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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr


"Dreams of Empire"
Total Recall #4 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Written by Vince Moore
Art by Cezar Razek

The truth about Mars, the aliens, and Quaid's role in it all is finally revealed.


Story Summary


Picking up from last issue, the activation of the third ancient machine has brought liquid water to the surface of Mars, forming oceans, rivers, and streams. The aliens reveal that they had been the previous inhabitants of Mars long ago and that their hubris with technology had caused the destruction of the fourth planet of the solar system in between Mars and Jupiter (now the asteroid belt) and the devastation of Mars. Their precognitive abilities led them to realize their time was over, but that the creatures of Earth would eventually evolve into beings who would later colonize Mars. Their machines are responsible for the human mutants on Mars, an attempt to allow humanity to adapt to the red planet. They also foresaw that Quaid would become the hero who would free the planet. The Martians also put their remaining population into hibernation inside the hollowed out moons, Phobos and Deimos, to reawaken when the first machine was activated. They are here now to help humanity take possession of the planet.


But, it may be too late for everyone on Mars, as the Northern Bloc leaders who control the Mars Colony have decided to wipe out the colony to eliminate the malcontents and start over on the needed turbinium mines. The Reagan Space Weaponry Platform is activated in orbit and set to build up the power to fire an immensely powerful series of shots into the colony.


Vila Cohaagen defies her brother and helps Quaid, Melina, and Q'd get to the space platform on the Cohaagens' private shuttle. The three manage to battle their way to the command center of the platform and abort the process. This gives Quaid another 12 hours before the platform can build up another charge for the weapon, and he uses the time to secure a peace for Mars in cooperation with the aliens and the Northern Bloc.


With Mars now at peace and regenerated for renewed life, only one question remains according to the alien leader, M's's: what happened to the third moon of Mars?




Didja Know?


This mini-series did not have individual issue titles. I've made up my own title for each issue based on the theme of "dreams", from the dream/reality dichotomy of the Total Recall film. This issue's title, "Dreams of Empire", I borrowed from a line in the 1740 blank verse poem "Hobbinol" by William Somervile.


Didja Notice?


On page 4, the aliens suggest that the mutants born on Mars were the result of microscopic machines left behind by them in the soil of the world, to help the early human colonists adjust to living on it. The movie Total Recall suggests the mutations are due to cheap filtering of the ultraviolet rays of the sun in Mars' thin atmosphere. The novelization of the film goes further, suggesting that life spent by the workers breathing in turbinium dust in the mines contributed to the mutations.


Also on page 4, the Northern Bloc space battleship Potemkin arrives in orbit around Mars, along with two other unnamed battleships, commanded by Admiral Nimitz. Presumably the Potemkin name comes from the name of the Russian battleship which was in service, under a series of names, from 1904-1919 and was famous for the Potemkin uprising during the Russian Revolution of 1905. Admiral Nimitz was the name of the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during WWII.


After bullets prove ineffective in killing the aliens that have appeared on Mars, Nimitz informs the Cohaagens that he has decided to activate the Reagan Space Weaponry Platform. This is a reference to President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a plan to defend the United States from ballistic missile attack by both ground and space-based systems; it never really came to fruition in the manner he had envisioned.


   On page 12, M's's tells Melina that his race accidentally destroyed what was once the fourth planet of the solar system, now the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. He also remarks that they turned the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, into vessels where his people could hibernate until Quaid activated the machine on Mars, as prophesied in their visions. These are references to some real world fringe theories.
  The Exploded Planet Hypothesis has been put forth by the late Dr. Tom Van Flandern (1940-2009) and others to explain the absence of the expected planet between Mars and Jupiter according to the Titius-Bode Law of Planetary Spacing; others have gone on to speculate that the supposed planet exploded not due to natural forces, but due to either an errant use of powerful science or technology by a civilization in the solar system at that time or through deliberate destruction (it's been speculated by Van Flandern and others that this could have occurred about 65 million years ago, the same age as the extinction of the dinosaurs on Earth, i.e. debris from the exploded planet made up the asteroid that is believed by most paleontologists to have struck Earth at that time and led to the dinosaurs extinction).

   Peculiarities in Phobos' orbit have led to scientific speculation that the moon is hollow. Recent readings from the Mars Express probe launched by the European Space Agency seem to confirm that Phobos is partially hollow, or porous. Again, fringe researchers have suggested that Phobos is actually an ancient spacecraft of some sort. 


Page 14 suggests that Quaid was somehow able to pay attention to what M's's was telling Melina even during his hand-to-hand brawl with Milos at the time!


On page 15, panel 6, Vilas' undershirt is suddenly missing (the better to show off her cleavage, I guess)!


On page 16, Quaid's narrative says he contacted Melina via videophone to have her meet him at the spaceport to engage Vilas' plan. But Melina was already there with him (on page 15) when they discussed it! Possibly there was a later, unseen, meeting between Quaid and Vilas elsewhere to discuss the plan in more detail.


The story ends with Quaid and Melina kissing, just as Total Recall ended, bringing the cycle back, in a way, to the question of whether Quaid's adventure is all a memory implant.


Unanswered Questions


The story covered by the 4-issue mini-series seems to take place over the course of many days, if not weeks. Yet the characters all wear the same clothes throughout! They must stink by now.


What happened to the third moon of Mars?


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