City on the Edge of Planet of the Apes
Subject: Edith Keeler Must Die
Airdate: October 20, 2000
Derek Barnes: Ethan Embry
Chloe Tanner: Lisa Sheridan
Jason Tatum: Karim Prince
Lan Williams: Lizette Carrion
Vince Elsing: Dennis Christopher
"Subject: Edith Keeler Must Die" Overview:
Derek looks for alligators in the New York subways, and finds they may treat him better than Chloe.
Derek calls Chloe in Manhattan, where she is preparing to give a paper at a psychology conference. He has seen news footage from a New York TV station in which something dragged a man into a sewer. But Chloe has hooked up with Wayne, a police psychologist who was once a friend of Adam's, and doesn't want to interrupt her work to assist Derek's search for mythical alligators in the subways. So Derek decides to take a road trip with Jason and Lan, crashing in Chloe's posh hotel suite while they investigate.
The news reporter recalls little about the sewer incident, so Derek starts interviewing New Yorkers about things they've seen down below. He meets a man in an "Edith Keeler Must Die" t-shirt who says mole people live in subway tunnels. Derek doesn't believe him, but when he and his friends go underground, the runaway punks who initially try to steal his camera won't talk about the tunnels. The street kids take credit for cooking rats and stealing clothing, but deny having anything to do with the strange tapping noises Derek keeps hearing. He and Jason end up getting arrested along with a bunch of the underground dwellers when they flee the sewers, but Eli, the most friendly of the runaways, still refuses to tell them anything about Tunnel 14 other than, "It's the end of the line."
Chloe is furious at having to bail them out. Still, when Derek finds a punk who appears to have been eaten alive, she volunteers to talk to the still-imprisoned Eli in her capacity as a psychologist. Learning that his friend is dead, Eli tells them about a pneumatic train the city tried to build in the 1870s, before the subway. One of the workers claimed to have discovered ferocious, cannibalistic underground dwellers who lived like cave men, used tapping sounds for echo location, and attacked railway men. Chloe and Lan find old plans to the city, indicating that before the city abruptly discontinued the line, there was a pneumatic station at the current location of Tunnel 14.
While Lan accompanies Chloe to her speech, Jason and Derek try to set up an air horn near the tunnel because the cannibals are sensitive to sound. But Jason is dragged underground and Derek pursues, taking the camera but not the horn that may be their only defense. Tracking Jason by his screams, Derek finds a tunnel-dweller wearing the shirt of the dead punk. He manages to get Jason and escape, saving a single frame of the cannibal visible on his videotape. He uploads the picture onto the Internet. Wayne, who skeptically promises Chloe to have the police investigate the underground, tries to make his move on her, but she says she'd rather road trip with Derek and the gang.
Freakylinks makes me long for the Flukeman days of The X-Files. It starts with a hilarious opening scene, a reporter covering a citywide plan to clean up dog poop who can't get a perfect take because she can't make herself take the job seriously. Meanwhile, in the background, a man is dragged screaming into a sewer, but except for the reporter, no one seems to notice. That's New York.
Unfortunately, that's also the high point of the episode. We don't actually get to see the road trip of Derek and his crew -- the supporting people about whom we know absolutely nothing going into the fourth week of the series. Instead we see too much of Chloe, about whom we learn nothing to endear us. She's using her weekend away from Freakylinks to report on Internet addiction, and at one point she videotapes her friends so she can make snide comments about how the Internet turns normal people into losers. Psychology must pay really well, based on her hotel room. OK, why is she still hanging out with her dead lover's brother? It keeps her safe from sleazy folk like Wayne, but Chloe's skepticism is worse than Scully's at her most condescending. And Chloe's not even a real scientist.
All this psychology leaves little screen time for the mole people, apparently borrowed from H.G. Wells' Time Machine and honed via bad horror movies, including an underground dinosaur thriller that this show's Scooby gang watches on the oversize TV in Chloe's hotel room. The villains' scarcity could be because of a low effects budget -- the chewed-up dead punk looks all right, but the mole people aren't even consistent. And those runaways! Well-built, well-clothed, no sewer slime in their hair, no problems in life other than those pesky cops and the mutants from Beneath The Planet of the Apes. Chloe can't understand why Eli's so angry -- must be that he doesn't have an oversized TV.
The wearer of the Edith Keeler t-shirt reacts with contempt when asked what his attire means, but for viewers as young as Derek Barnes, let me explain. Edith Keeler was a social worker with whom Captain Kirk fell in love when he traveled back in time in "The City on the Edge of Forever." Then he discovered he had to allow her to die, or the Nazis would win World War II. If the moral of that episode is not to tamper with time, the moral of this episode is...uhhh, that people should not try to live in an era where they don't belong. Does that apply to the cavemen, or to Derek, or to Chloe? Heck if I know.