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Home > Sci-Fi > Max Headroom M-m-mondays #3: Body Banks

Max Headroom M-m-mondays #3: Body Banks

September 20th, 2010

Continuing my weekly look back at 1987’s Max Headroom series.

“Body Banks”

Written by Steve Roberts

“Welcome to Big Time Television. All day and every day, making tomorrow seem like yesterday. Now, remember when we said there was no future? Well, this is it. Right! Next up: more of the same.”  -Blank Reg

The Story: Breughel and Mahler–the Burke and Hare of the Fringes–abduct a woman whose tissue is a match for the dying mother of wealthy client Plantagenet. Meanwhile, Max Headroom is in demand. The Zik-Zak corporation wants him as a pitchman. Network 23’s Miss Formby needs him to satisfy Plantagenet’s blackmail demands. But Max refuses to cooperate with anyone until Edison fills in his memory gaps.

Behind the Screens: This is a step up from the previous episode, “Rakers.” Anything would be.

This is the episode that introduces BigTime Television–a pirate music video station operated out of a pink bus–to the U.S. series. Not only does Roberts reuse some of the dialogue from the British telefilm, but W. Morgan Sheppard reprises his role as Blank Reg. The nature of the relationship between the punkish Reg and his business-attired partner Dominique seems intentionally vague, and is probably better left unimagined.

It’s a little unclear just what’s up with Plantagenet’s mom. We’re told that she needs a healthy pituitary gland to remain alive, but it turns out that transplants are no longer enough and what she really needs is “the Max Headroom process” to preserve her mind. Why are they still messing with this illegal surgery rather than concentrating their efforts on Bryce’s mind-scanning software?

Nightingale’s Body Banks are brought down at episode’s end for their role in procuring live bodies for Momma Plantagenet. Which is funny, since the premiere episode suggests it’s no secret that they are less than choosy about receiving corpses that are “a bit alive.” There’s a line of dialogue about “corrupt body banks” that hints Nightingale’s is shadier than the norm, but still, one look at the place and its location in the Fringes oughta tell anyone how they’re getting their spare parts.

This is the second time that Edison Carter has been brought to this body banks by Breughel and Mahler. Here he’s only posing as a corpse. I wonder if he would’ve been quite so willing to place himself in their care if he’d been aware of their involvement in his first visit to Nightingale’s? It’s also interesting that the terrible twosome somehow avoid being implicated in the bodysnatching conspiracy, despite being the ones actually snatching the bodies.

It’s worth noting that the series’ counterpart of the Star Wars cantina is a dive named “Caligula’s.” It features belly dancers as entertainment and its mascot is a surprisingly large pig.

Ben Cheviot, who took over Network 23 after the ouster of Ned Grossberg, is a relatively benign presence. Still, he’s not afraid to throw his weight around when Edison refuses to convince Max to cooperate with Zik-Zak. Carter is reminded in no uncertain terms that he needs the network’s resources to rescue the missing girl. (And honestly, Edison was kinda being a douche.)

We also learn that Ben has been getting a little somethin’ somethin’ on the side. It’s his (extramarital?) relationship with Miss Formby that places her in Platagenet’s clutches.

The Ratings Report:

Theora’s Level of Concern

How Minutes Into the Future Is This Now?

This episode doesn’t strike me as significantly less futuristic than it was back in 1987. After all, “20 Minutes into the Future” was always meant to imply that this was just around the corner, and all of this organ harvesting and personality downloading still seems uncomfortably close to becoming reality.

We learn that the unnamed city in which the series is set was built atop a huge, underground toxic waste dump.

Breughel and Mahler have themselves a nasty little device to determine tissue compatibility. It has a built-in buzzsaw.

When a fringer trades Edison’s stolen video camera to Blank Reg, he offers her a book, which he describes as a “non-volatile storage medium.” He adds, “It’s very rare; you should have one.”

Everything has a price, apparently. The boyfriend of the kidnapped fringer complains that he “can’t afford to buy law.” Reg confirms the mercenary nature of the Metrocops when he says, “Justice is cash flow, son.”

A background news report tells of a “rogue cannon” responsible for shooting down two network TV satellites because “it just got bored.”

I’m going to skip the pluses and minuses this week. The gag about books having been supplanted by electronic gizmos seems so 2006, but there are enough other futuristic touches to make this episode…

= at least 20 Minutes Into the Future

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