S2E25: “Out of the Past”

Hello and welcome to the JEMcast on Hologram Radio. This is Alex Knight and I am joined by Aleen Simms, founder of the Less than or Equal podcast, and science fiction writer, K. Tempest Bradford.

Synopsis: In Season 2, episode 25: ‘Out of the Past,’ “The Holograms find Emmett Benton’s old diary. Reading it, they are reminded about how they first met, the origin of Starlight Music and how Synergy came into existence. They also discover that Jacqui Benton, Jerrica’s and Kimber’s mother, recorded a master tape of her concert in the ’70s before dying in a plane crash. But when Eric Raymond turns out to have the only copy of the tape, he asks for a million dollars in return or to have controlling interests over Starlight Music.”

Stay tuned for an action packed episode.

Episode 51 (S2E25) is written by Michael Charles Hill.

We open with the Holograms cleaning out the attic at Starlight Mansion. Jerrica finds an old chest with hundreds of sheets of music, written by their mother, Jacqui. Jerrica and Kimber also discover their father’s diary. Jerrica finds a chapter where Emmett Benton describes a young 10 year old Jerrica, who takes an interest in Rio, a boy who recently moved in next door. Emmett describes Rio as having a “keen mind” and being a “natural technician.” In a flash back, we see Kimber pulling Jerrica’s arm, demanding they play dolls. Their mother, Jacqui, calls Jerrica in to set the table for 5, because Rio is joining them for dinner. Jerrica reads another chapter about Aja’s arrival to Starlight Mansion. At first, Kimber seems jealous that another foster girl is going to live with them. Jacqui explains to Kimber and Jerrica that she too was once a foster girl and was shuttled from place to place, without having a place to call her own. Never able to share the love of a family. Now she has a family of her own and has a chance to make other foster girls feel loved.

In another chapter, Emmett writes about how Jacqui decided to star her own music career, so he also decides to start a record company–Starlight Music, and also Starlight Foundation, which will receive some of the profits from the record company to support it.

Emmett goes on to write about Shana’s arrival and how she seems to be isolated and alone. Jerrica tries to get Rio’s attention, but she’s not the tom boy that Aja is and wished that she would spend time making Shana feel welcome. Young Jerrica asks her mother how she can make Rio pay attention to her. Her mother tells her to stop chasing Rio and pay more attention to Shana. Jerrica explains that Shana never says anything, but her wise mother tells her that perhaps she never stopped to listen.

Jacqui plays a successful solo performance and Emmett goes on about how he tested his new equipment at the concert. At an early age, Rio had a proclivity towards audio engineering and mentions something about master tapes of Jacqui’s performance. Shana comes up with an idea to release a commemorative album of Jacqui’s work from the original master tapes. Jerrica decides this is a wonderful idea and thinks Lin-Z would love to have an exclusive preview of the music on her show.

On the Lin-Z show, Jem and the Holograms perform a Jacqui Benton song.

Jem and the Holograms music video (written by Jacqui Benton): “First Love.”

At Starlight Music, Jem and the Holograms are searching for the master tapes, but have come up with nothing. They decide to search Emmett’s diary for a clue of what happened to the tapes. We hear several diary entries, one about how Jacqui officiated over a friendship pact in a treehouse between Jerrica, Kimber, Shana, and Aja. In another entry, Emmett describes how Jerrica continues to have a difficult time adjusting to her mother’s growing absences as she travels the world to perform. Before boarding a plane, Jerrica is visibly angry and refuses to say goodbye or kiss her mother. It would be the last time she ever sees her alive. After reading this chapter, Jerrica breaks down in tears and has pangs of regret, wishing she had said she loved her mother before she left that fateful night. Kimber tries to console Jerrica and tells her there’s no sense in feeling guilty, as it won’t change anything. Jacqui knew that Jerrica loved her and nothing could change that. Jerrica vows to find the master tapes and to release her mother’s music as a means of paying her back.

Emmett is having a difficult time dealing with the death of his wife and doesn’t feel like he can go on, but Jerrica, Kimber, and the foster girls give him a purpose. Aja pleads Emmett not to send her and Shana away, and he tells them that he never would.

Finally, we get an explanation and some backstory into Synergy and the holographic AI technology that Emmett invented. Jerrica and Kimber’s father came up with an idea to link music with 3D holographic images. His goal was to re-create live musical performances in anyone’s living room. To complete the project, Emmett describes how he must find a secret location to complete the delicate work ahead.

Jerrica is perplexed at what has happened to the master tapes. She receives a phone call from Eric Raymond, who tells her that he is in possession of the tapes, but he must pay her one million dollars to get them back. Jerrica doesn’t have the money and is being blackmailed by Eric to sign over controlling interest of Starlight Music to him. If Jerrica doesn’t meet Eric’s demands, he will destroy the tapes.

Jerrica reads her father’s diary again. In this chapter, he talks about moving Synergy to a drive-in theatre that he purchased. Emmett decided to complete the work in secrecy until Synergy is complete and he’s able to secure the patents for the technology. With growing responsibilities at Starlight Music, Emmett hires an aggressive young assistant, Eric Raymond. Jerrica took a liking to Eric at first, but Jerrica explains she was only seventeen at the time and didn’t know any better. Speaking of not knowing any better, apparently one summer when Rio came back from engineering school, Jerrica decided to try and make Rio jealous by flaunting Eric. This did not impress Rio. It took Jerrica two weeks to “thaw him out.”

Rio: Hi, kid. Nice car (in a sarcastic manner).

Towards the end of Emmett’s diary, we near Synergy’s completion. He programs Synergy with Jacqui’s music and likeness, just enough to form a personality and voice pattern–he couldn’t bare make Synergy look too much like his late wife.

After completing Synergy, Emmett is pleasantly surprised at how capable she is, able to create holograms of anything. In the wrong hands, Synergy could be dangerous. With only months to live, Emmett realizes he won’t complete the patents on the technology, and not even Jerrica or Kimber know what’s going on with his health. Emmett’s last gift to his daughters will be Synergy, who was made to be a mother, teacher, and guide, all rolled into one.

The final entry in Emmett’s diary: Emmett completes the Jem star earrings, which he plans on giving to Jerrica in person, but if not, he programmed Synergy to reveal herself in the event of his death. All this time, Jerrica tells Synergy that she never told her who she was. Synergy explains she is no more and no less, her father’s gift of love. She offers to Jerrica if there’s a way she can help to deal with Eric Raymond. Jerrica says she must deal with Eric herself.

Jerrica meets with Eric and demands that he hand over the master tapes. With no money and no willingness to sign over controlling interest of Starlight Music, she pleads Eric to do the right thing. If you thought Eric was simply a jerk before, in this moment he shows that he’s truly without remorse or a shred of human decency. He tosses Jacqui’s tapes into the fire. Jerrica watches the tapes melt before her very eyes and weeps, calling out “mom!”

At Starlight Mansion, Jerrica weeps over the loss of her mother’s master tapes and what she thinks is the only serving memory of her music. Kimber and the rest of the Holograms have good news. There was a clue in Emmett’s diary when he mentioned he programmed Synergy with Jacqui’s recordings and likeness. Where would he have gotten the recordings? They must be from the master tapes. Aja makes an attempt to take Synergy apart to search for any evidence of the original recordings. The risk is that if something goes wrong, Synergy could be lost forever.

While searching Synergy’s database, they find a list of song titles, including one called Starlight.

Jacqui Benton music video: “Starlight.”

We end at the party for Jacqui Benton’s album release. Jerrica apologizes to Rio for that stunt she pulled all those years ago, where she tried to make him feel jealous by bringing Eric Raymond home. Rio had forgotten all about it and tells Jerrica if there’s one thing he isn’t worried about, is losing her to Eric.

Duration: 51:15:00

Present: Alex Knight, Aleen Simms, K. Tempest Bradford.

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Download: JEMcast – Episode S2E25: “Out of the Past”

One Reply to “S2E25: “Out of the Past””

  1. DreamSmithAJK

    Okay, this episode brings a few thoughts to mind, and your discussion brought yet more into focus.
    This is very much fan theory territory, and it might well have been considered and bandied about for decades at this point, so forgive me if I’m treading on ground that’s already been covered, but here’s my thoughts:

    1: What if Jerrica can’t sing? Everyone naturally focuses on the fact that Synergy can project Holograms, because that’s the flashier part of what she can do, but she’s also an AUDIO synthesizer (I think she even says this herself, when they initially find her). What I’m wondering, when I think about Jerrica’s childhood, is what it might have been like, to have a mother who can sing beautifully, to have a sister who can both sing, play multiple instruments, and write songs, to have adopted sisters/friends who are all talented musically… and Jerrica isn’t.
    At all.
    It happens, it isn’t her fault, being born to a musical family is no guarantee of being musical yourself, but that would have left her feeling SO left out and isolated, to no be able to share in something that is such a huge part of everyone else’s life. Maybe this is part of what made Jerrica the way she is; so clingy towards Rio, so willing to JUMP at the chance to be Jem.
    I wonder if seeing his beloved daughter struggling to accept this might have been the initial spark that got Emmet Benton thinking about the technology that would one day become Synergy? He didn’t start out trying to invent a Hologram projector, he was instead trying to create a system that could perform real-time Autotuning for Jerrica.
    (By the way, this neatly explains why Jerrica simply CAN’T perform when her Jemstar earrings are missing or malfunctioning–a pink wig wouldn’t change the fact that she can’t carry a tune to save her life without outside help).
    (Likewise, this goes a ways towards explaining why Kimber is so touchy about Jem getting ‘all the attention’… when Kimber herself is adored by her fans, and is a world-famous pop/rock star. It comes from a small but very real core of resentment that the person fronting the band, beloved sister or no, has to be propped up by a machine, while Kimber herself is genuinely a world-class musical talent, but is stuck in the background. It would take someone superhuman to not feel at least a little bitter about that, though most of the time she’s able to let it go and let Jerrica enjoy her place in the spotlight).

    2: Okay, this one is a little iffy, might upset a few people, and mostly comes from my writerly love of overturning tropes, but I’ll throw it out there anyway–What if Jerrica isn’t pretty.
    So all right, people behave strangely when it comes to this topic–we put beautiful women on pedestals and yet at the same time try to push this thing where beauty or lack of beauty makes no difference; where women should accept themselves as they are, but never, ever admit to thinking themselves gorgeous (even if they actually are) for fear of being called vain or conceited.
    Leaving all of that mess aside, I think it’s fairly safe to say that, fair or no, beautiful men and women have an advantage over the plain and ugly folk in most situations. The differences are more extreme for women, by far (and this is definitely NOT fair, but there it is), and so even though you’ll often see average-looking or even agressively ugly guys make it big in music, female instances of this are rare. Not unheard of, but unusual to the point of it literally making international news when it happens (The Susan Boyle story, to name one).
    So what if Jerrica has the worst luck ever. What if she’s not only untalented musically, but fiercely plain. Again, it isn’t fair, but the reality is, for a teenage girl to be ugly in our society is a crushing thing. People are cruel, and teenagers are BRUTAL, so she would have been teased and taunted relentlessly. Some girls shake this kind of thing off and make it through just fine, but for others it turns their lives into a nightmare, and the emotional scars never heal
    So imagine you’re Emmet Benton, gifted tinkerer, and you see your daughter being tortured by these various ‘failings’ (which are obviously nothing of the sort, but again, people are terrible, and children are worse), and you wrack your brain trying to think of something, of ANYthing you can do to help her feel better about herself.
    Then you remember that crazy idea you had, about freestanding holograms, able to map themselves in real-time to moving objects.
    You realize that, incredibly, you CAN do something to help your little girl be happier. So you go to your workshop and get to work.
    (Another reason why the pink wig wouldn’t let Jerrica be Jem–the animation of the show would have us believe that Jem and Jerrica have the same face, but that makes no sense at all; Rio, and every single person on earth, would instantly recognize her. But if the reality is that Jem and Jerrica look VERY different, then we can forgive what otherwise seems like outright stupidity. We also have a thing where Jerrica’s actions make more sense–She’s happy that Rio loves her as Jerrica for her personality, sure, and she wants to hold on to that, but at the same time she has always dreamed of being genuinely beautiful, of being dazzling and gorgeous, and now, thanks to ‘Jem’, she IS, and so she goes out of her way to seduce Rio as Jem, so she can have it both ways. He falls in love with her because she’s plain-but-wonderful Jerrica, AND he loves her because she’s beautiful and captivating and physically irresistable Jem.
    That’s the best of both worlds; how many beautiful women wonder if their significant other loves them for who they are, or is only infatuated with their looks? Well, Jerrica KNOWS–it’s BOTH! 🙂
    (Yes, shamelessly manipulative of her, but we know that’s the sort of person she is; at least this gives her a sort of forgivable reason for it)

    Okay, at this point you will be thinking that I’ve spent way too much time pondering this, and you’re right, but I’m just getting started!!!!!

    3: This is the part that came to mind while listening to your discussion.
    You mentioned more than once how creepy and, um… odd it was, that Emmet used his dead wife’s appearance and voice as the basis for Synergy’s avatar. And it IS kind of creepy and odd. Sad, too, absolutely, and we saw that he loved Jacqui very much.
    What I’m wondering is, is it even worse than you’ve considered.
    Think about how tragic it was that Jacqui never really got the fame she deserved, that her career was cut short, despite showing so much promise. Think about a husband who has gone to such great lengths (according to these fan theories of mine, at least) to help his daughter by giving her what amounts to gorram techno-magic to let her be both beautiful… just as Jacqui was beautiful. To give Jerrica a beautiful voice, just like Jacqui had a beautiful voice…. And Jacqui, who was gone before the world really knew her, but then again, there’s no reason why the world can’t see and hear Jacqui now….
    (Are you creeped out yet?)
    Yes. What if Emmet didn’t just autotune Jerrica’s voice to be smoother and on-key? What if the singing voice he gave her was Jacqui’s? It would have shared some similarities to Jerrica’s already, anyway; an improved Jerrica voice is probably already most of the way there, so just tweak it a little more, and now we have Jacqui singing again, through her daughter.
    And if Jacqui was beautiful, then an idealized version of Jerrica is again most of the way there.
    For all we know, that night Jerrica discovered Synergy, she found the Jem avatar already preprogrammed and ready to go.

    And THIS is Synergy’s ultimate function and purpose–to let Jerrica be what she’s always dreamed of being: A beautiful, talented singer–And, less obviously to the girls, but very much in line with Emmet’s wishes, a way for his beloved Jacqui to live again, and sing again; the closest thing he could manage to actually bringing her back.

    I don’t know if Jerrica would even be able to work that much of it out (were it actually true), or if Synergy would have been instructed to tell her or not tell her. It could be either one, depending on how Emmet felt at the time.
    I think it’s tragic, though, that he might have gone that far, and pushed that hard against the limits of what he could do in the face of Jacqui’s death.
    And maybe he was even okay with dying, once all that had been set in place. I know he would have wanted to see Jerrica/Jacqui on stage performing, but it might also have shattered him completely to see and hear her again like that… and he might have realized it, once the frantic work was over and he could really stop to think about what would happen next.

    Okay, that’s enough for now, I think.
    Thank you, guys, for doing the show, and for provoking some deep, yet silly thoughts about a very strange cartoon.

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