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The Space Ship Marco Polo (Norwegian: Blindpassasjer) is a Norwegian Science Fiction ground-breaking series spanning three episodes. It aired in 1978. The eponymous nspace ship has a personnel of five, returning from a field trip to the planet Rossum, "encircling Barnard´s star", as the narrator states. During a time of hibernation to save energy, one of them is killed by a biomat, who replaces the murdered crew member (Acheron), seeding mistrust among the others, as they have to figure out which of them is the dead one. After some consideration, the members inject themselves with a cybernetic probe, set to keep a check on all of them, in case of some anomalies that can reveal the biomat. At the end the day, the biomat reveals itself to be unable to improvise, and is thus discovered. It promptly dissolves.

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It turns out the biomat was placed there by the robots who was responsible for looking after Rossum, and coded to eliminate any alien threat. When the case is solved, Earth Central calls off the order to shoot down the space ship, in case the biomat should create havoc among the greater human population...

The authors of this series is the two authors Jon Bing and Tor Åge Bringsværd.

Tropes:

  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The crew clearly has one, and Leda clearly breaks it when she goes off on her own to search the Ghost Ship. It turns out to be a necessary action after all. Leda calls back and takes full responsibility. This scene is (of course) a Shout-Out to Star Trek.
  • Artificial Human: The Biomat/Acheron. It copied every aspect of Acheron, his antics, his speech patterns and his behaviour - but was caught off guard when Elis wanted to have sex with him in the winter garden. In an ironic twist, it is "Acheron" who explains what a biomat actually is. Serves as a Shout-Out to Rossum's Universal Robots, where the "robots" are just as human-like as this biomat (created by regular robots on Rossum).
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  • Badass Bureaucrat: The official at the Sirius base. He is not above sending a space rocket straight towards the Marco Polo when he senses something might threaten the base. He also gives the crew 48 hours to solve the problem. It is Acheron who actually snarls at him (with good reason too).
  • Bittersweet Ending: The mission is saved, and the Marco Polo is clear to return home. Elis, on the other hand, has lost her lover.
  • Blame Game: The crew is verging on it, with Acheron as the most eager contestant. He is the one who openly lashes out at Gaia at one point. The authors clearly wanted the viewers to (at first viewing) to consider all of them. Anyway, as Jason points out to him: If Gaia had been the biomat, she would have rigged the implants to point to someone else.
    Jason: Right now, the Biomat has just as much to fear as the rest of us.
    Acheron: (shuts up, swallows heavily).
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sex, of all things. Elis has sex with the Biomat twice, believing it to be Acheron. The first time, everyone buys his cover (they are in Elis´s bunk). The other time around, he reveals himself.
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    • On that note, the cybernetic implants made by Gaia to monitor the crew members (used to monitor Elis and Acheron during their intercourse).
  • Cool Starship: Marco Polo, of course.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mostly Gaia, but also Jason. Acheron throws in some lines as well. Leda, on the other hand, averts it by being heavily deadpan but low on the snarking bit.
  • Disposing of a Body: Acheron was disposed through the food decomposing device. Jason discovers that someone has used it, because the hatch is left open, and when running a diagnostic, he understands the components make up an entire human body. Cue the confusion, and the first reveal: A Biomat has disposed of a crew member, but which one?
  • Five-Man Band: Played straight. The Leader is Leda, who seems to take responsibility in some difficult cases, and solves some of the main plotline. The Lancer is Jason, who solves the rest of the plot. The Smart Guy is Gaia, who is the technical girl, and makes the cybernetic tracking device. The Big Guy is Acheron (or the biomat), and The Chick is Elis, who is the most feminine of the three women on board. To be fair, the five share responsibilities to a point that makes it difficult to point out the actual captain of the ship.
  • Freudian Trio: Leda represents the super-ego, Gaia represents the ego, and Elis (passionate and driven by impulse), represents the Id.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The Biomat is revealed during a sex scene. Actually monitored from another room because of the implants.
  • Ghost Ship: Another ship is found floating in deep space, right in the path of Marco Polo. It turns out the crew died after a similiar visit to Rossum, and Leda breaks the Prime Directive to get clues, and an important artifact, from the ship. A subtle giveaway comes when Acheron gets upset and wants the ship blown apart before anyone can trace what is aboard it.
  • Green Aesop: The planet Rossum was actually populated by humans, and the robots took over when they understood the planet suffered from the human interference in the eco-system. Thus, they set themselves up as rural guardians of the eco-system, and stripped the humans of all civilisation, making them powerless, naked apes. It is implied that this point had to be driven home pretty hard, as the authors understood our own planet might suffer a harsh fate over time.
  • The Hecate Sisters: Leda, Gaia and Elis. Leda is the oldest, serving as the crone. Gaia has clearly the motherly instinct, while Elis is the youngest, although not a "maiden" in the strict sense, is the most girlish and juvenile of the three.
  • The Kirk: Gaia. Levelheaded and reasonable. Leda at one point, when she admits to break the series "Prime Directive" to get clues on what happened to another space ship floating duck in the middle of their route.
  • Killed Offscreen: We only hear the sound of one crew member being whacked and dragged away by the Biomat.
  • The McCoy: Jason. Impulsive, arguing on his feelings.
  • Meaningful Name: Gaia. How fitting that the resident Team Mom is named after Mother Earth herself. Acheron is named after one of the rivers surrounding the realm of the dead in Classical Mythology. Acheron as the Biomat is a death threat to all of them.
  • Moment Killer: Jason, Gaia and Leda storms in on Elis and Acheron. Doubles as The Reveal.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Elis. She is the only one serving as a Love Interest, and also has a shower scene.
  • Nanomachines: The biomat was created by artificial molecules, replicating themselves to make a multicellular being. The molecules were present in dust carried on to the ship from the Rossum soil. The Ghost Ship carried traces of the same dust. When the Biomat is discovered, it disintegrates to become dust (harmless dust this time - we bloody well hope).
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: More or less. Jason, the linguist, does his part while going trough the files recorded on Rossum. Gaia, the technician, makes the cybernetic implants which basically exposes the Biomat. She also solves the nanotech puzzle of the cybernetic molecules found in the Rossum dust. Leda, using her experience as an astronaut, fetches vital clues from the Ghost Ship. Even the Biomat (as Acheron) gives some clues, telling the others what a Biomat is. Elis, being the fanservice girl, exposes the Biomat through sheer accident.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: What Elis is set upon achieving, desperate because of the time running out and no sign of the Biomat. The Biomat isn´t equally horny, and that is the reason he is caught.
  • Race Against the Clock: The crew have to solve the plot in 48 hours, knowing that the Sirius base has launched a rocket to blow the ship to pieces. When the plot is solved, the rocket self destructs.
  • The Reveal: Elis leads Acheron on, but not in her bedroom. This leads to Jason concluding Acheron is the Biomat, because he lacks the ability to improvise (in this case, be aroused while being out of bed). He is right, of course.
  • Science Marches On: Although Gaia is an expert nanotech and knows how artificial molecules work, she is unaware of genetics - which actually has to come into play when the biomat builds itself to replicate Acheron. A simple gene test of the person thrown down the meat disposer would have solved the plot pretty fast. But genetics hadn´t come that far in 1978 (although Fridge Logic states that the Rossum inhabitants know something about it).
  • Shirtless Scene: Acheron/The Biomat when he is caught. Elis had just relieved him of his shirt.
  • Shout-Out: The planet Rossum - Habitat of farming robots. And of course the Biomat itself, programmed to take over the entire ship and destroy it.
  • Space Station: The Sirius base, where the Marco Polo is bound to return.
  • The Spock: Leda. She is stoic, never cracks a smile, and calculates risks and benefits.
  • Team Mom: Gaia. She takes care of Elis when she is distraught, and is the first one to head for the kitchen after waking up. She also serves as The Heart. She is often set alongside Team Dad Jason (the actors were actually married in Real Life).
  • Theme Naming: All the main characters have names from Greek Classical Mythology: Leda. Jason, Acheron, Elis and Gaia.
  • Wham Line: "One of us is killed, but which one"?
  • Wrench Wench: Gaia, the technician.
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