This interesting TV movie marks Michael Crichton’s first directing job.
We tend to forget that he actually directed a few movies — including the classic Westworld (1973), Runaway, and The Great Train Robbery — although this one is intriguing because he was filming his own novel, Binary. At the time he still planned to become a doctor, so he’d published it under the name John Lange.
However, when he sold it to 20th Century Fox to be filmed as an ABC TV movie, no one could understand the technical details and they asked him to film it.
Which you have to admit is a strange way to become a director.
This one isn’t science fiction, but a thriller, with that most Seventies of TV stars, Ben Gazzara as a quietly efficient Federal agent on the track of a dangerous politician (played by E.G. Marshall) who stole a binary nerve gas bomb (that just means that there are two separate chemicals that combine to form the gas).
It’s an impressive TV film, even for an era with a lot of interesting TV movies, but it deserves a mention here not just for its place in Crichton’s career, but because it reveals what is perhaps the source — or one of the major sources — for his obsession, in so many stories — with the dangers of losing control of our technology.
When someone is shocked that a private citizen could so easily steal such a dangerous weapon, a character points out that, despite all the safeguards “any clever person with enough money, enough time and enough determination could do the same thing. That goes for nuclear weapons as well.”
It’s a sobering thought.
And it certainly makes you look at new technologies in a very different light.
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