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Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy, The

Entry updated 11 March 2024. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2024). Rat Ghost, Animal Pictures, Titmouse Inc, Amazon Studios. Created by Cirocco Dunlap. Directed by Joey Adams, Kacie Hermanson and Becks Wallace. Writers include Joanna Bradley, Cirocco Dunlap, Kirsten King, Anne Lane, Shauna McGarry and Asha Michelle Wilson. Voice cast includes Kieran Culkin, Andrew Dismukes, Stephanie Hsu, Natasha Lyonne, Keke Palmer, Lennon Parham, Maya Rudolph, Sam Smith and Gary Anthony Williams. Eight 27-minute episodes.

Dr. Sleech (Hsu) and Dr. Klak (Palmer) work at the second best hospital (see Medicine) in the Galaxy: only Nebula General is better, but is risk-averse as they have to keep their corporate sponsor, UniYum, happy; Nebula General also happens to be managed by Dr Azel (Smith), Klak's ex. Dr Sleech is "brilliant", confident and a control freak – a friend describes her "as a great doctor ... detached, objective, cold" (Sleech: "that compliment went south"); Dr Klak is also a great doctor, but insecure and prone to anxiety – so much so that her celebrity psychiatrist (see Psychology) mother has based a career around her ... which only makes Klak's anxiety worse. Other hospital staff include intern Dr Vlam (Rudolph), an Immortal Robot with a chequered past; the cynical Nurse Tup (Lyonne); hospital orderly Matt (Dismukes), with whom Sleech has friendly, no strings casual Sex (her ideal relationship); Dr. Plowp (Culkin) an empath (see ESP), who Sleech very reluctantly becomes romantically attached to, and two-headed Flork – one head being the hospital's strict manager (Williams), the other being an amused casual observer (Parham). Everyone we see is an Alien: if there are humans they are easily missed background figures.

The season's main story arc begins when a patient arrives with an anxiety-devouring parasite (see Parasitism and Symbiosis) attached to her brain: Dr Sleech sees this as an opportunity to cure her friend's condition. As the parasitic worm poses a threat to civilization, keeping it alive is illegal, so they pretend it has been killed and conduct research in secret. Later, another patient's behaviour suggests "possible Precognition or Dimension bleed", until they find it is due to an implanted loop chip, which identifies when a patient is about to die and sends them back 12 hours, so they have time to go to a hospital: if the treatment fails a Time Loop develops. They persuade the patient to extend the chip's range to include them, so they can experiment on the worm (the new range covers the whole hospital, which causes consternation). Their experiments are unsuccessful and they die many times, to be Reincarnated in the next iteration of the loop – the worm is able to violently defend itself – until they are arrested by the Galactic Health Unit (effectively a Time Police for health matters). Further Time shenanigans ensue, including Time Travel.

The worm seems to die giving birth so its body is stored away. The offspring manages to attach itself to Klak's brain, who – now anxiety-free and overconfident – believes she can stunt the worm's growth so it stays small and not develop into a head-exploding adult, enabling it to become a cure for anxiety. This fails to work but Sleech manages to remove the worm; the Galactic Health Unit then arrives and arrests the pair again. The parent worm now awakes from hibernation and we learn their species was once symbiotic (see Parasitism and Symbiosis), until UniYum's dumped of toxic waste (see Pollution) on their home planet, mutating them (see Mutants), so they ended up killing their host. The Galactic Health Unit now look at future timelines (see Alternate History) to decide the best course of action: the only ones with a chance of civilization surviving are those where they let Dr. Sleech and Dr. Klak deal with the problem. They eventually do, by curing the infant worm of the effects of the toxic waste (the parent dies). The season ends with the worm being Cloned to treat patients with anxiety – though it does not work on Klak.

Other adventures include a viral sexual disease whose victims acquire some of the physical characteristics of their partners (see Biology): attempting to cure herself, Dr Sleech's over-hasty gene-editing (see Genetic Engineering) deletes the wrong DNA, so she becomes the lover's species (see Identity). Another story has the inventor of Teleportation's body found – though now highly regarded, they had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Dr. Klak is asked to perform the autopsy and discovers he is not dead but cryogenically frozen (see Cryonics), and a bit of a Mad Scientist. He disappears, later asking for help from Dr Vlam ("we used to date"). This, along with the surviving worm still wanting revenge on UniYum, are two of the open plot threads – the third is revealed in season one's final scene: with Sleech and Klak now famous, a muck-raking magazine wants to do an exposé on them (see Media Landscape) – and their files have nothing on Sleech's background.

Dunlap has said La Planète Sauvage (1973; vt Fantastic Planet) was an influence on the show ("I really love how, in the background, just everything eats each other."), reflected in its light-hearted body-Horror; whilst the sheer variety of species (aside from family members, each character seems to belong to a different one) reflects the healthy nature of diversity. Very promising and well animated, The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy had a good first season: sf ideas form important plot points rather than being throwaway jokes or decorations on a basically mundane plot, as is sometimes the case; and the emotional beats usually work. The stories are rich in ideas and interesting, whilst the Humour, which incorporates some Satire, is solid. Pleasingly, a second season has been commissioned. [SP]


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