With the Olympics going on, I thought it might be kind of interesting to check out an episode of Science Fiction Theater about the pressures we place on young athletes, and the ominous then-future of performance enhancements.
Science Fiction Theater was an anthology series that brought to life new stories depicting future scientific developments, and sometimes adapting classic stories by authors like H.G. Wells.
Hosted by former war correspondent Truman Bradley, SFT was notable in that its first season was filmed in colour, but to cut costs its second and third seasons were shot in black and white. They’d predicted the rise of colour television a little prematurely, like most of the advancements they champion in their stories.
When it went into syndication, the series was sometimes broadcast under the name Beyond the Limits to associate it with SF critical darling The Outer Limits. You can find the show under both titles, and everything is currently available on DVD.
Today’s episode is from 1956. It begins with Truman Bradley casually relaxing in his study of scientific wonders. He’s got a fancy globe, a big ol’ telescope, a model of the atom, one of those things that looks like a bunch of interlocking gold rings – astrolabes, I think they’re called – and, of particular interest today, a bust of a Neanderthal.
In the episode I watched right before this one, he lit a model spaceship on fire to demonstrate the awesome power of the sun. That’s how he rolls.
He heads over to the Neanderthal bust, and near to it on the table is a cage full of little white mice…
What are you going to do to those mice, Bradley? What are you going to do to those mice?
“I don’t believe there’s one of us who, at some time, hasn’t taken a fall. It can be rough. Even falling out of bed can result in broken bones. Well, watch this.”
He scoops up one of the mice in a drinking glass, and drops the little guy back into his cage from a height of about a foot and a half. The mouse seems confused, betrayed, but physically fine.
“Don’t be alarmed, he wasn’t hurt.” Bradley chuckles. “As a matter of fact, you can drop one of these little fellows from quite a height without hurting him.”
Ah, the 50’s. Back when the television told you it was okay to throw mice at the ground and nobody thought it was weird.
On the floor beside the cage of mice, seeming to tempt nature itself, a cat sits in an open top pen with a padded floor. The floor is padded because Bradley will be dropping the cat.
Somehow, this is science.
Bradley picks up the new test subject and lets him go without warning. The cat looks as surprised as the mouse did, but he also nimbly lands on his feet.
“Our kitten too, as you see, is unhurt. Yet he fell at least five or six times his own height. But what happens when a man falls a proportionate distance? Say, thirty or thirty-five feet?”
…I have some concerns about how quickly this is escalating.
Leaving the animals to recover from their emotional trauma, Bradley moves back to the desk with the Neanderthal atop it. He grabs a porcelain statue of a lordly looking 17th century type, holds it high above the desk, and drops it.
Smash! The pieces go everywhere!
Bradley explains how we long ago traded an evolutionary advantage in strength and resilience for the upper hand in intelligence and tool building. He pats the bust of the Neanderthal and declares that this ancient choice doomed us to never having superpowers.
But can mankind exchange their brittle, porcelain bodies for the rubbery, bouncy bodies of a mouse or cat? How far can we push the limits of our physical boundaries? Perhaps science will hold the answer, just as it once did for Dr. Frankenstein – a man before his time.
Our story begins at Fake College USA, the campus green that exists only in the nostalgic imagination of a certain kind of writer. Fake College loves football dearly, and has been on a winning streak of late. A winning streak that could’ve included Britt (played by the youngest, most baby-faced Martin Milner so far) had he not mysteriously quit the team.
Britt and his fiancé Jill are discussing the matter as they walk along a tree-lined path.
Jill’s angry about the quitting-football-thing, and angrier still that Britt refuses to tell her the reason. Britt assure her it’s a temporary secret, he’ll explain everything to her one day, but right now he needs her to respect his privacy.
Naturally, Jill refuses to be patient about this, because she’s a one-dimensional female character from 50’s sci-fi. She wears a sweater set and can’t comprehend complex motivations. Our writer this week is George Asness, just so you know who to roll your eyes at.
All of the recent turmoil in Britt’s life began when he took an afterschool job with science professor Dr. Kendall. Britt’s been working at the lab quite a bit lately.
But Jill doesn’t trust the good doctor.
“What’s he up to, anyway?” She asks, in a surprisingly jealous tone.
“He’s not up to anything!” Britt explodes, “He’s a brilliant research man, doing the kind of work I hope to someday!”
Jill wants to know what’s so strenuous about research that somebody would have to give up football for it. I like that she automatically discounts scheduling conflicts and ignores the fact that Britt’s starting on the path to his dream career.
She wants him to think of her, having to defend his terrible decisions to all of their friends while they talk about him behind his back. After all, she was dating a football player and now she’s dating some kind of… scientist!
On top of which, she’s the Dean of Student’s daughter. How’s it going to look if the Dean and his extended family care more about academics than sports? They’ll be a laughing stock, and so will Fake College USA.
So selfish, Britt. So selfish.
“They treat me as though I’m engaged to Benedict Arnold!” Jill bursts into tears and runs away.
Ha ha, oh that Jill. She’s nothing like an actual human.
It’s not totally clear which is more upsetting to Britt, his fiance seeming to care more about his social standing than his happiness, or all of his friends gossiping about him behind his back. Either way, he cuts a glum figure as he heads into Coach Shane’s office for a quick meeting.
Coach Shane is a walking piece of meat wrapped in a t-shirt. His hair is greying at the temples, and slathered in so much Brylcreem it can withstand Category 3 hurricanes. He sits at his desk and barks at Britt’s knock for Mr. Benedict Arnold to come right in.
When Britt steps into the office, we notice for the first time that Coach Shane isn’t alone.
Reporter Jim Dale is making himself comfortable in one of the guest chairs. Dale is wearing the signature accessory of the unethical newsman, a porkpie hat. In his sports column the week before, he’d basically torn Britt a new one for leaving the team. He proudly declares that he went as far as he could without violating the libel laws.
Britt is not happy to see him, and clearly feels a little ambushed by Coach Shane.
“I know coaches aren’t supposed to pamper things like pride,” Coach says, “they’re supposed to win games. But I do have a pride. After you walked out on us, I’d rather break a leg than ask you to come back.”
Awesome. Good sportsmanship, Coach, and excellent job understanding the pressures on college-age athletes who are balancing football, life, and education all at the same time.
Britt wants to know what the meetings about, if Coach hates his guts so much.
Eighty percent of the team’s players graduate this year. The twerps that showed up to replace them are laughable garbage, and this is a school that’s used to winning. Dale, an objective professional sports reporter, reveals that he used to play football at Fake College and, unlike Britt, he cares about its reputation on the field. Off the field is where nerds and beatniks live, so that’s somebody else’s department.
Coach wants a solid quarterback, and he also needs somebody with the personality to bring the team together as a unit. Who better than the boy who quit football without explanation? I’m sure whatever personal demons he’s facing won’t make him the worst morale booster ever.
(“Fellas,” he’ll say for his motivational halftime speech, “We all know I was forced back onto this team through emotional blackmail and peer pressure. So, I don’t care. Just lose the thing. I mean, I don’t even want to be here, I want to be in the lab making strides to cure cancer. But, no, you try to choose your own path and this is what they do to you. Hell, if those Wildcats out there want the championship so bad, I say let ‘em have it. It won’t help ‘em sleep at night.”)
Britt understands the position Coach is in, how important it must be for him to win. But he’s got his own job to consider, a job he took so he could send the money home to his folks. Remember this for later, Britt comes from an impoverished background and initially took the mystery job out of desperation.
Coach explains that he’s been authorized to offer Britt an athletic scholarship. Britt’s face falls into a brief wince of remorse. This scholarship is coming too late.
He can’t rejoin the team. He’s sorry.
His refusal is that last spark needed to fire up Coach Shane’s temper. Coach suddenly stands and slams his hands down on the desk.
“You’re afraid something’ll mar that cameo beauty of yours!” He sneers, “In other words, you’re plain yellow!”
Okay, real talk: Martin Milner was cute as a button, but it was definitely cuteness. He had soft features and a very boyish face. On Route 66, he was the cute one and George Maharis was the handsome one. Then Glenn Corbett was the handsome one. On Adam-12, he was the cute one while Kent McCord was the handsome one. It’s fine, and he was damn cute, but you would never call him a “cameo beauty.”
Also, all baby-faced guys I’ve ever met have all secretly wanted a scar to make them look more rugged. Coach’s theory holds no water.
But being called yellow isn’t very nice. In a sudden outburst of rage, Britt grabs Coach’s biceps and squeezes, like he’s going to pick him up and throw him against the wall Hulk-style. Suddenly, a wave of comprehension takes over Britt’s face, followed by a flicker of horror. He releases Coach just as suddenly as he grabbed him, and hurries out the door.
Coach, in visible pain, falls onto his desk chair and rolls up his sleeve. His arm is covered in dark bruises where Britt had squeezed.
“Good lord!” Dale gasps, getting up to take a closer look, “What was he wearing, iron gauntlets?!”
“It was like being caught in a vice,” Coach marvels. “I’m a big man, Jim. No human hands can do that to me.”
It’s the best, because he says it like he’s had a lifetime of experience being attacked by non-human things, and he knows the difference well. Coach Shane fought in the Terminator wars.
Dale mentions that Britt looked to be two or three inches taller than the last time he saw him, and more muscular. Pretty creepy that you’ve been paying such close attention to Britt’s body, dude. But the show wants us to find these changes in Britt to be interesting and worth investigating, and it glosses over Dale’s upsettingly biased obsession with this football team and its players.
“He’s given up his athletic activities and devotes all his time to either class or Dr. Kendall’s lab, yet he’s in top physical shape!” Coach Shane says. It's the kind of sentence anyone would use in conversation.
Jim Dale vows to solve this mystery, and invade Britt’s privacy until there’s nothing left of the young man but a shallow husk devoid of secrets and dreams. Then they can make him play football again. Because Jim Dale is not only a terrible reporter, he’s also a terrible person.
The camera zooms in on his shady vow-making face.
Now it’s time to meet Dr. Kendall!
Dr. Kendall is not what you’d expect. First off, he isn’t Swiss or German and his eyes don’t gleam with hysterical madness barely contained by an aristocratic upbringing. He’s American, and surprisingly bland. We hear his voice before we see him, as he chats with Britt.
Unbeknownst to Dr. Kendall and his research assistant, Jim Dale is sneaking into the laboratory during their conversation.
It’s very sciencey in there. There’s a box full of important looking wires hooked up to another box of wires, beakers, flasks, a retort, a yard stick for measuring stuff, some chalk and a chalkboard covered in equations. Very sciencey. Dale sneaks through this part of the lab, following the sound of the voices coming from an interior room behind a closed door.
It is exactly, 100% like when an innocent party in Dick Tracy overhears a crook’s plan in the back of a nightclub. This whole episode is, for some reason, staged like a juvenile serial from the 40’s. The director, Eddie Davis, did a ton of television work both before and after this, and it’s not usually this flat.
“That’ll do! Why, that was a thousand pounds even!” Dr. Kendall’s voice says, as Dale listens in.
“Did you want to put another hundred on it?” Britt asks.
“No, no. That’s enough for today.”
Aha! They’re gambling with British money! It’s worse than we thought!
Risking being caught, Dale pushes the door ajar just enough to see inside the next room.
Inside, Dr. Kendall is having a relaxing smoke on a bench with his notepad in hand, while Britt deadlifts a thousand pound barbell.
So, not a British gambling ring.
Dr. Kendall, with his crewcut and narrow shoulders, tells Britt he can stop lifting things for science now. He adds that they’re going to have to be more discreet for a little while, Jim Dale was in to see him that morning, and hearing about the ambush with Coach Shane is making herr doktor a little edgy about being caught.
But he still wants to record a run time. If they get down to the track, they can have it all to themselves.
Britt cheerfully agrees, and he and Dr. Kendall leave through a back door while Dale hurries to loop around and see what they’re up to.
Two years before this episode was made, in 1954, Roger Bannister of England ran the first recorded mile run of less than four minutes. His time was 3:59.4, and he did it running solo at Oxford University’s Iffley Road Track. Two months later, the four minute mile was achieved for the first time in competition by Bannister and an Australian runner named John Landy. This was at the Commonwealth Games, held that year in my hometown of Vancouver.
In order to run a four minute mile, the human body has to be travelling at a speed of about fifteen miles per hour. Since 1954, this has become the minimum standard of middle distance runners in competition. Either that’s because once a barrier is broken, the entire mass of humankind forces itself to readjust, or because of performance enhancements. Just non-stop doping. You can pick the answer you like best.
Anyway, Britt and Dr. Kendall are down at the track while Dr. Kendall prepares a stopwatch and reminds Britt that under no circumstances is he to strain himself. Everything has to be easy breezy.
We see Jim Dale hiding in the shadows of the bleachers as Britt confirms he’s to run a full mile.
Crickets chirp beneath an evening sky, and the track is totally quiet as Britt gets ready to begin.
Dale pulls out his own stopwatch – because who doesn’t have a stopwatch in their pocket at all times? – and fires it up when Britt takes off like a bullet from a gun.
Dr. Kendall watches with satisfaction, and Jim Dale with total disbelief, as Britt runs. They both click their stopwatches as Britt crosses the line, and look down to record his time.
“A three minute mile and no strain!” Dale gasps, as we fade out with sweeping music to prepare for Act II of our story.
Occasionally, I'll put a vintage commercial here to help maintain the feeling of breakup, but today I'm going to use this archival footage of Roger Bannister:
Act II fades in with a title card, and leads us into the office of C.B. Page, Jill’s father and Dean of Students.
Jim Dale is grinning like the Cheshire Cat as he heads into the Dean’s office. Apparently, he called ahead and told Dean Page that Britt’s some kind of early prototype of the Six Million Dollar Man. Also apparently, Dean Page believed him instead of telling him to call back when he was sober.
“Just in case you had any doubts,” Dale smiles, “Here’s the stopwatch I had at the track.”
He pulls the watch out of his pocket and shows the Dean the three minute time.
This evidence means nothing, of course. Literally anyone with access to a stopwatch can clock in three minutes and show it to somebody later. I have no idea why Dale thought this would have significance to a skeptic.
Dean Page sees the recorded time and his face lights up with joy. He says they’ll need “pictures and facts” and that they’d better move fast, or another reporter might scoop them.
So, looks like this secret handshake Dale has with the college is a two-way street.
Everything about this seems unethical.
Dale replies that they don’t have to worry about being scooped, because Britt and Dr. Kendall are clammed right up. According to them, there is no story, there are no facts, there will be no pictures. But Dale here isn’t “some wet-behind-the-ears cub.” He’s got a plan to get this story and get it good.
So what if Britt and Professor Secrets are clammed up? Any clam can be pried open with a sharp enough knife, and the knife Dale has in mind… is Jill!
We fade out of the office and in on Jill at home, laughing at her father for thinking Britt can lift a thousand pounds and run a mile in three minutes. After all, he’s not exactly Captain America. (Although, thinking about it, Martin Milner would’ve made a very satisfactory mid-century Cap.) She finds this whole thing sillier than Silly Putty.
Finally, Jill is acting like a person instead of a weeping exposition machine. Let’s see how long this lasts.
“I tell you, he could sweep the Olympics!” Dean Page replies earnestly, “One man! The greatest athlete of our time – perhaps all time!”
Jill decides to play a little game of supposing it’s true. It could be good, she says, for Britt, for the college, for her social standing. Wife of the Greatest Athlete of All Time is a pretty good title if you’re aiming to stick in the wife category. But, she reminds us, Britt doesn’t want to be an athlete. He wants to become a research scientist and build a future for his family.
Dean Page stammers out that an Olympic record can help make contacts and “open doors” for athletes. This was right at the beginning of celebrity endorsement culture. Wheaties had been doing radio ads with Olympians for a while, but there wasn’t the whole Nike, Coca Cola, Subway sandwiches thing going on, so the long-term appeal of winning a bunch of gold medals was kind of unclear.
Jill maintains that Britt would be happier working in the lab.
“What is this hold Kendall has over him?” Dean Page mutters, “It’s unnatural.”
“Dad, you make him sound like Frankenstein!” Jill laughs.
Frankenstein?! Who would draw such an apt comparison! Jill, you’re overreacting. You’re so crazy, Jill. Nobody’s saying Frankenstein. But yes, that is exactly who Dr. Kendall is like.
Dean Page reminds her Britt’s strength didn’t come from nowhere, and he seems to obey Dr. Kendall’s orders like a zombie. If Jill really loves Britt, she’ll want to get to the bottom of this as much as anyone. Which is why she should help set this trap.
We don’t get Jill’s final answer on the matter, and when next we see her she’s sat on a picnic blanket in a crisp white dress. Beside her, Britt leans his head against a tree sleepily. Just a couple of young lovers at the park.
Jill remarks that it’s been a wonderful day.
“It’s the lunch,” Britt grins. “Some men marry for money, but I’m going to marry you because of the lunches.”
I know he’s kidding, but he and Jill have a terrible foundation for a marriage going. Potential social status and decent picnic lunches. Good luck, kids!
He glances at his watch and says it’s time for him to get back to the lab.
“Coming, Dr. Kendall!” Jill sneers bitterly, slamming the top of the basket shut.
She apologizes right away, and the two of them pack things up and head down to her car. She hands him the keys and tells him to drive, but they’ve got trouble. A couple of jokers have parked bumper to bumper in front of and behind them, so Britt won’t be able to pull the car out.
Jill recognizes car number one as Mrs. Cooper’s, so she says she’s going to go find her in the park.
As she heads off, we see a shady character with a camera is hiding behind a nearby tree.
When he thinks he’s alone, Britt lifts up Mrs. Cooper’s car and wheels it forward a few feet. As he does, the guy behind the tree snaps a photo and Jill comes back just in time to watch him lower the car.
She seems angry, and tells him that she didn’t want to believe her dad and Jim Dale, but it looks like the rumours are true. Britt has the powers of He-Man.
“Dad wanted me to question you, and I said no,” she shakes her head in disgust.
“Did you? Couldn’t it be that this whole picnic was staged? These cars, parked so close, with all this space around? Boy, what a sucker I am!” Britt storms off angrily.
I am disinclined to believe that Jill had nothing to do with this, but she actually didn’t. She’s just that dumb. One female character in the whole story, and her aspiration is a prominent marriage, her personality type is a moron, and her function is to inconvenience everyone. That’s nice.
But none of the male characters are faring any better.
Later that night, at Dr. Kendall’s laboratory of horrors…
Jim Dale sneaks into the workout room where Britt had lifted the thousand pounds. He leaves the lights off and waits. Our man over here does a lot of skulking and trespassing for a supposedly legit sports reporter. That, and his open bias towards his alma mater, should probably get him fired from whatever paper he works for.
He snoops around a little, and tries to lift that thousand pound barbell. He can’t, of course, but his efforts dislodge one of the small blocks stopping the weight from rolling forward. This will be important later.
A soft knock sounds at the outer door. Dale hides in the darkest shadow of the interior room and waits.
Jill lets herself into the main lab, looking like a fashion illustration in a peter-pan collar and circle skirt with crinoline. I’ve heard that girls used to soak their crinolines in a gelatin mixture to give them extra structure and shape; Jill looks like she might have done that. Or maybe she’s wearing more than one. I’ve also heard that the rich girls would sometimes just stack crinolines on top of one another, sometimes wearing nine at once.
Anyway, Jill’s here and when she can’t find Dr. Kendall in the main lab, she checks the room Dale’s hiding in. Dale leaps out of his hiding place and demands to know why she’s there.
Pretty ballsy for a guy who was just hiding behind a broom in a place he’s not supposed to be.
Turns out, Jill’s here to finally give Dr. Kendall a piece of her mind. She intends to fight him for Britt’s attention. (She doesn’t say the second part, but it’s pretty heavily implied.)
Dale pulls her into the shadows and tells her to keep quiet, he’s on an important job for her dad and if she blows it, everyone will be furious. Jill seems annoyed, but does as he asks.
Meanwhile, in the main lab, Doc Kendall and Britt are rolling in to begin the evening’s work.
They chat about the picnic disaster and whether or not Jill should be told what’s going on.
"She has a right to know what's going on, before becoming my wife," Britt says.
"She has a right to know what's going on, before becoming my wife," Britt says.
“Maybe I have a right to know, too!” C.B. Page shouts, storming into the lab.
He holds up the photo of Britt moving the car that afternoon and asks if Dr. Kendall is going to tell the whole story, or is he going to let Jim Dale make one up for him?
“This is all my fault,” Britt shakes his head.
Pretty sure this is Dr. Kendall’s fault for using a human test subject and keeping secrets from the university where he works, but whatever. Let’s keep moving.
Kendall says he’ll tell Page the whole story on one condition.
“You’re in no position to bargain!” Page scoffs.
“One condition!” Kendall snaps angrily.
I should probably mention that we’re supposed to like and admire Dr. Kendall and view him as a hero. I might not have been getting that across.
Dr. Kendall puts forth that if he can give a valid reason why Britt must not engage in competitive athletics, the story will not be made public. Dean Page will be the person who decides whether or not the reason is valid. This seems fair to the Dean, and he agrees.
“For some time,” Dr. Kendall begins, “doctors working with the artificial heart have noticed unusual changes when the heart rate was stepped up. I began to wonder if there might be some benefit in a more prolonged period. A constant speed-up of the heart rate. Thanks to modern electronics, I was able to develop a method for doing so. Almost three times normal.”
So he’s paid Britt to allow him to insert an electronic device into his heart that causes his heart to pump faster. Always faster. Always on rabbit mode. This is probably why Britt’s been so edgy and having those sudden outbursts, but Doc doesn’t mention that.
He calls it a “perpetual shot of adrenaline.”
Harkening back to the mouse demonstration in the intro, Dr. Kendall says he’s after whatever it is that allows a turtle to carry three times its weight on its back.
…its shell. Its shell allows it to do that, it has a big sturdy shell. Have you never seen a turtle, Doc? Also, physiology works differently when animals get smaller. That’s why if you actually blew an ant up to, say, the size of a building, its legs would collapse and it wouldn’t do much terrorizing at all.
But Kendall also wants to figure out how a seven hundred pound gorilla can “swing through the trees.”
Gorillas do not swing through trees. They can climb trees, same as people, but they only do it in emergencies.
So, already this experiment has some problems. (Not to mention the dent this is making in Britt’s declaration that Dr. Kendall is one of America’s greatest research scientists.)
Kendall keeps going, and explains how he’s also found an electronic impulse that, when activated in Britt’s cyborg heart, turns everything Britt eats into pure energy to fuel the implant and prevent him from gaining excess weight from his bodily changes.
Britt wears a special belt that hooks up to the device inside his heart. Here’s a horrifying screencap:
This doesn’t sound in any way safe to me. Does this sound safe to you? This can’t be safe.
Meanwhile, in the workout room, Dale and Jill are still hiding in the dark. They can’t hear what’s being said in the other room, and Jill grumpily complains that she has no desire to stay in there all night.
Back in the lab, Dean Page has thankfully declined the opportunity to electrocute Britt’s ticker. But he wants to release a press statement about the work Dr. Kendall is doing, leaving Britt out of it, and focusing on the scientific aspects.
Publicizing the theory behind it all.
You know, the parts about turtles and systematic electric shocks to the heart. Things that’ll make the college look good.
Dr. Kendall is outraged. He’s worried about less knowledgeable scientists trying to echo his developments and accidentally killing people. Britt, he explains, had to be carefully conditioned over a period of months before any of this could take place. His entire skeleton was trained to be able to withstand weights of up to a thousand pounds. His heart was meticulously prepared to receive the implant.
Somehow, Dr. Kendall is totally not seeing how insane he sounds right now.
Britt decides to go find Jill and tell her the truth, totally unaware that she’s in the next room. He hurries out of the lab as quick as he can.
Hearing Britt slam the door when he leaves, Dale suggests that it might be safe for him and Jill to sneak out now. Jill goes to follow him, but as she does, the thousand pound barbell comes loose, and rolls on top of her. She screams and makes no effort to move out of the way.
Oh, that Jill!
At the sound of the scream and clatter, Dr. Kendall and Dean Page rush into the workout room to find Jill crushed, but still alive.
All three men frantically start trying to remove the weights from the bar, but they were bolted on by Britt. They’re impossible to move.
Thinking desperately, Dr. Kendall runs into the lab, and puts on one of the spare electroshock belts. He tapes the open connectors to his chest over his heart, and zaps himself silly.
With a fraction of Britt’s power, he ignores literally everything we just learned, and heads back into the workout room. He lifts the barbell as the other two guys pull Jill free.
Or is it?
As Dean Page tends to his daughter, Dr. Kendall staggers back into the lab, face streaked with sweat, body wilting with exhaustion. He holds onto a filing cabinet for support, then collapses.
At that moment, Britt is heading back into the lab for some reason. Maybe he forgot his coat. Jim Dale rushes past him and shouts that Jill almost died, then keeps hurrying away.
Britt rushes inside where he finds Jill and Dean Page looking over Dr. Kendall’s collapsed body. They explain what happened, and Britt yells at them to get ice and call an ambulance.
This raises the question of where Jim Dale was running to, but he doesn’t seem like an on-the-level guy, so he probably just wanted to get out of there before anyone actually died or the police showed up.
It was an unwarranted escape because no one dies.
When we next see Dr. Kendall, he’s just waking up in a soft white hospital bed, looking pretty good all things considered. Jill, Dean Page, and Britt are all watching over him with relieved smiles on their faces.
Dr. Kendall thanks Britt for remembering to use ice.
(“Good job remembering that simple first aid technique that can be applied to numerous types of athletic injury, former football player. I’ve taught you well.”)
Dean Page says that he can never properly thank Kendall for saving Jill’s life, but from now on, Kendall’s lab isn’t going to want for anything. Any equipment, volunteers, whatever Kendall wants, he can have.
“There’s so much yet to be learned about the heart,” Dr. Kendall replies sleepily. “It’s a slow crawl. We can’t make up overnight for centuries of neglect of our bodies. But perhaps, someday, when we’ve finally conquered space, man can go to the stars looking like a god.”
Go back to sleep, Dr. Kendall. You’re scaring everyone with your fanaticism.
Triumphant music plays, like we should all be happy this man has unlimited research funds. This man who jacked up a young athlete’s heart, doesn’t know gorillas are land animals, and wants us to conquer space with a pantheon of cyborg warlords. Thank goodness there are people like Dean Page who can learn to appreciate the necessity of research.
Truman Bradley comes back to close out the episode.
He shows the Neanderthal bust the three minutes on the stopwatch and chuckles with pride.
“We’ve made great strides ever since we realized the importance of healthy bodies. The four minute mile, once a dream, is now a fact. And other athletic records are being broken all the time.”
He sits down at his desk and pulls out a very scientific looking book, and promises to see us next week with more tales of the future born from the science of today.
My favourite thing is that this is ending is supposed to be good news. Like, one day, scientists from all over the world will turn athletes into guinea pigs to find out how far we can push them, hooray!
Also of note, this episode is a great example of how weak characterization can hurt an otherwise interesting premise. If these characters had felt more real and fleshed out, then maybe this weird argument could’ve been more persuasive, and maybe Dr. Kendall wouldn’t have been so creepy.
Still, it’s interesting to see a story like this from a time when most sporting endeavours were played cleanly. It’s a relic of an era that hadn’t yet sifted through the arguments about doping, shark suits, blood transfusions, and what the ethics of sport should be, and for that it’s very interesting.