Aliens, acid trips, and James Brown: the best scenes from Miami Vice's science fiction episode

Illustration for article titled Aliens, acid trips, and James Brown: the best scenes from Miami Vice's science fiction episode

In 1987, Miami Vice served up “Missing Hours,” an episode that’s considered to be the worst hour of pastel-soaked cop drama ever created. You wouldn’t think Crockett and Tubbs would have an extraterrestrial encounter...but they did. And it was funky.


This astoundingly odd episode guest-starred James Brown, whose fee was so sizable they fired all the scriptwriters (this is a lie). “Missing Hours” walks the line between inept and magical, so we’ve excised all the dreck and cherry-picked the most boneheaded bits. Enjoy.

The episode opens with Detectives Stan Switek (Michael Talbott) and Trudy Joplin (Olivia Brown) staking out porn dealers. They’ve recruited two small-town crooks dressed as aliens to distract the smut merchants.

Suddenly a strange fellow appears, mistakes the crooks for real aliens, rips off his shirt, drops 24 jars of peanut butter, and dies careening through a window. The porno dealers are the audiences’ proxies, their profound befuddlement perfectly synched with ours.

Trudy finds a picture of a house boat among the dead man’s possessions. She goes to investigate, discovers a circle of peanut butter, and James Brown Miami Vice universe R&B superstar Lou De Long. I won’t even try to describe what happens next.

While Trudy’s face is melting with the Godfather of Soul, the dead guy’s corpse disappears and Sonny Crockett interviews the dude’s widow (turns out she was once abducted by aliens). Carson the records clerk (a nine-year-old Chris Rock) materializes and begins yelling about the internet. Everyone tells him to STFU except for William Adama. Detective Trudy comes back. She feels good!

Trudy begins to suspect she’s been abducted by aliens. Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) bring Lou De Long (who’s the leader of a New Age Unarian style spiritualist movement) to Trudy. And — like that one time James went on CNN — reality melts once again.


Okay, all this talk about hallucinations and Miami Vice has prompted me to take you on a field trip back to 1978, when Philip Michael Thomas starred in an absolutely amazing anti-angel dust hysteria film known as Death Drug. I’m not sure it was ever released on DVD, which is a crime against art.


As you can see from that fantastic intro, Philip Michael Thomas re-released the film in 1985, after Miami Vice had earned him the adoration of a nation. But why would he do a thing like that?

See, Thomas was embarking upon a musical career. The actor decided that the best place to pimp his new R&B single “Just the Way I Planned It” was in the middle of an anti-PCP movie he had made 7 years earlier. Know that the music video — which stars Tubbs as some sweaty Space Christ — is shoehorned in with only the most meager of explanations.

But wait! We’ve seen the music — how is the acting in Death Drug? Well, this is easily the most poignant nursing home meltdown scene ever committed to the moving picture.

Similarly, this is the zenith of “man high on PCP imagines he’s combing his hair with an alligator” scenes.

Anyway, I’m going to go ahead and spoil the entire movie. By the end of Death Drug, Philip Michael Thomas’ musician characters is so pumped full of angel dust he loses his shit in a supermarket. In this epic finale, he sees rats in the produce aisle, spiders on his arm, and a store full of evil trick-or-treaters.


After using his PCP muscles to toss a grocery cart at the demon Price Chopper patrons, Philip Michael Thomas plays chicken with an inattentive trucker (who’s wearing sunglasses at night).

So ends our lengthy digression into the world of Death Drug. Back to alien James Brown.

While we were watching Death Drug, a bunch of boring nonsensical shit happened. Seriously, after the hardest-working man in show business’ face melts a second time, things get aggressively stupid. A UFO fires a car-stopping photon beam at Crockett and Tubbs...

...Trudy gets hypnotized into the peanut-butter-and-cuckoo-clock dimension (and is accused of dropping acid by the other cops)...

...and James Brown warbles for a spell about alien abduction. He also gleefully watches Tubbs play chicken with some snoopy federal agents.

Finally, we learn that Lou De Long’s a secret government agent (or some pap) but none of that matters! Why? Because this episode was all Trudy’s dream. Or was it?

So yes, “Missing Hours” is easily the superbaddest 48 minutes of Miami Vice you’ll ever witness. To be fair, it was more watchable than that episode about the cryogenically frozen reggae singer.

Hat tip to OldWookiee for bringing this gem to our attention.



Chip Overclock®

I was an avid fan of MIAMI VICE when it first aired. Alas, I suspect it has not held up well over time. But way back then, it was hard not to love the style, the music, the violence. From time to time I still wish I were in good enough shape to look good in Sonny Crockett's wardrobe. (But I don't envy him his Bren Ten, a questionable choice in firearm even then.)