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Distant Signals Recap

An awkward young man in an expensive suit, Mr. Smith, arrives at the office of agent Lew Feldman. Smith wants to speak to Feldman’s client, famous director Gil Hurn, and offers Feldman $35,000 in bullion just to arrange the meeting. Smith explains that he represents a group of foreign investors interested in bring back an old series from twenty years ago: Max Paradise. It was Hurn’s first directorial work and the show was canceled with six episodes remaining.

Feldman sets up the meeting and they watch a tape of the last aired episode. Max Paradise is an amnesiac who got his name from a private investigator’s license and solves crimes while pursuing a limping man he vaguely remembers. Hurn hates the work, dismissing it as amateurish and best forgotten, but Smith offers him $2 million to write and direct the last six episodes. Smith talks about how the character is mythic and there are millions waiting to see the conclusion to the series. Hurn argues against it, saying they couldn’t do it without actor Van Conway, who played Paradise. Smith reveals that he knows where Conway is and plans to offer him money to recreate his part.

Van Conway has retired from acting and is working as a bartender while drinking steadily into oblivion. Conway refuses to resume the role but Smith argues that he’s the only one who can play the detective. Smith gives Conway vitamin pills and tells him to take them three times a day to get ready.

Smith and Hurn go to the old studio where the series was filmed, and Smith insists the new episodes be filmed there, in black and white, just like the original. Smith views the place like a shrine and can recite the scenes from memory, despite the fact he would have had to been a child 20 years ago. Hurn is reluctant but Smith convinces him that he still wants to finish his first project.

Conway is in a lot better shape due to the vitamins. He rehearses a scene with the actor playing Loomis, the limping man from Paradise’s memories. However, Conway freezes up and runs off the set to his dressing room. Smith comes in and touches his hands to Conway’s head, draining away his fear and taking away his craving for alcohol. Conway returns to filming where he’s as good as he always was. Conway and Hurn wonder who Smith is representing and what market with millions of viewers would be interested in a black and white series.

The final episode is filmed and Smith watches it with Conway and Hurn. Max Paradise finally catches up to the limping man, Loomis, who reveals that he is Max’s long-lost brother. When their parents died, they went to the orphanage but Max was chosen for adoption while Loomis was left behind due to his bad leg. He later got out and hunted down Max and his wife Amy, and tried to kill them both. Max escaped but suffered from amnesia and could only remember that his attacker had a limp. When Loomis prepares to kill Max now that he can remember, Max points out that Loomis will have no one else. He distracts his brother long enough to draw his gun and shoot him.

Smith watches the film with awe and declares that it’s perfect. After praising the two men, he prepares to leave and tells Hurn and Conway that their work will be remembered by millions, somewhere far away. After he leaves, Conway chuckles and explains what he’s figured out: Smith is from a planet 20 light years away, orbiting a wandering star. They picked up the distant signals over twenty years, fell in love with Max Paradise as a fellow wanderer, and were shocked when it was canceled before completion. So they sent someone to Earth to arrange for the final episodes to be finished so they could see the conclusion. Conway figures they’re just like humans... with just a little different taste.

Written by Gadfly on Sep 14, 2015

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