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The Dead Zone: Unaired Pilot

[This was written shortly after the season one DVD was released, i.e., many moons ago.]

The Dead Zone season one DVD included a coupon for the original unaired pilot. I of course sent away for it, and it arrived last week.

Turns out the unaired pilot is essentially an earlier version of the first two episodes of the series, "Wheel of Fortune," and "What It Seems." Nearly all of the scenes were the same, although many of them were re-shot. The music was different as well, and the serial killer plot was integrated into the story earlier so that it made for a more cohesive whole.

The biggest change was the casting; Michael Moriarty played Reverend Purdy, instead of David Ogden Stiers. They are both good actors, but I think Moriarty lacked warmth and sounded affected. I couldn't picture him as a successful televangelist. Stiers is a more accessible actor, easier to like, and more convincing in the part.

Dana Bright was played by another actress with short blonde hair (Kendall Cross). She seemed fine for the part, but she didn't jump out at the viewer the way Kristen Dalton does. And I'm not referring to looks here.

One re-shot scene in particular jumped out at me. Walt came home and he and Sarah discussed Johnny, but in the unaired pilot, it began with Sarah playing the guitar. Although Sarah is supposed to be a musician, I don't believe we've ever seen her doing anything musical in the series -- so far, anyway.

What I found most fascinating were the deleted scenes. Most of them showed the first director's version of key scenes that were later re-shot, like the lunch scene with Johnny, Sarah, and Walt. There were also two scenes I'd never seen before: (1) a street scene, clearly a vision, where Johnny is being hailed by a crowd as a savior, much like the beginning scene in "Quality of Life," the hockey episode; and (2) a scene where Purdy lit a cigarette, which was intended to suggest that Purdy might be the serial killer. The serial killer plot was originally planned to extend throughout the first season of the series.

The disk also contained a short feature on season two, with season two trailers. No big, shocking revelations, but an interesting view of the series just the same. It was worth the $5.95 that I paid for it, just to satisfy my curiosity.

Postscript: Several people have written to me asking if I knew where to get the disk or if I could make them a copy. As far as I know, the disk was offered only for a limited time when the season one DVD was released, and is no longer available. And as much as I'd like to help people out, I don't have the set-up or the resources to make copies. Sorry about that.
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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