“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
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.