Episode ABC.2.4: "Dream Thieves"

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Max Headroom: Episode ABC.2.4
Title "Dream Thieves"
Production No. 2.4
UK Air Date NA?
US Air Date 9 Oct 1987
Length 48 minutes
Creative Teleplay by Steve Roberts

Story by Charles Grant Craig

Directed by Todd Holland

Edited by Andrew L. Cohen / Dennis C. Vejar

Watch for:
Crew Series Crew, Season 2
Actor Role
Main Cast
Matt Frewer as Edison Carter

Max Headroom

Amanda Pays Theora Jones
George Coe Ben Cheviot
Chris Young Bryce Lynch
W. Morgan Sheppard Blank Reg
and Jeffrey Tambor Murray
Guest Starring
Mark Lindsay Chapman Paddy Ashton
Jere Burns Breugal
Concetta Tomei Blank Dominique
Jenette Goldstein Bella
Ron Fassler Mr. Grieg
Vernon Weddle Mr. F. Finn
Co-Starring
Robin Bach  ?
Vince McKewin  ?
Stephen Pershing  ?
Rob Narita Asian Controller
Steven Rotblatt  ?
Timothy Dang  ?
Featuring
Peter de Anello  ?
Patricia Veselich  ?
Gary Dean Sweeney  ?
Dalton Younger  ?
Unknown Cast
 ? Harry (Controller)
 ? Peter (name callout)
 ? Interviewed Fringer (male)
 ? Interviewed Fringer (female)
 ? "New" Mahler
 ?
 ? Various Fringers
* 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 fourth episode of the second ABC series season brought us a dark tale of people being stripped of their dreams... both profitably, and fatally.

Synopsis

20 minutes into the future, we find Edison Carter walking through the celebration of a wedding in the Fringes, about to go on the air. He threads his way through a marketplace and sets his camera up on a barrel, just in time for his cue. He is at an old movie theater, a place people used to go to watch the same pictures at the same time. His activities haven't escaped the notice of a few denizens of the street.

As he does his opening, explaining what a "movie theater" was used for - and it's a weird concept - he interviews some of the Fringers in the street. They remember stories about movies but aren't sure what they were, exactly. Then Carter lands on a figure who was following him, who has a concise but bitter opinion about what movies were, before TV "choked the talent out of the business." Murray is enthralled at the "fighting talk" this will bring to the board room and ratings, until Carter asks the speaker who he is. "Don't you recognize me, Eddie?" he smiles. "It's Paddy Ashton."

Murray gasps, and Carter immediately cuts the link and suggests he and Paddy get a little drink. It appears they know - knew - each other.

At Dream Vu Micro-Light Cable, a soothing ad preview is convincing viewers to subscribe to the hottest programming anywhere - shows they won't see on the networks. Bella has brought in a hot new property that people will love to pay for, even in a world where TV is free. The channel executive tells her to close the deal for the material.

Carter and Paddy are in The Ouzo Bar, and Carter uncomfortably asks Paddy "what's the news?" Paddy says Carter is... after all, he's history, as "Eddie" beat him mostly fair and square. Carter says he remembers when he was the down-and-out and broke one, and Paddy was the one buying the drinks. Carter has left his camera linked, and while it only shows their feet, Theora and Murray can hear the conversation. Theor asks for the story, and Murray tells her that when he made producer, they were both up for the top slot, elite reporter on his show. (Which is an interesting take; just whose show is it?) Carter and Paddy had worked their way up together - Communications Room, Tape-Ops, Local Controller, Infield Reporter. Then they were both up for the top job... and Carter beat Paddy to the big story, and won a Viddy, and got the job.

Paddy is still bitter, obviously, and believes Carter got the job because he had Murray in his pocket... and was a nice guy... and had the killer instinct. But now it's time to show Carter how Paddy earns his living, these tough days. There might even be a story in it...

Back at Dream Vu, Grieg and Bella are grilling Mr. Finn of "Mind's Eye" and driving a hard deal for his material... after all, they have his "padded expense accounts" right at hand - information is their business, and figures are trade. He agrees. They review the enormous potential profits - 116 million credits per screen minute. They have the most devastating weapon in subscriber programming... and might even be up to the challenge of denting network TV.

Paddy takes Carter to the other side of his "dream palace" story - to a "dream factory," where people get paid to talk in their sleep... just like network executives. He's sleeping his nights away, selling his dreams - like selling blood, but they empty your head instead of your arm. It's in the old movie theater, where people used to come to get their dreams... and now come to give them up. Paddy, quoting Shakespeare, leaves Carter to go to work dreaming, and says he'll call about that story... sometime.

Carter is back at home, playing with a team-signed baseball and trying to explain dreaming to Max. Since Max doesn't have this "weird biological in-between state," he doesn't understand the subconcious mind, or why people wait until they're asleep to release their imaginations. Max goes off to re-run some of Carter's dreams - "I'll see-see you in your dreams." Carter decides to go back and find Paddy.

Carter makes his way through the din of Metal Row, asking for Paddy and getting told off and vague directions. He finds Paddy's "cardboard condo," with a Fringer looting it. "Where's Paddy?" he demands, and the Fringer points him to... Breugal's body van, loading up an unfortunate who's fallen. It's Paddy, of course, reddened eyes staring at nothing. Breugal says they've gotten a few like this lately. Carter pays Breugal to ensure that Paddy makes it to rest at "Glad Hands Meadow," to rest in one piece for all eternity... instead of being broken up in a body bank. As he drives away (being traced by Theora), Carter picks up Paddy's hat and journal... and begins to read.



Notes & Commentary

We see Rik's motorized rickshaw pulling the bride and groom in the opening shot... but it's not Rik driving.

A brief shot of a blonde show host on a Fringer TV seems to be Fred Holliday, seen briefly in Episode ABC.1.2: "Rakers". Leftover footage?

Actor Mark Lindsay Chapman would go on to a recurring role in "Max Headroom"'s nemesis, "Dallas," and would appear together a few years later with Jenette Goldstein in "Titanic."

Besides her role in "Titanic" as the Irish mother, Jenette Goldstein came to her role in this episode directly from her role as the Marine "Vasquez" in "Aliens."

Two figures in the party scene of the first dream recording appear to be Carter and Murray - or at least Matt Frewer and Jeffrey Tambor.

Theora is again seen using the "Security Systems Inc. Information Network" to track and locate people, including Carter (who is at "InnerMetro Complex A-102 in Sector N-2116-L)... the Ouzo Bar.

Opening Credits

This episode uses the standard second-season opening credits.

Subliminal Credits

This episode has no subliminal credits in the Zik-Zak montage.

An audio shout early on, in the "Ouzo Bar," sounds like "Freds only!" - another Fred Raimondi embed?

Quotes & Caps

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  • Carter: "Edison Carter, live and direct. I want to show you something rare. This... was a dream palace. Years ago, people came here for their pictures, to share dreams and adventures together. These were the days when people sat in groups and watched a single movie - sometimes hundreds of people at one time. It must have been a weird experience: people watching the same screen, and the same program."
Murray: "I can't use more than 30 seconds. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be."
  • Paddy Ashton: "They were a shared experience, Mr. Carter. People gathered together in communal escapism to share adventure, excitement, laughter, romance. They shared these vicarious emotions together. That was before they choked the talent out of this business - gave us game shows, and chat shows and news."
Murray: "Great. That should stir it upstairs. Stay with it.
Paddy: "Before the world became ratings and people became demographics and everything became the product."
Murray: "Yeah... fighting talk."
  • Grieg: "People love to pay, Bella. It... massages their self-esteem."
  • Carter: "I've been there. I know. Time was when you bought me a drink, when I was broke, remember?"
Paddy: "One swallow doesn't make a summer, pal."
Carter: "Well, you haven't lost your sense of humor, anyway."
Paddy: "No, but I lost everything else. It's the most portable thing I got left."
  • Murray: "They were good friends and they were great rivals, and uh, I don't know, that's it."
Theora: "No, no... no, that's it, they're at the Ouzo Bar. I mean, what happened to Paddy?"
Murray: "Edison, uh, beat him to the big story... Edison won an award - the Viddy... and it got him the job."
Theora: "No, Murray - you gave Edison the job."
Murray: "...Right. I chose the best. That's it."
  • Paddy: "If I'd had half your edge, I'd be in your position now. Maybe I was just too human for the job."
Carter: "Thanks a lot! I'm due for a microchip service any day now... my mind's a computer, you know."
Cardy: "Yeah, I heard. How is 'Max Headroom'?"
  • Paddy: "I can't sleep nights where I live - I'm in the cardboard condos on Metal Row. They weld all night. It's like being in a belfry in an earthquake."
  • Carter: "You go near a body bank... I'll kill you."
Breugal: "I believe you will. He will be safe. Cash is honor, Mr. Carter. High principle attends high payment."
Carter: "Where's your other colleague, Breugal?"
Breugal: "Mr. Mahler? I was short of stock one night. He made the supreme sacrifice. This new Mahler is on approval." (He drives away.)
Carter: "Theora? Run a sat-cam trace on that van."
  • Network 23 Announcer (female): "This is your Network 23 Sunrise Report, bringing you only the good news. Economic indicators are up, and a baby alligator has been cloned at the Children's Zoo! These stories and more, after this word from Zik-Zak."
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