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Monday, February 06, 2006

1.49 --- Profile in Silver

Directed by : John Hancock
Written by : J. Neil Schulman
Starring : Lane Smith, Andrew Robinson, Louis Giambalvo
First aired : 7th of March, 1986.

Dr. Joseph Fitzgerald (Lane Smith, My Cousin Vinnie, Air America), a Harvard professor, is upon first sight a very ordinary person living in the 60s. But, the reality is completely different - dr. Fitzgerald is a historian from the future, who travelled back in time in order to research his celebrated ancestor John F. Kennedy, including his assasination in Dallas.

Joseph teleports himself to Dallas in order to shoot the incident on camera, but emotions overwhelm him and he manages to prevent the murder, yelling towards the president to duck. President Kennedy (Andrew Robinson, Dirty Harry, Hellraiser), thankful that he's still alive, invites Joseph for a dinner at the White House - they are escorted by the secret service agent Livingstone (Louis Giambalvo, Bonfire of Vanities).

However, things turn out to be rougher than anticipated. While on board Airforce One, the president receives information that the Soviets invaded Berlin and are holding all the westerners hostage. Joseph can't believe Khruschev would do such a thing, and president informs him that he didn't - he was assasinated today. Realizing what he has done, Joe retrieves an old silver coin with JFK on it, piece of family memorabilia, and starts randomly flipping it in order to calm himself. His clumsiness and nerves make him lose the coin, and Livingstone catches it, immediately smelling foul play after seeing what for a coin is it.

At the White House, Livingstone informs the president about the coin and a rather odd camera he also found within Joseph's belongings, and Joseph is soon cornered by the two of them, urged to give an explanation. He tells them that he is from future, and that the president was intended to die today - all the events which are happening now would not happen if Kennedy indeed got killed in Dallas.

Considering the fact that, according to calculations from the future, an all-out war would ravage Earth for centuries if the Kennedy administration is not immediately terminated, the president decides to "rewind" the time with Joseph's help and sacrifice himself. Joseph agrees, but his idea is of different kind - he assumes the role of president and gets shot, while the real JFK returns to the future.


Time travel is an interesting subject to explore, if not an overly easy one to deal with - in other words, it's very easy to screw up what could have been an interesting concept and botch the whole episode (or film) because of one slight miscalculation. Profile in Silver, thankfully, is one of the stronger time travel efforts I've seen - J. Neil Schulman's script is high on interesting material, and low on plotholes, so this episode is a success.

Contributing to it are above-average special effects (for this series at least) and impressive set pieces, with the Kennedy murder immaculately recreated for the occasion. Andrew Robinson, a legit hi-profile name, gives an inspiring turn as the late president, and Lane Smith, who recently passed away, is also pretty good in his role. Recommended viewing, but the ending could have been stronger, and there was no explicit need for yet another liberal plug towards the end (Smith's quip how war, poverty and so on have been eliminated in the future). I'm no conservative myself mind you, it's just that you have to have some measure with your agendas on a show which is non-political by nature.

Also worth noting that time travel in order to prevent a presidental suicide is a rehashed topic within the Twilight Zone - Back There (13th of January, 1961.) dealt with a man from "our" time trying to save Abe Lincoln.

TZ Trivia : Barbara Baxley, here playing dr. Fitzgerald's colleague from the future, is a returning TZoner, having already appeared in a classic TZ episode Mute (31st of January, 1963.)

LBJ Trivia : actor Jeff Hardin, who briefly cameos here as Lyndon B. Johnson, actually played in a LBJ biopic later in his career, a made-for-TV feature called LBJ : The Early Years, starring Randy Quaid as the former president. Hardin became famous only years later though, with his portrayal of The X Files' shadowy figure Deep Throat.

Go ahead punk, make my trivia : as many of you might know, Andrew Robinson was on the receiving end of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry persona in Harry's first cinematic venture, playing the villainous Scorpio. He is, however, not the only Dirty Harry veteran in this episode - Louis Giambalvo would later appear in the very last Dirty Harry movie, The Dead Pool.

Comments on "1.49 --- Profile in Silver"


Blogger Freak Magnet said ... (5:08 AM) : 

Very well written, m'dear.


Anonymous Sarcasticus said ... (6:56 PM) : 

An interesting variation on this same theme is the 2002 movie TIMEQUEST. It involves a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination. He saves John Kennedy and shows him how the world would have turned out had he died on that day. Using the time travelers' knowledge of upcoming world events and the mistakes that were made, JFK takes the initiave to ensure that the future United States becomes quite different. Sensing conspiracy, JFK disbands the CIA. America's involvement in the Vietnam War never happens. J. Edgar Hoover is blackmailed into resigning his leadership of the FBI. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King are also saved from assassination, with Robert later becoming commander in chief with MLK as his vice president. It's one of the only movies I can recall where a time traveler tinkering with the past resulted in a much improved future. It's an ambitious, inspired film. Well worth a look.


Blogger J. Neil Schulman said ... (2:04 AM) : 

Mairosu wrote, "[T]he ending could have been stronger, and there was no explicit need for yet another liberal plug towards the end (Smith's quip how war, poverty and so on have been eliminated in the future). I'm no conservative myself mind you, it's just that you have to have some measure with your agendas on a show which is non-political by nature."

So here we are, 21 years after "Profile in Silver" first aired on CBS in March, 1986, and this is the first time someone has commented on the politics of my script!

So I get the chance to explain how my script was changed between the first draft I wrote and what was filmed.

In my first draft script, I set up the Oval Office conversation between JFK and Professor Fitzgerald with discussion on Air Force One that didn't make it to the shooting script. I wrote:

If you have any idea who would have reason to shoot at you?

Kennedy takes a sip of his drink before answering.

Considering the awesome power wielded by the President, who wouldn't? Two centuries ago, the Founding Fathers tried to set things up so we wouldn't have a king anymore. Now, because we're always a pushbutton away from war, the President has been stuck with more power than any king in history. It's no wonder my administration has been called "Camelot."

Like King Arthur, you had to win your office. It must gratify you, no?

What gratified me was getting the world through the Cuban Missile Crisis in one piece. Providence was with us that time. But Scripture tells us to "put not your trust in princes." Maybe someday people will take that good advice.

That would leave you unemployed.

This job gives me few moments of great joy. I'll tell you, Joe, after I'm out of office what I'd best like to do is help you Harvard professors find a way to beat nuclear bombs into plowshares.

(with certainty)
A century from now, nuclear bombs will power rocket ships.

We've studied that idea. But how do you prevent enemy nations from regarding nuclear rockets as weapons?

Insurance companies. Next century, people will replace nation-states with insurance companies.

You have a wicked sense of humor, Joe. I'll have to tell that one to Senator Goldwater when I see him.

Which sets up the following exchange between JFK and Professor Fitzgerald in the Oval Office, after Fitzgerald reveals himself as a time-traveller from the future:

(to Fitzgerald)
Insurance companies, huh?

That's only a transitional phase. By my time we've put together a social system I'm sure you'd consider much-more bizarre than that. But we have achieved your dreams. We've eliminated war, poverty, and tyranny. Your dream of humankind moving into space has become a reality ... I took my graduate degree out near the orbit of Jupiter.

I never thought humanity would achieve that sort of Utopia.

It's not even close to being Utopia, sir. We've taken the Biblical advice about not putting our trust in princes, but we haven't beaten our swords into plowshares. We just finally got it through our skulls that it's safer to avoid princes with big swords.

I've posted the complete first draft script of "Profile in Silver" on the web as a sample of my book Profile in Silver and Other Screenwritings which you can find linked from the books section of my personal website at http://www.jneilschulman.com/. The site also contains links to my other books and my newest film project, Lady Magdalene's, which I not only scripted but also produced and directed.




Blogger Matthew Maloney said ... (4:16 PM) : 

Woah, major plothole here. If Fitzgerald puts Kennedy into the future and himself into Kennedy's shoes in shortly before the assasination in Dallas how does everyone else recognise him as Kennedy? Unless the device could swap people from the future and past into each others lives which means it must be the most advanced time machine ever thought of by a sci fi writer.

As for the reviewer's quip that the no war/poverty thing was 'liberal'...Come on man. I'm not even a conservative but would imagine conservatives taking offence to the notion they are pro-war or pro-poverty! I think its an ideal expressed that we all would strive towards regardless of political affiliation.


Blogger Li Nalis said ... (1:05 PM) : 

I've agreed with most of what you've said here, but how is stating that war and poverty have been eliminated in the future a liberal agenda? shouldn't everyone want that? Do conservative want war and poverty? I think not.


Blogger William Hunter said ... (9:44 AM) : 

I too have an issue with this episode being devoid of plotholes because of the rather large one of some strange dude suddenly appearing in the place of the President. And, as stated, if this device actually swaps entire lives through history, then it's just patently ridiculous, even in the realm of time-travel stories. All in all, it's a well-executed episode that completely falls apart at the ending.


Anonymous Adrock said ... (9:18 PM) : 

Just seeing this for the first time and, gotta say, it's one of my favorites. The "Quantum Leap" Lee Harvey Oswald episode, and the Stephen King novel "11/22/63" all seem to be deeply indebted to this script.

As we are indebted to episode writer J. Neil Schulman for his contribution to the comments page here.

Remarkable acting, remarkably mature script. And that's not a plothole at the end with Lane Smith "leaping in" to replace JFK... since the doctor who pronounced him dead was also a time traveler from the future, and thus would have been in on the ruse to act like Smith was really Andrew Robinson.

Oh, and 3 years after playing a JFK descendant, Lane Smith would later play... Richard Nixon. Now THAT's funny. Someone could have recreated the 1960 Presidential debate with Smith in *both* roles .....


Anonymous Adrock said ... (9:20 PM) : 

Oh, and this comment?

"I'm no conservative myself mind you, it's just that you have to have some measure with your agendas on a show which is non-political by nature."

The original TZ was *designed* to be political. Remember Rod Serling needed TZ to be a sci-fi show because Martians could say things on TV that Republicans and Democrats couldn't say. TZ had an incredibly liberal agenda... except for episodes like "The Mirror" or "Mute", when it didn't, but that's a story for another website.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:18 PM) : 

Twilight Zone had more than its fair share of politically-charged episodes. Who could forget "The Fap of the Beholder?"


Blogger MrSinatra said ... (12:44 AM) : 

Reminds me of Bradbury...

It's an ok silver... could have been great, if the prof had to be Oswald or some such... and the JFK love is rather grotesque, but still amazing cast and it's one of the ones to stick with me over all these years.

Think that's the real script writer up there? I guess his is better than the pandering, but still, this one had bigger problems.


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