Thursday, December 29, 2011

TZ Promo: “A Quality of Mercy” (12/29/1961)

Season 3, Episode 15 (#80 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4809

50 years ago tonight, a glory-hungry lieutenant in the final days of WWII found the tables turned on him on a genetic level (I almost typed “quantum” there, which would’ve been a cute joke; read on…) when he finds himself inexplicably transformed into that which he hates most: his Japanese counterpart. The DNA, as they say, is on the other helix. Or something like that.

“A Quality of Mercy” stars Dean Stockwell, probably best known to genre fans as Admiral Al Calavicci, hologram advisor to Scott Bakula’s time-skipping Dr. Sam Beckett on TV’s Quantum Leap (now do you get the “quantum” joke above? Hey, c’mon, that’s gold!). Here he’s… well, much younger, and his voice is much higher. He’s appropriately loud and obnoxious (and fittingly contrite later on) as Kattel, the young lieutenant with a hard-on for blood.

Albert Salmi, last seen in season one’s “Execution” (and who will pop up again in season four’s “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville”), is quite good as the war-weary sergeant who just wants to stop fighting and go home…. However, I would’ve liked to see him reprise Joe Caswell just long enough to treat Kattel to a knuckle sandwich.

Spock to Enterprise...

Everybody’s favorite Vulcan, Leonard Nimoy himself, appears here in a bit role. And furthering the Star Trek connection: Stockwell appeared in the “Detained” episode of Star Trek: Enterprise in 2002 (which starred Scott Bakula! A-ha!), plus he appeared in the 80’s Twilight Zone revival series (“Room 2426”). I’m not sure this qualifies as a “six degrees” situation, but there you go.

“A Quality of Mercy” was semi-remade in Twilight Zone: The Movie as “Time Out,” the catastrophe-laden filming of which cost the lives of actor Vic Morrow and a couple of Vietnamese children…. a horrific tragedy to be sure, made even more tragic by the fact that the resultant film wasn’t even very good.

Eine Kleine Nacht.... Morrow?

War is hard enough. Do you have to be a dick too?

“A Quality of Mercy” is another WWII-in-The-Philippines script from Rod Serling, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (he lived it, after all; the core idea might be someone else's, but Serling totally makes it his own). It’s impossible not to compare this episode to his earlier “The Purple Testament,” and yeah, it’s probably not quite as good… but it stands up pretty well on its own. It has that vague “been there, done that” quality that the series will regularly exhibit for the rest of its run, but it’s certainly not a bad effort. I’d probably rate it somewhere smack dab in the middle, and when it comes to The Twilight Zone, that’s still better than most TV, then and (most certainly) now.

Next: The Twilight Zone rings in the New Year with another appearance by Mr. Death, only this time he’s kinder and gentler… not to mention painfully handsome.

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