Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tales from the Darkside: Comet Watch

"Comet Watch" was shaping up to be one of the worst episodes of Tales from the Darkside. It's another non-horror entry in the series with a focus on a science fiction romance, and it includes that disappointingly common archetype of the show: the fat, loud, obnoxious, selfish wife who wears hair curlers and eats chocolates. Seriously, were the showrunners going through a nasty divorce at the time? It's misogynistic and gratingly one-dimensional. Sure, the show has given us plenty of bad male characters, but so many of the women are nasty in all the same ways.

Rant over. "Comet Watch" deals with an amateur astronomer, Englebert Ames (Anthony Heald), who wants to stay home to watch Halley's Comet, but his wife Charlene wants him to go to a big, important dinner with her businessman father. After he stalls her for a bit, he peers through an elaborate telescope and sees a woman, Lara Burns, and before Englebert knows it, Lara climbs out of the telescope and introduces herself. Seems, she somehow ended up on Halley's the last time it approached Earth, in 1910.

The narrative is obligatory. Of course, Englebert is going to fall in love with Lara, who is everything Charlene is not: beautiful, charming, polite, curious, and smart. I braced for the worst, but then an amazing thing happened: Fritz Weaver showed up as Dr. Edmund Halley, apparently having ridden the comet baring his name all these years, and he wants Lara back where she belongs: on the comet where she is Queen of the Cosmos.

It's about this time I noticed that Heald bares a striking resemblance to Dr. Who, bow tie and all, and I took a shine to this part of the episode. It's still predictable - gee, who is going to end up on the comet with Halley - and the science and history is completely ridiculous, but Weaver is just awesome. He's completely decked out in the wig and fop wear, and he plays Halley as a pompous gentleman twat so assured of his own genius; he's a riot. I like also like his attempts to sway Lara to return with him, telling her she was not meant for mortal life; she belongs to the heavens.

I also liked the symmetry with the two couples, each with a domineering member and a put-upon spouse. It's only fitting that everyone gets who they deserve. 


  1. The wife was annoyingly one-dimensional but the fact that Halley was a dick too made things about even for all the characters, and Lara is shown to be smart, not just pretty, so the episode was redeemed in my opinion.

    1. I agree. The episode picks up once Halley and Lara turn up. Halley's a jerk, but he's a wonderfully flamboyant jerk. Also, Fritz Weaver has done so many creepy and menacing roles in other anthologies, it's fun to see him play the dandy.