Professor Joseph Fitzgerald wraps up his Wednesday Harvard Economics lecture by saying. “We’ll pick this up on Monday.” So the Harvard Economics class-week is only 3 days? That would explain a lot. I know the day of the week because it is November 21, 1963.
One of his students mentions he will be writing a paper about President Kennedy’s speech at the Trade Mart the next day. In the incredibly unlikely event that the speech doesn’t occur, he wisely has a sure-fire backup plan to interview Aldous Huxley that afternoon. Back in his office, Fitzgerald empties his pocket of some trash, a piece of gum and a 1964 dollar coin bearing Kennedy’s profile. He draws the curtains and a colleague from the future, Dr. Kate Wange, materializes. It is not a formal status report. She just wants to know how he is doing.
Fitzgerald is upset that he must be so detached from everyone here. He is especially troubled that he has spent the last three years studying Kennedy but hardly got to know him as a man — maybe they should have sent Kate instead. Now his assignment is ending and he will be forced to watch the assassination. She busts him for violating the rules by carrying the coin, but wishes him well on his trip to Dallas.
Fitzgerald transports 3,000 miles to Dealy Plaza just as Kennedy’s motorcade makes the turn. I guess he transported ahead a day to the 22nd also, but that isn’t mentioned. He raises a camera that puts Abraham Zapruder’s to shame and films the cars. He pans up the schoolbook suppository building and sees Oswald. He just can’t let history play out as it had before. He shouts a warning, Kennedy ducks, Oswald misses, and Jackie gets to wear that snappy pink dress another day. Most injured in this new timeline: Aristotle Onassis.
The Secret Service detains Fitzgerald, but quickly determine he is “an upstanding citizen.” He’s from Harvard, after all, and knows Robert MacNamara. He is taken to Love Field to meet Kennedy who was disappointed to find out it was an airport. They have to make a quick exit as tornadoes are bearing down on them — wait, what? Fitzgerald is invited to fly back to DC on Air Force One.
Fitzgerald learns that his disruption of the timeline caused the tornadoes, and now the Russkis have captured West Berlin, and Khrushchev was assassinated. He determines that his shenanigans will inevitably lead to a nuclear holocaust. He reluctantly admits to JFK that he is from 200 years in the future, and shows a holographic film of the assassination as it really happened. JFK realizes he must go back and take the bullet in order for the world to survive.
Fitzgerald manages to save the world and JFK and not blow the timeline. There is another fun wrinkle but why give away everything. Well-played!
Andrew Robinson does an amazing job as JFK in every facet that he has control over — the accent, the inflections, the mannerisms. Unfortunately he does not bear the slightest resemblance to JFK — and has his own very distinct look — so his performance, though excellent, is a little jarring. Enormous credit must also be given to the script by J. Neil Schulman which must serve multiple functions; not only the premise, but the dialogue that drives it, the political discussions, and having the words tailored to be absolutely believable coming out of JFK’s mouth — all amazing. Maybe it is an idealized version of Kennedy, but that’s OK.
At the risk of gushing a little, the set design and production are also phenomenal. Jackie didn’t really have anything to do but was perfectly placed and costumed. Dealy Plaza and the assassination were cut together — I assume — with footage from another production, but it flowed beautifully. Even the White House, seen in hundreds of movies, felt more real than ever, down to JFK’s rocking chair in the Oval Office.
The best TZ segment so far.
- Classic TZ Legacy: In Back There, a man goes back in time to save Lincoln. In No Time Like the Past, a man goes back in time to save Garfield. Where’s the love for McKinley? Also, Barbara Baxley (Wange) was in Mute.
- Title Analysis: I’m not thrilled with this one aspect of the segment. I get that it is a reference to Profiles in Courage, and to his profile on the dollar. But then, Profile in Coinage would have been much worse, so maybe it’s OK.
- Chappaquiddick! Whew, been holding that in for 30 minutes with nowhere to use it.