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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

1.05 --- Chameleon

Directed by : Wes Craven
Written by : James Crocker
Starring : Terry O'Quinn, Ben Piazza, John Ashton, Steve Bassett
First aired : 4th of October, 1985.

During a Discovery space shuttle mission (which is inventively portrayed by stock footage with a voiceover), one of the crewmembers spots a strange blue light on the shuttle fuselage. After the landing, two technicians, Brady Simmons (John Ashton, Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run) and Gerald Tyson (Steve Bassett), are called upon to investigate a disobedient camera which went a bit crazy in outer space. Brady unmounts the camera in order to analyze it further, but camera responds in a flash of blue light which disintegrates him and leaves just the mechanism.

Visibly distraught, Gerald rings the alarm, and is soon escorted to the science facility, along with camera which is placed into the isolation tank. Gerald's story is a hard one to buy for dr. Curt Lockridge (Terry O'Quinn, Stepfather) and the rest of his staff, until camera suddenly vanishes (again, in a flash of blue light) and Brady Simmons appears in its place.

Brady is not too eager to stick around in the isolation tank though, and is pleading with the doctors to release him. Lockridge, now reinforced with another doctor, Vaugh Heilman (Ben Piazza, The Bad News Bears), does not know what to believe in, and his amazement expands even further when Brady morphs into his wife (Brady's, that is), who furtherly begs for Brady's release.

After a phone call confirms that Brady's wife is sitting safely back home, the doctors establish the fact that this thing inside is an alien entity which can shape-shift into anything which the "host" organism possesses knowledge of. The alien morphs himself back to Brady, who, realizing that he's not getting out there anytime soon, starts getting real violent. Lockwood orders the tank to be filled with sleep-inducing gas, and Heilman enters it in order to conduct further research.

Heilman's plan is thwarted when the alien suddenly awakens, and then vaporizes them both. They reappear as a nuclear bomb (Heilman, according to Lockwood, did weapons research for ten years), timed to explode within two and a half minutes. Lockridge enters the tank, leaves the door open and talks the alien into morphing back and leaving freely, which he eventually does - in shape of dr. Heilman, immediately rushing to the shuttle launching platform. Lockwood catches up with him and asks the entity to release Heilman and Brady, but he (they) decline, saying they prefer it this way. Asked why did he pick this planet, the alien answers "curiosity", and offers Lockwood to join them and travel the space together. He refuses, and alien morphs into its original shape (reminiscing a bundle of light particles) and flies away.

***

While Chameleon does sport some impressive sets and props, this is largely an uninspiring episode, without any particularily good explanation for its events. The shape-shifting alien concept worked much better in movies like The Thing and The Hidden - here, it's just a cheap gimmick.

Subpar acting doesn't exactly help this episode, either. Terry O'Quinn, who I fondly remember from The Stepfather, comes off pretty flat, while Bassett is obviously better suited to the numerous daytime soaps which pepper his resume. Piazza and Ashton are the better part of the acting department, but even they are nothing to write home about.

Even Wes Craven, known for his ability to generate suspense, comes up lame in this one. The sequence in which Lockridge begs the bomb not to detonate while seconds are ticking away is woefully contrived and badly staged, completely devoid of any tension. With a better hook and plot development, this could have been a good one.

Comments on "1.05 --- Chameleon"

 

Anonymous John said ... (1:37 PM) : 

This episode was nothing special, but before the DVD sets came out, it was one of the few episodes I vividly recalled from watching it originally. Strange, huh?

Terry O'Quinn is a very under-rated actor, but he was not really given much to do in this episode. And, I suppose there was not much he could do with this part. Definitely just a walk-through for him.

I remember while watching this episode for the first time, thinking, "Huh?" at the end. All-in-all, a very strange episode.

 

Blogger Matthew Maloney said ... (3:44 PM) : 

I have to disagree with the review here. I thought this episode was engrossing from start to end. I thought all the acting was superb and the story was seeped in suspense from the minute Ashton's character reappears on the table in the control area. I guess I don't watch a terrible amount of sci-fi so the concept was pretty cool. It raises a lot of questions like how would we react to alien life if we actually encountered it and what questions would we ask it if we could. Great episode. Still trying to figure out whether the alien was bad or not.

 

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