Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jerome Bixby's man from earth...

Imagine what it would  be like to be a man that lived on Earth, but never died.   It's a concept that the late Science Fiction writer Jerome Bixby explored twice.  

His first go at this idea was in the script for the 1969 Star Trek episode, "Requiem for Methuselah".
The Enterprise encounters, Flint, a character played with eloquence by James Daly. They discover, that his character, is effectively immortal, and that over his many life times has actually been many  famous men, including, among others,"Solomon, Alexander, Lazarus, Methuselah, Merlin".

The episode itself, is flawed  by low production values, and with it's focus on a silly fight over a android female,  but the concept of an immortal man is wonderful, and  Bixby and Daly capture the  arrogance, and  grace of  a man who has seen it all.   There is some elegant dialogue in the piece, including a little noted scene at the end where, McCoy and Spock are seen  reacting to a sleeping but emotionally distraught Captain Kirk, who has become heartbroken from seeing  the android woman he loved die of confusion.  

McCoy tells Spock that  he feels more sorry for the unemotional Vulcan than  the heartbroken Captain.

"You see, I feel sorrier for you than I do for him...
because you'll never know the things that love can drive a man to :
the ecstasies, the miseries,
the broken rules, the desperate chances,
the glorious failures, the glorious victories.
All of these things you'll never know...
simply because the word "love" isn't written into your book"

But actually, Spock does understand  as he as half-human, and at the end Spock  is seen using the Vulcan mind meld, to make the Captain forget. 

The concept of an almost  immortal character, was clearly something that needed to be explored  further, and Bixby came back to it as his last project.

Right before Jerome Bixby died in 1998, he finished a script called"Man from Earth" about a similar character,  to Flint. A movie, was made of the script in 2007.  The script is actually very simple, it features a professor, named John, revealing the  secret of his near immortality  to  a group of  mostly college professor  friends.  They are quite skeptical of his claim, but nonetheless, humor John  long enough to  allow the group to explore the  idea.  It is rare for a script to just let characters sit down and talk and  analyze one idea. 

The movie has  been well received by those who have seen it,  which so far has not been  too many people, since the movie, has had only a  limited theatrical release.    I do recommend that you see this movie  if you like intellectually stimulating movies.   The movie is  of interest to  Star Trek fans since not only did Bixby write it  but also  since it stars at least four actors who have appeared in recent Star Trek series; most notably, John Billingsley (Dr.Phlox) and Tony Todd (Worf's brother)  The only irritating thing about the movie, is that has quite a atheistic slant, but that's a minor criticism.  

Additional note: Trekkies will know this of course, but Jerome Bixby was one of the most important script  writers of  the original Star Trek series , he wrote four episodes including the famous  2nd season episode,  
" Mirror Mirror" which introduced a parallel universe to the Star Trek myth, and brought us the fascinating idea of Spock with a beard. 

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