Friday, November 04, 2005

CULT TV BLOGGING: Logan's Run: "Crypt"

The seventh episode of the short-lived 1977-1978 Logan's Run TV series is also the best, at least so far. "Crypt" comes from a story by Harlan Ellison (teleplay by Al Hayes), and the installment is directed by Michael Caffey.

Here's the story: Logan, Jessica and REM drive their solar craft into an honest-to-goodness destroyed metropolis this time - a ruined modern city, not just the California countryside. REM informs us that the poison air killed most of the people there, not the bombs. In one of the buildings, the threesome discovers a recorded message from March of 2120. A very sick woman tells us that the last survivors of the scientific community - six chosen people - are frozen in cryogenic units in the basement. Though they are alive, they suffer from a plague that arose after the thermonuclear war. Fortunately, there are still two vials of serum left -- enough for all six scientists. The staff died and a door malfunctioned before the scientists could be saved. Now, the woman leaving the message begs for the visitors to complete her mission.

After fixing the stuck door, Logan, Jessica and REM head for the crypt in the basement to revive humanity's last hope, only to suffer through a terrible tremor. In the earthquake, one of the vials is destroyed, meaning that only enough serum remains to save three of the all-important scientists. Logan and his friends awaken all six sleepers, but now must decide which three will survive. Among the choices: a robotics expert (Neva Patterson), a bureaucrat/administrator, a telekinetic, a medical doctor (Ellen Preston), and an engineer (Christopher Stone). One of the scientists is a hottie prodigy named Sylvia, who immediately comes on to Logan, hoping to get her share of the serum that way. Despite her herculean seduction effort, Logan resists.

While Logan and Jessica interview the awakened scientists to determine who should live and who must die, REM discovers an alarming fact from the facility's computers: one of the scientists is actually an imposter. And then a murder takes place! Therefore, one of the scientific minds of the future is not merely a fake, but a murderer, willing to resort to criminal behavior to survive.

Now, Logan and Jessica's task takes on an even bigger meaning. If they choose wrongly, a murderer will decide the future of humanity!

Like I wrote above, "Crypt" is probably the best Logan's Run episode I've watched thus far (just nosing out Noah Ward's "Man out of Time.") For once, Logan and Jessica actually have something critically important to do: choose the path of the future. If they choose wrong in this situation, their world could face the repercussions for generations. More to the point, the writers of this episode put it into a kind of personal context for Logan, a world-view which generally seems missing from the series. Here, Logan sees this predicament in very human, very specific terms relating to his tenure in the City of the Domes. There, as he points out, a select handful of people (The council of the Elders) chose who lived and who died, making an arbitrary date (the age of thirty). Now Logan is put in the position of making such choices, anddoesn't want to be arbitrary like that, or choose unwisely. The question here is: do moral obligations still exist (as one character asks)? And more importantly, what are those moral obligations? "Crypt" answers that question in an interesting way.

It is also clear from this episode that REM, by far, is the character that the writers seemed to enjoy writing for the most. Here, the kindly android becomes a mehcanical Sherlock Holmes, forced to solve a lockedroom (or closed crypt) mystery, as the secret murderer begins picking off the scientists. Using deductive reasoning and his intellect (and his understanding of human nature), REM comes to his conclusion, and in classic mystery fashion gathers all the suspects together to declare his findings. Afterwards, one of the scientists claims that REM's reward for ferreting out the murder should be a city named after him. "REMSville," REM suggests. Or even better, "REMsylvania."

Because it has a sense of humor, because the episode is about more than a straw man society easily toppled, because the episode stops to think about Logan's point of view, "Crypt" is quite an entertaining hour of this series. Well done.

3 comments:

  1. Great episode. Gotta love Harlan Ellison. No Gene R to get in the way this time.

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  2. Howard Margolin2:54 AM

    I remember Harlan talking about writing for "Logan's Run" back at I-Con III in 1984. He mentioned that every time he sat down at his typewriter to begin the script, he threw up, because the premise for the series was so lame. So, he may have turned in the jewel in the series' crown, but it was one covered in his own vomit.

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  3. Even covered in vomit, I'll take "Crypt." Still better than "Fear Factor" and some of the others. I know that William Nolan didn't even like the premise of the series either...he would have rather done three movies!

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