A young sergeant is being evaluated for officer training, but unexpectedly it's revealed that his mother is a communist agent and she's in town to pitch a rabble-rousing speech at a rally ...
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A young sergeant is being evaluated for officer training, but unexpectedly it's revealed that his mother is a communist agent and she's in town to pitch a rabble-rousing speech at a rally where she will denounce the Marine Corps for not immediately elevating his rank, against his wishes. It falls on Rice to determine what will be done with the sergeant.Written by
I watched "The Lieutenant" series in first-run back before I knew who producer Gene Roddenberry was, later greatly enjoying his iconic "Star Trek" show. Walter Koenig is showcased in this episode, and thankfully was remembered when it came time to cast the classic space opera.
Watching it over 50 years later was instructive to me, as the clean-cut, carefully handled dramatic issues of Robert Shaw's script are quite impressive compared to more recent trends in dramatic TV. For decades pay-cable series ranging from "Sopranos" and "Homeland" to "Breaking Bad" have won all the awards and commanded all the attention to the detriment of network TV, largely because of the loophole freeing them from the censorship restricting producers of shows for CBS, ABC, NBC, etc. What's forgotten is that serious shows, dating back to the Golden Age of live TV in the '50s and great series like "The Defenders" that followed, were able to handle controversial topics with skill and not reliance upon the illusory gimmicks of sex & vulgarity that are essential to any cable show.
Koenig applies for officer's school and it is the lieutenant's job to file a recommendation with his commandant. Star Gary Lockwood is remarkably thoughtful in this role, and Robert Vaughn, soon to graduate to his iconic Napoleon Solo role also for MGM which produced this Roddenberry series, is perfect as the demanding officer -delivering every line precisely and with just the right measure and tone giving it meaning.
Crux of the story is that Koenig's mom, deftly portrayed by Neva Patterson, is an American Communist, making speeches for the Party and clearly (by the end of the episode) working against American interests in hewing to the party line. Worse yet, she exploits her son, taking advantage not only of his military service to make her ideological points, but playing up an imaginary prejudice of the service against him because she's his mom and a commie. I especially liked the way she played a dislikable character without secretly begging for audience approval (of her personally as the actress in question).
The show unfolds briskly, and makes its dramatic points without sex or violence and surprisingly without much action. It plays as a drama of ideas, not "action man" or the usual red-blooded exercise one would expect from TV. Even with handsome and virile leading man Gary Lockwood, who would almost achieve stardom in his 2nd banana role in Kubrick's "2001" shot two years later, this show is 100% serious and not escapist. Perhaps that's why it was not successful in TV terms, but I certainly enjoyed it back then.
Well worth checking out by anyone interested in re-examining the specious conventional wisdom that in worshiping "the new" has wrongly elevated the cable age of TV to some cockamamie pantheon status.
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