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Thursday, January 12, 2006

1.32 --- The Star

Directed by : Gerd Oswald
Written by : Alan Brennert (story by Arthur C. Clarke)
Starring : Fritz Weaver, Donald Moffat
First aired : 20th of December, 1985.

A space exploration starship, aptly titled "Magellan", accidentally uncovers a planet in a faraway system which, by all acounts, should have been torched when the local sun went nova. Ship's crew, consisting of father Matthew (Fritz Weaver, Demon Seed, Creepshow) and dr. Chandler (Donald Moffat, The Thing, The Right Stuff), soon lands down, discovering traces of a rich, advanced culture, which stashed away all its cultural and scientifical heritage in a safe shelter before their world was destroyed.

While analyzing the exact date of this civilization's demise, father Matthew discovers something which deeply unsettles him - the star which went nova and burned down all those planets was no other star than the star of Bethlehem, which shone so bright when Jesus was born. Stricken with grief, Matthew is unable to realize why would God terminate such a great civilization, but dr. Chandler arrives to comfort him. He reads him a poem he found in the vaults, in which the late people of little planet say they had no regrets. Chandler then tells Matthew that, in his opinion, those people "fulfilled their duty" and passed the torch, saying that one such thing might even happen to us one day - a theory which father Matthew finds agreeable.


The Star, directed by Gerd Oswald, is an interesting little episode based on a short story by the great sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke (in case there are people unaware of his work reading this, he wrote 2001 : A Space Odyssey amongst other things). Veteran actors Weaver and Moffat are great to watch, but there are some kinks in this one which I didn't quite appreciate.

The way the episode set itself up, I felt Clarke was ready to unleash hell upon church establishment. The highly original set-up (admit it, you never even thought of it that way) looks and feels great, but the eulogy-cum-explanation delivered by dr. Chandler seems like an olive branch...thus slightly copping out from controversy, and making dr. Chandler one most unusual character, a scientist who willingly accepts the "hey, they fulfilled their destiny" rationale. What was Clarke's intention here, I would not know, but I do know I would have greatly preferred the ending in which Chandler does not deliver his sermon.

The other flaw is directly related to the prior one. At the beginning, dr. Chandler tells father Matthew that the ship sensors are picking up a message being repeatedly broadcasted in some alien language. But at the end, he just magically pulls out a poem he found in the vaults and reads it in normal English. I know, I know, it's future and they might have some great new device which translates just like that...but even if you would pair up 25 supercomputers, how exactly do you even translate most basic things of an alien language last heard several thousands of years ago without any prior knowledge of it, let alone poetry ? I'm not exactly the type of guy to go anal on any little glitch found in a movie or TV series, but this was somehow just too obvious.

Still, The Star is not a bad way to spend 12 minutes, and definitely a good closer of the "christmas medley".

TZ Trivia : would you believe it, both lead roles in The Star are Serling alumni ! And note I said Serling - Donald Moffat appears in The Night Gallery episode Pickman's Model, while Fritz Weaver appears both in The Night Gallery (A Question of Fear) and The Twilight Zone (Third from the Sun, 8th of January 1960. and The Obsolete Man, 2nd of June 1961.).

Comments on "1.32 --- The Star"


Anonymous John said ... (6:05 AM) : 

I thought this was an enjoyable episode, too.

I agree too, about the translation 'thing'! It has always annoyed me that, when convenient, a futuristic show will always have a translator that can translate any language in the universe. That happened at the end of "To Serve Man", when they translated the book, and it was a cookbook. They could never have translated a totally unknown language without some clues about the language.

Fritz Weaver is great, as always, too.


Anonymous chogokinman said ... (1:13 AM) : 

Bof,bof...c'est un épisode très moyen malgré un pitch de départ très intéressant.
Que de blabla inutile! (il fallait bien rentabiliser ces 2 grands acteurs)
En définitive, c'est un épisode mineur qui clot ces histoires de Noel comme elles le sont toutes: mièvres, molles et pas assez méchantes.

Ma note : 2.5/5


Anonymous Dave said ... (11:33 PM) : 


Great site, found it after reading your posts on the TZ Messageboard (I'm "Sir Rhosis" over there). Anyway, you blame Dr. Chandler's ending speech (in which he justifies the nova and says these people would have been glad to "do their duty") on Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke is not to blame for this. His short story ends with the statement that goes something like "Why was it necessary to put these people to the fire so that the light of their passing would shine over Bethlehem." There is no speech by Chandler. That was tacked on by the scriptwriter who adapted the story, and almost ruins the episode for me.

Again, great site.




Anonymous Howie Feltersnatch said ... (7:15 AM) : 

I found something incredibly tasteless about broadcasting this just before Christmas. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:14 AM) : 

Oh.Fritz Weaver is here.Martin Landau was also in an earlier episode.Guess what they have in common?The Mission Impossible
1960s series.


Blogger Matthew Maloney said ... (4:07 PM) : 

This is like the reviewer says, not a bad 12 minutes to spend but I have a major criticism of this that isn't any of those already mentioned.

This episode for me is simply not a twilight zone story. Its too 'straight'. There's nothing going on beneath the bonnet in this one. No twist. No suspense. I love the philosophical debate in this as much as the next guy but there are none of the classic traits of a typical twilight zone tale here I'm afraid.


Anonymous Adrock said ... (4:03 PM) : 

This is a fine episode, for me. Never seen it before (I probably saw less than half of Season 1 of the 1985 TZ revival on its original airing). Anytime your two leads are Weaver and Moffat, you know things are gonna be good.

A line is snuck in by the starship captain about how the civilization's records include a translation key, if memory serves me right. Sci-fi writers have to include Band-Aids like that in order to make their scripts work in real time.

I also don't mind the anti-Church ending being slightly revised and given a more optimistic note. That's how Serling himself would have done it. And this does, to me, feel like a script Serling would have used.


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