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Off the Wall

I got rid of my television years ago. I highly recommend doing the same. But still, there are things on the tube which are worthy of consideration, on occasion. So I'll review them here.

Star Trek: the Original Series,  Episode #35: "The Doomsday Machine"
Aristotle in his Poetics wrote that there were three basic plot lines:  man against man, man against the gods, and man against himself. "The Doomsday Machine" is about all three. The episode was penned by science fiction veteran Norman Spinrad, and involves the USS Enterprise taking on a giant alien machine which is reducing entire planets to interstellar rubble. The episode seems to be inspired, in part, by Moby Dick,  with Commodore Matthew Decker commandeering the Enterprise in his one man crusade to hunt down the aforementioned leviathan which does bear a suspicious resemblance to a certain white whale.
Decker taking on the planet killer is man against the gods, the forces of the universe where no man has gone before. But the plot goes deeper. Decker is also pitted against Kirk, who is not about willing to hand over his ship to be sacrificed for another man's obsession. That's the man against man angle.
But the real conflict is about how two captains fight their inner demons. Decker is driven by his compulsion for revenge, having gotten his own crew killed, then trying to drag down the Enterprise  with him into the Doomsday Machine's combined Scylla and Charybdis. He self-destructs, perhaps the fate of men who can not control their emotions. Kirk, in contrast, keeps control and reasons out a way to destroy the planet killer.
The episode has a lot of other things going for it, including Kirk demonstrating the skills of being a starship commander (not just sitting in a chair on the bridge and giving orders, but weighing decisions, having the technical skills to rig up damaged systems, and being the first man on the scene of danger). Plus an intelligent discussion of the merits of following regulations versus taking responsibility, and a couple of great Star Trek lines. 
Aristotle would get it.

Kolchak: the Night Stalker

This ran back in 1974-75, starring Darren MacGavin as lone wolf reporter Carl Kolchak on the trail of assorted science fiction and supernatural style intruders who were on the loose in Chicago's mean streets, ritzy penthouses and sepulchral towers. Kolchak carries on in the tradition of both the investigative reporter and the hardbitten private eye of film noir, whose quest for the truth leads him to much bigger and often badder things. Still, he has time to wisecrack and catch the tail end of a ball game, occasionally grabbing a headline or time with the boys in the precinct backroom. Also, there were some great character actors on the roles (Simon Oakland, Keenan Wynn). As is standard with this sort of genre, no one seems to ask why so much bizarreness seems to be happening in the vicinity of one character, but then again, those who open their eyes are the ones who most often see the truth.



Dark Skies


"History is a lie."


That tag line starts each episode of this 1996-97 television series. The premise of Dark Skies is that aliens are attempting to take over the Earth and that the history of the world since the late 1940s is really a facade. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the Northeast Blackout of 1965, the assassinations of various public figures, you name it, they're all part of the coverup. The series follows John Loengard (Eric Close) on the trail of the truth, sometimes opposed by super-secret government organization Majestic 12, sometimes working with them to fight the invaders. Along the way, we encounter personages such as Robert Kennedy, Howard Hughes,  Carl Sagan, the Beatles, and that perennial of conspiracy theory, the Warren Commission.  


I'm going out on a bit of limb by adding Dark Skies to Movies for MRAs. For one thing, the scripts are sometimes weak; despite  Majestic's uber security regime, their base is easily infiltrated by the usual filmic clichés. And the historical personages sometimes do not pay off. 1960s icons such as Jim Morrison and Dr. Tim Leary are written as walking clichés. And yet...


...Dark Skies  does tell us that "history is a lie." Well, recent history at least. The fraud that we've seen subvert men in the era paralleling the series' era. OK, the single season covered the 1960s before it was cancelled. It was supposed to go through to the turn of the 21st century. But what we see is enough to make us question things as they stand today. Does it make sense to uphold a system which is being subverted by those hostile to the interests of men? Does it not make more sense to organize resistance?  Dark Skies' Majestic 12 does know the truth while the majority go about their lives as if sleepwalking. Yeah, it's your typical sinister government organization, but then again, it's also a male warband organized to fight for true civilization.


I'll note there is a sort of a father-son relationship between Majestic's patriarchal leader, Frank Bach (J. T. Walsh) and Loengard. Loengard himself is abandoned by his erstwhile wife Kimberly (Megan Ward)  to follow primal female instincts which the aliens can satisfy. The episode "To Prey in Darkness" starts with a scene of male alienation, played against a soundtrack of "Eve of Destruction," truly powerful stuff. It involves Dorothy Kilgallen, a hard drinking but elegant dame out of film noir if there ever was one (and old timers will remember Kilgallen and her evening gowns from What's My Line ). It's one of the better episodes and brings us back to that year of 1965 right before everything disintegrated.


Well, today "they" appear to be in control, but Dark Skies implies that as long as one seeks the truth, one will be free. The series does come down to a quest of sorts. You have a choice: live within the delusion of normalcy. Or live a real life, fighting for freedom.