Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Secrets of Isis Episode 11: "No Drums, No Trumpets"

It's the big Larkspur High Science Fair and Fred Weiting is sure to win because, as Rick Mason says, he's the school's favorite radio ham... er... amateur radio operator.  I'm not exactly sure how a demonstration of a readily available technology deserves first place over homemade baking soda volcanoes and whatever amazing demonstration Cindy Lee has no doubt devised and sure enough, when Fred can't even contact Dr. Barnes by radio from fifty feet away his effort is doomed.  Infuriated at losing, he roars out of the parking lot.  He even takes his car!  Andrea Thomas, Rick Mason and Fred's friend Dorothy give chase, but it takes Isis to save the guy from himself.  On the way back to the city-- they must have chased Fred a good twenty miles-- Ms. Thomas and students end up prisoners of a group of mild-mannered crooks in a ghost town.  Thomas can't find her Isis amulet, so she has to convince the downhearted Fred to use his ham-- er --- radio skills to save the day.

Incredibly, Cindy Lee has only a minor part to play in "No Drums, No Trumpets" (airing November 15, 1975), and there's precious little Isis.  Most of the episode is given over to Ms. Thomas Fred, Dorothy and their unfortunate happenstance with the criminals.  And, as per usual, the desperate outlaws aren't so desperate they'll add murder to their list of depredations.  No one is in any real danger.  Suspense comes from Ms. Thomas's efforts at outsmarting the villains while keeping her identity as Isis a secret.

This is a solid episode, kind of a live-action Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? complete with crooks trying to fool people into thinking a ghost town is, in fact, haunted.  I've never understood this logic.  If anything, ghosts would attract more interest and visitors.  This particular ghost town is more dusty than creepy, but it's a nice change from the same old mountain, woods or lake settings for these little morality tales.  There's an exciting car chase, and a last-minute wind assisted rescue by Isis-- all in the first seven minutes.  The most remarkable thing about "No Trumpets," however, is Mark Lambert's performance as Fred.  He's the kind of guy who bristles when called a "ham," quick to point out the correct nomenclature in a supercilious way, but Lambert gives the moment an ever-so-slight tongue-in-cheek spin.  He reminds me a lot of Peter Scolari, an underappreciated actor if there ever was one.

Lambert is apparently one of the most accomplished and well-rounded performers among the Isis guest students.  According to IMDB, he's performed in Eugene O'Neill plays as well as Shakespeare at the Young Vic in London and movies with Cate Blanchett, Pierce Brosnan and Kate Winslet.  Almost as impressive is his musical work.  He contributed singing overdubs to the film Cabaret (1972) and originated the role of Henrik Egerman in the musical comedy A Little Night Music.  That is, if IMDB and the IBDB (Internet Broadway Database) are to be believed.  He's not listed on IMDB as having anything to do with Cabaret, but with plenty of UK television drama credits.  There are other Mark Lamberts in the world, you know and IMDB is full of screwed-up credits.  I prefer to believe all of the above information is correct because it sure would be cool to think someone like that passed through the Isis call sheets.

His gal pal Dorothy is played by Christopher Norris, who went on to become a regular on the TV series Trapper John, M.D., co-starring as Nurse Gloria Brancusi.  This much I know is true.  I was a huge Trapper John fan so I would recognize Norris and her name anywhere.  Okay, I wasn't that much of a Trapper John fan.  I just watched it because it was on, and most of the time I had to miss the last half of every episode because of my bedtime and I assumed the patient died at the end of each story.  These days I wonder, "Why was I watching half an episode of Trapper John, M.D. each week?  What did I gain?  A pessimistic worldview?"

A few notes-- Ms. Thomas's Firebird is still yellow.  Mr. Mason, on the other hand, drives a white VW Thing.  Remember the VW Thing?  We learn Thomas spends at least some of her free time exploring the desert, going into caves and whatnot.  Cindy does have a little comical moment to call her own-- Dr. Barnes mistakenly refers to "hams" and she tells him, "Not hams, Dr. Barnes.  Radio amateurs."  Lucky for her Dr. Barnes is such a kindly soul.  Larkspur High must be in the city of Larkspur, since Fred refers to his location as the "Larkspur ghost town."

The episode's  title intrigues me.  Some Google research shows a 1961 non-fiction book by Barry Wynne by the same name.  It's about a French woman who helped children and British soldiers during WWII.  There's another book by that name by Mary Ferebee Howard.  It tells of her own Red Cross work during the war.  There's also a 1966 episode of The Virginian.  And finally, a 1988 episode of the sci-fi cartoon Bravestarr.  The two books could possibly relate to Isis-- a strong woman aiding others in need.  As for the others, I detect no common theme.  Is this a phrase from a poem?  Is there an allusion to something here I've missed?

I could research this further but it's almost 9pm on a Sunday night and I'm dead tired.  Good night , Isis fans, wherever you are!

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