Skip to main content

An Untimely Series.

TV Critic David Bianculli reviews “Earth: Final Conflict," based on a manuscript of the late Gene Rodenberry.



Related Topics

Other segments from the episode on October 10, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 10, 1997: Interview with Chris Giannou; Review of the television show "Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict"; Interview with Robert Wise; Review of the film …


Date: OCTOBER 10, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101001np.217
Head: Besieged: A Doctor's Story in Beirut
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines for working for the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines. These mines are triggered by the weight of a footstep. They remain hidden, killing civilians long after a war has ended. An estimated 26,000 people a year are killed or maimed by anti-personnel mines.

The United States is one of the countries that has not agreed to sign a treaty banning these mines.

On this archive edition, we're going to hear from a war surgeon who has treated hundreds of land mine victims. Dr. Chris Giannou is Medical Director for the Red Cross' campaign against anti-personnel mines, which is by the way not affiliated with the group that won the Nobel.

Dr. Giannou has treated the victims of war in Cambodia, Lebanon, Burundi, Afghanistan, and Somalia. I spoke with him in 1996, and asked him to describe the typical injuries caused by land mines.

DR. CHRIS GIANNOU, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, RED CROSS CAMPAIGN AGAINST ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES: There are two particular types of anti-personnel mines. The one is called a "blast mine," and this is the sort of mine that is detonated when somebody steps on it. There's a pressure sort of triggering mechanism and you get an explosion. Now, the explosion causes a very rapid expansion of air through heat. And this will tear off somebody's leg. It creates what is called a "traumatic amputation."

Depending on the size of the explosive charge and whether the victim is a child or an adult, you may have the foot, the leg below the knee, the leg above the knee simply blown away.

Secondarily, you will have fragments, either from the casing of the mine, gravel, grass, soil, surrounding earth that is pushed up into the stump of what is left of the leg or into the opposite leg, into the buttocks, the genitalia. I even operated on one fellow once who had a wound in the chest wall, in the muscles of the chest. And as I was cutting this out, I found pieces from the bones of his foot. So, the foot that was pulverized by the explosion created secondary fragments which were the bones of the foot, and these injured the victim in the muscles of the chest wall.

The second type of anti-personnel mine is a fragmentation device. And this could be similar to a -- what looks like a hand-grenade. It gives off small pieces of metal fragments, and they can be either directional, and therefore cover a certain arc, or they can spread out over 360 degrees in a circle.

And the injury there resembles very much what one would see with any sort of injury resulting from a mortar shell or a hand grenade. The body is peppered with multiple fragments of metal. Depending on the distance of the victim from the mine at the time of explosion, those fragments will either tear the body to shreds, penetrate more or less profoundly, injure or kill.

The blast-type of mine usually does not kill. There's usually not enough explosive substance in the mine to kill. It's almost purposely made to maim and not to kill.

GROSS: Where did you treat the most land mine injuries during your career?

GIANNOU: Well, I've worked both in Cambodia and in Afghanistan, and as well as in Somalia twice. Cambodia and Afghanistan are probably two of the countries in the world that have been most infested with anti-personnel mines. I spent about eight, nine months in both countries; in 1991 in Cambodia; 1993 in Afghanistan.

And we had hundreds of patients over the months that I was there that were maimed, wounded by anti-personnel mines.

GROSS: Are injuries from anti-personnel mines particularly hard to treat?

GIANNOU: They're very difficult to treat. They're particularly horrific, especially the blast mines. You not only have this traumatic amputation -- a limb being literally torn away -- you have a great deal of soiling.

The blast, as I said, picks up gravel and grass and soil and so forth and pushes it up between the layers of the muscles. It's particularly difficult for the inexperienced surgeon to operate, in that the level of injury is actually much greater that what meets the naked eye to begin with.

And you have to understand the pathological mechanism so that when you operate, you're transforming this dirty, contaminated, traumatic amputation into a clean, surgical amputation. You have to cut far enough up, while at the same time trying to preserve as much as possible of the still-healthy tissues.

And if you don't know to look between the muscles in what is called the tissue plains, then you may very well miss it. If you do, then you're going to leave contaminated, very often contaminated organic material behind and that is a recipe for gas gangrene or tetanus.

So it can be very difficult. They're particularly horrific wounds. I have colleagues who have told me that when they're called in for an emergency case, they almost pray that it be a bullet injury or fragment -- a shell wound -- not a mine injury.

To see almost every mine injury that comes in -- a blast mine injury where the patient is disfigured. They're missing a foot, a leg. If somebody has picked it up, or the de-miners -- the people who try to do mine clearings -- and sometimes they're not professional. They're peasants who have to grow food to feed their families, and therefore they'll go out into their rice paddies or their fields and they will try to clear out the mines themselves. And they will lose a hand, both hands, be injured in the face, lose their vision.

They're -- these are wounds that cause unnecessary suffering, superfluous injury, and very, very horrific disfiguring injuries.

GROSS: Do you often find that by the time somebody gets to the hospital, their wound is already infected?

GIANNOU: Very often. In many of these countries, and here it depends on many factors of geography and so forth, all war wounds are by definition dirty and contaminated. Now, if the patient takes three days, a couple of weeks, to finally reach a hospital -- very, very often the case in a country like Somalia. In Afghanistan also, with mountains and difficulty in transportation, you will often receive patients after three or four days from time of injury. Cambodia was a bit better. The average transportation time was between six to 12 hours.

But people will arrive with not only contaminated wounds, but established infection. And we know also from our database that mine-injured patients undergo multiple operations. On the average, in war surgery -- somebody was hit with a bullet -- on the average you're going to have two operations per patient.

With mine injuries, the average is three to four operations, and if it's a mine-induced amputation, you get four, five, even six amputations -- or operations -- because you have to keep cutting out the infected material, the de-vitalized material.

We know that with blood transfusions, as well, people who are injured with mines need three to four times as much blood.

GROSS: Would you say that most of the victims of land mines that you've treated were intended victims, even if they were civilians, is this part of the civilian population that was targeted by the people who laid the mines?

GIANNOU: The anti-personnel mines have been used in very indiscriminate ways, so that very often what obviously was intended was waging war against, yes, the civilian population. But even if you do not use the mine in an indiscriminate way, the mine by its very nature is an indiscriminate weapon.

Just think of it: the only weapon system that exists where it is the victim that detonates the weapon is a mine. There is no soldier squeezing a trigger, pushing a button. The mine is put out on the fields, in the mountains, on the riverbanks. It is the victim, and whether that victim is military, civilian, a woman, a child, a peasant, the mine by its very nature is indiscriminate.

Whether there is an ongoing conflict, a ceasefire -- in Central America you have countries that knew 10 years of war in the 1980s. There is now a peace process, democratic elections, and yet there are still people falling victim to anti-personnel mines. In North Africa, in Egypt, you have mines left over from the Second World War -- Rommel and the Afrika Korps and Field Marshall Montgomery. And 50 years later, you have victims to land mines.

And therefore, the whole problem with anti-personnel mines is that already they cannot be targeted, since it is the victim who is going to set it off. And as a result, this is one of the major reasons that the mere existence of the use of anti-personnel mines goes contrary to some very basic, fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.

GROSS: Now you worked for a while in Cambodia, which has an enormous number of land mines, though I couldn't tell you exactly how many.

GIANNOU: They estimate it between eight to 10 million.

GROSS: Wow. So did you have to be very careful all the time where you walked? Or did you know where the mine fields were?

GIANNOU: Well, the areas where we could go were very circumscribed. I was there in 1991, even before the ceasefire. Since then, they have United Nations mission and elections and so forth. But I was there before the ceasefire, and we were very, very close to the front lines -- only a question of about 15, 20 miles.

So even the areas where we could go at the time were very circumscribed. Even -- and then we were always told as a matter of security -- we usually rode bicycles around the village where we were working -- nonetheless, we were not allowed to go off into the fields.

Small plastic water-resistant mines will be carried downstream of a river. And so even if the people tell you "this area is safe" -- they go there every day to water their livestock or they go to fetch water or to do their laundry or what have you -- the next day, a mine could float downstream.

And I remember well in Somalia in 1992 in the city of Beled Weyne where I was working at one point, in the middle of the town a girl would go every day to the river to fetch water for her home. And she would go to the same spot. And one day she went down, and she stepped on a mine.

Now Beled Weyne is about 40 kilometers from the Ethiopian border. There had been a war between Ethiopia and Somalia back in '77, '78. It rains in the mountains in Ethiopia. And here was a small plastic water-resistant mine that was washed down the mountain slope into the river bed, downstream and landed on the banks of this town where this young girl, go down every day to the same spot, she thought in perfect safety. Until one day, there was a land mine waiting there for her.

GROSS: Did you treat her?

GIANNOU: I operated on her. I had to amputate her, yes.

GROSS: What was the outcome?

GIANNOU: She had an amputation below the knee. She survived the amputation, but it's not the easiest sort of thing to have to live with in a country like Somalia, which at the time was facing horrendous famine as well.

GROSS: The International Committee of the Red Cross has been keeping a data bank of the injuries that it treats at its war hospitals around the world. What have you learned from those data banks about anti-personnel mine injuries?

GIANNOU: As I mentioned before, the extraordinary amount of work -- the extra number of operations, the extra amount of blood -- that is needed for anti-personnel mine injuries.

Let me give you an example. To treat 100 patients injured by assault rifles -- bullet wounds -- you need an average of 50 units of blood. Now, some cases are going to use several units. Many cases will not need any blood. But the average for treating 100 patients is 50 units of blood. To treat 100 mine-injured patients, you need 120 units -- more than twice as much. To treat 100 people amputated because of land mines, you need 350 units. That's seven times as much blood.

In many countries of the third world, providing that blood in a safe and secure fashion is difficult because of the presence of various transmittable diseases -- HIV, syphilis, malaria, hepatitis. All of that increases, obviously, the amount of work that is done.

Hospitalization time -- most patients with a fragment wound or a bullet wound will leave the hospital after 14 or 15 days. A land mine victim, the average hospital stay is 25 days. And for a land mine amputee, it's 35 days. These are the sort of things that one sees and from analyzing our database, and it reinforces of course our own personal experience.

I've had to operate on hundreds of land mine-injured amongst thousands of patients, and for all of the statistical data that my analysis of our data base gives me, I have numerous personal anecdotes of cases that I've had to treat that symbolize and signify the human reality of the suffering of these weapons.

GROSS: Dr. Chris Giannou was a war surgeon and the director of the Red Cross' campaign against anti-personnel mines. Our interview was recorded last year.

Another group, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines won the Nobel Peace Prize today.

Coming up, a new sci-fi TV series.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Chris Giannou
High: Surgeon for the International Committee of the Red Cross Chris Giannou. For 15 years he has been a surgeon in war torn parts of the world in Burundi, Somalia, and in a Palestinian Refugee Camp. He has seen the devastation on human beings from landmines. Giannou has been a leader in the Red Cross's campaign to ban anti-personnel landmines worldwide -- Giannou has been on the show a number of times. He wrote a memoir in 1994 about his work in the refugee camp, "Besieged: A Doctor's Story of Life and Death in Beirut."
Spec: Books; Authors; Middle East; Health and Medicine; Besieged: A Doctor's Story of Life and Death in Beirut

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Besieged: A Doctor's Story in Beirut
Date: OCTOBER 10, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101002NP.217
Head: Earth: Final Conflict
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:25

TERRY GROSS, HOST: A new syndicated TV series is premiering this week called "Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict." Roddenberry is the creator of "Star Trek" and his name is in the title of this new sci-fi series even though he's been dead for six years.

TV critic David Bianculli explains how and why, and reviews the series.

DAVID BIANCULLI, TV CRITIC: Way back in the '60s, when TV producer Gene Roddenberry was making the original pilot for a proposed science fiction series named Star Trek, he cast his girlfriend in one of the leading roles, as a first officer named "Number One."

NBC rejected that first pilot, but when Star Trek finally went to series, the same girlfriend provided the voice of the ship's computer. She also ended up playing the regular supporting role of nurse Christine Chapel, and eventually she ended up marrying Gene Roddenberry.

That woman is Majel Barrett (ph), and she's still a central part of the ever-expanding Star Trek universe. On "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and the current "Deep Space Nine," she's featured as an outrageous empath named "Wachsana Troy" (ph), and on all continuing Star Trek projects, Deep Space Nine and "Voyager," as well as the Star Trek films, she still provides the voice of the Federation computer.

But with Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict, she's taking her most active role yet. This time, she's one of the executive producers.

Earth: Final Conflict is able to exist with Roddenberry's name in the title, because he had conceived the project and written a blueprint manuscript back in 1976. The original Star Trek series had ended years before, so Roddenberry was pitching Earth: Final Conflict to CBS then.

He stopped work on it, though, when Paramount asked him to develop Star Trek as a feature film. And the Final Conflict manuscript was filed and forgotten until Roddenberry's widow found it last year and decided to develop it as a series.

The 20-year delay has not been too kind, because other sci-fi projects presented in the interim make Final Conflict seem less fresh than it otherwise might. Its basic plot is about aliens who come to Earth promising to cure diseases and solve world hunger and other problems, but who come with a secret and more sinister agenda.

A resistance movement springs up to try to fight them, and the hero of Final Conflict is man caught in the middle. Now basically, that's the same plot as the 1983 miniseries "V" -- to name just one similar example. And the organic architecture and aircraft used by the aliens looks a lot like the stuff in a recent Movie Channel miniseries "Tales of a Parallel Universe."

And the inter-dimensional space short-cuts look a lot like Jodie Foster's wild ride in "Contact." And the local bar in this 21st century Earth city looks like a low-rent version of the cantina in "Star Wars." And so on.

There are times, though, when the ideas seem less familiar and more interesting. Kevin Kilner (ph), who plays the hero, is implanted by the aliens with a chip in his brain that increases his intelligence and memory levels. Von Flores (ph), as a human assistant to the aliens, sets up a simple test that demonstrates the potential of this new implant.


VON FLORES, ACTOR: March 12th, 1987.

KEVIN KILNER, ACTOR: What about it?

FLORES: What did you have for lunch?

KILNER: Lunch? A hot dog -- how would I remember?

FLORES: But you do know. Just recall it.

KILNER: Senoval (ph), I was in junior high.

FLORES: Boone (ph), humor me.



Stay with it. Look around. Explore the memory, Boone.


KILNER: Pizza. I had pizza.

BIANCULLI: It's intriguing that this show is arriving on TV at all. Whether it survives, that's another question. And if the show doesn't catch on quickly, TV fans 20 years from now will need an alien brain implant just to remember it.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: David Bianculli, New York; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
High: TV Critic David Bianculli reviews Earth: Final Conflict," based on a manuscript of the late Gene Roddenberry.
Spec: Media; Television; Gene Roddenberry; Earth: Final Conflict
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Earth: Final Conflict
Date: OCTOBER 10, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101003NP.217
Head: Boogie Nights
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: "Boogie Nights" is new movie about the porn film industry starring Mark Wahlberg and Burt Reynolds. It's directed and written by 27-year-old Paul Thomas Anderson (ph). Our film critic John Powers has this review.

JOHN POWERS, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Boogie Nights is something I thought I'd never see: an epic about hardcore pornographers. Set in the San Fernando Valley during the late '70s and early '80s, it stars Mark Wahlberg as porn actor Dirk Diggler (ph) whose genius dangles between his legs.

He's signed up by Burt Reynolds' character Jack Horner, an adult film director who dreams of making an X-rated movie so artistic that men will stay in the theater all the way through.

Soon Dirk's making films with Horner's top star Amber Waves, who's played by Julianne Moore (ph), and with his surrogate daughter Roller Girl (ph), who always does her scenes in roller skates.

In his strange way, Horner's an honorable man and he makes Dirk part of his extended family -- a collection of oddballs, scuzzoids, and essentially decent outcasts.

Like everyone else in Boogie Nights, Horner finds being in the porn biz a perfectly reasonable thing to do, as is obvious when he explains himself to Dirk.




REYNOLDS: Eddie Adams from Torrance.


REYNOLDS: Jack Horner, filmmaker.


REYNOLDS: Yeah. Filmmaker. Adult's films. Exotic pictures.

POWERS: Although it's filled with well-known faces, the movie's real star is Paul Thomas Anderson, the 27-year-old writer-director whose debut, "Hard Eight" (ph), didn't prepare me for the creative explosion of Boogie Nights, which is so sharp and funny and alive that you feel sure you're discovering a major talent.

Like many young directors, Anderson shows traces of the filmmakers who've inspired him. The most obvious is Martin Scorcese, whose "Goodfellas" is the template for this insiders, panorama of the porn biz.

But if Boogie Nights' structure is derivative, the movie itself is fresh and original. Anderson interweaves half a dozen story lines, anchoring them in that era of blissful permissiveness when disco music throbbed, drugs and orgies were actually considered a road to liberation, and hipsters donned platform heels and skin tight shirts, whose fabric gave off a nacrea (ph) sheen.

We see the adult movie milieu in its idiocy, casual sleaze, roach-like immorality -- and this is the film's real triumph -- in its fleeting moments of wounded humanity.

While everyone we see is foolish or venal, cartoonish or lost, Anderson's view of them is amused, generous and accepting. Amber may be a drug-addled porn star, but Julianne Moore's layered performance gives her an aura of maternal benevolence gone disastrously wrong. It's she who, in a moment of affection, turns Dirk on to the drugs that bring him down.

In fact, the movie's a veritable lava lamp of shifting emotions, from Dirk's hilarious dream of playing a hardcore James Bond to Horner's spasm of disgusted regret when he realizes that his long-time financial backer, the Colonel, can no longer be forgiven his taste for underage girls.

I can't mention this scene without noting that Reynolds' wry dignity as Horner is the best acting he's ever done.

Scene by scene, Boogie Nights is so dazzling that I'm tempted to rave on about the unforgettable bits, like the nerve-wracking robbery in which a Chinese dude keeps dropping firecrackers and making everyone jump. In fact, there's so much good material here that I wish I could say the whole movie lived up to the opening hour's promise.

But Anderson is still a better director than writer, and his script both meanders and occasionally feels rushed. The rise and fall structure is just too pat for lives so lewdly unconventional in their deluded pursuit of fame.

Then again, the movie's final moments are so bittersweet and weird -- we finally see Dirk Diggler's 13-inch penis -- that such complaints feel like mere quibbles.

Boogie Nights boasts so much thrilling stuff that Anderson may well supersede Quentin Tarantino as the director that most young filmmakers want to be. He has far more emotional range and depth than Tarantino, which isn't to say that his film will be more successful at the box office. For while "Pulp Fiction" was about something that American audiences find comfortable, namely murder, Boogie Nights deals with sex, which means that many people will find it disturbing.

GROSS: John Powers is film critic for Vogue.

Dateline: John Powers; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
High: Film critic John Powers reviews the new film "Boogie Nights".
Spec: Movie Industry; Boogie Nights
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Boogie Nights
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue