Masters of Science... Episodes

2007, TV Show

Masters of Science Fiction Episode: "The Discarded"

Season 1, Episode 4
Episode Synopsis: The season ends with Harlan Ellison's “The Discarded.” An emissary from Earth (James Denton) arrives on a spacecraft loaded with disfigured outcasts and offers their leader (Brian Dennehy) an opportunity for the group to return home. But there's a catch: They'll have to donate their blood first, because it's needed as an inoculation against a new outbreak of the disease that caused their disfigurement. Jonathan Frakes directed; Ellison has a cameo as Nate. Samswope: John Hurt.
Original Air Date: Aug 25, 2007
Guest Cast Donny Lucas: Steve Jason Diablo: Smiler James Denton: Curran Gina Chiarelli: Annie John Hurt: Samswope Brian Dennehy: Bedzyk Lori Triolo: Harmony Vicky Lambert: Frenchy Alex Zahara: Bucky Gillian Barber: Dr. Goldstein Harlan Ellison: Nate Leanne Adachi: Sharon Brian Dobson: Samswope 2

"The Discarded" Season 1, Episode 4

Tonight's episode is the fourth and last of the six that were produced that ABC intends to run. (All six will be seen in Canada, at least, on the cable channel Space, starting in November). And it was the episode a number of viewers were most eager to see, I suspect, since it was based on a short story by Harlan Ellison, who has established himself as a major figure in both fantastic fiction (among other sorts of prose) and in screenwriting, as well as being responsible for some notable comics scripting and work in other media. Apparently Ellison gave executive producer Keith Addis strong support when they resisted the attempts by ABC to call the series "Masters of Sci-Fi," which would be comparable to calling its Showtime sibling series Masters of Horror something like "Masters of Spookiness" (ABC chose to slip "scifi" into the URL for the series' pages on abc.go.com, anyway... perhaps the smallest of many hostilities the network has shown toward this project). And the story was adapted for television by Ellison and Josh Olson, best known for his excellent work in adapting the graphic novel A History of Violence for the 2005 film of the same name. Jonathan Frakes, of Star Trek: The Next Generation, directed the episode. It's a pleasantly baroque staging of a rather simple tale of multiple betrayals. Most of the betrayed are people with unusual appearances due to their infection with a plague known as RIGM (pronounced " rig-gum") or (more insultingly) "the Blood Poo," which causes limbs or organs to undergo extreme deviation from the norm.... John Hurt's character grows an extra head, albeit a smaller one, from his shoulders. A number of these folks have been quarantined - in the manner of lepers exiled to the Hawaiian island of Molokai (referred to in the drama) - on poorly maintained spacecraft and left to their own increasingly dispirited, often suicidal devices. Suddenly an emissary from Earth comes to beg for their blood, to help create a vaccine for RIGM, which has grown more virulent as it continues to plague the planet's human population; the emissary himself is infected and suffering. The deal: a trade of their blood samples for an opportunity to take up tracts of land, rather like reservations, on Earth. The de facto leader of the Discarded on this particular cargo ship is certain that the Earth government won't honor its end of the bargain, and aggressively insists as much, till he's accidentally killed... leaving Hurt's character as the grand old man of the ship's crew, despite having killed his best friend. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the late leader's suspicions are borne out... once the Earth has the blood cultures they need, they simply exile a few more of the most "unsightly" folk to the ship, crushing the hopes of those waiting to return to Earth for the first time in years or decades. Ellison's early short stories are often grim and relentless, and this one, written while facing great personal hardship (including attempts by his immediate commanding officers to court-martial him for a minor infraction, living off-base without permission as a married peacetime draftee), is no exception. The latter-day Ellison's touch is most obvious in the word-drunk play with language evident in the lines given Hurt's character, named for a most unpleasant fellow GI Ellison knew then. Hurt delivers the speeches with Shakespearean aplomb, in a good performance among many here, one that works well with Brian Dennehy's gruff cynic and the largely Canadian supporting cast (Ellison has a cute cameo role, as well). Among those Canadian actors were a number who are in their daily lives unusual-looking due to circumstances of birth or surviving severe burns among other mishaps... they moved Ellison mightily by suggesting that they'd adopted the term "the Discarded" for themselves. (The short story was given this title in its 1959 magazine appearance by the late Cele Goldsmith, who went on from "discovering" such writers as Ursula K. Le Guin, Thomas M. Disch and Keith Laumer as editor of the Ziff-Davis fiction magazines Fantastic and Amazing, to become the chief editor of ZD's bridal magazines when the publisher sold the fiction titles). Decide for yourself how many in-jokes are suggested by a character who shares the cameo scene with Ellison, an apparent teenage girl in a cheerleader's outfit who is otherwise unusual mostly for having only one large Cyclopean eye centered above her nose; a reference to Maria Bello's former cheerleader role in A History of Violence, to the gifted cheerleader in Heroes (rather unlikely, given when this was filmed), or to the monocular character Leela from Futurama or any or none of the above. John Frizzell's jazz score for the episode was impressive, seeming at one point to rework or quote another 1959 cultural product, Miles Davis' "So What?" And the arguable betrayal of this series by ABC wasn't restricted only to the network's lack of publicity or other support, but by a number of local affiliates, who particularly have been eager to preempt Masters of SF from its 10pm ET/PT slot on Saturdays in favor of local specials or sports coverage, often delaying the run till early-morning hours on Sunday. Given the (at least) interesting nature of at least three of the episodes, this seems more than a pity but one that will presumably soon be remedied for those interested by a home-video release. And Canadians, at least, will have the option of seeing the two episodes, based on stories by Robert Sheckley and Walter Mosley, that we in the States will have to wait for. Coming soon a recap of the series as presented by ABC and a consideration of the controversy surrounding the treatment of Robert Heinlein's story by Michael Tolkin for the third episode, "Jerry Was a Man" (reflected in at least one comment here). show less
Tonight's episode is the fourth and last of the six that were produced that ABC intends to run. (All six will be seen in Canada, at least, on the cable channel Space, starting in November). And it was the episode a number of viewers were most eager to see, I suspect, since it was based on a short story by Harlan Ellison, who has established himself as a major figure in both fantastic fiction (among other sorts of prose) and in screenwriting, as well as being responsible for some notable comics scripting and work in other media. Apparently Ellison gave executive producer Keith Addis strong support when they resisted the attempts by ABC to call the series "Masters of Sci-Fi," which would be comparable to calling its Showtime sibling series Masters of Horror something like "Masters of Spookiness" (ABC chose to slip "scifi" into the URL for the series' pages on abc.go.com, anyway... perhaps the smallest of many hostilities the network has shown toward this project). And the story was ad... read more

Are You Watching?

Loading ...
Premiered: November 11, 2007, on Space
Rating: None
User Rating: (21 ratings)
Add Your Rating: 1 stars2 stars3 stars4 stars5 stars
Premise: A sci-fi anthology featuring adaptations of stories by noted writers Harlan Ellison, Robert A. Heinlein, Howard Fast and John Kessel. From IDT Entertainment (Showtime's `Masters of Horror').

Cast

Shop

Masters of Science Fiction: The Complete Series
Buy Masters of Science Fiction: The Complete Series from Amazon.com
From Starz / Anchor Bay (DVD)
Usually ships in 24 hours
Buy New: $8.99 (as of 1:44 AM EST - more info)

More Products

TV GUIDE Users' Most Popular