Friday, 20 March 2015

TO THE LAST MAN




















THE OUTER LIMITS: DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND, d. Byron Haskin (1964)
One thousand years into the future, Earth is invaded by a vicious race called The Kyben. Overwhelmed, the humans completely disappear from the planet, unleashing a radioactive plague before they do so. One man, Trent, is transported back into the past, pursued by the invaders, who believe he knows where the population of Earth has gone. Trent has only a ten day memory and a glass robotic hand, missing several fingers. The hand tells him that he will need to retrieve the other fingers from The Kyben in order to find out the secrets of his mission. He’ll wish he hadn’t bothered.  
The notion of the Last or Eternal Man is a familiar one, having appeared in mythology since people started writing legends down. Here, writer Harlan Ellison pimps up the notion with time travel , and the idea that sometimes heroes are not always in charge of their own destiny, that they do heroic things in spite of themselves, or because they simply have no choice. It’s an amazing episode of a very good series, and the ending is brilliantly poignant. The Last or Eternal Man will always lonely, as no-one else can wait or live as long as he can.

I’m particularly fascinated by the way Trent disposes of the Kyben villains: having travelled through a time portal from the future, they wear medallions to anchor them in the past. When Trent tears the medallions from them, they disappear. This doesn’t kill them, nor does it return them to their own time. Instead, it sets them adrift in time, a fate worse than death, and one that will last forever - and they will feel every single second.

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