Martin Landau’s Best Sci Fi

Martin Landau’s acting career never was really completely finished before he died, though it perhaps culminated in his winning the Oscar for his role as Bela Lugosi in the 1994 film, Ed Wood. His many other accomplishments are too numerous to mention here, so I will focus on what I feel were his best sci fi appearances and also mention a bit about the science.

His best sci fi role is perhaps that that of Andro in “The Man Who Was Never Born” episode of “The Outer Limits.”  You can think of this episode as being a typical “grandfather paradox” time travel tale married with  Beauty and the Beast.  Andro goes back in time to kill the man responsible for releasing a catastrophic plague on the world (Bertram Cabot, Jr.)  that has, by the 22nd century, left the world underdeveloped and underpopulated (though some apparently have telepathic abilities). Those that have survived are horribly disfigured. When Andro does go back, he overshoots and ends up in the time of Bertram Cabot Jr.’s father just before he (Bertram) is to be married to Noelle.  Andro ends up falling in love with Noelle, in some ways making it easier to stop the wedding (so that their son is never born).  However, he realizes he must kill Bertram Cabot, Sr. so that he will never find Noelle again.  But, in trying to shoot Betram Cabot Sr. at the wedding, he misses, and runs off. Noelle runs to join him. They try to go back to Andro’s future, but Andro vanishes, and Noelle appears to have been left in limbo. the implication is that there is no longer such a timeline to go to, at least not one with Andro in it. We are never really told why getting rid of the plague would get rid of Andro, though we can assume that for some reason, Andro’s parents never conceived him. Those the love story in this episode is a bit superficial, and by this point, cliche, it still is well acted and touching. Its nice that even when Noelle sees his disfigurement, she sees past it and only sees a man who genuinely loves her.

So, how about the science? Most physicists agree that backward time travel, though apparently physically possible under some fairly rare and extreme conditions, is problematic in that it can create potential paradoxes, such as being able to go back in time to kill off grandpa. If you do that though, then you’ll cease to exist. But if you cease to exist, how did you get back in time to kill off grandpa (by the way, its always grandpa in these scenarios, but any ancestor, male or female, will do)? This is why Steven Hawking came out with his “Time Protection Conjecture” (try saying that 10 times fast!). Essentially it states that in going back in time there must be some event or series of events that ultimately prevents a paradoxical event (such as the grandfather scenario) from occurring. There is no proof yet that backs this up, but most physicists agree simply because a law of the universe (and that’s what physics really is: a summary of the laws of the Universe) can’t be illogical and paradoxical. The bottom line is that backward time travel may or may but not be possible, but that you probably can not change a timeline (i.e., change history, either big or small). That’s a lot of classic sci fi that I just declared “wrong!”

Space: 1999 will have to wait for tomorrow. In any case, its been fun remembering Martin Landau and the science behind the sci fi.

Steve Bloom, Hampden-Sydney College





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