Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fiction/"Science:" Series 2, Log 5.0 – The Return of Omacron

Designed by Brett Snodgrass
Last week, we released episode 5.0, “The Return of Omacron,” which you can watch on YouTube or in Koldcast’s high-definition player.

Previously on Space Hospital, the crew squashed a zombie uprising, regaining control of the ship, and the discovery of an Executive Microchip in Zombie Snead clarified that he was the one who ordered the destruction of Lyndsay Long’s escape pod – and that the new Snead is a clone.

In “The Return of Omacron,” Space Hospital encounters The Supreme Inquisitor at the center of the dark nebula. Unable to respond to the space slug’s telepathic communications, the hospital is condemned to be swallowed. As the crew await complete digestion, Snead and Ratknee lament the loss of super-genius Omacron, the parasitic alien symbiote with whom Ratknee had a whirlwind romance and who became the target of an assassination attempt. Nurse Ratknee reveals that only the human host died, and the alien symbiote has been kept on ice - in a state of suspended animation - in her lunchbox. Ratknee, Snead and Lyndsay defrost the symbiote in the microwave and agree that whomever walks through the door next will become the "new" Omacron. So who will it be?


Science fiction takes poetic license in imagining alien life (tentacled creatures and well-polished androids with free will figure prominently), but the discovery of truly alien life is bound to be less overtly shattering but no less profound in its paradigm shift. Case in point is the discovery of the first organism to substiute one of the six crucial elements - carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and phosphorus - with another. A paper published in the December 2010 issu of Science  revealed the discovery of a bacterium in salty Mono Lake, California that has replaced phosphorus with arsenic - a typically toxic element - and incorporated it into its DNA. Questions remain as to whether this is an "evolutionary adaptation" or a new life form (a.k.a. "second genesis"), but either way it suggests how life on other planets - and even here on Earth - may function in profoundly different ways while looking very familiar on the surface. (Sources: BBC News, 12/2/10 and Science News 1/1/11)

 The scene-stealing guest star of this week’s episode is The Supreme Inquisitor, created by Gordon Lee. Gordon graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a B.S. in Graphic Design. While working his day job, he continues his studies in filmmaking, Industrial Design, 3D modeling and acting while also creating his own science fiction web series. Check out his website for samples of his work and visit his YouTube channel, DrawingWithGordon, for drawing tutorials. We asked Gordon to talk about his experience working on this episode.
“Susan Stoebner, producer of Space Hospital, asked if I was interested in building a physical model/puppet of a giant space slug for their web series. I immediately said yes because I love the science fiction genre and I always wanted to make a space creature.

Susan introduced me to Robert Poe, the writer and co-creator of the show. He described his vision of the creature and the basic premise of the episode. Robert liked the idea of having the creature resemble a lotus plant. It would come out of a nebula and then open its petals to reveal a giant mouth. He also wanted the skin to be somewhat transparent. At this point, I realized this would be very difficult to build and articulate. So we decided to go the CGI route.

I began researching the lotus plant and all types of slugs, which then lead me to parasitic worms. The shapes and structure of the parasitic worms interested me and that became the inspiration for the creature’s body.

I started drawing some rough concepts combining the lotus plant and a parasitic worm together. After sending my concept drawings to Robert he did the most amazing thing with them. He took all the elements he liked and put them all together in After Effects and then animated the sequence. After watching the animation, I really understood the direction Robert wanted and created a final version of this concept. He gave me the thumbs up and I start building the space creature “The Supreme Inquisitor” in 3D.

I really enjoyed building the creature, but I did face a few challenges on the way. I didn’t have a lot of experience building organic models so it took longer than expected. The rigging of the mouth and teeth were very tedious and difficult but I was lucky to have my friend Eric Rosenthal help me through it. In the end, it all worked out and I’m very happy with the results.”