Friday, July 21, 2006


Or at least one of them, anyway......

One reason why it would be exceedingly difficult to create a cohesive universe for movies, as opposed to TV, is that there is such a finality to many of their individual stories. The main characters are killed off; sometimes the entire world is destroyed.

This happens in Television as well, but at least Toobworld has an escape clause in established parallel dimensions thanks to 'Sliders', 'The Twilight Zone', and 'Star Trek' among many other shows.

This certainly comes in handy when you have TV mini-series and TV movies that deal with the end of the world ('The Stand', for example). Sometimes that cataclysmic conclusion can be rectified with a little pretzel logic. Take 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy'; in the very first episode the Earth is destroyed. And since that happened back in 1981, it doesn't seem likely we can still keep that show in the main Toobworld and yet still have everything that came on the air afterwards, from 'St. Elsewhere' to 'Lost'.

Luckily, we have an out. By the end of the six episodes of 'HHG2TG', Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect were thrown back in time to the age of the cavemen, along with the crew of a Golgafrinchan spaceship. By interfering with the timeline of the Earth back then, Arthur and Ford created a whole new chronology for the main Toobworld that excluded its destruction by a Vogon constructor fleet.

And thus we can continue to enjoy the shows we watch now as being part of the same TV Universe.

But sometimes that is just not possible. Too many of the episodes from the newer version of 'The Outer Limits' ended with the world's destruction, as did a few from 'The Twilight Zone' and perhaps even some episodes from 'Tales Of Tomorrow' and 'Science Fiction Theater'. As with 'The Stand', they have to be shipped over to parallel dimensions where they cannot interfere with the ongoing history of life on Toobworld.

The latest example was broadcast last night on TNT in the fourth installment of 'Stephen King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes'. "The End Of The Whole Mess" took place in the not-too-distant, sooner-than-you-think future. (Although the actual date was never specified in the original story, the TV adaptation set it in 2011.)

Bobby Fornoy, a wunderkind genius, is working with a scientific research team who contacts his older brother Howard (a documentary filmmaker) to record the team's latest project. Apparently, they discovered that the waters of La Planta, Texas, contain properties which act as a calmative for the human brain. All manner of aggression, hatred, anger, and prejudice are impossible while under the influence of this calmative.

Bobby's research team take it upon themselves to decide what's best for Mankind's future. They intend to have the explosion of a volcano on the scale of Krakatoa be the catalyst to spread the water's agent throughout the entire world. As Bobby described it, he wanted everybody in the world to drink it, bathe in it, brush their teeth with it.

The utopia gained from this forced experiment upon the world lasted only three years. And then the unforeseen side effects kicked in: everybody in the world, no matter their location or their age, came down with a variation of Alzheimer's Disease.

The entire human race was going to be reduced to mindless, gibbering shells before they finally all died out from neglect and lack of care.

And thus the Earth would live up to its entry in 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy': "Mostly Harmless".

As the tele-play was set in 2011 looking back over the last five years or so, we know it can't be set in the main Toobworld. God willin', that is. After all, barring unforeseen catastrophes, the world expects to see the Olympics in London on the telly come 2012.

Not even the dangers of a "Dalek" attack or interference by an Isolus ("Fear Her") will keep that from happening. (Both are episodes of 'Doctor Who'.)

But it does time out nicely for the Mayan prophecy that the world would end in 2012, as mentioned in an episode of 'The X-Files'......

So "The End Of The Whole Mess" will have to be dismissed to its own dimension. But it is set far enough into the future so that we can place it into an alternate dimension that already exists in the greater TV Universe. That way we can write "fini" to a world created to accommodate some TV show.

But which should it be?

We would have to exclude an o'bvious candidate like the Tooniverse, and the "evil mirror universe" made popular by 'Star Trek' and its franchises (and also visited by 'Buffy' and 'Hercules') has to be exempt as well. Its timeline extends far past the expiration date of this story.

And even though the Presidents in the many TV movies of the week line up nicely when it comes to chronology for an Earth Prime-Time/MOTW, that particular dimension will always be adding in new fictional presidents. So it's best not to tamper with their timeline.

Several alternate dimensions were created because they installed presidents of the United States during a time when the actual POTUS from the Real World should also have been the leader of Toobworld's free world as well.

'The West Wing'/'Smallville'
'The District'/'The Agency'/'Prison Break'
'Hail To The Chief'/'Mr. President'

'The Secret Files Of Desmond Pfeiffer'/'That's My Bush!'

'The Secret Files Of Desmond Pfeiffer' and 'That's My Bush!' share a dimension in which the POTUS is a doofus version of the actual President. Or when referring to the present occupant of the Oval Office, moreso than usual. At any rate, we should keep that one around.

We can cross '24' and 'Prison Break' off the list because those two shows are still in play. (Somewhat breaking news - Patricia Wettig isn't planning on returning to her role as the evil Vice President Steadman in 'Prison Break', even though she's poised to assume the mantle of Chief Executive now that the POTUS of that dimension has died.)

I think we can eliminate the dimension containing the two other sitcoms from consideration. It's not because of the difference in mood between the shows and this episode of 'Nightmares & Dreamscapes'. It's just that eventually somebody else will come up with a sitcom premise that features a fictional President, and we'll need someplace to plop it......

As for 'The West Wing', personally I'd like to think that one day we might get to reunite with characters from the Aaron Sorkin creation. But I have to concede that Jed Bartlet is already out of office in that dimension, but that he more than likely will have passed away by 2011.

Besides, I've always held that 'Smallville' takes place in the same dimension as 'The West Wing' since there were not yet any reports of Superman defending Truth, Justice, and the American Way being mentioned during CJ's White House press briefings.

But surely by 2011, Clark Kent will have come fully into his legacy as a son of Krypton, and he will have assumed his role as the Man of Steel. I would think Superman would have found a way to not only save the day (perhaps by flying in healers from other worlds), or by going back in time to prevent the project from ever taking place.

Even though there is talk of a TV movie or two to wrap up the storylines for 'Commander-In-Chief', I don't see any reason why "The End Of The Whole Mess" could not bring the world of President Mackenzie Allen to a sad conclusion.

Whether she would be still in office or not by 2011 (She is eligible for two terms of her own.) wouldn't really matter. This episode of 'Nightmares & Dreamscapes' played out on the vast world-stage but focused on just a very few characters.

Near as I can remember, the President's name (in 2011) was never mentioned - I think the lack of specifics helped make it seem a possibility to happen. So it could quite possibly be Mackenzie Allen in the White House.... Or it might have been Nathan Templeton.

Either way, if "The End Of The Whole Mess" did occur in the dimension for 'The Commander-In-Chief', both characters would have been stricken with the fatal Alzheimer's variant.
Hail to the Chief!


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