I’ve just written a scene in Forgotten History that was a lot of fun to write. It was an action scene, but the kind of action scene I like, that’s more about clever problem-solving and finding imaginative ways to do things with available physical and technological resources than it is about shooting things. And all the Mission: Impossible I’ve been watching lately had an influence on it as well.
But a lot of why it was fun is because I got to use workbees! Workbees are cool. They’re these little yellow maintenance vehicles — designed by Andrew Probert — that fly around ships in drydock, and they can be connected to grabber sleds or cargo trains or any number of other specialized attachments, like little one-person truck cabs that can be outfitted as various different types of truck. But in space. They’re one of those ideas introduced in the brilliantly conceived and designed world of Star Trek: The Motion Picture that unfortunately fell by the wayside in later Trek, even though the production and FX teams loved them and even managed to slip one into the Deep Space Nine main titles. One of the things I’ve tried to do in my post-TMP fiction – Ex Machina, The Darkness Drops Again, and now this — is to use all those nifty designs and aliens and ideas that were glimpsed in that movie and never again. One cool thing about getting to return to that milieu is the opportunity to reference things I didn’t get around to using in ExM or TDDA, like the observation lounge glimpsed only in miniature when Spock’s shuttle docked. Or the workbees, which are just so darn cute.
I also like writing about workbees because I like saying the word “workbees.” Go ahead. Try it. ”Workbees.”
(Yes, I managed to write a post that has tags for Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Freakazoid! all at once.)
Again going with Netflix’s order (production order?) rather than airing order:
“Robot”: The tape’s in a park department truck at a playground featuring a really weird slide, kind of a triangular prism shape — I can’t imagine that would be comfortable. Anyway, it’s a small reel-to-reel player in the glove compartment, not an 8-track this time. The mission: the premier of Lucarno died a month ago, but Deputy Premier Kamirov (Malachi Throne) has been using an impostor called Gemini to pass as the premier, planning to have him announce his retirement and appoint aspiring dictator Kamirov his successor. The plan is to stop him and allow for free elections which will surely allow good-guy minister Massik (Vic Perrin) to end up in charge. A dossier sequence lets us know that Lee Meriwether is back as Tracey.
The plan here is particularly convoluted and implausible. The team schemes to convince Kamirov that his rival Massik is pulling the same scam he is — except their impostor is a robot! Or it’s Paris pretending to be a robot, a showman’s invention called Mr. Mechanico, modified to look like the premier. (The premier’s doubles are actually Nimoy in fairly convincing old-age makeup and a old-guy voice not completely unlike how the elderly Nimoy actually ended up sounding. Gemini’s real voice is Nimoy’s voice electronically lowered, which sounds ridiculous.) Meanwhile, they fake a meeting between Kamirov’s aide Silensky (Larry Linville) and Gemini to make it sound like they’re plotting against Kamirov. Poor Silensky gets arrested for treason and kills himself (which seems a mean thing for the team to arrange, since his role is rather peripheral), and Kamirov needs a new impostor, so he forces the robot’s operators Jim and Willy to reprogram it and replace “Massik” with “Kamirov” in its speech. Meanwhile, Barney breaks into Gemini’s cell, breaks him out, and fakes his hanging with an inflatable dummy so Kamirov will think he’s dead. Then they have Gemini replace the “robot” Paris and have him make the speech calling for free elections, so that the frustrated Kamirov will try to expose him as a robot only to discover it’s a flesh-and-blood man, discrediting him. Moreover, he totally loses it and confesses on live TV that the premier died weeks before.
And yes, Tracey’s part of the story too. She pretends to be Massik’s go-between with the robot team, she lures Silensky to a fake meeting so he’ll have no alibi for the frame-up, she gets brought in by Kamirov to arrange for the robot people to help him, and she seductively distracts Kamirov’s henchman while Barney breaks out Gemini. But mostly, she just looks really good. She spends a lot of the episode in a short trenchcoat under which no other garments are visible, which kinda makes you wonder, particularly in the scene where she’s told to remove the coat. She does have a light dress on under it, but that’s not too disappointing, because it’s a nice-looking and fairly skimpy dress. Oh yeah, and she hacks the bad guys’ file system — by which I mean she sneaks into the file room and plants a fake folder containing the videotape of Mr. Mechanico’s performance. The Mechanico in the tape (Ken Delo) is presumably an actor helping the team, but he’s not in the dossier sequence.
Also, there’s a bit where Silensky checks Tracey’s fake file, and it says she’s 5’6″, even though Lee Meriwether is 5′ 8 1/2″. Did they think the audience would find her less attractive if they knew how tall she was? But that doesn’t stop them from shooting a scene in which she’s clearly taller than Malachi Throne.
This is a mediocre episode at best. The plot is too convoluted and rather silly. There are too many impostures going on at once. (There’s a part where Paris disguises himself as Silensky — and Larry Linville’s whole body language is so completely unlike Nimoy’s that it isn’t convincing for a millisecond — and we hear a pretaped voice that Paris says is his imitation of Silensky, but why does it have to be his voice when it’s only on a tape? They could’ve said Jim hired another actor to fake it.) It’s a routine kind of episode where nothing goes wrong with the plan, aside from a couple of guards toward the end seeing things they shouldn’t and getting promptly knocked out. There’s a limited amount of new music by Richard Markowitz, including some nice new variations on “The Plot,” but most of the score is stock Jerry Fielding cues from earlier episodes. Basically the only real appeal of this episode is Lee Meriwether, although that alone is quite a lot of appeal.
“Mastermind”: The tape’s on an antique sailing ship at the docks, behind a parrot in its cage (??). The mission is to retrieve a blackmail file that mobster Merrick (Donnelly Rhodes) has accumulated on major government officials, and of course get rid of Merrick. The Voice on Tape doesn’t specify what the IMF plans to do with the blackmail files once it gets them. The episode glosses over the implied corruption rampant in the government if so many high officials are vulnerable to blackmail. (Then again, maybe they’re honest legislators but are sleeping with interns or secretly gay.)
No major female guest this time, but the dossier sequence includes several assistants, including Dr. Irving Berlin, err, Berman (Ben Wright), a pharmacist named Galvin (Gerald Hiken), and a window-washing service. Not dossiered is a nurse who’s also assisting the team, though her photo is shown in the apartment scene. Dr. Irving Berlin (I’m going to call him that for fun) is their entree to Merrick’s mobster boss Stone (Paul Stewart), whose front corporation funds Irving’s medical research as a tax write-off, and who keeps the blackmail file in his safe. After Willy doses Stone with a delayed-action drug (by standing uncomfortably close to him in the elevator), Jim shows up as a doctor colleague of Irving’s seeking a grant, just in time for Stone to suffer an apparent stroke. In the hospital, Jim pretends he’s running a novel experiment with an EEG and a psychic Paris, in order to convince Merrick that Paris is channeling Stone. Meanwhile, Galvin and Willy convince Merrick that Stone was arranging a narcotics deal behind his back, after the real Stone had rejected Merrick’s suggestion to get into narcotics. (This is the kind of episode we’ve seen before, where the mobster who gets to live at the end has lines he won’t cross so he seems beneficial by comparison.) Why not just have Paris wear a Stone mask and mimic his voice as usual? I guess to get Merrick to overreach himself when he thinks Stone’s dying and he’s about to inherit the business.
Thanks to the smaller main cast, Willy’s playing a scientist for the first time, the chemist who converts Galvin’s morphine into heroin, and it’s a role that doesn’t fit him well. It would be a better role for Barney, but Barney’s kind of rehashing what he did in “The Double Circle” — breaking into Merrick’s office courtesy of the window-washing rig, then putting up a fake mirror wall behind the minibar and breaking into the back of Stone’s safe in the adjacent office, in order to retrieve the blackmail file. Once Paris has convinced Merrick he’s mind-melded with Stone and taken on his persona, they go back to his office, with the plan being that Barney will have reset the safe’s combination from the inside so that Paris can take out the money to pay off Galvin. But Barney’s been delayed by a henchman raiding Merrick’s minibar, so he has to send an electric shock through the safe to warn Paris to vamp a little longer, which he does by faking an inner battle between Stone’s mind and the host personality. Oddly, the reset controls inside the safe only go from 0-9, consistent with the dialogue, but the dial on front goes to maybe 60.
Meanwhile, Dr. Irving Berlin calls an associate of Stone’s and claims that Dr. Jim is a fraud working with Merrick and there’s nothing wrong with Stone. So the revived Stone and his guy come to confront Merrick and find the safe has been cleaned out of the money and the blackmail file. And we get the usual offscreen “bang” as the team drives away.
This is another mediocre episode, not bringing anything fresh to the table. It’s the second in a row (although these two were reversed in airdate order) involving convincing the bad guys of a sci-fi premise — an increasingly common trend in the show, though it seems an odd approach. You’d think something requiring less suspension of disbelief from the bad guys would be easier to pull off. And really, most of this episode feels unnecessary. The primary mission was to get the blackmail file, and Barney did that all by himself. Sure, the rest of the team’s playacting was partly to keep Merrick out of his office so Barney could work, but it seems overcomplicated for that. And yeah, getting rid of Merrick was a secondary goal, but I suspect just losing the blackmail file he’d promised to turn over to the mob would’ve been sufficient to ruin him and severely shorten his life expectancy. So most of this episode feels like padding.
“The Brothers”: The tape’s in an out-of-order phone booth outside the airport. The mission: rescue the Western-friendly King Selim, who’s been imprisoned by his evil younger brother Prince Samandal (Lloyd Battista plays both roles) and his brutal enforcer Hatafis (Joseph Ruskin). Samandal can’t take power by killing the king, who has sons/heirs in Europe, so he wants to be the power behind the throne by brainwashing his big brother, courtesy of evil Dr. Labashi (Lee Bergere). A dossier sequence introduces the curvaceous Michele Carey as Lisa, as well as the Hartford Repertory Company (no faces on the brochure this time).
Paris plays an oil exec/playboy who wants to convince Samandal to break his existing deal with a rival oil company, cutting out others who profit from that deal, including Hatafis. As added incentive, he pimps out his ladyfriend Lisa to the prince. This is so she can drug him over dinner, faking kidney failure so he’ll have to bring the king out of hiding for a transplant. Jim is Paris’s doctor, who’s traveling under a fake name so his wife won’t find out he’s hobnobbing with hookers. This justifies performing the transplant in the palace gym instead of a hospital. This part is rather clever — while Jim and the Hartford Company (along with Paris, who’s knocked out Labashi and taken his place through the simple disguise of a surgical mask and fake glasses and eyebrows) pretend to perform the operation, Barney and Willy cut through the floor beneath the trick surgical tables, lower the prince and his brother into the basement, disguise them as each other, and switch them around. Meanwhile, Lisa tells Hatafis that the king plans to eliminate him, giving him an incentive to kill the king — a plan which almost backfires for the team when Hatafis sends a henchman to cut the power (literally, with an axe) during the operation (but Barney & Willy fix things in time). So after the operation, Hatafis suffocates the prince (who he thinks is the king) and then goes to the sheikhs to announce he’s taking over as regent — but the team wakes up the real king, removes his disguise (which was just for Hatafis’s benefit during the operation), and fills him in. He shows up just as Hatafis is trying to take power and gives him a very stern look as the team drives away.
This was a definite improvement. The surgical switcheroo was a clever sting, though it was contrived that the brothers looked so much alike despite not being twins. (Though not impossible, and given the brevity of the impersonations it didn’t have to be a perfect resemblance.) And Michele Carey was an impressive presence, sexy and strong. The scheming with Hatafis was a bit hard to follow, though. I couldn’t keep track of whether they were trying to turn him against the prince or the king, though I guess it was both. And it was odd that making him want to kill them was part of the plan even though it almost scuttled the plan when he sabotaged the operation. Still, on balance, a moderately good episode, at least compared to the last two duds.