Ed Nelson, James Shigeta, Martin Sheen, Bill Gunn, Whit Bissell, David Frankham, John Anderson, Bernard Kates.
Earth soldiers are captured by aliens, and subjected to torture and brainwashing.
This is a real weird episode about alien’s torturing guys from Earth. The aliens, called Ebonites, are some of the best looking space creatures in the series. Martin Sheen (“The Final Countdown”) makes a strong, early career impression. This show’s twist ending is a doozie!
Aliens attack the Earth. A multinational team of space soldiers, sent to the alien world, is captured.
In the alien P.O.W. camp, the soldiers are subjected to odd, alien torture. Some of the soldiers give away military secrets.
After one of the soldiers dies, it’s revealed that the aliens and human military leaders are in cahoots. The whole P.O.W. experience is actually an experiment, being conducted by the Earth’s military, with friendly alien cooperation. The experiment is terminated.
Director John Erman’s, NIGHTMARE, is an odd, unsettling Sci-Fi tale.
Producer/Writer Joseph Stefano’s Teleplay is an adult, psychological study of men under stress. It seems to owe a lot to stories of Korean P.O.W camp torture and brainwashing, which were still fresh in people’s minds in the early Sixties.
At one point, an Earth soldier has his voice taken away by an alien device. A previously captured human military psychiatrist, who is cooperating with the aliens, explains to the soldier, “The Ebonites can control the senses, all five of them. They can give you back your voice, any time they choose.”
This episode has unusually strong acting, with Martin Sheen, Ed Nelson (“The Brain Eaters”) and James Shigeta (“Die Hard”) delivering powerful portrayals of U.S. space soldiers. John Anderson (“Psycho”) is also quite good as the chief alien interrogator.
This episode’s aliens have large, sculpted/shaded heads that look disturbingly, convincingly alien. Makeup supervisor, Fred B. Phillips, appears to deserve the credit here.
The stark central set, courtesy of Art Director, Jack Poplin, and Set Decorator, Chester Bayhi, is a mostly empty, semi-darkened stage, with several stylized rock formations. While simple, the set forces us to focus on the human drama and not the alien trappings.
My favorite scene has Sheen, under the influence of alien/mind control, undergoing a hallucination in which he sees his mother who encourages him to whisper secrets to her. The scene favorably brings to mind the Sci-Fi/fantasy novelist, Ray Bradbury, and “The Martian Chronicles”.
The music is tense and dramatic , increasing in intensity as the episode proceeds. The taut score, entirely appropriate for a nightmare, was composed by Dominic Frontiere.
Director of Photography, John M. Nickolaus, Jr., does creative work here. Extremely effective is a vertigo inducing, overhead shot, looking down at a human soldier and an alien, walking down a hall towards a torture chamber.
NIGHTMARE should be fairly watchable for most Sci-Fi viewers. Martin Sheen fans should get a kick out of seeing him in an a strong, early career performance. NIGHTMARE is worth losing sleep over!