The Human Factor
Gary Merrill, Harry Guardino, Sally Kellerman, Joe de Santis,
Shirley O’Hara, Jane Langley, James Sikking, and Ivan Dixon.
A scientist and a soldier swap consciousness, with unexpected results.
This episode’s premise is a mind blower. What would it be like to be yourself, staring at the world through someone else’s eyes? It’s a thought provoking premise and makes for an intriguing episode. Fans of Sally Kellerman will enjoy watching her in a performance, years before she made a big splash, as “Hot Lips,” in the movie, “M.A.S.H.”
At an isolated Greenland outpost, a soldier has a vision of a dead man. At the same time, a scientist experiments with a device which allows you to experience the thoughts of others.
The soldier, thought to be crazy, takes part in a temporary consciousness swapping experiment with the scientist. An accident, during the experiment, locks the soldier’s mind into the scientist’s head, and visa versa.
The soldier with the scientist’s mind is shot. Another experiment takes place, returning the two minds to their appropriate locations. The soldier dies.
Director Abner Biberman’s, THE HUMAN FACTOR, is an unusual, thought-provoking Sci-Fi tale.
Gary Merrill plays Dr. James Hamilton, who works in the “Human Factors” section. As Merrill explains his device to colleague/test subject, Sally Kellerman, “If this machine works, it will be possible for two minds to communicate directly.” Soon, Merrill discovers that Kellerman loves him. The fact that Merrill doesn’t respond immediately to this knowledge indicates the guy’s been on ice way too long.
THE HUMAN FACTOR is similar in mood and location to “The Thing,” (1951 & 1982). Something about an isolated, frozen location, with scientists and weird events taking place, seems to lend itself to good, Sci-Fi entertainment.
Sally Kellerman, very early in her career, creates a memorable, sensuous intellectual. She comes across like an ice cube just waiting to be melted.
Writer David Duncan, (“The Time Machine”, “Fantastic Voyage”), weaves a fascinating and disturbing yarn that is both believable and compelling. He has a way of making far out ideas seem credible, and his characters are more three dimensional than those in many Sci-Fi yarns.
My favorite scene takes place after Merrill and soldier, Harry Guardino, have exchanged consciousness. Merrill, with Guardino’s thoughts in his head, starts to gobble sunflower seeds, one of Guardino’s habits.
Director of Photography, Conrad Hall, does excellent work here. A close shot of Harry Guardino, staring with soulful eyes, Bogey-like, out at the snow, is quite striking.
The music, by Dominic Frontiere, has a haunting quality. It builds and builds like as gas leak which eventually must explode.
THE HUMAN FACTOR should be fairly watchable for most Sci-Fi viewers. Sally Kellerman fans, and those who enjoyed the film “Brainstorm” (1983), will get a kick out of this episode.