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Pandora’s Clock

Pandora's Clock (Sun., Mon. (10,11), 9-11 p.m., NBC) Filmed in Seattle by Citadel Entertainment Prods., in association with the Comsky Group, for NBC Enterprises. Executive producers, David R. Ginsburg, David Israel; co-executive producers, Cynthia Comsky, David Comsky; produced by Michael O. Gallant; directed by Eric Laneuville; teleplay by Israel, based on the novel by John J. Nance; supervising producer, Judy Ranan; director of photography, Steven Shaw; production designer, Chester Kaczenski; edited by Stephen Lovejoy, Karen Stern; casting, Beth Hymson-Ayer; music, Don Davis. Cast: Richard Dean Anderson, Daphne Zuniga, Jane Leeves, Richard Lawson, Stephen Root, Tim Grimm, Edward Herrmann, Robert Guillaume, Robert Loggia, Jerry Hardin, Kurt Fuller, Jennifer Savidge, Kate Hodge, Scott Bryce, Penny Peyser, Wolf Muser, Byrne Piven, Grant Goodeve, Stephen Godwin. Pandora's Clock" begins promisingly: Somewhere in the mountains of Bavaria, a tourist is trying to focus his camera on a grazing deer. Overhead, the staccato thwop thwop of a helicopter grows louder as the scene cuts between the amateur photographer and a frantic man on the lam, the classic adventure film juxtaposition of bucolic and portentous images. He tries to steal the tourist's car, managing only to gash the unsuspecting victim's hand. Cut again to an airport, where passengers are gathering for a flight from Germany to New York. Among them is the tourist, now obviously in a poor way. Cut back to a laboratory, where man-on-lam violently expires as a scientist observes that it has been 48 hours from exposure to death. The same fate awaits the tourist, only when he dies, it will be in the air. Suddenly, no one wants Quantum Airlines Flight 66 to land, the CIA is involved and an international crisis involving a deadly virus, terrorism and the threatened use of a nuclear device are all called into play. "What the hell were the Germans doing screwing around with a Doomsday virus like that," the President wonders. "It's unbelievable." My sentiments exactly. As it turns out, however, other agendas are put into play in "Pandora's Clock," and the more the story veers from the initial premise will everyone onboard die from the mysterious disease? the more sluggish the telefilm becomes. The premise would have worked in a tight, two-hour thriller. Stretched over two nights slackly directed by Eric Laneuville, however, David Israel's lugubrious adaptation of the popular novel by John J. Nance plays padded, and the actors seem to know it. How else to explain Robert Loggia's uncharacteristically mechanical turn as the CIA director, or a similarly leaden performance by Robert Guillaume as a shuttle diplomat whose presence on the flight may have something to do with the fact that a terrorist is chasing them down in a nimble little Lear jet? Hard to figure, too, how a reporter on board keeps managing to phone in stories without being noticed, or how a CIA virologist is able to mosey into the director's office. There's nice work from Richard Dean Anderson as the flight captain with the right stuff ("We're in the middle of a diplomatic firefight, Dan," he tells his co-pilot, "and as invariably happens, truth has become the first casualty"). But Daphne Zuniga can't do much with the virus expert, a former FAA whistleblower uneasily cast as one part Cassandra and two parts lady-in-distress. The other roles are maddeningly underwritten. Special effects, notably several midair chases, are hilariously fake-looking. Ten years ago, "Pandora's Clock" might have seemed merely run-of-the-mill. Given what's available from the competition today, however, it's hopelessly outclassed. Jeremy Gerard

Pandora’s Clock (Sun., Mon. (10,11), 9-11 p.m., NBC) Filmed in Seattle by Citadel Entertainment Prods., in association with the Comsky Group, for NBC Enterprises. Executive producers, David R. Ginsburg, David Israel; co-executive producers, Cynthia Comsky, David Comsky; produced by Michael O. Gallant; directed by Eric Laneuville; teleplay by Israel, based on the novel by John J. Nance; supervising producer, Judy Ranan; director of photography, Steven Shaw; production designer, Chester Kaczenski; edited by Stephen Lovejoy, Karen Stern; casting, Beth Hymson-Ayer; music, Don Davis. Cast: Richard Dean Anderson, Daphne Zuniga, Jane Leeves, Richard Lawson, Stephen Root, Tim Grimm, Edward Herrmann, Robert Guillaume, Robert Loggia, Jerry Hardin, Kurt Fuller, Jennifer Savidge, Kate Hodge, Scott Bryce, Penny Peyser, Wolf Muser, Byrne Piven, Grant Goodeve, Stephen Godwin. Pandora’s Clock” begins promisingly: Somewhere in the mountains of Bavaria, a tourist is trying to focus his camera on a grazing deer. Overhead, the staccato thwop thwop of a helicopter grows louder as the scene cuts between the amateur photographer and a frantic man on the lam, the classic adventure film juxtaposition of bucolic and portentous images. He tries to steal the tourist’s car, managing only to gash the unsuspecting victim’s hand. Cut again to an airport, where passengers are gathering for a flight from Germany to New York. Among them is the tourist, now obviously in a poor way. Cut back to a laboratory, where man-on-lam violently expires as a scientist observes that it has been 48 hours from exposure to death. The same fate awaits the tourist, only when he dies, it will be in the air. Suddenly, no one wants Quantum Airlines Flight 66 to land, the CIA is involved and an international crisis involving a deadly virus, terrorism and the threatened use of a nuclear device are all called into play. “What the hell were the Germans doing screwing around with a Doomsday virus like that,” the President wonders. “It’s unbelievable.” My sentiments exactly. As it turns out, however, other agendas are put into play in “Pandora’s Clock,” and the more the story veers from the initial premise will everyone onboard die from the mysterious disease? the more sluggish the telefilm becomes. The premise would have worked in a tight, two-hour thriller. Stretched over two nights slackly directed by Eric Laneuville, however, David Israel’s lugubrious adaptation of the popular novel by John J. Nance plays padded, and the actors seem to know it. How else to explain Robert Loggia’s uncharacteristically mechanical turn as the CIA director, or a similarly leaden performance by Robert Guillaume as a shuttle diplomat whose presence on the flight may have something to do with the fact that a terrorist is chasing them down in a nimble little Lear jet? Hard to figure, too, how a reporter on board keeps managing to phone in stories without being noticed, or how a CIA virologist is able to mosey into the director’s office. There’s nice work from Richard Dean Anderson as the flight captain with the right stuff (“We’re in the middle of a diplomatic firefight, Dan,” he tells his co-pilot, “and as invariably happens, truth has become the first casualty”). But Daphne Zuniga can’t do much with the virus expert, a former FAA whistleblower uneasily cast as one part Cassandra and two parts lady-in-distress. The other roles are maddeningly underwritten. Special effects, notably several midair chases, are hilariously fake-looking. Ten years ago, “Pandora’s Clock” might have seemed merely run-of-the-mill. Given what’s available from the competition today, however, it’s hopelessly outclassed. Jeremy Gerard

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