Friday, February 25, 2011


Because of my interest in, and admiration for, the amazing world of The Wold Newton Universe, I watched the only TV version of 'King Solomon's Mines' based on the book by H. Rider Haggard. The 2004 movie (pseudo mini-series) starred Patrick Swayze as the explorer and adventurer Allan Quatermain, with Allison Doody, Roy Marsden, and John Standing.

Right off the bat, you can see in that cast list two major deviations from the original source material - Quatermain is an American in this version, not an Englishman; and - Gasp! Horror! - there's a woman involved.

In the original 1885 novel, Quatermain is hired to lead Sir Henry Curtis and his friend Captain Good into unexplored territory in hopes of finding Sir Henry's brother, George Neville. Neville had gone in search of the fabled mines of King Solomon but was now feared lost or dead. Along the way, they helped the African Umbopa overthrow Twala, the cruel ruler of the Kukuani tribesmen. (It turns out that Umbopa is really the true king Ignosi, who had been banished to die in the desert as an infant with his mother.)
Most of the TV movie adheres to the basic plot, but a lot of it seems more influenced by the 1950's film which starred Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and Richard Carlson. (There are also Czarist agents added to the mix to give the story more villains.) And the major plot deviation there is the introduction of a beautiful woman into the safari.
With the film, she's in search of her husband, who conveniently turns up dead by the end so that there's no longer an impediment to the growing love between her and Quatermain. In the TV movie, she's the daughter of the missing man and so is free to eventually (and inevitably, of course, of course) marry Quatermain. (As in the original novel, Quatermain has a son, although I think the sub-plot about the custody battle with his in-laws was a creation for the televersion.)

So Elizabeth Maitland becomes the driving force of the search, not Sir Henry Curtis. But Sir Henry does appear in this version of the story - as a grizzled Australian, a fellow explorer who is frienemies with Quatermain and joins the search party.
The two bearers from the novel, Khiva and Ventvogel, also survived the adaptation, although Ventvogel's moment in which he sniffs out the water of the oasis in the desert is usurped by Captain Good. (Just to give Marsden a little something extra to do, I imagine. After all, he is one of the stars.)
The overthrow of Twala plays out more along the lines of the 1950 movie with a personal challenge rather than an all-out war as originally depicted. But the film had Umbopa/Ignosi duel with Twala himself, while the TV Quatermain serves as his champion against some brute chosen by Twala. (And from a production point of view, that makes sense - why have your star play the hero as a bystander when you can have him be Action Man?)
In the original novel, there were only two female characters, both members of the Kukuani - Gagool, a withered old hag of a witch doctor, and Foulata, a beautiful black woman who falls in love with Captain Good (who is a naval captain in this version; the book has him as an army captain). Gagool traps the explorers in the mines, but then meets her death thanks to Foulata who also dies from Gagool's thrust of a knife.
Both appear in the TV version, but I couldn't tell you who - or where - Foulata was. There was another witch woman early on, but I believe that was Mooma Tuusee.
As for Gagool, there is a major revision to her character, which I think was for the better. She is younger, probably quite pretty under all of that whiteface, and she shows sympathy to Professor Sam Maitland while he was in captivity. In that, she probably takes the role of Foulata from the book, with Captain Good replaced by Maitland. She leads Quatermain and Elizabeth Maitland to the site of the mines, but does not betray them. (It was more in keeping with the influence of "Indiana Jones" - which itself was influenced by the original book - that they got trapped by triggering ancient built-in traps. And then there's McNabb, an old partner now adversary of Quatermain's, to take Gagool's role of treachery in the mines.)

So the TV version really can't be reconciled with the Wold Newton Universe, which quite rightly takes the literary form of the source material to be the accepted version for inclusion. And that's as it should be. The Toobworld Dynamic and the WNU have plenty of other opportunities to overlap.

Standing on its own, and firmly in the TV Universe, "King Solomon's Mines" does serve the Great Link in one area, besides bringing one of the greatest pulp action heroes into Toobworld - with theories of "relateeveety".

First up would again be Allan Quatermaine. Now that Earth Prime-Time has transformed him into an American, with at least one son to carry on the family name, I'm going to claim that they are the founders of the family tree for the Quartermaine family in Port Charles, New York, as seen in the TV shows 'General Hospital' and 'Port Charles'. (And yes, the family name was altered along the way.)
And then there is Sam Maitland and his daughter Elizabeth. The Maitland family name is deeply imbedded in the Tele-Folks Directory of Earth Prime-Time, and we have several TV shows just from the UK alone which could be fitted for a family connection to the Maitlands of "King Solomon's Mines" - 'Primeval', 'Coupling', 'The Bill', 'Collision', even one who appeared on 'Doctor Who'. There's the Maitland family in Summer Bay, New South Wales, Austrailia, and Maitlands in 'Family' and 'The Immortal' of the United States.
They wouldn't be directly descended from Elizabeth, as any children she might have would bear the name of Quatermain. But Sam Maitland might have had other children, and he could have had a brother or two. In the past I've speculated that Dr. Maitland (seen above), from 'The Wild, Wild West' episode "The Night Of The Sedgwick Curse", was the grandfather to Arthur Maitland who was also obsessed with the aging process (as seen in 'The Immortal'). So perhaps he and Sam Maitland could have been brothers. (I'd like to think Abby Maitland of 'Primeval' is somehow related, to carry on the family traditions of science and exploration....)
One last point - there's also the second in a trilogy of TV movies about "The Librarian": "Return To King Solomon's Mines". More than one hundred years after the events fictionalized in Haggard's novel (as far as Earth Prime-Time is concerned, in order to diffuse any mentions of the book), Flynn Carsen undertook his own quest to reach the mines And differences between the two adventures could be easily disabled.

And so that's my take on the place H. Rider Haggard's novel "King Solomon's Mines" holds in the TV Universe.....


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