming to be using him, but her desire to change is genuine and she only surrenders at her breaking point. And she doesn't leave him because she was duplicitous and evil, but the circumstances would always remind her of what she lost. The Grilfriend has many more layers than we had given her credit for, and she ends being the moral center of the story, representing the human purity that we all believed would be lost in Betaville. In the end she recognizes the love experience did QM good and that there were no villains among the main characters.

I was wondering hos realistic the Blue Champagne resort scenario would be. Had this episode been made now, they would probably have used the online app trope, so users would access the program in the comfort of their homes. On the other hand, the feelies only seem to be available in one expensive resort, not in theaters everywhere.

Well, Blue Champagne represents theaters in general, since Betaville represents our future industrial society. And apparently there are no poor people in this future; people's problems are of a different nature.As for the internet use of the technology, well, this tech is awfully expensive (that's the whole premise of the story), so it probably needs expensive equipment and facilities to run it, therefore you wouldn't be able to enjoy a good feelie from your PC. It's like 3D or IMAX technologies: you can only access it at certain places, and those places are full of expensive tech. I just think that if people go to these things mostly for sex, well, a bean bag in the middle of a big room with all sorts of strangers around would expose the patrons to some very embarrassing moments, and if men would be constantly having erections during sessions of feelies, the pants they were wearing seemed inappropriately tight. So, the best thing would be to place users in personal booths, like strip clubs private VIP rooms. Or perhaps that's just for the wealthy customers and the general "ballroom" would be a disgusting jizzfest. Or perhaps the morals of Betaville are so decadent that they don't even care about that anymore.

This was a powerful story with remarkable characters and a message with strong staying power you could be remembering 20 or 30 years from now. I'm going to take a page out of the Fanboy Critic's personal playbook and pull a "Starstuff" move and inflate the grade of my own favorite show by giving this episode 10 very weird, totally artificially-looking future plants that look more like Mardi Gras decorations or a child's art project and which are planted in a commune tended by future commies and hippies.


Member: Rank 3
The title had little relevance to the story (just a location name), but at least the host’s monologue made some valid points this week, though I don’t remember his precise wording.

This story is actually somewhat more real than some of the others. For one thing, I don’t find it that hard to believe that someday they may develop technology that can record experiences and the feelings associated with them. That’s lots easier to buy than that there will be technology that allows people to enter a virtual reality where they’ll be able to have tactile interaction with something created from their imagination. Also, the story is a metaphor for what sex has become in our present culture.

The story starts with Q.M. Cooper seeing a filming of a scene for a new movie starring big star Megan Galloway. These movies are called “feelies” (a term coined in BRAVE NEW WORLD) because the viewer can not only see the action from a direct point of view, he can feel the same emotions that are being felt. Naturally, they have lots of porno type movies of that sort, but we are told Megan has managed not to have any part of that, although she is often under pressure to do it. Q.M. just has to try the glasses that connect you with the action being filmed. He makes the mistake of using a woman’s pair of glasses and ends up on the wrong end of a male-female kiss. Still, the brief connection is also felt by Megan and the two decide to meet, despite Cooper already having a girl friend. (She was apparently never identified, listed in the credits only as Q.M.’s girlfriend.)

QM and Megan meet and have sex, but it’s not the great event Cooper dreamed it would be. Megan admits that the device she wears (nicknamed Sidekick) is always filming, but that she erased it to protect his privacy. He later muses to his girlfriend that he wonders if sex is ever what we expect it to be. She had seemed hesitant earlier to sleep with him (literally “sleep”; I think she said it’s a personal thing just to join him in bed, but it didn’t seem to be a big deal to him) but she is willing to have sex with him now even after she knows he had sex with Megan. “I wasn’t about to turn you down when you needed me,” she tells him. She seems to be a very sympathetic understanding person, and we wonder if she really should be together with someone as seemingly aloof as he is.

Megan admits that filmmakers would give her almost any amount of money if she could capture the moment of falling in love. She starts having spasms and Cooper learns that she had a diving accident years ago that severed her spinal cord. The device she always wears gives her mobility while it films everything she says and does including the emotions behind it. But it’s so expensive that she can only lease it month to month and only because she makes so much money as an actress. She shows him some of the earlier clips of her trying to walk for the first time using Sidekick. He feels so much empathy learning about this that he falls in love with her. When she experiences more spasms later on, she panics and offers to sell the moment of his falling in love with her. That sets her for life, and guarantees she can keep Sidekick and never lose her ability to walk.

Cooper goes back to see his girlfriend. I don’t remember exactly what she told him. She seemed to understand what had happened to him, but thought he needed to find his place in life and not to stay with her out of guilt. In the penultimate scene he goes to a theater full of other people to relive the movie of him falling in love. In the final scene, he is still there – but the rest of the theater is empty. Clearly he is going back to the theater over and over again, trying to recapture a moment that he will never be able to move on from. No happy ending for this guy, but considering everything that had happened, it was totally appropriate. I won’t even say that Megan did a bad thing; she was just desperate and did what she had to do to survive. No heroes in the story. The closest thing to that is QM’s girlfriend who seems to have a grasp on how things work, and we get the feeling she will turn out okay in the end.

Like I said earlier, this story is a metaphor for what sex has become in our lives. What was once a private act is now flaunted all over the movie and TV screens, discussed openly, encouraged as an experiment rather than a lifetime commitment and ultimately cheapened. It makes people wonder in the same way QM did why it doesn’t seem as satisfying as it’s made out to be and has people searching for it as the ultimate high and “hooking up” as early as the teenage years making it so impersonal it’s never the intimate act it was truly meant to be.

The writer dared to invent his own language and terms for the “feelies” and all the things that go on with it, even some peculiar drug which just made your voice sound funny for a few minutes. That made the story difficult to follow, but I give kudos to them for daring to challenge their audience rather than try to dumb the story down. I give it credit also for its downbeat ending and depressing storyline. One fly in the ointment – wasn’t QM just wearing the glasses when he fell in love with Megan? Her device would record her feelings and emotion but not really his, unless wearing the glasses put her in tune with him enough to record his emotions as well. I could go back and check, but as you can see from the lateness of this review, I just don’t have the time to go watch something twice – I can barely find time to watch it the first time. I’ll give this episode 7 wacky little atomizers that dispense the peculiar drug I spoke of earlier.

Oh, and I kept wondering why QM looked so familiar. He was the guy who played Gilbert Jax in BRIMSTONE!


What an excellent day for an exorcism
This was one of the best episode(except the host usual). Along with the asylum episode, the character were easier to connect to.

I wonder about the final scene in which Q.M. is in Blue Champagne resort all by himself re-living the moment he fell in love. I only noticed it this last time I watched the video. It makes little sense that the entire resort would be for his personal use, and that would rob the emotional impact for the viewer, because we all know this is now an experience he'll forcefully share with the rest of the world (or the rest of Betaville at least). But then it hit me, Q.M., alone, watching and feeling the most meaningful moments of his life, all by himself, is reflective of what he feels. To him, he's alone with Megan, but of course he's not. A bunch of losers is right there with him thinking they are alone as well.
I saw this moment as a sign he was lost. Lost in his own memory of that love he had and he isn't getting out of it soon. Like an addiction.

He's one of those actors we've seen everywhere but have trouble to pinpoint where exactly.
First time I saw him, was in a Dario Argento movie(Opera 1987), and he was dubbed with another mans voice, very weird.


Member: Rank 3
In the future swimming regulations are extremely strict with 3 lifeguards required for an area no bigger than a paddling pool.
The idea of the "Feelies" is interesting. It reminds me of a Doctor Who story "The Paradise of Death" where there was a technology called Experienced Reality. In that people got to experience things that had been recorded as if they were there and live gladiatorial fights were the biggest draw.
You don't get any control over the situation you just get to experience what the person recording did. It was implied the technology did manipulate you to want to go along with the experience.

In this they are use for experiencing sex but in greater demand is experiencing emotions. I think it interesting that the writers decided this would be what a lot of people would want from the experience. I think it is a good prediction as feeling close to someone and falling in love are far more difficult to come by especially for a society experiencing it's contact more remotely.
We get to experience another feelie in the Megan kidnapping scene. Cooper is an awful shot but I don't know wether that was predetermined and Megan was always going to be kidnapped thus giving you the feelings of losing someone.

I never really got a definitive answer to if Megan was desperate and manipulated Cooper to get what she needed or if there was genuine emotion between them. It is understandable how the malfunction of the sidekick and the implications for her life would make Megan willing to exploit the situation, I think she was reluctant but she still did it.
Her tears as she watcher Cooper experience her first time with sidekick could be remembering the experience or that she was using it to draw him further in.
It also seems likely that her employers might have had a hand in making the sidekick malfunction. I am surprised Megan didn't consider this. She quits and then the sidekick starts playing up. Unless that was all part of her plan to manipulate Cooper, which his girlfriend even suggests.
As I understand the tech it would be Cooper's perspective people would get and thus it would be dependant on him falling in love not Megan. I think this is why it does feel like a betrayal at the end that it is Cooper's emotion Megan has sold not her's. The fact that as far as we see Cooper and Megan don't end up together makes me doubt her feelings towards him.

I do feel bad for Cooper's girlfriend. It wasn't made really clear if they were a couple or just hooked up. She was very understanding of Coopers relationship with Megan and Cooper didn't think twice before jumping into bed with Megan while his girlfriend was a few rooms away. Almost a scene later he is in bed with her and the minute he finishes he brings up how Megan was.
Maybe this is how relationships are in the future but Cooper seems like a real dick and I think his "girlfriend" (who I think is way hotter than Megan) is better off without him.
The fact she does even get a name in the episode is almost representative of Coopers attitude towards her.

I do like that in the future a VW Beetle would be the car of choice.

Overall this was an very interesting episode. A good use of technology with a realistic concept to tell a very human story.
8 square feet per life guard out of 10


Member: Rank 3
Sorry I've fallen behind again. I am coming up to some leave so been working hard but should be able to get up to date soon. Catweazle included. Blakes 7 might be difficult but I shall try.