"The Shepard and the Giant 1 1/2"
Written By: Shadowpaw
Three. That's the number of times King Saul and David have been the focus of an Adventures in Odyssey episode. What's really neat is if you put "The Shepard and the Giant", "Isaac the True Friend", and now "Bernard and Saul" all in a row... you get to hear the complete story, each told in a unique and different way. While "The Shepard and the Giant" was told using the Environment Enhancer and focused on the great battle between David and Goliath, "Isaac the True Friend" featured the Imagination Station and picked up with King Saul going crazy and Jonathan and David strong friends. Now we can add "Bernard and Saul" which starts before "The Shepard and the Giant" and ends after "Isaac the True Friend". Definitely an interesting saga... especially considering how vastly different the episodes are.
Before I continue, I just wanted to clear up some things for fans who haven't heard "Isaac the True Friend" as it's not available in an album. There is a reason for this: it stinks. In fact, it's a perfect example of production values gone out the window. If you haven't heard this episode... don't! The episode ranks in the bottom 3 in each of the categories for music, acting, sound design, sound quality and overall horribleness. The only redeeming quality of the episode is the script isn't that bad, and it introduces Sam Johnson to Odyssey via a tricky Imagination Station adventure. A sharp contrast to "The Shepard and the Giant" which is an old, but still beloved episode. So where does this latest addition fall? Right square in the middle.
"Bernard and Saul" brings back Samuel, who was first heard in the original "The Shepard and the Giant". In a nice touch, Walker Edmiston once again reprises the voice for the role... though unfortunately while the episode may have featured the same actor... it was certainly not the same voice. Which is similar to what occurred in "Blackgaard's Revenge I & II" (where he reprised his role of Abraham Lincoln from "Lincoln I & II"). Here, Samuel is slower, lower, and more particular in his way of speaking while the original Samuel was a high pitched goofy fellow with a slight accent. Obviously for such a minor character the voice change isn't that big of a deal, but if you're going to go through the trouble of bringing in the same actor (and only have him play the one character), it's a bit disappointing he wasn't the same way we remember him... especially considering it occurs at exactly the same time frame.
Speaking of which, Walker Edmiston played the original Saul yet didn't reprise his role here. And in "Isaac the True Friend", Saul was played by Hal Smith, while here he's played by Pete Reneday. Each of these characterizations are wildly different takes of the same character... which is interesting, but certainly shatters any illusion one might have that these three episodes are seamless continuations of the other. Even David was cast differently each time with Will Ryan, Gary Bayer and now Gary Reed performing the various disjointed versions of the hero.
Does this hurt the episode? No, not really. I'm just pointing out these facts because it fascinates me... and I hope you as a reader find these points interesting as well. Especially considering that a few of the scenes in the previous shows parallel those found in "Bernard and Saul". Thankfully through the use of Trent's retelling of David and Goliath, the story found a way to quickly accelerate past the points we already know and arrive at the other end of the spectrum. Though we do get to hear one particular scene almost word for word taken from "Isaac the True Friend". It features Saul throwing his spear at David after the crowd around him begins singing him praises. Curious how that original scene sounded? Take a listen. Pretty close 'eh?
Bernard was much more pleasant in this episode than he was in "The Girl in the Sink" and didn't sound like a complete grump through most of the show. And Trent was very good: no robotronic acting here! I also liked the mention of Ashley Jenkins... it's clearer and clearer each week that there's a new generation of kids hanging out in Odyssey and we're getting to know them better each week. But what is up with that Whit's End door? This most have been the most busy the shop has ever been as almost everytime the story cut to Bernard and Trent, somebody was opening the door. "Jingle", "jingle", "jingle". I was literally going insane. Obviously people come and go, and that's probably how it would sound if it were real life... but I think it should be toned down a bit. That jingle is usually reserved for the introduction of a new character into a scene, so the moment you hear it you typically get excited and wonder "Who's just come in?" There are occasions in past episodes where the bell jingles just for your average extra that we never hear, but this episode seemed to overuse it quite a bit. Maybe I'm just having one of those days were I focused on something small and just got irritated by it.... but I decided to make a note of it anyway, in case someone else feels the same way I did.
Oh and how about that song? I thought it was great! Very ancient, very catchy, very lovely. The Official Site claims it's an original song composed by Carol Eidson and scored by John Doryk. I listened to that scene several times to hear the song repeatedly... it's just too bad it got cluttered with all the voices.
So finally, my actual opinion of the episode? I'll put it this way: For what it was supposed to be, it was very well done in the writing, production, lesson, and acting department. But I must concede something... I just don't find this particular Biblical story all that interesting. In fact, I don't find many of the Old Testament stories all that entertaining. Likely because I've heard the stories so many times and they're no longer fresh, but I honestly can't figure out why they aren't that interesting to me. "The Imagination Station I & II", "Bernard and Joseph I & II", and "Bernard and Esther I & II" are really the only three Biblical retellings that I truly love. The rest aren't bad, but neither are they my cup of tea. I guess it's like my gripe about "The Girl in the Sink": if it's not the first time I've heard the story, then a good episode just isn't as good. Come to think of it, those three episodes I mentioned were very likely the first time I had ever heard those stories. So in the end, this was a strong show that I just didn't find as fulfilling as I would have liked. But then again... it's not all about me. :o)