Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Still Relevant in the 21st Century: Another Appealing Aspect of Simon Oakland's Characters

One of the intriguing elements to Simon Oakland’s characters is how they are still relevant here in the 21st century.  Both the good and the malevolent characters could easily find a place in the modern world, even the ones from period pieces.  The realization came to me when I was musing over how, after a few tweaks, it could be possible to apply the translated lyrics of “Dastaan-e Om Shanti Om” (from the 2007 Bollywood/Hindi movie Om Shanti Om) to the story of William Poole from the Thunder Man” episode of Bonanza (for it is, as the song says, “A story of broken dreams” for everyone involved).  The fact that that a song from a movie from 2007 could apply to characters in a 1963 episode of a TV show set in the Old West speaks volumes to the relevancy of the characters and the story.  And it isn’t just here…

Take the case of the Empryian, from The Outer Limits episode “Second Chance.”  Is the Empyiran’s view on humans any less applicable in 2011 than it was in 1964?  Not at all; for all we complain about our world and our lives, we still are very reluctant to leave our comfort zones, as the Empyrian so glibly stated. 

And what of Lieutenant Schrank and his jaded view on the direction the youths of our world seem to be taking?  A look at any local news station will tell you that West Side Stories still happen worldwide.  Suddenly, Schrank’s cynicism seems more and more understandable.

Of course, it isn’t just the cruel or cynical characters that are applicable to our modern age; Simon’s nicer characters are also relevant.  A character like Jim Nation, from the “Overland Express” episode of Gunsmoke is a reminder that there are some people who are good deep down in spite of initial appearances, and if you give them the benefit of the doubt, they’ll come through for you when you need them most.

Also included in the list of relevant characters are those characters who are nothing but good and loveable, like Tony Vincenzo—gruff on the outside, but with a caring heart of gold on the inside.  Don’t we all know a Tony Vincenzo somewhere in our lives—someone who, despite any and all disagreements they may have with us, can’t help but be concerned for our problems to the extent that they start worrying for us, despite the headaches?  Everything about Tony is believable: his attempts to resist the temptation of junk food in favor of healthier practices like yoga (and, in addition, his failure at both), his bark being worse than his bite, and the sheer pity and sympathy he has for his unfortunate employee and friend, Carl Kolchak, no matter what troubles he brings upon him.

And, sometimes, it’s not just what the characters represent that is still relevant to our time; sometimes, the characters themselves have a place in our world.  Tony Vincenzo is the best example of this yet again; the Kolchak saga continues on in the form of Moonstone’s comics, which are not only still being published, but take place in the present day.  Tony and Carl don’t look or feel out of place at all among the tech age we live in; they continue on with their bantering like they always did.

Perhaps it was Simon’s ability to bring to life characters that are still relevant to the 21st century that ended up being one of the many contributing factors as to why a modern-day young lady ended up being so enamored by the characters—and the man behind them.  Though the man may be gone, the characters live on.  And perhaps, a hundred years from now, they’ll still be just as relevant.
~Crystal Rose

1 comment:

  1. Greetings! Adam Stern here -- I had written a couple of years ago regarding some of Mr. Oakland's stage appearances I had had the good fortune to see.

    I rediscovered amongst some of my old books a copy of THE OUTER LIMITS: THE OFFICIAL COMPANION by David Schow and Jeffrey Frentzen. There are articles on all episodes of the original series. I thought you and your readers might appreciate these excerpts from the chapter on "Second Chance":

    "I asked Simon Oakland if he would do an 'Outer Limits'", said Joseph Stefano, "and he said 'Only if I can play the monster.'" Stefano had suggested Oakland to Alfred Hitchcock for the part of the psychiatrist who appears in the final moments of "Psycho", and though totally unrecognizable except for his distinctive voice beneath his Empyrian makeup, Oakland delivers a sincere and moving performance. [...] Simon Oakland has a grand time with the monster role he asked for and got. "The logic of human thought evades me," says the Empyrian, shaking his head. "How could I be so wrong about people?" A veteran of "Twilight Zone" and one of TV's most familiar character faces (including a role as the ultimate monster skeptic, Tony Vincenzo, the long-suffering editor of newshound Carl Kolchak on "The Night Stalker"), Oakland here hides his face and credibly portrays a troubled and desperate alien.