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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

3.06 --- Memories

Directed by : Richard Bugajski
Written by : Bob Underwood
Starring : Barbara Stock, Nigel Bennett, Alan Rosenthal
First aired : 29th of October, 1988.

Mary Mc Neal (Barbara Stock) is a psychotherapist, specializing in discovering people's previous lives. She has great success with her clients, but one person she can never delve into is, suprisingly, herself. Every night, she goes to bed with her audio tape on, which is supposed to initiate her into her "remembrance", and every morning she wakes up with no answers.

After another unsuccesful attempt, Mary heads to one of her next clients, and is truly amazed to hear from her that she remembers her previous life - just like that ! She returns to her office, and is equally puzzled when finding out it's a goverment welfare office now. Social worker Jim Sinclair (Nigel Bennett, Legends of the Fall, Skulls) offers to help her, but upon knowing that she can't recall any of her past lives, dismisses her. Upon her departure, he phones someone and tells him that "their man" might have arrived.

While walking through a slum, Mary stumbles upon a dying hobo woman, who wants to end her life in order to be reborn as someone new. Mary's helpful hand is declined, as the woman says that it's legal to choose death if you want to, and that she'd rather move on into another life, another body. Mary coaxes her into choosing life instead, but just as she tries to summon help, she is intercepted by Sinclair and his associates, who drug her and take her away in a van.

She awakens in an abandoned warehouse, with Sinclair and another man (Alan Rosenthal) poised to interrogate her. Initially, the two men think that Mary is lying about her past life (the inability to remember your previous lives is deemed highly irregular in this society), concluding that she was probably some mass murderer or tyrant. They drug her in order to get more results, but all she remembers is her current life.

Realizing they're not getting anything less recent from her, Sinclair and his friend realize that she is the person they were waiting for - the savior. Mary is befuddled with this statement, but the men soon explain her - she has the gift of ignorance, and she can help the world forget. With everyone's memory stretching centuries back, the today's world is hell-bent on revenge and atonement. Instead of enjoying their lives, people are spending an eternity resolving past matters. Realizing that knowledge of past lives is a curse rather than a gift, Mary accepts, and gets a job which is a polar opposite of what she used to do - she hypnotizes people...into forgetting their past.

***

An imaginative, well-written episode, Memories is the strongest season 3 entry so far. The "lead character wakes up elsewhere" hook might be a TZ staple, but this episode took some different paths towards ending, and the end result turned out proper. The exploration of "past lives", if they existed at that, always seemed like an interesting subject to me, and here it's cleverly explored. As they say, "ignorance is bliss" indeed.

Polish-born director Richard Bugajski is a known name to Euro-cinema enthousiast - his 1982. film Interrogation is critically acclaimed as one of the stronger studies on Stalinist regimes in '80s eastern Europe. Noone particularily shines from the actors (the script doesn't really call for it, either), but Nigel Bennett leaves the best impression of the bunch.

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