‘3 Body Problem’s £20 million star is the worst part of the entire show

<div>‘3 Body Problem’s £20 million star is the worst part of the entire show</div>
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(L to R) Alex Sharp as Will Downing, Jess Hong as Jin Cheng in episode 106 of

Netflix‘s sci-fi series 3 Body Problem features a myriad of fantastical elements, from proton supercomputers to razor-sharp nanofibres, to ridiculously high-tech virtual reality headsets which let you eat dirt. Yet the most unbelievable, unforgivable, infuriating part of the entire show had nothing to do with any of this amazing technology.

Instead, it was when lovelorn cancer patient Will Downing (Alex Sharp) shelled out £19.5 million to buy his crush a star.

In 3 Body Problem‘s sixth episode “The Stars Our Destination,” Will visits the titular organisation in order to purchase a star. Having recently been bequeathed a fortune of £20 million, the sad dying physics teacher decides to spend £19.5 million of it to buy star DX3906 as an anonymous gift to Jin (Jess Hong), the unwitting object of his affections. 

For those of you playing from the U.S., that’s a price tag of over $24.5 million at the current conversion rate. It’s also one of the biggest, most brazen scams I have ever heard of.

How to buy a star (Spoiler: You can’t)

(L to R) Eiza González as Auggie Salazar, Jovan Adepo as Saul Durand in episode 101 of "3 Body Problem."

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix.

The first and most obvious issue is that The Stars Our Destination’s entire business model is illegitimate, because it’s impossible to buy or sell a star.

One of the first rules of commerce is that you can’t sell anything you don’t own. In order to sell a star, you must first own the star. However, Article II of the United Nations’ 1967 Outer Space Treaty states that no nation can claim sovereignty or ownership over any celestial body. Article VI further dictates that nations are held responsible for the outer space activities of their non-government entities, and must ensure they act in accordance with the treaty. The UK, China, and the U.S. are all signatories.

In short, nobody can own a star, whether they’re a government, organisation, or private individual. Yet despite this, unsung villain The Stars Our Destination seems to have unilaterally and unlawfully claimed ownership of the entire universe in order to sell off chunks of it for cash. 

The whole endeavour reeks of an imperialist power dividing up land in anticipation of conquering it. Though to be fair, it is pretty on brand for humans to make contact with aliens then immediately resort to space colonialism.

Liam Cunningham as Wade in episode 106 of "3 Body Problem."

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix.

One could argue that The Stars Our Destination’s ownership paperwork is merely a symbolic gesture of appreciation for generous donations, rather than a legal certificate of title. After all, the organisation’s purported purpose is to raise funds for a global defence rather than operate as a profitable commercial entity. 

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However, Will makes it explicitly clear that he feels no loyalty to the human race, only to Jin. Considering this, it makes no sense that he would decide to make a £19.5 million donation toward humanity’s survival, the benefits of which won’t be seen until long after both he and Jin have passed. He wouldn’t even sign a document pledging allegiance to humans on his deathbed.

The only way Will would shell out that much cash is if he thought he was actually buying Jin legal ownership rights to a star lightyears away. The Stars Our Destination essentially scammed a dying man out of millions.

I have renamed the North Star. It’s Bartholomew now.

Setting aside the issue of ownership, The Stars Our Destination can’t even sell legitimate celestial naming rights.

Like gift cards and charitable donations, naming a star has long been a stalwart among presents for people you don’t really know or like. There are numerous organisations that claim to sell the stars’ naming rights, such as Star Register, Name a Star, Star Registration, and International Star Registry. Absolutely none of them are official. 

Each such commercial star registry keeps and maintains its own record of stars, which carries about as much weight as the registration certificates they email out to you. When you purchase star naming rights from such businesses, all you’re paying for is a piece of paper and a line in the company’s internal documents.

I could sell star naming rights of equal legitimacy by simply knocking together a few certificates in Canva, flogging them for 50 bucks a pop, then jotting down customers’ chosen names in my Notes app. On an unrelated note, if anyone would like to name a star, hit me up — I have a few billion you can pick from.

A certificate of registration created in Canva which renames the North Star to "Bartholomew."

Credit: Amanda Yeo / Mashable

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the only earthly organisation with the authority to name celestial bodies, and it doesn’t offer that privilege for sale.

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“As an international scientific organisation, the IAU dissociates itself entirely from the commercial practice of ‘selling’ fictitious star names, surface feature names, or real estate on other planets or moons in the Solar System,” reads the IAU’s website. “Some commercial enterprises purport to offer such services for a fee. However, such ‘names’ have no formal or official validity whatsoever.”

Importantly, the IAU doesn’t claim to actually own any of the celestial bodies it names. It just labels them so that scientists are all on the same page. It’s a bit like how you might call a squirrel at the park “Peter,” prompting all your friends to do so as well. None of you own Peter, but everyone knows which furry rodent you’re referring to.  

Men will literally buy a celestial body instead of going to therapy

(L to R) Jess Hong as Jin Cheng, Alex Sharp as Will Downing in episode 107 of "3 Body Problem."

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix.

Okay, so star naming and ownership are scams. But what about looking at Will’s present from a more romantic point of view? Some may see blowing millions of dollars on a shiny, useless gift for a loved one as a grand gesture of love. To quote the poets, a star is like a diamond in the sky, and diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

You know what would be even more romantic? Literally setting someone up for life.

Twenty million entire British pounds is an exorbitant amount of money, more than the vast majority of humans could ever dream of seeing in one lifetime. This life-changing pile of cash could easily fund more than one person living out the rest of their days in comfort, free of the stress and uncertainty that plagues all us wretched souls condemned to capitalism’s rat race.

However, Will is apparently beyond such concerns. Will’s under-2kg brain determined that the best possible use of £20 million wasn’t to buy his unspoken love a house, or a car, or a real physical diamond she can hold in her hand. Rather than materially improving Jin’s life, Will decided to spend the cash on a dubious certificate of ownership for something she doesn’t want, from an organisation she’s shown no interest in.

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For comparison, here is an incomplete list of things one could purchase for £20 million in the year of our Lord 2024:

If I found out someone dropped £20 million to buy me a star I would immediately lose all interest in them. In a time when the mere cost of living is a pressing concern, spending millions on questionable rights to a celestial body is thoughtless at best and willfully spiteful at worst. I cannot fall in love with someone who could have easily ensured I never had to work again, but chose to give me a glorified NFT instead. 

Liam Cunningham as Wade in episode 106 of "3 Body Problem."

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix.

3 Body Problem only adapts the first instalment of Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, so there’s a chance we could see the consequences of Will’s terrible shopping decisions in a second season

But based on all the information the Netflix series has provided thus far, and what the characters actually know, spending £19.5 million to buy a star is one of the worst decisions anyone in the series has made. Considering someone knowingly invited invading aliens to Earth, that’s saying a lot.

How to watch: 3 Body Problem is now streaming on Netflix.


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