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Thursday, August 24, 2006

3.03 --- The Crossing

Directed by : Paul Lynch
Written by : Ralph Philips
Starring : Ted Shackelford, Gerard Parkes
First aired : 8th of October, 1988.

Father Mark Cassidy (Ted Shackelford, Knots Landing, Dallas) is an overworked catholic priest, working hard to finish raising funds for a children hospital wing which he initiated some time ago. His friend monsignor Perrault (Gerard Parkes, Fraggle Rock, January Man) is advising him to take a vacation, a notion which Mark soundly refuses, saying that there is work to be done.

Suddenly, Mark starts seeing a mysterious red car, which always takes a turn into the nearby forest, steers off-road and crashes into a valley below, burning in flames. He is convinced it is a real event, but noone seems to see him apart from him. As the incident repeats itself, he manages to take note of the driver, a young, black haired woman. He immediately remembers, and realizes this is a sin of his past which came to haunt him.

As it turns out, she was his friend, or something to that extent (it's never really clarified -- rev. note), who died in a horrid car crash. Mark could have saved her by dragging her out of the burning car, but he panicked and ran away. The remembrance of this event affects Mark deeply, and he gets even more stressed, even to the point of not being able to deliver a speech upon the completion of his hospital fundraiser. Perrault approaches him soon afterwards and relays him the bishop's message, which is that he is to take an immediate leave and relax a bit.

The next morning, Mark again spots the same car through his window, and decides to confront his guilt. He walks slowly towards it and takes the driver's seat, driving straight into certain death. Cut to his funeral, where the whole parochy is in grief - as well as the mysterious black haired woman, who puts a solitary white rose on his coffin and walks away.

***

An underwritten, somewhat misfired episode is the best I can come up with for this one. Paul Lynch, who directed some genuine classics in season 1, can't do much with Ralph Phillips' limited script, which is cliched, yet still incomplete in many places. How did Mark die, what was that woman to him, and what's the meaning of the silly funeral coda ? We'll never find out, I guess. In one scene, Mark is talking to himself in the confession booth, asking if this was enough to atone himself for past sins - this somehow gives his character a shady edge, as if he did all the good because he was afraid for his place in Heaven. Not sure if that was needed either, as Mark struck me as a sympathetic character up to that point.

Ted Shackelford is not half bad playing Mark, as he looks genuinely stressed and tense throughout the episode. Supporting cast is fine as well (I liked Bunty Webb as father Cassidy's assistant), but ultimately, this is a lesser piece in the TZ canon.

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