Nowhere Man, A Tribute
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 7/1/05

History   The Episodes   Summary


  Back in the mid-1990s the United-Paramount Network (UPN) made its debut, the same season as the Warner Bros (WB) Network. It was less than a decade since the upstart Fox network challenged the Big 3 networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), whose dominance was nearly three decades old, since the demise of the old DuMont network in the late 1950s. Both of the netlets (as WB and UPN were called) hoped to follows Fox’s lead by appealing to the age 18-49 demographic. The WB did so by tossing out a string of exploitive black sitcoms and teen angst melodramas while UPN has never quite found its niche. In later years it would add WWE professional wrestling to its roster, but in its first season (1995-1996) UPN set sail with the third of its Star Trek sequel series- Star Trek: Voyager- a rather bland show, and the show that followed it- an intriguingly existential offering called Nowhere Man- an odd blend of The Prisoner and The Fugitive, with just enough paranoia to rival the then immensely successful The X Files, from Fox.

  The show was ostensibly about a man named Thomas Veil, played by Bruce Greenwood- one of those good looking second tier Hollywood ‘names’ that you can recall, but not quite place. His greatest post-Nowhere Man role would be as JFK in the Kevin Costner film Thirteen Days, about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although Veil would spend every episode on the run from some ‘shadow’-type government organization, in the vein of The Fugitive and The X Files, in truth, the show would not have been possible without the 1960s surreal classic The Prisoner. The situations were a bit reversed though. In The Prisoner Patrick McGoohan’s Number Six is a spy, whose life is taken away from him when he is kidnapped, after resigning his post as a secret agent, by some rogue element that may or may not be working for the West, and finds he is identityless- merely referred to as a number, in what appears to be a village on some island. Veil’s dilemma, while just as puzzling, is that it turns out that he is a spy, codenamed Gemini (or a Federal Agent- it’s unclear), who has been set up to infiltrate the shadow organization, and surrenders his identity willingly. Of course, at series start this is all unknown, and Thomas Veil is who he believes he is- a successful photojournalist whose having his first ‘show’, and afterwards, while dining out with his wife Alyson, he finds out that no one recognizes him, Alyson is married to someone else, and what he thought was his life, as Veil, is gone. Of course, both shows actually deal with the idea of the self, and rely on macguffins, or putative important points, that are denoted simply to give a character a vehicle to explore a grander theme, as filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock called them. In The Prisoner the macguffin was the Village masters’ desire to know, simply, why Number Six resigned. They repeatedly told him that all he need do would be to proffer that information, and his life would be returned. Number Six considered the reason ‘personal’ and fought tooth and nail for his right to retain his integrity. In Nowhere Man the macguffin was a set of negatives that Veil had in his possession. The photo that the negatives held was of a putative execution of rebels in a Latin American jungle, and called Hidden Agenda. As with Number Six, all Veil need do would be to give the negatives to the shadow government and his life would be restored.

  This was a superbly written series, crafted by creator Lawrence Hertzog, most well known for La Femme Nikita, and numerous other tv projects, but it only lasted one season- 25 episodes- because of UPN management interference, in effect consistently trying to dumb down the show to a lowest common denominator spy thriller, rather than a serious quest for what it is to be human, a person, an individual. The series’ end, which reveals Veil’s seemingly true identity, was a great letdown, much as many Prisoner fans felt when Number Six’s struggle against the Village turned out to be an internal psychic battle between Number Six (ostensibly John Drake from McGoohan’s predecessor show Secret Agent- or the original British title, Danger Man) and his own darker self. Yet, given that show’s premise, and its innate surreality, in many ways it has held up better than the more recent Nowhere Man. That is because 9/11 showed us that the idea of an all-powerful federal government is silly when illiterate terrorists with box cutters can wreak such carnage. 9/11 was a body blow to Roswell-type conspiracies, and, as such, current shows like Alias and 24 simply lack the emotional heft that a Nowhere Man did in its day. Perhaps the best post-9/11 article on the dose of reality that the fall of the Twin Towers had on conspiracists was a 2002 article by ufologist J. Antonio Huneeus in Fate magazine. Nowhere Man’s near omnipotent shadow government is also wholly implausible in retrospect, and McGoohan’s decision to make Number Six both his show’s protagonist and antagonist seems all the more wise and durable a decision.

  Yet, there is the suspension of disbelief that one encounters in fiction, in all media, and whilst watching a Nowhere Man episode things like plausibility- post-9/11- fall away, as it should, and the series can be viewed and judged in retrospect on its merits. On that count, Nowhere Man still holds up as a series that ranks as one of the top tv dramas ever to appear from America. I recently purchased, online, a DVD set of all 25 episodes, from a popular fansite. The site’s owner chooses anonymity, to prevent possible litigation, so I will not mention it here, but if one Googles Nowhere Man you can find the Yahoo group rather easily, and purchase a copy of your own- I recommend it over many of the ‘official’ series DVDs of lesser shows. That said, it would be very difficult to determine that this was not an ‘official’ release, for the video quality is excellent, there are bonuses such as tv commercials for it and Star Trek: Voyager, a few promotional bits, and best of all commentaries on 15 of the 25 episodes, where creator Larry Hertzog is interviewed by an unnamed interviewer for some college project. Failing finding it online one can contact me and I will forward any requests to the individual in question.

  In this next section I will review all 25 episodes with plot points and my comments, as well as summarize the DVD commentary, and add my own comments.

The Episodes

1) Absolute Zero (The 90 Minute Pilot)

Original Air Date: August 28, 1995
Written by Lawrence Hertzog

Directed by Tobe Hooper


  The DVD comes with the aired version and the director’s cut- the only difference being a one minute excision of a scene of Veil mailing himself ‘proof’ of his reality. As the episode opens Veil, who lives in Lake Forest Illinois, a Chicago suburb, has it all- a beautiful wife named Alyson (Megan Gallagher- whose greatest prior claim to fame was as a regular on China Beach), a lauded career as a photojournalist, and a retrospective of his best work set to open. After the gala, he and Alyson are at a restaurant, and Veil goes to the john to smoke. When he returns Alyson is gone, and no one knows who he is. He is tossed out of the restaurant by the bouncer and makes his way home, only to discover his ATM card is void, and his house keys don’t work. Alyson answers the door, and claims to not know him, only to have her ‘husband’ show up with a shotgun, and an ultimatum for him to leave or die. The next day he hides in Alyson’s car, and as she drives away he confronts her. She admits, finally, that she’s been threatened. But, he was seen by someone, in her car, and the ‘police’ stop Alyson’s car. When they arrest him Alyson claims she’s never met him before, and he’s crazy. He is shipped off to a sanitarium called Calaway. There he meets Dr. Walter Bellamy (Michael Tucker- from LA Law), who ties to convince Veil that all is not right by bringing him back to his gallery, where no one recognizes him, and his photo- officially titled ‘Hidden Agenda- Black and White, 1994- Negative Press’- seems nonexistent. Bellamy has a habit of pricking a cigar with a pencil tip- another macguffin of the series, something many of the members of the conspiracy seem to do. At the sanitarium he’s befriended by a seemingly in-the-know patient named Dave ‘Eddy’ Powers (Ted Levine), who is later lobotomized, and a black man named Joe Carter, or J.C. (Jay Arlen Jones), who has a Christ complex. Panicked, Veil escapes, and returns to the home of his agent/lawyer, Larry Levy (Murray Rubinstein), who seems dead. Veil then makes his way to Iowa, where his mother seemingly has had a stroke, and denies knowing her son. Whether this is evidence of the conspiracy, or simply their not being close, as alluded to earlier, is subjective. Veil escapes, after overpowering a sheriff, and being freaked out by his mother’s nurse and pastor. He then returns to Chicago, kidnaps Dr. Bellamy, and threatens to set him ablaze in his gallery if he doesn’t cooperate, only to have his gallery besieged with machine gun fire that seems to finish off Bellamy. Veil makes his first of many narrow escapes as his gallery blows up. He goes off to see his mother, who denies him, and then he makes another narrow escape before a great ending out in the desert, at a crossroads, where a man in a pickup truck offers him a ride, but he demurs when the man pricks his cigar with a pencil tip.

DVD Extras: The first DVD set contains both the aired and Director’s Cut, which lops off a scene where Veil mails himself copies of the negatives to places he plans to be in at later dates. On the aired DVD Hertzog is speaking with an unnamed commentator who screened many of the episodes for some college project. Among the interesting comments are Hertzog talking about pitching the series and casting Greenwood as Veil. He also makes cogent comments on different shooting techniques, and the difference between seeing the series as a producer and now as a viewer. It’s refreshing that he’s not in the fellatio mold of DVD commentators. DVD also contains commercials, trailers and a featurette.

2) Turnabout
Original Air Date: September 4, 1995
Written by Lawrence Hertzog
Directed by Lawrence Hertzog

  Veil impersonates Dr. Bellamy to penetrate the Western Operations of the Conspiracy, Organization, or Syndicate. At this point who these people are is not clear- government rogues, anti-government terrorists, part of organized crime? And, is there a director, or is it a headless dragon? He is ordered to break a new subject- Ellen Combs (Mimi Craven), who also had her life stolen and was subjected to electroshock therapy. This echoed some Prisoner episodes in where Number Six turned out to be in a power position over someone in his position. Veil hopes to find out more about the Conspiracy and help the woman. He does, only to find out that she was a plant to break him, after she slips up. Her failure dooms her to imprisonment, and Veil to paranoia, unable to distinguish coincidence from conspiracy. George Delhoyo as a Supervisor for the Organization is very effective with his smarmy charm and cool. A bit of suspension of disbelief is in order to believe that the all-powerful organization would not have files on Dr. Bellamy, including his photo. I mean, yes, they may be outlaws, but there are ways to encrypt things.

DVD Extras: Hertzog speaks of filming the series around Portland, Oregon, and this particular episode at Reed College. He distinguishes Nowhere Man from The Prisoner by stating his show is more visceral. He also muses on kids who are ‘original’ never being popular, viewing the show as a Twilight Zone anthology series with a recurring character, and the macguffin of the negatives being inspired by the ‘Why did you resign?’ question of The Prisoner. After a few minutes only Hertzog is heard on the commentary, as the interviewer’s comments did not record


3) The Incredible Derek
Original Air Date: September 11, 1995
Written by Joel Surnow
Directed by James Darren

  Veil ends up in Tipton, Georgia, after clues found in Hidden Agenda, and meets up with a carny psychic- a lonely ten year old blind seer named Derek Williams (Zachery McLemore), who is being used by his con man dad. He’s after a certain humvee in the photo, to prove the events were real. Derek somehow knows things about Veil’s stolen life, and the two become close, The two, plus Derek’s dad, are then on the run from the Organization, and the military, after the man Veil sought is killed. This is both a touching, yet utterly silly episode, and one is not quite sure whether Derek is a genuine psychic and/or another Organization plant, as the episode ends with Veil hightailing it out of town as the military arrives to question Derek and his dad. Throughout the series, we’ll see times when seeming friends turn out to be plants once the Organization comes. This episode ends before we know exactly what will transpire between the soldiers and Derek.

DVD Extras: Hertzog comments on the later revelations that Tom Veil may not be Tom Veil being foreshadowed in the ease with which others forget him, and relates the show to The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, The Manchurian Candidate, and The Prisoner.

4) Something About Her
Original Air Date: September 18, 1995
Written by Lawrence Hertzog
Directed by James Whitmore Jr.

  A pretty good episode, where Veil meets another organization femme fatale who’s not what she seems to be. Veil wakes, after being kidnapped while trying to help a little girl he’s run over, who turns out to be an Organization shill, to believe he’s been in love with a photographer named Karin Stoltz (Carrie-Ann Moss). Yet, Veil does not buy bullshit so well at this point, and when Karin is ‘kidnapped’ to force Veil to divulge info on Hidden Agenda, he sees Alyson’s wristwatch inscription, and does not break. Karin, who’s fallen in love with him, tries to save him but is killed. As Veil recovers he sees that what he thought was the apartment he shared is really a tv studio set. His step outside into the blinding light of reality may be a bit clichéd, but is effective given the circumstances. Thus far this is the most sci fi episode.

DVD Extras: The commentaries are mentioned as being recorded in 2001-2002. Hertzog speaks of the advantages of Veil’s kindness, and how realistic beauties like a Carrie-Ann Moss add to a show vis-à-vis a boobalicious blond like Pamela Anderson, and how Veil has courage while the Organization’s apparatchiks don’t. He also muses on unforeseen things which, in retrospect seem to have symbolic heft.

5) Paradise On Your Doorstep
Original Air Date: September 25, 1995
Written By: Lawrence Hertzog
Directed By: Thomas J. Wright

  The most obvious homage to The Prisoner. Veil’s working at a photo shop and follows a woman he thinks he knows to the airport, where he commandeers her airplane. He is subdued, and wakes in a Village-like town, New Phoenix, for people the Organization has erased. He and the blond, Dee, become lovers, and Veil seems to ‘fit in’, only to find that the leader of this Village, Paul (Stephen Meadows) is a powermad fool, whose measures to protect his people from the Organization results in his becoming a dictator, erecting lasers to kill those who would flee, and imprisoning dissenters. Veil frees them, deposes the leader, and then is drugged, and returned to the outside by Dee (Saxon Trainor), the newly elected leader. The moralism is a tad strong- choose your enemies wisely, etc., but it is effective, especially since a number of people and Number Twos in The Prisoner, were plants like Dee, who eventually rose to power. A nice touch is that this ‘Village’ is not run by THEM, as in The Prisoner, but by THEIR victims. At the end of the show we’re not sure if this was real, or another Organization attempt, although a note from Dee, that Veil finds, suggests the Organization was not behind New Phoenix, and not as powerful as earlier episodes led us to believe.

DVD Extras: Hertzog talks of the skewed time element in the series, and what Veil might be doing between the action of each episode, comments on The Prisoner’s The Village vs. the Norman Rockwellian New Phoenix, and the relevance to the Patriot Act is sharp, although probably recorded pre-9/11. The discussion reminds me of the question Robert McNamara asks in The Fog Of War: How much evil must we do to do good? Hertzog also says that most politics involves rationalizing preconceptions, that people who are outsiders are the ones who achieve greatness, and declares he wants to be ‘different, like everyone else’.

6) Spider Webb
Original Air Date: October 9, 1995
Written by Joel Surnow
Directed by Thomas J. Wright

  A really funny episode wherein a Hollywood producer named Max Webb (Richard Kind) is doing a tv show that seems to be patterned after Veil’s life. After confronting the bad actors and director he actually meets Webb, in a very chilling scene that shifts from humor to evil on a dime. Webb’s show seems to predict Veil’s future, but when Veil tries to retrieve his file, unlike in the show, he is not ambushed. As Webb and another Organization lackey close in they meet the fate they had for Veil, who leaves his file in its place.

DVD Extras: Not much outside comments on the show, and a query on whether the actors in the show within the show are in on things. 

7) A Rough Whimper Of Insanity
Original Air Date: October 23, 1995
Written by Joel Surnow
Directed by Guy Magar  

  The title comes from an anagram of the outdated term Internet Superhighway. Veil delivers pizzas to a reclusive computer genius, Scott Hanson (Sean Whalen), who looks like a young Steven Hawking. They become friends- as he did with Derek, and Scott tries to help Veil by breaking into the Organization’s computer files. He also shows Veil a virtual reality, where he meets a virtual Alyson, and Scott has a virtual girlfriend- a former teacher they later meet in reality, after the Organization fries Scott’s computer and are after the two. At the teacher’s Scott and Veil go virtual reality to get Veil’s file. Scott looks at it and says that Veil wouldn’t believe what he sees. Scott then stays inside the crumbling reality, as the Organization moves in, and Veil escapes. Scott is a vegetable as the show ends, and Veil shows that there are more important things than information. The effects are way outdated, and downright silly, but that’s to be expected. The emotional heft of the show is really strong, as both men are loners, and owes a nod to The Prisoner episode The General, where Number Six defeats the Village’s room-sized supercomputer (an even more outdated concept) with a single unanswerable query: why?

DVD Extras: Hertzog talks about how Scott is very much like Derek from an earlier show, how the pizza boss is another kind of THEM, the oppressive asshole boss, how this episode is a good idea of the anthology idea for the show since Scott is arguably the main character, He also talks about tapping into the Men In Black mythos, and how fans have freeze framed the file Scott sees for clues. He also reveals the virtual reality music heard with Alyson is called ‘Stranger On The Shore’.

8) The Alpha Spike
Original Air Date: October 30, 1995
Written by Erica Byrne
Directed by Steven Robman

  Veil is now a groundskeeper at a boarding school of rich fascist kids- part of Dr. Bellamy’s many projects in mind control. One of them, Kyle (Jackson Price), the BMOC, kills a classmate, and then eventually tries to blackmail Veil into silence over it, by setting him up in a compromising photo with a blond schoolgirl. Veil plays along, but records Kyle’s confession. He eventually gets a skeptical sheriff to believe him about the murder, which undoes the Organization’s plans. Yet, the very fact that one evil teenager nearly destroys and dominates the Organization stooges shows that they are not nearly as strong as one might think. And just who they are and what they are really after is not clear, as they seem all over the map. The title refers to brain wave activity of suggestible subjects, the only type allowed into the school.

DVD Extras: Hertzog rails about how excellence is not tolerated in organizations, and is usually diminished or forced out, how the lowest common denominator is always appeal to for ratings, how systems have no interest in process, only results, and how college homogenizes people and thought.


9) You Really Got A Hold o­n Me
Original Air Date: November 6, 1995
Written by Jake and Michael Weinberger
Directed by Michael Levine

  Another fun episode wherein Dean Stockwell stars as Gus Shepard, an erased person who’s spent twenty-five years on the run from the Organization- to the point that his success at eluding them has led both them and himself to tire of the chase. He wants to help Veil, whom he calls Rob Roy, and also die. Along the way, he wants to say goodbye to a daughter that refuses to acknowledge him, and also a hooker he’s fallen in love with. In the end, Veil ends up saving Gus, by turning him in to the Organization, to give his life new relevance. It also shows what seeking the Truth, to the exclusion of all else, can result in- nihilism.

DVD Extras: Hertzog talks about how ‘The Game’ with the Organization has come to define Gus, how he needs it to live, and how the pilot was shot in Los Angeles, but the rest of the series was shot in Portland, Oregon.


10) Father (aka Validation)
Original Air Date: November 13, 1995
Written by Art Monterastelli
Directed by Guy Magar

  One of the best episodes in the series. In the pilot we’d learned Veil’s father was long estranged from him. Now, as Veil returns to his hometown, he meets a man, Jonathan Crane (Dean Jones), who claims to be his father- yet he looks nothing like him, having had plastic surgery, and meets men in the middle of the night who seem to be Organization men. Veil is suspicious. He asks for proof, but his father cannot find a photo he claims he took of the two of them. That the man recognizes Veil could be proof that Veil’s past is real. It turns out his father’s surgery was for vanity, and the men local loansharks, not Organization men, that Jonathan was in deep to. Veil pays them off, and save Jonathan, but not after Oedipal dreams where Jonathan tries to kill Veil and his young wife Beth (Donna Bullock) tries to seduce him. At episode end, after Veil departs, still not totally trusting Jonathan, the camera pans to behind a couch where the photo Jonathan sought as proof is lying. This seems to suggest Jonathan is Veil’s dad, and Veil Veil is real. The episode also seems to show that the Organization is not related to the Mafia, or into traditional crime avenues.

DVD Extras: Hertzog talks about how past episodes have made Veil too paranoid to easily trust Jonathan, how Veil’s ‘erasure’ hits him harder than Number Six’s in The Prisoner, since we have more background info on Veil, and how the photo at episode’s end may contradict the claimed end of the series- which Hertzog rails against as being ‘tacked on’ by the network.

11) The Enemy Within
Original Air Date: November 20, 1995
Written By: Peter Dunne
Directed By: Ian Toynton

  The best episode in the series, and a sort of second take at Something About Her, except Veil’s lady love is not an Organization plant. In Pennsylvania, Veil is shot accidentally trespassing on a power plant’s property. He is saved by a woman, Emily Noonan (Maria Bello), with a guilty past and a farm that is being squeezed out by the company that owns the power plant- sort of a Wal-Mart farming conglomerate out to destroy the town she lives in. They fall in love, and Emily leads a crusade against the company, showing that the organization is not the only evil out there. When she has to go away for a few days, to plot the town’s strategy, Veil gets information for his own search. Emily realizes Veil will not wait for her, and drives off without him. Some of the best philosophy and poetic cinematography occurs in this episode, and Maria Bello radiates beauty and desire, as well as chemistry with Bruce Greenwood that no other female co-star would.

DVD Extras: Hertzog talks of how this is another ‘anthology’ episode, more on Emily than Veil, and how he cast Maria Bello, He also goes on about Veil’s virtues and flaws, and how they are often the same thing, about editing certain scenes- especially a twilight scene in the episode, and how Veil blows happiness with Emily for the Organization- which does not appear in the episode- has ruined his belief in marriage.

12) It’s Not Such A Wonderful Life
Original Air Date: November 27, 1995
Written By: Lawrence Hertzog
Directed By: Tim Hunter

  This feint episode has the Organization pretending to be members of Congress and the Justice Department
, who have closed in on the Organization and need Veil’s help to put them away. Its title plays off the Jimmy Stewart film, and is set at Christmas, and references The prisoner episode called Many Happy Returns, wherein Number Six also believes his ordeal is over. All he need do is turn over the negatives of Hidden Agenda, and the prosecution can proceed. He even meets up with Alyson (Megan Gallagher) and his mom Helen (Mary Gregory), who admit they were pressured by the Organization to deny him. Then, while under guard by the ‘FBI’, Veil wakes up alone, with a note from Alyson asking for the negatives and how did he find out it was a ruse. Not the thing a professional operative would do, but this only deepens the mystery about her. And, did Veil know all along they were bogus? Perhaps paranoia serves a purpose, at times?

DVD Extras: Hertzog calls this the Merry Christmas Fuck You To Veil, and relates this to The Prisoner’s Many Happy Returns. He rails that all organizations are bad, with only degrees of malignance, and you only survive by becoming one of them. He also calls this Veil’s conjugal visit episode. He talks about how women in Veil’s life all betray him, excepting the prior episode, the clue-based vs. existential aspects of the show, how he hates the last four episodes of the series and calls them ridiculous. However, had the series been renewed it would have followed The Manchurian Candidate trope more than The Prisoner. He also discusses inter-episode things Veil might have done, and that he thinks Veil never believed Alyson and company in this episode.


13) Contact (aka Deep Throat)

Original Air Date: January 15, 1996
Written by Lawrence Hertzog
Directed by Reza Badiyi


  After a month and a half off the air, the producers at UPN tried to supe up the action. This middle episode of the 25 kicked off a seven story ‘arc’ called The Palmtop Arc, and while a good one, saw the turning point of the show from great to merely good, to ending as mediocre. Veil is contacted by a turncoat in the Organization, Deep Throat (Robin Sachs), a Brit with a boner against the people who have ‘betrayed’ him. Is this just another ruse? DT shows Veil who in the organization ordered his erasure, a man named Richard Grace (Joseph Lambie), who also seems to have had an affair with Alyson, which is why Veil was done in. DT wants Veil to kill Grace for him, but he doesn’t. DT kills Grace, and frames Veil to the Organization, although a gardener takes the fall in public, thereby ensuring he stays on the run, is endebted to him, yet won’t ever be prosecuted for the crime, as the Organization which is out to destroy him now needs to protect Veil as well, lest he be captured, prosecuted, and unspool everything about them. Of course, Veil won’t go to the authorities because his paranoia is at full boil. DT leaves Veil a handheld Palm Pilot like device with information that could help him, or lead him deeper into the Organization’s clutches. There are The Lady From Shanghai aspects in the final scenes.

DVD Extras: None.  


14) Heart Of Darkness
Original Air Date: January 22, 1996
Written by David Ehrman
Directed by Stephen Thomas Stafford


  Veil infiltrates a private militia arm of the Organization, called the American Guard, in this episode patterned after Joseph Conrad’s same titled novel, and Apocalypse Now. Veil steals a recruits identity, and ends up aboard a ship of young cadets- Greenwood, at about forty, looks very out of place here. Nonetheless he is referred to not as Tom Veil, but Number Six, in another nod to The Prisoner. While moody, not much happens in the episode, as Veil defeats the buffoonish militiamen, and their sadistic leader Cyrus Quinn (James Tolkan), and his sadistic drill sergeant C.W. Knox (Patrick Kilpatrick), who are then rubbed out by the Organization.

DVD Extras: None.

15) Forever Jung (aka Doubles)
Original Air Date: February 5, 1996
Written by Joel Surnow
Directed by Greg Beeman

  A silly episode that harkens back to 1960s British spy shows, and implies Alyson was a plant who was once an old woman who was rejuvenated to be an assassin. The most sci fi episode yet, and one which stretches credulity, because if the Organization can rejuvenate old women, why can’t it simply drug Veil and extract the negatives’ location from him? And why are all the rejuvenated women assassins and absolute goddesses when young? What, there were no young woofers? At a Minnesota old folks home where he works, following a palmtop tip, Veil finds that a patient named Pauline (Edith Fields) has died and set up to become a babe assassin (Melanie Smith). He foils the plot and all the babes become hags again. A fairly pointless episode, although high on the eye candy meter.

DVD Extras: None.

16) Shine A Light o­n You (aka Masons)
Original Air Date: February 12, 1996
Written by Art Monterastelli
Directed by Stephen Thomas Stafford 

  Another so-so episode that tried to cash in on The X Files’ success. Supposed UFO abductions in Colorado are a cover for the Organization’s nuclear program. A doctor disappears, Veil befriends his daughter, and he and a UFO ‘expert’ turn out to be Organization shills. Veil’s escape and destruction of the plant, ala Chernobyl, suggest that this may not have been real, but staged for Veil’s benefit. How could any private organization really conduct their own nuclear research without the government’s knowledge? And the meltdown Veil causes would have surely been fatal to the Organization’s world domination schemes. As far as the Palmtop Arc, Veil has now, in three successive episodes, done Deep Throat’s bidding.

DVD Extras: None.

17) Stay Tuned
Original Air Date: February 19, 1996
Written By: Lawrence Hertzog
Directed By: Mel Damski

  In upstate New York, Veil finds a whole town under mind control via a sinister cable tv company- recalling, again, The Prisoner’s The General episode’s theme. A candidate hope to gain election to congress via this network, in a very The Manchurian Candidate-like way; except it’s the electorate, not the elected, that is brainwashed. Jim Hubbard (Chris De Young) is the best thing to come down the pike in years- or so say the residents. The only dissenters, besides Veil, are nerdy four-eyed Michael (Billy O’Sullivan), and his sexy schoolteacher Janet Cowan (Karen Witter). Michael’s poor eyesight and Janet’s reluctance to watch tv save them from brainwashing, although she and Veil give in, for a short while, and their real and entranced flirtations fill this episode with the best sexual chemistry outside of The Enemy Within. Veil eventually foils Hubbard by turning off the mind control device and playing his threats to Veil. He is ruined politically, and may be terminated, too. This episode is another in the sci fi vein, and therefore not as effective as the earlier The Alpha Spike. Hubbard is not nearly as menacing as Holden Caulfield wannabe Kyle.

DVD Extras: Hertzog comments on The Prisoner’s The General, as well as The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers motif. He claims creative people are society’s observers and that arguments are usually rationales for prejudgments, He also rails against UPN executives who changed a document to show how a supposed error was his fault, not theirs, and rails against irresponsibility.

18) Hidden Agenda
Original Air Date: February 26, 1996
Written By: David Ehrman
Directed By: Michael Levine

  Deep Throat has been captured by the Organization and turned into a cyborg with his eyes filming everything that goes on when he meets Veil at a restaurant. He is also implanted with a device that will kill him if he screws up. His real name is Alexander Hale. Veil is reluctant. We learn more about the supposed provenance of the photo at the center of the series. We are in Nicaragua, although it suspiciously and unconvincingly looks like the Pacific Northwest, where much of the show was filmed. You never see a man’s breath in Central America. An old buddy of Veil’s, Harrison Barton (Dwight Schultz), has info on illegal U.S. military operations in country, and he leads Veil to where the photograph is taken, before he is killed. As Veil relates this Hale is stunned to near death by the Organization, but gives him a clue that the photo is not what it seemed to be, and then expires. Veil goes to a knoll not far from Washington D.C., and finds the site, still almost as it was in the photo. Was Hidden Agenda real? And isn’t the staging of the hanging just a bit too close and convenient. Several years must have gone by, so it being so like the photo is obviously another red herring, but it does set up the series’ silly and unsatisfying end. I also note the easy tv knockouts of people with one punch, ala The Prisoner, and many other action shows.

DVD Extras: None.

19) Doppelganger
Original Air Date: March 18, 1996
Written by Schuyler Kent
Directed by Ian Toynton

  Despite Hale’s death, Veil still follows the Palmtop and finds that there is an exact duplicate Tom Veil, in an Ohio town, who is a photographer with a life almost as his own, before his erasure. Claire Hillard (Jamie Rose) was a contact of the real Veil’s, but has no problems with the fake Veil. Intrigue follows- the fake Veil kills Claire, pins it on the real Veil, and he tries to convince a sexy ADA of the fake Veil. He tricks him into meeting the ADA, and the Organization kills the fake Veil, believing he’s the real Veil. This is another nod to The Manchurian Candidate, as well The Prisoner episode The Schizoid Man, and the sci fi like premise that one or both Veils may be clones, but it’s a very unsatisfying episode, and poor end to the Palmtop Arc, which ends with Veil tossing the palmtop in the trash.

DVD Extras: None.

20) Through A Lens Darkly (aka Shutterbug)
Original Air Date: April 8, 1996
Written by Art Monterastelli
Directed by Ian Toynton

  This was the beginning of the last six episodes, called the Memory Arc, and really saw the show head toward its nadir. The first dozen episodes were gems, but by this time the series was looking at cancellation, and producer Hertzog developed this arc as a possible end to the series or season, were it renewed. The UPN suits’ muddling was too much. Some Nowhere Man fansites report this episode as Bruce Greenwood’s favorite, and one of Hertzog’s, as well. Veil is kidnapped and locked inside a farm house. He also deal with a shrink (Sam Anderson) who is projected holographically, and forced to relive the death of his great young love- Laura (Sydney Walsh). Veil seems broken by the shrink, ready to drive him to get the negatives, and forget his truth at all costs credo. Yet, as often happens in such series, Veil recalls Laura’s final words to him, to always pursue truth. Veil swerves his car off the road, which kills the shrink. I am not as impressed with this episode. The Enemy Within dealt with the same themes more deeply, and more realistically, as we will find out later that Laura may just have been another manipulation, whereas Emily Noonan was not, and while he had good chemistry with Walsh, Greenwood’s with Maria Bello, and even Stay Tuned’s Karen Witter. The problem is, writing wise, the show tries to force the love story to early, rather than letting it develop, as it did in the two other episodes. When a character cries without a viewer knowing why it’s always risky, and this episode didn’t pay off, although Walsh was very good, and Veil’s attraction to her can be divined by the end. Yet, still, her admonition is why Veil is where he is- lonely, paranoid, embittered. He’d have been much better had he never left Maria Bello.

DVD Extras: Hertzog talks of Veil’s limits and flaws, and that a devotion to truth alone can be a mistake, for ‘there’s always a greater truth. Hertzog says this and the pilot are his two favorite episodes. I am reminded how the death scene of Laura recalled the end scene of The Lathe Of Heaven PBS telefilm from 1980. The series’ end loses its existential edge, and Hertzog bemoans that.

21) The Dark Side Of The Moon (aka The Mugging)
Original Air Date: April 15, 1996
Written by David Ehrman
Directed by James Whitmore Jr.

  A stylish, but throwaway, episode, set at night. Veil’s negatives are stolen by an Organization operative who kills a cyberpunk gangsta named Tiny, but not before being injured and calling in for an Organization car to pick him up. The gang, called The Mac Boys (a typically ridiculous Hollywood idea of what a street gang is like), thinks Veil did it, and search for him, as he searches for the negatives. Veil is befriended by a waifish girl, and eventually finds himself cleared by the gang. They then descend upon the Organization hitman’s car and beat him and the driver to death, as Veil recovers his negatives. He then proceeds to a local radio station, where a sexy DJ’s voice has been playing all night, only to find her voice is a recording, and a lit cigar and pencil. One of the first few episodes shot, this was postponed until this late in the series, and seems out of place with the lesser quality shows that surrounded it.

DVD Extras: None.

22) Calaway
Original Air Date: April 29, 1996
Written by Joel Surnow
Directed by Reza Badiyi

  A return to the series’ pilot’s location. Veil needs to be cured of amnesia, so enters Calaway asylum, where former nutcase J.C. is now Dr. Novak (Jay Arlen Jones), after he’s been reprogrammed. It seems all the stuff the Organization’s done to Veil has led to the amnesia, and a further breakdown of his brain’s neurons. He will lose all memories soon. Veil tricks Novak into seeing his own erasure, and the doctor helps Veil, only to find out disturbing information at the end, none of which makes sense, as the series starts unspooling.

DVD Extras: None.

23) Zero Minus Ten (aka Coma)
Original Air Date: May 6, 1996
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by James Whitmore Jr.

  This is the last appearance of Alyson Veil (Megan Gallagher). All seems to be normal, as it could have been in It’s Not Such A Wonderful Life. Veil wakes to find he’s coming out of a several month coma and none of what’s happened to him in the last twenty-two episodes was real- it was all a dream, the ultimate cliché. Now, how much time passed in the first twenty-two shows is debatable, as early episodes imply months have gone by, meaning later episodes may be a year or two out, although this show implies it’s only a few months. Regardless, Veil suspects a ruse, and does not trust Alyson, after so many lies. But, then, his ‘dead’ pal Larry Levy, seemingly killed in the pilot, shows up, having been away on business for a few months. Larry’s the only person Veil trusts. There is to be an art exhibit of Veil’s photos, just as in the pilot, and after Veil discovers Larry’s body, along with Alyson’s earring, he knows she killed him- that is unless this is just another Larry Levy doppelganger. He confronts her, but she cannot kill Veil- be it out of love or orders from above is not clear. Veil survives, only to be tortured anew.

DVD Extras: None.

24) Marathon
Original Air Date: May 13, 1996
Written by Art Monterastelli
Directed by Stephen Thomas Stafford

  The penultimate episode, and also a de facto two-part cliffhanger that ends the series, or would have ended Season One. Veil stumbles upon a secret FBI house that is hunting down the Organization. There is a massacre and only he and secretary Jenny Tsu (Elsie Sniffen) survive. They try to get to an FBI director named Stanley Robman (Nicholas Surovy- best known as Erica Kane’s greatest love interest on All My Children, journalist Mike Roy). It turns out that Hidden Agenda was a fake, and execution, revealed as having been staged in D.C. in Hidden Agenda, was really the killing of Senators, replaced with The Manchurian Candidate doppelgangers- be they like the babe assassins of Forever Jung, Veil’s clone, or the Larry Levys out there? Of course, by now things are predictable and, guess what?, Jenny’s a babe assassin who tries to take Veil and Robman out. We also find out that the real info that Veil’s after was catalogued by a missing double agent named Gemini.

DVD Extras: None.

25) Gemini
Original Air Date: May 20, 1996
Written by Lawrence Hertzog and Art Monterastelli
Directed by Stephen Thomas Stafford

  The lame end. Fans of The Prisoner were disappointed with that show’s end, wherein Number Six, aka John Drake from Danger Man, turns out to be behind it all, and the whole series was an existential moment of crisis in Drake’s mind. But, that was at least consistent in its surrealism. This ending merely lets viewers down. In short, Tom Veil is not Tom Veil, but Gemini. The real Hidden Agenda photo is of four hanged U.S. Senators, not Guatemalan rebels. He tries to warn Senator Wallace (Hal Linden, of Barney Miller fame) but is too late, as he has been doppelgangbanged. It turns out that the Director of the Organization has the number two man at the FBI, Robert Barton (Francis X. McCarthy), on his payroll. Veil comes upon Barton destroying Gemini files, and Barton admits Veil is Gemini, then cyanides to death. Veil sees a video of his programming as Thomas Veil- was he all along an Organization mole, or an FBI counter-mole? Had the series continued season Two would have explored who Gemini was, but it never came about, and the deleterious influence of Network Suits is all over the poor ending of the series. So, what was the series about? The Prisoner was existential and surreal, so had more leeway, but this show ends on a more realistic dramatic note. Were the sci fi themes just red herrings?

DVD Extras: Hertzog bemoans that he never wanted Nowhere Man to be just a clues show. This episode was written to be open-ended enough for a second season. Was Veil one of us or them? I think of comic strip character Pogo’s admonition that the enemy’s us. He talks of the house Gemini was in being similar to Veil’s mother’s home. He talks of online fans and how different ISPs had different types of fans, back in the mid-90s. He claims the show was ahead of its time, and that he thinks Veil was Gemini, who was captured by the Organization and reprogrammed, which may gibe with the Father episode’s end. Hertzog speaks of the irresolvable essence of the self, and how the series’ end was not overly planned, even if they were to end it, which they were unsure of until the end was filmed. He talks of the need for internal consistency and logic, that the moral of the show was ‘hold on to your values’, and how neither Alyson Veil nor Larry Levy were needed for the finale.


  My personal opinion is that Nowhere Man was a terrific tv show- far above the lame action-laced pap that dominates in such series as CSI, Law And Order, 24, or Alias, despite Jennifer Garner’s babeoliciousness. It, like The Prisoner, was about something, and Hertzog admits that he viewed the show as an anthology series exploring loneliness, with the Organization as a mere spur for those perambulations of the character of Tom Veil. Yet, despite its debt to The Prisoner, Nowhere Man explores many of the same themes from the other end of the spectrum. Tom Veil wanders through his society that does not see him, while John Drake, as Number Six, is physically cut off from his society. Both battle a network of mysterious malefactors, but Veil’s fate seems the worse of the two, because, at the end of his series he is still in anomy, whereas John Drake has been restored to his life, his wish to resign just a fleeting desideratum. This may be partly explained by the fact that Patrick McGoohan had total control over The Prisoner while Lawrence Hertzog lost control of Nowhere Man. Despite that, while Nowhere Man does not reach the heights its predecessor did, it remains one of the great achievements of action television- thought-provoking, well-acted, and with a number of terrific episodes, most notably the first twelve. And almost as influential on the show as The Prisoner was were the film The Manchurian Candidate, and the tv show The Fugitive.

  If we take the end of the series as its true end, and ignore a planned second season, Nowhere Man seems to be about the search for the truth. This is what impels Veil to resist, whereas Number Six’s motivation was the desire and struggle for privacy, individuality, and his refusal to accede. Veil has no privacy, and may not even really exist- his battle is the more abstract, and perhaps that is why he ultimately fails where John Drake succeeds. The ending also cleared some things up, even as it clouded others. Veil was so good in high danger situations because, like Drake, he was really a trained expert in them. But, the biggest difference between the two shows is that The Prisoner dealt with the inward evils of self, and is therefore allegorical, whereas Nowhere Man dealt with that on the outside, and is more mythic. Drake’s battle with the Village is really his own with the desire to conform. Veil’s real battle is to find out the truth that others refused him. Hidden Agenda’s real Hidden Agenda was that the photos were ultimately unimportant, and there probably was no execution, even of the Senators. They were probably just coerced into cooperation, for funding black ops programs, as the Organization seems to have been a quasi-governmental concern. No organized crime group, nor single government agency- foreign or domestic- could do all it did without being detected, unless it got major cash infusion from a government, likely the American, since the series is a post-Cold War paranoia trip.

  But, another important difference between The Prisoner and Nowhere Man is that the two protagonists, despite being in the same profession, could not have greater temperamental differences if they tried. John Drake is cold, cerebral, a thinker and possibly a misanthropist. Tom Veil, or Gemini, is a feeler, who loves his faux wife even after betrayals, and easily acceded to the sexual desires of his many lady loves. It would be difficult to imagine the two characters in the other’s series. John Drake would likely have discovered the secret in two to three episodes, tops because most of Veil’s failings are a direct result of his emotionalism bettering his rationalism. And Veil in the Village? He’d have never been able to wall off any part of his ego long enough for his existential dilemma to come to fruition. A listen to his episode opening monologue- ‘My name is Thomas Veil, or at least it was. I'm a photographer. I had it all: a wife, Alyson, friends, a career. And in o­ne moment it was all taken away. All because of a single photograph. I have it. They want it, and they will do anything to get the negative. I’m keeping this diary as proof that these events are real. I know they are.…they have to be.’- aptly delineates the difference between the two men. Would Number Six/John Drake ever had a hint of doubt like that? This has led some to believe that Veil/Gemini is really insane, and the show just one long attempt to make the viewer identify with a lunatic, much the same that the novel The Dead Zone, by Stephen King, is an attempt to make the reader sympathize with an assassin. It could be that everything was real until Tom’s psyche broke in the bathroom in the pilot, and clues throughout the show leave interpretation open. Of course, suspension of disbelief is a necessity, for many things don’t seem to make sense in any ‘real’ interpretation of the sow’s events.

  Nowhere Man, though, is not just a ripoff of The Prisoner, it’s a show that works for a number of reasons. First, it appeals to the masses, with its weekly adventure- this is its The Fugitive appeal- with the twist, of course, being that the hunted was also the hunter. The questions are of what the Organization is, what is Hidden Agenda’s true significance, and why was Tom Veil’s life stripped from him? Secondly, the show appeals to The Manchurian Candidate conspiracists- it’s a sociological and political mystery. Is the Organization part of the government, is Veil a spy, and who is behind it. Thirdly, there are The Prisoner fans, who see the show more existentially- who is Tom Veil, and why is he Nowhere Man, concern them. There was a reason the show was the most critically acclaimed of the 1995-96 season, and only studio stupidity, and a slot opposite Monday Night Football, ruined it.

  There have long been rumors of an official DVD coming out, and I will get that, too, but the DVD set that I have is as good as any official set, as Hertzog shows himself in the commentaries to not be just another airheaded out-of-touch Hollywood loon, and kudos to all the fans who would not let this series fade into oblivion. I hadn’t realized I was as big a fan as I am until I saw all the DVD episodes that I’d, indeed, seen all of them in their first run. Perhaps a feature film, or sequel series can one day be launched, if the official DVD does well enough to make the empty studio suits take notice. Either way, I recommend both the series and the DVD. Be seeing you.

Websites used to glean facts and factoids in the piece:





How to find the DVD Easter Eggs:

Egg 1 - producers pilot disc - TV Promos menu - MTV Combo 1 - right arrow Egg 1 - producers pilot disc - TV Promos menu - MTV Combo 1 - right arrow
Egg 2 - producers pilot disc - Photos menu - mom’s house - left arrow
Egg 3 - aired pilot disc - Promos - Gemini - left arrow

Return to Bylines   Cinemension

Bookmark and Share