He Watched It Sober.

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     "Ms. Brent, What you call insight, I call a knock on the head when I hit a tree going 160mph."

-- Tom Kovack explaining his Third Eye      





Pilot Error




"Gah! There's Pinto's on the starboard bow! Set phasers on Earth-Tones!"


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Best Bet:

Sights &
 Original Air Date:
  January 30, 1973 (NBC)
 Arena Productions /
 Incorporated Television
 Company  /
 National Broadcasting

The Non-Trek
Tales of One
Leonard Nimoy

Zombies of the Stratosphere

The Brain Eaters


The Alpha Caper

Invasion of the Body Snatchers


We open at the track of the Pennsylvania 500, where, after finishing a quick pit-stop, car #37, driven by Tom Kovack (Leonard Nimoy), roars out of the pits and retakes the lead. With the race seemingly in the bag, as he rounds a another curve, Kovack is suddenly overcome by a psychic vision: he sees a large palatial mansion, followed by visions of a road, a green van, and a hay truck -- coming right at him! This vision fades to an older woman in distress, screaming her head off, while a young girl runs down a flight of stairs, and a whispering voice keeps repeating "Windom in Devon..." And these images are so strong Kovack seizes up, loses control of the car and wraps it around a tree. And when the rescue team arrives, for a few hairy minutes, believe him to be dead, but Kovack walks away unscathed.

Some time later, when Kovack is interviewed about the wreck and reveals these visions to the interviewer, Michelle Brent (Susan Hampshire) happens to catch the results on TV. Brent (-- who is English and lives in London --) is a dealer of antique books and more than a casual dabbler in the occult (-- and what's she's doing watching Formula-One Racing Today is beyond me). Fascinated by Kovack's tale, she believes the woman he saw is real, and in grave danger, and somebody needs to do something about it! After tracking Kovack down in New York, he thinks Brent is some kind of kook but is willing to give her fifteen minutes to convince him his vision were real -- but I really think he is more intrigued with her good looks. (Man, Spock is hitting on a chick -- alas, he doesn't quite have the Shatner technique down.) As the duo hash it out, Kovack figures the manor he saw was in England, because of the Windom and Devon reference, but the voice he heard saying it was definitely an American. When he makes a crude drawing of what he saw, Brent produces a book with a picture of Windom Manor in Devon, England; it's exactly what he saw in his vision. Despite this evidence, Kovack writes it off as mere coincidence, and, with her fifteen minutes up, Brent leaves her number in case he changes his mind.

Meanwhile, we discover the screaming woman and the girl Kovack saw in his mind's eye are none other than famed American movie actress Andrea Glenn (Vera Miles), and her daughter, Jennifer (Jewel Blanch). Here, things get even more sinister because, as it turns out, they're on their way to Windom Manor to meet her estranged husband, Duncan Sanford. Seems the couple have been separated for over eleven years, and the plot thickens some more when we find out Duncan arranged for the trip to meet Jennifer, his daughter, for the first time. Arriving at the manor, they're greeted by the creepy Mrs. Faraday (Rachel Roberts), who runs this palatial retreat. Overly excited to meet her father, when Andrea asks where Duncan is Faraday pleads ignorance of his whereabouts or of any plan for this family reunion. But, she's sure Duncan will show up eventually; if not, she adds, he lives in the nearby village. Seeing her daughter's disappointment, Andrea promises they'll go to the village first thing in the morning. With that, they head inside and are duly impressed with the seaside view as Windom Manor is built on a cliff overlooking the ocean. (He typed ominously, knowing this will probably be relevant later.)

Back in New York, while preparing to take a shower, Kovack is overcome by another vision: this time, he's running in the country and comes upon Windom Manor. He runs to the door and pounds on it until it opens. He goes inside, sees the staircase he saw earlier, and is drawn to an elevator that ominously indicates it's going down. The vision shifts and he's on a balcony, overlooking the sea. He turns and spies someone, or something, coming at him, is pushed over the concrete railing, and then plunges into the sea ... Kovack snaps out of it before he splashes down. He's still in his apartment, lying in the middle of the living room floor, but is completely soaked. The shower is running, sure, but his clothes reek of salt water. Convinced that maybe there's something to these visions after all, he quickly calls Brent...

You know, contrary to what you might think, or have heard, the Internet is a truly wonderful thing. You want proof? Well, without it, I’d never have seen that video clip of Leonard Nimoy rocking out "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins". Judging by the style of music, go-go dancing and fashions, this was done sometime in the mid- to late ‘60s. It also appears Nimoy was still involved with Star Trek at the time, too, because he’s sporting his famous Vulcan widow’s peak and funky sideburns. 


Nimoy, along with William Tiberius Shatner, released several albums in the late 1960s. Albums or vanity projects I'll leave you to judge, but people only seem to remember Shatner's singing escapades. Now, Shatner had his own “unique” musical style -- I like to call it Caucasian Scat, treating every tune as if he were speak-singing "When I was Seventeen" with the expected hilarious results. His album, The Transformed Man, contains his interpretations of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Recently, Shatner has resurrected his musical career with those hilarious Priceline.com commercials. Nimoy, on the other hand, actually has a very rich baritone voice and doesn’t sound all that bad. It’s just hard to swallow him singing "Proud Mary". (Highly illogical.) Leonard Nimoy: The Way I Feel is probably his most infamous album, containing the covers of  "If I had a Hammer" and "I Walk the Line". The New World of Leonard Nimoy includes "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" and the cornpone classic, "Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town". The Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy has one side done as Spock, the other as himself. And he went through an experimental phase with The Touch of Leonard Nimoy. Outer Space/Inner Mind is back in Spock territory with the prophetic "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Earth". So, he has at least five albums floating around on vinyl collecting dust somewhere, and if you’re feeling brave enough, track them down. For those of you who don’t know what vinyl is (-- man, I’m getting old), there’s a CD compilation combining their best efforts titled Spaced Out: The Very Best of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. They both are also prominently featured on The Golden Throats collections, so you could also snag those if you need to get your fix.

But we’re here to talk about movies, right? Right. Well, after seeing the video clip of Nimoy smiling and singing to his heart’s content about 30 times it finally tripped a synapse in my head. Cerebral Tesla coils sparked, and along with the smell of burning copper it triggered a latent memory of a movie I once saw: a vague notion of Nimoy playing a psychic race-car driver, who used his mind powers to help solve mysteries. Crossing my fingers I headed to the video store, hoping beyond hope it hadn't disappeared in the great VHS purge. And, believe it or not, it was still there to rent! (I’m as shocked as you are.) The film, of course, was Baffled!, and after doing some research I discovered it was a made for TV movie, or more appropriately, a failed TV-pilot made back in 1972. (Shields up, Captain! Bad fashions ahead! Set phasers on Earth tones! Fire photon bell bottoms! Full spread!) Tipping it's made-for-TV hand very early, the opening credits consist of rapid-cut action scenes taken directly from the film, ending in freeze frame. (A '70s TV staple if there ever was one.) The wonky musical score actually grew on me, and soon I was really digging the action theme to Baffled!. The mystery at its center is fairly engrossing and set up quick as our partners in crime agree to meet up in London. Ms. Brent is very grateful Kovack changed his mind. After their initial meeting she did some research, and after a hair-raising ride through Piccadilly Circus, they manage to book the last two reservations at Windom for the season. And not to rouse any suspicions, when Brent thinks they should go separately Kovack happily agrees so he won't have to ride with her anymore.

Meanwhile, Andrea and Jennifer find Duncan's house, but only find an old woman in a wheelchair inside. She introduces herself as Louise Sanford (Valerie Taylor), Duncan's cousin, who allows Jennifer into Duncan's bedroom, where she finds all the letters she'd written him. The girl also finds another letter that has the seal of vicious looking wolf. (And the dissonant organ sting upon it's discovery tells us it is, indeed, EVIL!) Alas, Louise doesn't know where Duncan is either. She fears he's taken up with that Parrish character again (-- you know, that dastardly occultist), and the mere mention of his name makes Andrea bristle. 

Kovack arrives at Windom manor just as Andrea and Jennifer get back. Recognizing both of them, he gets another psychic-whammy when he gets inside, finding both the staircase and the evil elevator just as he saw it. Elsewhere, Jennifer wanders around the library, finds an old tome and miraculously opens it right to the page with the same wolf's head symbol that labels it the Sign of Marchosias, who is (-- you guessed it) EVIL! Brent arrives next, and Kovack offers to help with her bags. When they're alone, he confirms his psychic visions were all true. When Faraday catches them talking, they cover up fast by talking about race cars. Discovering Kovack's profession, then, Faraday believes he will be delighted to meet Girlie: the pride of Windom Manor. (But that meeting will have to wait for a bit.) Later, we meet the other guests as they gather for supper: Voreli (Chris Benjamin) is an Italian who designs highways and is totally infatuated with Windom's excellent selection of vintage wines; the other guests are George and Peggy Tracewell (Ray Brooks and Anharad Rees), a younger British couple, who seem normal enough. (Perhaps TOO normal.) Not very hungry, Jennifer excuses herself and wanders the grounds, eventually winding up in the boathouse, where she runs into her estranged father; and things get even more cryptic when Duncan (Mike Murray) insists sinister forces are working to keep them apart, so she can't tell her mother they've met. Yeah, Jennifer appears to be under some kind of trance, here, and our suspicions are confirmed when Duncan places a medallion of the Marchosias Wolf around her neck with strict instructions to not show it to anyone else. Back inside, Andrea is growing worried because Jennifer isn't back yet. She hears a clavichord (-- cool, Lurch is here), follows the noise, and finds Mrs. Faraday playing away. She hasn't seen Jennifer, so Andrea keeps looking and heads outside, searches the grounds, including the boathouse, but finds nothing. Back inside, she hears voices and follows them to the same room as before, finding Faraday and the Tracewells enjoying a nightcap, but the clavichord has vanished! Again, Faraday plays dumb, saying there has never been a clavichord in Windom. Beginning to question her sanity, Andrea returns to her room, where Jennifer waits in hiding and scares her.

The next morning, Kovack finds out Faraday's Girlie is cherry '27 Bentley, and, better yet, he's been given permission to shake the cobwebs out of the old roadster. When Jennifer walks by uninterested, dressed in a high mini-skirt and go-go boots, Brent comments it took her three years to get from twelve to fifteen but this girl appears to have done it overnight. They try to follow her but she gives them the slip. Suddenly, Kovack is overcome by another vision but it isn't very clear. However, with Michelle coaching him on how to bring them into focus, the mental images slowly tune-in as he sees someone squeezing a liquid out of a leaf into a red glass. Fearing it may be poison, they quickly find Andrea, who is having a glass of orange juice out of a very red glass. Raising a ruckus about getting an autograph, Kovack blunders close and knocks the drink over. He apologizes but Andrea blames this rash behavior on Windom; the ancient house appears to be ill-affecting everyone, she thinks, especially her daughter, so they'll be leaving as soon as they're packed.

Relieved their rescue mission is an apparent success, with Andrea leaving before the deadly vision is fulfilled, our two heroes spy Mrs. Faraday and Jennifer giggling in secret. Brent watches this, smelling a bigger conspiracy, and is convinced Faraday is looking younger than she did before. Worse yet, after they leave, Faraday gives Andrea another red glass full of OJ and smiles devilishly as she drinks it ...  Later, Andrea is so sick a doctor must be called in. Seems they won't be leaving after all. Here, Kovack tries to help by cluing the doctor in on the probable cause, but this backfires when the snotty M.D. wants to know how a race-car could've possibly sniffed out the oleander poisoning. (Uh, my old friend Bones McCoy told me?) Backing out of this prickly conversation as best he can, Kovack regroups with Brent outside, where they discover the Tracewell's car is full of boxes marked as pharmaceuticals, meaning maybe they're behind the poisoning. Still feeling Duncan is the key, Brent offers to head back to London to try and find him and his old partner, Parrish. Then, the romantic fire that's been smoldering between our amateur occult detectives finally sparks and they almost kiss before being interrupted by an untimely thunderstorm ... Speaking of kissing, later, we find Faraday down in the bowels of Windom, where she finds Duncan waiting and they swap some spit. Meanwhile, Jennifer goes for another nocturnal stroll. This time, Kovack follows her, but she's been spying, too, and knows Kovack and Brent are in cahoots. Thus, leading him to the cliffs, she heads down the steep and curving path, always staying just out of sight. Upon reaching the landing, she calls out to him from her hiding space, and, as he leans over the railing to try and see her, it breaks under his weight, causing him to plummet into the surf below, barely missing the rocks. Thankfully, Kovack bobs to the surface and drags himself ashore. 

The next day in London, Brent follows several leads and finds the burnt out remnants of Parrish's store, which was -- stress on the was, dedicated to the occult and other general weirdness. Before a passing policeman runs her off, he reveals Parrish died in the same fire. Returning to Windom and finding Kovack, who is decked out in a ghastly leisure suit and fedora, he offers a ride in the Bentley so they can exchange information. As the other guests watch them putter off, Andrea confides in her host her daughter's suspicions of those two, believing them to be clandestine lovers staying under false pretenses so they can spy on her. Extremely perturbed by this news, Faraday promises to kick them out as soon as they get back. Meanwhile, unaware that they've been outted, our two conspirators have ditched the Bentley for a walk in the woods, where they try to hash out the facts as they know them: Both Duncan and Parrish were heavily into the occult, says Brent, and she believes Jennifer harbors a source of great, untapped and unnatural power. But Kovack doesn't think the motives are that sinister or complicated, feeling someone is more probably after Andrea's fortune. Suddenly, their attention is drawn back to the car by a loud crash. Finding the Bentley pushed into the ditch, the couple spot the probable culprit: a green van up the road. And while Kovack checks on the car, Brent searches for the other driver -- only to be conked on the head and thrown inside the van by an unseen attacker! Seeing this, Kovack gets the Bentley going and the chase is on! And after several twists and turns, including a game of chicken with a familiar truckload of hay, Kovack forces the van off the road, which smashed into a tree. Alas, by the time Kovack circles back the driver is long gone, but Brent is unhurt so we'll call this a win. Returning to Windom, then, they spy a flushed Voreli running up the road on foot. Putting it together, Kovack accuses Voreli of attacking them. The accused denies it, saying he was just out exercising. Before it comes to blows Faraday breaks it up, and, giving her the excuse she needs, before they derail her lover's carefully laid plans, she orders Kovack and Brent to clear out by tomorrow morning. (Noon at the latest. Okay two. Alright, no later than five.)

With time running out, Kovack reveals he was overcome by another vision when he grabbed Voreli: a vision of the squirrelly Italian with blood all over his hands. Writing down their list of suspects, Brent is still in a lather over Jennifer and her strange behavior. When they get past Duncan and move on to Parrish, a startled Kovack stops writing and shows Brent what he wrote. Beside Duncan's name, he wrote something more: Duncan is dead. Kovack doesn't remember writing it. (OoOoOOooOOoo.)

Later, Andrea awakens to find her daughter gone again. She hears Jennifer calling for her, follows the voice down the stairs and outside to the boathouse, where she finds Jennifer, lying lifeless on the floor, and then promptly passes out. Waking up inside, surrounded by everyone else, when Andrea claims Jennifer is dead a patronizing Faraday, who keeps on getting younger, brings the girl in who is just fine. As everyone grows concerned over Andrea's fragmenting mental state, our psychic sleuths follow the Tracewells as they sneak off, but clear them when they discover the pharmaceuticals they carry are nothing but cartons of French perfume and hair products. The next morning, on the verge of getting kicked out,  Brent tells Kovack to stall while she sneaks into town and checks out Duncan's house. After she leaves, Kovack spots Voreli sneaking around and spies him tripping a secret passage that reveals a hidden staircase. Following him down into the bowels of Windom, he catches Voreli in the wine cellar, trying to steal a few bottles. When Kovack grabs the thief he gets another vision (-- and no fair using the old Vulcan mind probe, there, Leonard): turns out Voreli isn't a highway engineer at all but a wholesale butcher, explaining all the blood on his hands.

Meanwhile, Brent finds Duncan's house but Mrs. Sanford isn't there, only the cleaning woman, who provides the biggest clue of the movie, revealing Mrs. Sanford has only been staying at this residence for two weeks; not four years as she claimed. Brent also finds an autographed picture of Parrish and (-- I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! --) it's really the man claiming to be Duncan, who has Jennifer under his spell. Returning to the manor, she finds Kovack still stalling and reveals their new prime directive -- sorry, prime suspect, Mrs. Sanford, just as they hear the sounds of her wheelchair squeaking about -- but are too late to catch her as the elevator door closes and heads down to the basement. Taking Brent down the secret passage, Kovack plans to head the old woman off at the pass. The basement appears empty, but they find a door to another room and head in only to discover too late it's just a maintenance door. Then, said door slams shut, locking them inside the bottom of the elevator shaft! Upstairs, night falls (-- rather rapidly), and Jennifer confesses to Andrea about meeing her father (-- who we now know is really Parrish, but, hang on, we got one more plot twist coming...). Shocked at this news, Andrea is told to save her questions for Duncan, who finally wants to see her. Taking the elevator to the top floor, the attic, the opening door reveals a lot of cobwebs and a familiar balcony and concrete railing overlooking the sea. Andrea steps out, but Jennifer remains inside and hits the controls, leaving her confused mother behind and stranded. But Andrea isn't alone; Mrs. Sanford is already up there waiting for her.

At the bottom of the shaft, our heroes watch as the elevator descends down to eventually crush them. And as they brace for the worst, Brent confesses her only regret is not being able to spend more *ahem* quality time with Kovack. But the elevator stops just short of smushing them, and then heads back up. Back in the attic, Mrs. Sanford reveals to her captive audience that Duncan died over eight months ago and she was the one who invited them over to England. As for why, Brent was right as Sanford raves about Jennifer being a vessel of great power; a vessel she intends to exploit! When Andrea swears she'll never let that happen, Sanford smirks, stands up, cavalierly discards the wheelchair, and rebukes her, saying Andrea won't be around to stop them. Seems an American actress, whose mind quickly degenerated and snapped, will commit suicide, rather tragically, by throwing herself into the sea. But, before she takes this final header, Andrea must sign some legal documents first, making Sanford Jennifer's legal guardian. When Andrea refuses, Sanford moves to persuade her.

Down below, desperate to get out, Brent convinces Kovack to see if his new abilities include telekinesis and coaches him to concentrate on the lock and "push" it open. He concentrates and blurts out "Open Sesame!" To both their surprise, the lock gives and the door opens. But it's only Voreli, who was stealing some more wine and heard them. Rushing upstairs they spy Faraday and Jennifer coming down the staircase. When Kovack demands to know where Andrea is, Faraday escapes but Jennifer defiantly stays behind. Luckily, Brent spots the Marchosias medallion around her neck and tells Kovack to remove the damned thing because it's EVIL! He tries but a petulant Jennifer runs away until the girl trips and falls, shattering the medallion in the process. Finally released from Parrish's spell, Jennifer reverts to her old self and starts to cry. We then cut to the Bentley, roaring away, and spy Faraday at the wheel rapidly returning to her rightful age. So distraught is she over this regression, she runs the car right over the cliff and into the sea. Back inside the manor, Jennifer says her mother is in the attic with Mrs. Sanford. Leaving Brent to take care of her, Kovack heads up to the rescue, busts in, and finds the two women fighting over the pen and papers. Her rage intensifying, a surprisingly spry Sanford attacks him and starts tossing Kovack around the room. (The fighting sequence appears to be choreographed by Shatner, as well.) Kovack is surprised by her strength but then realizes the truth. He counterattacks (-- use the Vulcan death grip!) and pulls the old ladies mask off, revealing (-- I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! --) that Mrs. Sanford was really Parrish in drag! (Hey, it's Vera Miles, we should have seen this coming.) Undaunted, Parrish socks Kovack in the chin, sending him sprawling onto the balcony, where the concrete barrier crumbles and barely holds him from going over the edge. An enraged Parrish charges to finish the job, but Kovack manages to dodge him in time and the villain falls to his doom on the rocks below.

The next morning, the police arrive and lock up Windom. Before they leave, Andrea and Jennifer are very grateful for their help and invite Brent and Kovack to come and visit them anytime in California. Once they're gone, this leaves only our psychic detectives at the scene of the crime. He has a rental car; she has a taxi waiting. They keep it professional and promise to stay in touch. But as Kovack turns to go, he is seized by another vision: he sees Parrish and another Marchosias disciple boarding a flight to Paris. He calls to Brent, tells her what he saw and to put her bags in his car. They've got to get to Paris because someone else in trouble. Brent happily agrees.

The End

There have been stranger concepts for a TV show other than psychic sleuthing but not that many. Alas, the series was never picked up, so Baffled! was the end of Kovack and Brent's adventures, which is really too bad because Nimoy and Hampshire have great chemistry together. I really liked how Kovack's visions are never crystal clear. Just suggestions, or bits and pieces, that he and Brent must act upon; but they have to be careful not to reveal too much, like with the oleander poison. One by one Kovack's visions are proven true or to be real. And to the film's credit, it uses this to create a sense of danger and urgency as they try to piece it all together before it's too late. It is an interesting premise with likeable characters and given more time it might have proved very entertaining. If memory serves, there was a lot worse crap showing on TV in the '70s. On the minus side, if Baffled! is guilty of anything (-- aside from a couple time warps --) it's that it starts too many supernatural subplots that aren't explored enough, or left to shrivel on the vine. We're never quite sure if Faraday's de-aging process is directly linked with Jennifer's maturing behavior. I think it is, and there was that quick blurb of Faraday aging again after the amulet is smashed. I think. It happened too fast to be sure. I'm also assuming it was Duncan who died in the fire and not Parrish. So the film is about one kooky character, subplot, or red herring short of becoming convoluted, and teeters on this precipice for the entire movie. But to its credit, it never falls in. And now that I think about, after a lengthy and tangled build up, the conclusion sure does wrap up in one helluva hurry. Still, if the series had been picked up, their adventures would have been paired down to an hour, which would really help cut out the fat and let this series sizzle instead of fizzle. Alas, again, t'weren't meant to be.

I must also take a quick moment and say, poor Vera Miles. Does she attract psychotics in drag all the time or what? The Scooby-Doo mask revelation at the end is pretty laughable, but I'll defend it. I'm glad Sanford was played by a real woman, and not Murray in drag, or the mystery would have solved itself in about ten minutes.

Nimoy's affiliation with this movie, and his hosting of In Search Of...(-- a favorite program from my impressionable and misspent youth), leads one to ponder and perhaps conclude that he believed in things like ESP, the occult, witchcraft and Cryptozoology. Or was this all he could get because of his close association with Star Trek? As Ernie Hudson put it so well in Ghostbusters: "If there's a steady paycheck in it? I'll believe anything you say." Nimoy’s career did suffer from being typecast as everybody’s favorite green-blooded alien. Admittedly, there are a couple of occasions in the movie where he slips into Spock mode, and we're having a hard enough time trying to break him out of the Spock mold so this doesn't help. Still, he is a pretty good actor if given the chance, and brings a real likeability and an everyman sense to Kovack, which helps immensely to keep things in proper balance because it gets a little hard to swallow when Hampshire's character insists they're fighting off evil incarnate. There is no boogeyman, Kovack insists, just bad people doing bad things. The truth, like the conclusion of their first adventure, is probably somewhere in between. Which makes Baffled!, on the whole, a disappointing experience because, well, I enjoyed it, and wish there were more episodes to explore the concept further.

Baffled! (1973) Arena Productions :: Incorporated Television Company (ITC) :: National Broadcasting Company (NBC) / EP: Norman Felton / P: Philip Leacock / AP: John Oldknow / D: Philip Leacock / W: Theodore Apstein / C: Ken Hodges / E: Bill Blunden / M: Richard Hill / S: Leonard Nimoy, Susan Hampshire, Vera Miles, Jewel Blanch, Mike Murray, Rachel Roberts

Originally Posted: 02/14/02 :: Rehashed: 03/16/10

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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