Thursday, August 28, 2008


In the 'Monk' episode "Mr. Monk Is Underwater", Monk knew that "the guy" (as he calls his chief suspects) was the commander of the submarine USS Seattle, Nathan Whitaker. During the investigation, Commander Whitaker revealed that his late father had once been the Secretary of the Navy.

Usually such Toobworld factoids can give me agita - or, since we're working with an undersea mystery, the bends - because it varies from an established fact in the Trueniverse. This is especially true with fictional Presidents of the United States - Toobworld should be almost a mirror image of the Real World in such aspects, since so many TV shows will refer to the current occupant of the real White House in their scripts. Once you introduce a Jed Bartlet, David Palmer, or a Mackenzie Allen, you've slid through 'The Twilight Zone' and into a new TV dimension.

Let's say, as is usual with Toobworld characters and the actors who play them, that Commander Nathan Whitaker was the same age as William Atherton. Then he'd be born in 1947, and would now be sixty-one years old.
And let's suppose we go for the average and say his dad was 30 when he was born. This would mean the Senior Whitaker was born in 1917.

Judging from the line of actual Secretaries of the Navy, the Senior Whitaker might have been 60 or older when he took the Cabinet post. So at any point from 1977 onwards, the Secretary of the Navy - at least in Toobworld - was Whitaker, Senior.

Here is a list of those who served as the Secretary of the Navy in the Real World in approximately that time frame:

13 John W. Warner May 4, 1972 - April 8, 1974

14 J. William Middendorf, II April 8, 1974 - January 20, 1977

15 W. Graham Claytor, Jr. February 14, 1977 - August 24, 1979
16 Edward Hidalgo October 24, 1979 - January 20, 1981

17 John Lehman February 5, 1981 - April 10, 1987
18 Jim Webb May 1, 1987 - February 23, 1988

19 William L. Ball March 28, 1988 - May 15, 1989

20 Henry L. Garrett III May 15, 1989 - June 26, 1992
Daniel Howard (acting) June 26, 1992 - July 7, 1992
21 Sean O'Keefe October 2, 1992 - January 20, 1993

I think after this, the age limit we're looking for has reached its cut-off point. Maybe some of those men could have been up in their seventies, but I tend to doubt it.

Now, as you can see, none of those men were named Whitaker. And even though fictional TV characters have been related to real-life people in the past (Megan Russert & Tim Russert, 'Homicide: Life On The Street'; Vera Gorman & Art Carney, 'Alice'), I don't think it likely that Nathan Whitaker was the illegitimate son of one of the established Navy Secretaries, bearing the surname of the mother. Not that it couldn't be alleged that one of them had fathered Nathan Whitaker as an illegitimate son, but I don't think any TV producer is about to suggest something like that and risk legal action.

Besides, it would also have to be a former Secretary of the Navy who has already passed away, and I'm not about to spend the time figuring out who that mght be!

So it would have to be a fictional Secretary of the Navy named Whitaker, one who can be squeezed into the above list somewhere. And as we can see with the example of Daniel Howard above, there could have been an acting Secretary of the Navy in Toobworld who isn't counted among the official holders of the title.

I took this list from Wikipedia, so it might not be official. However, if it holds true then there is a space of several months between the terms of service by W. Graham Claytor, Jr. and Edward Hidalgo in 1979 during the Carter administration. An acting Secretary of the Navy could easily be inserted there for Toobworld's purposes.

And I think I've found the perfect candidate for the role.....

Here's the description of an episode of 'The Debbie Reynolds Show', courtesy of Classic TV Archive (link to the left):

1.01 [--] The Debbie Reynolds Show:
16Sep69 NBC, Tuesday 8:00pm
Guest cast:
Roland Winters ......... Governor Bartholomew
Harold Gould ........... Whitaker
Roy Roberts ............ General Arbuckle
Synopsis: Debbie sees a way to launch herself with a scoop: finding out if Governor Bartholomew is going to run for the Senate.

I'm not sure what capacity Harold Gould's Whitaker had in that episode, but I would assume it was political in nature. So it could be that a decade later, this Whitaker was given the responsibility of acting Secretary of the Navy. Now, Harold Gould is about a decade younger than my projected age for the Senior Whitaker, but that's still okay. Then he would have been 24 or so when Nathan Whitaker was born. And besides, Harold Gould has always played characters older than he really was.

So there's a theory of relateeveety that can link 'Monk' to 'The Debbie Reynolds Show'!

Toby O'B


Andy said...

In the episode, as Commander Whitaker told Monk his father was Secretary of the Navy, there was a brief shot of a portrait of Cmdr. Whitaker's father. In the portrait, the man is wearing a Navy uniform with three thick stripes on the sleeve, and a combination cover with half fretting. This would indicate that he, like his son, was a Commander in the U.S. Navy. This is important to note, because the Secretary of the Navy, like the Secretary of Defense, is a civilian position. Cmdr. Whitaker's father would have been appointed as Secretary only after retiring from the Navy.

You have an old post about "Mr. Monk Is On The Run" and mention that Monk prevents the assassination of California Governor Richard Wechsler. However, the Governor of California is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In addition, "Monk" has also had other fictional characters in government postions. For example, in "Mr. Monk And The Garbage Strike," Chi McBride played San Francisco Mayor Ray Nicholson. However, the actual Mayor of San Francisco is Gavin Newsom.

It's just one of those things. Detective shows set in actual cities often make up government officials, especially when they are directly involved in the plot/storyline.

Toby said...

Hi Andy!

I must have looked away when they showed that pic of Whitaker's father. It must have been a blink and you miss him moment. Oh well. So much for my theory utilizing Harold Gould... and it felt so good too!

But the theory that his father was an Acting Secretary of the Navy could still work. I'll stick with the rest of the theory for that.

As for Wechsler and Schwarzenegger, I can't remember now if I posted this or not, but I've come to the conclusion that somehow Dan Vasser of 'Journeyman' will have gone back in Time to set things right. We just only see the temporal screw-up.

The same thing goes for 'Voyage and the Bottom Of The Sea' and their President McNeil, although I think a different time traveler would have been responsible for that change back to the original POTUS (Nixon).

With Newsome and Nicholson, it's turning into a crutch, but maybe it could be used in that case too - I wonder though if Chi McBride might ever return in the role?

Thanks for checking in, Andy!