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Sunday, May 20, 2007

3.23 --- The Mind of Simon Foster

Directed by : Doug Jackson
Written by : J. Michael Straczynski
Starring : Bruce Weitz, Geza Kovacs
First aired : 18th of February, 1989.

Somewhere in the future, the world (well, North America at least) is enduring a large-scale economical crisis. As a result, men are being forced to pawn off their goods to get by, and scrape for every nickel to survive. Simon Foster (Bruce Weitz, Hill Street Blues) is one of such individuals. After the unemployment office informs him that there are no openings for him, he packs up his last belongings and heads off to the pawn shop.

He is greeted there by a mysterious looking mr. Quint (Geza Kovacs, Dead Zone), who offers him $50 for his goods. After a bit of haggling, the price gets to $65, and Quint, realizing his client is in rather dire straits, offers Foster an opportunity to earn something extra. He takes him to a secluded chamber behind the store, where he shows him a room designed for a new technology commonly known as "memory dipping". In essence, it works like a memory transplant - Quint describes it by saying you could transplant yourself a professional skier's best ever race and feel the thrill and jubilation he experienced. But, such transplants are flawed, and a new underground market has developed for "the real deal" - a one-time transfer in which a person is fully stripped of a particular part of his memory, so the thrill of it is much more vivid. The downside is that that piece of your mind is gone forever, but the financial compensation should make up for it.

Foster is initially reluctant, but another notice from his landlord makes him change his mind quickly. He "pawns off" the memory of his graduation and vows never to come back, a promise he fails to keep once the cash starts draining. Soon, he's a regular customer at Quint's, selling off his memories one by one.

Problems start to arise once Foster's job applications start to come through, and he begins taking interviews. All of a sudden, he is simply unable to recall any of his collegiate training, and is thus unable to get a job. He storms back to Quint, who convinces him to sell his last valuable memory - his first sexual experience. He agrees, but quickly changes his mind - he wants his memories back. In an ensuing tussle, Foster manages to grab Quint's gun and forces him to bring him back his memories. Quint explains that there is a way, although imperfect.

A little while later, Simon is back at his apartment, taking another interview. When the interviewer from the unemployment office compliments his typing skills, he proudly exclaims that he did three years of typing at a certain college, which turns out to be a women's school only ! As Foster keeps on talking about his virtues, the bittersweet truth is revealed - he is now a man sharing memories of thousands of strangers, and is doomed (or blessed ?) to go on like that in life.

***

Way to go, J. Michael ! After criticizing mr. Straczynski for a bunch of season 3 scripts which were obviously living on borrowed ideas, it is a refreshing thing to see him come up with something original - and succesful to boot. The Mind of Simon Foster is another late S3 entry which works, mainly thanks to a good, solid, original concept and the dystopian setting (which seems to be a common trait for strong S3 entries).

Acting performances are solid - Bruce Weitz does look like a shell of a man, and Geza Kovacs' smug grin is very unsettling. David Cronenberg afficionados (such as, er, myself) will recognize Kovacs from the early works of the Canadian director - he appears in bit parts in Dead Zone and Scanners, but is best remembered as the junky manservant in little-seen The Italian Machine, a episode of a Canadian TV show called Teleplay. The director at hand is Doug Jackson, who previously helmed the above-average Extra Innings.

By the way, have you noticed that almost every 70s-80s "futuristic" depiction includes vidphones ? We're in 2007. now and those things are still to become a standard...hell, they're nowhere near that point as of now even.

Comments on "3.23 --- The Mind of Simon Foster"

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:40 PM) : 

We do kind of have something like vidphones. Two people can communicate via webcam over the Internet and satellite communication is common, especially in the news.

That was a really nice episode, one of the best of the third season (which was always my least favorite season for some reason!)

 

Blogger Mairosu said ... (3:46 PM) : 

Note, I said standard. I'm aware of their existence, but their presence in the media world is marginal still, if you compare to the overwhelming reliance on normal phoning. In those shows and movies, you get the feeling ALL calls are audio-video. I was pointing towards that.

Anyway, thanks for the comment - and no wonder you like the third season least...I think most people would agree with you actually.

 

Blogger Matthew Maloney said ... (3:21 PM) : 

This one is probably the best thing from Season 3 since The Call and the Hellgramite Method.

Really good story here. Lots of philosophical and socioeconomic questions here brought up. Are we merely the sum of our memories? Should we as a society provide better safety nets for people put in extreme situations like this? etc etc.

I think the as you call it 'bittersweet' ending is apt for the twilight zone. In fact where season 3 veers of course is having too many disney endings.

 

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