Night Visions – The Passenger List (07/12/01)

nvpassenger10Night Visions is hosted by Henry Rollins, who is only marginally less odious than The Cryptkeeper.  At least the Cryptkeeper doesn’t have tattoos, but that might just be due to a general lack of skin rather than good life-choices.  This is good news as I can, in good conscience skip right over his wraparound for every episode.

This series takes over the coveted can’t-help-but-be-better slot formerly occupied by Ray Bradbury Theater.  I award it this opportunity based on literally one image I saw on TV 14 years ago — sadly, not in this episode.

Night Visions ran for only one season, but as it ran on the famously homicidal Fox, that is no indication of its quality (see (or rather, don’t see) season 2 of Firefly, season 3 of Dollhouse, season 4 of Arrested Development, etc.[1]  The fact that IMDb’s data is spotty tells me this show is largely forgotten.  I would have forgotten it except for that one image. That’s not much to hang my hat on, but then I stuck with Ray Bradbury Theater for a year because I had spent $9 on the DVDs.

nvpassenger02Jeremy Bell (Aidan Quinn) is the first person on-site at the crash of an airliner.  He actually saw it go down, which is convenient as he works for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Back at his hotel, he notices that a glass has a crack in it.  There is a knock at the door and a woman says that her family was on the plane. Despited her family having just died, she begins kissing him, but he gets a call to come look at the wreckage.

Bell determines that the plane came apart in the air, not just during the crash.   From the crash-site he calls his daughter.  The call is answered by his daughter’s roommate who is pretty freaked out because clearly his daughter is dead.

Bell is summoned to the mobile morgue at the crash site.  He is worried that his daughter was on the flight.  She would not have been on the manifest because she was flying on his NTSB pass.  This makes no sense for a couple of reasons, but really just makes me realize how different things were when this aired — 1 day short of 2 months before 9/11.  On the other hand, I can imagine 1) the government forcing airlines to give free tickets to NTSB agents, 2) those agents sharing this opportunity with friends and family, 3) that they would also charge drinks and seat-back TV porn to the airlines.

nvpassenger05Back in his hotel room, Bell sees more cracks everywhere — in the ceiling, in the mirror.  The woman returns, and has brought him a cake. She again says that her family was on the plane.  She sees a picture of Bell’s daughter and flirtingly says, “She’s lovely. Well, I’m not surprised.”  Then we get several ill-advised jump-cuts of them kissing.

The coroner cock-blocks him and calls him back to the morgue.  As he arrives to look at the body he fears is his daughter, he gets a call from his daughter.  He is ecstatic until he sees that the body bag contains himself.  The coroner says matter-of-factly, “It’s you alright, we ran the prints.  There’s no doubt about it.”

This snaps Bell back to reality, where he is on the flight.  The woman from his hotel room is sitting next to him.  Wait — didn’t she say she was flying with her family?  Bell tells her he is going to see his daughter; but that he and his daughter had a huge fight because she pierced her tongue.  The coroner had earlier mentioned his daughter in college getting her tongue pierced.  I can figure no reason for this duplication.

nvpassenger07That is really the problem with this episode.  There seem to be no rules to this scenario.  That can work if the randomness is intended to reflect the loose associative nature of dreams, but I’m just seeing no sign of it. When Bell “snaps-back” to reality on the plane, he still doesn’t know his daughter is dead.  Or does he?  Or is she?

The woman who is supposedly flying with her family orders a scotch with Bell.  She notices that the glass is cracked.  It is a nice touch that the glass is the same one he saw in the hotel room.  He further notices the woman reading a book he saw charred at the crash-site, sees a teddy bear that was there, and sees cracks in the fuselage.  No time looping, reliving the experience forever, is ever implied.  And usually that is reserved for a character who has done something awful and has been sentenced to hell or purgatory.

nvpassenger09Credit is due for the mid-air crack-up, though (of the plane, not Bell).  It could be criticized for the special effects, but that isn’t usually a deal-breaker for me.  In this case, they opted for a slow motion breach of the fuselage, rather than the Goldfinger model.  When the woman is sucked out (OK, technically pushed out) of the plane, she is slowly lifted out.  It might not be realistic, but it is very effective.  Sometimes it looks more like zero-G than decompression, but it looks great.  Really, this scene is about all that works in this episode.  It would just be nit-picking to mention that her body, seen earlier at the crash site would actually have fallen to the ground miles away.

In a limited way, the ending is fun.  The crew at the crash site page the NTSB agent, then hear a pager beeping in the wreckage.  “What if that is his?” says one a man jokingly.  “What would the odds be of that?” says a woman.  Cue a jaunty Frank Sinatra tune.

The episode really is a mess plot-wise.  A linear timeline is never established.  OK, he “awakens” at the crash-site — I can see that.  He experiences a series of events, seeing certain clues from the flight — OK.  But then he snaps back to reality on the flight — well, the flight has already crashed.

Seeing Bell back on the plane is as disorienting as seeing Jack back on-board Oceanic 815 at the beginning of season 6 Lost.  Is it the past?  Is it the future?  Does he remember?  Does he not remember?  This episode at least gives Lost a chance to say, “Hey, we provided more answers than those guys!”

Post-Post:

  • [1] I get that the cancellations are a business decision; none of the networks are running a charity that can waste millions on shows no one watches; well, except PBS.  However, often they aren’t even sound business decisions.  Firefly, Arrested Development, Family Guy and Futurama were all brought back in some form.  On the other hand, when they did give a low-rated show a chance, like the early X-Files, it paid off for almost a decade.
  • Why does Aidan sound like a girl’s name?  The first six Aidans (maybe the only six) on IMDb are all men.  Maybe because it is so close to Adrienne, but then Adrien/Adrian is a man’s name.  I think Rocky ruined it for everyone.
  • IMDb and YouTube.

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