Tuesday, 11 February 2014

EPis0dIC! - The Outer Limits - "Soldier" (S02E01 - 1964)

"Night comes too soon on the battlefield. For some men it comes permanently; their eyes never open to the light of day. But for this man, fighting this war, there is never total darkness. The spidery beams of light in the sky are the descendants of the modern laser beam — heat rays that sear through tungsten steel and flesh as though they were cheesecloth. And this soldier must go against those weapons. His name is Qarlo, and he is a foot soldier, the ultimate infantryman. Trained from birth by the State, he has never known love, or closeness, or warmth. He is geared for only one purpose: to kill the Enemy. And the Enemy waits for him…"

 1800 years in the future, Qarlo Clobregnny (Michael Ansara ) sits smoking a cigarette whilst hiding amongst some rocks. He suddenly stops when a voice issuing from his battle helmet instructs him to "Find the enemy...Attack!..Kill!". A short distance away, a soldier from another army sits quietly and has a drink from his flask, his battle helmet also instructs him to "Find the enemy...Attack!..Kill!", both men carefully move from their hiding places as energy beams lance overhead, they spot each other, but, as they charge to attack each other, they are both hit by energy beams...and vanish.

"Time is fluid. The waters of forever close — and passage may not be completed. The present and the future are for a moment united. And the Enemy, half-today, half-tomorrow, is locked between…"

 Qarlo materialises in an alleyway, still dressed in his body armour and carrying his energy weapon. At first he is bewildered, but he carefully removes his helmet, and is immediately deafened by the sounds of the city, which drives him mad with pain.
In his madness, he attacks several people and uses his energy weapon to destroy a police car, but he is stopped by several police officers and arrested.

Tom Kagan is a philologist, a specialist in languages, he is approached by the FBI and is asked to see if he can make sense of what the mysterious madman is saying, as ever since he was captured, he has repeated the same phrase over and over again...

"Nims qarlo clobregnny prite arem aean teaan deao"

...to which no one has thus yet been able to identify which, if any language he is speaking.

Kagen is escorted to meet with Qarlo, who is being kept in a padded cell, due to it "taking six marines to get him into the two strait jackets he is wearing". Kagen insists that they be left alone, and, within a minute of their first meeting manages to win a bit of his confidence by offering him a cigarette.

After a week of questioning, Kagen manages to deduce that Qarlo is a soldier and deciphers the language and meaning of Qarlos words. He is in fact speaking English, but the language is changed, mangled,  when he says "Nims qarlo clobregnny prite arem aean teaan deao" , translated he is saying "(my)name is Qarlo Clobregnny, Private, RM EN TN DO", in essence, doing the same as any soldier would by simply giving his name, rank and serial number when captured by the enemy.
Kagen also deduces that Qarlo is from the future, by having an astronomer plot the location of the stars from drawings made by Qarlo of the night sky where he is from.

In order to continue "taming" Qarlo, Kagen requests that he be allowed to have Qarlo live with him and his family for a time, as Qarlo seems to be completely emotionally and psychologically deadened, and Kagen feels that exposure to other humans in a normal family environment will help him to lose their air of aggression and distrust he has of other people.
Initially, Qarlo seems to make some progress, revealing that in his time, the world is divided into two superstates, who are in the middle of an endless war. Qarlo says he is the product of artificial birth, and was brought up in the Clobregnny nursery to be a soldier from being a child, but despite this, he has never seen any of the ruling class in the flesh, whom he refers to as "the purple". He also says that in his time, they use cats as scout beasts, and the commanders communicate orders to the soldiers via telepathy.

Meanwhile, Qarlos enemy from the future fully materialises in our time, and immediately begins hunting Qarlo.

Things go wrong for Kagen when Qarlo breaks into a gun shop and helps himself to a high powered hunting rifle, stating that "a soldier needs a gun, otherwise he isn't a soldier". Kagen manages to talk him down by letting Qarlo accompany him back home, and tells him that if he wants a gun that badly, he can have one but he doesnt need to keep it on him at all times. Just as Qarlo agrees to hand over the stolen weapon, the enemy breaks into the house by disintegrating a wall with a blast from his own energy weapon. Qarlo throws himself on the enemy and the two men fight hand to hand, but then the enemys weapon goes off, disintegrating them both.
Kagen and his family look sadly at the pile of charred ash on the carpet....

I like this episode simply because Michael Ansaras performance of a man out of his own time is simply brilliant, he does a really good job of conveying the frustration that Qarlo must feel at having everything he has ever known taken away from him and replaced with what must seem to him to be a horrible parody of his own time.
This story was penned by Author and part time argument starter Harlan Ellison, who later went on to claim, and win, a lawsuit against James Cameron stating that the film "The Terminator" copied elements of both this story and another episode of the Outer Limits called "Demon with a glass hand"
The ending of the episode is rather sad, but also inevitable given the nature of Qarlos character, and Kagen efforts to make Qarlo more like a "modern" man as opposed to the near mindless sociopathic killing machine that he actually is are well portrayed by all concerned.

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