Episode ABC.2.2: "Deities"

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Max Headroom: Episode ABC.2.2
Title "Deities"
Production No. 2.2
UK Air Date NA?
US Air Date 25 Sep 1987
Length 48 minutes
Creative Written by Michael Cassutt

Directed by Tom Wright

Edited by Andrew L. Cohen

Watch for: The pronunciation of "Xmas."

Bryce blowing himself up (a little)

Crew Series Crew, Season 2
Actor Role
Main Cast
Matt Frewer Edison Carter

Max Headroom

Amanda Pays Theora Jones
George Coe Ben Cheviot
Chris Young Bryce Lynch
William Morgan Sheppard Blank Reg
Jeffrey Tambor Murray
Guest Starring
Dayle Hadden Dr. Vanna Smith
Hank Garrett Gene Ashwell
Lee Wilkof Edwards
Sharon Barr Lauren
Gregory Itzin Gregory (Vu-Age Rep)
Rosalind Chao Angela Barry
Michael Margotta Network 23 Researcher
Peg Stewart  ?
Brenda Hayes Shannon*
Gary Ballard  ?
Clarence Brown  ?
Dale Raoul Jennifer Marks
Ron Ray  ?
Larry Spinak  ?
Unknown Cast
 ? Humphrey Marks (Avatar)
* Tentative role match, pending confirmation.

Unknown roles represent credited cast members with no certain matching role.

Unknown cast represent roles with unknown, possibly uncredited actors.

The seventh episode of the ABC series and the first of the second season set a high bar by taking on "electronic religion"... in Max's time and our own.


It's time for the weekly broadcast of the Vu-Age Church's program "Save Yourself" on Network 23, and church leader Vanna White is making a hard pitch for five million credits in donations to keep their research into resurrection technology going. It's working: first we see a woman visiting her "stored" husband making a donation, then none other than Network 23 board member Gene Ashwell.

Murray, on the other hand, smells a scam - or at least a story. Vu-Age has gotten too big, too fast, and on promises that have to be bogus. Theora fervently agrees, but Carter is curiously reticent - he doesn't want to waste his time on such a canned story. Murray twists his arm, and he reluctantly agrees.

Carter's odd reaction gets Murray curious, and he quizzes Theora and then Max about Carter's religious beliefs. According to Max, Carter doesn't have any strong feelings on the subject, making his reaction even more inexplicable.

Carter enters the Vu-Age Church and begins interviewing a woman who is talking to a video simulacrum of her deceased husband... and only she seems to find it convincing, as it repeats the same phrase over and over. Carter is accosted by a Vu-Age rep who escorts him to an office and answers some questions, then lets himself be arm-twisted into calling Vanna Smith.

Smith appears from a side door and greets Carter... with a slashing right hook. It turns out that Carter's problem is that he and Vanna had a three-year-long affair some time back, one which was characterized by fighting and ended on a fight. Smith is quickly apologetic for her punch, and soon Carter is grilling her about how the girl he knew turned into such a con artist.

But Vanna sticks to her guns and defends her position, claiming that both she and Carter ended up in the same place - the "reassurance racket."

Carter talks with Bryce about the process as Bryce's current experiment is literally backfiring. Bryce assures him that "being cortically scanned and stored" requires a computer the size of Network 23's, and that the Vu-Age Church could be storing only the most rudimentary form of a client's personality.

Notes & Commentary

Although the script for this episode tries to deal equitably with religion, it becomes one of the hardest-hitting shows, taking on the flim-flam nature of most television evangelists. (This was on the heels of the Jim Bakker/PTL scandal, so the audience was perhaps ripe for such a take.)

It seems evident that Vanna Smith is named after "Wheel of Fortune" gameshow hostess Vanna White, who began her long tenure as letter-turner in 1982.

Why is it that Vanna Smith is one of the "chosen few" to Max? Has Carter not had very many lovers in his life? Or is it that she was somehow special otherwise?

In Bryce's lab, Carter is playing with a small stuffed fish, which Bryce snatches away. Is this a riff on the Christian fish symbol?

Opening Credits

This episode uses [...]

Subliminal Credits

This episode has the [...] subliminal credits in the Zik-Zak montage.

Quotes & Caps

  • Announcer: "We now return to 'Save Yourself,' Network 23's weekly broadcast of the Vu-Age Church... modern religion for the video age."
  • Vanna Smith: "Your church has been at the forefront of resurrection research. But resurrection is a very costly process and requires your donations. Without your generosity, we may have a long, long wait... until that glorious day... that rapturous day... when the Vu-Age laboratories perfect cloning, and reverse transfer."
  • Edwards: "This resurrection process Vu-Age is offering is a financial bonanza... brilliant targeting. Is there any way our other programs could utilize these techniques?"
Cheviot: "We've quite enough to deal with in news and entertainment, Edwards. Let's leave religion to the televangelists. After all, they're the professionals."
  • Murray: "Okay, you don't have to be telepaths to know what I'm thinking."
Carter: "Oh, go ahead and surprise us, Murr."
  • Murray: "Well, you all know about this Vu-Age Church - came out of nowhere a few years ago, claiming to be the first modern religion for the age of video. But- now they're rich, and they got everyone worried. ...Shannon?"
Shannon: "In terms of air time and ad rates, Vu-Age is bigger than Islam, Judaism, IBM, Scientology, and all but two Christian denominations. Projections indicate that they will pass the Catholics and the 700 Club by this time next year."
  • Carter: "Murray... every X-mas we do the story about the fire that wrecks the TV and puts the family out in the cold. Every spring we cover the Special Olympics. Is this the month when we nail a new TV evangelist?"
  • Murray: "Now c'mon, you don't think there's a story in that?"
Carter: "I just don't want to waste my time on a story that Angie Barry can handle in her sleep. ...Sorry."
Angela Barry: "No problem."
Murray: "Yeah, well, I have a problem. Excuse me... is your contract up? Or are you just losing your edge?"
  • Murray: "Have you any idea what that was all about? I've never seen him chill out on a story."
Theora: "No... he tends to be over-eager."
Murray: "Yeah... that means something's wrong. I hate that."
Theora: "There are things wrong all over the world, Murray... otherwise we wouldn't have jobs."
  • Murray: "Max..."
Max: "You rrrannnng?"
Theora: "Oh, god, he's been in the Dobie Gillis file again."
Murray: "Max... um... you share memories with Edison, is that right?"
Max: "M-M-M-I like to think that he shares memories with me... actually."
Murray: "All right, do you - or, or does Edison - have a religious background?"
Theora: "Murray, I really think this is prying."
Murray: "Mmm. Depends on what I find out."
  • Max: "Well... that part of our memory is a little confused. But, I find no kneeling on wooden pews, no prohibitions against smoking, dancing or carrying on, no-no-no-n-no crying in the chapel... or is this the Elvis Presley file?"
  • Max: "And while we're on the subject of TV religions, may I - may I - may I say unto you, verily, that they do a good job collecting all those donations. God-God-God may have taken only seven days to create the universe... but the running repairs! Expensive business!"
Theora: "Now look what you've started."
  • Jennifer Marks: "And then there was Sarah, you know - Adotta's granddaughter? Well, she had her art show at the institute last week and it was the most wonderful thing! Oh, Humphrey, I wish you could have seen it."
Humphrey Marks: "Yes... it's wonderful, isn't it?"
  • Jennifer Marks: "Aren't you one of the Talbot boys?"
Carter: "Um... I don't think so."
Jennifer Marks: "Ah... they tend to keep their hair."
Theora: (laughs)
Murray: "What is so funny about that?"
Theora: "Oh... sorry."
  • Gregory: "Vanna Smith and her associates are addressing those issues. You can rest assured..."
Carter: "...and I should pardon that expression..."
Gregory: "...that those issues will be resolved before the resurrection process goes on line."
  • Gregory: "But you should be familiar with this sort of process, Mr. Carter. Isn't that how Max Headroom got his start?"
Carter: "I wasn't aware that was common knowledge."
Gregory: "It isn't."
  • Carter: "Are you a clergyman... or just a PR man?"
Gregory: "When you come down to it, Mr. Carter is there any difference?"
  • Murray: "I don't believe it - the lady just threw a right hook."
Theora: "Should we call for backup?"
Murray: "No, no, no, no - Edison gets hit two, three times a year - I think it's part of his deal. But we did get that on tape, is that right?"
Theora: "Yeah, right."
  • Max: "Ah - Ah... Vanna Smith, one of the chosen few... ah-yeah-yeah."
Murray: "You know Vanna Smith?"
Max: "Me? In... the biblical sense? No..."
Theora: "No, Max, I think Murray means 'does Edison know Vanna Smith'?"
Max: "Edison? I'm sorry - one of my commandments is 'Thou Shalt Not Squeal.'"
Theora: "I'm not sure I want to know."
Murray: "I'm not sure we ought to know."
  • Vanna Smith: "I don't know what made me do that."
Carter: "Just don't ask me to turn the other cheek."
Vanna Smith: "I guess... it's been such a long time since we've seen each other, and... we had a pretty big fight, as I recall."
Carter: "I think you hit me then, too."
  • Carter: "You're never going to convince me it's right to promise people something as important as life after death when you can't deliver!"
Vanna Smith: "Edison! Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong? I mean, I know that's close to blasphemy..."
  • Bryce: (explosion) "There are no experimental failures. There's only more data."
  • Carter: "'Cortically scanned and stored.' Which means there's a version of your personality, as of the day you were scanned, on tape at the temple. And the day you die, when your mortal remains go into recycling, that cortically-scanned file is opened and displayed... am I right?"
  • Carter: "Your relatives can come and have conversations with you... eeyuh."
Bryce: "Now that's where we start to run into some problems, Edison. You need billions of bits of memory, the kind we have here at Network 23, in order to duplicate just one personality."
Carter: "So... talking to your dead relative is like talking to... Teddy Ruxpin."
Bryce: "Yes."
  • Carter: "The Vu-Age Church will transfer that cortical scan onto a new and perfect body, thus making you... rise from the dead. What about that?"
Bryce: "Well, I never use the word 'impossible,' Edison."
Carter: "Yeah, I've noticed that."
  • Bryce: "It might be possible to transfer a very complex cortical scan... something on the order of Max Headroom?..."
Max: (background)"Max!"
Bryce: "...to a body..."
Carter: "Don't... even... think it."
Bryce: "...but, uh, given the little crummy, little scans that the Vu-Age Church makes, you'd end up with an idiot version of yourself that doesn't even possess all your memories."
Carter: "People are paying their life savings for it."
Bryce: "Well, some people'll give their life savings to anyone on TV who asks for it... won't they?"
Carter: (laughs) "Yeah."
  • Max: "...and Goood created the fish that swims in the sea, the bir- bir- *BLECHH* the birds of the air and yea the creatures that walk upon the earth, and then he created... Vanna Smith."
Theora: "Okay, Max, you can stop that any time."
Max: "I don't know if I can... yaaaaa, yaaaa, yaa... yaa... hup." "All right, Max... I know you're dying to tell me: did they or didn't they have a relationship?"
Max: "Well- well, if you call three years of thrashing around in his dorm room a relationship... yes."
Theora: "Well, I don't, actually."