Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


White Dwarf
April 10, 2014 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Before Firefly, there was the television movie White Dwarf, a far-future pseudo-western scripted by Bruce "Wild Palms" Wagner. The story is essentially Kurosawa's Red Beard relocated to the tidally-locked planet of Rusta, a frontier world split between a Victorian dayside culture and a medieval nightside kingdom. Neal McDonough stars as an arrogant young Earth doctor dispatched to a Light Side clinic to complete an internship under the unorthodox Paul Winfield.
posted by Iridic (34 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had recently been thinking of doing something on this myself. Great job. Brings back memories (particularly of that creepy dual colored eye thing).
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 12:00 PM on April 10


Dr. Driscoll Rampart. No, really. Doctor. Driscoll. Rampart. I mean, honestly, people. You have to try.
posted by Etrigan at 12:07 PM on April 10


The setup sounds like something that Philip Jose Farmer would have written.
posted by octothorpe at 12:11 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Man, did I ever forget about this. One of those things you catch on late night TV and then a few years later you can't remember whether it was a TV show or a dream.
posted by selfnoise at 12:12 PM on April 10 [4 favorites]


This sounds awesome. Additionally, Neal McDonough has just an astoundingly punchable face. To me at least. And I don't think it's because of the "poolside" ad either.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:13 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


i will have to watch this. Thanks for posting!
posted by rebent at 12:14 PM on April 10


This sounds like either the best thing or the most abject nightmare. I am afraid to watch it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:15 PM on April 10


Additionally, Neal McDonough has just an astoundingly punchable face. To me at least.

No, he's always right in the middle of that Guy Who Knows He's Better Than You groove.
posted by Etrigan at 12:15 PM on April 10


I've been waiting for this FPP since I was 13.

No seriously, memories of White Dwarf haunt my dreams
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:17 PM on April 10


Oh man, I remember watching this as a pilot. This, the godawful Generation X pilot, and the 1996 American Dr. Who pilot/tv movie all came out close enough together that in my adolescent mind, they were permanently linked.

But White Dwarf was actually half decent.
posted by themadthinker at 12:24 PM on April 10


The setup sounds like something that Philip Jose Farmer would have written.

It's like Roger Zelazny's Jack of Shadows meets Firefly. Curious (if irrelevant) that it came out a month before Zelazny died.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:26 PM on April 10


Also, if I'm remembering right (because I haven't seen it in decades), wasn't there like a hard line between day and night sides? Which completely ignores the whole concept of twilight.
posted by themadthinker at 12:33 PM on April 10


This feels like a 2nd rate Dune movie
posted by leotrotsky at 12:41 PM on April 10


Name a first rate Dune movie. Apart from this one, which was only made in an alternate universe.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:44 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Okay, for some reason I was literally just telling someone about this show yesterday, except I thought this show was Wild Palms. I guess there was a reason for that. Specifically, I described the scene in which the arrogant doctor fails to use the tissue gloves, which was the only thing I remembered from when I saw that show almost 20 years ago. For some reason, it stuck with me. But why, after years of silence about this show, did I mention it yesterday only to find that someone posted about it today? Eerie.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 12:48 PM on April 10


Which completely ignores the whole concept of twilight.

Although I suppose you can see why you might want to avoid having a planet with a built-in "Twilight Zone."
posted by yoink at 12:48 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


I remember watching this. It had such potential, to me. I always have wondered why it never became a series. I would have watched the hell out of it.
posted by annsunny at 12:48 PM on April 10


Iridic: "The story is essentially Kurosawa's Red Beard relocated..."

Huh. Interesting. I saw White Dwarf when it first aired, and remember C.C.H. Pounder being in it, of all people. But am pretty sure I didn't realize at the times that it was a retelling of Red Beard. Thanks for this post. I wish they had made it into a series.
posted by zarq at 1:16 PM on April 10


I recall the gloves, and Paul Winfield being able to kill a dangerous animal with his breath (or something). But what I remember most is that it was Northern Exposure in space.
posted by Pistache at 1:19 PM on April 10


Ha, I had a proto-blog about movies in the mid-90s and wrote about White Dwarf at the time.
God, what an awful video. I watched this because I'm fond of Bruce Wagner: I thought Wild Palms was one of the best things shown recently on television, as good as Max Headroom and certainly much better than Twin Peaks. But not White Dwarf: it had no plot, no talent, no purpose, nothing going for it except that nifty New Twilight Zone / Wild Palms oversaturated dreamy feel. My fear is that White Dwarf was a pilot for a series, my only hope is that it was a failed pilot. Otherwise, we're in for a major embarassment.
A major embarassment did happen; one of the actors read that web page and wrote me to explain it was, indeed, a failed pilot and they had such high hopes for their project. I felt like a shitheel.

I went back and tried to watch Wild Palms last year and it was nearly unwatchable. So is Twin Peaks, other than the few good scenes about Laura Palmer. So is Babylon 5. All terrible. Kids growing up today with Lost and Walking Dead and Battlestar Galactica have no idea how good they have it. Back then this sort of episodic storytelling was so rare we'd watch any of it. Turns out it's mostly awful.

Bruce Wagner recently wrote the screenplay for Maps to the Stars, the Cronenberg film set to come out next month.
posted by Nelson at 1:27 PM on April 10 [6 favorites]


Nelson: "A major embarassment did happen; one of the actors read that web page and wrote me to explain it was, indeed, a failed pilot and they had such high hopes for their project. I felt like a shitheel."

Oy. You never know who's reading.
posted by zarq at 1:51 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Bruce Wagner wrote Maps like twenty years.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:08 PM on April 10


At that time, I was thinking of McDonough as the poor-man's Ray Liotta. Unfortunately, Ray Liotta began to compete with him for that title.

The scene with the tissue gloves is probably the most memorable for me-- it starts what looks like a medical drama with a really obvious, simple visual effect and then turns into a bizarre body-horror event. (Great sound effect of the parasite freezing, too.)
posted by Sunburnt at 2:14 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


My sister and I were really into this when it came out and it seemed like nobody else knew about it. I've always wanted to be able to speak the line "Two great ladies will catch your fall" and get the second part back.
posted by koucha at 2:55 PM on April 10


I was thinking of this the other day--"What was that thing on the Sci-Fi Channel with Paul Winfield in it and the gloves?" Now I know!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:34 PM on April 10


I can't remember ever seeing this but I distinctly remember the glove-surgery. I sort of thought it was an episode of Welcome to Paradox.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:51 PM on April 10


I always had a soft spot in my heart for this movie - flawed but interesting. Mainly because it was genuinely SF and weird when that was fairly rare on TV. (But then, I also have an odd fondness for Circuitry Man and Slipstream.)
posted by gudrun at 6:49 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Ah, man I loved Slipstream.

And somewhere I have a VHS copy of White Dwarf taped off Fox when it aired because I too had such high hopes for it. No idea how bad the picture quality would be - haven't had a VCR in years.
posted by Naberius at 7:44 PM on April 10


People always describe Southland Tales as flawed but interesting.

This is no Southland Tales.
posted by unmake at 8:35 PM on April 10


Well, I couldn't stand Southland Tales, so indeed, White Dwarf is no Southland Tales.
posted by gudrun at 8:44 PM on April 10


I somehow missed this in '95 but it was surprisingly good.I think I was busy having a difficult time in life and TV just couldn't compete.
posted by evilDoug at 9:15 PM on April 10


Circuitry Man (and its sequel) and Hardware are two of my go-too cyberpunky movies, and I have extremely fond of them, I'm just afraid to watch them.

I've also been really curious to see White Dwarf since I heard about it, so I guess I know what's getting shown after the cinematic masterpiece that is Ender's Game.

I wonder if Games Workshop was miffed about the title of this movie. They probably hadn't a stump to stand on, but I recall them being aggressively litigious around the mid-1990s.
posted by Mezentian at 11:44 PM on April 10


I like White Dwarf in principle. Yeah, the pilot squeezes at least half a season's material into 1.5 hours by omitting all the actual storytelling, no wonder it failed.

I disliked Lost, yeah they nailed the storytelling, but overall the plot fraud showed. I never saw much Battlestar Galactica and never even heard of Walking Dead.

Babylon 5's first season was always unwatchable, thankfully I never saw much. Babylon 5 was perfectly acceptable teenage entertainment after the crew learned to write, act, etc. Babylon 5 had a actual plot, unlike Lost.

Earth 2 was good right from the start.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:59 PM on April 11 [1 favorite]


Earth 2 was indeed good right from the start. (White Dwarf is a bit more of a B viewing pleasure.) I'm still peeved they cancelled Earth 2 and Odyssey 5!
posted by gudrun at 4:46 AM on April 12


« Older Stephen Colbert will take over for David Letterman...  |  The county vibrated... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments