Thursday, May 17, 2007

Live Action: "Child's Play"

“Child’s Play” (November 15, 1990)

Writers: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Story: Stephen Hattman & Gail Morgan Hickman
Director: Danny Bilson
Editor: Bill Zabala

Synopsis: Barry Allen finds himself playing caretaker to Terry Cohan, a homeless juvenile delinquent in possession of research that prompted the assassination of a respected local journalist. Desperate to cover-up those files is Beauregarde Lesko, a hippy radical who faked his own death in 1969 and is now preparing to unleash Blue Paradise, a hallucinogenic drug so addictive it could enslave all of Central City.

Commentary: For much of the episode, “Child’s Play” feels like two distinctly different stories that have been forced to come together. The central plot involving Barry’s efforts to guide and protect a homeless teen intertwines rather awkwardly with the story of Beauregarde Lesko’s efforts to create the ultimate hallucinogen. Guest star Jonathan Brandis is somewhat irritating as skateboarding bad boy Terry Cohan, though that may be because the character is a cliché, and there isn’t much fun in watching Barry Allen play foster father. It’s also worth noting that this is the second episode in a row that has featured our kind-hearted hero housing someone who stubbornly refuses to accept his help. Fortunately, the script does manage to create an interesting dynamic between Barry, Terry, and the Flash. Lesko’s retro cult of criminal hippies, potentially silly though it may be, represents the story’s most unique and engaging element. Unfortunately, it’s not properly developed or sufficiently explored. Lesko isn’t given enough of a back story to become a truly strong villain and his sinister scheme for domination is a bit too simplistic. Nevertheless, the sixties drug guru stands apart from all those antagonists that have preceded him. The episode’s climax--the point at which the two disparate storylines become one--is entirely anti-climactic, finishing with a ridiculous sequence in which the Flash subdues Lesko’s gang of hippies with some amplified high-speed guitar riffs. There’s also an amusing wink made towards the viewer when Barry and his dog Earl walk past a Central City movie house showing a double feature--Batman (1989) and Superman: The Movie (1978). “Child’s Play” is a reasonably entertaining episode that is ultimately held back because it fails to properly exploit either of its dual storylines.

High-Speed Highlight: During a Blue Paradise-induced drug trip, the Flash begins to move so quickly that his vibrating molecules allow him to pass through a solid wall!

Quotable: “The idea, Duvivier, is to make people die if they don’t get their Blue Paradise, not if they do. Now go and spread my gospel. I want everyone to share my dreams. And my nightmares.” --Beauregarde Lesko comments on his plot to drug the city

Special Thanks: Thanks, as always, go out to Kelson Vibber for the screen captures featured here.


West said...

Neat stuff. Thanks.

I'm particularly fond of the high-speed highlights and the quotes.

Have a great weekend.

Dixon said...

Hey, thanks, West. I appreciate the feedback. Here's hoping you have a great weekend, too.

Mad Mac Genius said...

Originally, Alice Cooper wanted a part on the show, and naturally the producers wanted him to play the role of Lesko. Cooper turned it down; would have been interesting, tho.

Dixon said...

I'd never heard that bit of trivia, Steve. Now that you mention it, however, you can see it in the finished episode. Lesko seems to have been definitely modeled after Cooper.

Mad Mac Genius said...

There's a reference paper about the show written back in '91 (which is where I believe the Alice Cooper part comes from, or from the one-shot TV/Comic book tie-in) ; I have it saved as a PDF and I'll email it out to you later this week.