Welcome back to my “Tales from the Darkside” Marathon! Astrology can be a fun diversion for some, while others may take it very seriously. There are people who won’t date anyone outside of their “allowed” astrological matches. Today’s tale focuses on a woman who prefers to look to her sign to find love. This is “The False Prophet.”
Cassie Pines is obsessed with astrology, is very superstitious, and even regularly consults astrology machines for advice. Thanks to some recent advice, she heads on a bus to Texas to meet her soulmate, stopping only to rest at a cafe pit stop. While there, the cafe’s owner introduces her to an astrology machine called Horace X that seems very intelligent. However, he warns her that she will be in danger if she leaves for Texas. Does he have Cassie’s best interests at heart, or is more to Horace X than meets the eye?
I couldn’t stand this story. It’s set up to be a morality tale on the danger of not thinking for yourself, but I felt the concept was let down by the dialogue. So much of Cassie’s is either her going on and on about astrology and romance, and there’s a preacher named Heat Jones introduced later on who constantly blathers about moments. I found Horace X to be tolerable, though he does get some borderline sexual dialogue that just felt creepy. That was probably the intention, and he at least has the excuse of being a machine that you need to place your hands on.
I found myself despising Cassie from the moment she’s introduced. I don’t know if there are people out there who go around speaking in astrological terms, but Cassie does just that throughout the episode. I get that it’s to show how obsessed and addicted she is, but it drove me crazy. She’s also a bit dumb too, as she doesn’t once question why Horace X is able to carry full conversations with her despite being a machine. Horace X’s main place here is to act like a prophet for Cassie, who is well-versed in an older machine in his line called Madame X. The extent of his intelligence is shown as the episode progresses, but you can pretty much tell before the end what he’s trying to accomplish by speaking freely with Cassie. Heat Jones, while only coming into the episode around the halfway mark, fares slightly better than Cassie if only because he brings some common sense into the situation. He’s able to see that she’s obsessed with Horace X and even questions how it’s able to speak so fluidly. That’s literally the only positive thing I can say about him, though, because the rest of the time he’s all over Cassie. He acts as though this is to show he’s into her, and she even at times seems to appreciate it, but his advances came off extremely rape-y to me. It’s not helped by her constantly telling him to leave her alone or pushing him away. Maybe it was meant to appear a different way or be more acceptable back then, but it just felt icky to watch.
The big twist at the end doesn’t really come out of nowhere if you’ve seen movies or shows with smart A.I., but the execution of it was kinda jarring. There’s no indication that Horace X can do anything beyond his hardware, such as heating up his touch screen when upset or sending out electric shocks. So, not only did this reveal not resonate with me, but it also left me wondering how it was even accomplished.
Overall, “The False Prophet” had an interesting idea that was brought down by some crappy dialogue and uninteresting characters. It’s a shame because I actually liked that this one had a moral, even if it was a blatant one. I found it hard to take Cassie seriously and therefore feel anything for her other than annoyance. Maybe those who enjoy astrology might find something to like here, but I just thought the whole thing felt shallow.