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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
What Cannell had in mind..., 27 April 2007

When Stephen J. Cannell created this show, he knew nothing about the clichés of the superhero genre. But he knew that he didn't like those "Ralph saves the world" plots.

Instead, he considered Ralph "great" because he was at his best when dealing with personal, everyday, human interest issues. "Fire Man" was a perfect example, and definitely one of the best episodes of the entire series.

It's a simple plot that gets more complex as it goes: Tony is framed for arson, and the case is made even more stressful for Ralph and Pam, because some of the torched items happened to be Federal property. The whole point of the episode is best summed up by a scene in the police station. Ralph goes into his do-gooder-speech schtick, insisting that Tony is not guilty, and therefore has nothing to worry about. Tony disagrees vehemently, shouting, "I'm gonna be doin' TIME, man, TIME!"

That one scene tells me that writer Lee Sheldon has an issue with the justice system. It sounds very 60s-ish, yet still fits.

The episode is leavened by Bill's one-liners. (You may recall in the pilot episode, Bill asked, "If I'm not supposed to be in charge, then why did our friends from the Twilight Zone put me aboard?" To which Pam suggests, "Comic relief?" She was right. He does just that.)

Look for one hilarious little detail: In rescuing Tony, Ralph climbs up from a manhole to stop an unmarked police car, bare-handed. Bill knew nothing of this when he told Ralph about Tony.

Ralph asks, "He got away?" Bill answers, "Ah, those vice squad dummies ran over an open manhole or something, busted the axle!" The expression on Ralph's face is priceless.

Pam insists, "What about 'Presumed innocent until proved guilty'?" Bill answers, "Ah, don't give me any of that garbage!"

I was surprised to find, on a different website, reviewers giving this episode a low rating. I don't know why. It's definitely one of the best.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Common plot device, but well-told, 27 April 2007

In almost all time travel stories, there are three plot devices which are always used:

1) It is very difficult, or altogether impossible, for the time traveler(s) to return to their present time.

2) The SLIGHTEST CHANGE in history, even under the best intentions, would be disastrous. (Of course, this rule is violated constantly. Dr. Brown was hypocritical about it in "Back to the Future Part 2," changing future history when it benefited Marty...yet refusing to tell Marty about other errors that would occur in Part 3. An even worse example was "Quantum Leap," a show in which the entire premise was the alteration of history.)

3) There MUST be an episode about the Titanic, especially when based on Point #2. (Exception: Quantum Leap, which limited the plot to no earlier than 1953.) In both "Voyagers" and "Time Tunnel," the hero tries to warn of impending doom.

Like most episodes, this was an excellent story, made better by an intriguing role-reversal. (This requires the viewer to actually get into the plotting and characters, by the way.) Whereas Phineas Bogg is usually kind of stubborn and bull-headed, and Jeffrey Jones usually provides sage wisdom, this time it's the other way around. If Bogg ever learned one thing, it's that you NEVER mess with history, even if your intentions are GOOD. Bogg was right; Jeffrey was wrong.

Their mission was actually to recover the Mona Lisa painting, NOT to save lives.

This episode is very much like the classic Star Trek story, "The City on the Edge of Forever." Spock coldly informs Captain Kirk that, in order to restore history, "Edith Keeler MUST die." Bogg tells Jeffrey more or less the same thing, made all the more ominous by the fact that he had no way of knowing the consequences of SAVING the Titanic passengers.

I'm surprised nobody else picked up on that.