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Sunday, January 15, 2006

1.37 --- A Small Talent for War

Directed by : Claudia Weill
Written by : Alan Brennert & Carter Scholz
Starring : John Glover, Peter Michael Goetz, Stefan Gierasch
First aired : 24th of January, 1986.

When an alien ship lands at United Nations, a total commotion ensues. Alien ambassador (John Glover, In the Mouth of Madness, Payback) teleports himself to the UN assembly room, and informs the council that his race planted life on Earth millions of years ago, coming now back to evaluate things. The evaluation, however, is negative - the aliens are displeased with Earth's "small talent for war", and says that the Earth, along with its population, will be promptly exterminated. He does grant the Earthlings one day to try and fix everything and prove him wrong, though.

Hearing this, the US ambassador (Peter Michael Goetz) rallies the council, pleading with the Soviet ambassador (Stefan Gierasch, The Hustler, Carrie) for cooperation. In record time, the UN council draws all sorts of peace resolutions, accomplishing, for the first time in history, global peace.

Alien ambassador arrives back tomorrow, and is visibly surprised to see the turn of events. But after sharing a hearty laugh with the present diplomats, he informs them his message was misunderstood - his race breeds warriors, and Earth, as he said, has small talent for war ; worse yet, Earthlings have always had peaceful aspirations. As he disappears, the rest of the alien ships enter Earth's atmosphere, ready to finish the job.


A right relief after the needless headscratching induced by Monsters !, A Small Talent for War is basically an upgraded Examination Day - this time, the twist is not as easily smelled, and is not carelessly given away, either. It's a thankless job grading actors based on a seven-minute short, but I have to say Glover was fabulous as the alien ambassador...though somehow they made him look too much like David Bowie (I guess he patented the stock "alien" look after The Man Who Fell to Earth).

If there is something negative to be said about this episode, it's the woeful quality of special effects - the alien ship in the opening sequence looks good, but the ones from the later scenes resemble spray-painted miniature Death Star stations from Star Wars. Oh and, why the hell is Ukraine having an UN ambassador in the middle of the 80s, with USSR still alive and kicking ?

Horror trivia : alien ambassador warns the diplomats to "keep watching the skies", thus making a The Thing from Another World reference - again, back-to-back at that.

Comments on "1.37 --- A Small Talent for War"


Anonymous John said ... (5:58 AM) : 

This is another favorite. Like you said, the ending is not broadcast halfway through the episode, so it is truly a surprise twist when it happens.

One thing about all the 'old' shows - the special effects never seem as good as I recall them being! I remember thinking that this episode had really good effects!

Overall, a really good episode.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:09 AM) : 

Definately one of the high points of the 80s TZ in my book.
One that I go back and watch fairly often as it just never gets old to me.
Overall a great story, and an ending thats a shocker.



Anonymous chogokinman said ... (10:12 AM) : 

Un bon épisode de contresens, remake moderne et officieux du classique "comment servir l'homme" (how to serve man), avec un John Glover (Smallville) très bon en ET.
Ma note : 4/5


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:16 PM) : 

the Ukrainian SSR and Belorussian SSR had separate UN membership alongside the USSR (basically this gave the USSR 3 votes)


Blogger Mairosu said ... (4:26 AM) : 

Wow, thanks. I had no idea.


Anonymous honouredmatre said ... (12:26 PM) : 

One of my favourite episodes.


Anonymous Jazz13man said ... (1:10 PM) : 

This was always one of my favourites for the way that it captured the hopeful enthusiasm of reaching the impossible. I always felt so sad afterwards, even on subsequent viewings (I had a lot of the first season on tape).


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:17 PM) : 

I was a Model UN nut when this one came out, so I got a huge kick out of it. Very, very good!

About Ukraine: Since in 1945 Stalin didn't yet have Eastern Europe doing his bidding, the Communists were underrepresented at the fledgling UN. It was agreed that the 2 biggest Soviet republics after Russia (Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR) would get seats on the General Assembly to even out things. Ukraine, despite gaining independence in 1991, is a founding member of the UN - Quite the TZ material!


Blogger Aengus said ... (8:00 AM) : 

This is one of my favourite episodes of the 1980s revival too. My jaw literally dropped when the alien ambassador clarified the misunderstanding, if you want to put it that way. I doubt anyone saw that coming. If it wasn't for the shoddy special effects, this would be a perfect episode.


Anonymous Howard Goldman said ... (7:55 AM) : 

When the alien ambassador pauses and then says "Keep watching the skies," he looks and sounds exactly like Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:49 PM) : 

While watching this, I got the aliens' intentions right and was confused as to why the humankind decided to prove itself as worthy fighters by achieving peace, unless it was to spite them. Then, as the confusion cleared up, I decided the episode was actually funny, as long as your mind isn't as twisted as mine. :-)


Anonymous Adrock said ... (10:07 PM) : 

Love, love, love this one! Interesting, from the retrospect of 2017, to see John Glover as the herald of Earth's doom. A few years later, Glover played a thinly-veiled Donald Trump character in GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH. And look where THAT's gotten us today.


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