Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sal Jarrett and Doctor Asgard

Who has seen Simon play a crooked politician with Mob connections? Yes? Well, what about a scientist seeking to prove that humanity is corrupt and that they will always turn against each other, no matter how close they appear to be?

Finding appearances by Simon is growing more difficult. There are so many not readily available at all. But I recently saw two new (to me) characters: Sal Jarrett, from the Quincy, M.E. episode Passing, and Doctor Asgard, from The Starlost episode And Only Man is Vile.

Sal is kind of the typical crooked politician, but Simon manages to make the role unique. I love that he doesn’t want the Mob people backing him up to kill the woman who’s putting the pieces together concerning an old murder they were all involved with. Even when he learns that their actual plan is to incapacitate rather than kill, he is not all for it. Of course, he does nothing to stop them, but his displeasure is very evident.

My favorite line from Sal is in his first scene, when he goes to his receptionist and complains about the latest promotional picture of him. He exclaims something about hating the picture and that it makes him look like he eats kids for breakfast. Classic Simon.

Doctor Asgard reminds me a little bit of a mad scientist character I created years ago. She is always looking to pick apart the human mind and see how strong and resilient it and the ties that bind are. Doctor Asgard, meanwhile, is researching how to best teach the young people onboard his section of a giant spaceship bound for who knows where. He wants to be sure that they will have the stamina to last wherever the ship eventually puts down, and his idea of giving them that stamina is to teach them that man is a monster—always has been, always will be. The law of survival is the first and most important instinct.

His scientific ally, Diana Tabor, disagrees. She believes humanity is inherently good and that if they’ve been given moral, ethical teachings they will not stray far from them. To this end, she sits and watches while Doctor Asgard performs his experiment on the show’s hapless three main characters. While he believes he can break up their friendships, she believes he will fail. And in the end, although it looks rough for a time, he does.

It would be nice to say that Doctor Asgard became convinced of his error and came around to Diana’s way of thinking. As it is, we really don’t know. He jumps up and exclaims that the experiment failed because there were too many unknown factors. In one way he behaves as though his opinions have not changed. But his exclamations seem shaky, as if he knows it’s more than that. I have to wonder if a chink was made in his thinking.

He’s definitely the antagonist of the episode. And yet I don’t know that I can call him an out-and-out villain. He is fully convinced of his beliefs, which are not entirely unfounded. He doesn’t appear to have any malice towards the trio, albeit one wonders what he experienced and studied to give him such a grim outlook on mankind. (Perhaps it was even more studying than experiencing, and the few experiences seemed to back up his research.) And by the end, he does act as though he may have realized there’s more to humanity than what he thought, even if he can’t bring himself to admit it yet.

Once again, Simon proves himself masterful at making all kinds of characters believable, human, and very three-dimensional. I’ve yet to see a one-dimensional character from him. I doubt he could play one if he tried.

~Lucky Ladybug

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