With the recent blogpost on the super-soldier, I thought we could revisit one of the earliest super-soldier stories seen on American TV. The foundation ideas that populate modern science fiction are sometimes tricky to track down. Prior to me watching 1964's the Outer Limits episode 'Soldier', I would have guessed the origins of the super-soldier could have traced back to Sparta or the Samurai, or even, the Sardaukar from DUNE, however, it may have started with this episode and the 1957 short-story it was culled from. Back in 1964, Soldier was the premier episode for the second season of the Outer Limits in 1964, and starred veteran Star Trek Klingon actor Michael Ansara. Since the episode aired in the 1960's, Soldier has gone on to influence science fiction creators, and even was the root for 1984's the Terminator. I was disappointed when the Outer Limits came back on TV from 1995-2002, that they did not remade Soldier.
The Plot of Soldier
In the 38th century, two men wait on a scarred landscape of burned out buildings, fog, and laser beam dancing. Here two soldiers raised by the state, with no regular human experiences to speak of, square off on the this battlefield. As Qarlo attempted to take a break with one of his self-lighting cigerettes, when command issues a simple order: "Find the Enemy. Kill the Enemy". With their break canceled, they storm off into the fog, only to get zapped and thrown into a temporal tear. Qarlo is transported to the American of the 1960's, and while it does not say this in the show, I imagine where they fighting in what was left of Los Angeles, that is why Qarlo was transported to the back-lot of Paramount studios.
Trapped in the past, Qarlo is hunted down by the police, captured, and tossed into a padded cell, while two men, one from the FBI, and another, Philologist Tom Kagan are trying to figure him out. Qarlo repeats the same odd speech over and over, and while some of it sounds like English, most of it too gutterly, and laced with unfamiliar words. Kagan does locked on to his words, and informs the FBI that what the soldier of the future is saying is his name, rank, and serial number, just in the dialect of the 38th century. Over the new few weeks, Kagan and Qarlo build a bridge towards understanding, using pictures and films, all while Qarlo's nemesis from the other side on the future conflict is trapped in time, struggling to get out.
The Historical Context of Soldier
Some Observations about Soldier
While the uniform that Qarlo and his enemy where is seemingly nothing like modern tactical gear, it is closer than you think. Both of the DEW 'heat-ray' rifles feature pop-up sights, similar to modern reflex red-dot sights on seemingly on every single weapon on Modern Warfare 3. Both soldiers wear regular, loose fitting garments under their hard-plate chest armor. This is once again similar to modern soldier, that wear BDUs under their tact-vests that feature ballistic armor plates. Then we come to the helmets. Communication gear is directly fitted into the helmet, along with a night-vision visor and topped off with a antenna. Unlike in the 1960's, modern soldiers have such gear hanging off of their helmets, but were not as stylish as the ones featured in Soldier.
The Terminator/Soldier Connection
The Soldier/ Hulk Connection?
Was Soldier (1998) named after Soldier (1964)?
Then we come to another film about emotionless super-soldiers born into service and used for the purposes of the state without remorse or concern or consent: 1998's Soldier. Much like Qarlo and his nemesis, Kurt Russel's Todd-3465 is very similar to Qarlo, according to the opening narration of the Outer Limits: "trained from birth by the State. He as never known love, or closeness, warmth. He is geared for only one purpose: to kill the enemy." So, is Soldier from 1998 another work based on the genesis of Harlen Ellison? Not according to official sources. David Peoples, the co-writer of BLADE RUNNER's primary script, cited Soldier being writing around the time after his work on BLADE RUNNER as a work to focus on the Replicants at war on the off-world colonies. When the script was altered to direct it away from the 1982 work, David People's called Soldier (1998), a 'sidequel'. It is heavily likely that the Outer Limits played a part into the foundations of this story, but it is not official acknowledged.
The Soldier/Captain Power Connection...WTF?
Many of the readers of FWS know that I grew up watching Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, but it wasn't until I watched this epsiode of the Outer Limits that I saw yet another connection to that 1964 classic: 1987's Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. Much like the dark future of Qarlo's time, Power's 22nd century Earth is still scarred from the crushing Metal Wars, where a few human attempt to resist the evil machine empire. Of course, Captain Power is wholesale connected to Terminator, but I also see a basic connection to Soldier: the visor is a dead give-away!
Why is Soldier a classic?
Classics are older works that impact the genre they written in, and if you look at the list above, it is easy to see how much a single episode of cult TV series can have on the genre of military science fiction. Despite this episode of the Outer Limits was pitted against other higher rated shows, and much like today, the network threw away this episode away. Soldier survived with help from passionate fans and heavy rotations on independent TV stations James Cameron used Soldier has the basis for Terminator and the resulting lawsuit.
Here is a video on the Soldier/Terminator Connection