A reprint of my review from April 3, 2015:
After he his convicted of murder, Andy Masefield (Mandel Kramer) is given a rather unique second chance by his guardian angel.
The Garrison of the Dead was written especially for the Mystery Theater by Sam Dann, and starred Mandel Kramer, Joan Lovejoy, Court Benson, Leon Janney, and Bob Kaliban.
If you have ever heard, or only dimly remember, The Man Who Asked for Yesterday, an episode from Mystery Theater's first season, then there is no reason whatsoever to bother listening to The Garrison of the Dead. It's tells the same story.
That both episodes were written by Sam Dann, and both starred Mandel Kramer as an unrepentant killer who squanders the second chance at life he is offered, is more depressing than it is surprising.
While I listened to this episode, my thoughts drifted to an interesting sequence in John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). Laurie Strode half listens to a teacher's lecture regarding the thematic elements in a novel, or story, that had been assigned reading. Laurie has good reason for not paying attention, she has noticed that someone watching her through the window.
But, beneath the ominous music, a teacher can be heard saying:
"...and the book ends, but what Samuels is really talking about here is fate.
You see, fate caught up with several lives here. No matter what course of action Collins took, he was destined to his own fate, his own day of reckoning with himself. The idea is that destiny is a very real, concrete thing that every person has to deal with."
The teacher yanks the distracted Laurie back into the "here and now" of the classroom by demanding she answer a question. How does one writer's view of fate differ from the point of view given by the author of the assigned work. Laurie answers:
"Costaine wrote that fate was somehow related only to religion, where Samuels felt that fate was like a natural element. Like earth, air, fire and water."
The teacher, pleased with Laurie's answer, ends the scene with this choice, and ominous, philosophical observation:
"That's right, Samuels' definitely personified fate. In Samuels' writing fate is immovable, like a mountain, it stands where man passes away, fate never changes..." [Emphasis mine, sort of.]
This scene only takes sixty seconds to state what The Garrison of the Dead, and The Man Who Asked for Yesterday, took forty or so minutes to dramatize.
But why, you may be asking, is this more depressing than surprising? It's not the least bit surprising that Sam Dann has written two tales that are so similar. Every writer, or composer, or artist, has thematic elements and tropes that fascinate and they delight in using.
No, what's depressing is that Dann repeated himself without changing or challenging his story template. Andy and his fate, just like that Mort's in The Man Who Asked for Yesterday, never change. It would have been nice to see what would have happened if they had...