Whether or not you’ve ever seen an episode of Castle, if you consider yourself a sci-fi geek, this latest episode is worth the watch. Directed by Star Trek: The Next Generation alum, Jonathan Frakes – who also has a brief cameo in the opening sequence with Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) – the show also pulled in some great sci-fi guest stars like Christina Moore from True Blood, Ed Quin from Eureka, Erin Way from Alphas, and Armin Shimmerman from Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Chris McKenna also guest stars, though his claim to fame is playing the role of Joey Buchanan on One Life To Live; the same role Fillion played back in the day. There are also no less than four references to Fillion’s cult sci-fi hit, Firefly. Coming in the wake of Disney’s announcement that Lucasfilm has joined the family that ABC is already part of, this episode couldn’t have been better timed.
Welcome to SuperNovaCon, the gathering place for all geeks large and small, where tragedy has struck aboard the Nebula-9 fan experience. Fans at the convention get to dress in authentic uniforms, don props, and head out into the final frontier on a replica bridge, captained by the show’s star, Gabriel Winters (Ed Quin) who plays Captain Max Rennard. Castle is also at SuperNovaCon, in an autograph booth promoting his latest book, Storm Season, and though Beckett (Stana Katic) has to get his attention by asking him to sign her boobs, she has no problem keeping it afterward.
Turns out there’s no love lost between Castle and Nebula-9, which he describes as a one season wonder – 12 episodes aired 9 years ago – that “ignores the laws of physics and good storytelling.” He’s more of a Star Trek, Star Wars, and Whedonverse guy. What he doesn’t realize is that his girlfriend used to be one of Nebula-9‘s biggest fangirls. Her “Lt. Chloe” costume becomes the topic of many conversations.
With a perfunctory “frackin'” nod to Battlestar Galactica, the investigation is on and the cast of characters is introduced. The victim is Anabelle Collins, the woman responsible for resurrecting Nebula-9 from the dead as a web-series and bringing the fan experience to SuperNovaCon. However, all was not going well for Anabelle, who found having to work with playboy Winters’ drunken escapades none too fun. Apparently, she was on the brink of selling her rights to the show before she died.
Her partners in the Nebula-9 efforts are Audrey (Erin Way) and Davis (John Bobek), and when it’s discovered that Audrey inherited the rights to the show and Davis fought with Annabelle the night of her death, they move to the top of the suspect list. Also on the radar are Winters and his co-star Stephanie Frye (Christina Moore); though while he lives in a drunken stupor, depending on conventions to keep him afloat, she’s moved on to bigger and better things like the movies. Finally, there’s Simon Westport (Chris McKenna), Annabelle’s boy toy during the conventions who cosplays as a Nebula-9 flesh-eating baddie called a Creaver and buys her an authentic Thorian blaster; though for all his trouble, he’s dumped on the night of her death.
It’s the blaster that does Annabelle in, much to Castle’s glee and Dr. Perlmutter’s (Arye Gross) chagrin, sending Castle and Beckett off to find the maker of a real-life laser gun. The culprit is Ben Donnely (Armin Shimmerman), an eccentric inventor who wears a “Han Shot First” t-shirt and offers everything from working Thorian blasters to double-bladed lightsabers. He’s quick to point out that Thorian blasters don’t kil people; people kill people. Donnely proves relatively harmless, though he does send Castle into a tailspin when he infers that the blaster Castle shot may have done some damage.
There’s a nice little moment tucked between the last of the red herring interviews and the beginning of the end reveal, where Beckett tells Castle why she enjoyed Nebula-9 so much in her younger days. Yes, she knew it was a corny drama, but at the same time for her it was about leaving home for the first time and finding one’s identity in the galaxy. For her, that identity was embodied in Lt. Chloe, who was both scientist and warrior. “I didn’t have to choose,” Beckett confides, a sentiment every fangirl can understand.
Sadly, the blaster shot doesn’t turn Castle into Hulk, or The Thing, or even Dr. Manhattan, but it does leave him with superficial burns all over his hand from the laser’s blowback; burns that only become visible under a black light. The five suspects are gathered on the bridge for one final showdown and for a moment it look like Winters is their guy. That is, until Winters admits to buying his own blaster from Donnely and shooting holes in the wall of his hotel, leaving co-star Frye as the last woman standing. Trapped, she attempts to take Winters hostage with his blaster, but with a couple of smooth moves from his Captain days, he flips her upside-down and disarms her before whispering, “It was easier back when he had stunt men.”
In the closing minutes, Castle laments not gaining any mutant powers, though mostly his mind is focused on the “Lt. Chloe” uniform. Negotiations ensue and the terms agreed upon are that Beckett will cosplay with him as long as he endures a complaint-free, Nebula-9 marathon with her. Sadly, Castle doesn’t cosplay in a brown jacket, but there’s a healthy eyeful of Stana Katic’s long legs as she slides out in galactically-high heels and a tight, skimpy uniform. Just when Castle thinks it’s going to end happily ever after for him tonight, Beckett’s head appears, wearing with a Creaver mask. Castle flees the room, muttering that he’d rather get started on that episode marathon. The camera pans up, up, and away into the stars as William Shatner continues to croon about his “Ideal Woman.”
Castle airs Mondays at 10/9c on ABC.