Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Collector’s Edition, They Have Been, They Are, Will Be . . . and Mr. R. I. N. G. VHS tape
Three out of five stars
I loved this show when it was first aired, but the “Mr. R. I. N G.” episode is a candidate for the worst in the series. The first one on the tape, “They Have Been, They Are, Will Be . . . “ is pretty good, it was one of the earliest videos that used the plot of a space alien harvesting body parts. However, the second one that involves a sentient robot is a testament to bad special effects.
The strength of the show was not the quality of the monsters, but Darren McGavin as obnoxious reporter Carl Kochak. In his signature white suit, unusual gait and with his grating, obnoxious style, Kolchak was one of the most distinctive characters on television in the seventies. The U. F. O. space alien story here is one where the aliens are never seen, only hinted at throughout the episode. This is much preferable to actually showing them and being disappointed by a human in a really poor monster suit and it allows for the tension to build. Unlike most of the other episodes, there is no resolution due to the death of the monster.
“Mr. R. I. N G.” is a remake of the story of Frankenstein’s monster, only this time it is a sentient robot. With the moral code programming incomplete, the robot escapes and struggles to learn more while avoiding the forces that are hunting it. The robot is another one of the secret government projects that has gotten out of hand and the chasers exhibit the stereotypical mindset of destroying it.
The robot is a very poor attempt to make a robot, it is clearly nothing more than a man wearing a mask with some flashing lights on it. There is a short scene where Kolchak tries to learn about the robot, it’s capabilities and potential. The episode would have been much stronger if more time had been spent in finding out about the robot, learning its thought patterns and beliefs would have been more entertaining. Especially anything to do with Asimov’s three laws of robotics. What a great plot device it would have been if the robot had learned these principles while listening to the tapes. It is clear very early that the “monster” is going to die unpleasantly before the episode ends.