the Max Headroom chronicles: Episodes
Air Date & Number
05 May 1987, 1.6
* City prosecutor, unnamed in this episode. Name taken from role in episode 2.7.
Written by Steve Roberts
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Edited by Jay Scherberth
Astrology as practiced in Max's era.
Detailed look at the sordid guts of a telelection.
A TV remote - the first we've seen.
Sheep. Baaaaa. Baaa.
A noisemaker in the crowd clearly shouting the nonsense background-noise phrase "wakka wakka!"
Theora the tramp. (Yowza!)
Blank Reg, Riverdancer.
Quotes & Sound Bites (All sound files in MP3 format)
<100k 100k-250k >250k
Computer Court 9:
"Guilty. Take her down."
"Sattilac 5 is in conjunction with NetSat 7. SkyTel 489
is in the ascendant. Aquarians, avoid eating; Sagittarians,
avoid meeting people."
"The overnight telelection data is now loaded. If you
haven't voted, do it now. Only three more seconds to
cast your vote."
Simon Peller (recording):
"And it is with pleasure..."
"I'm afraid our link's gone down."
"Now then... progress?"
"Now if all those threats are for real, well, there'd
be no networks, would there?"
"My systems may be unreliable, though - my shower
cut out this morning. ...I had shampoo in my hair!"
"...Simon Peller continues his relentless campaign to
put the Blanks behind bars..."
"What I wouldn't give to be a fly on that boardroom
"Well what I want to know is: what happened to the
"Is this a prerecording?"
"Big Time... Television! Big Time... Television! Twenty-four
hours a day, day after day, making tomorrow seem like
"Our 'bomb' is simply a program. It links all the
programs of the city through the main one simultaneously.
Massive overload. Goodbye everything from... Security
Systems to Network 23."
"What I want to know is, why you want to wreck our
"You are one fingertip away from oblivion."
"Bryce... what did General Cornwallis say, before Yorktown,
when he was asked what history would say, if he lost
Max: "Well, I'm back. They threw-threw-threw me out of that place! You gotta help me - help me, Bryce, I'm frightened. If they run that program, they'll erase-s-s-s erase me... they'll turn me into wan-wandering electrons, deserts of vast eternity, the gray-gray-gray-graveyard of old ship's shows."
"How'd you become a Blank, Reg?"
"Hello, Bruno... um, there's a bloke here wants to
talk to you... uh, sorry, squire."
"Oh, my god."
"There must be a fault in the Solar Trigger."
Simon Peller (on tape):
"My dear Miss Jones... of course I will not release
these people. (rewind) ...of course I will n...re- (rewind)
...of course I will... (rewind)"
"Those Blanks will be brought to justice. They haven't
heard the end of this, Carter."
In a nicer part of the city, "Downtown," the Metrocops burst into an apartment and arrest a young woman accused of being a Blank. As we watch, she is hauled before a computer court by the sinister prosecutor Dragul. He inserts the relevant data, and she is found guilty. Crying "Blank is Beautiful!" she is hauled away to prison.
Immediately after, we see Edison Carter being roused for his busy day. First the shower quits, then the coffee maker fails, then - while watching Simon Peller be announced the winner of the overnight telelection, the TV quits. Carter calls Theora only to find that all the satellite links have gone down as well. Technology is rebelling, Max warns them.
Carter goes to interview the victorious Peller, whom he detests. After a short time, his link goes down, ending the hostile interview. Peller calls the Network 23 board to lambaste them for not being able to connect him with his voting constituency. However, all satellite links are down now, and there are zero viewers worldwide. It's panic in the boardrooms, and increasingly in the streets as people are cut off from their electronic opiate. Edwards suggests distributing emergency video players.
Meanwhile, Bryce is showing Carter his latest achievement, a software tool called "Data Rescan" that allows him to manipulate video footage. Bryce puts a tractor in a scene of sweating slaves pulling the Trojan Horse; Carter takes over and turns it into the Trojan Sheep. They are baaaa-ing at each other when Theora cuts in to tell Carter there's an important story breaking.
The situation in the streets is getting wilder as video vendors hawk their black market tapes and small video booths draw huge crowds suffering from withdrawal. Janie Crane is covering the chaos, but only on her way to the real story, that of the Blank who was arrested earlier. Edison Carter joins her and with a guiding Metrocop, they survey the wreckage of the girl's apartment.
Janie Crane makes a horrifying discovery: the girl's television has a highly illegal off switch! At that moment, a message begins to roll across every screen and monitor in the world: the disruptions were deliberate, and unless Peller's egregious arrests of the Blanks are stopped and the imprisoned ones freed, every computer in the city will be destroyed. They have until sunset - just hours. The satellite feeds are now taken down in seriousness.
As Blank Reg shares his lunch with the dog Fang, Dominique asks about the impending problem. It appears that Reg knows a great deal about what's coming - as much as an insider. Dom is entranced by the idea that if all the computers are destroyed, Big Time may be the only network left on the air.
Cheviot orders Carter onto the story in an attempt to ferret out the perpetrators - for negotiation, if not arrest. Murray and Bryce suggest shifting operations to Carter's apartment in an attempt to stay "off the grid" and invisible to the hacker terrorists.
Carter, Theora and Bryce begin their attempt to find the hackers, while Janie Crane broadcasts the story that Peller's roundup of Blanks continues. Peller is holed up with Cheviot in the board room. When Carter says he'd love to be a fly on that wall, Bryce obliges with his graduation project, a mechanical fly "bug"... but it only lasts seconds before Cheviot swats it.
Blank Reg has relocated the Big Time bus to a high ridge over a city that looks suspiciously like Los Angeles, assuring Dom that the windy and unpleasant location is necessary both to broadcast to the whole city and to help out "Blank Bruno" and "the lads."
Meanwhile, Theora has found the portal to the hacker's computer, but it's tightly guarded. They decide to use a Trojan Horse, something no hacker could resist... Max himself. He's to get in, keep the data line open, and send back as much information as he can before they pull him out.
He's encapsulated and sent, and Bruno is very intrigued... but very suspicious. It only takes Bruno a moment to "flatline" the data lines, trapping Max in his computer, where he exists only in volatile RAM... one keystroke from oblivion.
Blank Reg now sets up a "Solar Trigger," a device to automatically track the declination of the sun and thus notify Blank Bruno and his team when it's sundown and time to trigger the wipeout program. He then begins broadcasting Big Time's trademark cheesy old '80s videos.
There's jubilation in the streets as the one rotten channel returns, horror in the boardrooms, and anger on the part of Traker and then Bruno, as Reg's broadcasting undercuts their pressure tactics. Traker threatens to put Reg "back in the files," and Bruno gets Reg to pull the plug... "because you owe me," he insinuates. ButNetwork 23 is tracing Reg and Bruno's call, and nearly pin down the locations before Bruno's computer detects the monitoring and cuts the link.
Afterward, Max and Bruno are having a most interesting discussion about the Blank's antipathy towards computers, the "false faith" with which the networks are mesmerizing the masses. When Max goes too far and Bruno threatens to delete him, Max's simpering goes nowhere... for while Max is unique, he is repeatable. Bruno was once Bryce Lynch's teacher.
Bryce, Theora and Edison have been anxiously staring at the blank screens, waiting for Max to return. As they wait, angry voices begin rising in the street as people being to fight over the few video recordings avaiable. It occurs to Carter that they have an option: Bryce's "Data Rescan." If history won't go their way... they'll make history lie.
Carter flies to see Blank Reg, the one person he knows who might know what's going on. Theora heads out to make herself up in full glamour mode, the better to bamboozle Simon Peller, and Bryce stands by with the Data Rescan program waiting.
Carter persuades Reg to talk - about himself and how he became a Blank, about the rogue computer geniuses who "blanked" his files, and about the plan they're now running to free their friends and destroy the networks' control over people. Reg is finally persuaded to put
Bruno spares Max, and with the deadline ticking down, releases him, saying he might as well meet oblivion in the comfort of his own computer. Bryce, Theora and Edison have been waiting, staring at the blank screens, for Max to return.
Notes & Commentary
The title of this episode is recorded some places as "The Blanks," but according to production information that is incorrect.
This is perhaps the most nakedly and wholly "cyberpunk" episode of the show.
This is our first look at a "normal" neighborhood, which is called "downtown" by someone. A nice, plain apartment, a nice plain urban neighborhood - apparently there is something in between the Fringes and penthouse/boardroom luxury.
The arrested Blank's cry of "Blank is Beautiful" - now that's funny. (Some younger readers might not recall the prevalence of the slogan "Black is Beautiful" in the early 1970s.)
When Simon Peller directs his assistant to "fix" his victory speech, it seems clear that Peller will have nothing to do with the fix. How is Ronald supposed to add a word to the recording? Is it synthesized? Does Peller have access to something like Bryce's "Data Rescan"?
Bryce casually mentions that he will send Carter the "Data Rescan" software via his optical link. FTH, or [Optical] Fiber to the Home, has only become a reality in the last few years. Fiberoptic backbone technology such as OC-3 is not a great deal older. (In story terms, this is to casually set up the transfer of Network 23's mainframe operations to Carter's apartment.)
Blank Bruno's ultimatum reads, in full: "This is a message to the authorities. It is also an ultimatum. You have until sunset to release the detained Blanks. This morning's failures were tests. We can desolate your systems. The reason is the actions of Simon Peller. Release the Blanks or every computer in the city will be simultaneously wrecked. You have until sunset.
It is not clear who voices the processed reading of the ultimatum - it may be Bruno.
"Love you like a sister" - just what is the relationship between Reg and Domininque?
Bruno's pet toad is named God.
Traker built the Solar Trigger. With extra features.
When Bruno tells all the Blanks on his screens to cut out when the trace is detected, Blank Reg's image appears briefly on each screen before it blanks out. Humor or technical oddity?
The voice of Computer Court 9 sounds astonishingly like Dick Tufeld, the voice of Robot B9 in "Lost in Space." However, Mr. Tufeld was kind enough to rummage his "leaky" memory and his work logs, and is certain he didn't do it.
Are we surprised to find Zik-Zak selling "black market" videos in the street?
Although Martinez is referenced and Carter rides the helicopter to and from Big Time TV, we never see or hear the pilot.
The notion that one could become a "blank file" is predicated on the idea that one's records reside in one central location, without backups. In reality, anyone who has held jobs, gotten loans, attended schools, and perhaps had brushes with the law would have records scattered throughout the country. It would take prodigious effort to eradicate them. It is possible that a future government, arrogant and stupid about computers, could consolidate records in a central repository.
This was the last-aired episode of the abbreviated first season... making the mild romantics between Carter and Theora at the end an interesting note. As does Max's crack about picking up the series option.
Max's final commercial lead-in is a pathetic shadow of the two prior ones. Oh, it sounds much the same if you listen casually, but listen... it is laughing about commercials, not at them. Max, defanged.
Subliminal Credits: This episode has the "Fred Raimondi" and "Bill Stewart" subliminal credits in the Zik-Zak montage. It also has "John Smith Television" as Carter watches the telelection results, and "B. Stewart" on Bryce's graduation project screen.
This episode uses the final cut of the opening credits with dialogue.
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