The Chameleon

The Outer Limits (1963)

The Chameleon, directed by Gerd Oswald.

When the alien crew of a spacecraft prove both dangerous and uncommunicative, Top Men develop an exceedingly cunning plan to get inside information. A human agent will be genetically modified to become one of the aliens and join them. His cover story: he is the survivor from an earlier mission, has amnesia and can't remember his own language.

Does that sound like it has a million to one chance of success? Watch and see.

This has parallels to the plot of The Architects of Fear and Douglas Henderson is in both episodes as one of the docs performing the transformation. In both cases we have to wonder if it is wise to transform a human being into an actual alien. Won't he be... alien thereafter?

His first response after the procedure is to titter mysteriously. That's a red flag.

Robert Duvall plays the perfect Secret Agent: no life of his own, total commitment to the mission. Are his links to the normal human condition perhaps a bit tenuous? It is a nice meditation on finding your humanity in unexpected ways.

Early in his career Duvall got a lot of these misfit, alien, deviant, handicapped roles, for example as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). That's actually him at least part of the time in that alien makeup: you can recognize his teeth.

Henry Brandon as the General -- Chief "Scar" in The Searchers (1956) -- is an exceedingly familiar face with 179 acting credits in the IMDB. For some reason I always remember him as a minion in Buck Rogers (1939).

Early screenplay by Robert Towne. Photographed by Kenneth Peach.

The Blu-ray has no commentary track for this episode.