Monday, August 27, 2007


In 1952, Doctor Fulbright was down on his luck, his personal and professional life ruined by drink. As a last-ditch effort to get some cash, Fulbright went to see an old friend to pawn his medical bag full of instruments.

The pawn-broker remembered all of the good that his friend had done with his medical skills in the past, and took pity on him. In exchange for the old black bag and 20 bucks (some friend!), he gave Dr. Fulbright a little black bag which he was never able to pawn in the past. It contained tools of the trade unknown to the world of that time, as well as medicines yet undiscovered.

As it turned out, the little black bag was from 2450 AD and with it Dr. Fulbright was able to save the life of a young Mexican girl. She would have died if only conventional methods of the period were available.

Dr. Fulbright saw the little black bag as his redemption, but unfortunately his wife Angie was a greedy shrew who saw the bag as a means to gain obscene wealth. And only tragedy could result with such divergent agendas.

About twenty years later, another doctor had fallen even further onto hard times. Doctor William Fall was a wino living on the street. (I've also seen the name listed as Roger Full.) He scrabbled to survive with another bum by the name of Hepplewhite, who was little more than human vermin.

Another little black bag came into Doc Fall's possession and like Dr. Fulbright, he also used it to cure a young Hispanic girl. Doc Fall saw his chance to become a medical marvel, curing the ills of the world. But Hepplewhite saw it as a meal ticket. And he was willing to kill in order to gain it for himself....

The story of Dr. Fulbright was seen in an episode of 'Tales Of Tomorrow'. Doc Fall's experience was an episode of 'Night Gallery'. Both episodes were entitled "Little Black Bag" and were based on a short story by CM Kornbluth. (It was nominated for the Hugo in 1951.)

Normally I would have banished the later 'Night Gallery' version to the alternate TV dimension for remakes. But I would have hated to lose those very effective performances by Burgess Meredith and Chill Wills.

As it turns out however, I can keep both episodes in the main Toobworld. Although they may have occurred twenty years apart, they are still part of the same event. We have to look at it from the perspective of where the bags came from - 2450. (Both episodes make mention of the 21st Century, but the 'Tales of Tomorrow' version also mentions the more futuristic date. Considering the advanced medical knowledge within, I'm going to side with the year 2450 AD.)

Both little black bags were sent back at the same time and other bags may have been transported back with them as well. Should the Kornbluth story ever be filmed again for Television, we can re-use this splainin.

When the second medical bag was found in the early 1970s, the tech monitor from the future reported that it had been accidentally sent back. I'm putting forth the idea that they were both sent back through a time warp deliberately. And who would do such a thing?

Gallifreyan Time Meddlers.

Just because all of the other Time Lords supposedly no longer exist in all of their incarnations throughout all of Time, that doesn't negate their past deeds, for good or ill. Attempts by the Time Meddlers to alter the established timeline would remain in effect.

Not all Time Meddlers would attempt a temporal revision on the scale launched by the Monk, as seen in the multi-part Hartnell episode of 'Doctor Who' "The Time Meddles". Technically, according to "the butterfly effect", the most insignificant difference could have long-ranging consequences. And a medical bag from the future would be such an instrument of change.

(If I did think that the Monk was involved in this, I would have entitled the piece "Mr. Monk And The Little Black Bags".)

At least in these two instances, the Universe was spared irreparable harm without interference from the Doctor or some other Time Lord. But what of other little black bags that may still be out there?

Although his goal was similar, Dr. Harry Marshall is probably not the same person who sent back the bags. He invented a time machine with the intention of making a fortune by introducing penicillin to the world of 1910, before its properties were discovered. But again, the Universe exacted its own comeuppance to stop him. (As seen in "Past Tense", another episode of 'Tales Of Tomorrow' with Boris Karloff as Marshall.)

Medical advancements used in the past have been successful and so far as we know, they had no adverse effect on the Toobworld timeline. Dr. Leonard H. McCoy caused an elderly woman's liver to miraculously grow back while he was on a mission back to the early 1980s ("Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home"). And thanks to the Tula nanogenes released by the Time Lord known as The Doctor during World War II, a woman's leg grew back. (Although Dr. Constantine may have been able to convince her that she somehow misplaced it due to a war going on.)

It should be pointed out that "Bones" McCoy did alter the Universe with cosmically tragic results by going into the past in the 'Star Trek' episode "City On The Edge Of Forever" and performing a noble good deed. However, Captain James Kirk and Mr. Spock were able to right the wrong, even though it cost the life of Miss Edith Keeler.

Could there have been a doctor from the far future, perhaps a renegade Time Lord, who wanted to do some medical meddling in the past in order to change the future? If we were to round up the usual suspects, I'm thinking we should focus on those actors who played a lot of doctors in one-shot roles on various TV series.

It would sure beat having to use those old clone/identical cousin splainins as to why there were so many characters who looked alike!

I suppose there are a lot of character actors out there who could fit the requirements, but I have one in mind because he recently passed away at the age of 102: Charles Lane.

"Maude" - Arthur's Crisis (1977) TV Episode .... Doc Prichard
"Burke's Law" - Who Killed Harris Crown? (1963) TV Episode .... Dr. Lusk
"The Tab Hunter Show" - Personal Appearance (1961) TV Episode .... Dr. Spike
"The DuPont Show with June Allyson" - The Old-Fashioned Way (1961) TV Episode .... Dr. Shelley
"Perry Mason" - The Case of the Fiery Fingers (1958) TV Episode .... Dr. Williams

As all of those crusty and cantakerous sawbones, I'm sure Mr. Lane probably would have been overlooked as a Time Meddler. But each of those appearances could have given him an opportunity to stash away yet another little black bag. (Too bad we don't have an appearance by Mr. Lane as a doctor in Toobworld prior to 1952. Then we might have had the opportunity in which he placed the bag from the 'Tales of Tomorrow' episode.)

But that's all just conjecture and I'm not married to that aspect of this essay.


The same story, on two different shows and separated by decades, yet theoretically linked... all to keep as much of Television's content contained in the same universe: Earth Prime-Time.

Toby OB

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