Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Revisiting The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Winged Terror

"The Night of the Winged Terror (Part 1)"
Written by  Marvin J. Chomsky
Directed by Ken Pettus
Synopsis: When prominent citizens engage in acts of senseless destruction, West and Frank Harper are put on the case. They discover that all of these men have in common a recent eye examination and a gift of spectacles from a Dr. Ocularis, and the mysterious intrusion of a raven.

Trey: I feel like this episode should have been called "The Night of the Raven," but alas, that name had already been used for an episode that barely features an raven!

Jim: You're right! I really like William Shallert as agent Frank Harper. He provides an interesting physical contrast to James West. That's something that was lacking with Pike.

Trey: Harper is also given a bit of characterization to differentiate him from Gordon--a consideration Pike never really got. Like Pike, though, Harper doesn't seem to be made to have a complimentary skill set to West in quite the same way that Gordon does, though he does demonstrate disguise skills.

Jim: The opening gives me a Manchurian Candidate vibe. The raven on the hand car makes quite the evocative method to deliver the triggering device.

Trey: Yeah, this episode has a great, pulpy high concept.

Jim: As the first Dr. Horatio Occularis, Bernard Fox makes an excellent bait and switch villain. He's got just the right amount of theatrical projection to walk the line between campy and compelling--a bit like Victor Buorno or Michael Dunn. It's a shame he was dispatched so quickly in the episode.

Trey: We've got some other TV stalwarts though. This is the second WWW appearance for Michele Carey, for instance. We last saw she way back in "Night of the Feathered Fury."

Jim: Christopher Cary as Tycho is one of the most striking villains we've seen in a while. His appearance is an appropriate blend of 50's alien scientist and eccentric inventor.

Trey:  I think this was a really good episode, though I'm holding complete judgment off until the second part. It harkens back to S2 in content and structure.

Jim: I agree with you, this is one of the better episodes we've seen this season. I feel like it uses the expanded story time to build the mystery and stakes. I'll be interested to see if the second part is as good, too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Revisiting The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Pelican

"The Night of the Pelican" 
Written by  Richard H. Landau
Directed by Alex Nicol
Synopsis: The enigmatic, dying words of an informant has Pike searching Chinatown, and West undercover as military prisoner on Alcatraz, to stop a plot involving a stolen explosive.

Trey: This is a more Bondian episode than we've gotten in a while. Alcatraz makes a good setting for this sort of thing, even if the scenes don't really look much like Alcatraz at times. Of course, I don't know what Alcatraz looked like in the late 19th century, I guess!

Jim: Overall, I enjoyed this episode. It uses the "agent in a prison" trope fairly well, as we see the battle of wills between West and Corporal Simon, played with gusto by Vincent Beck.  And yeah, you get that Bondian feel, like in the way West explains Chang's plot, that brought a smile to my face. 

Trey: I feel like Pike really comes into his own in this episode. Well, maybe not quite "his own" in that it's still very much an Artemus template he's following, but he gets to do a lot of stuff rather than just being a sidekick.

Jim: Yes, I found Aidman's Pike rolling along with this episode a lot more palatable. He's not Gordon, but he feels like he's found his stride. 

Trey: I don't really understand the villains' plot here fully. It seems to be "pretended to be after a large, more terrorist goal," but really all they want to do is commit a robbery.  It's Die Hard, I guess! But it seems a lot of trouble to go to with a lot of risk just to commit a robbery. 

Jim: I agree. The entire scheme feels tacked on, as it's only revealed in the final minutes of the show. I'm not even sure why the writers thought that was necessary. West's plan of blockading the port makes more sense. Maybe someone on the staff brought up the issue of Chang's cohorts being driven out by a siege, and the writers felt like they needed to adjust the script to account for that? As a robbery plan, it's a bit complicated to say the least.

Trey: Speaking of Chang, we get the unfortunate but not unexpected yellowface here--but we also get an Asian actor doing a bit of whiteface in an amusing turn! Khigh Dhiegh here is of course probably best known for his role in The Manchurian Candidate.

Jim: It's always great to see Khigh Deigh in any capacity. His performances are understated, but commanding. You know who it's also great to see?

Trey: Francine York as Dr. Gibson?

Jim: Got it in one!

Friday, December 3, 2021

Revisiting The Wild Wild West: The Night of Miguelito's Revenge

"The Night of Miguelito's Revenge" 
Written by  Jerry Thomas
Directed by James B. Clark
Synopsis: West and Pike race to solve a mystery based on a nursery rhyme before Dr. Loveless completes a series of kidnapping and completes his revenge.

Jim: Nice to see Dr. Loveless return to the show!

Trey: I had thought we had seen the last of him. Good to have him back, though it's a shame Artemus couldn't be in this one.

Jim: This episode leans heavy into the sixties color a lot more than other episodes recently. The underground lair with all the clowns and carnival décor, the color coded cages Loveless uses to hold his kidnap victims--even West's red satin lined coffin! It reminds me of Batman.

Trey: This episode also gives Jeremy Pike the introduction that the first episode aired with him in it didn't deliver.

Jim: It feels, as did the last one, like it was written with Ross Martin in mind, which makes sense. Aidman seems less sure of himself in the role than in the previous episode.

The poem that is so important to this episode was first recorded in A. E. Bray's Traditions of Devonshire in 1838. There is a lot of variation among older versions. In some, Friday's child is the one with the woe.

Trey: Who's to say what version Loveless heard?

Jim: Overall, this feels less like a Dr. Loveless episode and more like an Agatha Christie mystery or something. The steam powered android is a novel gimmick, but I feel like it should have had more screentime. But this isn't the first lackluster Loveless episode we've seen in the series. At some point in the series, the show turned the amazing scientist Loveless into just an ordinary villain.

And Agatha Christie angle is a bit flat too. The key to this sort of plot is that either the various participants in the story need to reveal sordid secrets or be conspirators in a scandalous crime. Loveless' targets are pretty random. 

Trey: I think this is far from the worst Loveless episode we've seen, though I would agree it isn't the best. The steam-powered robot here is probably one of the best fantastic elements in the show, regarding its execution. As far as Loveless' revenges being really petty, well, that's very much in keeping with how he has been portrayed in previous episodes, so I didn't mind that. 

Jim: So you're saying he's sort of a small man?

Trey: ...


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