Season 4, episode 5
Aired: July 24, 2009 on BBC1
Sam has arranged for Meredith Sutton, a team-building expert, to visit the hotel during what is traditionally a slow week. However, unbeknownst to everyone else in the hotel, Juliet has just signed up Babylon to host a convention for the “Captain Stranger Appreciation Society”, a group of fans of a cheesy 1970s sci-fi TV series.
At first, no one seems to take the “team building” exercises very seriously, least of all Juliet. This causes friction between her and Sam, who feels that her flippant attitude about it makes both of them look bad in front of the staff.
Meanwhile, Ben finds a homeless man that’s apparently been living in Hotel Babylon for weeks now. He tries to throw the man out of the hotel, but recognizes his voice: he is apparently Martin Armstrong, a man who once hosted a popular children’s television news show back in the 70s. Ben doesn’t have the heart to throw him out, so he sets him up in a vacant room. Unfortunately, Martin is caught by Juliet, who was exhausted and went to the supposedly vacant room to take a nap. She too almost throws Martin out, but she also recognizes his voice as the “man from the telly”. She “hires” him to record new voice prompts for the hotel’s phone system and elevators, and “pays” him by cleaning him up, buying him a £1000 suit, and arranging a job interview with a contact she has.
While all this is going on, Geno spies Mary, a pretty blonde girl, amongst the nerdy, costumed conventioneers. He starts chatting her up, and the two hit it off… so much so that he spends the night with her in her room. When he wakes up the next morning, he goes to the bathroom in her room, where he spies a huge collection of Captain Stranger action figures. He freaks out and leaves quickly (he earlier said he was on a bus with a bunch of Star Trek fans who sang songs in Klingon for six hours, and that he “still has nightmares” about it). However, he likes the blonde girl so much that he later tracks her down to one of the hotel’s ballrooms, where episodes of Captain Stranger are being screened. He initially wants to talk to her, but gets sucked into the show… and becomes a fan!
Tension between Sam and Juliet explodes when she fails a fire drill (which was part of the team building exercise) and when a solid gold pen (used by guest and Captain Stranger actress Gail Wallis Strong to sign autographs) goes missing. As part of the investigation into the pen theft, Juliet must reveal to Sam that she’s used hotel money to buy a suit for Martin Armstrong, the prime suspect in the pen’s disappearance. Sam and Juliet argue and she quits.
But all is not as it seems: Meredith rigged the fire drill for Juliet to fail because she wants Juliet’s job, and prime suspect Martin Armstrong reappears, having borrowed the pen to make himself look better in the job interview. Sam must crawl back to Juliet on his hands and knees and beg her to come back.
Meanwhile, Geno’s new love has used his master key card (which she nicked when the couple had sex) to sneak into Gail Wallis Strong’s room (the actress with the missing gold pen). Mary says that she just wanted to talk to her, “or maybe take a lock of her hair”. Geno realizes that not only is Mary mentally unbalanced, but that she probably slept with him just to get close to his key card. Although it breaks his heart, Geno kicks her out of the hotel… but not before she gives him her most valuable action figure as a memento.
Normally, I’d roll my eyes at the thought of a cheesy sci-fi convention at the hotel. Of all the genres of TV shows and movies out there, sci-fi is the most like “playing make believe” to me in the first place, and this episode using a make believe show about a make believe genre could have been a bit too much. However, several of my friends are big into DragonCon, a giant sci-fi nerdfest held in Atlanta every year, so I actually got a chuckle of of this plot line.
I also got a kick out of Tony taking £20 notes from the naive guest that offered them every time Tony answered the simplest question, or carried the man’s luggage from the front door to the front desk. I also liked that Tony gave the man (most of) his money back after he found out that that the guest was a humble librarian (I giggled when the man gave Tony a £20 note for giving back the rest of his £20 notes).
I felt so sad for Geno – the poor guy’s just never going to find love, is he?
I’m not quite certain that I buy the “Meredith Sutton” storyline. She’s a “team-builder” whose agenda is… breaking up the team? Don’t those people use word of mouth more than anything else? How’s she supposed to carry on after the disaster at Babylon? I know she said that she was tired of being on the road all the time, but still… I found her to be so unprofessional as to be unrealistic. Not that “realism” is one of Hotel Babylon’s strong points, but still.
All in all, it was a pretty good episode, perhaps the best Anna-free episode so far.