[the story of the episode]
[the story of The Original Series]
The highly dysfunctional Dingillian family -- 13-year-old Charlie, his older brother "Weird" and his younger brother "Stinky" -- are pawns in the bitter war between their divorced parents. Their father takes them on holiday to the Ecuadoran beanstalk during one of his custody access visits. They slowly come to realise he is actually kidnapping them, taking them off planet away from their mother. But what their father doesn't realise is that the planetary economy has finally reached meltdown, throwing his escape plans into chaos. Several crises converge, and the brothers have to decide what to do, whether to jump off the planet.
Told from the viewpoint of Charlie, bright, embittered, and severely screwed up, we see a high-tech Earth devastated by sheer population size, where the only hope for the future is to escape into space. It reads like a Heinlein-esque juvenile, with loads of semi-transparent info-dumping about beanstalk dynamics, slightly less transparent info-dumping about economic and political theories, and an interesting musical sub-plot. Not quite a "coming of age" story, but certainly a "beginning to be adult" story.
The second part of the Dingillian family saga sees the three boys, newly divorced from their ever-rowing parents, fleeing the bad guys across the surface of the moon. But who actually are the bad guys? And just what is it that is so valuable?
More of the same pacey Heinlein-esque juvenile, with scads of infodumping, great tension in the chase scenes, and great fun in the final court scene debating the nature of civil disobedience, with a satisfying and suitably mature conclusion, as the three boys continue to grow up.
The third part of the Dingillian family saga sees the three boys, reunited with their family and supported by the HARLIE monkey, deciding whether to emigrate to an extra-solar colony.
This installment isn't so much Heinlein-esque as directly channelling Heinlein in places, particularly the various classroom scenes and debates on board the colony ship. There's enough action, interest, and plot twists to keep the plot moving briskly, and, despite a somewhat stereotypical villain, a very satisfactorily mature ending. Charlie has gone from whinging brat to sensible mature adult over the course of the trilogy: his character development along this axis has fortunately stopped suitably short of turning him into a smug prig.