The Outer Limits: The Hundred Days of the Dragon

A United States presidential candidate is replaced by an evil double, and things do not go well.

While the pilot episode tasted a lot like The Day the Earth Stood Still, "The Hundred Days of the Dragon" was sort of like The Manchurian Candidate had a love baby with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It was also eerily prescient in that it featured the murder of a U.S. president and aired two months before the Kennedy assassination.

(I had to think about that one. If they'd planned to air it later than they did, it might have been the very first episode of anything pulled because of a real life event. I did some reading about early television show episodes that were pulled, and the earliest might have been "The Ricardos Visit Cuba," a 1956 I Love Lucy episode that aired only once and was then pulled. You can imagine why).

I didn't remember this episode from my youth, and found it disappointing. No monster of the week on an Outer Limits episode? Seriously? The tinkling faux-Asian musical score made me cringe, and so did the fact that when post-replacement Selby was alone and trying to look villainous, Sidney Blackmer squinted his eyes. Not to mention that I was also thrown completely out of any suspension of belief by a president and vice president so readily accessible to anyone right off the street. No guards at all? Unrealistic, even for 1963.

But I thought they did a good job, especially so far back then, in addressing the massive amount of detail that would be involved in creating a believable double: body size, skin coloration, the mimicking of the voice, the "plastic surgery" used to change not only the face but also the fingerprints, and the key point of attempting to expose Selby's double using dental x-rays. Selby was an "eligible bachelor" (I assume he was a widower) so there was no wife to notice intimate physical differences. Even so, it made complete sense that Selby's grown daughter Carol, and Ted, the vice president who was apparently a close friend and not just a barely tolerated political ally, noticed small differences in Selby. I remember a scene much like that but freakier in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a movie that came out in 1956 and had to have inspired the writer.

While Sidney Blackmer did pretty well as Bill Selby and his double, I thought the more interesting performance was by Phillip Pine as Ted Pearson, the vice president, who figured out what was going on after his own double fluffed the replacement, and who worked out a rational way to expose the fake president without appearing to be a lunatic. I also thought it was interesting that Ted, about to become president, decided not to declare war in retaliation. It was a nice little tribute to thinking a dangerous situation through instead of reacting impulsively, something our current president seems incapable of doing.

Science fiction details, effects and photography

Really, the only genuine science fictiony stuff in this episode was the "plastic surgery" drug and the accompanying metal mask. It's too bad the mask looked so simple, like an oblong mixing bowl, although the lack of airholes was mildly disturbing. Ditto with how they demonstrated what the drug would do. It was obvious that they were simply using a bust and modeling clay, but I thought the way the face got smushed was somewhat effective.


Bits:

— No one ever said the word "China" but it was obvious which country's dictator was behind the plot.

— I kept thinking that I knew the actor who played Ted, and I did. Phillip Pine also played Colonel Green in the Star Trek episode, "The Savage Curtain."

— The newspaper photo of Selby with a Native American, both wearing the stereotypical headdresses, was weird as well as racially insensitive. Much like the entire episode.

— The detail of Selby's missing finger was cool, but inconsistent. Whenever we got a close-up, it looked like Blackmer simply bent back his finger. And stretching out the original Selby's finger after the replacement... wouldn't the coroner think it strange that part of the possible assassin's finger had no bone or fingernail?

— When the president and vice president spent election afternoon out hunting together, I couldn't help but think about Dick Cheney.

"The Hundred Days of the Dragon" was certainly a complex, well produced and acted episode, but it just didn't do anything for me. I wonder if I would have liked it one more without all of the unpleasant racist whatnots?

One out of four mixing bowls,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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