After the defeat of the Chigs in our solar system at the end of the pilot, Earth begins to take the fight to the enemy. The Saratoga is at anchor within reach of Tellus, the world that Kylen and West were going to colonise. A group of Special Forces land on Tellus to scout the wreckage of the colony ship and find a survivor (French Stewart) , raving mad, who calls himself "the farthest man from home".
Tellus is declared lost and the Saratoga moves off to help elsewhere in the fight.
The cast continue to perform very well together. None of them, with the possible exception of James Morrison, are exactly top-level actors, but they do well with the material they are given and even if I don't quite believe that they are United States Marines, I don't find it hard to believe that they are these characters.
Nice confirmation that the Wildcards are a team now. Hawkes and West argue on the planet about West going AWOL, but there is no question that Hawkes would go to get him, and everyone is in it together when Commordore Ross is dressing them down. We also get to see the lengths McQueen will go to for his team. Unlike the rest of the Wildcards, he knows that this will probably cost him his career but he does it without hesitation. It is only the intervention of Aerotech that saves him.
A lot more detail that expands the universe: It was good to see the army Special Forces teams. Clearly the Saratoga does not only carry marines. There is always a danger in these stories that the giant spaceship appears to serve only the few title characters. This is not the case here.While relaxing West watches a documentary which features Kennedy's famous "Why go to the moon?" speech. Taking this along with the pilot, wherein the UN Secretary General quoted Winston Churchill's "Never in the field of human conflict was so much, owed by so many, to so few", it is clear that Space will be a show with a sense of history, sometimes unusual in Science Fiction.
Obviously the most important details are those that are not fully spelled out yet. Sewell and Aerotech are so far portrayed as unambiguously sinister (mostly with lighting and music cues) and the fact that there are Chig tombs on Tellus is a clear indication that they were there before us, which might provide a motivation for their attack. I also like the idea that the Chigs are frightened of their dead. Once again the world-building is smooth and naturalistic.
Another good moment is Hawkes taking a knife to the padding in his helmet so he can fit his neck "nipple" in without chafing. "They don't make nothing with In Vitroes in mind" he says, but, in a nice performance from Rodney Rowland, it's with resignation rather than angst. He is explaining to a genuinely interested Damphouse. The episode would lose nothing without this scene but it is a good indication that the In Vitro storyline is not going to be forgotten.
The problem with that episode is that it assumes a certain amount of investment in the West and Kylen arc. Unfortunately, since this was the least interesting part of the pilot, it once again proved difficult to care here. West going AWOL happens too early in the series for it to be dramatic. If we had had a few more episodes of the team following orders and fighting the Chigs and then had this storyline, it might have had more dramatic impact. As it is, we don't yet know whether this will be a show where the characters disobey orders every week. While intellectually we know that what West has done is wrong, the show doesn't do anything to earn an emotional reaction.
The acting from the survivors in the cave was a little dodgy and I could have definitely done without West's last, yelled, "KYLEN!" as the Chigs flew off. That was a needlessly hammy moment in a show that tends to avoid them.
I am not going to use Jim's The Ugly category in my reviews as Space tends to avoid out and out blood and gore. However, this moniker certainly applys to the CGI of West shooting down a Chig satellite. The Hammerheads generally look pretty good, but the satellite shattering into regularly shaped purple polygons was just dreadful, even for 1995. The aggressively 90s intro sequence might also qualify, but I think the urgent, martial nature of the theme really saves it.
While I would not go as far as to describe The Farthest Man From Home as bad television, it does lack a certain drive. The main character gone AWOL plot feels like we've seen it too often and while the pilot was able to get away with this sort of borrowing as it introduced the characters it would have been nice to see something a little more original and surprising in this slot. While there are lots of well-presented details that make the episode fun to look back on and pick over, as a story ultimately the second episode comes to less than the sum of it's parts.