Alexander the Great “Pilot” (part 3 of 7)
When we return, we’re at the base camp of the Greek army. A soldier by the name of Karonos enters a tent and declares to everyone assembled that there’s still no sign of Alexander, and he wants to call off the search. And Karonos is played by (future) Oscar-nominated actor-director John Cassevetes, who at the time was doing a lot of bit roles on TV. Of course, a few years after this, his career took off in a big way thanks to The Dirty Dozen and Rosemary’s Baby.
An older gentleman named Antigonus wants to continue the search for Alexander. Antigonus is played by Joseph Cotten, and it’s about damn time somebody from Citizen Kane showed up in the Agony Booth! Although, I had always assumed it would be Orson Welles doing the voice of Unicron in Transformers: The Movie. [Orson Welles finally did show up on this site after all, but not for voicing Unicron. —2010 Albert]
Karonos argues that they can’t look for Alexander forever, because the Persian forces are gathering in great numbers. As proof, he has a sentry bring in a captured Persian prisoner. The prisoner reluctantly confirms, “The sun, it darkens in the dust of Memnon’s army.” Those crazy Persians, always talking in haikus, or something.
Also, it’s hard not to notice that the “Persian” is obviously a white guy with some dark makeup on, but this sort of thing was par for the course on TV at the time. Hell, even the Klingons were just white guys in brown face paint.
Another soldier in the room by the name of Aristander provides much-needed exposition when he yells, “Memnon! I thought he was killed last year at Issus!” This is historically accurate, in that Memnon actually was one of King Darius’ main generals, but also wildly inaccurate, in that the Battle of Issus was Alexander’s key victory over Darius, being the battle that ultimately sent Darius into exile. Which is completely contradicted by the events of this episode.
But as proof of how intertwined ‘60s dramatic television was in those days, the actor playing Aristander, Robert Fortier, also appeared on the Star Trek episode “By Any Other Name”, where he played an alien who got drunk with Scotty. Not only that, but he also appeared with William Shatner in Incubus, the only full-length movie ever filmed entirely in Esperanto. And it appears he passed away just this past January (of 2005), so yikes, the Agony Booth Death Curse strikes again.
So, yeah. This episode. The Persian prisoner defiantly states that General Memnon lives. “He will crush you as he would step on a beetle!” Damn! That’s a lot of smack talk for a prisoner of war. Predictably, Aristander belts him across the jaw.
Abruptly, we cut to the camp of General Memnon. A Persian solder with a Smurfhead helmet informs Memnon that Alexander is dead. To drive home how evil and barbaric Memnon is, he’s a big fat guy with a huge curly beard, and he’s constantly eating. I’m actually sort of amazed he’s not gnawing on a big turkey leg here.
With his mouth full, Memnon asks the soldier if he actually saw Alexander die. The soldier dances around the question a lot, what with the traps, and there being no escape, yadda yadda. So Memnon yells, “Did you see him die?!” and a big hunk of food flies right out of his mouth. Charming. It’s always good to see a legendary historical figure depicted in the same light as a lesser James Bond villain.
The soldier once again explains that “there was no escape”, ipso facto, Alexander is dead. The poor guy. The sad, tragic history of movie flunkies is full of the confident stating of, “There was no escape!”
Memnon accepts this explanation, insofar as he stops pressing the issue and returns to Quietly Seething Mode. Through another mouthful of food, he calmly states that one way or another, “I shall have one head tonight. His or yours.” And believe me, his is a lot better looking.
Back at the Greek camp, a horse rides up. Someone cries, “Alllexaaaaander’s horrrrrse!” They sure did like to yell in ancient times. Several men gather around the horse, and during this, we get shots of a dark-haired beauty looking on in dismay.
Aristander plucks grass from the horse’s saddle. “Marsh weed. I knew he went east!” But of course. For the east is where the marsh weed grows.
Karonos has found the presence of blood, “Days old.” A chubby guy who looks like a mobster declares, “The king is dead.” Aristander expresses doubt that Alexander is really dead, while the dark-haired woman runs off, looking distraught.
Inside her tent, the woman unsheathes a dagger. Before she can administer the self-stabbings, Antigonus runs in and stops her. She insists she can’t live without Alexander. Hey, what woman could possibly go on after she’s had a taste of the Shat-Love and lost it? This is completely understandable.
But Antigonus confidently replies, “You can, and you will.” After all, if Joseph Cotten could go from The Magnificent Ambersons to crap like this without throwing himself in front of a bus, she should quit her bitching. Antigonus reminds her that she has a home here in Persia, and she’ll be “released from hostage” to return to her family. But she insists she “belongs” to Alexander. Charming. I guess sexual slavery isn’t quite as bad as people make it out to be.
The woman’s name is “Ada”, and in another example of the incestuous nature of ‘60s primetime TV, Ada is played by Ziva Rodann, who later went on to play Queen Nefertiti on Batman. She also had an affair with Henry Miller at some point, like that’s a surprise. [As Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey would later say, that guy had way more sex than me. —2010 Albert]
A weeping Ada tells Antigonus, “You loved him as much as I!” Antigonus quickly steps back and says, “I respected him.” Yeah, whoa, slow down there, lady. He sure didn’t love Alexander the way you loved him. Although Alexander actually did swing that way, Antigonus was having no part of that.
Having confirmed his hetero status, Antigonus simply sets the dagger down on a table and walks out. Uh… maybe it would be wise to separate Ada from the sharp, stabby objects, at least for the time being?