Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kraft Suspense Theatre; The Machine That Played God; lie detector tests; Anne Francis; William Boyett; Malachi Throne

Season #1; Episode #7

The Machine That Played God

Original Air Date - December 5, 1963 - This was the first episode after a three week hiatus since One Step Down on November 14, 1963.

Setting/Time - A modern city.

Plot/Review/Discussion -

A woman and her husband are involved in a car wreck early in the episode. The husband dies. The police suspect that the wife caused the accident on purpose. I forget the alleged motive - whether it was to kill the husband or herself (or both). That aspect is not of primary importance in this review.

The interesting point is the progression of the plot. The woman gradually becomes convinced that the police are right. Most of the KST episodes are about an ultimate choice between right and wrong. In this case, a bad choice is allegedly made early in the episode, for which the main character tries to take responsibility.

The main character becomes convinced that she is guilty solely on the basis of repeated lie detector tests that she takes that indicate her guilt. The episode is an indictment of the concept of the lie detector test. The woman ultimately learns the real truth in court during her trial.

Criminal law underwent drastic changes in the 1950's and 1960's. There may have been a political agenda against lie detectors at that time that fueled the writing in this episode. Later KST episodes would campaign against the death penalty.

I found the plot to be weaker than the previous few episodes. The focus on the main character's internal struggle was compelling, but somewhat unrealistic. I did not find it believable that a woman could be convinced that she intended to wreck a car simply because she failed lie detector tests. I think the anti-lie detector test agenda colored the plot and made it less believable.

---------- update 9-18-10 ----------- (plot spoiler warnings)

After seeing this episode again, it appears that the criminal trial was a convoluted scenario by which the woman's defense attorney convinced her client that she was not guilty. She had confessed, thus resulting in her prosecution. During the trial, the defense attorney introduced evidence of the lie detector (and its flaws) to convince her that the lie detector was wrong about her own guilt. (Ordinarily, lie detector evidence would be inadmissible.) Thus the criminal trial placed the lie detector on trial instead of the woman. Once the woman could no longer assert her own guilt, the prosecution dropped its case as if the woman was the only judge of her own guilt. I will not begin to deconstruct the legal errors inherent in this scenario. I will say only that this approach is a more extreme example of KST plots where the main character's adversary is himself/herself instead of a third party.

Cars - I am almost certain that the main character drove a 62-64 Lincoln in the initial accident.

Actors -

Anne Francis played the main character. She previously played a prominent role in The Forbidden Planet, with future KST actors Leslie Nielsen and others. She remained active on television and in movies from the late 1940's through recent years.

William Boyett played a detective in the first of his two KST roles - the second being "The Jack is High" during season #2. He played many, many policemen during his nearly 50 year Hollywood career, including 2 guest appearances on KST-spinoff Run For Your Life. He had an uncredited role in The Forbidden Planet. His most long-running roles were as policemen on two of the most famous cop shows of all time, Highway Patrol (starring future KST star Broderick Crawford) and Adam-12 (with KST star Martin Milner). He also guest starred on Star Trek:TNG, but I don't count that toward the Star Trek Connection.

----update--- Charles Alvin Bell played in the first of his two KST episodes.

Star Trek Connection -

The Star Trek Connection for this episode is Malachi Throne, who plays the prosecutor. Throne makes the first of his three appearances in KST in this episode. He portrayed the voice of Star Trek's first villain in the original pilot. His voice was dubbed out before that episode aired, but Throne played a more pivotal role in the final product, which became Star Trek's only two-parter. He also played an important role in the pilot for Big Valley. He was a regular on It Takes a Thief and has continued to work in recent years as part of a 50 year career.

1 comment:

  1. Ironically the last name of the prosecutor played by Malachi Throne is West, as in Honey West, the character played by Anne Francis in the like name TV series about two years later.