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After fighting their way through dozens of alien warriors as an employability test, Vienna Salvatori (Chase Masterson) and new pal Jex Reagan (Samantha Beart) discover their assignment: protect the formula for a mood altering drug.  But they discover there’s a lot more to this, including an epidemic of cloning and the rather communist leaning orientation it brings about…

Worse, all this rather questionable cutting edge research resides solely within the mind of the dotty Dr. Glospan (Prof. Edward Dunning himself, Terry Molloy) – and when assassins manage to take out the not-so good doctor, the conspiracy…and twists of narrative logic, only gets more tangled…

After a dull “all fighting! all action!” start, Ian Potter’s Self Improvement becomes an entertaining enough installment in the adventures of Vienna Salvatori, complete with ambiguous morality, scientific malfeasance, misguided attempts at realpolitik (sure, it’s a blow against the plutocracy…but is “good day” really something people should be forced to rely on in the first place?) and goofy alien action: the algae, clone deception and more await!

In sum, it’s harmless enough entertainment, and Terry Molloy is always a joy, particularly when in semi-Scarifyers mode as he is here.

“This city deserves to be a ruin.”

Next, another disturbing trend in modern society is both explored and duly skewered in an Apprentice-style scenario where obnoxiously Social Darwinist cum satanic corporate bullshit is given a sci-fi twist.

“12 months ago, this was home to the biggest corporations and financial institutions in the galaxy.  Then share prices dropped, the stock market fractured and the whole city toppled.  People had invested in their own companies, so when one fell, they all did.

Everyone’s credit accounts were frozen.  Every citizen declared bankrupt.  In just under 7 seconds, Pakora went from the richest planet in the galaxy to a destitute wasteland.”

With absurdist motivational speaker gibberish still driving a desperate (and destitute) populace, savage tribes of degenerate barbarians continue to speak in MBA-approved business lingo as they maraud the barren cityscape.

And then Vienna and Jex discover the Fiddler’s Green of Platinum Heights, where the still-protected plutocracy…or rather, the Sidney Greenstreetlike AI in service thereof…live a life of luxury and directs an intergalactic puppet show, begging for some degree of crumbs to be tossed from their pre-revolutionary France-like pedestal.

And of course, they’re quite interested in mass-marketing a reverse-engineered variant of Prof. Glospan’s good day drug, dumping it into “that fast food you poor people love so much” to keep the impoverished spending…

Who the hell knew George Romero’s Land of the Dead and Mike Judge’s Idiocracy would be the prophetic signposts of our modern politicosocial landscape?

A positively embarassing admission, to be sure, but the truth of the message of each of those films is self-evident: just take a look at the daily news, whatever your feed (physical, televised or virtual).

And Guy Adams is aware enough to recognize this sorry truth, tying the ridiculously unending “reality TV” trend to how multinational corporate ownership of global government is bringing us all to imminent ruin (while of course continuing to gild their already diamond-studded, platinum embossed lilies).

Like Idiocracy, this one is clearly intended to be funny, and on a strictly objective level, it unquestionably is…but like the aforementioned (and rather under the radar) comedy, the reality thereof cuts far too close to the bone to inspire much more than horror that we the people have allowed ourselves to be suckered into this real world scenario without even a whimper of protest.

Finally, they follow the money to a Disneyfied “theme planet” dedicated to old London circa 21st century, where Vienna is brainwashed into believing she’s part of the general populace, and that her intergalactic bounty hunting days were merely a dream.

While Vienna lives the life of a catty socialite, Jex spends some time amidst the hoi polloi, discovering the horrors of falling behind on debt…

Chase Masterson’s Vienna Salvatori remains as snarky and amusing as ever, joined by Samantha Beart as a rather coarse and often quite blunt sidekick in Jex.  But this time around, it didn’t really feel like either of them were the central focus…it’s clear the authors had some rather timely and appropriate concerns to get off their chests.

A particularly aware and political run of episodes in the Vienna universe, this box comes quite recommended to the less aware…particularly in a vital election year, with the promise of change, or a fall into abject disaster on the other end, at stake.