Archive for April 26, 2010

The outline is done!

My Star Trek: DTI outline is now on my editor’s (virtual) desk, right on schedule.  It’s still a little rough here and there, but that’s detail work to be filled in later.   And as I remarked before, it’s quite long enough as it is.  I tried streamlining it for Jaime’s convenience, but was only able to trim it by 15 percent or so.

I expect this is going to be a rather long novel.  But its structure might help me write faster.  Normally, I write in a linear fashion; I don’t jump around much in a manuscript, but go scene by scene in order, unless I belatedly think of something I need to add and have to go back.  But this book will have several different parallel, fairly independent story threads for the various main characters, plus various sidebars, so I figure if I get stuck on one storyline, I can find some other part to work on.

In any case, I’m sure it’s going to be an interesting project.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (S2) Reviews: “The Council”

“The Council”: Part 1 of this 2-parter opens with Jim taking a long time to drive up and get into a recording studio, where the mission is on a phonograph record.  As in past phonograph briefings (probably using the same stock footage), the needle moves backwards, outward from the middle.  The mission is to stop gangster Frank Wayne by obtaining his secret files showing the information about the Swiss banks where the mob keeps its stolen billions.

Wayne is played by Paul Stevens, but his voice is dubbed by Martin Landau.  The scheme is for Rollin to take his place, and for this, they need info about the man.  Luckily, an old friend of Wayne’s, Jimmy Bibo (Nicholas Colasanto, younger and chubbier than I remember him from Cheers), has been caught embezzling.  The titular council of mob leaders finds him guilty, and he’s buried alive.  The team is waiting to dig him out, once they distract chief henchman Johnny (Robert Phillips) with the old throw-a-rock-in-the-other-direction trick (why do henchmen never catch on to that?).  Not that he’s grateful; he still refuses to give Rollin advice on how to impersonate Wayne until Jim threatens to put him back in the hole.  And boy, isn’t it lucky that Johnny didn’t shoot him or crack his skull open before burying him?

Meanwhile, Jim pretends to be a hard-hitting senate investigator out to advance his career by going after Wayne.  After a messy search of his house (to prompt Wayne to move his incriminating books to his office safe) is aborted by a bought judge, Jim and “US Marshal” Barney take Wayne in for questioning and roughing up in a dingy hotel, where Rollin is watching through a one-way mirror to perfect his Wayne disguise.  Eventually, Jim leaves Barney alone and Wayne makes his move, getting Barney at gunpoint and calling his boys for a rescue.  The disguised Rollin takes Wayne’s place in the nick of time and pretends to kill Barney.  He’s in the organization now, but the killing makes him too hot for the others to handle, so they demand that he leave the country… or else.

And that’s the end of part 1.  Not really a lot happening.  Part 2 begins with the usual incredibly long recap, though this is the shortest one yet, only 4:34.  Surprising, given how padded everything else is, but maybe a symptom of how little story there was.

As usual, the big cliffhanger setback turns out to have been part of the plan all along.  Rollin-as-Wayne decides to lay low by going to Cinnamon, who’s playing a plastic surgeon.  While the gangsters watch, she surreptitiously removes Rollin’s makeup while making it look like she’s using a silicone injector to transform his face to look like Rollin.

Why the back-and-forth?  No particular in-story reason.  It could’ve worked just as well without the plastic surgery, and could’ve only taken an hour once the padding was cut down.  I guess they just didn’t want to have Landau’s face off camera too long.

Cinnamon gives Rollin a UV lamp that’s supposed to be good for the recovery of his face (ahh, more innocent times), but which actually contains a winch gizmo that, once he’s alone, he uses to rip off the office safe’s dial so he can break in and snap photos of Wayne’s books.  (Why can’t he crack the combination in a more conventional way?)  But this is after Jim barges in, slaps Rollin around “without recognizing him” as Wayne, and gets a beating from hench-guy Johnny before the other gangsters stop him, warning that it’s too dangerous to go after a federal investigator.  But that doesn’t stop Rollin/Wayne, who wants Jim killed.  The others advise against it, but Rollin orders Johnny to put a bomb in Jim’s car.

Not to worry, though; we’re shown almost every interminable moment of Willy rigging a fake manhole cover and Jim and Barney putting a trapdoor in Jim’s car.  After the bomb is planted, Jim comes out in the weirdest M:I gadget yet, a coat with a fake, hollow back of his head attached, so he can duck down through the trapdoor and have it still look like he’s sitting in the car when it blows up.  (How did they know Johnny would be watching from the rear?)

While Rollin’s photographing the books, he’s interrupted by his fellow mobsters who ask him what to do about a boxer who failed to throw a fight.  Rollin just says “You know what to do” to get rid of them.  Great going, Hand — you may have just condemned a guy to death because you were too busy to care.

But later, when the other head mobsters learn of the car bombing from Johnny, they realize “Wayne” has gone too far.  They gather another mob council to put him on trial.  Rollin takes his character assassination of Wayne to the ultimate, having him go totally irrational and try to shoot the senior mobster when it doesn’t go his way.  The gun is rigged to jam, so Rollie makes a break for it and Johnny pursues, just missing him at the elevator.  (How did they know Johnny would just miss him?)  But Barney has rigged the two adjacent elevators to move in sync and there’s a trapdoor between them.  While all this other stuff has been going on, a real plastic surgeon, Dr. Reese (Stuart Nisbet), has been… get this… altering the real Wayne’s face to look like Rollin!  The unconscious Wayne is in the other elevator, and they switch the two lookalikes while Johnny is racing downstairs to intercept his former boss.  (The elevator has been conveniently slowed by Barney to let him keep up.)  The real Wayne wakes up just in time to get shot by Johnny, who then gets shot by the cops that Cinnamon called a few minutes earlier.  The end.

I have to wonder, why arrange for Wayne’s assassination when they’d already gotten the goods on him from his books?  It was tax evasion charges that brought down Capone.  But I guess that wouldn’t have been as dramatic an ending.  Still, it seems gratuitous.  And it’s at least the second time that a doctor has violated his Hippocratic Oath and operated on an unconsenting patient in order to help the team set him up to be killed.

And what about the investigation and trial?  Won’t there be questions asked when it’s found that the late Frank Wayne was surgically altered to resemble actor Rollin Hand?  That would be bound to complicate things.

Overall, this one doesn’t make much sense.  And it feels like a one-part story that was stretched to two by adding the plastic-surgery switcheroo.

The previous two episodes only had stock music, but this one has a partial score by Jerry Fielding (Star Trek: “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “Spectre of the Gun,” Hogan’s Heroes, Macmillan and Wife, the first season of The Bionic Woman).   What there is of it is mostly in part 2, and it has the trademark sound of Fielding’s  style, heavy on the clarinet and full of rising and falling phrases.  The highlight is the elevator sequence, where Fielding does a lively variation on the main M:I theme.  It’s a shame they couldn’t spare the funds for a full original score by Fielding.  Two episodes’ worth of fresh music might’ve made this weak, slow-moving 2-parter more rewarding.

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