Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Soldier



Production Order #02
Broadcast Order #01
Original Airdate: 9/19/64
Starring Lloyd Nolan, Michael Ansara, Tim O'Connor.
Written by Harlan Ellison.
Directed by Gerd Oswald.

On Earth, sometime around the year 3765, two armored gladiators prepare to do battle on a barren wasteland. They are both trapped between beams of light and transported back to present-day Earth. It's only a matter of time before they meet and finish off their grievance.


JS: The opening shots of the desolate post apocalyptic landscape really do a great job of setting the tone. That said, it does strike me as odd that two opposing soldiers with rifles would approach each other on the battlefield for what—hand to hand combat?


PE: A fascinating aspect, to me, is that you're not sure from the intro on which character, Qarlo or The Enemy, is the "bad guy." Neither one is sympathetic and we don't know enough about the environment they come from to make an informed judgment. Nor do we know what year they're fighting in. The field they're battling on resembles 2011 Detroit but I have a feeling writer Harlan Ellison meant for it to be a bit more far-flung.

JS: Not to get philosophical, Peter, but on either side of any war, soldiers don't considers themselves the 'bad guys.'

PE: Did the old magazine guy die from a heart attack or did Projects Limited miss a cue? Is The Enemy actually stuck in a dark field with no legs? Are his legs in another dimension? I've got questions here.

JS: I was willing to accept the split screen Enemy, but the problem I had with it is he appeared to me to be in the future battlefield setting. Overall, I was very impressed with the production design and photography in this episode. And the music cues hint at the ever present threat that Qarlo represents.

PE: Did Harlan really write the exchange between Tanner (O'Connor) and Kagan (Nolan) or was there some meddling from the Top Brass?:
Tanner: It took six beefy men to put him in the two straitjackets he's wearing and they send down a philologist.
Kagan: Well, I do know a little karate.
Tanner (rolling his eyes and making a goofy face): Oh, say, Kagan, you're a real knee-slapper.
So, six beefy guys got him into a straitjacket but no one thought to sedate Qarlo and remove his armor?

JS: They didn't need to take off his armor. In this town, the police cars are equipped with chains to keep unruly suspects under control. As for the dialog, I can confirm that the exchange exists in Ellison's preferred version of the teleplay (The Outer Limits: Armageddon Dreams, 2000). An interesting side note about Kagan—as the go-to philologist in OL-land, he was on the list of folks being called at the end of "Cold Hands."

PE: The first half of the show is strong. Lots of good bits: An engaging set-up; Qarlo locked in a padded cell,  pacing like a caged animal; Nolan's strong performance as the doctor who's convinced he can get through to the hulking beast (my generation probably remembers Nolan best as Diahann Carroll's boss on Julia); the homage to Bride of Frankenstein ("love, good...hate, bad"). The second half slows things down a bit with a lot of psychobabble about love and the human condition (or something like that) and the inevitable showdown between Qarlo and The Enemy is dynamically staged and then over in a heartbeat. Who the hell decided us kids would want to hear grown-ups pondering emotion and our dark side for 48 minutes rather than a good ass-kicking delivered by Qarlo?

JS: While Ansara does an amazing job—watch the way he reacts to the harsh ambient sounds once his helmet is off—to me the episode succeeds on the strong performance of Nolan, and his soothing, Howard Cosell-like delivery. Like Edward Andrews in Thriller, Nolan is just entertaining to watch in any circumstance.

PE: How in the hell did Kagan come to the conclusion that Qarlo is speaking English? Nolan has a particularly far-fetched conversation later with Tanner wherein he drops the bomb that he "thinks he talked" to Qarlo:
Tanner: You think you talked? 
Kagan: He's from the future, Paul!
Tanner (astonished): But how?
Kagan: Well, he doesn't really know. In his time, they fight their wars with beams of force, laser lights, now somehow he got caught between two of them and the next thing he knew...
Tanner: He was here...in the present.
Kagan: No, correction, he was here in the past...his past...our present.
He got all that out of a "maybe talk" with the big guy?

JS: Philologist, Peter. Phil-ol-o-gist. I'm surprised I have to explain these things.

PE: Despite all my picked nits, this is a decent show, with standout performances by Nolan and Ansara, the latter of which perfectly personifies a human beast. It's admirable that, but for a couple quick scenes, Qarlo maintains that rage and nastiness. There's no payoff scene where misunderstood Qarlo rescues twenty children from a burning orphanage and then returns home to bake a cake for Mrs. Kagan and the kids. The viewer gets the feeling he may just pick up the fireplace poker and put it through Kagan's annoying little moptop at any moment. And there's an iconic shot, for me, in the climax when The Enemy appears and hops over the ring of fire. Very exciting moment. You almost think you're about to see a battle royale (rather than a carpet tussle).


JS: When you consider they could have used this as a launching point for a sitcom (Make Room For Qarlo!), I think we got lucky. If I did have to pick a L-OL moment from the episode, it's when Kagan mentions that it took someone at the Naval Observatory hours to plot Qarlo's planetary drawings. Thank goodness they weren't done in crayon—they might have taken years to decipher.

PE: Although I've never seen this episode of OL before, it seems very familiar. If I didn't know any better...

JS RATING:







PE RATING:







David J. Schow on "Soldier":




From The Outer Limits Companion, Copyright © David J. Schow, 1986, 1998.  All Rights Reserved.  Used by permission and by special arrangement with the author.


Check back later today for a Spotlight on 'Soldier."


Next Up...

29 comments:

  1. I like this episode but I have some problems with various scenes. I dug out my copy of FANTASIC UNIVERSE, October 1957 and realized that I bought it off the newstand in 1957 and never looked at it in over 50 years. Now that's real time travel!

    The story by Harlan Ellison, titled "Soldier From Tomorrow", leads off the issue and is 18 pages long. It is about 7,000 words long and the $91.00 payment comes to a little over a cent a word. A pretty low rate when you consider GALAXY was paying 3 and 4 cents a word. Ellison got $5000 from OUTER LIMITS which shows the peanuts that digests were paying and OL was not even a top paying show.

    Frankly, the magazine version is alot better except for the ending which has Qarlo preaching the horrors of war. For instance the magazine describes a far more believable battle uniform and helmet. The TV version show a laughable tin pot for the helmet and some type of medieval armored vest. Also the magazine does not have any unbelievable scenes with the family. Let's face it, would anyone really let a professional soldier, a trained killer, interact with the wife and kids? Lloyd Nolan knew absolutely nothing about this guy except he's deadly and from the future. It's a wonder he did not kill everyone in the house just as he was trained to do.

    Boy, I wish I could go back to 1957. I wouldn't want to kill anyone; all I want is to be able to buy digests off the newstands.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Okay, here’s where we get to trot out our Harlan Ellison stories.

    I was an early fan, devoured Dangerous Visions, but must have known something about his reputation in person because I never had the desire to meet him, though I did seek out and meet some early writer heroes like Ray Bradbury and Robert Bloch while I was in L.A. And I did warn Cameron about him back in 1983 when we were working together and hanging out and I had read early drafts of “The Terminator” and pointed out the similar premise to this episode.

    But although I never aspired to meet him, I did “encounter” the force that is Harlan Ellison in the late 1980s, nonetheless. And the experience fulfilled all my expectations.

    I was in my car on Doheny Drive at the red light at Wilshire behind a pickup truck with a sweet classic Mustang (65’-66’?) pulled up beside it. The truck driver, being a truck driver, casually spits out his window and it happens to land on the hood of the sweet Mustang.

    And who should come charging maniacally out of the Mustang, running around to the pickup truck and start slamming his hand on the side door of the truck and screaming and frothing out the mouth like this wild little pit bull on crystal meth but … yep, you guessed it.

    The truck driver, who could’ve squashed him like a bug, looked down at him like some annoying mosquito. And I seem to recall Ellison returning to his car before the truck driver was annoyed enough to actually get out of his truck. It might’ve been a different scene if Harlan played golf (or was Jack Nicholson), but I still laugh about that experience to this day.

    And this time around watching this episode, I noticed there is a sweet Mustang (65?) driving past the guard onto the ‘base’ (the studio back lot). Was that Harlan in a hat driving it in a cameo? Was it a random product placement featuring the upcoming (and now classic) model? Was it the moment that inspired him to be driving one some 20 years later? And had he been driving one ever since?

    And the episode itself? Nice performances by Lloyd Nolan and Michael Ansara (how did he ever marry Barbara Eden?). Goofy solider uniforms, according to my son. Not much action when you think about it, but still a strong relationship script. And put me down as a viewer who would watch "Make Room for Quarlo."

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Soldier" represents exactly what Ben Brady was trying to do with Season Two OL, putting a genuine, ultra-strong science fiction premise front-and-center, dovetailing (in this case rather inoffensively) with a scenario involving some average, relatable characters. Although there are a few rough spots here and there, the show is an undeniable winner, and it made perfect sense to launch the "new" OL with this entry. Yes, gone are the expressionistic angles, the disturbed and offbeat characters, the Gothic overlay and the Old Dark PSYCHO House. This was a television experience, not a mini-movie with art house flavors. There is a conceptual "sense of wonder" inherent in Ellison's "clean" science fiction script that is mostly absent from Season One offerings, brilliant as they are for different reasons. As with the best science fiction movies (2001, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED), an enigma is presented within a carefully-wrought mystery structure; the viewer becomes the investigating protagonist as he pieces together one fascinating detail after another... and when these details are Ellison-conceived, we're all in for a creative treat. That bit about showing Qarlo a chart of the galaxy from the distant future, in order to nail his origin point, is sf writing at its most evocative. Everything from the names of characters and specific futuristic details, to the notion of Soldiers using cats for recon -- nicely worked into the climax -- points to the wisdom of allowing OL to embrace "true" science fiction, once budgets were cut and the ambitious, psychologically gothic, cinematic approach of S1 was abandoned. Now don't get me wrong; NOTHING can compare to what Stefano and company were doing during OL's First Season. But Stevens' view of sf was grounded in textbook-style technology, and good old Joe couldn't care less about the genre, using it sparingly as a jumping-off point for the macabre feverdreams he truly wished to dramatize. Ellison, on the other hand, is pure sf; his approach draws directly from that literary-inspired "sense of wonder" well, and this informs all of his classic teleplays ("Soldier," "Demon with a Glass Hand," 'The City on the Edge of Forever.") Indeed, what's being accomplished here sf writing-wise is as groundbreaking in its own way as what Conrad Hall was doing with his S1 cinematography. We kids back in '64 may have missed the S1 monsters/outre look as Brady's season premiered, but we certainly knew a great sf story when we were treated to it.

    As mentioned, I worked directly with Harlan in developing a new version of SOLDIER for a Topps Comics project in the mid-'90s. A future Spotlight will overview this ambitious, only partially-realized project. And boy, do I have some entertaining Ellison stories to relate!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry about that... Qarlo draws a map of the solar system as he knows it, which Kagan shows to a scientist friend, who calculates that it represents where the planets will be positioned in the distant future, thereby nailing Q's origin point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course there's the requisite suspension of disbelief necessary to buy the notion that the trained-to-kill brute Quarlo knows jack diddly squat about astronomy, let alone the accuracy problem of anyone's hand-drawn renderings.

      Delete
  5. Certainly an epic compared to yesterday's show. A fondly remembered episode that holds up in Ansara's and Nolan's performances (the latter all the more impressive considering he was reading), in Ellison's basic ideas (love the cat thing!), and as a marginally better outing for Peach, guided by Oswald (marginally because those PATTY DUKE SHOW home scenes are pretty flatly shot and staged).

    But there are plenty of places it doesn't hold up and John and Peter have nailed several of them, like that map absurdity, Qarlo keeping his armor (rivets? Really?). There's stuff I just don't get like Kagan recognizing the bastardized English, yet thinking he's an alien (before seeing the map). As DJS points out, the gun store scene goes nowhere, and as Ellison pointed out the use of serial numbers is just weird.

    BTW, Peter, I think they say later that magazine stand guy just fainted.

    The Enemy is played by Alan Jaffe (Allen Jaffe on imdb) who in 60s TV seemed interchangeable with Charles Horvath for "hulking thug", in stuff like WILD WILD WEST, MAN FROM UNCLE, etc. Not to be confused with MAD's Al Jaffee.

    All in all, it's an okay show for me.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Indeed, there is some missing material in that gun shop business, which turns up in earlier drafts. But I must disagree about Kagan's efforts to learn Qarlo's origin... this is all fascinating stuff, beautifully written and acted. The viewer is thorough engaged, more than willing to ignore some possible lapses in logic for the "awe and wonder" these revelations provide. That's the deal we make when reading a good science fiction story; we're willing to put up with some questionable logic moves because something far more important is being provided. "Soldier"'s solidly-crafted mystery structure provides an irresistible enigma, and the scenes with Kagan methodically piecing this puzzle together with an incarcerated Qarlo are among the most evocative in the episode.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Peter and John have pretty much covered the main points in this episode.

    And Gary has illuminated why this attempt at the "sense of wonder" element of SF adaption works so well, here.

    The opening section of the episode, of the battlefield has an imperious grandeur worthy of the opening passage of Wells' 'The War of the Worlds' - using the narration (from words that were in the short story), magnificently scored, and the buzzing sounds of the lasers cutting though the landscape, and the prowling camera an unforgettable highlight. One of the second season's highlights.

    Oswald's direction is great, the low camera angle in the cell, the sudden and edgy appearance of Qarlo in the streets of the city and numerous other little touches keep the pace and style of the show vibrant.

    Unfortunately, I've never really thought much of Ellison's original and very, very minor short story.
    His adaption and the idea that they (the State) would
    allow a veritable goldmine of military knowledge leave their grasp, is idiotically simple-minded. Mrs Kagan has the greatest grounds for divorce in the his of marriage and would surely take half.

    This is a subtle change, but the State is far more beneficent here that they would ever be in the 1st season.

    Unfortunately, the score after the opening settles down to be loud, obvious and brassy, the photography is clean and neat and but uninspired.

    It has the ideas of SF literature that spark "the sense of wonder" - but it's incredible that the rich and brilliant SF, every bit as literate and full of "the sense of wonder" of such first season segments as 'The Sixth Finger', 'The Man Who was Never Born', OBIT, 'The Invisibles', 'The Architects of Fear', 'Corpus Earthling', ect - have been forgotten for the equally mesmerising fever dreams of Stefano's psyche.

    In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Brady's brave idea of adapting SF literature never really got off the ground and was stillborn. This one and the Simak are the big name adaprions. 'Demon' is an original. 'The Twilight Zone' did two adaptions not from it's regular writers that top these with ''It's a Good Life' and 'To Serve Man'. But even they neglected the huge goldmine at their finger tips. Though seasons 4 and 5 have nothing even remotely approaching it.

    On a quirky note, I remember that I once took the battlefield scenes from 'The Terminator', muted them and then added the opening soundtrack from this show. It gave the film a depth and richness missing from it's effective, exciting but one dimensional electronic score.

    Two zantis

    ReplyDelete
  8. What started out as a possible classic, fizzled out with a ho-hum ending that didn't quite deliver. I had no problem suspending disbelief or ignoring the plot holes. It just seemed to me that the finale was going to end with a real galactic brawl, mano-a-mano, between the two Terminators, er, I mean, men from the future.

    Did the creators purposely downplay the ending so there wasn't much violence because of complaints? Two Zantis.

    DJS, a question for you sir-

    During OL's run, do you have any idea, or were there any records of what kind of fan/hate mail viewers might have sent in to the network regarding the series? Seems to me that people were more prone to write letters with their opinions back in those days.

    ATTENTION MARK HOLCOMB!!!!!!

    I just finished watching 'Posse-1975' last night. I owe you one! What a great little western movie. I can't believe how obscure it's become over time. The shoot-out between the Posse and Dern's second gang was hilarious and entertaining, yet, when I think about it now, was probably one of the more realistic battles portrayed in a cowboy film. The ending was ahead of its time. Thank you very much!

    ReplyDelete
  9. DJS, a second question for you. Would you have the budgets for these shows? thanks

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ellison Alley...

    I've always been a bit incredulous about the Ellison TERMINATOR suit. I just never felt there was enough justification, since you effectively had to cobble together the story lines and details of at least three films written by two different authors in order to make the case. (Ultimately, the two Ellison TOLs alone swayed the decision.) I generally took the position with this that DJS does with "Fun and Games" vs. "Arena": Nobody can corner the market on the "grandfather paradox," a staple science-fiction concept. But that doesn't seem to be the issue at all---the devil sprang up from the details.

    Studying more closely this time around, however, after not watching the episode for quite a while, I have to admit to a gradual shift in opinion. Between the twisted metal wasteland (excitingly realized for TV, I think) of the future battlefield, the sky-slicing laser beams (guess this is one of the things that can happen when you "cross the streams," a la GHOSTBUSTERS), the immersively dedicated soldiers and their impressive weaponry (less impressive armor), and the clincher---that first appearance in an urban alley, it's hard to deny an illegitimate kinship among the productions. Ellison has evidently made alley-arrivals his province---cf. the similar scene in ST's "City on the Edge of Forever."

    But I still don't get how "Demon with a Glass Hand" is involved. Here, somebody is accidentally drawn from the future in existential bewilderment; there, somebody is SENT from the future to do something very specific. Tony Lawrence's "The Man Who Was Never Born" is a better fit for plagiarism but was dropped from the suit.

    I still find Ellison's blanket dismissal of the entire first season bemusing. It frankly sounds so disingenuous as to be...intentionally tongue-in-cheek? Was he probing with a barbed joke, just to raise hackles and inflame a nerve or two among the ostensibly cocky, in view of S1's success? He couldn't be objecting to the violation of sf's "purity" under Stevens/Stefano: Harlan could be as inventively fanciful as anyone in the service of a good "science"-fiction story. Witness here the "unfathomable" three-piece weapon with no power source; the unlikely time-travel "accident."

    But this is a solid S2 entry with a pleasing visual look from Oswald and Peach, who thicken the ambience with interesting compositions and shadow play. Inventive camera work helps prevent ennui and video hypnosis from the flat monotony that can plague the TV image, then as now. There are also more stirring and suitable music cues than those in "Withered Hands, Clotted Heart." And while Ellison's script bubbles with bright ideas of a more conventional sf nature, his storytelling acumen doesn't permit them to lose a grip on the fact that they serve the narrative.

    I felt the changes to the script Ellison denounced worked fairly seamlessly: dubious steel-door ramming and knowledge of "ancient" weapons aside---valid criticisms, both, by DJS---the gun-shop scene tautly steers Qarlo back to dangerously unpredictable mode just in time for the feral confrontation with the cloyingly chummy dog-a-Kagans that hones his edge for the final fight with The Enemy.

    That living-room tussle might have been choreographed more lustily, given that these are two deadly warriors, but the scene is thrilling nonetheless. The recon-cats detail is deftly tucked into the story with just the right heft to pay off convincingly here.

    More to follow...

    ReplyDelete
  11. UTW: Glad you liked Posse. It's quite a sleeper, and apparently Tarantino's a superfan. If you haven't seen Bad Company from 1972, it's pretty great, too.

    As for "Soldier," I really enjoyed it this time out -- a lot of the things I didn't like when I last watched were somehow easier to take, including Lloyd Nolan and the ultra-vanilla Kagan family; I liked how Kagan Jr. picks up on Qarlo's slang -- those kinds of touches made the illogic and occasional clumsiness easy to overlook. In an ideal world, Harlan Ellison would've been the second-season producer...

    Oh, in the bit where Qarlo watches the clips designed to acclimate him to 20th-century customs, I swear the one showing "love" is the closing scene from "Children of Spider County."

    ReplyDelete
  12. And I don't see how 'hate' in the film clips Quarlo is shown simply equates to soldiers doing their job, even if their job is sticking you in the face with a bayonet.

    There are so much better examples of airwave hatemongers - oh, right, I won't go there.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Lots to like here, and much to ruminate---the indelible marks of a solid episode...

    We get the old Thetan trick of disintegrating a cop car as a virtual throwaway in an incident-packed episode.

    Those cool, if cheesy looking, commo-helmets, anticipate the widespread use of such devices in the NFL by decades (though I think it was Paul Brown's idea first in the '50s). The Enemy arrives and grins sardonically at his new environs---and then immediately focuses back on his helmet traffic, which buzzes with the same "Kill! Kill!" commentary he's been hearing right along! No wonder these guys are pissed off! Do they get a porn channel for downtime relief?

    The characters are well drawn and placed in good hands. Ansara's uni-brow, hair-weave-challenged Qarlo radiates menace and hostility. Tim O'Connor, back from his Moonstone superior-sniping, makes a credible authority figure, though burdened with the weakest dialogue. And I do like Lloyd Nolan's philologist. (Don't those guys get the juiciest assignments---future assassins and Krell labs?) DJS' interview coverage about Nolan's deafness explains the shouted lines.

    "R-M-E-N-T-N-D-O" was a clinker of an idea, but it sure gave us another sf line to bandy around the playground!

    The "somewhere, someWHEN" line by Kagan puts too fine a point on his investigative success. But I agree with Gary G. about Kagan's being the perfect pro to break the code of Qarlo's sped-up, slangy uber-English. Language evolves constantly---coining, transforming, and absorbing from other languages. This is a sturdy sf extrapolation, not dissimilar to what Anthony Burgess did in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. And a philologist would be a logical interpreter, as there are recognizable aspects to such linguistic evolution.

    Some fun dialogue: "Enemy and NOT Enemy---which is she?" (Every male has wondered this.) "Love---GOOD! Hate---BAD!" Makes your inner Karloff want to grab a FORWARD/BACKWARD lever and shout, "We belong dead!"

    "Fret it!" Better still, "Fret it---drum-dum!"

    I appreciated Qarlo's flinching from the bright sun when he's first released to Kagan's custody. One can almost imagine that also being Oswald's own reaction. Terra incognita for a first-season veteran.

    I enjoyed the musical STABS that underscore Qarlo's volatile episodes.

    I like how The Enemy is locked half-in/half-out of a time-frame (my claim, the next time I'm late for an appointment). But it does seem a bit too convenient a plot device to keep him out of the picture for, what---several weeks? I don't even want to think about his nourishment/elimination cycles during that hiatus in the pipeline. And at first I wondered: Are his legs, like, just jiggling out in a field somewhere in the suburbs? Will a dog hump a disjointed leg from the future? Worse, will a bear eat one?

    The Enemy arrives in that reception-station alley, allaying our fears for his legs, and it's a nice, moody NIGHT scene, the symbolic flip-side of Qarlo's daytime arrival.

    All things considered, "Soldier" posits a pretty bleak future for humanity, keeping with the tradition of much of S1's pessimism. "All the time in the world...but is that enough?"

    But, hey---we needn't worry about Qarlo. As Hollywoodaholic reminds us, Michael Ansara didn't have to "Dream of Jeannie"---he could go home to her! That qualifies BARBARA EDEN as our first TOL "PROXY"-BABE!

    "I peep!"

    ReplyDelete
  14. "Did the soldier finally come to care for those he protected?" asks the closing CV. That idea never even occurred to me, and the CV's posing of the question seemed to be a weak and contrived attempt to score an emotional point that had no basis in the drama itself.

    Come to find out (from DJS' mighty tome) that the Brady Boys decided to purge Ellison's original script of any notion that some sort of fundamental emotional instinct may have been awakened in the natural-born-killer-from-the- future. So we get a pointless "action" scene instead from Mr. Perry Mason. Bad choice; the line should have then been removed from the final narration. A fatal blow for me and my ability to appreciate this episode.

    But I LOVE Lloyd Nolan; stilted,
    monotonous?...maybe...but he does it with such STYLE and conviction, sort of like a hard-boiled Howard Cosell. My favorite scene is the padded room, with the 2 guys observing and commenting from above. The fact that Lloyd is still a commanding screen presence while reading from cue cards is pretty dang' impressive.

    LR

    ReplyDelete
  15. I was determined to ignore the Ellison-Cameron controversy, although I generally agree with Ted in that I always found it a slim charge, at least on legal grounds--you can't plagiarize (or copyright) an idea, but you ARE going to catch a ration of crap if you "borrow" from a well-known idea/author without acknowledging it, especially in a field with fans as tuned in as those in SF. But the subject raised its head when I saw the beginning of this episode and thought, "Hey, I wonder if Irwin Allen was watching this and said, 'That looks like . . . like a time tunnel!'" Ellison himself built on his own ideas, although of course he doesn't have to acknowledge himself: witness the telepathic cats that worked with the soldiers of the future in this episode, forerunners to A Boy and His Dog. The ideas come around and go around. . . .

    Anyway, this was a favorite of mine when young also, and still holds up pretty well today. I second those who like Lloyd Nolan, especially the comments John made in his spotlight--he gave the episode a real moral authority. But for me, the acting honors go to Michael Ansara. He convinces you with every fiber of his body that he's a coiled spring ready to go off at any minute, and he maintains that unbearable tension for the ENTIRE performance, no mean feat. At the same time, he lets you see some cunning behind his eyes, and some of the confusion, and his reactions to things like sound, light, the cat, and so on are spot on. I think his was one of the most memorable of all the OL performances--I've never forgotten him all these years, and whenever I hear the word Ansara, I immediately think "Soldier."

    Most other points have been well covered here--I too like the details that the script pays attention to, and it's nice to have Gerd Oswald back. Two things, though: the disintegrating cop car wasn't necessarily a throwaway--it's what identifies Qarlo as a legitimate threat, not just another psycho nutcase walking around. That's what really sets it all in motion, I would think. And although I agree that the gunshop scene didn't advance the action too much, it WAS a good character-building scene, for both Qarlo, who felt naked without a weapon and needed to take action, and Kagan, showing some cojones (and conviction) in walking in there after him. Three Zantis minimum.

    ReplyDelete
  16. David Horne---

    Yeah, I should have explained my statement more clearly...

    I didn't mean that the disintegrated cop car was a "throwaway" as in, having no story relevance; it certainly does. No, my intention was the implication that an otherwise spectacular moment---as it was in "Architects"---takes a "virtual" backseat here, in an episode packed with physical incident and pyrotechnic visuals. Kind of a study in relative impressions of the same unusual effect in two different films.

    Ditto your feelings about Ansara's spot-on portrayal of a caged, cunning powderkeg, though. He earned some serious respect with this one.

    And good call, David, on the telepathic cats' analog to good old Blood in A BOY AND HIS DOG! I've always liked the film made from that ("You told me I could have some popcorn!") but never stopped to draw the Ellison inter-opus connection.

    ReplyDelete
  17. A solid episode, always liked it, especially Qarlo's neat slang and Kagan's intelligence and continued empathy for Qarlo's plight.

    Kagan's one of those old guys who has relatively young screen children -- he looks a bit like their grandpa, clearly ahead of his time since that's all the rage today. The mixture of contempt, aggression and apprehension that Qarlo exhibits towards the daughter is intriguing and kind of scary. She doesn't flinch when he raises his arm in a near-blow -- probably should have, though.

    Ansara is terrific, doing so much with his eyes, getting all the conflicting impulses out there and making us believe. A really nuanced performance, definitely one of the best of the series, as others have said. Nolan plays humane and smart very well, he's a real pro and there's not a whiff of disbelief or condescension in his Kagan.

    Glad that others loved "RMENTNDO!" -- all of Qarlo's dialogue is fascinating and memorable, utterly cool.

    What an entertaining episode...a exciting version of the explosive meeting of intellect vs. instinct.

    Plus I love the undercover cat! Macbeth may be *just* a cat, but as anybody who has cats knows, NO cat is *just* a cat!

    ReplyDelete
  18. You said it, Lisa... Meow, indeed! And I don't know, Larry... DID the Soldier finally come to care for those he protected? There's a fine line here, and I'm pleased the way director Oswald handled the climactic moment. We've been watching the developing relationship between Qarlo and Kagan all episode. To Qarlo's credit, he's a killing machine with a conscience buried within him, a lost son in search of a nurturing father and family, even though he doesn't consciously realize it. When he reflexively attacks Kagan for touching him, there is conflict in his face as he watches Kagan tell the guards not to harm him, in spite of the savage attack. It's kind of Qarlo's version of WTF--? Not long afterward, he's very sure of one thing -- "You are NOT enemy" he tells Kagan. Fair enough, and extremely significant. The experience with Kagan's family only reinforces this bond. When the Enemy does indeed burn his way into their home, Qarlo doesn't blindly rush toward him -- he DOES push Kagan and his family "out of ham's way" as much as possible under the circumstances. It's a matter of degree -- any more concern would be sentimental and unworthy of the story; less would show that Qarlo's learned absolutely nothing from his experience with caring humans. Personally, I think Qarlo's better than that. There is clearly hope for him, which means there's hope for humanity in that dehumanized, war-torn, nightmare of a future. Ultimately, it's a deliberately semi-ambiguous but reasonably positive conclusion to an unforgettable tale.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Gary--

    Clearly a matter of perception, which will vary from viewer to viewer. Believe me, I WANT to enjoy and champion these episodes, to find the pearls among TV's vast wasteland that OL soared above in its first season.

    And whereas your rationalization makes perfect sense, my instinctive reaction to the final CV voice was an exasperated "oh, brother....give me a break!" The subsequent discovery that ABC cut the crucial scenes that would have established the bond between Q and the family explained and justified my reaction. I bet that Oswald would have handled those scenes very well also.

    Someday, when I have time, I'll give the show another try, based on your observations.

    ReplyDelete
  20. On the ending, it's hard to say, given the cut dialogue. On the basis of only what we're shown, you have to consider that Qarlo saw Kagan's wife betray him with the telephone, right after Kagan took his weapon away and right before the enemy charged in. At that point, you have to wonder, would he defend people who sold him out, or is he just reverting to instincts?

    Ted R.--I second your fondness for Boy and His Dog. A pretty unusual film--I haven't seen it for a long time, but I still have visions of that odd, night-time underground where Jason Robards and companions run around in whiteface preserving their cracked version of the American Dream (at least, that's how I remember it). Weird stuff. Vic and Blood were a great team, though.

    ReplyDelete
  21. David and Larry: that's absolutely true about the last-minute "betrayal'; not only Kagan's wife , but Kagan himself may be somewhat suspect in Qarlo's eyes. Still, that intriguing question remains: would he defend people who may have just sold him out, or is he just reverting to warrior instincts? No definite answers here... which I rather like. Qarlo is going through some deeply frustrating and perplexing emotional changes at this point. But it seems likely that the bond forged with Kagan runs deep. He senses this man is not his enemy, even after the "betrayal"; Kagan's selfless concern and palpable decency have clearly affected him. The family unit is another plus (wifey's Judas move aside), and there's no doubt that, given enough time, Qarlo would grow fond of his new "younger brother" (always loved this kid's guileless "Don't be a drum-dum!" scolding), and the Soldier's brief exchange with Kagan's daughter also suggests a relationship of sorts in the making. When all is said and done, we are left with Ansara's brilliant performance as the ultimate indicator of his feelings and true motivation. I really think it is a combination of warrior instinct and newly-awakened feelings of concern for a man he's come to respect and care for, a man who has opened this soldier's mind to a whole new universe of emotions. The betrayal stuff, edited dialogue, and general abruptness of the final attack tends to favor the "blind instinct" explanation, but it still doesn't negate what this simple-yet-emotionally-conflicted trooper has gained from his association with Kagan and his loved ones. Ambiguous? Yes. Hopeful? I tend to think so...

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm so late to the party on these comments...

    I never really cared a lot for "Soldier". I mean, I liked it but it was always dragged down by Lloyd Nolan and Tim O'Connor. I guess I understand some of the fondness expressed here for Nolan's performance, but as has been mentioned already, I too got the Howard Cosell vibe. And O'Connor, all his character does is continually cave in to Nolan's requests. Why is his character even here? I suppose it's to build tension around the possibility that Qarlo could be handed over to the military for inhumane study or something. When Kagan brings Qarlo home...absurd. Thankfully, the opening battlefield scenes and the performance of Michael Ansara make this far more watchable than it should be. I do like the future soldier uniforms. The helmet is strangely square but it's an attractive lid. However, that solenoid or whatever it is on their backs doesn't score any style points.

    And by the way, the comments here have made me a bit more sympathetic to Nolan's performance, but I still think it's wrong for the episode.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I can't help noticing that in a weird story or a suspense story, Tim O'Connor somehow manages to react to something with a shocked look and a sort of impatient look at the same time, and I mean that as a good thing. He reacts that way when he first sees the Moonstone, and in one of his Columbo episodes when he's about to be (mistakenly) arrested for a murder, and he does it a few times here.
    I don't know about anyone else, but I've always liked the little running joke with the chewing gum. Especially the final version where it's Nolan who offers it to O'Connor.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Even since reading Ted Rypel's comment about Barbara Eden being a "TOL PROXY-BABE," I've wondered what other wives (who never made it to the show) could be added. There's Barbara Bain (Martin Landau), France Nuyen (Robert Culp) and Dina Merrill (Cliff Robertson). I'm not sure of any others.

    ReplyDelete
  25. 3 1/2. Loved the stuff with the cat.

    ReplyDelete
  26. "One of the things that pissed me off was Qarlo's serial number, which for some inexplicable reason was changed to serial letters, which is stupid. You can't have an army with serial letters because there are few combinations, but they did that because they thought they were being very modern, very futuristic."
    This is exactly WRONG! With 26 Latin letters to choose from – as opposed to only 10 different Arabic numerals- an eight-digit letter like "R-M-E-N-T-N-D-O" gives you 26^8 different permutations (enough to assign different IDs to every human who ever lived – trillions of times over). An eight-digit serial NUMBER, in contrast, allows you only 10 to the 8th power choices, i.e. a hundred million – not enough to assign different IDs even only to the inhabitants of the island of Borneo. - afb

    ReplyDelete
  27. I agree about the brevity of the "living room tussle." It's kind of a shame they didn't remember the very drawn-out ending of THE SPECIAL ONE, and come up with something in between the two extremes.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Lloyd Nolan's miscasting as a philologist ruined this one for me. He's an actor I was and am very fond of, but while he had some versatility, a good way of delivering dialogue,--from breezy to deadly serious--he was just plain wrong for this episode, which had other problems as well. I've seen and heard Nolan blow some roles in other films and TV shows and on at least two episodes of the OTR classic Suspense, in both of which I thought he was dreadful.

    When well cast, he was a marvelous actor; and his Capt. Queeg in the stage version of The Caine Mutiny (Court-Martial) was legendary. He was edgey and at times funny in Bataan!, sympathetic and quite moving in A Trees Grows In Brooklyn, he had some serious limitations as an actor. One of them maybe was his "in the moment" style of acting, great for hard guys, big city types, soldiers and G-Men, not so good for doctors and professional men.

    IMO: A younger actor would have been better for this part in this particular TOL ep,--Robert Vaughn, say, maybe Leslie Nielsen, or even (yes!) William Shatner, .

    ReplyDelete

Apologies for having to switch to moderated comments. This joker (https://www.blogger.com/profile/07287821785570247118) has been spamming our site for weeks, and we're hoping this will finally get him/her/it to crawl back into the hole from whence it came. Sadly the site isn't smart enough to detect that every single comment they make is spam. We'll be sure to review and post legitimate comments quickly. As for you, "Blogger" (trust me, we've got far more imaginative and appropriate names for you) on behalf of all of us at WACT, don't let the door hit you on the way out!