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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

1.26 --- The Beacon

Directed by : Gerd Oswald
Written by : Martin Pasko & Rebecca Parr
Starring : Charles Martin Smith, Martin Landau, Giovanni Ribisi
First aired : 6th of December, 1985.

When dr. Dennis Barrows's (Charles Martin Smith, Starman, The Untouchables), car breaks down in a middle of nowhere, he ignores the "do not tresspass" sign and wanders into a small town by the coast looking for help. The only person at hand to greet him is an older fellow called William Cooper-James (Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Ed Wood), who does not exactly radiate friendliness. Still, William arranges him to stay the night with another family, and promises to help him tomorrow.

But during the night, something strange happens - the lighthouse "awakens" and shines its light upon the house Barrows is staying in. As the light is fixated on the house, the family realizes that it's somehow related to their daughter, currently lying ill in her bed. Barrows is urged by the little girl's brother Teddy (Giovanni Ribisi, Saving Private Ryan, Gone in Sixty Seconds) to heal her, and as he does, he is informed that the lighthouse - or, rather, "the beacon" - once in a while shines its light on a random house and somebody from that house must die.

Equally enraged as curious, Barrows asks Teddy to take him to the beacon, but once there, he is intercepted by William and Teddy's family - and soon, the rest of the village joins them. William then reveals the secret to Barrows - inside the lighthouse resides the spirit of Seth, founder of their community and father of them all. And in exchange for his protection, they sometimes have to make sacrifices for him. Realizing he stumbled upon a backwood settlement of inbreds, Barrows attempts to flee the scene, but it's too late - if the beacon is defied, someone else from the same house must die...and considering he was there at the time, the villagers use him to appease their "god".

***

A tremendous prick-tease of an episode, The Beacon starts off promising and builds to a whole lot of nothing. Threading similar grounds as the classic TZ episode The Old Man in the Cave (8th of November, 1963.), The Beacon's conclusion is not at all satisfactory. Was it a ghost in there, or was it a primitive sacrifice ritual ? We never find out, and worse yet, there is enough loose ends to tie into both alternatives, but nothing is conclusive enough to make a coherent impact on the viewer.

The Beacon, thus, is a wasted opportunity, especially if you consider some good acting at display - most notably by Oscar winner Martin Landau as the village chief. This episode is also of interest for the Giovanni Ribisi (here credited as Vonnie Ribisi) fans, as he also has a substantial role at the tender age of 14. Credit also goes to director Gerd Oswald (A Kiss Before Dying, Crime of Passion) for making the best out of limited resources.

TZ Trivia : Martin Landau is a returning TZoner, appearing in not one but two classic TZ's - Mr. Denton on Doomsday (16th of October 1959.) and The Jeopardy Room (17th of April 1964.). Gerd Oswald, on the other hand, has no TZ connections, but he did direct one episode of the original Outer Limits and a pair of Star Trek shows from the original series.

Comments on "1.26 --- The Beacon"

 

Anonymous John said ... (5:20 PM) : 

This was one episode I did not remember watching when the series was originally on. I feel like I saw it for the first time when I watched it on DVD recently. Although, I may have just forgotten it, as it was not a very good episode.

Charles Martin Smith directed, and had a small part in one of my favorite movies, "Trick Or Treat".

And Martin Landau was in another favorite, "Ed Wood".

So, as you said, the talent was there, the story just wasn't very good.

 

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