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Cast
| Episode Guide | News | Notes | Pictures | My SummaryMy Review

Cast

Character Actor
Tibor Cargrew Malcolm McDowell
Martha Van Vogel Anne Heche
Bronson Van Vogel  Russell Porter
Jerry Jason Diablo
Pudgy Dodge Richard Ian Cox
McCoy Bill Dow
Judge Alexa Pomfrey Sonja Bennett
Judge Leo Matty Finochio
Newswoman Val Cole
Narrator Professor Stephen Hawking

Written and directed by Michael Tolkin
Based on a story by Robert Heinlein

Episode Listings

Ep# Title Airdate
101 A Clean Escape 8/4/07
102 Jerry Was a Man 8/18/07
103 The Awakening 8/11/07
106 The Discarded 8/25/07
104 Little Brother DVD
105 Watchbird DVD

Episode Guide

A Clean Escape -  set not too far in a post-Apocalyptic future, psychiatrist Dr. Deanna Evans (Judy Davis) interrogates a distinguished, if befuddled, man (Sam Waterston) who appears to be suffering from a lapse in memory. Why can't he remember - and why is it so important that she uncover the secret he holds deep inside? Based on John Kessel's short story. Mark Rydell directs from a script by Sam Egan.

The Awakening (formerly The General Zapped an Angel) - the story opens outside Baghdad, where U.S. soldiers (Terry O'Quinn
and Elisabeth Rohm) discover a mysterious casualty - one they can't even identify as human. William B. Davis stars as the President of the United States. Based on the short story by Howard Fast. Michael Petroni directs from a script he wrote.

Jerry Was a Man - Mr. and Mrs. Bronson Van Vogel are the seventh-richest couple in the world. Pleasure is their only work; mundane or dangerous chores are done by anthropoids. All the anthropoids—a few strands of human DNA, grown into a baby and fused with plastics—are named “Joe.” Somehow, Mrs. Van Vogel’s dormant compassion is awakened by a Joe named Jerry. What traits would prove that Jerry is, indeed, a man?

The Discarded - the ultimate story of despised minorities (Brian Dennehy, John Hurt and James Denton) sentenced to drift in the darkness of outer space forever. These men and women make a desperate pact in the hope of being offered refuge at home on Earth. Based on the short story by Harlan Ellison. Jonathan Frakes directs from a script by Ellison & Josh Olson

Little Brother - set in the future, where courtrooms exist without human judges or juries, and automated justice is the law of the land with Clifton Collins, Jr., and Kimberly Elise. Written and adapted for TV by Walter Mosley. Darnell Martin directs.

Watchbird - as society creates robotic droids to prevent killing before it takes place, they discover that all life depends on a fragile formula of killing and death with Sean Astin and James Cromwell. Based on the short story by Robert Sheckley. Harold Becker directs from a script by Sam Egan.

News

Sci-Fi Wire 7/27/07
"Masters of Science Fiction," an anthology series of genre stories by notable writers and directors, premieres Aug. 4, but ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson has characterized the show that has been shelved for more than a year as "very uneven" and "a little bit problematic. It was a low-cost initiative that we tried," McPherson told reporters during the recent Television Critics Association press tour, "We did this series of movies to see if there was a way to spark something different at a really low cost point."
    Noting that many networks are going heavy on science-fiction programming, McPherson said that there is a vast universe between space-faring sci-fi, and those more grounded in reality. "I think there's a difference between real hardcore sci-fi, with 'Battlestar Galactica' and 'Heroes,' as opposed to 'Lost' or 'Pushing Daisies,' which I think have elements and have magical realism and things that I think that people debate whether they're science fiction or not," he said. "Some of the nets I think have gone heavily sci-fi. It will be interesting to see how they perform."

Superb sci-fi anthology series gathers dust on shelf
By Mark Dawidziak, Newhouse News Service | 4/29/07

    I have seen the future. Well, at least I've seen what may be the best futuristic anthology series since the glory days of "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits." It's called "Masters of Science Fiction," and it's a stunning collection of grand stories, relevant themes, mesmerizing performances and riveting dialogue. Intrigued? You should be. This is the kind of series that could have been submitted for Rod Serling's approval - and would have won it.
    I've seen all six of the completed episodes, but it's possible you won't get that chance. "Masters of Science Fiction" appears to be stuck in a time warp that's keeping it out of the prime-time universe. The series was announced last August as a midseason replacement for ABC, but it has yet to be scheduled by the network of "Dancing With the Stars" and "Desperate Housewives." And we're fast running out of weeks for the 2006-07 television season, which comes to a close in late May.
    Will we see this brilliant series before the calendar says June? It's unlikely. We're heading into the all-important May sweeps period, when ratings determine what local stations can charge for advertising. This is not the time for midseason replacements. Those usually come off the bench in January, March or April, so we thought, surely to goodness, we would have seen "Masters of Science Fiction" by now.
    During that stretch, however, ABC found spots for such inferior midseason replacements as "Notes from the Underbelly," "October Road," "In Case of Emergency" and "Great American Dream Vote." In almost every one of these sorry cases, the show's IQ and the star's belt size were roughly the same. How smart and how classy is "Masters of Science Fiction"? The producers secured the services of Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking as host and narrator. We're talking Stephen "A Brief History of Time" Hawking, for crying out loud.
    The mysteries of cosmology and quantum gravity might be all in a day's work for Hawking, but because he didn't write "A Brief History of Prime Time," the mysteries of network television must seem beyond comprehension to him. But this isn't at all mysterious to anyone who has observed the depressing trends of youth-obsessed, reality-chasing, thought-avoiding network television. In this era dominated by American idols and dancing stars, "Masters of Science Fiction" is the type of show that represents everything that scares the demographics out of a network executive.
    It's brainy. It's literate. It's challenging. It tackles the great issues of our day under the guise of futuristic storytelling. It has no recurring
characters, again recalling the greatness of television's landmark fantasy anthologies. And although it's a visually compelling series, "Masters of Science Fiction" also dares to be talky, allowing two or more great actors to dramatically dance around one another for an hour of intrigue and insight. This is a different kind of dancing with stars.
    The stakes aren't which team survives to dance again next week. The stakes being kicked around in these masterful episodes are whether our society will survive - and how. In short, this is a series that assumes there is intelligent life on the other side of the television screen. It's not that network television doesn't recognize the existence of such intelligent life forms. The broadcast networks simply have been more and more content to see those viewers flee to such cable outposts as FX, HBO and Showtime.
    So if there isn't a place for "Masters of Science Fiction" on the ABC schedule, it isn't a case of woe be to ABC. It's more a case of woe be to all of us. Let me give you some idea of the wonders being withheld from you while ABC makes sure you're getting weekly does of "Supernanny" and "Wife Swap."
    Directed by Mark Rydell ("On Golden Pond," "The Rose"), Nebula Award winner John Kessel's "A Clean Escape" is a futuristic tango between Judy Davis and Sam Waterston. Davis is a psychiatrist. Waterston is her patient, who suffers from short-term memory loss. The payoff is a twist worthy of the best excursions to Serling's "The Twilight Zone." Starring Anne Heche ("Men in Trees") and Malcolm McDowell, "Jerry Was a Man" is Robert A. Heinlein's statement on how humanity is defined. It was adapted and directed by Michael Tolkin ("The Player").
    Brian Dennehy and John Hurt are the stars of "The Discarded," based on the short story by Cleveland native Harlan Ellison, whose credits include episodes of ABC's original "The Outer Limits." Ellison, recently named a Science Fiction Grand Master, has a cameo role in the episode, which he adapted with Oscar nominee Josh Olson ("A History of Violence"). It was directed by Jonathan Frakes, who played William Riker on "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
    These are the best of the six, and they are about the three best hours of television I've seen this season. There's also a great deal to recommend "The Awakening," based on Howard Fast's "The General Zapped an Angel" and starring Terry O'Quinn ("Lost"), and "Little Brother," based on a Walter Mosley story and starring Clifton Collins Jr.
    The weakest of the six is unquestionably "Watchbird," despite earnest performances by Sean Astin and James Cromwell. It's the most obvious and didactic of the group, getting preachy where the others are provocative. And even "Watchbird" is eminently watchable. That's an incredibly high batting average for an anthology show.
    Does "Masters of Science Fiction" have a future? Will we see it in something better than a death-ship time slot (say, Saturday nights in July)?  If ABC executives don't know what to do with this gleaming gem of a series (and it's clear that they don't), they should cut it loose, letting it find a more hospitable home in the television galaxy. There are distant shores where it can land and prosper.

CipherLab scanners enhance SciFi series
By Jim Kilpatrick | Plano Star 8/7/06

    Cipherlab has that futurist look to it, or at least Hollywood thinks it does. A sleek designed casing of one of the new Plano company's handheld barcode scanners captured the imagination of Hollywood producers. The Bluetooth wireless scanner has been selected for use as a prop in an episode of Masters of Science Fiction, a new anthology series for television featuring classic science fiction tales by famous genre authors such as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. "They found our scanner on the web site and rang us up," said vice president-Americas of Cipherlab Robert Hossary. "We offered to do any changes they wanted but they said it was perfect as is."
    The Masters of Science Fiction series is produced by IDT Entertainment and Industry Entertainment for ABC Television. The series is scheduled to begin airing in September 2006. According to Hossary, CipherLab products are being used in the filming of the episode entitled "Jerry was a Man," a short story written by Robert Heinlein starring Malcolm McDowell and Anne Heche, which is now being shot in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
    "We design our hardware to be rugged and ergonomically easy to use," Hossary said. "An added benefit is that our scanners are also visually appealing - something that the film industry has apparently noticed as well." CipherLab moved its sales offices to Plano about a year ago. Now the corporate offices will be opening soon on Summit Street. Presently they are located at 1825 East Plano Parkway. The company was based in Taipei, beginning operations in the 1980s. They moved into the United States ten years ago.
    "In 2005 we merged with a U.S. based company, a software company in Rockwall and then moved it to Plano," Hossary said. CipherLab handles the design, manufacture and marketing of automatic identification and data capture/collection products and systems. The company's mobile computers and scanners are integrated into the networks of some of the world's best known logistics, retail, distribution, government installations and healthcare companies, helping them run more efficiently and effectively onsite and on the road, Hossary said.
    "We have 11 percent of the world market in wireless scanners," Hossary said. He was very pleased that Hollywood has chosen a CipherLab scanner to be used on the screen. "We're flattered that the futuristic look and feel of our equipment is compatible with the imagery the producers of "Masters of Science Fiction" are trying to generate," he said. "We are looking forward to seeing CipherLab scanners on film."

Waterston, Heche among sci fi "Masters"
By Kimberly Nordyke 8/4/06
Los Angeles (Hollywood Reporter) - Judy Davis, Sam Waterston and Anne Heche are among the long list of actors who have signed on to star in episodes of ABC's upcoming anthology series "Masters of Science Fiction." Malcolm McDowell, James Cromwell, John Hurt, Sean Astin and Brian Dennehy also have signed on to star in installments of the six-episode series, which is based on short stories by some of the sci-fi genre's top writers. The hour-long show is set to air during the 2006-07 season.
    Other actors starring in episodes are Terry O'Quinn (ABC's "Lost"), Elisabeth Rohm (NBC's "Law & Order"), Clifton Collins Jr. (ABC's "Alias"), Kimberly Elise (CBS' "Close to Home") and James Denton (ABC's "Desperate Housewives"). In addition, physicist-professor Stephen Hawking will introduce each episode of the show, which is filmed on location in Vancouver, B.C.

2/23/06

Author Ray Bradbury is in negotiations to adapt one of books, "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed." Talks also are under way for "The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov and "The Discarded" by Harlan Ellison  to be turned into episodes of the series as well as a book by Robert Heinlein ("The Puppet Masters"). Writer Michael Tolkinis is set to adapt and direct one episode of the series

Notes

Pictures

Pictures from each episode
Tibor & Mrs. Van Vogel on the tour

Tibor with Mr. & Mrs. Van Vogel on the tour
Tibor with Mr. & Mrs. Van Vogel in front the reactor display

Tibor in court room

My Summary

Intro: From the very beginning we've wondered how life began, what our purpose is and where we are headed. We have struggled to understand time, matter and the infinite universe - who we are and if we are alone. Great minds have imagined the most wonderful and the most terrifying answers to these questions. We invite you to join us on this great expedition. If necessity is the mother of invention what will drive our ingenuity when all of our needs have been fulfilled?

    6/5/2077 - Operation Landmine Clearance - soldiers in a warzone watch a Joe robot work clearing a minefield by walking around until it hits a mine and blows up.
    An Osprey type aircraft drops in front of a building carrying a classic car underneath with the 7th richest woman in the world, Martha Van Vogel, and her boy toy husband Bronson AKA Brownie. Tibor Cargrew meets them outside of his company Controlled Genetics. He says, 'How do you do, welcome, walk this way, wait. We don't try here, we just do.' She says, 'Very profound wisdom.' Arrogance and money I like that combination.' Bron says, 'We have buckets both.' He wants to take them on a tour to his office. Private only right? What do you take me for? On the way there Jerry the robot asks Tibor cigarette boss? He tells him no, get back to work. He works there cleaning the floors. She tells him smoking is bad for him. He also likes candy, so does Bron. Don't encourage him she says. Tibor shows the plasteel biology unit he built, a voice says welcome to the nursery. He explains how before they can work they take them out of the hatchery and the meld the plastic to the biological. Tibor asks her has she ever considered it for her face. How old is she 100? No, 85 she says. It must be the light. Bron sees a nuclear reactor robot in he next display - a globorg. Tibor says it's a Joe, they don't last long, but it's better than paying 3 cents to the locals and a t-shirt, plus no health insurance. It used to be dangerous work. Bron says they won't call out sick. He shows them the Latté Joes. Bron knows they are called soy latte. A coffee house ordered 25,000 of them for their stores, he can't name them. No more tip jars by the counter. Bron says tipping, us?
    In Tibor's office they explain what they want. They were at the Bradbury Club, they wouldn't let Tibor in because he works. They are sitting and talking like always and she says they are only 50,000 each, let's get two. Jerry serves them a drunk. Bron says let's get 3. Pudgy has a dog that barks and they tell him no dogs allowed, only for the blind and no are blind allowed. He says what dog, it's not a dog, it's not real, it's a plasto biological hybrid with 6 legs, the million dollar puppy. She wants Tibor to outdo that, something more impressive. Tibor says like an 8 legged dachshund? No, they don't do those dogs, vile, grotesque creatures. Back to the club - Martha says he's only worth 500 million and he thinks he can show us up. He spent a million for attention. She wonders what they could get to wipe the smile off his face. Bron has an idea that will cost a lot. She likes it. He wants a Pegasus with big gold wings, he wants to land on the club, fly it there, then crush the dog - the disgusting thing, As fast as they can make it, how much? Tibor says to wait, he wants to show him something. Bron says the 7th richest woman in the world asks you for something, you get it. Tibor says to hold his genetically unmodified horses Brownie. He goes in the back. She says is he going to bring out someone retarded and ask for charity? Bron says they'll leave if he does. He brings out a baby elephant called Napoleon. She likes it, where's his mommy? Tibor says he's his mommy, it's not a baby, it's a fully gown, fully formed adult. He speaks French, I present it to you. Bron doesn't get it. For the price you are asking it won't work. Tibor says it can read or write. It writes, "I like you" on a pad. It likes me and doesn't even know me she says. Bron wants his horse. She says to get the horse, she wants baby Napoleon. He says it's not a baby and it comes with it's own little bed. Does anyone else have one? Tibor says, Good lord, I wouldn't show anyone if they did. It's $3.35 million. Bron still wants his horse it won't trump the dog. She doesn't care, it makes her give up all thoughts of ego and revenge, it makes her feel pure. Bron says you don't want me to have it, you can't graft wins on a horse. Tibor says, I don't know how? It's like asking if Bugs Bunny's creator can make an animated bouncing ball. She asks who is Bugs Bunny? Tibor says you aren't the first Cabana boy with his wife's money to ask. He can make an apple tree the size of a desk. It can eat, poop if you want. He can also make a winged horse. Bron says, You said you couldn't? He can put wings on a horse, but it won't fly. It's not aerodynamic. Do you know what that means? I own a jet. Does it run on hay? Because a horse is a hay burner, not a machine! It would have to be huge, it would need to be 80 feet long to fly. Folded it's wings would cover it like a huge tent. If I were you I'd say Cargrew you're a whore. He should be out there curing cancer and spinal fluid. A cheap engineer to a tin seat guillotine. Instead we are making tiny elephants. You are disgusting, a pathetic representative of science gone bad, gone way bad. That's what I would say and more. Well, I'm through giving the enemy ammunition against me. She says Bron's a caddy, not the cabana boy, there's a difference and she'll take the elephant.
    Outside she says to Tibor do I really look a 100? No, no. What do you think I need? Hmmm, we'll talk later. She sees Jerry down below, what's he doing, where is he going? He spoke to her. Tibor says forget about him. He said help me. Help me!? No he didn't. What he said was kill me, they all say that near the end. They are going to be put away. When? She asks. 2 hours. He's going to die? We all are. But not on schedule. He says the batch is old and has to be eliminated. She doesn't want that and goes down to Jerry and he wants candy, please missy. She gives him a mint. Thank you missy, me Jerry. Tibor says this is not a good idea. He looks like Uncle Albert and is sad she says. Tibor says you might as well ask a tire how it feels. Jerry says he's sad. Tibor says he didn't answer, he spoke. Why are you so sad? He says all work, no cigarette, no candy. What kind of model is he? Tibor check his tag and says he used to be a minesweeper and they tried to reprogram him for carpet cleaning or gardening, but it doesn't work. They are programmed to walk a pattern, it doesn't work for furniture. Jerry explains what he did, one step, one safe, no boom. He wants to work. Obviously he made it out safely. You are going to kill him and he wants to work? She asks. Tibor says he was trained and bred to be blown up. The army has no further use for him, he's getting rid of the bad parts. They wouldn't be here unless we invented him. She wants to buy him. He says it doesn't work that way and he's already paid for. Did you buy parakeets and set them free this morning too? Bron says he's going to be turned to dog food. It's high quality dog food. She thinks it's painful. Joes don't feel pain. She thinks if he likes candy he feels pleasure and wants to know how much. What are you going to do with him clear mines? Bron asks. She wants him - no Jerry no elephant for him. Tibor says the dog food company paid for him. Bron says they could lease him. She says it's a good idea. Tibor says that could work. She could have him for a year, paid in advance. She agrees and says Jerry is coming home.
    At home the elephant writes 'I like you' on the floor. Bron likes it and she says no more. He says he likes me, let it express itself. it'll wash off, but it doesn't. Jerry stuffs his face with chocolate and wants a cigarette. She says later and he should clean up. He doesn't understand, no boom today, walk no boom. Jerry work good boss. Bron mocks him. He's sad, no cigarette. She doesn't want him to be sad. She thinks Bron is jealous of him. Bron says has no emotion. She cleans him up and says he served his country or company in the minefields and takes him to bed. Bron puts the elephant in its bed with a sheet. Jerry sits on the edge of the bed and Bron is mad he's sitting on his pillow. She says he's just a Joe. Bron wants her to look at the elephant He says he put on half pound and wants to go to the gym. Come with me, lets watch a movie for a couple miles on the treadmill. She doesn't want to and Bron leaves. She sits with Jerry He doesn't care about his weight. Jerry likes candy. She says it's a simple truth and wants to know how he can ask a sentence with 3 words or 1. What's it like being Jerry? Silly isn't it. He says walk. She says you walk, I spend. Jerry work, Martha diet. She spends lots of money. Do you know what money is? Candy, cigarette? Of course, it's what you buy with it, if you don't spend it it's nothing. Money is just candy and cigarettes. She lays back, so does he. She says money is just what you trade it for and if you don't trade it it's worthless, you live simply. It's simple and complicated at the same time. Jerry look at what you know, what if you are the last thing I buy except for travel and clothes and is thankful. She is happy. Jerry wants to go to sleep. She says he can.
    The next day all three of them are in bed and wake up. Bron rolls over onto Jerry then gets repulsed and mad. Martha says he was lonely. Candy? Bron tells him to get out and walk the field and Jerry wanders around. Bron says it won't work, he doesn't have a minefield to keep him busy, they have a lease on him with no option to buy and can take him back. She says if he takes him back she's leaving him. Bron can't believe she'd leave him for a weapon detector. She will have to sue the company to keep him since it's cheaper to sue than paying his prenup. She says she'll keep them both. She upsets the elephant and he gets mad. Jerry says no boom.
    Martha takes Jerry to McCoy the lawyer. She hasn't saved him, it's a lease. All he did for his country - he didn't die, but should've. She wants to sue for ownership and set him free, but has to prove that the way they dispose of him is inhumane or negligent or wanton. Cans he force them? Not legally, you can't make them operate at a loss. The ASPCA? No, the lawyers will say they like being killed. Jerry sits and listens to music which she says he likes. McCoy wants to hear him sing. She asks him to sing and he does Jingle Bells. McCoy writes a number, she asks is that his phone number? No that's what is will cost you to win this case.
    A reporter says Martha is fighting to save a Joe named Jerry. Is he a human? No, but he shouldn't be turned into dog food. Pudgy Dodge says they have terminated her club membership. It's disgusting to have a Joe feed another Joe in the club, it's insane.
In the court Judges Alex Ponfrey, Leo & Wendy each have 70 years on the bench, 12 billion will be watching. It will be disappointing if the media interrupts as they've developed a reputation for fairness. They dress like Santa Claus without the hair. The case Jerry vs. Controlled Genetics is about the legal right to killing him. McCoy says a corporation is legal, but can't vote, can't read a book can't walk the dog, but that soulless entity will argue that a friend of his has no legal existence, that's who we are talking about. He says Jerry is a friend and he says cigarette. Later, Jerry.
    Tibor says don't tell me to tell you he doesn't exist. He knows he exits, he's sitting there. Is he alive? I don't deny he has a sort of life, everyone thought the future would be all robots, but we can't be served by toasters. What is a Joe? There is a few strands of human DNA and other stuff that is proprietary and other traits to serve human designs. My example is there is camera Joe over there and minefield Joe. They have a video to show. Judge Wendy likes videos. The video is the same as the one that opened the show, but it goes farther. It was 6 months ago, Jerry is in the center. Jerry says walk, no boom. The military are putting the Joes into the minefield. They go out and hit mines and blow up. Another blows up, Jerry makes it back and wants a cigarette. Tibor says he doesn't care if he lives or dies, that's way he made them, he's not afraid. Then it's back on the bus and to the next job, no problem, he's not a man. He wants the case dismissed. Wendy agrees, she would too. McCoy says the video proves Jerry is a man. Martha says she knew it.
    McCoy asks Tibor some questions. Why is Jerry set for destruction? There is no more money in it, it's like a different form a layoff. In the old days when there was no money for a model of cars they shut down the line and take the pensions. Now they liquidate them, it's misery to me. Thank for you honesty. He wants Jerry to take the stand. They say he cannot. McCoy says he can. Objection overruled. He wants candy. No dignity now, candy later Martha says. They say he can't take an oath he can't swear to. McCoy says let him try and find out. They ask him to raise his right hand, he can't. The bailiff does it for him and asks him to swear to god, Buddha, goddess, Gaia or the great turtle that supports the universe. He says OK boss. You are a good worker? Yes, he digs up weeds, no vegetable. You are a good singer? Objection. Overruled. He asks him to sing his favorite song. He sings Jingle Bells. He says he likes Christmas music. He asks how many fingers is he holding up. He says 5. McCoy tries to get him to say 6 for a cigarette. Jerry won't do it. He pulls out a cigarette and he agrees. He has them play the minefield tape again. They object. At the halfway point Jerry pushes a Joe into the mine. He asks Jerry if he pushed him. Joe go boom, Jerry get candy. Why did you move behind him? He saw the mine and he wanted Joe to blow up so he could live and get candy. McCoy says he saw it and switched places. Tibor can't believe it. McCoy says he likes Christmas songs, does that make him a man? He likes cigarettes and is willing to take a bribe to get one, lying for a cigarette makes him human, he's willing to sacrifice another Joe to save his own life and he admits it. Most of us would be ashamed to admit to it. He has self-preservation. What could be more human? Plus a callous disregard for others. You can program a robot to sing songs, but does he cheat, he lies, you can't program that. A potato can't do that. Jerry is cable of doing it. He says he has a secret, don't hold it against him, he believes in god and if god gave life to man and he gave life to Jerry, there is a spark of the divine in him. Just like in the judges. He won't let him stand by and be turned into dog food and fed to a dog. Call me old fashioned, but that's not me - a little spark of the divine. Tibor gets mad and says wait a minute, I hold the patent on that little spark of the divine.
    Martha wins the case. Websites claim 'Six for a cigarette' and 'A Joe named Jerry wins the day.' The reporter says now that they can't be destroyed they have to feed them and house them, stocks are falling, CG let all the old workers out on the streets, we have to take care of them, pay for them. Martha are you going to take them in? Martha says no, just one. She's now a spiritualist. Bron doesn't understand morality or the stock market, but he understands Napoleon the elephant and that he's the only one who has ever understood him. It's the high point of his life. I like you too, I like you a lot. Let's go to the park tomorrow.
    Martha and Jerry lay on the couch in the dark next to the fire, like they just had sex and Jerry wants a cigarette. She says I thought you would quit. Only one more, I want you to live forever. He sits back and smokes it. Sure baby, a cigarette.
    What makes us human may one day be defined, not by the gifts we possess, but by the virtues we lack.

My Review

    Since I knew a year in advance Malcolm would be on the show I figures I would watch them all to see how the show was. The first two episodes were heavy and serious and mostly political indictments against the US which means they can be annoying. The first episode had me guessing a bit and was good until the ending, which was just plain bad. It was basically a loop which I can't stand because it goes nowhere. The second one also started out pretty good, but turned into a preachy 'why can't we get along?' instead of making war cliché. The fourth episode had tons of makeup work and you can tell they really put all their money into the effects…and ran out of money for the story. You knew almost instantly what was going on. Misfits are mistreated, they need help from those who mistreated them, then are betrayed. If you couldn't see that coming from a mile away, then just give up on life
    This is a very straightforward performance by Malcolm. He's not really the bad guy or the good guy. He's just a successful businessman. It's an interesting performance because he's not over the top, meek, crazy or weird, he's just flawed. He's in a business to cater to the rich, but gives a speech near the middle of the episode listing his shortcomings. He knows he's wasting his life on projects that are useless when he should be out curing diseases. Instead of making the world a better place, he's getting rich of the excesses of those with too much income. The odd thing is in all the original press materials it listed his character as Mr. Van Vogel which I thought would be interesting to see him hooked up with Anne since she's much younger and was wondering what that would be, was she to be a trophy wife? Did they switch things around or just screw up because they lost interest in the series?
    His role is not just a quick guest spot either, he's there throughout the episode. There's little action and tons of dialogue. Unfortunately there's really no killer lines. One line that stood out was when he called a horse a hay burner. His final line seems to be saying something more - like I have a patent on the creation of life. He's mad about it since it seems to be a detriment as he has to let all his Joes go free. This means a huge loss of money for him. But I thought that could make him rich because they were basically saying he had a patent to create life. Everything that is born or made would have to pay him a percentage. That was a bit murky and I'm not sure what they were going for there.
    It's obvious McCoy just saw a way to make a ton of money and couldn't care less about the Joes. So what were they really going for here? It seemed to be more about illegal aliens. The Joes are workers, working for low wages and can barely communicate. In the end by declaring them human, or granting them amnesty, they will overrun society and we'll never be able to get rid of them. Who is going to take care of the problem? It doesn't matter, they now have rights and must fend for themselves. How long before frustrated Joes without money or ability to work start stealing and killing? It's a great way to illustrate the suicidal path of embracing illegality in the US. Instead of making them better and more productive, thye just make them fee, therefore unleashing them with no purpose.
    The directing is flawless with solid shots, long shots, good angles - no extreme close ups or jiggling cameras. He pulls back to show us the world, but we see it is a world not unlike our own. The only thing different is the addition of humanoid robots to work and genetically engineered pets for play. One area not explored, but used as more of a joke is that bioengeering is helping make people live if not forever, then a lot longer as Martha says she's 85 years old, but looks like she is 40. The sets look great and the use of CG is limited to the animals. Where Tibor worked looked so real that I wonder if it was some futuristic looking building. They had a nice in joke with The Bradbury Club as a nod to Ray Bradbury.
    One nice touch is right near the end when the trial ends. Instead of the typical newspaper splashes of headlines, we get the headlines as shown on websites, indicating that the killing of trees to make newspapers has ended by 2077. One weirder touch is how Martha's hairstyles change drastically each time including cut, color and style like Princes Leia on acid. I guess the fact that she is super rich means she can do what she wants. The weird thing is we have no idea how she got so rich, possibly she married a rich older man who died and the fact she has no staff, servants, hangers on or Joe's of her own.
    The main problem is that the director doesn't know what he wants the story to be - it's not serious heavy sci-fi, but it's not comical either. It tries to straddle the fence between both and winds up falling off. It needed to choose a side and by not doing so excludes itself from being great. If they wanted it to be comedic, they needed to go more down that route. Otherwise the Joes here just look like weaker versions of the Joes from A.I. They share the same name and even the same basic look and hair as Gigolo Joe in that film. Obviously they have zero budget in comparison to a Spielberg film, but it still seemed cheap. In A.I. the robots were more alive and more self aware. They could communicate, compete, get jealous and have longing. The Joes there were also put on their own to fend for themselves when they were past the point of use, but were rounded up to be destroyed in a Flesh Fair. Here they are given freedom, but are they given the same rights under the law as humans?
    If they wanted it to be serious they needed to remove the cutesy stuff with the miniature elephant. Even that part of the plot shifted when Martha had to have the thing and Bronson was against it and it turned out he fell in love with it and she ignored it as soon as she found Jerry. I think this leads to the other crux of the story is that people fall in love with fake things when they live in a false reality. Bron loves Napoleon because he thinks it understands him, but he's too self absorbed to notice that all the creature can do is write "I like you.' It doesn't understand anything. Much like today's celebrity obsessed culture where the celebrities are more known for being screwups than their talents that got them famous in the first place. People become interested or think they know and relate to people or things that don't know they exist. In the future here there is no mention of celebrity and even a super rich woman like Martha has no entourage. Maybe that's why they are so bored as to spend their millions on animals created in a lab. Today people stalk and obsess over celebrities, but are really in love with an image as they have no idea what the reality is behind it. The two main characters fall for what are basically robots. They relate more to something that isn't real, than what is real. It's easier to find something that 'understands' you when it is too simple to truly communicate or question you. No matter how much love or attention they pour into it, the mechanical won't question it, won't feel smothered and will treat you the same way.
    Malcolm did well, but his character is kind of bland. He is more straight ahead and tells it like it is. It would've been more fun to have him either really flakily or more of a bad guy. Anne Heche did well as the crazy rich old lady and looked good when she had the long curly hair, but looked weird otherwise. The character of Jerry just gets annoying pretty quick because he doesn't have any personality, says the same few words and just wants candy or cigarettes. They never go into why a robot would want or need those things. They hinted he had a little human DNA in him, but the whole idea was to make them cheap workers, so feeding them would jack up the costs. Could he possibly be addicted? Is a robot capable of that somehow? So overall it was a disappointment because it seemed like it would be a fun episode, but there was really no fun to be had. It was totally average and didn't stand out. It seems a safe bet that with them constantly pushing the debut of the series back and slashing the total number of episodes that there's no chance we will ever see more of them. It would be better that way since the four that they showed were the best and were all weak. Masters of sci-fi? More like apprentices. If that's your best, then your best won't do.

Rating: 5/10

Articles archived the rest © 2006-08 by Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net