Last night we were treated to Planet of the Frohikes (or, a Short History of my Demeaning Captivity). Read my complete review below, and post your own thoughts.

Cast

Bruce Harwood as John Fitzgerald Byers
Tom Braidwood as Melvin Frohike
Dean Haglund as Richard “Ringo” Langley
Steven Snedden as Jimmy Bond
Zuleikha Robinson as Yves Adele Harlowe
Edward
Woodward
as himself.

Crew

Written by Vince Gilligan
Directed by John Kretchmer

Original Airdate

Planet of the Frohikes originally aired on Friday, April 6, 2001.

Synopsis

The laws of mathematical probability state that and infinite number of
monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters will eventually
type out the complete works of Shakespeare. At the onset of this
episode, somebody seemed to be doing exactly that. A few dozen monkeys
were banging away on word processors while a dictation of Shakespeare
was being played in the background. The supervising scientist
(Dr. Hasslip) noticed that one monkey, Peanuts, was typing out the
passage that was being read. In the time it took Dr. Hasslip to get
others to see this as well, the contents of that computer had been
replaced by random gibberish. After Dr. Hasslip and the others left,
Peanuts began writing a document titled A Short History of my
Demeaning Captivity
.

After the opening credits, Langley and Frohike snuck into Yves’ hotel
room to get her to admit she sent them an anonymous e-mail. They ruined
one of her operations in the process, and all three were forced to run
for their lives. Yves followed them back to their headquarters, where
they told her the contents of the e-mail, and convinced themselves she
hadn’t sent it. It was sent by somebody who claimed to be a hostage
of the government, and the subject of bizarre and cruel experiments on
their brains. The sender also claimed he had been given the slave
name “Peanuts,” and asked them to meet him at the fence on the edge
of the compound in West Virginia with bolt cutters so they could set
him free.

When they arrived, they found a chimp waiting where Peanuts should
have been. Jimmy was convinced the chimp was Peanuts, so he cut open
the gate and set him free, although he was captured in the process.
The chimp stowed away in the van the rest of the Gunmen (Yves
included) used to escape.

The Gunmen found themselves in a barn, hiding from police. Here, with
Yves’ help, they eventually realized that the chimp was Peanuts, and
he could type fairly well. He ran all of his conversations through a
speech synthesizer using Edward Woodward’s voice.

After a fairly lengthy conversation, the group realized that the
government was training intelligent animals to be used as
inconspicuous assassins. They also were told that the Russians had a
chimp named Bobo in place at the Zoo in Washington D.C. that was
preparing to kill a French diplomat. Langely and Peanuts, who had
renamed himself Simon Potentloins, were left to break into the lab’s
computers while the rest went to save the French minister.

Meanwhile, Jimmy was being interrogated at the labs. Dr. Hasslip
wanted his chimp back, but Jimmy refused to tell him where the chimp
was. In fact, he insisted that he relelased the chimp because he
represented the Monky Liberation Army. When pressed for names, he
said he was the only member, but that he expected a major grassroots
upswell of support once word got around about what was going on.

Things weren’t working out any better for the other Gunmen. Peanuts
had himself couriered to the zoo, and forged a ransom note to the labs
that eventually got Langley captured by the military. When the other
three made it to the zoo, they found male and female monkeys in one
cage, which had both been donated by the labs that produced Peanuts.
The male was Bobo, so that’s the one Frohike and Yves captured.
However, Byers noticed another male sneaking toward the French
diplomat with a banana in its hand. Fearing the banana was a weapon
in disguise, Byers tackled the diplomat, and was soon arrested.

When Yves and Frohike realized they were the only two left free, they
decided to offer the government a chance to trade Byers, Langley and
Jimmy for Peanuts. (They would use Bobo in Peanuts’ place.)
Dr. Hasslip soon discovered their deception, and Jimmy told him that
Peantus must still be at the zoo.

When they reached the zoo, the monkeys were switched, and Dr. Hasslip
left happy, allowing the Gunmen to remain free in exchange for their
cooperation. After the military left, Jimmy revealed what he thought
the others already knew; they had captured Peanuts, not Bobo, and the
government had just switched the chimps, leaving Peanuts at the zoo
with the female.

High Point

Watching Byers shout “Licence plate!” just before the magnet in the
back door of the van turned on, drawing the plate up and pinning it
where it couldn’t be read.

Low Point

“That’s not gibberish, that’s Linux.” Linux wouldn’t be gibberish
to these guys. Especially since their familiarity with UNIX was
established in their appearances on The X-Files.

The Review

This episode was one of the more original hours of TV
I’ve seen in a while. I give this episode 6 out of 6.

In terms of effects, this episode was not very demanding
in the traditional sense. (The only real special effect was flipping
up the licence plate.) However, for lack of a better place, I’ll
include my opinion of the chimp training in this section. This was a
well trained animal. He hit his marks every time, looked where he was
supposed to look, and showed the facial expressions he was supposed to
have. It’s also possible that this wasn’t always a real chimp. If
that’s the case, well, I can’t tell the difference, which should be
the very definition of good special effects. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story was well plotted and well implemented this week
as well. It stayed well paced most of the time, with a few twists
that couldn’t be predicted until a few moments before they occurred.
However, I feel that some of the conversations with Peanuts/Simon
should have been shorter. They tended to drag out, despite jump cuts
to other scenes. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting, on the other hand, was neither outstanding
nor abysmal. Yves is still a barely one dimensional character, and I
did not believe for an instant that she was half as made as she climed
she was after her operation got botched by Frohike and Langley. Her
character needs a lot of work, and she needs it fast. At the moment,
I feel Yves is the show’s biggest liability. I give the acting 4 out
of 6.

In terms of generating an emotional response, this
episode was as lacking as most have been. I did not feel compelled to
cheer for any characters this week. I give it 2 out of 6.

The production value, on the other hand, was very high.
John Kretchmer kept the pace up as best he could, even when the script
dragged in parts. I give the production 4 out of 6.

Overall, well, I keep thinking about the chimps. My
sister works at a zoo, and I’ve heard about what happens to chimps
used in productions like this. They use the young chimps because they
are so easy to train, but as they group up, they are usually wild
enough that they can’t be used by Hollywood anymore, but they’ve been
away from other chimps long enough that they can’t integrate into
chimp populations. Knowing this, I find it hard to rate this
entertaining episode very highly. I give it 3 out of 6.

And with that, the total comes to 28 out of 42.

Next Week

On Sunday, April 8, The X-Files airs Three Words to
finish off a three part story arc. On Friday, April 13, the Gunmen
come back with Maximum Byers.