The Outer Limits (1963)

Nightmare, directed by John Erman.

When planet Ebon A-bombs Earth, the multi-national and multi-racial space force takes the war to them. Which goes poorly: all the troop ships are captured and the soldiers subjected to physical and mental torture on their strange planet.

We have hints that all is not as it appears and the big plot twist is delivered at the half-way point.

The bare surreal staging gives the show a theatrical look and it does run like an experimental play. This is probably due to the director's casting experience: when you make an actors showcase the result will be stage-like.

That actually sort of fits with the "experimental" nature of the plot. In the end it is a moral little tale like those used in the Twilight Zone, less often for this series.

The Ebonite Interrogator is played by busy character actor John Anderson. He had been the suspicious car salesman in Psycho (1960) a little earlier:

He really, really hated the costume.

Many other familiar faces: Ed Nelson, James Shigeta, Whit Bissell. Martin Sheen, age 23, would become a star.

Written by Joseph Stefano, photographed by John M. Nickolaus.

The commentary track is by David J Schow, who points out strong parallels with the patriotic war film The Purple Heart (1944). He gives a lot of production detail and offers his opinion on what works and what doesn't.

This was Erman's only episode and the producers did quite a bit of re-editing. They told him: you can either cast or direct, but not both. Apparently there were no hard feelings and he found it to be good advice.