TV Terror Guide 9-27-19: Kolchak the Night Stalker (They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be...)
Air Date: Sept. 27, 1974
Written by: Rudolph Borchert (teleplay), Dennis Clark (story)
Directed by: Allen Baron
Monster of the Week: Alien
Kolchak is supposed to be watching the first game of the World Series with his beloved Chicago Cubs.
Kolchak suspects the supernatural when he follows a Code 5 on his police scanner and witnesses a building collapse and two tons of lead ingots disappear before his eyes.
Kolchak’s theory is that an alien is feeding on bone marrow from the animals it kills and stealing electronics to repair its ship. (He learns from Dr. Bess Winestock at the zoo that a sample found where a cheetah was killed contains hydrochloride, acetone, and… bone marrow.)
He stops the threat by repelling it with the rechargeable flash on his camera. (It’s not the light that does it; it’s the noise of the charger.)
I found nothing particularly worth noting in this episode. It’s not as sharp as writer Rudolph Borchert’s previous episode, The Ripper.
Postscript: The city tried to make a park where the spaceship landed, but nothing grew there, so they filled the area shaped like a saucer with concrete. Kolchak says, “A traveler has a breakdown, stops to fix it, gets a road map, has a bite to eat and goes on his way - it's happened to all of us. This traveler happened to be light years off his course, instead of miles.”
This episode begins a little differently than the previous two in that it starts with Kolchak writing a story and then we see that story told in flashback. He’s dropped right into the action instead of stumbling upon while on a different assignment. In what might be the regular closing dialogue, Kolchak opens with narration saying:
I knew this one would be more than the biggest story of my career. It was the biggest story in the lives of everyone on this planet. I fought for the story, fought harder than ever before. I wanted people to know, to be prepared... if you can be prepared for something like this.
It demonstrates how dedicated Kolchak is to his job that he would sacrifice attending a World Series game in order to learn more about a series of mysterious animal deaths at the zoo. It’s obviously a compelling puzzle for him to relate them to an increase in electronics thefts (and piles of black goo left behind.)
One of my favorite things about They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be… is the guest appearance of Mary Wickes as Dr. Bess Winestock. She’s a 1970s TV staple and it’s immense fun to watch Kolchak sweet-talk her to get her to analyze a sample for him. She doesn’t fall for the schmoozing, but submits to him anyway.
While some familiar faces appear and we get a sense of who will be recurring characters on the show (Jack Grinnage as Ron “Uptight” Updyke, Carol Ann Susi as Monique Marmelstein, and John Fiedler as Gordy Spangler), there’s yet a third different police captain in this episode: James Gregory as Captain Quill.
We know that Kolchak: The Night Stalker was an influence on Chris Carter when he created The X-Files. It largely comes from the “monster of the week” format; however, this episode includes aliens, black goo and a government conspiracy, so it may have been even more impactful on Carter.
The alien isn’t quite as effective a monster, though, because we never see it. On the other hand, director Allen Baron uses the camera to create its point of view, which makes it more tangible. The explanation for what happens is also a little less clear than in the previous episodes. It’s my least favorite on so far.
This weeks notable television guest appearances (September 27-October 4, 2019):
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Cedric Hardwicke, Hugh Marlowe (30th), Edmund Gwenn (1st), Vic Morrow (2nd), Albert Salmi, Jessica Tandy, William Shatner, Tom Conway (3rd), Jack Klugman, E.G. Marshall, Vincent Price (4th)
The Invaders: Richard Anderson (28th)
Land of the Giants: Alan Hale (29th)
The Outer Limits: Robert Duvall (2nd), Vera Miles, Cedric Hardwicke (3rd), Michael Ansara (4th), William Shatner (8th)
Star Trek: William Windom (28th)
Thriller: Elizabeth Montgomery, Tom Poston, John Carradine, Phyllis Thaxter (30th)
The Time Tunnel: Carroll O'Connor (29th)
The Twilight Zone: Claude Akins (29th), Andy Devine, Dabbs Greer (30th), Cliff Robertson (3rd), Phyllis Thaxter (4th)