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Friday, November 17, 2006

3.10 --- The Trance

Directed by : Randy Bradshaw
Written by : J. Michael Straczynski & Jeff Stuart
Starring : Peter Scolari, Neil Munro
First aired : 26th of November, 1988.

Leonard Randall (Peter Scolari, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids : The TV Show) is a "channeler", a sort of a medium whose body gets possessed by other personalities from the past. The person who "visits" Randall regularily is Delos, a 10,000 year old warrior from Atlantis, who acts as some sort of sage answering people's questions on, oh, just about everything. Naturally, this "gift" is a source of hefty income for Leonard and his partner Don (Neil Munro), as they market Delos in every shape of form, from audio tapes to books etc.

And of course, this is all a scam. Delos doesn't exist, and both Leonard and Don are making a fine buck off his Atlantic wisdom. But, things start to turn for the worse when Leonard suddenly begins to channel someone else - and for real. The unknown guest almost derails their partnership after irritating a TV producent, and also manages to irritate a known psychiatrist, who was hired by Don to "help" Leonard calm down.

Don manages to iron out the differences with the TV station, so the interview witht Leonard can go through after all. However, it's an unmitigated disaster - right in the middle of it, Leonard begins channeling and the voice from beyond confesses it's all a scam, while unleashing a subdued barb-wire speech about the low values predominant in today's culture and people being too quick to idolize the unworthy. Of course, this causes an unfixable rift between the two partners, and Don decides to just leave Leonard on his own devices, without money, career, or anything else for that matter.

Still, it's not all lost for him. The voice which ruined him reappears, and explains his purpose - while he was "channeling" Delos, he claimed he was there to bring wisdom to the world and that he was sent from the universe. Well, it seems that universe took notice and decided to imbue Leonard with real wisdom - a process which is certain to change our protagonist...for better or worse.

***

Well, here's an interesting concept - a fake medium/sage suddenly being turned into a real medium/sage. Obviously, J. Michael Straczynski (this time assisted by Jeff Stuart) is having such a blast recycling previous Zones, so he didn't stop with The Call, he went on and "reimagined" Alan Brennert's The Healer and came up with, well, The Trance.

Even though, with Healer being an obvious influence, The Trance is original enough to stand on its own, and is not half bad. Straczynski & Stuart even manage to weave in a slight critique of the modern society, which he perceives as too TV-reliant and prone to rash judgement. Peter Scolari's (who looks eerily like Christian Bale) performance is rock-solid, especially as Delos, and he's generally fun to watch. Director Randy Bradshaw's style is somewhat reminiscent of his more famous compatriot David Cronenberg - the "channeling" sequence in the beginning echoes Scanners, while the room where Leonard and Don discuss business matters is pure Cronenberg interior. Summed op, a rather fair entry this one.

Healer trivia : when Don announces his departure, he informs Leonard that "there is healer waiting for him down in Panama". Well, at least Straczynski doesn't shy away from his influences.

***

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