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William R. Moses
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Based on the provocative best-selling novel, a brilliant scientist finds the hidden link that can save countless lives, but when a crazed killer uses the same information to play God, millions are at risk. Dr. Jennifer Kessler is the one person who stands in the way of ultimate medical disaster. After witnessing one, then dozens of patients at her hospital mysteriously and unexpectedly die, her search for the truth leads her through a bizarre world of intrigue, passion and controversial secret medical research. As Dr. Kessler races against the clock to find a way to stop catastrophe, she finds herself up against an imposing and terrifying conspiracy implicating the entire U.S. insurance and medical system in the process. Written by
Robin Cook's first novel, "Coma," was an unpretentious thriller that was made into a movie that was an unpretentious thriller. And the book was kind of fun, too, in ways that the movie missed. In the novel, when the heroine is kibbitzing around with the computers and digging up information she has fantasies about discovering a brand-new illness which will be called, naturally, "Wheeler's disease," after her. Cook's next novel, "Sphynx," wasn't so interesting, and was repetitive, presumably based on Cook's hobby (Egyptology) rather than his vocation (medicine). But at least we learned something about how to tell a fake artifact from a genuine one. By the time this movie was released, the store of tales seems to have been exhausted and we get "Coma" recycled but still recognizable.
Joanna Kerns is a sensible widowed doctor. One of her colleagues who is doing research in molecular biology, a constant smoker, which is always a bad sign in a character, played by what's his name Bell, which is even a WORSE sign because he's never played anything other than a raving lunatic, says he needs to talk to her. They meet for dinner and he says people are trying to kill him but before he can explain why he dissolves in a fit of coughing, exsanguinates all over himself, the restaurant table, the window, and so forth, and drops dead of an apparent heart attack.
The pathologists find that his heart was that of a 100-year-old man which strikes Dr. Kerns (but nobody else) as a little strange since the guy was only 48. She begins to investigate, poking her nose into places and information preserves where she has no business. Dr. Bell has an assistant, Judith Chapman, who never smiles, stares unblinkingly at Dr. Kerns, and answers questions elliptically. (Cf., Elizabeth Ashely's character in "Coma.") Chapman winds up dead too. So does Dr. Bell's sexy girlfriend, from an overdose of old age, although you'd never know it by looking at her.
And then there is yet another mad-looking scientist, played by the guy who plays Freddy Krueger, who acts guilty but is a red herring. (Cf. Rip Torn's character in "Coma.")
And -- oh, did I tell you? While kind of investigating these mysterious deaths on the side Dr. Kerns become involved with a hospital administrator, Gregory Harrison, a paragon of Thespian qualities. He's a nice, sympathetic sort of fellow (although not a doctor) and although he does things that the writers put in the script to make him look guilty too, he's -- well, never mind.
The engine behind the plot has something to do with "the protein around the DNA" that turns the aging process on and off. The only problem is that Dr. Bell found out how to turn it on but not how to turn it off. One injection and the aging process gets going "full blast," as one character puts it. The cells evidently cash in their telomeres as if their telomeres were junk bonds. I couldn't exactly follow why the villain decided he wanted exclusive control over this substance. There's a lot of the usual blather about how doctors are like God and all that. I wish they'd get over that notion. It always makes me think of the old joke. "What's the difference between God and a doctor?" "God doesn't think he's a doctor."
This is absolutely no better than average TV fare. Skip it if there's anything else on that's at all worthwhile.
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