Director: Buzz Kulik
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Dean Stockwell, Albert Salmi, Rayford Barnes, Ralph Votrian, Leonard Nimoy, Dale Ishimoto, and J.H. Fujikawa
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 12/29/1961
Production Code: 4809
On the last day of World War II, Lieutenant Katell (Dean Stockwell)—a young, inexperienced officer—takes command of a platoon led by Sergeant Causarano (Albert Salmi) and decides to attack a defenseless Japanese unit. Before carrying out his plan, however, Katell is transported back in time to 1942, transformed into a Japanese soldier known as Lieutenant Yamuri, and given orders to invade an American stronghold.
Featuring an early appearance from Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, “A Quality of Mercy” is a thoughtful and well-acted episode of The Twilight Zone. Especially outstanding are the interactions between Lieutenant Katell and Sergeant Causarano, which add an air of conflict to Rod Serling’s war-themed narrative.
Albert Salmi (known to fans of The Twilight Zone for playing Joe Caswell in “Execution” and William Feathersmith in “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville”) should be praised for his portrayal of Sergeant Causarano, the battle-weary temperament of whom provides an excellent contrast to the character of Lieutenant Katell—a newly assigned officer determined to prove his command abilities by hunting down and killing, perhaps unnecessarily, the sick and injured enemy soldiers hiding in a nearby cave.
Dean Stockwell—whom science fiction buffs will likely recognize from Quantum Leap and the new Battlestar Galactica series—deserves criticism for his goofy Japanese accent, which, in addition to being somewhat offensive, may prevent the audience from taking seriously the predicament of his character.
Also worth noting, the Japanese captain played by Jerry Fujikawa attempts to justify his unquenchable thirst for blood through an unsubtle, if not overly expository, conversation with Lieutenant Yamuri—hardly the response that one would expect from a dignified military officer.
Similar to the “Time Out” segment from Twilight Zone: The Movie, “A Quality of Mercy” employs the “shoe-on-the-other-foot” trope to teach a simple, albeit commendable, lesson about the importance of showing empathy for people regardless of race, skin color, or nationality.
“A Quality of Mercy” offers a World War II setting in conjunction with themes of a fantastic/supernatural variety. Serling enthusiasts may therefore enjoy this clever season-three installment, occasional lack of realism notwithstanding.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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