The horribly named “Starship 1” is traveling through space with a lone astronaut when it encounters a space warp. Captain Gullible might have a ship with a desperately lame name, but it does have a feature that I was super impressed with: the ability to keep the seats always upright. Horizontal flight? Face forward, looking out the window. Landing by turning and lowering straight down? Still face forward, looking out the window. Feb of 1963 was a special time indeed if they built space ships that could do this! And the space warp shows us just how amazing things will be in 2148. Buildings will stand with the narrowest part at the bottom, looking not unlike a giant exclamation mark. And rows of bookshelves can be kept hidden behind a wall… all but the first set, just so people who invade have something to read.
Captain Gullible meets Andro, a dude with some bad skin problems and worse hair. He takes everything Andro says at face value and then decides to take him back in time. I think it was that Andro validated him. Gullible: “I seemed to collapse inside as if I were going into a convulsion.” Andro: “A time convulsion!” (Gullible’s internal monologue: “well, if he says I’m right, he must be ok!”) Andro tells Captain Gullible that the bringer of all this destruction was Bertram Cabot Jr and he has memorized every aspect of his life. How convenient. “A microbe destroyed humanity?,” Captain Gullible asks, and I got chills. Dear God! Sadly Captain Gullible dies randomly for no readily apparent reason leaving Andro the unenviable task of landing the space ship… which he does both perfectly and right on the spot where the mother of Bertram Cabot Jr is having a picnic with a local rigor mortis frog. (No? You don’t know those frogs? They are so still when held by humans, they act like they have rigor mortis so you throw them in the water, and then they morph into a bullfrog!)
Now you might think I dislike this episode and I do find that the episode drags a bit toward the end, but I actually think Anthony Lawrence wrote a brilliant piece of Science Fiction here. Some wonderful lines pop up, even if some are borrowed. “Hope proves a man deathless!” Very nice. I also liked, “beauty is always on the verge of being lost.” And there’s a lot to that. Andro looks like a monster but he can’t bring himself to commit a monstrous act. He knows the future of all mankind is at stake and I don’t know if that makes him a hero or not. To save billions, should one person die? Could you pull the trigger? Could I? Yet, if he had committed murder, wouldn’t that make him a monster? Martin Landau is perfectly cast as Andro. When he is manic, his eyes go utterly stark raving mad. There are moments where I found his human self far more frightening than this mutated self. While there may be reason for it in cinematic terms, the fact that he stands so close to Noelle all the time is a little off-putting. I mean, he knows a microbe wiped out mankind right? Social distancing, man!! The whole illusion of Andro is well depicted too and there is a dreaminess to the whole episode. His interactions with Noelle seem to be blurred often giving us a sense of living in a dream.
Noelle is a lovely woman too, probably. Upon seeing Andro pull a gun and get beaten down, she says she saw his moment of violence pass. Here again I’m torn. Is this a good thing; a woman who saw a man struggle with something horrible and moved past it? Or is this a mentally troubled woman who immediately sides with her strong man, no matter who he is? (Her would-be husband is a military man, and his first thought to get his fiancé back is to shoot at Andro… while his fiancé is next to the target.) I also wondered if Andro’s hypnotic suggestion was controlling Noelle. It controls what she sees… why not what she feels too? Perhaps that plays a part in her decision making?
I also wondered about the fickle nature of Andro. Once Noelle is willing to leave her husband-to-be, she’s throwing herself at him and basically giving him the answer he wants; love and a future free of plague. But he debates it and pushes her away. Until it dawns on him: he can take here away. But his love blinds him to another important fact: the future they just created is one in which he never existed. But Andro is a tragic character. We meet him in a future devoid of hope and we see him fade out after finding love and saving mankind. He fades away leaving her alone on a spaceship she is bound to die in. As the camera pans back, we see her alone in her seat with the empty one next to her. It’s a bleak and amazing moment, a visual treat in a desperately sad moment. On the surface, the story is dark with a heartbreaking ending but if you look beneath the surface, it’s a love story and quite beautifully told. Love can change the future, and it does for the inheritors of that future. Earth is now free for mankind and love saved humanity. ML
The view from across the pond:
“There is nothing wrong with your television set.”
…although it is showing me a very unconvincing, wobbly model of a spaceship, which looks like something that has been cobbled together with toilet roll tubes and sticky back plastic on Blue Peter. The wobbly spaceship has managed quite an impressive feat. It has taken an astronaut from 1963 through a “time convulsion” to the year 2148. I like that term. It’s not too far away from “time shiver” or even “time belch”. It makes a change from magic invisible waves. The time burp has taken the astronaut to a very bleak future, where disease has all but wiped out the human race. This being The Outer Limits, the disease was “developed and corrupted” by a scientist. The key message this series has been shouting about from the start is that scientists and going to go too far one day and destroy us all. This hails from a time when they had almost just done that very recently, with the development of the atomic bomb. It remains a very valid message.
One of the remaining survivors of the human race, Andro, makes it back to 1963, and his luck seems to have changed because he arrives in just the right place to do something about the scientist who destroyed humanity, of all the places he could have landed in his borrowed toilet roll spaceship. Handy, that. As luck would have it, the human race has taken an evolutionary leap over the course of 185 years, and Andro can influence what other people see, hiding his true appearance. That comes in useful when he’s paying for his lodgings, although I’m not sure what will happen when the woman tries to use the money. Either she’s going to think she has suddenly got careless about losing things, or she’s going to have an awkward conversation when she tries to pay some invisible money into the bank. Then again, there must be no limits to Andro’s mental powers, or else his kiss with Noelle would feel oddly bumpy.
Speaking of Noelle, she’s an odd one, isn’t she. I can understand this bit:
“There isn’t going to be a wedding. I don’t love him.”
I mean, that can happen. A woman’s feelings for a man can fade between proposal and marriage, and she can end up almost sleepwalking into a loveless marriage. But I’m not so sure I understand this bit:
“It’s you I love. I don’t know how it happened, or why.”
That makes two of us. I get that love at first sight can happen, and love can conquer all, even a bumpy complexion, but she has literally just met him and he has forced himself on her for one bumpy kiss. I guess matters of the heart really are mysterious. You’ve got to feel sorry for Joseph though. The guy has all the personality of a block of wood, but he doesn’t really do anything to deserve being left at the aisle in favour of a bumpy-faced illusionist.
This came so close to being a fascinating episode. I was quite sure Andro was going to be presented with the sight of baby Bertram, who would go on to become the scientist who wipes out the human race, and then Andro would have a horrendous choice to make. There would have been some fascinating drama in that situation. Instead an awful lot of time is wasted with running around, and then we don’t really get a conclusion. After Andro fades away, because he was never born, what happens to Noelle? Can she figure out how to land the wobbly spaceship in the future? What will the future look like? Will another scientist have taken Bertram’s place, or will the future be a happy one instead? It was all a bit frustrating. The episode didn’t really conclude. It just ended.
It doesn’t pay to think too much about the paradox either. Andro changed his past so he faded out of existence, but if he never existed how did Noelle get on board the cardboard spaceship? I’m no expert in this kind of thing, but it seems to me that if his actions are not negated by the paradox then he shouldn’t fade out of existence either. But let’s try once again to get into the mind of a contemporary viewer. Nowadays this episode probably seems like nothing special, but at the time it must have seemed like an exciting and revolutionary idea. What examples of somebody creating a time paradox on a television show existed in 1963? Not many. Across the pond it would be years before even Doctor Who got round to exploring these kinds of ideas. This must have seemed very new and very exciting.
I think I figured out why Andro faded away though. In his anger he broke a mirror. That’s 185 years of bad luck, right?
We now return control of your computer, until the next time we visit the outer limits of the Junkyard… RP
Read next in the Junkyard… The Outer Limits: O.B.I.T.