television wonder woman

“The Pluto File” (1.8)

Title In: A Secret Testing Site Maryland, September 1942

General Blankenship (Richard Eastham) and Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) watch a demonstration of Professor Warren’s earthquake machine. The Professor is played by Hayden Rorke, who played Dr. Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie, so already I have questions about his TV-scientific credibility.

Basically, Steve and the General are standing in a field watching shit blow up while Professor Warren’s assistant, Charles Benson (Albert Stratton), tells them that the explosions are causing small movements in the Earth’s crust.

The Professor explains that his ultimate goal is to prevent or control earthquakes using this technology he created to cause earthquakes.

I don’t know who let Steve and the General attend this demo without adult supervision, because they’re just standing around looking perplexed. But, to be fair, who wouldn’t? They want to weaponize earthquakes? That sounds like a terrible idea.

At LaGuardia Airport – New York Mr. Fallon (Robert Reed aka Mike Brady) and his Lady Friend (Mikki Jamison) arrive.

At The War Department Washington, D.C. One Hour Later Steve enthuses about the Professor’s work while Diana ruminates on how wonderful it would be if the earthquake machine could be used for peace.

General Blankenship tells Steve that a man fitting the description of The Falcon, an international mercenary, arrived at La Guardia, but slipped through Customs before they could put a tail on him.

Hey, do you think Mr. Fallon is…The Falcon?

Diana checks The Falcon’s file. He was last seen in India 2 weeks ago.

Building 6: Professor Warrens Secret lab

The Falcon infiltrates Professor Warren’s Secret Lab in Building 6 at the Scientific Institute. Gaining access to the Professor’s lab, The Falcon demands the Pluto File, which must be important because it’s the name of this episode.

The Falcon offers the Professor one million dollars for the file. The Professor refuses. The Falcon knocks out both the guard and the Professor. He escapes with the file.

Robert Reed as The Falcon

At The Scientific Institute 20 Minutes Later, Steve, Diana, and the General inspect the crime scene. The Pluto File is missing! Who has stolen it? They should probably go to Walter Reed Hospital and ask the Professor some questions.

Meanwhile, out in a mountainous area that doesn’t resemble suburban Maryland in any way, shape or form, The Falcon and his henchman Frank do a little sniper practice on some innocent cantaloups.

Back at the War Department in Washington, D.C. Etta Candy (Beatrice Colen) reports that The Falcon’s Lady Friend is in the isolation ward in a New York hospital…with bubonic plague!

Diana reports that Sgt. Evans, a guard who was knocked out during the break-in, also has bubonic plague.

At Walter Reed Hospital. Diana and Steve talk to Dr. Barnes (Kenneth Tigar). The doctor tells them that bubonic plague is rare, but not unheard of. There’s the Falcon’s Lady Friend in New York. And just two weeks ago, there was an outbreak in India.

Let’s review, Steve: The Falcon is a mercenary who just arrived in the United States. Stealing the Pluto File totally sounds like it would be The Falcon’s jam. There was an outbreak of plague in India 2 weeks ago. The Falcon was in India 2 weeks ago. The Falcon’s Lady Friend has the plague. The guard who tried to stop the burglar who stole the Pluto File caught the plague. What could it possibly mean? Surely even Steve Trevor will connect these dots…

But no.

Fortunately, Diana is able to connect dots. She thinks The Falcon is carrying the plague and he took the Pluto File.

The professor is sleeping so Diana sits by his bed and delivers a weird monologue:

“You have discovered the hope of the ancients. Since time began, man has sought that knowledge, the knowledge to still the Earth’s tremors. Or to cause them to quake with the energy of the Sun.”

Um. What?

Luckily, we don’t get much time to think about it, because somehow Diana realizes the Professor is in danger. She spins into Wonder Wonder in front of the open window. Since the Falcon is preparing to shoot the Professor through that window, this seems like a bad idea for a couple of reasons. But using heavy explosives to start and/or stop earthquakes also seems like a bad idea, so let’s just move on.

With her bullet-deflecting bracelets, Wonder Woman saves Professor Warren from the Falcon’s sniper attack. She jumps out the window and gives chase, but The Falcon has already made tracks. There’s some Wonder Woman jumping action, but as a chase scene, it’s over before it starts. Frank is a competent henchman and he kept the car engine running while The Falcon did his sniper thing.

The Following Day – A Mid-Town Hotel

The Professor’s assistant, Charles Benson, is colluding with the Falcon! The Falcon, Benson, and Frank plan to cause a massive earthquake in Washington, D.C. Frank and Benson work for The Falcon.

I wonder who The Falcon could possibly be working for?

At the War Department, Diana reports that Sgt. Evans definitely has the plague. Oh, sure, now Steve is sure The Falcon stole the file. And yet, he’s only “pretty sure” The Falcon tried to assassinate the Professor. Oh, Steve. Diana tells him she’s certain there’s a leak in the Professor’s lab. She’s suspicious of Charles Benson.

Steve and Diana return to in Building 6. The Professor is back at work. While the Professor describes the burglar to Steve and Diana, Benson works in the lab.

Benson is a sweaty, coughing mess, which really ought to be more of a cause for concern considering one of their lab’s guards is in the hospital with bubonic plague.

Diana leaves the lab to bring the car around. Steve suggests that Benson go to the hospital. Benson locks Steve and the Professor in the lab and makes a run for it.

Diana spots Benson running through what is obviously California, spins into Wonder Woman, catches him with her golden lasso, and makes him confess that he’s working for the Falcon.

Can you guess who the Falcon is working for?

(Nazis. He’s working for the Nazis).

Wonder Woman and Steve ship Benson off to the hospital in an ambulance. Steve has a lot of questions, but none of them are: Where is Diana? or Why is Wonder Woman here? or Why don’t we have more guards around this place? I have a question: Why is Steve Trevor considered a brilliant spy?

Meanwhile, on A Road Leading to Bladensburg, Frank drives The Falcon to Bladensburg, Maryland by way of a California evergreen forest.

Any time any character says “Bladensburg” they pronounce it “Blaahdensburg” which causes Husband to snicker and yell “Blaaaaaaahdensburg.”

Unfortunately, Frank realizes they’re running out of gas! Stupid war rationing! They coast in to a rural gas station where rural rube Bobby attends to the gas tank while Frank checks under the hood.

Frank is feverish, so he drinks out of the water hose after he fills the radiator reservoir. He coughs on Bobby. Bobby also drinks out of the hose. Bobby is a hick, so there’s a comic banjo plucking interlude on the soundtrack while he drinks out of the hose and contracts the deadly plague. Hilarity!

Outside the secret experimental atomic research laboratory in Bladensburg, Maryland, Frank and The Falcon continue to mispronounce Bladensburg.

Meanwhile In Unsuspecting Washington, D.C., Diana informs Steve that a patient with bubonic plague is being transported from “Blahdensburg” to Walter Reed.

“Blahdensburg!” Steve exclaims. “You’re pronouncing it all wrong!”

Just kidding.

Steve observes that it’s strange there’s a plague case in Blahdensburg, the same small town the General asked them to meet about a top secret project!

At Walter Reed Hospital, Diana and Steve question Bobby. Bobby describes the two men. Like the Professor, he describes The Falcon as “athletic” even though he tells them that The Falcon didn’t even get out of the car, so how does he know that? Plus, The Falcon is not athletic. The writers can keep putting those words in characters’ mouths, but we’re still not buying what they’re selling.

Bobby also says Blahdensburg.

I’m very disappointed in you, Bobby.

After they leave the hospital, Steve and Diana drive out to Bladensburg to meet General Blankenship at Project 741, “the cyclotron reactor part of the Manhattan Project.”

As they arrive, the lab begins the unstoppable countdown to a reactor core test. Oh, TV scientists and your unstoppable test countdowns! You do like to live large don’t you?

By the way, the code name for the Manhattan Project was assigned August 13, 1942. This episode takes place in September, which seems like an awfully short amount of time for a project this highly compartmentalized and secret to be so widely and casually known in the War Department – a strange historical inaccuracy in a genre otherwise so deeply devoted to authenticity and historical and scientific realism.

(I just wanted to see if I could type that without laughing out loud).

(I couldn’t).

Anyway, let’s avoid falling down a nuclear history rabbit hole and just admire this swanky set design:

Diana excuses herself from the core-testing excitement, goes out into the Maryland/California forest, and spins into Wonder Woman just in time for a series of explosions around the secret Project 741 atomic lab.

The Falcon has used the earthquake machine to trigger an earthquake!

Steve tells the scientists they have to shut down the reactor tests, because The Falcon is loose in the area with the plans for an earthquake machine, which is maybe something he should have mentioned in the last scene right before the scientists started the unstoppable core reactor test.

The scientists aren’t worried, even though Steve just told them a madman is in the area with an earthquake machine and they just had an earthquake.

The scientists say they chose the location of the lab because it isn’t near any fault lines. While this is technically accurate, that doesn’t mean there aren’t faults in Maryland. Or earthquakes.

Also, not to put too fine point on it, but there’s a mercenary loose in the neighborhood with an earthquake machine.

Here’s what the U.S. Geologic Service says about the difference between faults and fault-lines:

Faults are different from fault lines. A fault is a three-dimensional surface within the planet Earth. At the fault, rocks have broken. The rocks on one side of the fault have moved past the rocks on the other side. In contrast, a fault line is a line that stretches along the ground. The fault line is where the fault cuts the Earth’s surface. Faults come in all sizes, from small ones whose short fault lines you can see in a single road cut, to huge faults whose long fault lines can be seen best in pictures taken from orbiting satellites. On continents, faults are everywhere, of all sizes, and they formed at many different times during the Earth’s long history.

The U.S.G.S. doesn’t appear to have any comment available about the feasibility of earthquake machines.

The point is: earthquakes happen in Maryland and even if they didn’t, this is a stupidly designed research facility with a stupid countdown protocol and stupid scientists who don’t know how to cool down their own reactor core if the test they’re doing to see how hot they can heat the reactor malfunctions.

Fine. Look.I’m willing to give back a few points for authenticity, because those are some authentic-looking government science lab puke-green cinderblock walls. Steve and the General could be standing in my old grad school office in the Physics Department.

Husband is still snickering everytime someone says Blaaaaahdensburg.

And now I’m distracted by this index to historical documents about nuclear history in Maryland. I’ll give you a moment to see what caught my eye:

Right. So where were we?

As they make their getaway, The Falcon tells Frank that he’s concerned that the Professor might be the one person on Earth who can stop the tremors they’ve started, since he’s the one person on Earth who has figured out how to start them in the first place.

At the Science Institute, Wonder Woman assists the Professor with math.

He wants to use Hooke’s Law to do some calculations involving potential energy and harmonic oscillation and that seems like something a seismologist ought to be able to do himself. Nevertheless, they math.

The Professor marvels at a woman writing an equation on a chalkboard, staring at her like he’s watching a poodle dance on its back legs while it plays the kazoo.

Wonder Woman & Professor Warren do some math

Meanwhile, snare drums on the soundtrack tell us that The Falcon and Frank are staking out the Professor’s secret lab. It’s a secret military base, in case you forgot.

There are only 2 guards posted around the perimeter of this massive, critically important facility which contains plans for dangerous shit like earthquake machines. Luckily, Wonder Woman is inside, mathing with the Professor.

Back in Blahdensburg, the scientists try to figure out how to cool down the reactor core while Steve and the General wring their hands. At least Steve dispatches more guards to the Professor’s lab.

Outside Building 6, a truck with more guards screeches up and the guards disperse around the building. Unfortunately, in the back – which Husband and I call “the California side of the lab” – there are still only 2 guards.

Frank and The Falcon hop a fence. Frank creates a diversion, while The Falcon prepares to make his move.

Frank has the plague, so his diversion is basically running over to a chainlink fence and crumpling onto the ground. Wonder Woman instructs the guards to call an ambulance and watch out for plague cooties.

She runs back inside and resumes mathing, sagely telling the professor: “integral calculus is always problematical.”

Is it, Wonder Woman? Is it?

Wonder Woman and the Professor math some more.

Wonder Woman steps out for more chalk and The Falcon makes his move, but he’s all sweaty and coughing and plague-infested so he’s a little off his game.

Even though he’s sweaty and coughing and clearly plague-infested, but he doesn’t believe Wonder Woman when she tells him he has the bubonic plague.

Suddenly, an earthquake creates a distraction! Wonder Woman uses her golden lasso to capture The Falcon.

The Professor has an epiphany! They can stop the reactor from overheating by flooding it with water! He calls the nuclear plant, yelling “I’m a seismologist, not a nuclear scientist!”

The day, it is saved!

Husband: “I’m not sure what happened there, but it didn’t seem very expensive.”

With a wry grin, the Professor tells Wonder Woman, “Someday, I’d like to discover how to stop an earthquake.” Then they laugh and laugh and laugh as though his earthquake-causing technology didn’t almost just destroy Washington, D.C. so yeah, if you’re going to cause earthquakes with your earthquake machine you probably ought to also invent and earthquake-stopping machine.

Back at the War Department, Diana reports to Steve and Etta that all the bubonic plague patients are going to make a full recovery.

Diana hopes that The Falcon spends his time in prison thinking about all the bad things he did and resolves change his evil ways and do good in the world.

Steve approves of the power of Diana’s positive thinking. It’s just like Wonder Woman’s positive thinking!

This episode contains:
Atomic Anachronisms
Bubonic Plague
Bullets and Bracelets
Earthquake Machine
Golden Lasso
Mad Science
Nazi Spies
Stolen Plans
Stupid Codenames