Rita Hayworth and the Real Time Lords
In the BBC series Doctor Who, a renegade Time Lord travels through time and space to protect the universe from villains and disasters. But there are real Time Lords who have meddled in Earth history, mostly notably to prevent nuclear war in the 1960s.
The modus operandi of the time masters is to weave new threads between history and popular culture.
The first new design was incorporated in the 1952 movie Affair in Trinidad, in which Steve Emery (Glenn Ford) visits Trinidad to investigate the murder of his brother. He falls for his sister-in-law Chris (Rita Hayward), a sultry nightclub performer. The affection is mutual, but Steve believes Chris is obstructing his search for the truth.
The prime suspect is a suave tycoon, whose shady associates include a rocket scientist with knowledge of Hitler’s V-2 program. The intrigue and tropical setting suggest an early variation of Dr. No. Hayworth shows as much cleavage as Ursula Andress and the villain asks Steve if he is a member of the British Secret Service.
The real spy work, though, is done by Chris, who discovers incriminating blueprints and overhears the conspirators reveal their plot: Financed by a foreign government, they plan to construct advanced ballistic missiles that can reach nearly every part of the United States from a base in the Caribbean: a prediction of the Cuban Missile Crisis a decade later.
The film’s missile revelation may seem merely a weird coincidence, except that it is part of a cascade of coincidences that have permeated my life for decades.
Voyager I watched the Affair in Trinidad DVD on July 11, 2018. Not able to sleep, I returned to the TV and channel surfed until I found a repeat episode of Star Trek: Voyager, in which the spaceship, experimenting with slipstream travel, crashes into an icy planet, killing all on board, except for Chakotay and Kim, who were in a ship ahead of Voyager.
Fifteen years later, Chakotay and Kim discover the vessel. They reanimate the holographic Doctor and retrieve Seven of Nine’s Borg-altered body. Using Seven’s interplexing beacon and a stolen Borg temporal transmitter, they send a message back in time to the living Seven that directs her to disengage the slipstream, saving Voyager and all on board.
I interpreted this episode as a message that something similar had happened regarding the Soviet missiles in Cuba. In the original timeline, the missiles were not discovered until they were all in place and launch-ready. Confronted with a fait accompli, President John F. Kennedy had little wiggle room, the confrontation with the Soviets spun out of control and a nuclear war resulted.
To prevent this, the Time Lords sent a message back in time implanting the Caribbean missile idea in the mind of one of the Affair in Trinidad screenwriters. Someone among JFK’s defense advisors saw the film and recommended an earlier, more intensive surveillance of Cuba, which resulted in an interruption in the missile placement and an opportunity to negotiate a solution with Nikita Khrushchev.
Alas, the reprieve from nuclear annihilation was temporary.
Vietnam Contrary to his liberal supporters, Kennedy was very hawkish regarding Vietnam. In the book The Secret War Against Hanoi, Richard H. Shultz Jr. documented how Kennedy in 1961 ordered the CIA to conduct covert armed attacks against North Vietnam. In President Kennedy: Profile in Power, political journalist Richard Reeves discovered a Kennedy anxious to prove his machismo after being outperformed by Khrushchev in their first summit meeting in Vienna. Kennedy said, "(Khrushchev) thinks I have no guts . . . We have to confront them. The only place we can do that is Vietnam."
In a television interview September 2, 1963 with CBS's Walter Cronkite, Kennedy said regarding Vietnam, "I don't agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake . . . I know people don't like Americans to be engaged in this kind of effort. Forty-seven Americans have been killed in combat with the enemy, but this is a very important struggle even though it is far away."
Kennedy's in-your-face foreign policy, coupled with his use of amphetamines and other mood-altering drugs to cope with his Addison disease, was a disaster waiting to happen.
In 1964 the still-alive Kennedy opens a friendly dialogue with China, a ploy that helps him win reelection. The rift between the Soviet Union and China grows faster and China refuses the Soviets land access to send supplies to North Vietnam. A mentally unstable Kennedy decides to blockade North Vietnam to prevent Russian freighters from delivering weapons by sea. If a blockade worked during the Cuban Missile Crisis, why shouldn't it work in Vietnam?
But this time the Russians refuse to be humiliated and counter with a new blockade of Berlin. A ship tries to run the blockade of Vietnam and is sunk by the US Navy. The Soviets strike back by shooting down an American plane that is trying to bring supplies to Berlin. War breaks out. One side is quickly overwhelmed and compensates by resorting to nuclear weapons. Missiles fly between the Soviet Union and the US. Vietnam, the unclear war, becomes the nuclear war.
The Time Lords must find a permanent solution to the Kennedy problem: Once again, go back in time to help make a film.
Lincoln In the 1951 movie, The Tall Target, inspired by real events, Dick Powell plays a New York police detective, Sgt. John Kennedy, who boards a train to thwart a plot to kill Abraham Lincoln as he makes a pre-inaugural speech in Baltimore in February 1861.
Conspirators on the train know of Kennedy's mission and plan to get him out of the way. One character tells Kennedy, "I don't know anything about a plot against Lincoln's life, but there certainly seems to be one against you."
A young man on the train, who has military training, plans to shoot Lincoln through the window of an upper floor of a building as the president-to-be gives a speech from the back of a train car. The assassin will use a rifle with "a new-fangled telescope sight." The John Kennedy in this 1951 film is discovering how the other John Kennedy will be assassinated in 1963. Somewhere Lee Harvey Oswald saw the film and knew it was a personal message for him.
The Kennedy legacy would follow him after the assassination. War Is Hell was playing when Oswald was apprehended inside the Texas Theatre on W. Jefferson Blvd. Set during the Korean War, the 1963 film depicts a blood thirsty leader, Sgt. Garth (Baynes Brown), who refuses to tell his soldiers there has been a cease fire. Instead, he orders his men to attack an enemy bunker. Few survive, and Garth takes credit for their valor. In the ensuing combat, the sergeant himself is killed.
Actor Baynes Barron was born on May 29, 1917—the same day as John F. Kennedy, a sign that the fallen president shared the character’s same reckless desire for glory. Despite the cease fire in Korea, Kennedy wanted the fight against communism to go on, in Vietnam. A communist soldier killed Garth; a Marxist ex-soldier killed Kennedy.
Dr. Strangelove The new history was woven through the media. Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a movie about a mad general who starts a nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union, was scheduled to premiere on November 22, 1963 but the screening was delayed because of the assassination on that day. The shooting of JFK "prevented" a nuclear war.
The movie finale originally included a pie fight, in which President Merkin Muffley takes several hits, prompting General Buck Turgidson to exclaim, “Gentlemen! Our gallant young president has been struck down in his prime!” Paramount Pictures was horrified at the line and the whole scene was deleted.
The November 23, 1963 premiere of Doctor Who started a few minutes late because of news coverage of the assassination. The fictional Time Lord was knocked off schedule by real Time Lords who changed history.
Related article: Lincoln-Kennedy links are proof of God
Image Affair in Trinidad poster © Columbia Pictures Industries, fair use