|J. Pat O'Malley|
as "Sam Petrie"
This is the third installment of our look at the three actors who played Rob Petrie's Dad.
With Tom Tully and Will Wright, at least both characters had different first names - Sam and Edward respectively - so that I had something to begin with when splainin away how Rob could call both of them Dad, and how Clara Petrie, played by Isabel Randolph, could be so accepting of both of them in her presence when she could only be married to one.
But what are we to make of the third man to call himself Rob's Dad, played by great character actor J. Pat O'Malley? He says his name is Sam, and in the episode "What's In A Middle Name?", he just can't shut up about the name.
And yet his physiognomy is so different from that of Tom Tully's that we can't use the splainin of plastic surgery. He doesn't look like a candidate to be a quantum leaper from the future, and there's no evidence of magical activity.
But we could go the way of science fiction for an answer......
In 'The Twilight Zone' episode "The Fugitive", J. Pat O'Malley played Old Ben, a shape-shifting alien from another planet which he fled after serving 1,000 years of a 5,000 reign as their monarch. Like the Time Lord known as the Doctor, he was bored and wanted to go off in search of adventure.
He was hding in plain sight as an old man, in a small town in the Mid-west. And there he befriended a little girl named Jenny when agents of his planet's Council arrived to bring him back to serve out his reign.
"The Fugitive" aired in March of 1962, while his first appearance on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' was set back in early 1955. (That's when all the in-laws gathered to lobby Rob and Laura with their personal choices for the unborn baby's name.) But 'The Twilight Zone' can defy Toobworld convention when it comes to the stories taking place around the same time in which they're broadcast. Many of them were set in the far future, and a few in the distant past. Some crossed over from one to the other!
Just because "The Fugitive" was broadcast in 1962, that doesn't mean it had to take place at that time. It could be set several decades in the future after Old Ben's impersonation of Sam Petrie. That would splain the aging difference between the two characters, Old Ben being exactly that - old.
But Old Ben - or whatever His Majesty's name really was - had the power to "morph" into anything else - a fly, a weird alien monster, or even into a clone of Jenny herself. So maybe the whitened hair and the mustache were just alterations to his general Earth-bound disguise.
(Whatever glamour device he was using to disguise himself, it didn't operate along the same lines as that seen in 'Quantum Leap'. With that show, the audience viewing back in the Trueniverse could always see Sam Beckett, no matter which life he was living out. They'd only see the glamour if Sam looked in the mirror. In this case, Old Ben was using a glamour on top of a glamour, but we could only see the one disguising his true form - that of a young humanoid king. Everybody else within the reality of Toobworld would have seen Tom Tully's version of Sam Petrie while he was so disguised.)
So why was he impersonating Sam Petrie? Beats me. Maybe Old Ben needed a place to hide out, so he left Sam Petrie unconscious in the car while he took his place in the family's discussion. When the coast was clear, he would have revived Sam, maybe downloaded the appropriate memories in his mind, and then - as he would say, - he skedaddled.
And why would he have returned again, making a big stink about burial plots? (As seen in "The Plots Thicken".)
We know Old Ben had a lot of strange alien devices at his disposal. We saw him use one to heal Jenny. Maybe he stashed them all in that burial plot near his favorite hole on the golf course and wanted to make sure at least somebody knew where to find them in case something happened to him.
Who knows what kind of reasoning goes through the mind of an alien?