Twilight Zone – Welcome to Winfield (02/07/86)

Matt is in critical condition.  He senses death coming, and I mean literal death on two legs.  He pulls himself up, ripping numerous tubes from numerous orifices.  When Death reaches Matt’s room, all he finds is an empty bed; Matt and girlfriend Lori have sped off.  And good for them — shouldn’t Mr. Death only show up when a person is about to die?  If Matt was able to get up, lose the tubes, make it to the car, and take a road-trip, Mr. Death was a tad pre-mature.

Lori turns down the dirt road to the titular Winfield with Matt shivering in the back seat. She soon arrives at a town that seems stuck in the 19th century.  Finally, three weeks later, Death takes the same turn off the main road.  To be fair, there was probably some low hanging fruit at the hospital keeping him busy — that’s like the Dollar Store to Mr. Death.

A couple of yokels are playing horseshoes when Death’s white Mercedes rolls into town. One of them says, “What do you think that is?”  Oddly the whole town saw Lori & Matt’s car three weeks earlier and seemed to get the whole car-thing.  The crowd is a little taken aback as am I — white is a terrible color for a Mercedes.

One of the hayseeds lets it slip — and by “let’s it slip”, I mean proudly exclaims — that he is 150 years old. Shafting another actor out of a speaking role, he also exposits that Matt is hiding out in town. Death calls his predecessor Chin Du Long for some advice. The townsfolk hope they can strike a deal with the new Mr. Death as they did with “The Chinaman.”

One of the hicks tells Death that Chin allowed them to live because “they wasn’t herting anyone.”  OK, he correctly pronounced it hurting, but I assume it was misspelled in his mind.  This raises a few questions.  Did Chin come to town to kill all of them at the same time?  Did a possum fall into the well?  Did he grant them immortality, or did they already have it?  What was the aforementioned deal?  What did Chin get out of it other than a racist nickname?

Matt gallantly gives himself up to save the town, but Death says he might have to take everyone.  His predecessor Chin was “too sentimental in an inscrutable kind of way.” You know, like all Chinese people.  Death tries to get Chin on the phone, but he is unavailable. Death says, “I don’t care if he’s dining with Mao, I want him on the line.” Because who else would a Chinese dude sit with at the cafeteria having only 10 billion dead souls to choose from.  And wouldn’t Mao be in Hell, anyway?

The mayor steps up and offers to sacrifice the town for the boy.  They are all over 100 years old, but Matt is just starting out.  Matt won’t hear of it. All three factions yell at Death to take them, me being the third.  Death inexplicably changes his mind and lets everyone live “for another century or so.”  He gets into his Mercedes and zooms into the sky like Doc Brown — although his rear window still shows him at ground level.

There’s a lot to like here, and any complaints were mostly to fill space.  The one small weakness is the ending — I would have really liked some motivation for Death’s change of heart.  The frontier street has a solid feel to it, and the score is appropriately banjo-y and twangy.  Matt and Lori [1] don’t have much gravitas, but the episode is well-carried by Death and the Mayor.  I initially thought Gerritt Graham was miscast as Death, but he won me over.  Henry Gibson as the Mayor was interesting as always.  Despite being great character actors, neither ever seemed to be appreciated by Hollywood.  I suspect Gibson was undervalued because of his work on Laugh-In.  That’s what did-in Nixon, as I recall.


  • [1] Congratulations to JoAnn Willette on surviving that really awful 1980s hairdo.
  • Classic TZ Legacy:  Numerous embodiments of death.  I guess.  I can only think of two.  I’ll say this for them, it took more than an upset stomach for them to show up.

Frost Rides Alone – Horace McCoy (1930)

Captain Jerry Frost of the Texas Air Rangers, like me, hears footsteps behind him.  He and his reporterette companion Helen Stevens duck into La Estrellita [1].  It is a smokey cafe along the border filled with hombres y mujeres. Since this is 1930, this means it is on the south side of the border.  He sees his pal Captain George Stuart and tells him, “Hell’s about to pop.”

Frost notices three Mexican men — or as they’re known there, men — follow them into the bar.  One of them pretends to trip over Frost’s feet, but Frost catches him with an upper-cut. Before Frost can draw his pistol, the man’s two amigos have already drawn on him.  Stuart knocks out one of the men and grabs the third.  Frost brains him with a bottle as five more men ran into the bar.

The lights go out — the economy of characters suggests Helen threw the switch — and Frost fights his way out.  Luckily “Mexican marksmanship is notoriously bad.  The first love is the blade.”  Frost and Stuart find each other and escape across the street.  They start heading back to El Norte, but Frost is worried about the woman, so they head back to La Estrellita.  They ask the proprietor if he has seen the American woman.  He gives Frost an envelope someone gave a waiter.  Inside, a letter says, “Thanks Captain for the woman”  and WTF is so hard about keeping an agua glass filled?

Four days later, the Governor and the Adjutant-General of the Rangers have joined the search.  It is their responsibility to find blonde American babes missing in foreign lands until Fox News is invented.  They get a break as a Coast Guard cutter spots a woman on board a rum-runner.  Like Jack Bauer, Frost says he is going alone to rescue Helen. The A-G says, “I’d hate like hell to have him after me!”

In the next few sentences, we meet Jimmy O’Neill, Hans Traub, Ox Clay and Oliver Roland in Corpus Christi.  What happened to that economy of characters?  O’Neill was the one who spotted Helen.  He provides Frost with a plane to search for Helen.  Frost finally spots the cutter.  He lands the plane on the water and climbs aboard.

After killing one crew-member, he forces another to tell him there are six people on board, two of them women.  They are going to pick-up illegal rum, or four more women. Frost manages to kill or subdue all of the dudes.  He finds Helen in a luxurious cabin. She even has a phone on the wall.[2]  I don’t understand how a phone on a ship worked in 1930, but I don’t understand how it would work in 2017 either.

Turns out this chick — the one from the cafe — was just pretending to be Helen.  The fight was a set-up to kill Frost.  The real Helen has been locked away for a week.  So I guess the spotter on the Cutter was so desperate to see a woman at sea that it was hard to differentiate.  I think that also explains why pirates wear earrings, but that’s just a theory.

Frost saves the day and calls in the Coast Guard to clear away the bodies and hose down the deck.  Speaking of getting hosed, after things are settled, Frost takes the real Helen — who he met about 2 minutes ago — down below to make out.

This is standard action hero stuff — Indiana Jones, Dirk Pitt, etc.  I must say, though, that the stories in this collection are more intricately plotted than those in the $.99 megapacks — lofty praise indeed.  Good stuff.


  • [1] Spanish for Tom Cruise.
  • [2] C’mon, even I know it is called a bulkhead.
  • First published in Black Mask in March 1930.
  • Also that year: Steve McQueen born and DH Lawrence died.
  • Horace McCoy’s best known work is the novella They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? which was made into a great but very bleak movie.  Not only was it a dark allegory for the weariness and hopelessness of the Depression, it gave Jane Fonda her first Oscar nomination launching her to be a thorn in people’s sides for the next fifty years.  On the other hand, it also spawned They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They? so we’ll call it even.

Science Fiction Theatre – Marked ‘Danger’ (06/18/55)

There is a modern struggle going on in the desert.  “The covered wagons have been replaced by the Jeeps and trailers of Uranium prospectors and mining engineers.”  Fred Strand is one of the new pioneers.  His wife Lois asks how he can stand the horrible incessant sunshine.  She must really hate it as she is wearing her sunglasses indoors.

While Fred is out breaking rocks, he spots a yellow parachute on the ground.  It is attached to a box which says it is property of Indian Flats Rocket Proving Grounds.  There is a $250 reward for its return because it is “scientific equipment of the highest value technical value.”  Well if it’s worth more the $250, so-long sucker!

Fred opens the box and finds two white lab rats in a glass container with a valve on it. He says — to the mice — that he will give up his hunt for tungsten today.  Which explains why he is not a more successful uranium prospector.

Not to nitpick, but it is NOT marked ‘danger’

Fred takes the mice back to the trailer and shows them to Lois. He tells her they can use the reward — $2,200 in 2016 dollars — for their Vegas vacation.  His pal Moe Green said 1955 would be the best year ever! [1]  Lois is worried about the mice being cooped up and wants to give them some cheese.  Fred says, “Unh-unh.  The instructions said ‘No Tampering'”.  After noting a green tinge to the mice, he heads over to the sheriff’s office to use the nearest phone.

Fred’s muffler is barely out of earshot when Lois turns the valve on the container causing to a gas to shoot out.  “Darn it.  Why did I do that?” she asks the screenwriter. He replies in her next line, “Never tell a woman not to do something if you don’t want it done.”

Fred and the sheriff return to the trailer in his truck, although I wonder how the sheriff plans on getting back home.  They find Lois asleep.  Fred shows the container to the sheriff, but the mice are gone.  Uh-oh, did someone tell Lois not to eat them?  All that is left is a green stain on the bottom; or maybe it’s relish.

A couple of doctors from Indian Flats show up in a hideous black car. [2] They are not too happy that the mice are gone.  They ask to speak to Lois, but she has apparently gone for a walk.  Fred says that is unlikely because she hates the sun.  They step outside and spot her walking in sunshine [3] about 100 yards away.

They run after her.  Despite their calls, she just keeps walking.  When they catch her, Fred asks her what is wrong.  She cries, “The sun, the sun!”  One of the doctors notices a greenish tinge in her eyes.  They rush her to the hospital.

Lois is taken to Indian Flats for “medical research”.  The green residue in the container is also analyzed.  They identify it as chloroplasm which seems to be the same as chlorophyll.  One of the doctors says, “This is against every scientific principal we know. Chloroplasm is plant life.  It just doesn’t grow in animals.”  They suspect this is the reason for the greenish tinge of the mice and the greenish tinge in Lois’s eyes.  They believe it explains her “plant-like craving for the sun.”  They even find green cells in her blood.  They go to see Lois in the hospital.

Lois:  “I did something I shouldn’t have done.  I’m so ashamed.  I just couldn’t fight  my curiosity.”

Doctor:  “Yes, I know.  I’m a married man.

She describes turning the valve, and the gas escaping.  Lois is turning into a plant and she is given 15 days to live.  She briefly escapes, but Fred carries her back inside.  The doctor says this jaunt outside might have cut her life expectancy in half because plants thrive in the sun, which sounds like exactly the opposite of the effect her escape should have had.

They somehow deduce that they should give her a glucose IV which puts her into a diabetic coma.  Amazingly, this works.  She wakes up and that is it.  She does, however, demand that Fred become a vegan; and not just for Christmas and her birthday.

Another lackluster episode.  To be charitable, I did like that they had some actual scenes outdoors.  It might have really been in back of the commissary, but it looked like they were out running in the desert.

This series defies rating.  $29.95 for that third Tales of Tomorrow disc is sounding more and more reasonable.


  • [1] Moe Green was killed by the Corleone family in 1955 with a bullet through the glasses.
  • [2] Seriously, this beast was ugly.  Black, with no wheel wells for any of the tires.
  • [3] Weird, the Walking on Sunshine video was filmed on a very dreary day.

Outer Limits – The Awakening (03/14/97)

Dr. Molstad is showing a journalist [1] around his clinic where he studies people who have no emotions.  A little girl is licked by a puppy and doesn’t want to wash up.  A little boy is treated to a concert by a piccolo-playing clown and isn’t screaming in terror.  Molstad says they have Alexithymia, which is an actual condition.

Joan Harrison [2] interrupts to show them a hostage situation on TV.  Beth Carter, one of Molstad’s patients, is being used as a human shield by a robber.  SWAT saves the taxpayers the cost of a trial.  Beth Carter is led away not just emotionless, but completely devoid of any reaction or interest in her endangerment, the man’s life or if he got blood on her sweater.  She doesn’t give a damn that the criminal died, so in this case her stoicism is appropriate.

Back at the clinic, Molstad tells Beth he has a huge potential break-through in her therapy.  And by therapy, he means implanting an emotion chip in her brain because he has seen how that always worked out well for Data on Star Trek TNG.  He tells her she is the perfect test case for the implant.  Well, yeah — what is she going to do, say she’s scared to have the operation?  Perfect!  He assures her this test could help millions of sufferers.

As they observe, Beth eats lunch and watches TV after the operation. There seems to be no change at all. Then Molstad sees her eyeing the TV remote.  “She wants to change the channel.  She’s bored with it, dissatisfied.”  I feel her pain.  He is ecstatic as she changes the channel. “She expressed a desire!”

Three months later, Joan takes Beth into her home.  They work on her hair, her wardrobe and have some chamomile tea.  Soon she is back at work.  After her first day, she excitedly rushes home to tell Joan about it.  Joan is not there, however, and Beth begins hearing noises and voices.  She faints, but comes around in time to go with Joan to their cute neighbor Kevin’s boat.

She later hears the voices again.  This time, however, something grabs her hand and she finds Joan’s cat dead on the doorstep.  As she is fleeing the apartment, she sees a giant green alien in the living room.

Molstad says the emotion chip is a failure.  Considering Beth’s emotional reaction to that assessment, he is either right or wrong and I firmly stand by that conclusion.  That night Kevin cooks her dinner and pours her wine.  As they start to get more horizontal, she again sees the aliens and they drag her away to their spaceship for a different kind of probe.  Or maybe the same kind.[3]

When she reports this, Molstad is adamant that the experiment is a failure. As he is calling the 24-brain surgeon to give her a Rosemary Kennedy, she flees the clinic.  She runs back to Joan’s apartment which is the first place they would look, but where else does she have?  She sees Joan’s cat is still alive.  Then she sees Kevin’s apartment is just a storage closet (and BTW, she apparently teleports into the room without him seeing her).  After Kevin leaves, she checks out his typical bachelor pad . . . no furniture, junk everywhere, pizza boxes, alien costumes, brightly lit mock-UFO interior.

Kevin and Joan come back and Beth sees them smooching.  She over-hears them discussing how they were gaslighting her because they had developed a rival emotion chip that could be worth billions.  She grabs the operating table from the UFO and rams Kevin and Beth right out the window.  It is laughable that the table was fast enough and had the mass to push two adults to their death.  On the other hand, it was satisfying and pretty awesomely shot.  Beth’s reaction is no reaction.

Molstad diagnoses her as returning to her previous state, so she escapes any punishment.  In his office, he tells her that the chip is dormant and will do no harm.  She goes back to Joan’s place because when you kill someone, you get to live in their apartment.

The ending is as much a construct as the fake UFO set.  Beth is alone in Joan’s apartment stroking Joan’s cat with that same blank expression.  Then she slowly gives us a big smile.  OK, maybe she faked the relapse to avoid punishment.  But why was she keeping up the ruse alone with cat?  And by faking, she has cost Molstad — who actually was a good guy — his chance at fame and fortune.  Oh, and those millions of Alexithymia sufferers Molstad mentioned?  Yeah, they shouldn’t get too excited about a cure any time soon . . . even if they could. [4]

The episode started losing me as it got a little sappy.  Also, Beth in her emotionless state was unconvincing.  However, she was perfectly fine after getting the chip.  It was also interesting to see a young Curtis Manning from 24 as Kevin.  Not a great outing, but this show seems to have a natural floor — it can never be any worse than just OK.

Tomorrow: Science Fiction Theatre, which I also think can never get any worse.


  • [1] The actress has an almost Garrett Morris level of ability to find just the wrong inflection in any sentence.
  • [2] LA Law’s Michelle Green in a role that just screams for Teryl Rothery.
  • [2] Khaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnn!
  • [3] Er, he actually kind of admits to date-raping her and Joan is mostly OK with it.
  • [4] After news of this ruse hits, the rival chip maker will be crippled by fines and lawsuits.  Who am I kidding?  They will pay a fine equal to 1% of their Net Income, no one will go to jail, and a few Senators will have new swimming pools.
  • Half the same plot and 9/10ths the same title as Awakenings.

The Hitchhiker – The Legendary Billy B (03/31/87)

It wasn’t much of a twist, but way to blow it in the opening credits.

It is almost a certainty that an episode centered around a rock band or rock musician will be as dreadful as most episodes with a Christmas theme.  That Outer Limits episode with Sheena Easton was tolerable because it was The Outer Limits and had Sheena Easton.  The Christmas episodes have to be mawkish or show that miracles do come true. In the rock & roll episodes, the miracle is that anyone on-screen cares about the god-awful music or the repulsive artists.  Even trying to introduce a edgy vibe by using someone like Henry Rollins or Iggy Pop usually serves only to demonstrate how utterly vacuous and laughable they are.

Kirstie Alley and Andy Summers are hiding outside a house spying on a couple coupling like a couple of rabbits.  It seems like a fairly mundane story until Summers recognizes the girl as being the man’s sister.  Kirstie is giddy — this will finally catapult her to the big time!  Publicizing people’s most intimate moments can only lead to fortune and a long career as the fine people at Gawker can tell us.

When the story and pictures are published, Kirstie shows her excitement by buying a fake fur coat.  Summers is a little more sympathetic, showing her a new headline, “Actor’s Wife Takes Life After Illicit Love Nest Exposed.”  Her main concern is that another magazine is stealing her story.  She does calm down again when Summers reveals he has been sneaking pictures of the titular Legendary Billy B. who is supposed to be dead.

Summers tells her, “Billy B. was one of the original acid rockers, the greatest American guitarist pre-Hendrix, the big rock sex god after Elvis and before Jim Morrison.” Unlike the other three dumb-asses, his death was not self-inflicted by drugs — he was shot on stage 20 years ago. And unlike two of those three, he seems to be alive.

Kirstie is ready to get the scoop and ruin his retirement, but Summers is again the voice of reason.  He was just stalking Billy B. for his own amusement; a defense which has never worked for me.   She talks him into making it a story.  They go to his house and jump the wall.  Kirstie mentions how Billy B. appeared only 25 in Summers’ pictures, but he should be in his fifties.  Summers says rock & roll keeps you young.  To be fair, in 1987 he had no way of knowing what Keith Richards would look like in 2017.[1]

They break into the house and hear guitar riffs that could only be coming from Billy B. They follow them to the 2nd floor which smells like “beer and piss and vomit.”  They follow some flashing lights up to the 3rd floor.  They catch Billy B. playing the guitar.  He stops and says, “Glad you could make it.”

When Kirstie suggests a comeback, he tells her, “I’m not exactly one of those forgotten cult heroes, you know.  If I can still make you shiver on record, I’m not forgotten am I? Don’t it make you shiver just to hear my music?  Don’t you just want to rip your clothes off when see me?  I don’t ask, I don’t say anything.  I just play.  That is what it means to be a rockstar.”

Summers busts him for giving the exact same inane response he gave a reporter 20 years earlier.  His other dopey answers are also rehashes of old interviews.  They want some new material, so Summers challenges Billy B. to play more than a simple riff.  When he seems unable, they peg him as a phony.  He pulls a gun on them. Summers proves to be quite agile as he leaps through a glass window, then jumps from the 2nd story.  Sadly he is killed by Red or Sonny or whatever Billy B.’s lackey is named.

Kirstie is able to run downstairs (Note to self: Be nice!).  On the first floor, she hears more guitar riffs, although these are not as terrible as the others.  She finds the real, more age-appropriate, Billy B., but he is unresponsive.

She increases his IV to a VI, but that doesn’t do much other than get him shaking.  Young Billy B. shows up with Red or Sonny.  Young Billy B. admits he is actually the son of Billy B.  This is not much of a shocker as the opening credits listed “Brad Dourif as Billy Baltimore Jr.”  They inject Kirstie with something and hook her up to an IV just like Billy Baltimore Sr.  For what reason, I have no idea.

The extent to which this episode is redeemable depends on how much you like Kirstie Alley.  As it happens, I like her, so she mitigated the awfulness.  I can imagine her over-the-top performance would grate on many people.  Despite being a musician, Andy Summers seems like a decent guy.  His acting isn’t up there with Roger Daltrey’s, but he was a nice addition.[2]  Overall, though, it is just another mediocre music episode in an often lackluster series.


  • [1] Although credit is due for being alive at all.
  • [2] FYI, Sting is an asshole.
  • In 6 months, Kirstie Alley would begin her run on Cheers. Sadly, I don’t think she did much running after that (Note to self: Nicer than that).
  • I saw no opportunity for a Kobayashi Maru reference.