Thursday, April 07, 2016

A Change of Scenery -- and Personalities -- for the Castaways

Mary Ann (Dawn Wells): [kisses Dr. Balinkoff] That's for seeing our fire.

Ginger (Tina Louise): [also kisses him] That's for coming to our rescue.

Mary Ann: [kisses him again] That's for taking us off the island.

[Ginger gives him a long passionate kiss on the lips]

Dr. Boris Balinkoff (Vito Scotti): What was that for?

Ginger: That's for being a man!

If you grew up in the 1960s and watched Gilligan's Island — or even if you didn't grow up in the '60s but still caught Gilligan's Island in reruns — you must remember Vito Scotti.

Scotti was an Italian character actor who was known as the man of a thousand faces because of his skill at playing so many different types of characters in the movies and on TV. He made four appearances on Gilligan's Island, the first two as a Japanese soldier who didn't know that World War II had ended 20 years earlier, the other two as a mad scientist, Dr. Boris Balinkoff.

The first time he appeared as Dr. Balinkoff was 50 years ago tonight. Dr. Balinkoff came to the island with an offer to take the castaways back to civilization by way of his island in an episode titled "The Friendly Physician." He told them he was going to rescue them. He did not tell them that he planned to use them in an experiment.

His pretense was that he had seen the castaways' signal fire, and no one bothered to ask him any in–depth questions — even when he took only Gilligan (Bob Denver) and the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) back to his island — initially. As I recall, the doctor's henchman, Igor (Mike Mazurki), was going to come back for the rest of the castaways. The doctor's boat wasn't big enough for nine people.

As there often were in episodes of Gilligan's Island, this episode was riddled with issues. You really had to suspend disbelief to enjoy just about any of the episodes. If you asked too many questions, well, you would ruin it!

Perhaps the biggest problem for people who weren't born when Gilligan's Island was on the air and want to see reruns of episodes is the fact that many scenes in the episodes have been cut to free time for more commercials. About the only way you can see the original episodes in their entirety is to watch the episodes on DVD.

What the castaways didn't know was that Dr. Balinkoff intended to use them as subjects in mind transformation experiments.

When everyone was on the doctor's island — the only time, by the way, that the castaways got off their island during the show's three–year run — they were taken, two at a time, to the doctor's laboratory, where they were put into separate glass booths, the doctor pulled a lever, there were a lot of flashing lights and buzzing sounds, and the two would emerge from their booths with the other person's mind and personality.

Gilligan and Mr. Howell (Jim Backus) were switched. The Skipper and Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer) were switched. And Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) and the Professor (Russell Johnson) were switched.

Ginger (Tina Louise) was switched with Igor. That was the doctor's big mistake. Igor was a strongman, and now he had a mind that was allied with the castaways, not the doctor. In the dungeon where they were all being held, the Professor/Mary Ann encouraged Ginger/Igor to break the chains that kept them where they were.

She protested that she wasn't strong enough to break anything more than a fingernail. "You are now," the Professor/Mary Ann told Ginger/Igor.

And Ginger/Igor did, indeed, break the chains and freed her friends.

Igor, in Ginger's body, was no use at all to the doctor.

That is a good example of plot inconsistency. Before the audience saw Ginger speaking with Igor's voice, the doctor was trying to speak to Igor and persuade him to manhandle the castaways. But Igor, having Ginger's mind, refused.

At that point, Ginger's body came to the doorway.

"Igor, what has happened to you?" the doctor asked.

"I'm in here," Ginger said in Igor's voice, pounding her fist on her chest. "Feels good!"

Now, if the doctor didn't know that Ginger and Igor had been switched, who threw the lever in the laboratory? Everyone else was chained up in the dungeon.

Well, that was when the castaways revolted. They all went to the laboratory, where everyone was restored to his or her original self. Then the castaways put Dr. Balinkoff and Igor into one booth and a cat and dog into the other booth and locked them in, then left the laboratory. Gilligan was the last to leave, and he threw the lever before leaving, switching Dr. Balinkoff and Igor with the dog and cat.

The castaways intended to take the boat back to civilization. As they were leaving, Dr. Balinkoff and Igor came running out — this time with the minds of the dog and cat.

They were followed by the dog and cat speaking in the voices of Dr. Balinkoff and Igor.

That was another inconsistency. Who opened the booths and freed the four?

Oh, and as for the boat. The castaways went back to their island to pick up a few supplies, then they were planning to leave — but before they could leave, the boat sank in their lagoon.

And the castaways were stranded on the island again.