Masters of Science Fiction – ‘A Clean Escape’
ABC’s Masters of Science Fiction premiered this Saturday, August 4th on the US, with the episode “A Clean Escape.” Click here for summaries and links for clips of the first six episodes. Honestly, I wasn’t impressed — I really expected something of a promising story and actors with the caliber of Judy Davis and Sam Waterston. If you don’t want spoilers, better go elsewhere.
The general idea for the episode is pretty good and could have led to a number of interesting developments. ABC’s official synopsis is:
A dying Dr. Deanna Evans refuses to believe that her patient, Robert Havelmann, cannot remember the last 25 years of his life. It remains unclear why she has been so obsessed with this particular patient until the final, shocking conclusion.
We gradually learn the conditions that have led to this predicament, from the point of view of Judy Davis, and it’s rather curious to watch Sam Waterston keeps coming back to his psychiatric sessions with no memory whatsoever of the previous scenes (or his life in the past 25 years in fact) as if someone had rebooted him. He has done something terrible and his mind has found a way to block it by having just a forty minute memory. Davis suspects that he might even be faking it, because then he doesn’t have to face the consequences. This is a good start and if the story had developed from there, it could’ve been great.
But it becomes clear that they’re not interested in the more psychological side of science fiction, but in the usual, clichéd and boring one. Waterston was in charge of a disastrous military move that led to a nuclear holocaust and everybody on the planet was killed. Only 870 of them remain in an underground bunker, which is where they are located. It feels like they added this apocalyptic backstory just for show, to appeal to the science fiction fans — which in itself is okay as background, but as soon as it is revealed, all psychological complexity that was briefly and slightly hinted at in the beginning just goes out the window.
To top things off, Davis has some unnecessary and goopy flashbacks about her kids, who have of course died, and some other scenes that are just filler. The acting by the pair of leads was good, until the end, when it goes over the top with the lame melodrama.
And oh, the “hosting” by Stephen Hawking is just his [computer's] voice bookending the episode with the moral of the story so you won’t miss it.