The Outer Limits: Demon with a Glass Hand

“Through all the legends of ancient peoples — Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Semitic — runs the saga of the Eternal Man, the one who never dies, called by various names in various times, but historically known as Gilgamesh, the one who has never tasted death… the hero who strides through the centuries…”

The Outer Limits: Demon with a Glass Hand

Season Two, Episode 5
October, 1964

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Robert Culp in 'Demon With A Glass Hand'

Robert Culp passed away just this past year. A magnificent actor, he is likely familiar to readers from his parts in I Spy or Greatest American Hero. He starred in a few Outer Limits stories and all of them are remarkable. His ability to convey so much sincerity in his performance makes the episodes that he starred in poignant and haunting. In Demon With a Glass Hand, he plays the role of a man known simply as Trent. With a memory only a day old, he knows that he has been on the run for some indeterminate amount of time and is pursued by alien killers from the future. In another time, the planet Earth is at war with the Kyben. As the war grew more devastating, it suddenly stopped and 70 billion humans disappeared over night, leaving Trent as the only clue to their whereabouts.

Alone and confused, Trent wears a glove that covers an incomplete glass hand housing a computer. The hand can only advise Trent so much, but assures him that the survival of the Earth’s population rests on his shoulders. Ducking into an old apartment building, he makes his last stand against the Kyben.

A veteran science fiction writer, Harlan Ellison contributed two scripts to the Outer Limits; this one and Soldier from the previous season. If the program had lasted another year, perhaps he would have submitted a third. One consistency in both stories is a visceral humanity, which of course ironic in this case. Trent is a very sympathetic character who seems adverse to violence, but must kill his pursuers in order to live.

The macho attitude of Trent and the Kyben soldiers is off-set by the inclusion of innocent bystander Consuela Biros, a lonely seamstress who only recently escaped an abusive marriage. Upon meeting Consuela, Trent finds a companion that grounds him in reality as her reactions are both rational and human. While she is decidedly against any violence at first, in the end she takes part in Trent’s war with the Kyben. Terrified and realizing that it is a kill-or-be-killed situation, her pacifism evaporates and is overtaken by a drive of self-preservation. Her aversion and disgust at discovering the truth about the man she has suddenly fallen in love with is also both tragic and all too believable.

Filmed inside the legendary Bradbury Building (the same location used for JS Sebastian’s apartment building in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner film), the setting is nothing short of fantastic. The labyrinthine hallways and stairwells are shot with such inspiration that it results in a dream-like atmosphere. As Culp’s Trent runs about dodging the attacks of the Kyben troopers, I felt like I was reliving several childhood nightmares at once, desperately trying to escape some shadowy tormentors.

Demon With a Glass Hand earned several accolades over the years and was adapted into comic book form along with the other Kyben tales, drawn by Ken Steacy in the graphic novel ‘Night and the Enemy.’ Personally, I consider it one of the best pieces of televised science fiction that I have ever seen. Each time I watch it, I worry that I will lose interest from over-familiarity, but each time the program has the same impact.

Recommended:

Buy 'Night and the Enemy'

The Outer Limits Original Series Complete Box Set

16 thoughts on “The Outer Limits: Demon with a Glass Hand

  1. This is a brilliant story. I am also big fan Harlan Ellision fan in general. Have you seen the documentary about him called Dreams with Sharp Teeth? I have been looking for a copy of it. If you know where I can find one please tell me.

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  2. I beleive that James Cameron acknowledged his debt to the works of Harlan Ellison in the closing credits of the original “Terminator”, which I’ve always beleived STRONGLY resembles the plot of “Demon”. I think it’s also worth noting that the actress who portrayed Consuela Biros (Arlene Martel) played at least one other memorable TV sci-fi role, that of Spock’s bride-to-be, T’Pring.

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    • Welcome to the Daily P.O.P., Mark! From what I have read, the lawsuit is actually related to an earlier Outer Limits story called Soldier (though Demon is also very similar to Terminator) and that the acknowledgement came through as part of the settlement with Ellison.

      I have written very little about Star Trek, but prefer the classic series on the whole. Maybe I should start reviewing some episodes again.

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  3. The comic book adaptation of ‘Demon With a Glass Hand’ was drawn by the late Marshall Rogers in 1986 as part of DC Comics’ graphic novel series. It is not in ‘Night and the Enemy,’ although that is a very good collection of graphic adaptations as well.

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  4. Demon With A Glass Hand succeeds because of its utter sincerity there’s no pop irony, no winking at the audience, no pointless pop culture referencing nor any out-of-place “mood-lightening (or -destroying) humour. It’s played straight and is all the better for it. The tension and strangeness is allowed to build in a way that is highly unlikely today.
    We, as the audience, sympathize with Trent and share his bewilderment, we will him to succeed against the Kyben and feel his desperation; Trent’s combination of humanity and “alienness” (well-written by Ellison and brilliantly played by Culp) is key to the story, he is a peculiarly *vulnerable* hero particularly as he does not wholly understand what is happening or comprehend his own nature until the end. Consuela (marvellous Arlene Martel, much better here than as T’Pring) is an important part of the story because she represents fragile humanity out of the abstract, she is what’s worth preserving and fighting for but her reaction to the revelation of Trent’s true nature illustrates humanity’s less attractive qualities and underlines Trent’s isolation and the thanklessness of his task. Humans… A minor masterpiece, unquestionably the highlight of The Outer Limits’ highly flawed second season.

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    • It is interesting you mention T’pring because I have been posting a lot on tor.com about the original star trek series novels.

      As for this script you are right,it is excellent. It won Ellison his first Writer’s Guild Award. The second he won 2 or 3 years later for his Star Trek script. As you probably know he was deeply unhappy with the changes they made in the script. It is the original script,not the rewritten one that won the award.

      Regarding the actress playing T’pring. The episode,Amok Time did not give her much to really do. Another favorite episode written another science fiction legend,Theodore Sturgeon.

      Have you read any of Sturgeon’s novels or short stories,Hal?

      What about you Jamieson?

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  5. Hello Zeno, thanks for your response. I’ll have to check out your posts on Tor.com; I’ve read Tim Callahan’s Alan Moore Re-read and several of De Candido’s ST:TNG Rewatch posts whilst I’ve gotten the Re-Opening The X-Files reviews bookmarked (I will read them!) but I didn’t know there was anything about the “classic” Star Trek novels. Fascinating, as Spock might say :). I assume these are the Pocket Books novels? (I know there were earlier books, Galactic Whirlpool and the Blishes etc but have read none of those)
    I remember years ago when you could walk into a bookstore and the Star Trek books (published by Titan over here) would be lining the shelves, it appeared there would always be time to pick up the ones you wanted when you had the money but then time passed and your interest waxed and waned, soon some of the better novels were gone and then when your enthusiasm had returned virtually nothing was left, with the later books being less individual and more fast food-like (with exceptions). Uhm, well that’s my depressing take! I went looking for some of the old Star Trek novels I was interested in a couple of years ago and came up empty (I still have ten or so of the books, I think), boo. I’ve looked for reviews on the web – because I’m weird, heh – but found few, so your posts should appeal to me. Good work, Mr Z. Cont’d

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    • Here is a list of Star Trek novels I have read the past few months

      1. Final Nexus

      2. Strangers from the Sky

      3. My Enemy My Ally

      4. Vulcan’s Soul part 1

      5. Planet of Judgement. This is one of the pre pocket book series from the 70s.

      6. Ishamel.

      7. Doctor’s Orders

      Numbers 3 and 7 are by Diane Duane who is one of the best Star Trek writers.
      My Enemy My Ally starts her Romulan books. Her history of the Romulan’s is almost universally considered better than what the later series had developed.
      T’Pring who you mentioned appears in Spock’s World. As you can guess that is about the history of the Vulcans,but also with a 23 century plot. Despite being my favorite Star Trek aliens I liked this the least of her books. Her first two Romulan books however are both very good. I have yet to read the later ones. In fact the weakest part of the novel is directly tied to T’pring. I will not ruin the story if you haven’t read it.

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  6. I’m afraid to say I have not read any of Sturgeon’s work though of course I’ve seen his Star Trek episodes (apparently he sneaked in homosexual references for his own amusement. Slash-fiction fuel!) and Killdozer! I know of his importance through articles, Stephen King, and The Encylopedia of SF but I only have one of his stories – in Dangerous Visions. I should read it, although that anthology obviously focuses only on a particular kind of *radical* science fiction story.
    It’s certainly an achievement that quite apart from his stories (and novels such as Some Of Your Blood) he’s also known for “Sturgeon’s Law” and for being the inspiration behind Kilgore Trout from Slaughterhouse-5.
    I am more familiar with Harlan Ellison and his work. Gifted and cantankerous he is, it’s a pity that his persona has led some (fools) to devalue and/or denigrate his creations. What’s fascinating about City On The Edge Of Forever is that both the original Ellison script with its typical hard edges *and* the version that made it to the screen are, in their differing ways, great. Ellison’s (self-)righteousness seems to blind him to this unfortunately but that’s the nature of Harlan; how sad it is though that his health has failed him, there is no denying the power and individuality of his best – and even some of his lesser – work. One could never say he was dull even if he could be infuriating (I recognize a little of myself in him!). What’s your opinion, Mr Z?

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    • Let me address the points one by one. Before I do where is the gay reference?
      I missed that. Back to the points.

      1. The story you are talking about in Dangerous Visions,a Ellison edited anthology as you know,is not one of my favorites. Let me just say it seems to have been written for shock value and it has to believe Sturgeon could believe such a thing is acceptable. If he did this sort of thing one of kids or even ex wives would have probably told the public. The story seems to have written to just to upset people. It was too long a story for the simple point of ticking people off.

      2. Yes they both have their merits. The one thing I have always disliked about the filmed version is that Kirk lets her die. Originally Spock or someone else stopped him from saving her. This makes more sense if he really loved her. It just was not convincing.

      3. it has always been my guess that part of the reason Ellison has so much resentment about this his dislike of Roddenbery’s dishonesty about it. He disliked Roddenberry because he could be a con artist. He conned Ellison into helping save the show in it’s first season despite but changed things behind his back and most especially when Ellison wanted take his name off the script for the fake name of Corwinder Bird Roddenberry refused. That was probably a big part of it. If someone takes a person into doing them a big favor but will a little thing for that person,it is easy to see why one is resentful. Then he starts making stories at conventions that Ellison messed up the script and had scotty selling drugs. Both outright lies. It is my belief that these factors more so than them changing his script are what really upset him. Who could blame him?

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  7. The gay references were apparently just little things Sturgeon put in for a joke (something about a massage?), it’s a while since I’ve seen those episodes so I can’t say.
    I don’t think Sturgeon wrote If All Men Were Brothers… just to tick people off, rather it was a story that belonged to the adult-orientated “New Wave” sf of the sixties, many of those stories used science fiction to explore radical concepts and states, and yes to break taboos. I don’t think you have to worry about Sturgeon getting up to anything like that in “real life”, any more than one has to worry about Stephen King being a vampire! Sturgeon was exploring a really *alien* and disgusting (to us) idea as a way of showing that the truly alien might be something disturbing in a social sense as well as, say, biological.
    I sympathize with Ellison up to a point, Roddenberry didn’t always treat writers with the respect they deserved or that he professed to hold for them; it was also a compulsion for him to rewrite and impose his “vision” even when it was uncalled for and detrimental to the story. That said, though Ellison had some reason to feel agrieved he *did* do that Ellison thing of taking it too far and throwing a fit, as if only he was pure in heart.
    Oddly, I haven’t read any Diane Duane tho’ I know her Rihannsu/Romulan books are much praised. Were My Enemy, My Ally and Doctor’s Orders good? Regarding the other books, what did you think of The Final Nexus and Strangers from the Sky?

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    • Final Nexus is a sequel to Chain of Attack which I read almost 20 years ago. It was the one I liked the lest. Strangers from the Sky was a early giant novel. While it is certainly a decent story things wrapped up too quickly and the idea of human and Vulcan friendships and the jealousy that could create,for the humans is not really resolved. My Enemy My Ally is the first of Diane Duane’s Romulan novels. It features the Captain Ael who is the aunt of the Romulan commander from The Enterprise Incident. It is pretty good. Doctor’s Orders is does not deal with the Romulans but it is also another good book by her.

      Vulcan’s Soul gives the beginning of a new origin for the Vulcan Romulan split Different from what Duane developed in her second Romulan novel The Romulan Way. This is not a direct sequel because it is not about Ael. However it gives a detailed history of the Romulans and is very interesting. Her later Romulan books, I have not read. They were all written much later in 2000 and 2006. They also all star Ael and her attempts to overthrow the Romulan Empire. These seem to have gotten more mixed reviews than the earlier ones.
      Aside from one issue of DC’s Star Trek comic book,these are the only original series material she had written after 1990. Oddly those last books are are written as series unlike her earlier books which could be read as stand alone novels.

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