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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

3.22 --- Room 2426

Directed by : Richard Bugajski
Written by : J. Bertrand Finch & Paul Chitlik
Starring : Dean Stockwell, Brent Carver
First aired : 11th of February, 1989.

In a totalitarian state somewhere in the future, scientist Martin Decker (Dean Stockwell, Dune, Married to the Mob) is held captive in the state's most dreaded facility, the room 2426. The charge is that he accidentaly created a biological weapon capable of mass destruction, and now the he must reveal the formula for it. As he's rather unwilling to do so, he is subjected to various torture methods by the vicious dr. Ostroff.

One day, he is joined in his cell by a frail-looking fellow named Joseph (Brent Carver), who claims that the resistance sends him to help him get out of here. Martin is sceptical when he hears this, and his disbelief deepens even more when Joseph explains him that he plans to do it by "mind teleportation" - projecting them somewhere safe by sheer willpower. Martin, a scientist, refuses to believe Joseph's claims, but his mistrust is somewhat shaken when, during one of Ostroff's "sessions", he briefly dreams away that he's having a dinner somewhere on the outside, his cellmate next to him smiling.

Eventually, the torture becomes too much for Martin, and he agrees to have a go at Joseph's method. Joseph begins the procedure, Martin falls asleep hearing the words he'll be safe soon, closes his eyes...and wakes up in a safehouse, somewhere in the city ! After intentionally burning himself to find out if he's dreaming, Martin is somewhat reassured, and reveals the location of his notebooks to Joseph. But as Joseph leaves, Martin begins to suspect foul play. He opens the curtains on the windows, and finds out a prison wall with speakers wired in to provide "street noise".

Joseph, of course, is a goverment agent, and is confidently smiling along with Ostroff on the other side. Martin is now completely desperate, and all seems to be lost - until he remembers that he does believe, and suddenly, with a flash of lightning, disappears from the room ! He materializes somewhere out of town with his notebooks, only too content to burn them. His formula might be lost, but his belief and strength are regained, because, for once, he thought out of the box...

***

A strong episode appearing on the tail end of Season 3, Room 2426 is essentialy one big hot stew with all previos dystopian-themed influences melted into one. The scripting pair Chitlik - Finch throws everything into the cauldron here, and creates a script which plays greatly to the strength of director Richard Bugajski, previously of Memories, another dystopia-themed episode with interrogation thrown in it. This time, though, Bugajski, who garnered international acclaim with his controversial Polish film The Interrogation, creates a much more uneasy setting, accomplishing that by using a lot of close-ups, and intersecting the character dialogues with random shots of rats and cockroaches.

Dean Stockwell does a good job as the world-weary scientist, but the real show stealer here is Brent Carver, who excels as the double agent hell-bent on extracting information from Decker. Just observe his slightly-lunatic gaze when he explains his teleportation theory to Stockwell's character, and you'll see what I mean.

Also, it's very satisfactory that this episode was realized without any major political nods to left or right, as those stories of torture tend to be. The "state" which Decker lives is most certainly a totalitarian enterprise, but we're given no hints if it's the left or the right which runs it. The only clue is the girl reading a Polish-language newspaper during the restaurant dream sequence, as well as the Slavic-sounding name of the chief interrogator, though we can just attribute this to the fact that Bugajski is Polish and this is just his "imprint".

Worth noting that the "mental teleportation" was previously explored in season 2's Song of the Younger World, if in a slightly more different manner. I'm sure there are classic TZ eps which deal with this, as well.

TZ Trivia : Dean Stockwell is a returning TZoner, as he previosly appeared in a classic episode A Quality of Mercy, which first aired on 29th of December, back in 1961.

Comments on "3.22 --- Room 2426"

 

Blogger Erwin said ... (2:03 PM) : 

The synopsis of this ep. reminded me of a story in one of E.C. sci-fi titles. I don't know the tile anymore but the artist was Jack Kamen.

Rings a bell for someone?

 

Blogger Matthew Maloney said ... (2:41 PM) : 

This has the bare bones of a strong episode but the ending lets it down. The 'happy' ending seemed contrived and opens up a plothole - why would the government send an agent to an important prisoner to teach him to be able to teleport himself anywhere?

 

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