Monday, September 14, 2015
Cult-TV Theme Watch: Laboratories
A laboratory is a location that is equipped to conduct scientific tests, experiments, and studies. A laboratory may manufacture medicine, drugs, chemicals, or be utilized solely for research.
Some of the greatest episodes in cult-TV history have been set, not surprisingly, in laboratories.
For example, in the classic Outer Limits (1963-1965) episode, “The Sixth Finger,” Professor Mathers (Edward Mulhare) conducts an experiment in accelerated human evolution, involving Welsh miner Gwylim Griffiths (David McCallum) in a kitted-up laboratory in his mansion. The experiment changes Griffith's very nature, and also ends tragically, importantly, in that same laboratory.
Grandpa's (Al Lewis) laboratory is a regular setting in the monster sitcom, The Munsters (1964-1966). This basement facility is responsible for Grandpa’s creation of love potions and other “spells” and never ceases to bring about trouble for Herman (Fred Gwynne), Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) and the other family members.
In Star Trek (1966 – 1969), of course, the U.S.S. Enterprise is outfitted with a number of laboratories for the study and analysis of new life-forms. In episodes such “Operation: Annihilate,” and “The Trouble with Tribbles,” viewers see Dr. McCoy (De Forest Kelley) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) engaged in research in a laboratory. Kirk (William Shatner) trickily uses Dr. McCoy’s laboratory in the episode “Wink of An Eye,” to send a message to the good doctor while in “hyper-acceleration” mode.
In Space: 1999 (1975 -1977), Moonbase Alpha features several laboratories. In the Johnny Byrne episode “Voyager’s Return,” we see the cluttered laboratory of Dr. Ernst Queller (Jeremy Kemp) and Jim Haines (Barry Stokes), the location where the scientists work to create a communication circuit with the wayward Voyager probe. In the second year story “The Exiles,” we see a laboratory that is located some distance from Alpha proper, so dangerous experiments can be conducted safely without risk of harm to the personnel.
In Chris Carter’s The X-Files (1993 – 2002), laboratories are featured regularly. For example, the two part episode “731”/”Nisei” reveals that the Syndicate uses train cars as laboratories in the furtherance of its secret project (creating a human/alien hybrid). The first season episode “Roland” is set at a jet propulsion laboratory, and the same season’s finale, “The Erlenmeyer Flask” reveals a secret laboratory where alien DNA (known as “Purity Control”) is housed.
In Futurama (1999 – 2013), Professor Farnsworth operates not only Galaxy Express (a delivery company) in New, New York, but an advanced laboratory where he creates time machines and other amazing devices.
Recently, Orphan Black (2013 – present) has featured many episodes wherein the clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) works in a laboratory, attempting to unlock the secrets of a disease that threatens her life, and the life of all the clones.