Outer Limits – Identity Crisis (03/27/98)

Behind an ultra-secure chain link fence of the same kind that kept us so safe from Captain Trips years ago,[1] the military is performing super-secret Super-Soldier experiments.  There is a tower of sparking electronic equipment in a building that looks like the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA.  The giant doors open a few feet to let in a soldier and dramatic backlighting.  But why did they make him wait outside?  And, they do know there is a little man-size door cut into giant ones, right?  To be fair, the production here is great.  Whoever scouts out such locations deserves more cash than most of the actors.

The shirtless soldier walks fearlessly to the sparking tower.  He is bulky, and sporting the Vladimir Putin style of camo with no shirt.  We can tell he is not fully human, though, by his clunky walk; also his smooth, bulbous head with cables coming out of it.  He climbs the tower, suffering no effects from the fire, magnetism, noise or whatever the unmentioned danger is supposed to be.  He not only performs some non-scheduled repairs while he’s up there, but tempts fate by flossing his teeth.

The soldier descends and walks to one of a pair of pods that were purchased from old Brundle estate.  He is sealed inside and the transfer process is initiated.  The consciousness inside the super-soldier is transferred back to the noggin of Captain Cotter McCoy (Lou Diamond Phillips).  The scientists are thrilled that the super-soldier shell came through virtually unscathed.  His boss, Colonel Peter Butler, jealously thinks McCoy gets a little too much credit for merely “driving” the synthetic body.  But he might just be twitchy because the other kids called him Peanut Butler [2] as a kid.

< uninteresting 5 minute scene with wife >

The next day, McCoy is again secured in the pod.  During the transfer process, his katra is successfully transferred to the Michelin-solider.  After the transfer, however, there is a malfunction in McCoy’s pod.  It is an interesting concept as the McCoy-bot realizes what is happening and tries to rescue his body.  Sadly, by the time he can open the pod, his body has been burned to death.

Needless to say, McCoy is peeved.  To make things worse, his consciousness can only operate in this experimental body for a short time.  So his wife won’t even have a chance to be disappointed that he is not anatomically correct; and bald.  Regardless, McCoy locks the scientists up and goes home to see his wife.

McCoy rings the bell and runs — what a scamp!  When his wife comes out, he speaks to her from behind the bushes.  Soon, he collapses and she runs to him.  “What have they done to you?”  She takes him inside.  He explains the sitch to her.  He had never been able to tell her about his top secret work, and its danger to his life and hair.

In an act of Holmesian perspicacity, the soldiers track him down at his house.  They come in, machine guns a-blazing.  Hilariously, the spray of bullets hits a vase of flowers and it bursts into flames.

Amazing Exploding Vase

Mr. & Mrs. McCoy escape and go to the chief scientist’s house.  They find his father is visiting, but he plays no part in the story at all.  I guess he is there as a reason for the scientist to obey McCoy’s demand that he come home.  This is kind of misguided anyway.  As he further deteriorates, McCoy demands an explanation from him as to what went wrong.  Surely their time would have been better spent working on a solution in the lab, or rousting some homeless guy with an able body and a nice head of hair.

They go back to the lab — told ya so!  The scientist has an idea how to give McCoy more time.  When they get there, they find out Col. Butler has transported into the back-up prototype body, although WTF he would choose this particular time to test drive it can only be explained by plot-necessity.  He jealously tells McCoy he was tired of him “always being in the lead.  Whenever we were up for the same assignments, the same promotions, they always went to you.”  Dude, you do know Colonel outranks Captain, right?

Anyhoo, there is a fight between the two prototypes.  You can probably guess what happens at this point.  McCoy needs a body, and Butler’s soulless husk of a body is already sitting in the pod.  What seemed to me to be a couple of yuge errors in this sequence turned out to be an unexpectedly clever way of manipulating the characters to this conclusion.  It is not explicitly shown that McCoy’s consciousnesses is transferred into Butler’s body.  In fact, it kind of looks like they blew it.  So rather than the final scene being trite and obvious, it does preserve some element of suspense.

The last scene is the funeral for McCoy’s body.  That McCoy now inhabits Butler’s bidy is confirmed by Mrs. McCoy’s last line, “Let’s go home, Cotter.”  So she gets her husband’s soul back, and McCoy gets the weirdest promotion ever.  He will also forever be revered as a god at the officer’s club as the dawg that started plowing his best friend’s wife 5 minutes after her husband’s funeral.

Another good episode.  Lou Diamond Phillips was great as McCoy, even when in the rubber suit.  Sadly, his wife was a bit of a non-entity.  However, the strength of the story, script and production design made this a winner.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Despite the guards and portentous music, there isn’t much dangerous going on behind this fence.  That fence in The Stand has bothered me for years, though.  You’re monkeying around with a virus that can kill 99.4% of humans and you put it behind a flimsy roll-away Sears chain link fence?
  • [2] Which was better than McCoy’s nickname, Blue Diamond Filberts. [3]
  • [3] Sadly, Blue Diamond does not sell Filberts.  Also, why would fictional kids call him a name that riffed on an actor who would play him 30 years later?  I’m getting dizzy.

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