William Campbell, R.I.P

William Campbell as Trelane, STAR TREK

Actor William Campbell, perhaps best known for his roles on the original STAR TREK, passed away April 28th, 2011. He was 87.
Essentially a character actor, Campbell did play leads from time to time. One of his most notable parts was the starring role in the 1955 Columbia film CELL 2455 DEATH ROW. In it, Campbell won praise for his performance as death row prisoner Whit Whittier. a character based on the real-life Caryl Wittier Chessman, the  alleged “Red Light Bandit” who became an author and cause celebre’ by insistently proclaiming his innocence and repeatedly appealing his case, as his own legal representative. Eventually, he was executed by the state of California.
W_CAMPBELL_DEATH ROWInstead of being boosted to stardom, the film seemed to subject William Campbell to a kind of typecasting that limited him to supporting roles. often as a street-smart tough guy.
He was featured in LOVE ME TENDER as one of the train-robbing post Civil War Reno brothers, singing onscreen with first-timer Elvis Presley.
Playing a race car driver in Roger Corman’s THE YOUNG RACERS (1963) led to a role in   Francis Ford Coppola’s DEMENTIA 13. 
(Interestingly, THE YOUNG RACERS was written by Robert Campbell, William Campbell’s brother and CELL 2455 co-star.)
Also filmed in `63 was an art heist film named OPERATION TITIAN (aka Operacija Ticijan), shot in Yugoslavia, the beginning of a strange filmic saga.  Unreleased in its original form, it made it to television in heavily re-edited form as PORTRAIT OF TERROR.
But this was not the end of it, as Roger Corman had new sequences filmed over the  next three years in Venice, California by director Jack Hill (SPIDER BABY) and Stephanie Rothman (THE VELVET VAMPIRE). This became TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE (aka BLOOD BATH, 1966), in which Campbell’s tormented artist character transforms by night into another actor for his vampiric escapades.
 What most genre fans remember William Campbell for are his roles on STAR TREK, In the first season (1966) he portrayed the juvenile but powerful Trelane in STAR TREK’s The Squire of Gothos. It took some persuading to cast the “tough guy” actor as the alien who has chosen the role of a foppish 18th Century gentleman, but Campbell proved more than equal to the task. 
In the second season “comic” episode The Trouble with Tribbles, he played the clever and supercilious Klingon Captain Koloth. The producers, including creator Gene Roddenberry. enjoyed his performance, and reportedly the character might have recurred in the third season, if Roddenberry had remained the active producer.
The character of Koloth appeared on the animated `70’s STAR TREK series, but Campbell did not perform the voice. The Mego “Klingon” action figure was based on the cartoon’s Koloth, so in a way William Campbell became the standard public imaga of a Klingon, until the advent of STAR TREK: THE MONTION PICTURE, and subsequent films and series.
W_CAMPELL_DS9In 1994, Campbell finally reprised the role of Koloth in the DEEP SPACE NINE episode Blood Oath, which allowed the aged Klingon  warrior to go out in one final battle.  
Other genre roles include THE WILD, WILD WEST (1966), SHAZAM! (1976), THE NEXT STEP BEYOND (1978), THE RETURN OF THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN AND THE BIONIC WOMAN (1987) and KUNG FU: The Legend Continues (1996)

Bionic Woman: "Sisterhood" – TV Review

Katee Sackhoff as the first Bionic Woman - Jamie Sommers' nemesis Sarah CorvisIn its third week, BIONIC WOMAN continues its dizzying descent after its promising pilot. New exposition seeks to undermine our understanding of what has gone before; the attempt at complexity does not cast revealing light on previous details; it simply contradicts them. The impression one receives is that the show is being rewritten as it goes along, revising the premise in order to head in a new direction. The ill-conceived stumbling in already murky waters merely kicks up more mud, obscuring rather than clarifying, in the hope of fooling the audience into thinking something profound is hiding in the darkness.
The new story has Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan) assigned to bodyguard a rich man’s daughter, but the real plot engine driving the episode is rogue bionic woman Sarah Corvis (Katee Sackhoff). Previously, we knew she was mentally unbalanced by her powers; now she seems to be physically suffering as well. Egged on by villainous Anthony Andros (Mark Sheppard), Sarah seeks out Jamie and tries to convince her to submit to surgery that will help Andros update Sarah’s technology and possibly save her life.
Needless to say, it is impossible to believe that Jamie would have anything to do with Sarah, whose body count includes Jamie’s fiance and her unborn child. Nevertheless, the episode insists on having Jamie at least consider the proposition. The attempt at turning enemies into potential allies is woefully unconvincing. Shifting alliances are not dramatically impossible (see THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY), but they work best when the motivations are clear and we see the advantage to both parties to make the switch. Neither is the case here.

The closest the episode comes is having Sarah help Jamie defend her young charge from some would-be assassins. Sarah’s timing is so impeccably perfect that a reasonable viewer would wonder who she managed to show up just before the killers. In an episode desperately trying to sow distrust against the nominal good guys (including Jamie’s dead fiance), it never occurs to our heroine that maybe – just maybe – Sarah might have, you know, staged this whole attack just to earn brownie points by helping out at the crucial moment.
The on-going relationship between Jamie and Sarah is wearing out its welcome, because it is pushing too hard, too fast. (One suspects the show should be re-titled BIONIC WOMEN.) In one climactic moment, Jamie dissuades Sarah from harming an innocent victim by making an appeal to her better nature. This kind of dramatic ploy might work at the end of the season, in order to leave a new angle open for season two, but it is way too early now. (How many years did it take Batman to try reasoning with the Joker in The Killing Joke? Even Darth Vader didn’t get redeemed until the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI.)
Other questions remain unanswered. Last episode, Jae Kim (Will Yun Lee) resumed his romantic relationship with Sarah, but this week he is still training Jamie to defeat Sarah. Does he feel a bit conflicted about this? Do any of his colleagues suspect something may be up with him? Don’t ask – the episode ignores the plot complication entirely.
The special effects are also showing signs of overreaching. We get an execrable computer-generated shot of Sarah jumping from one building to another, which looks like a cut-out animated figure. In future, the show should stick to live-action effects.
There are a few moments that suggest the show still has potential, if it can straighten itself out. The clear highlight features Miguel Ferrer as Jamie’s boss, Jonas Bledsoe, who is seen making a heart-felt declaration of love to a subordinate, only for the scene to reveal that he is testing – and beating – a polygraph machine. In a show that is stumbling over attempts at humor (revovling around Jamie’s attempts to maintain a normal family life with her younger sister while occasionally kicking bad-guy ass), this is one moment that actually generates a real laugh.

Bionic Woman begins strong – TV Review

bionic-woman-pub.jpgIf tonight’s pilot offers any indication, BIONIC WOMAN promises to be a great series. Although the source material was not the most auspicious, the new show succeeds by updating the premise with a contemporary sensibility and taking the material seriously. The premier episode offers up the requisite action, but more important it draws us into an invovling drama with solid characterizations and dialogue that sell the science fiction element in a way no techno-babble could ever hope to achieve. tells an intriguing story, marred only by the conventions of the form (i.e., the story exists not to resolve the conflicts but to leave them wide open for future adventures.
The story kicks off with teaser of a security team taking out a beautiful blond woman named Sara Corvis (Katee Sackhoff), who has apparently lost the ability to control herself since receiving bionic implants. Years later, bartender Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is dating Will Anthros (Chris Bowers), a college professor who lectures on reconstructive surgery. Jamie is critically injured in an”accident” when Corvis (who turns out not to be dead) drives an eighteen wheeler into Anthros’ car. Anthros turns out to be an important gog in a secret government program to create a bionic soldier; without authorization, he has Jamie taken to the facility, where he operates, replacing her injured legs, an arm, and eye, and an ear. The remainder of the episode portrays Jamie’s coming to terms with her new abilities, leading to an inevitable confrontation with Corvis.  Along the way, we are introduced to Thomas Kretschmann as a mysterious Man who engineers a prison escape for Will’s father, Anthony, who seems to be responsible for Corvis’ apparent return from the dead. We also meet Jonas Bledsoe (Miguel Ferrer), the head of the bionic project, who makes it clear to Jamie that he expects cooperation in exchange for the millions of dollars of government-funded equipment used to reconstruct her body. Continue reading “Bionic Woman begins strong – TV Review”