So I got my EI dvds in the mail a few days ago and pretty much skipped right to the episodes with Dash, and after getting on the phone with my brother and partner in all things 90's, I came up with a few theories of my own as to what is going on with "that sneaky kid with the hair".
Okay, first and foremost: he's an alien. I'm just gonna go right ahead and assume that because, well, it's my theory and I can do what I like with it. Also because Ned from "Loyal Order of Corn" has the +/- signs and is an alien and that whole thing with the crystal and the goofy hand signals and the door that only Ned and Dash can open and blahblahblah. So Dash from whatever planet Ned was from. I'm gonna call it Planet Loroc, because I'm like that.
Secondly, that line where Dash asks if Ned is his father and Ned says something along the lines of "If only it were that simple". Now aside from being all "Awwww!" over Dash's crushed expression and yelling "That's not even a real answer, jerk!" at the TV, the first thing that popped into my head was "cloning". Admittedly I had been watching Clone Wars right before, but still, I'm gonna go with the cloning thing because, well, everyone loves a cloning storyline. Man, I love the word "clone". It's a great word.
So, right, Dash is an alien clone. Sucks to be him. But who is he an alien clone of? Is it Ned? Well, kinda. See, I think Ned is a clone too. I think the grey hair and the symbols on their hands were originally some kind of signifier, like a brand so that clones could be identified. And based on Ned's assertion that "These symbols [the grey hair and the +/-] date back to a time long before any of us can remember", I'm thinking that whatever the original purpose of the cloning was, the people of Loroc have forgotten it.
And if you were going to clone somebody, why not make it one of your civilisation's best and brightest? The ones who could be the most use out on the field if they weren't so vitally important that they needed to be kept on their own planet? You get the intelligance and instincts and experiance of the original, but in a body you can replicate thousands of times, so if it gets destroyed? No worries.
It also explains how Dash instinctivly knows about the crystal, how to work the TV zapper thingie and open those doors; it's a form of genetic memory. He's familar with all that technology because he, or whoever the original template was, created it. I'm going to call my hypothetical template Dash Alpha, because everything sounds cooler when you use letters from the Greek Alphabet.
Only the law of diminishing returns comes into play, and the more copies you make, the less bang you're getting for your alien buck. So eventually the clones are reduced more or less to the level of the average inhabitent of Loroc. But hey, why waste all those clones? Going back to the Star Wars theme, clones are expendable. You can make a whole army of cannon fodder, you can use them to do all the really dangerous, unpleasant jobs that "real" people don't want to do... like sending them to uncharted planets where there's a good chance they won't ever make it back.
So the clones are kind of like the equivilent of the SIR (surveillence and information retrieval) units on Invader Zim, albeit less likely to upload their brain into a house, replace their tracking system with tuna or dress in a green dog suit. And then I was like, "Wait a minute, it's no use them gathering all this data if they can't report back." So I figure, maybe the people of Loroc are like bees. Or, you know, the Borg. They have a collective consciousness, and what one of them knows, all of them know.
Or maybe, because I can't resist a conspiracy theory, all the information the clones collect is stored in to a giant alien database, to which only a few shadowy Governmental types have access. So it's not that nobody remembers the purpose of the clones or the meaning of the grey hair and the symbols; it's that The Man is keeping that information from the general public. And to tie in with my hive-mind theory, if these shadowy Governmental types have direct access to the database which stores and transmits the knowledge of an entire race, what's to stop them from tampering with it, from altering the public's memories? Which would explain why nobody has a fucking clue why there's all these folk with grey hair and weird markings running around.
We can see from the pictures in the Order's Lodge that Ned hasn't aged since 1918, so clearly the people of Loroc or the clones age much more slowly than we do. But they do age. When Dash asks why Ned hired him, Ned says that Dash is his assistant, "maybe even my replacement". He also says he doesn't think he can stand much more time on Earth. So I'm thinking his weariness is transmitted to the hive-mind, who decide it's time to pull him out and send a new operative to watch over us grubby humantypes. And so, they transmit data back through the hive-mind to Ned, allowing him to build his portal home, but in such a way as to make him believe that this is all his own work. The truth is, his job on Earth is done and he's being recalled.
So even the clones don't know they're clones, and the Man takes care to keep them in the dark about that paricular aspect. Dash has no memory of who he was before three months ago because he was floating around in his little clone-tube waiting to be sent on a mission. But the hive-mind allows the Man to upload all the information he'd need to fit in on Earth, explaining why he doesn't know his own name but knows who Orville Redenbacher was. The hive-mind also prompts Ned to tell Dash that his answers are in Eerie, motivating him to stay around instead of returning to Loroc with Ned and screwing up the Man's intentions.
Now, even though they're clones, Dash and Ned each have their own very distinct personalities; Ned has this wonderfully dry sense of humour and a real affection for Earth, even if it is the weary affection you have for a hyperactive puppy that just peed on your slippers. Dash, on the other hand, is an avowed cynic, and to be honest, he comes off as a bit of a crazy bastard too. And why is that?
Well, if we take into account the much longer lifespans of the people of Loroc, that cloning technology might have been created thousands of years ago. Dash Alpha is probably dead, and the remaining clones don;t have the knowledge to maintain the equiptment. And like any old computer system, you get an increasing number of faults as it reaches the end of it's lifespan. Errors are sneaking in; the clones are becoming their own people, with their own dreams and desires and crushes on Marshall. Naturally we can't have these pesky malfunctioning clones running about, so once a clone is recalled, they get reassimilated (sorry) into the collective (sorry!) conciousness.
So let's say, on his return to Loroc, Ned is greeted not as a returning hero or a comrade long thought lost, but as one of those pesky crippled war veterans the Government doesn't want the bother of caring for. So he becomes the mental equivilent of soylent green; his body is destroyed and his mind is broken down and added to the big ol' super-secret database that controls the Lorocians.
And in that final moment, when his horrified mind percieves the entire truth behind his existence, let's say he manages to pass that information down the line to Dash, happily making his morally-ambiguous way in Eerie.
In his place, can you honestly say you wouldn't throw a complete shitfit?
I had some more stuff about how this ties in with "Reality Takes A Holiday" and why Dash goes from being Simon and Marshall's "semi-friend" to a nutbar who wants to kill him, but it's late and I have work tomorrow, so I'll leave it for another day.