Saturday, April 24, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 20

My Soul To Keep is the twentieth episode of War of the Worlds, the series. It features the return of John Colicos as Quinn. Quinn points investigative journalist Cash McCullough, played by Michael Parks, firmly at the Blackwood Project. Cash is Suzanne's ex-husband and Debi's father, and thus in a unique position to pester the project.

Meanwhile, the team has their hands full with the latest alien scheme. It's their breeding cycle, only once again the radiation is playing havoc with their biology. To compensate, the aliens commandeer an ice factory and plan to use it to incubate their eggs. The team tracks them via transmissions and acts to thwart them. McCullough gets close by leveraging his relationship with Suzanne, surprising her with the accusation that the team is killing illegal aliens. With some help from Quinn, he follows them to the Blackwood raid on the alien hatchery and witnesses first-hand the horror of an alien invasion. Fearing that no one would believe him, he states that he's dropping the story for good.

The Good: It's great to see Quinn return. Colicos was ill while filming this episode, so they reduced his part a bit. Sadly, we'll never see him again, but at least his return cements his place as more than just another one-shot character. I liked the idea that, in this universe, he might have actually been Deep Throat. Of course, he could have been lying when he made that claim, but I can completely see Quinn bringing down the President for his own aims. Maybe Nixon was digging too deeply into the old alien menace. While we're on the subject, the lie he told Cash was the best kind of lie - one with a dash of the truth. I think the idea of the Blackwood Project as hunting down illegal aliens is a very clever story. There's just enough truth in it to believe that Cash might find some bits of confirmation.

I also rather enjoyed learning more about the alien's reproductive cycle. This is to be their first clutch on Earth. If they miss it, and they do, they'll have to wait nine years to try again. I also liked the return of the great gorge, the one that the commander in Epiphany jumped off of. This time, the aliens hurl a defective egg into it. To Life Immortal!

It's nice to see another McCullough-focused episode.  She got to shine a bit in Goliath Is My Name and The Good Samaritan, but generally hasn't gotten close to the screen time of Ironhorse or Blackwood. She's still way ahead of Norton's one episode, though.

It's fun how excited the scientists in the team get when they get the chance to examine a hatching alien egg. Only Ironhorse seems worried. When the tiny alien grabs Suzanne and won't let go, Ironhorse is right there waiting with the flame-thrower. He doesn't say "I told you so" with this mouth, but his eyes are another story. Ain't the alien an adorable little scamp?

Parks does a good job as the charming Cash McCullough. You can see why Suzanne fell for him in the first place, and why she subsequently broke it off.  I rather like his casual racism. It's not as daring as it would be today, but even in the late 80s it would have been edgy and immediately showcases just a hint of his ruthlessness and disregard for others. He was a well constructed character on multiple levels, and I'd have been happy to see him in another episode.

The Bad: After all we've learned about Cash, I can't see him dropping the story of an alien invasion the way he does. I mean, he has proof! I suppose the team probably could have shut him up, somehow. For that matter, the idea that 'no one would believe it' is, as always, absurd. Their whole planet fell under alien assault a mere 35 years earlier. Even if you buy that most people choose not to acknowledge this, a hard-hitting facts-driven journalist should know about it.

Speaking of silly, the men of the team find their jaws dropping when Suzanne shows off her dress for a date with Cash. Maybe I'm jaded by 2010 fashion sense, but I'm not seeing it. (Not that she isn't an attractive woman; she is. Just I don't see Ironhorse and Blackwood getting flustered by this outfit walking into the room.) And with a large alien problem right at the moment, the timing was pretty bad.

As much as I liked the illegal alien lie, I was less impressed with Quinn's story pertaining to his motivation. Sharing the same mistress with General Wilson (drink!) is something that Cash could probably verify and isn't really all that compelling.

It was awfully convenient for the plot that the alien that attacked McCullough at the end was, well, an alien, not a guy with some radiation scars.  We almost never see them in their true forms, so to see one with no explanation now is kind of goofy. It was fun to see Cash give the alien a flying tackle though.

Finally, it seems odd how long it takes for the Blackwood Team to mount an appropriate response to the aliens inside the warehouse. The aliens need 72 hours to incubate and get very close to succeeding. Since the Blackwood Team knows about the aliens almost from the start, it seems a little silly. I can almost see them sending in a recon team first, since you wouldn't want to just blow up a base that might contain chemical or biological agents. Once they learn that it's an alien breeding ground, though, why not just firebomb the hell out of it it with jets or tanks?

The Ugly:  I thought the episode was going to let me down and I was going to have to use burning alien eggs, but at 42 minutes in we got to see Cash's camera crew's corpses, mutilated as only the aliens can.

There you have it.  We're moving into the end-game here for season one. The Blackwood Project scored a great victory this time out, limiting the aliens to the ones already here on Earth, at least until the colonists arrive. Things are often a lot more murky, but sometimes it's nice to give one to the good guys.

It really was a lot of fun to see Quinn back and scheming.  I think, of all the plot elements of Season One that got dropped in the second season, is absence is the one I feel the most keenly. He was a character of such potential, and sadly this episode only hints at that potential. Alas, it was not to be.  War of the Worlds - The Complete First Season is available for sale on DVD.


The Sultan of Sarcasm said...

I think one of my favorite scenes that you didn't mention was Advocate #1's (Ilse Von Glatz's Advocate) irate response to the eggs being stolen.

"Is there no degradation too great? No sense of morality present at all on this damned planet?"

I also enjoyed this line as well:

"You idiots. It is clear what has happened."

It was nice to see Quinn one last time. I know Herb Wright was pushing to have Quinn used in some form in WOTW season 2, but Mancuso and company dropped the ball on that.

Jimtron said...

Her line was great, though mostly for the irony. The Mor-Taxians place zero value on human life, performing horrid experiments on us, but as soon as we start investigating their life cycles they freak out.

Oh, Quinn would have been so glorious, and logical, in season 2. Of all the aliens, he for sure wouldn't turn himself over to this new breed. That's a real shame, a real missed opportunity.

The Sultan of Sarcasm said...

Herb was convinced that Quinn was somehow in the second season but fumbled creatively. I remember telling him that Quinn never showed up but they fumbled the idea of an alien rebel (in "The Defector" episode of season 2).

I guess, the Mor-Taxians idea of morality is vastly different than ours. :)

And I completely forgot Ilse's, "Death to all humans!" line. She got the chance to display her rage in this episode.

Jimtron said...

You know, there was no obvious Quinn in S2 of course. However, in the time-travel episode, they went back to the epicenter of the alien invasion and tried to inoculate the war leaders. Blackwood and Kincaid tried to gun down any that got so immunized to Earth's bacteria, but I kind of like to think that they missed the war leader. It ties up the coincidence of the ONE alien who's immune to earth's bacteria being of such high rank.

The Sultan of Sarcasm said...

Ahh, yes, "Time to Reap". I'm not even going to mention why the aliens in that episode are wearing the Advocate contamination suits. ;)

Anonymous said...

I never got the whole "no one would believe in aliens" argument of this series. I mean, seriously, unless everyone who lived in '53 had their minds wiped, it's kind of hard to forget a mass planetary invasion by malevolent E.T.'s that almost succeeded.

dysamoria said...

putting aside the obvious wish to have seen Quinn again... (sigh, and more on that in a moment) ... there are a few things that bothered me about this episode that could have been explored...

the dialog from Xana (Von Glatz's Advocate) in response to the theft of the egg... let's address this critically:

the aliens treat humans like cattle. killing, mutilating, experimentation, rape, murder... etc... and we're supposed to be totally positioned against the aliens, siding with humanity's right to life on Earth. yet, here we are presented with two objectionable actions by the human heroes, two of which are scientists, one of those being a very touchy-feely wanna have a dialog work things out with the aliens if possible kinda guy (Harrison, obviously). he STOLE an alien egg. an infant. i can see that scientific curiosity got the better of him in the moment, so ok... but...

the alien infant is burned to death after grabbing hold of Suzanne, seconds after beginning to hatch (wow, those are long arms!). on one hand, they portrayed it as attacking Suzanne. but what did it actually do? it latched on and wouldn't let go. she was in pain... but the thing weighed a pound or three at max, wasn't secured down in the hazard box, so she could have pulled her arms out and it would have had to let go or be injured by impact with the glass. and... what's the first thing primates do when they're able to touch a parent/adult? they grab. it was instinct. not an attack. how could it possibly attack her? even with extreme strength in comparison to humans, it still would know nothing about who they were and where it was...

unless... the Mor-Taxians have genetic memory. that would have been very interesting to explore. the fast growth shown in Unto Us a Child is Born suggests rapid development... were they expecting to make warriors from their born-knowledgeable young or would they have needed education and training?

so, "kidnapping" of an (apparently innocent) infant and then unnecessary killing it. that's pretty harsh for the heroes, isn't it? what's worse is that they then excitedly rush off to murder the entire infant population in the ice factory. WOW, GUYS! that's rough! i thought the good guys were supposed to be all holier than thou???

so there're my issues with murders of innocents (non-combatant infants, at that). next:

why is Quinn gleefully exposing the newborn of his own species to murder at the hands of humans?? if Xana was enraged at the theft of an egg, she demonstrates that the Mor-Taxians DO have some kind of reverence for their young. what about Quinn? was that his goal? to really screw his own species by getting an entire generation killed as infants? i don't get it.

so there are the morality issues.

more in the next comment...

dysamoria said...

i have some ideas on Quinn for relevance to S2 in my WOTW fanaticism:

as posited by Jimtron, Time to Reap suggests at least one alien escapes the machine-gun carnage (they very deliberately show an alien accept the vaccine from Malzor and walk through a passageway, though it's unclear if that's away or deeper into the area the aliens are huddling... the deliberateness of it suggests to me that that alien escaped). so, say that's Quinn, inoculated. i have some other ideas about that, posted in comments after the review for that episode. but here's the real beauty of Quinn and the Morthren in season 2:

where do you think the Morthren got their immunity to Earth bacterium in S2 E1 Second Wave? we never once see Morthren in their native physical form (except, thankfully, in a welcome flashback in Seft of Emon). it was originally scripted(or just planned) that they'd appear in their original form, go into a cocoon and come out of the fleshy sacks as humanoid, but all we got in the actual televised story is the Morthren coming OUT as naked humans (a rare example of the groupings of three that were maintained for a painfully brief bit of S2), not going in as their original form. also relevant: when the Morthren attempt to reproduce, they are forced to use a human to gestate the young. it's never really explained. a neat concept written for the Mor-Taxian aliens in the novelization of The Resurrection is that they have three sexes. male, female and an egg layer or "carrier." so i summarize as thus:

the Morthren arrived on Earth. either the Advocacy had already captured Quinn or the Morthren did so upon arrival. studying Quinn, they created a template for modifying human DNA or their own DNA to replicate Quinn's benefit so that when they took human hosts, they would be safe from infection. they then took hosts en mass (i would have suspected it was a cloning or genetic engineering feet, but then why would the cloning device be considered so unique as they seemed to suggest?). just like Quinn, the Morthren were also bound to the host bodies permanently. this means they could not reproduce naturally nor could the carriers gestate young or lay eggs. so we have season two's all-too-"human" aliens. tadaa.

Advocate said...

I just found this blog. I love love LOVED this show as a kid, and I am thrilled like a child that they finally got around to releasing it on DVD (Season 1, anyway)now that I am an adult (or as close to one as I'll ever get).

To Dysamoria's point (posted over a year ago, but...), there was a reference early in Season 1 - a conversation between Suzanne and Harrison, if I remember correctly - about the aliens being able to use our bodies as the perfect disguise "at least until they come up with something better..." Hmmm, perhaps the cloning in Season 2 was "the something better"?

Truthfully, I think we're stretching to make any connections between Season 1 and 2. Greg Strangis himself will tell you the show was more or less taken from him and given to Mancuso, Jr. by the Paramount brass, so I doubt there was little more than the absolute necessary collaboration between the two. He was pretty unhappy about how it all happened.

Scott J. Larson said...

Apparently, even with the retooled show for season 2, this was not going to be the final appearance of Quinn. The initial idea That Frank Mancuso Jr had for the second season was to have Quinn overthrow the Advocacy and become the leader of the Aliens. John Colicos was asked to come back and offered the role as a series regular but was tied up with other projects. They went with Denis Forest as Malzar instead. This makes me wonder if the return to 1953 in Season Two's "Time To Reap" was a potential door open for Quinn's return in Season Three (which , of course, did not happen) The article about this can be found here: