Saturday, September 27, 2008

Soldier - The Outer Limits

While clearing out some of my old VHS tapes, I ran across my favorite episode from the original Outer Limits TV series: Soldier. I watched this outstanding hour-long show when it was originally broadcast on September 19, 1964. It is unforgettable. Written by Harlan Ellison, the tale begins in the far future when the Earth is a desolate, war-torn planet. A soldier in battle helmet, armed with a distintegrator rifle, pauses for a smoke break. But not for long. His helmet starts issuing audio commands: "Find the Enemy! Attack! Kill!" Not far away is another soldier-of-the-future in similar armor, and in minutes the two adversaries are charging toward each other. But as they collide, two artillery-like energy beams cross at their exact location, throwing both troopers into a time warp that transports them back to 1964. The first soldier reappears in a back alley of some large American metropolitan area, and he soon draws attention from startled passersby. Then the police arrive and start to advance towards him. He raises his blaster rifle and vaporizes their police car with a single shot.

Finally taken prisoner and sequestered in a government holding facility, the rest of the tale shows how the puzzled officials interrogate and, finally, correctly identify just what the dangerous visitor is: the ultimate infantry soldier.

The second soldier remains trapped in the time-warp flux, unable to free himself until much later in the story. But when he does, the mission imperative remains: "Find the Enemy! Attack! Kill!"

Michael Ansara played the role of the first soldier from the future, Qarlo Cobregnny, and was well known to TV audiences in 1964 from the western TV series Broken Arrow, in which he starred as the stoic Apache Indian chief Cochise.

Soldier is filled with wonderful science-fiction details like self-igniting cigarettes, reports that Qarlo's disintegrator rifle continues to function even when parts are removed from it (advanced quantum physics?), and Qarlo attempting to verbally report to a pet cat because felines are used as recon scouts on the battlefields of the future. It is a one of the earliest and finest examples of military science fiction to appear on TV, in glorious black-and-white.

A bit of trivia: Qarlo's battle helmet would reappear 14 years later, worn by Robin Williams in the goofy 1978 TV comedy series Mork & Mindy! Fact is, in 1964 I had a toy helmet similar to Qarlo's: the now-rare Monkey Division visored helmet!

D'os Vadanya,


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At 6:55 PM EDT, Blogger Still Struggling with Ceaseless Chaos said...

I missed "Soldier" the first time around - and only saw it in recent years when I got the Outer Limits dvds. I would've loved back in 1964 or whenever.

But my own favorite - why, I'm not sure exactly - was "The Demon With A Glass Hand" - also originally from Ellison. Most of the special effects and props were abysmal ($$ were tight), but the actors, the mood, the dislocation and sort-of-paranoid drama all carried it off well. And then comes the twist at the end. Loved it.


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