Episode ABC.1.3: "Body Banks"

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Episode ABC.1.3
Title "Body Banks"
Production No. 1.2
UK Air Date NA?
US Air Date 14 Apr 1987
Length 48 minutes
Creative Written by Steve Roberts

Directed by Francis DeLia

Edited by Philip J. Sgriccia

Watch for... Carter kissing Theora.

The evolving backstory between Cheviot and Formby.

Rik's foot-powered rickshaw.

A girl named Pancho.

Carter yelling a surprising expletive.

Ashwell's spanking.

Crew Series Crew, Season 1
Actor Role
Main Cast
Matt Frewer Edison Carter

Max Headroom

Amanda Pays Theora Jones
George Coe Ben Cheviot
Chris Young Bryce Lynch
Jeffrey Tambor Murray
Also Starring
William Morgan Sheppard Blank Reg
Special Guest Stars
Jere Burns Breugal
Rick Ducommon Mahler
Guest Starring
Virginia Kiser Miss Julia Formby
Hank Garrett Gene Ashwell
Lee Wilkof Edwards
Concetta Tomei Blank Dominque
J.W. Smith Rik
Scott Kraft Mel
Claude Earl Jones Dr. Mason
Robert Dowdell Transplant Doctor
James "Gypsy" Haake Club Dancer
John Winston Plantagenet
Jenny Gago Pancho
Arsensio "Sonny" Trinidad Ped Xing
Peri Kaczmarek Rayna
Fred Holliday Game Show Host
Michael Paul Chan Dr. Moon
Grace Simmons Nurse Edie
B.L. Collins Blond Controller*
Jay Arlen Jones Black Controller
Rick Deats Television News Reader
Juliette Cummins Paula (Book Girl)
Unknown Cast
 ? Edison's First Kiss Girl
 ? Mother Plantagenet
 ? Mr. Kiyoko (Ped Xing's Assistant)
* Tentative role match, pending confirmation.

Unknown cast represent roles with unknown, possibly uncredited actors.

The third episode of the ABC series is a clear continuation of both the pilot and unused elements from the original telefilm.

The complete episode, from original broadcast masters, is available on the Shout! Factory DVD set.


We find ourselves 20 minutes into the future in a Fringer wasteland of crumbling buildings as Mel and Rayna walk into view. The brutal body-snatchers Breugal and Mahler are back, and now openly hunting live specimens who are good tissue matches for wealthy clients. As we watch, they run down Rayna, test her for a match by (painfully) extracting a patch of skin from her back with a test instrument, then haul her away, leaving Mel beaten senseless.

Something ugly is going on for board member Miss Julia Formby; the wealthy figure Plantagenet is pressuring her to deliver the Max Headroom process to help preserve his dying mother's memories, as she can no longer be kept alive with transplants. He threatens to ruin Cheviot if he does not get the process, and insists that Formby "in particular" knows he can do it.

In the background, Edison Carter is breaking a huge new story, that of the massive amounts of old industrial waste underlying the city - or at least the "Fringes," where the down-and-out live. As the opening elements of the main story unfold, we hear Carter excoriating the politicians and "parents" of the prior generation for hiding this deadly waste and then forgetting it was there.

Mel is one of those watching the story and Carter's insistence that he will find and expose the guilty. Mel then hurries away in the darkness of the Fringe.

As the Network 23 board watches the end of Carter's report, Cheviot receives a call from Ped Xing. The chairman of Zik-Zak Corporation is still angry at the discontinuation of blipverts, and wants Network 23's new highly-rated presenter to pitch their products. They want Max Headroom.

Carter returns to rousing cheers at control, and a license from Cheviot to continue pressing the story. We also find out that Max has been pressing Carter about some "lost" memories - apparently hangover-related.

Miss Julia Formby (not Mrs.!) is working with Bryce to see if Max can be made tractable, but when she reports back to Cheviot that Max is being difficult, he chides her strangely. It is clear that Formby is playing double agent - to Plantagenet and Network 23 on behalf of Zik-Zak - and that there is something about her and Cheviot we don't yet know.

Mel tries to call Carter but is blocked by Theora and network policy. Having seen her, Mel then kidnaps Theora and forces her to take him to Carter. After Theora and Carter overpower him, they get his story: Rayna is just the latest to have been stolen from the Fringes. The kidnappings are always girls, and always by the same two freaks in a van.

Using a Network 23 console and something called the "Diogenes program" (identified on screen as "VidIdent"), Theora builds simulated photographs of the two thugs, their van and the missing Rayna. Unbeknownst to them, Bryce monitors their work and watches the faces being assembled. With the face photos in hand, Carter and Mel take to the Fringes, asking the denizens if anyone has seen these faces.

Cheviot is concerned that Bryce is unable to control Max and get him to focus on the work for Zik-Zak. When Bryce says Max has all of Carter's personality but none of his self-control, Cheviot suggests that Max might talk sense to Carter.

In the meantime, the body bank is preparing to "crash freeze" Rayna, taking the risk of damage since all they want is her pituitary gland. In the Fringes, Carter has run into his streetwise friend Rik, who offers them "wheels" - his rickshaw. They set out to ask more people about the faces in the photos.

Rik takes Carter to see Pancho, a blind Fringer who apparently knows Reg, but Reg has gone home. While they are talking, someone steals Carter's vidicam from the rickshaw - a "hanging offense" for Network 23 employees. A Fringer girl, Paula, delivers Carter's vidicam to Blank Reg, who trades her some items for it just before Carter shows up.

Plantagenet is getting irritated at the delays in getting Mother the transplant she needs, and threatens the doctor with exposure if she dies before the Max Headroom process can save her mind. The doctor decides to move fast and "transfer direct." Plantagenet is also pressuring Formby to deliver the Max Headroom process, just as Cheviot is working to get Max to cooperate with Zik-Zak.

And Max has decided to cooperate... in his own fashion. He's on the air and running wild with his own viciously funny versions of Zik-Zak product promotions. After Bryce explains that pulling the plug would kill the whole network, he finds a way to isolate Max until Carter can be located to talk some sense into him.

Carter and Mel find Blank Reg at the mobile office of Big Time Television. Reg identifies the thug photos as Breugal and Mahler, and returns Carter's vidicam... for a price. Reg, Mel and Carter hunt the pair down at a sleazy Fringe bar, Caligula's, and after a brawl convince them to deliver Carter to the same body bank disguised as a corpse. When Carter jumps out, Dr. Moon kills first Dr. Mason and then himself.

Meanwhile, Miss Julia Formby, unable to get possession of the Max Headroom software, has dragged Bryce away to the Sybaris (Santui?) condo where Plantagenet waits. Max turns himself off, hiding in the check processing software area.

Carter is selling Murray on the body snatching story when Cheviot calls, furious that Carter has not reported in, that Bryce cannot be located and that even Formby has now disappeared. He threatens Carter with termination unless he drops his self-assigned story and talks Max into submission. Carter declines but is eventually convinced to work to everyone's benefit.

While looking for Max, Theora accidentally frees him from his own trap in Accounting. Carter answers Max's questions about fuzzy shared memories, mollifying him for the time being. Meanwhile, Formby is pressuring Bryce to access the Max Headroom process to save Mother Plantagenet's mind, but Bryce is disturbed that they will kill Rayna to accomplish the transfer. He manages to use elements within Max's files to send a message to Carter, who is instantly on his way to the condo.

As Max links into the condo terminal through Bryce's file and Theora sees the scene through the two-way sampler, Carter crashes into the condo. Mel attacks the doctor, saving Rayna, but we hear Mother's life support go flatline in the background. Carter confronts Formby, goes live with the story, and brings down the corrupt body bank. And Max does a straight Zik-Zak lead-in for the whole thing.

In the end, Cheviot's affair with Formby remains a secret and with the past firmly put into the past, they prepare to continue the unending ratings battle.

Notes & Commentary

There is a very pointed exchange in which Formby insists she is Miss Julia Formby, not Mrs. This appears to be some kind of in-joke, as the character was clearly "Mrs. Formby" in the telefilm. We also learn her first name is Julia, and that Cheviot is comfortable enough with that name to call her that in a stressful situation.

Edison Carter states that Max "was born at the age of 27." Matt Frewer would have been 27 in 1985, when the telefilm was made; he was 29 at the time of the US pilot episode.

It evolves that Formby and Cheviot had an affair at some time in the past, and the need to keep it secret is so important to Cheviot's position that Formby will do almost anything to keep it hidden.

Who is Plantagenet, that he knows Formby and Cheviot's secret and is wealthy enough to keep buying illicit body parts for his mother?

Edwards smokes.

Edwards has no lines in this episode, although he has a notable screen presence.

Ashwell's reputation as a despised buffoon is further cemented by Cheviot's patronizing comments and Formby's harsh treatment of him.

Rayna and Mel are "from the river," and come into the city, where they don't know anyone, to sell blood. Mel says he can't afford to buy law, implying that the Metrocops charge - openly or illicitly - for police work.

Theora uses the "Diogenes program" (also identified as the Diogenes mainframe, and on the screen, as VidIdent v2.01 rev A) to build an image of the thugs from Mel's description. This is clearly an evolution of the card sets that could be used to assemble a suspect's image. After years of such evolving "criminal picture" programs, one much like this has recently been developed. It permits an image to be built with overall natural descriptives instead of one piece at a time.

On their VidIdent cards, Breugal is listed as an M (male?) type 1362, and Mahler as an M type 8491.

Blank Reg's dog is named Fang.

Edison Carter uses a very sharp, very clearly enunciated expletive - see quotes list above for the quote and sound bite. How in the world did this escape ABC's Standards & Practices watchdogs, and why hasn't anyone ever noticed this? ADDENDUM: A fan has found a recording of the original ABC airing of this episode. The line is cut - the show jumps over the medium shot with the beginning of the line and includes only the last part of it. Now, to figure out how it was cut for ABC broadcast but survived for later reruns...

This episode follows naturally from the series pilot, and weaves in many of the elements of the telefilm that were omitted in that first episode.

Rik had a motorcycle-powered rickshaw in "Rakers" but now has a traditional foot-powered one. Since this episode is an earlier production, many arguments could be made about the whys of this. Does Rik have more than one rickshaw? Did he acquire the motorcycle later? Or is it just a meaningless continuity flaw?

Who is Pancho? Is she a prostitute? It's implied that she is something to Reg and that he needs to hide her from Dominique. It is never made clear that Dom and Reg are anything but boss/employee and friends; why would Dominique object? Pancho and other possible interests of Reg's are never mentioned again, and the relationship of him and Dom only gets murkier in later episodes.

During the conversation between Dr. Mason and the transplant doctor, "F. Nightengale" appears at the bottom of the viewphone screen. This (besides being misspelled), the second doctor's comment about "our own body bank" and Plantagenet's comment to him about "your body bank" all implies that he is Dr. Nightingale, although he is never clearly named. It was previously established that the nurse at Nightingale's Body Bank is named Florence. Perhaps this is her husband... Frank?

As in the telefilm, Reg is showing Divine videos when we first see him at work. The one in the telefilm is not easily identifiable, but here she is singing the signature "Walk Like a Man."

Max identifies Formby and Bryce's destination as "Sybaris condo"; Murray later directs the security team to "Santui condo." Since we return to the "Sybaris Residential Complex" in "Security Systems," the latter must be regarded as a continuity glitch. The ancient Greek city Sybaris is, of course, the root origin of "sybaritic" or extremely luxurious.

Bryce sends his door entry code (IJ2FI) as part of his attempt to attract attention. If he knows that Theora knows his code, why hasn't he changed it?

Although involvement among corporation board members is frowned upon, it's never made entirely clear why the old affair between Cheviot and Formby would be so damaging to them both, especially Cheviot.

Cash is still in use - it would have to be, to support a Fringer/Blank economy where no one would have credit tubes.

Maybe it's just me or a fluke of the way she delivered the line, but Pancho's "He went home" is the heartbreaking lament of every "other woman" in history.

Opening Credits

This episode uses the same cut of the opening credits as Episode ABC.1.2: "Rakers", but with dialogue. The same cut is used with only minor tweaks for the remainder of the first season.

Bizarrely, the lines spoken by Grossberg as head of Network 23 in episode 1.1 are here dubbed by Cheviot. It can be assumed that this has something do do with Charles Rocket not being a continuing member of the cast after the pilot, but it still throws a strange light on Cheviot.

Subliminal Credits

This episode has only the "Fred Raimondi" credit, for about seven frames, in the Zik-Zak montage.

Quotes & Caps

  • Plantagenet: "Miss Julia Formby, listen to me. This is the last transplant Mother can withstand, and we may lose her body, but I will have her mind. By whatever means, you will obtain that 'Max Headroom' computer regeneration process."
  • Mr. Kiyoko: "We wish to purchase this presenter for our next product array birth."
Cheviot: "Gentlemen, as our foremost client, we naturally place you in the first position. Which presenter is it?"
Mr. Kiyoko: "His name is... Max Headroom."
  • Bryce Lynch: "Just give me some Edison memory first."
Max: "...Edison's first kiss... great! great! And for your d-d-data file, Bryce... that's a girl! ...and there's another one... of sorts."
  • Miss Julia Formby: "Having fun?"
Bryce Lynch: "Oh, hello, Mrs. Formby."
Miss Julia Formby: "Miss."
Max: "Ah, Miss - Miss - Mrs. Formby!"
  • Carter: "His trouble is that he was born at the age of 27 with no past to account for it, so, I keep having to explain things to him neither of us can remember. So, I guess you can't blame him for talking to the furniture."
Theora: "Well, a chair I can understand."
Carter: "Yeah, but a blanket?"
  • Cheviot: "There's only one problem: to maintain this network's reputation. I'm surprised that you, of all people, should consider anything more important than that."
  • Breugal: "Take your type - I know your type... very well. Shall we... check your type?"
  • Mahler: "It's a shame about her back... it was a lovely back, that."
Breugal: "The loudest sound in the universe is... the last heartbeat."
  • Television News Reader: "...according to a government spokesman, 'I guess it fired before clearing its "holster."' The rogue cannon is also suspected of being responsible last week for the loss of two network TV satellites. Quipped the spokesman, 'Maybe it just got... bored.'"
  • Dr. Mason: "Don't push it. You can have it now, or you can have it right. I can't work faster. Edie, how's she holding up?"
Nurse Edie: "No problem; she's a fine specimen. I just hope the old lady is worth the waste."
  • Mel: "I'm sorry. I had to get to Mr. Carter. We're not from the city; we don't know people. The Metrocops never would have listened to me. Anyway, I can't afford to buy law."
Carter: "Who's 'we'?"
Mel: "Me and Rayna. We're from the river. We come in town to sell blood at the body bank."
  • Mel: "People are disappearing from the Fringes. It's always a van, these two freaks... they're stealing people, Mr. Carter... stealing bodies."
  • Dr. Mason: "She types perfectly. Now, let's get her down to cryogenics and start the freeze-down... well, hurry!"
Nurse Edie: "We can't do that - there's a body already on!"
  • Rik: "You're standing on my porch, Edison!"
Carter: "I'm sorry, I didn't realize."
Rik: "Busy, my friend?"
Carter: "Yeah, I'm looking for somebody."
Rik: "You're gonna need some wheels."
  • Cheviot: "Confidentially, Bryce, the Zik-Zak Corporation's... very interested in Max."
Max: "Interested in me-me-me-me-me? Mm-hmmm? Oh, why not me-me-me. They want an audience... I like an audience!"
Bryce: "Shut up, Max."
Cheviot: "Bryce..."
Max: "Not a sim-sim-simple game-show audience. Everyone. I'll have an... ev-ev-ev... everyone audience."
Bryce: "Shut UP!"
Cheviot: "Is there nothing you can do to control him?"
Bryce: "We're not dealing with a technical problem any more."
  • Rik: "Bring the friend. Leave the camera. Learn! ...Safe under lock and key."
Carter: "Safer under a blanket."
  • Rik: "It's Rik. Hi, Pancho. Is Reg about?"
Pancho: "You got anything?"
Rik: "Just my contagious smile."
Pancho: "He went home."
Carter: "A girl named 'Pancho'?"
Rik: "Reg doesn't like Dominique to know."
  • (This astounding clip is NOT work or child safe!)
Carter: "Ah, sh*t, that was my favorite blanket!"
  • Carter: "Losing a vidicam is a hanging offense at 23."
Rik: "Well, hang loose!"
  • Plantagenet: "I don't care about the Fringer woman - do what you want to her. But, if Mother dies before the Max Headroom process gets here and we can't ensure that her mind lives on, your body bank will be swarming with Metrocops in minutes. Now: you wouldn't want them to know what's really happening in there, would you?"
  • Blank Reg: "This is a network linker. It's a bit out of your league, idn'it, Paula?"
Paula: "So, whatch'll you trade for it? ...what's that?"
Blank Reg: "It's a book!"
Paula: "Well, what's that?"
Blank Reg: "It's a non-volatile storage medium. It's very rare. You should have one."
Paula: "Stuff it!"
  • Theora: "It's a nuisance, not a crisis."
Murray: "Yeah, we got one of those, too."
  • Theora: "Max said he won't talk to anyone unless he speaks to Edison first."
Murray: "And we've lost Edison."
Theora: "Yup."
Murray: "That's great. Theora... a producer's lot is, um, is not a happy one."
  • Miss Julia Formby: "Now listen, Plantagenet. Our major client has also demanded the Max Headroom process, right now. I can't just walk away with it."
  • Max: "Yes... Yes... Zik-Zak, the cor-cor-cor-corporation that makes you give away your money the nicer way!"
  • Cheviot: "He's completely unpredictable. I'll have to see Bryce myself."
Miss Julia Formby: "Ah, I think I better come."
Ashwell: "Well, could I...."
Miss Julia Formby: "...kiss off, Ashwell."
  • Max: "H-H-H-Hi there, and welcome back to Network 23. Listen - Listen: you can forget all that stuff about Z-Z-Zik-Zak's 'Burger Paks'... so don't go reaching for your old leather wallet... that's just what they t-t-t-taste like!"
  • Max: "...but seriously: have you ever wondered why Zik-Zak Burgers come in plastic packs? Easy! Easy! Some of the plastic rubs off on the burger and doubles the nutritional value!"
Cheviot: "Oh, ny god! Bryce! If you can't control him, get him off!"
  • Max: "...the Zik-Zak Automatic Bacon Straightener! Yes! Y-Y-Y-Yes! No longer will the curly pieces take longer to fry in the pan. B-B-B-Be rasher with your rasher!"
  • Miss Julia Formby: "Pull every blasted plug in the building, but get him off!"
Bryce: "Do you realize that means losing everything that is Network 23? Communications... satellite nets... planning, personnel, decision-making... executive oversights... plumbing, ventilation, fire alarms, finance... it's all locked in. You kill the power and you're ordering the execution of your own network."
  • Carter: "Ah... what do I owe you, Rik?"
Rik: "Be nice to animals."
Carter: "Weird." (laughs)
  • Carter: "'Big Time Television.' What have I been missing?"
  • Blank Reg: "Welcome to Big Time Television. All day and every day, making tomorrow seem like yesterday. Now, remember when we said there was no future? Well, this is it. Right! Next up: more of the same."
  • Blank Reg: "Dom... you smoke too much."
Blank Dominique: "Reg, don't talk to me about personal habits. If you didn't nail you jeans to the floor at night, they'd escape."
  • Carter: "Rik tells me you know everybody around here."
Blank Reg: "Oh. Yeah. Breugal and Mahler. Evil. They need their 'eads riveted together. I think you've stumbled on something very nasty, and I think I know what."
  • Carter: "What about the law, though, Reg? The Metrocops, they've broken up crooked body banks before."
Blank Reg: "Law? In the Fringes? Justice is cash flow, my son."
  • Cheviot: "Has Carter reported in yet? Anything from Bryce? Very well, get me Formby. She's left!? You mean you have no idea where she is?"
  • Plantagenet: "Make this work, Formby. Save her... and you save your precious Cheviot. Otherwise, your mutual indiscretions will become public knowledge!"
  • Theora: "Edison, it could jam us until the idiot closes down."
Max: "Control! C-C-C-C-Control!"
Theora: "This is Control."
Max: "Not you, I'm trying to control myself!"
Theora: "Where are you sourcing?"
Max: "I'm in Accounts. I've been trying to find a deflec- deflec- deflec- deflection port. This one's just opened. ...so dreary."
  • Carter: "Max, this is very important. I have to talk to you."
Max: "What's on our mind?"
  • Max: "Asking is just polite de-de-demanding."
Carter: "Uh, that sounds familiar."
Max: "It sh-sh-should: it's one of yours."
Carter: "I know."
  • Bryce: "As you presumably don't want this account traceable, I have to create a spurious file to open account codes, and blank it later. Or I could access to your file, if you'd like."
Miss Julia Formby: "Don't be clever, Bryce."
Bryce: "Sorry... rather thought that's why I was here."
  • Max: "Well, I'm in the file that Bry-Bry-Bry-Bryce is using..."
Theora: "Yes, I know."
Max: "...and, it would be soo - soooo easy to access his root, and..."
Theora: "Do it! Do it, Max!"
Miss Julia Formby: "What are you doing!"
Max: "What are you - what are you - what are you doing with Bryce? Hi, Bryce. Here I am."
  • Carter: "Miss Julia Formby?"
Miss Julia Formby: "How'd you know?"
Carter: "Max Headroom told me."
  • Carter: "Okay, Max, let's go!"
Max: "Is this where I co-co-co-co-operate?"
Carter: "Yeah, if you're ever going to."
Max: "This is M-M-Max Headroom presenting, courtesy of the Zik-Zik-Zik-Zik-Zak Corporation, an Edison Carter late-night special-cial-cial... cial."
  • Max: "And I'll-I'll-I'll be back in a few moments with more from Network 23."
  • Miss Julia Formby: "They knew about... about you and me! I couldn't... I couldn't risk your reputation."
Cheviot: "You took a terrible chance. Without Carter's tenacity, they might have succeeded. You would have been permanently vulnerable!"
Miss Julia Formby: "But we weren't! It's over!"
Cheviot: "We were over a long time ago, Julia."
  • Miss Julia Formby: "You have a network to run."
Cheviot: "Yes, we do, Julia. Get Edwards in here! Sit down! We haven't had a ratings battle for a couple of minutes..."