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Sunday, December 25, 2005

1.15 --- A Message from Charity

Directed by : Paul Lynch
Written by : Alan Brennert (story by William M. Lee)
Starring : Duncan McNeill, Kerry Noonan, Gerald Hicken
First aired : 1st of November, 1985.

Battling a severe bacterial infection which causes high fever, sixteen-year old Peter Wood (Duncan McNeill, Star Trek : Voyager) develops a telepathic bond with a 18th century pilgrim girl Charity (Kerry Noonan). Charity can see through his eyes and feel the things he eats, and soon the two of them develop a friendly bond, Peter telling her of all wondrous new things from the 20th century and of future (or, well, history) of the "colonies".

When Charity however intentionally tells her God-fearing friend Ursula of those things aiming to impress her, she spreads the word to the local squire (Gerald Hicken), who comes after Charity accusing her of witchcraft. Unable to resist squire's goons, Charity is taken in for an "examination", which is in fact just a polished excuse for a rape. When squire attempts to undress her, she overpowers him and flees.

On the run, Charity comes to an idea - she asks Peter to read up on history of 18th century New England, and see if he can dig something out which could be useful. Peter finds out that the squire who's after her killed two sailors over some gold, and was posthumously found guilty in 1704. Armed with that information, Charity surrenders and agrees to a trial, and then uses her knowledge to subtly blackmail the squire into proclaiming her innocent. Peter rejoices, but Charity informs him that they must break their bond - to her, it doesn't feel right to know of things to come.

Time passes, and Peter almost forgets about everything, until one day he hears the familiar voice in his head, saying him to go to a local monument called Bear's Rock and check a nearby stone for inscription. He runs there as fast as humanly possible, and finds a rock with a heart and "P.W. + C.P." carved into it.

***

Adapted by Alan Brennert from a short story by William M. Lee, A Message from Charity is another gem from the new Twilight Zone. A superbly original episode wisely spread over 37 minutes, Charity starts off slow and a bit ludicrous, but gradually picks up and comes into its own once witchcraft accusation is introduced. Duncan McNeill, who later found fame as lt. Tom Paris from Star Trek : Voyager, creates good chemistry with Kerry Noonan as Charity, despite two of them de facto never sharing screen time next to each other - opposite of them stands stage veteran Gerald Hicken, who is as slimy and menacing as one would expect from an 18th century witch hunter. Production design must be mentioned too, as 18th century New England looks and feels rather authentic - better said, like it's portrayed in historical books, that is.

Watching this episode without subs was a learning experience. As I noted before, English is not my first language. I do speak and write it rather good in my opinion (I'll leave the final verdict to my readers), but when it comes to movies or television, years of staring into subtitles created a habit of fixating my glare every few seconds into the low portion of the screen and ignoring actor's mouths, which makes me lose my concentration every now and then and have a "what the hell did he just say ?" moment. Charity just upped the ante with its frequent usage of "ye-olde-english", but I have to say, I survived without reaching for the "rewind" button.

TZ Trivia : Michael Fox, who plays Tom Carter, is a veteran of three classic Twilight Zone episodes - Nightmare as a Child (29th of April, 1960.), Mr. Dingle, the Strong (3rd of March, 1961.) and Sounds and Silences (3rd of April 1964.).

Odd trivia : Charity's father Obediah is played by James Cromwell (LA Confidential, Green Mile), making this episode unique in a way that not one, but two actors who participated in it went on to play a major Star Trek character - Cromwell appearing as warp-drive pioneer Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek : First Contact.

Comments on "1.15 --- A Message from Charity"

 

Anonymous John said ... (3:43 PM) : 

This is one of my favorite New Twilight Zones. Good job by all involved. I have gotten more email about this episode than any other, except maybe "A Matter Of Minutes" - people really remember those blue guys!

I watched this when it was originally aired, and I knew then it would be a classic! They really crammed a lot of story into a short period of time.

Good call, by the way, on the James Cromwell/Zefram Cochrane thing!

Excellent synopsis and review as always!

 

Blogger Mairosu said ... (3:50 PM) : 

Thanks John. Every comment is appreciated.

Oh, and, the two episodes I remember best from the original airing are - get this - Red Snow and The Hellgramite Method.

 

Anonymous Dave said ... (5:46 PM) : 

This episode is simply one the three best episodes the 80s Zone did (along with "Paladin of The Lost Hour" and "Her Pilgrim Soul"). Much can be credited to William M. Lee, but Alan Brennert adapted it fantastically, and made some wise decisions (the most notable being making Charity and Peter the same age--in Lee's story she is 11 to Peter's 16).

Great DVD commentary. It is an old tired cliche that all actors/actresses are shallow brainless bimbos. Not so Kerry Noonan--she comes across as brilliant, and even corrected Brennert on uses of idiom and the fashions of 1700!

Dave

 

Anonymous Lord Clane said ... (10:28 AM) : 

Most TZ's are disturbing; the one was moving. The credit goes to a lot of people, but I give a lot to actress Kerry Noonan... and she indeed is smart. She's now a professor at one of California's universities.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:38 AM) : 

I remember seeing this episode years ago and searching for the original short story to no avail. Does anyone know where you can find a copy of the original short story? Was it ever republished in an anthology?

 

Anonymous Dave said ... (10:04 PM) : 

The story is reprinted in an anthology called "Stores From The Twilight Zone" or "Stories from the New Twilight Zone" -- something like that.

 

Anonymous Jp said ... (6:37 AM) : 

Another superb episode. One thing that I haven't seen mentioned; the "time travel" scenario harkens slightly to TZ veteran writer Richard Matheson's wonderful "Bid Time Return" (kind of) which morphed into Hollywood's "Somewhere in Time". The music in this episode borrows freely from John Barry's superb score for that film! Ironically, Charity led me to that movie when I later heard Barry's orginal score and recognized it. Also a very special movie that you must see if you like Charity. My 2nd fave show of TZ mark II (Paladin #1)!

 

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