‘3 Body Problem’ Episode 1 Recap: What Is The Red Coast?

A political science-fiction thriller based on the book of the same name, 3 Body Problem offers more than what meets the eye. It is not every day that we will come across something as thought-provoking as this series. The least it is going to do is underscore the meaninglessness of the human condition and what gives rise to misanthropy. But again, it makes me wonder about the distinction between nihilism and misanthropy. I do feel that, as of late, we need more movies and series that challenge our inflated sense of self as human beings. The way we have evolved into beings of colossal destruction, I can’t help but feel the lack of a solution to this endless cycle. As cavemen, we evolved to solve the ‘me vs. you’ problem and successfully built ourselves into a society; however, we never really learned how to adapt to the ‘us vs. them’ problem. This might just be the root of our struggles as an intelligent yet primitive species who cannot fathom the fragility of our place in the universe, and that is something that I feel 3 Body Problem is trying to explore.


Spoilers Ahead 

What Is Ye Wenjie’s Story?

The story nonlinearly depicts events through two different timelines—the first in this domino sequence is set in the late 1960s, towards the beginning of the Chinese cultural revolution, which left the country in utter chaos. Ye Wenjie’s father, a renowned astrophysicist, receives a public prosecution for his research being based on Einstein’s theories. For those who might be unaware of this revolution, the Chinese Cultural Revolution was a tumultuous political revolution. Mao Zedong had started to rid the country of any kind of opposition, ancient Chinese culture, and even liberal sentiments. The Communist Party of China had even issued a radical youth organization called the Red Guards, which took it upon themselves to prosecute the enemies of the state. It was a common occurrence that the Red Guards ended up publicly killing university professors who had worked on Western theories, which went against the tenets of Maoist Communism. 


It was the same Red Guards who beat Ye Wenjie’s father to death in public while his daughter watched him die. Years later, Ye Wenjie is caught in possession of a Western novel while working with the construction corps after being declared a traitor. Leading to arrest and imprisonment, she is forced to reveal the names of other scientists who worked in Western science, but she refuses. Surprisingly, instead of getting executed, she is taken to a satellite observatory, where she is offered to work on a secret operation, Red Coast. 

What Is The Red Coast? 

At an observatory in Inner Mongolia, Ye Wenjie finds herself being offered to work as a researcher in return for her exoneration. The aim of the work being undertaken at this observatory was based on her own work that she published a few years ago. Initially thought to be a weaponization program against the Western world, she feels something off about Red Coast until the true nature of the program is revealed to her.  Commander Lei, the overseer of the operation, along with Chief Engineer Yang, reveals to Ye Wenjie that, in reality, the aim of the program has never been weaponization. Instead, the program was intended to communicate with extraterrestrial life. 


Why Did Vera Ye’s Project Shut Down?

In 2024, Vera Ye is the daughter of now-aged Wenjie in London. Vera is the head of a project running a particle accelerator at Oxford University. However, recent anomalies in particle accelerators all around the world have changed the understanding of particle physics. The main purpose of a particle accelerator is to facilitate collisions of atomic particles and study their nature. However, in the words of Saul Durand, Vera’s protege, the anomalous behavior of these particles following a collision in the accelerator is simply impossible. This is something that has baffled all the scientists around the world, but for Vera Ye, these results are the reason for the shutting down of her accelerator. 

What Is Clarence Investigating?

In the aftermath of the project being shut down, Vera Ye ends up taking her own life. Initially, it seems like Vera died out of the grief of her life’s work being proven wrong, but as it turns out, her death is another in a series of self-inflicted deaths by scientists all around the world. In particular, the scientists who had been leading pioneering work have been the ones who killed themselves, including Vera Ye. This series of unusual deaths makes Clarence wonder if they are indeed suicides or murders that were made to look like suicides. It turns out that Clarence himself is investigating these deaths for an unknown organization. He has previously worked for Scotland Yard, MI5, but was kicked out for some reason. Seeking answers for these incidents, the clues lead him to other Oxford scientists who were associated with Vera. He believes that these deaths might also be connected to Mike Evans, the mysterious owner of an oil company who visits Vera’s funeral. 


What Is The Helmet That Vera Left In Her Room?

One of the possessions that Vera left behind is a helmet, which doesn’t exactly look like something of human origin. Wenjie reveals that before her death, Vera had been playing a game, and it was somewhat lined up with the helmet she had left behind. Out of curiosity to find out what it was, Jin borrowed the helmet from Wenjie. At her house, Jin dawns the helmet, which turns out to be full-dive virtual reality headgear. In this virtual world, she finds herself in a deserted land. The graphics of this virtual game are as advanced as those of the real world, something that is way beyond current human technology. Meanwhile, Clarence is also aware of this headgear, as he has seen one of the late scientists wearing it in CCTV footage, leading him to believe that it is of crucial importance to the investigation. 

Why Is Auggie Acting Strange?

Auggie Salazar is another scientist who graduated from Oxford. She secretly has a thing with Saul Durand but has been struggling to understand Saul’s intentions given his distant nature. Auggie is working as the Chief Scientific Officer at a company, leading her own pioneering research on nanofibers. The nanofibers she is working on are invisible to the naked eye but are stronger than steel as well and can be crucial for human technology, including space exploration. 


While meeting up with her fellow Oxford friend, Jin, Auggie starts hallucinating strange figures, which seem like a countdown. Quite obviously, Auggie is quite scared of this countdown, especially following the recent deaths of scientists around the world. She assumes that the numbers might even be counting down to her own death. 

After Vera’s funeral, while smoking by herself, she encounters a strange woman who presumably knows about her countdown. She warns her to not let the numbers hit zero and to make the countdown stop, she needs to shut down her entire project and put an end to her work on nanofibers. This woman adds that, as proof, Auggie must look at the sky at exactly midnight the next day. Subsequently, Auggie follows the instructions that the mysterious woman has given. She goes out with Saul to have him observe in case anything actually happens. Much to their surprise, at exactly midnight, the stars in the sky start to blink. Saul, immediately identifying the blinking as Morse, deciphers the code, and as it turns out, the message is the same as the countdown that Auggie has been seeing. In the meantime, Wade, the head of the organization Clarence works for, points at the stars, claiming that the ones behind this cosmic phenomenon are indeed the enemies that they’re fighting. 


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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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