Monday, November 27, 2006


The TV Crossover Hall of Fame, part of the Toobworld experience, officially began in 1999. Of the first twelve honorees that year, the October inductee was Dr. Bombay, the witch doctor played by Bernard Fox. Best known for his 18 appearances on 'Bewitched', he also guest starred on an episode of the spinoff, 'Tabitha'. And then on September 17, 1999, he appeared in an episode of the soap opera, 'Passions'.

There are a lot of TV characters who have been seen in three different TV shows (the minimum requirement for inclusion to the Hall), but what made that 'Passions' guest spot extra special (and which gave Bombay the fast track) was that it happened on the 35th anniversary of the 'Bewitched' premiere.

So those were the three "official" appearances in Toobworld for the prestidigitatin' practitioner. (He showed up in another episode of 'Passions' a few months later.) But this week, I may have found a fourth appearance by Dr. Bombay - earlier than the others in both the timelines for the Real World and Toobworld.

Sadly, it took the death of Robert Altman for me to have stumbled upon it......

During World War II (after D-Day), a baseball "superstar" was assigned to Sgt. Saunders' squad. Most of the unit was in awe of Del Packer, especially Private Billy Nelson. And Private Kelly hoped to make some quick cash by using Packer as a ringer in a pickup game with a rival platoon.

As it turned out, Packer was fearful of damage to his "golden arm", and was determined to do whatever it took to protect it and his future career in the big leagues - even at the expense of the other members of his platoon.

It turned out to be 19 year old Billy who paid that ultimate price when Del Packer froze in battle.

And yet, Billy Nelson - as played by Tom Lowell, - returned for nearly thirty more episodes of 'Combat!' before the series ended.

How did Billy come back from the dead? I think the answer lies in his medical treatment.

If you ever get the chance to see this episode of 'Combat!' ("The Celebrity"), check out who was the doctor treating Billy. No, not 'Doctor Who' - it's an uncredited turn by Bernard Fox. (I have to say, though, having rewatched the episode, I'd never assume it was Mr. Fox just based on his appearance. There's something... 'off' about his look. And without the opportunity to hear him speak...... Three different sources credit Bernard Fox with the role, so it could be that Dr. Bombay just modified his appearance to better fit in to his surroundings.)

Bernard Fox, as an unnamed doctor, whose patient dies and yet comes back to life.....

Who else could it be but Bombay the witch doctor?

One has to wonder why Dr. Bombay chose Billy Nelson to bring back from the dead of all the soldiers lost in WWII. I don't think Billy was a brother warlock; there's no evidence in any of the other episodes to support the idea that he had magical powers.

I think it could be that Dr. Bombay needed Billy to die in order to have an impact on Del Packer.

Other times when we saw Dr. Bombay during 'Bewitched', he had been called away from one sporting event or another - polo matches, ostrich races, that sort of thing.

I'd hate to think that Dr. Bombay wanted to meddle in the lives of mortals just to affect the outcome of a sporting event. But we've seen from the in-laws of Darrin Stephens that witches and warlocks can be capricious and cruel.

Perhaps Dr. Bombay had an interest in Del Packer's future baseball career, either for or against him. (Bombay had been around long enough to probably even know Abner Doubleday!)

After Dr. Bombay achieved his intended effect, he brought Billy Nelson back to life. However, it's also my belief that having died once, Billy lost the ability to ever die again. The proof of this can be found in "Gomer Maneuvers", an episode of 'Gomer Pyle, USMC' from 1969.

While engaged in war games, Private Pyle met Corporal Nelson, looking no more than two years older than he did when last seen back in 1944-45, a quarter of a century before.

After years of watching the adventures of FBI agents Mulder and Scully, I'm inclined to believe the government understood what a secret weapon they had in Billy Nelson They kept him in the army as a special ops agent for all of that time. Billy would have gone along with the arrangement because, as Littlejohn pointed out*, Billy was the type of guy who wanted to be in the army; he wouldn't be happy anyplace else. (Whether he still works for the government now is unclear. If I was Billy Nelson, I'd have finally bolted to lead my own life. And that's probably what would have happened in this post-"X Files" era of Television.)

Billy Nelson's situation is similar to that of Captain Jack Harkness, renegade Time Agent from the 52nd Century, as seen in 'Doctor Who'. In the year 200,100 AD, Jack was killed during yet another Dalek invasion of Earth. But thanks to the intervention of the "Bad Wolf", Rose Tyler (who had absorbed the Timestream), Jack was brought back to life.

However, now that he's back in present day Cardiff as the leader of 'Torchwood', Captain Jack has found that he can't die - even when shot in the forehead at point blank range.

Although I hold fast to my belief that it is Dr. Bombay who appears in that episode of 'Combat!', it could be that the witch doctor had no connection to the resurrection of Billy Nelson. It could be that it was automatically triggered so that he became immortal... until somebody cuts off his head after his encounter with Gomer Pyle. (It would certainly help splain away why we never see Billy Nelson again. Even if we did find some other character who could be him under an alias, Tom Lowell has continued to age over the years.)

After all, as 'The Highlander' reminded us, "There can be only one......"

Shows cited:
'Gomer Pyle, USMC'
'Doctor Who'
'The Highlander'
'The X-Files'
'Law & Order'


*This type of insight by Littlejohn is a trait that might have been passed down to his own son. It's a Toobworld Theory of Relateeveety that Littlejohn had a bastard son in 1955, who grew up to assist the New York District Attorney's office as a forensic psychologist. That character? Dr. Emil Skoda of 'Law & Order'.......

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