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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

1.58 --- A Day in Beaumont

Directed by : Philip DeGuere
Written by : David Gerrold
Starring : Victor Garber, Stacy Nelkin
First aired : 11th of April, 1986.

1950s, America. Dr. Kevin Carlson (Victor Garber, Sleepless in Seattle, Titanic) and his girlfriend Faith (Stacy Nelkin, Halloween III : Season of the Witch) are busy fixing their car just a little outside of a hamlet of Beaumont, when they spot a meteor crash behind a nearby hill. Investigating the scene, Kevin and Faith are amazed to find out that this isn't a meteor - rather, it's a flying saucer from outer space, and its crew, consisted of ant-headed aliens, has everything but friendly intentions ! Avoiding their laser beams, the couple flees to Beaumont, intending to notify the authorities.

Once there, Kevin rabidly recounts his story to the local sheriff, who somewhat calmly convinces him it's an army jet which crashed. Moreso, he adds that such crashes are regular occurence in these parts. He agrees to accompany them to the crash scene, where they indeed run into a bunch of military personell overseeing the crash site.

Sheriff introduces Kevin to the army officer in charge of this operation - an ordinarily looking fellow, except for the odd handshake method which gravely unsettles Kevin. When a photo camera flash reveals that those aren't humans but aliens, Kevin and Faith carefully withdraw to their car and drive back to Beaumont. Kevin tries to convince the local telegraphist H.G. Orson to wire the incident to the AP, but Orson refuses, claiming the story is insane and that nobody would believe him. When Kevin spots that both Orson and the owner of local diner have their pinky similarily displaced like the aforementioned army guy, he bolts the diner and with Faith in tow, decides to escape Beaumont and warn the world himself.

It's not gonna be easy though. The aliens give chase, and eventually tractor-beam their car to their ship. There, we learn the truth - they are all aliens who are only simulating an invasion scenario, and dr. Carlson was their lab rat, along with Faith. They are both reprogrammed, and suddenly, we cut to the diner from the beginning - a young man frantically runs into it to warn the sheriff of a meteor which crash landed nearby...but the sheriff now is dr. Carlson !

***

A delightful episode honouring the sci-fi writers and shows and movies of yesteryear, A Day in Beaumont is a rousing success from start to finish. From script, intentionally bloated with 50s dialogue and romantic corniness, via the numerous references, obviously hammy acting (Garber is a riot, especially towards the end) to DeGuere's direction, mimicking old sci-fi shows complete with that famous "slant shot", there's little not to enjoy in this one. Lighthearted fun at its best, this is another good late 1st season entry.

Trivia : boy, where do we begin. Beaumont is obviously a reference to sci-fi/horror writer Charles Beaumont, a regular scriptwriter for the original Twilight Zone. H.G. Orson is an amalgam of H.G. Wells and Orson Wells, and the "Bradbury rays" which aliens shoot at Kevin's car are hommaging Ray Bradbury. Additionaly, at the end of the episode when the roles are recast and scenario reset, the settlement is not called "Beaumont" but "Matheson" - a tribute to who else but Richard Matheson, another regular Zone contributor.

TZ Trivia : two TZ veterans appearing in this one - Jeff Morrow (H.G. Orson) previously appeared in Elegy (19th of February, 1960.), while Warren Stevens (Major Whitmore) acted in Dead Man's Shoes (19th of January, 1961.) - incidentally, both of those episodes were scripted by...yep, Charles Beaumont.

***

Now, I'm proud to announce you this. I recently got into touch with mr. Alan Brennert, who served as the executive story consultant on the New Twilight Zone, and has teleplayed a number of scripts, as well as provided some of his own (Her Pilgrim Soul, to mention one). Mr. Brennert, currently busy with research for his newest book, was so kind to dedicate me a little bit of his time to answer some of my fanboy questions about the behind-the-scenes stuff which happened during Zone production, and has given me his blessings to compile the answers he has given me and publish them right here. So, after I wrap the first season with the upcoming Last Defender of Camelot, expect a series of entries which will be filled with some trivia and odd data about the Zone provided by mr. Brennert.

I'll use this opportunity to publicly thank mr. Brennert for his time and kindness - seriously, writers who answer fan questions out of the blue are rather rare, and Alan not only took his time to write back, but left himself open for my barrage of inquiries about the show and took the time and effort to answer them all so far ! A class act if there ever was one.

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