"My God... it's never happened before... not like this. What's wrong?!"
Looking back on the classic Incredible Hulk series, it becomes apparent that where it really shines is often times when it's given enough room to breathe. Yes, I'm talking about two-part stories. The Pilot, Married and Prometheus are prime examples of this. (To be honest, The First is another two part episode but I think it falls well short of the mark set by those already mentioned.)
The 30-second synopsis
David Banner rescues a blind woman, Katie Maxwell, from drowning in a Colorado National Park. While he is getting to know her, something crashes in the woods nearby. Thinking it may be a plane crash, David goes to investigate.
He soon realizes that it is a meteorite that has crashed to earth, and it is emitting intense radiation on the gamma ray spectrum. The meteorite makes David feel odd and he becomes wary. While trying to flee the area of the meteorite and the strange sensation it creates in him, he stumbles on a hornet nest (literally!) and is stung so many times that he hulks out.
But something about the meteorite has altered David's already altered chemistry and he is unable to complete his transformation back to his human self. He spends much of the second act of Part I in a half-state. Part II of the episode is dominated by the Hulk, being observed and tested in a Government lab.
For all you Ferrigno fans out there, this is the episode for you!
What makes Prometheus standout
Bixby does a great job in his interpretation of the in-between man; Banner's intellect is blunted by his hulk half, while he retains some of the creature's strength and physical characteristics. This latter part is accomplished through the editing equivalent of slight-of-hand -- interspersing wide-angle footage of Ferrigno with close-up footage of Bixby in Hulk brow and make-up.
While the special effects don't stand up well compared to those of today, they stand up better than many of the show's contemporaries.
Prometheus is an interesting story that receives high marks for continued exploration of the The Incredible Hulk Phenomenon. For example, it poses the intriguing question - what if David Banner can't change back from the Hulk ? Has the meteorite given him a final overdose of gamma radiation and condemned him to remain the gamma green giant forever? Or worse - something in between?
Where it fails is in realism.
I know what you're thinking... realism? This is The Incredible Hulk, for crying out loud! There's not a lot of realism in a comic book story of a character who transforms from an average man into a 7-foot tall, hulking green creature when he's pissed.
But I would argue that given that somewhat unlikely premise, the show really has done an excellent job of making it believable in many of the episodes - especially those on my list. In fact, it was a stated goal of the production team , headed by Bill Bixby and Kenneth Johnson, to make as realistic a story as could be made, giving the super-natural nature of the topic.
But be that as it may, the viewer must check their disbelief at the door at the outset of this episode a bit more than the others.
It's not the big stuff that falls apart, it's the details. For instance, David being affected adversely by a meteorite that just so happens to emit gamma radiation? OK. Fine. That's possible. Maybe even plausible in this universe. But Jack McGee infiltrating the "civilian" agency working with the military in a restricted site of a meteorite crash - a crash that the military suspects may be of the extra-terrestrial contact type of event?
That just didn't add up for me. Silly, I know. But it's okay because that's not what the episode is really about anyway...
At the end of part 1, David fully transforms into the Hulk again and is captured by the military and government agencies sent to investigate the meteorite. They think the Hulk is an E.T. (extra-terrestrial), who traveled to Earth in the meteorite.
PART II - Jekyll into Hyde
"You told me that you want peace; to make the creature go away..."
Part II opens with the government assembling a group of scientists who are experts in their given fields to study the "visitor" (A.K.A. The Hulk). It plays out somewhat like an episode of The A-Team. Instead of assembling members of a crack commando unit from the Vietnam war, this is a group of leaders in their respective scientific fields.
It is revealed during this sequence that this group of scientists created "Project Prometheus" for the purpose of examining alien species, should they ever be encountered.
The Hulk is subjected to scans and tests as the Project Prometheus scientists discuss and debate whether it is an extraterrestrial or something else.
During this time, McGee watches on a video feed he has discovered on another level of the complex.
Eventually the scientists decide to expose the hulk to a piece of the meteorite. This angers him greatly, and his breaks out of his confinement.
The rest of the episode is classic "Hulk Smash" goodness as he makes good his escape.
The Incredible Hulk Escapes, a photo summary.
Jack McGee, in shades of Grey.
McGee makes a good showing as a possible good guy. Of course, his motivation is often personal. For example, he rescues Katie in the hopes of trying to gain information on the man who becomes the Hulk. At one point, he even mentions a cash reward for any information. But the fact remains that he does get her moved out of detention. Many episodes cast McGee as the nemesis, but Prometheus is one of those episodes in the series that show McGee is not so clear cut; more shades of Grey than black or white.
He even shows up in a meeting with the Project Prometheus scientists to tell them the Hulk is not an E.T., but a man who transforms into the creature before them.
He attempts to convince the scientists they need to catch the Hulk to study him - provided he gets the details for his story.
The big picture - something for everybody.
This episode also stands out as an example of just how great The Incredible Hulk series could balance its many themes.
This episode has it all - great character threads; Katie Maxwell is not simply "a blind woman fulfilling some need to be rescued", she is a properly fleshed out character; a serious treatment of David's "condition"... what if David became stuck mid-way in his transformation - half human, half hulk?; there's also serious Hulk time, particularly in the second half.
The tension is maintained in Part II as David again fails to transform completely into his human form and is the in-between man, posing the question - what happens if he can never again become human?
Overall, perhaps the biggest thing that sets Prometheus apart from other episodes in the series is its Hulk-centric focus. Many of the other episodes focus more on David Banner and his struggle to contain, control or all out eliminate the creature he becomes; Hulk outs only serve as the moment of climax as he loses control or they serve as plot complications to move the story along.
But in Prometheus, the Hulk is treated as a serious scientific phenomenon.
We also get a glimpse of what David Banner's life would be if his identity were ever discovered, which puts more weight behind the lengths to which he goes to protect his identity in most episodes (see Homecoming and Earthquakes Happen as examples).
Overall, this episode has a real Andromeda Strain feel to it and that serves it well.
Where to watch Prometheus
- Watch The Incredible Hulk, Prometheus, Online | Netflix
You can watch The Incredible Hulk instantly on Netflix. Sign up for access to a wide variety of Movies & TV Shows streaming instantly to your TV, computer, tablet or favorite device.
- Amazon.com: The Incredible Hulk: Season 3, Prometheus
Amazon.com: The Incredible Hulk: Season 3, Episode 22 "Prometheus, Part 1": Amazon Instant Video