Thursday, December 18, 2008

Live Action: "Twin Streaks"

“Twin Streaks” (April 13, 1991)

Writer: Stephen Hattman
Director: James A. Contner
Editor: Bill Zabala

Synopsis: When the scheming scientists of the Intellagen Corporation encounter difficulties in their misguided efforts to artificially grow a super-speed human replicant, they seek a solution in the stolen DNA of the Flash. Their experiments thus give birth to Pollux, an imperfect clone of the fastest man alive that possesses all of his astonishing superpowers but none of his maturity. Pollux is a hyperactive delinquent with the intellect of a child and, desperate to gain a sense of identity, the clone recklessly attempts to claim the life of Barry Allen as his own!

Commentary: The scarlet speedster faces off against a cerulean comet in “Twin Streaks,” an episode that undoubtedly draws its inspiration from all those comic book tales featuring the Flash’s various dark doubles. “Twin Streaks” is a lot of fun, allowing John Wesley Shipp to play both an over-stressed Barry Allen and his dangerously underdeveloped twin. The adventure that unfolds is well-plotted and fast-paced, maintaining a level of high drama throughout. Of course, with more than one speedster on hand, there’s a lot of action and special effects spectacle to be witnessed as well. The silver and blue costume created for Pollux, with its bold Mercurial logo, looks fantastic. More importantly, the mythology-linked character is developed in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways. Though the figure of a childish, petulant, super-powered clone is the sort that could easily become an annoyance, the script wisely prompts Pollux to continually shift and develop, never allowing him to stand still and become stagnant. Guest stars Lenny Von Dohlen and Charley Lang provide menace and moral quandaries as Brassell and Whitcomb, the minds behind Intellagen, although the script fails to develop their conflict in any meaningful way. It’s also astonishing that there is no attempt made to capitalize on a certain twist inherent to the episode’s premise; after cloning the Flash, Brassell is aware of the superhero’s secret identity, but the episode completely ignores this as a potential subplot. The supporting cast is outstanding. In particular, there are several strong scenes involving Alex Desert as Julio and Mike Genovese as Lt. Garfield. The tension mounts during moments like these, full of character conflict. It becomes eerie and unsettling to watch Pollux play at being Barry Allen, attempting to usurp his genetic progenitor and appropriate his life. Because of this uneasy exploration of themes relating to identity and individuality, by the end of the episode there is something downright frightening about the cloned character. Unfortunately, the story opts for an uninspired finish, setting up a tragic end for Pollux and playing on the audience’s pity. Truly, because this memorable installment possesses such potential and opportunity, the great disappointment of “Twin Streaks” is the fact that Pollux was not developed as the television series’ own Reverse Flash.

High-Speed Highlight: In a feat of superhuman biology triumphing over ballistics, Pollux whirls to catch a bullet fired by scientist Jason Brassell before then winding up to hurl the projectile back with equal speed, killing his creator!

Quotable: “Tina, I watched myself die. It really brought home what you’ve always tried to make me understand, that I am only a man. And like all of us I am on a journey of a birth, a life, and a passing. Does that make any sense?” --Barry Allen comes to terms with his own fallibility and mortality after witnessing the death of his clone


Craig MacD. said...

Pollux as a character is pretty goofy, mostly because of his clothes, but it was the closest thing we got to a Reverse-Flash in the series. As campy as it was, I wish the show had gone on for another season or show, just to see what they could have come up with in terms of the villains.

Anonymous said...

Ladies n gentlemen... the original Cobalt Blue! heh

-West (aka west3man)

(since I can't seem to recall my password, right now)

Dixon said...

They began featuring noteworthy villains far too late, it's true. Like you, Craig, I would have liked to see where the series might have gone creatively had it been granted a second season. It seems that as the series went on, the more confident it became in its comic book style.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Pollux might have served as even a peripheral influence on Cobalt Blue either, West. There are more than a few connections there!

Anonymous said...

A fantastic episode which also shows the dangers of playing 'God', Twin Streaks was a fantastic story which centered around Pollux, Barry's clone who is searching for identity in a huge world...just like No. Johnny 5 from 'Short Circuit'. Pollux's search for the truth takes a reckless turn though when he tries to assume Barry's identity and then must try to survive in a world where he is completely inexperienced. The interesting part is Pollux has the mind of a spurned child, like an orphan and has no guilt over the consequences of his actions and he explains to Tina and Barry later why he has no desire to be locked up like an animal. Barry understands his fear and tries to reason with his clone, but when Pollux refuses to give in, a showdown of turbo-charged proportions begins. Truly a very inventive story with a message about cloning and the consequences behind it.

(Keno Reeves)