Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond: Season 3, Episode 36

Eyewitness (4 Jul. 1961)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama | Fantasy | Mystery
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In 1883, a Boston newspaperman writes a detailed eyewitness account of a natural disaster -- a full day before it happens. Working in his office late one night, Henry Soames finds his ... See full summary »

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
Rose Alba ...
Nora
Robert Ayres ...
Richards
Janet Brandes
J.G. Devlin ...
Leo
Patricia English
Robin Hughes ...
Jake
Howard Knight ...
Danny
...
Henry Soames
John Phillips ...
Frank
Anton Rodgers ...
Mark
Gordon Sterne
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Storyline

In 1883, a Boston newspaperman writes a detailed eyewitness account of a natural disaster -- a full day before it happens. Working in his office late one night, Henry Soames finds his concentration rocked by four momentous explosions. When he emerges from his trance, he files a sensational report about the eruption of Krakatoa, a volcano in the Dutch East Indies. The paper's editors run the story across the front page and the following morning the paper sells like hotcakes. Eager to promote his new ace reporter, the publisher is puzzled when Soames denies responsibility for the scoop -- he can't even remember where he was the night before. Word leaks out to the public, and Soames soon finds himself in the reluctant position of town seer. Written by Paley Center for Media

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4 July 1961 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
An Explosion (West of Java) To Remember?
10 September 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I really liked this series, but I had a little trouble with this episode - well acted and with some point that it merits a "7", but which I have never seen any verification about.

Supposedly, on the morning of August 25, 1883, a newspaper reporter in Boston named Henry Soames, when preparing to go to work, suddenly had a violent fit that threw him down, several times. When he came to, he realized that halfway around the world there was a dreadful catastrophe: the eruption of a volcano that would blow an island in half - an island named "Krackatoa". But it was in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and far away - too far from any telegraph lines. Soames rushes to his paper and prints the story, scooping the entire globe. But the nearest news centers in the far east had not heard anything. Although the newspaper editor (more about him later) is at first ecstatic about the scoop, when no confirmation comes out he turns ugly and fires Soames. Soames cannot explain why he had his sudden vision or whatever, but goes home jobless.

Then, within 24 hours, Soames is dragged back to the newsroom. The confirmation has come out: Krackatoa erupted on the 26th of August, and killed (with tsunamis similar to the ones that hit the Indian Ocean last year) 33,000 people. The editor is once again all smiles, as he can be congratulated for scooping the entire western world by 24 hours. But how? Obviously Soames must have some crazy mental power. So the editor tells Soames he will have a special column, with his own by-line (a real rarity for newsmen in the 1880s), and will predict the future for the readers of the newspaper!

Soames, of course, has had it. He has seen this editor blow hot and cold twice in 24 hours, but this really takes the cake. He tells off the editor before walking out that he is fully aware that people want to know the future to plan for an improved future for themselves. That great tycoons, for instance, would love to know when to buy and sell so they don't lose anything. All his power (if it is a power) has shown is that the common human race is a bunch of scared rabbits. As far as Soames is concerned he won't be a tin-pot fortune teller reassuring everyone.

There is a coda (which I have never seen mentioned anywhere else) that years later one of Soames former fellow workers sees him as a copy editor in a small newspaper on September 7, 1901. While observing him, he sees Soames stop in a trance, and write something down, and then leave the office. Then a wire comes over the telegraph. Soames has written "President shot in Buffalo". The telegram announces that McKinley has been shot in Buffalo.

I liked the story because the actor who played Soames (John Meillon) gave a good effective reading of the best scene in the drama - where Soames tells off the newspaper editor. Parts of the episode were a trifle slow, but that scene made the show worthwhile. We all wish, at time, we knew the future, but knowing the future only shows us what pitiful creatures we are, dependent on various circumstances for our comfort and survival. And Soames (who doesn't even understand why he had the vision about an island volcano he never heard of) has only found it makes him a freak, and it buffets him about concerning his job.

The on-again/off-again "friendly editor" was played by British actor John Phillips. You have probably saw Phillips in many parts over the years in movies and television (usually British television, not American). Yet he had a good handling of an "American accent", and in Peter Ustinov's ROMANOFF AND JULIET (made about the time of this episode), Phillips played the American Ambassador to Concordia. With his sharp, pointed nose, Phillips could look smart and formidable and threatening, so he played many villains in his career. On the original FORSYTHE SAGA he was Sir Alexander MacGown, a Tory M.P. who takes the social conflict between his girlfriend Marjorie Farrar and Fleur Forsythe Mont into the House of Commons, attacking Fleur's husband Michael. Phillips was usually a very good character actor, and he makes the most out of the scenes his newspaper editor has in this episode of ONE STEP BEYOND, who is too blind to see how his own behavior helps put a major crimp into the newspaper's scheme to use Soames "correctly".


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