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Recap / The Outer Limits 1995 S 4 E 17 Lithia

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The Control Voice: Evolution teaches that the failure of a species to adapt will result in extinction. But could an entire gender fall victim to the same immutable loss?

In a future world, no men are left alive. Most of the world's population died years ago in a war, from what was clearly nuclear warfare and its effects afterward. The men left alive were killed by a plague called "the Scourge". The young girls born since that time are told the story by their teacher.

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In a building near where they are, however, one man is left alive in cryogenic hibernation. The machinery of the hibernation capsule he's held in begins thawing him out, and the man staggers into their midst, astonishing all of them.

He reacts in shock to learn what has happened. Not only have all men died, but also all male babies born in the years since due to the plague. The lack of men has been circumvented through using frozen sperm that was preserved from the earlier time. She says that the war took place four decades past, and it is now 2055. After being told this, the man (who has introduced himself as Major Mercer, wearing military fatigues) accepts things.

Many of the women in their enclave of Lithia, as they call it, are displeased by his presence however. To them, all men are destructive, and their acts were the source of the devastation they occurred. According to their beliefs, the Goddess destroyed all the men as punishment.

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However, their elder who is named Hera, rules that they can't turn away someone in need. They therefore accept him into their enclave. Mercer is agreeable, and begins doing his part of the work. Pela, one of the woman, is especially opposed to his presence, but grudgingly accepts the ruling.

Mercer is dismayed to see that the women must grind their corn by hand on a wheel. He is told that once they had a waterwheel, but the enclave neighboring them named Hyacinth diverted the river to expand their farmland, which they had less of.

Mercer opposes them having to simply accept this, proposing that they trade with the others for electricity, since the wheel has a motor that is broken too, and Hyacinth still possesses a working power plant. Mercer is also dismayed at seeing that they're required to give away supplies for other enclaves deemed as needing them more.

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However, the Council which governs the enclaves has restricted technology while they study its impact, presumably wary given the past destruction it caused. Mercer is unwilling to accept this, and says the enclave should take care of its own first, which Hera rebukes as the kind of philosophy which caused the war.

Miranda, one of the women that was more open to Mercer, becomes interested in him, and the two have sex. Pelé, who is her lover, reacts with rage in private at discovering this, fingering her knife and seemingly wishing to kill Mercer for doing this. Hera relates to the girls that she once was engaged to a man, keeping a locket he gave her.

Because of their new relationship, Miranda goes along with Mercer's plan to steal electricity from Hyacinth after they refuse to trade for it. He had noticed that the mill wheel was equipped with a backup generator that had broken a long time ago, and the neighboring enclave had disused power lines.

He surreptitiously taps into their power lines, getting the wheel running automatically. Mercer easily seduces another woman, Ariel, who's equally fascinated by him. After they have sex in the wheel room, however, he sees it stop working. Hyacinth has learned of what he did and cut the line.

From this and his prior visit too, Hyacinth's leader has grown suspicious, so her hunters were ordered to patrol the area. Thus, when Mercer goes back to fix it with Miranda, they are approached by a female archer who orders him to get down with her bow nocked. Miranda, to defend him, shoots the woman with his pistol.

She is taken prisoner, and Mercer goes to Hyacinth, offering them supplies for her return. However, their leader refuses. He then reveals that Pelé, Ariel and he have taken one of Hyacinth's hunters prisoner, threatening to kill her if Miranda isn't released. Hyacinth's leader relents, and agrees to the exchange.

When this happens though, Hyacinth's leader tries to get the better of him, causing both Miranda and Ariel's deaths. After their funerals, a remorseful Mercer announces he will leave Lithia. Hearing this, Hera tells him that she has reported everything that happened to the Council. In return, they gave her some news.

Mercer is not the only man left alive anymore. Eleven others, like him, were unthawed. The Council found their pods during an excavation, then placed them near different enclaves before unthawing them, as an experiment to see what would happen. In every case, there was strife and destruction.

Mercer is put back into the cryogenic pod, despite his protest that he meant only to help. As they put him in, Hera tearfully says farewell and calls him Jason. Mercer is shocked, asking how she knew his first name, and we see the locket in her hand displays his photo. He was her fiancee, all of those many years ago.

The Control Voice: The differences between men and women have been debated among philosophers since recorded history began. If indeed males are by their nature the aggressor, it is this quality that may one day be their undoing.

Tropes

  • After the End: The episode takes place after a war and plague which killed most of humanity, the latter including all males, and left an all-female society of survivors.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The episode ends with Major Mercer begging very loudly not to be shoved into a cryo-tube. He gets louder when he finds out the one sentencing him to this knows his name because she's his fiancee, whom he thought was long dead.
  • And Man Grew Proud: A variation occurs in the episode, as it takes place less than forty years After the End and the accompanying myths have been deliberately created. The teacher Ariel, whose grandmother Hera remembers life before the Great War when men ruled the world, tells the children of the enclave that, in the aftermath of the war, the Goddess unleashed a plague known as the Scourge which killed all surviving males as punishment for their evil.
  • Apocalypse How: A Class 2, with close to the entire human race (including all men) being wiped out, and a wholly female society forming in its wake.
  • Bi the Way: Miranda, presumably, since she's Pelé's lover but later has sex with Mercer, assuming that it isn't just sitch sexuality for her (we might guess that many women have such relationships, as there are no men).
  • Coitus Ensues: Major Mercer has sex with Miranda and then Ariel with no buildup. Justified though as Mercer is the only man either has ever seen, and they're naturally fascinated. It's possibly implied too that in their society sexual mores are more relaxed.
  • Commune: The future female society all live in these, which they call "enclaves". All resources appear to be shared as needed wherever the World Council rules they should go. From what can be seen, they even live communally in the same buildings (no separate houses are shown), a feature that not all real communes have.
  • Dirty Communists: The female society in the future appears to be communist, allocating resources and supplies based on need, as decided by their Council. Mercer, a man from the past, does not like this attitude one bit.
  • Does Not Like Men: Most of the women have this attitude, not surprisingly since their religion teaches that men are evil and destroyed by the Goddess as a result. However, a couple of them are more open-minded, having sex with Major Mercer and aiding him in his plans.
  • Double Standard: It's hard to imagine a comparable anti-female message being in mainstream media, at the time or since.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Major Mercer is a soldier who, after being put in cryostasis, wakes up four decades later to find he's the only man left after a war. There is more than simply the fact that only women exist though, as they're also communists, pacifists and blame men for what's happened. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he can't adjust to doing things as they like, and it goes badly.
  • Free-Love Future: Miranda casually comes on to Mercer, having sex with him without hesitation. Ariel later easily accedes to his seduction as well. It may be due to a looser attitude on sex, as with an all-female society, most of the STDs and unplanned pregnancies wouldn't be issues.
  • Gendercide: This took place in the past of the episode, where the few surviving men were human popsicles. The thawed soldier protagonist proceeded to raise merry hell in the all-female society that sprang up, but it was also prevented from being a heavy-handed misandrist Take That! by the fact that, as ham-fisted and ill-advised as the man's attempts to change it were, the new society was utopian only in appearance (i.e. what with the leadership's rampant favoritism in resource allotment and Big Brother-esque control on the information flow). It ended with him being "put down" (refrozen) and the leadership declaring that trying to make men return was ill-advised, and that all efforts to do so would be ceased which is implied was the real reason they thawed him (and the others before him)-they wanted the least suitable test candidates in the most potentially disruptive situation possible to give themselves plausible deniability why they stopped as well as "proof" that men were the cause of all of society's previous ills, most probably to maintain their power. Just to twist the knife further, the old woman who put him down was his fiancee, several decades older, and thoroughly convinced of man's evils by a mix of propaganda, his own actions and probably a lifetime of accumulated resentment over numerous issues.
  • Gender Rarity Value: Subverted. Though Major Mercer is the first man alive in generations, no one either views him as god-like or potential breeding stock. In the latter case, this is despite the fact that, while they have semen samples stored for use in artificial insemination, logically this can't last forever. Two of the women do have sex with him, but that is portrayed as simply due to fascination with him.
  • Human Popsicle: Mercer is a soldier who voluntarily was put in experimental cryostasis, where he was then kept for the next forty years. He wakes up to find himself the last man on Earth. It turns out that other men were put in cryostasis too, and eleven others also released.
  • I Never Told You My Name: This is part of the Downer Ending. Set in the post-apocalyptic commune of the title - entirely populated by females due to a plague having killed all but a few cryogenically frozen men - a defrosted male is put back into freeze after his aggressive tendencies cause tragedy, and the leader of the commune (who says "Goodbye, Jason" as he's frozen, even though he never... you know) is his lost love.
  • Lady Land: The episode takes place in the year 2055, where the world is now populated only by women. Almost all of the men were killed years earlier in a war, and the plot starts with a male soldier who's suddenly awakened from cryogenic suspension. He adjusts to the society, but is unsettled by the fact that power must be churned manually through a mill when there's a power plant a relatively short distance away. His attempts to "solve" this problem escalate until someone gets killed, at which point he's frozen again after we get the Cruel Twist Endinghe's not the only man in storage-the leaders of this society found several and tried reintroducing them to the population, with disastrous results every time.
  • Last of His Kind: Major Mercer appears to be the last man left on Earth. Eleven others were unthawed too, and an unspecified number were left in cryostasis though.
  • Ludd Was Right: The enclave of Lithia relies on a manually powered waterwheel to provide the energy that it uses to process the grain which it needs to survive. Lithia's leader Hera resists Major Mercer's suggestion that they trade with the neighboring enclave Hyacinth for electricity to power the waterwheel as she fears that it will represent the return of the destructive technology which led to the Great War. The enclaves' ruling council are seemingly former or at least wavering Luddites themselves as they only temporarily and reluctantly granted Hyacinth sanction to use electricity in the first place.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Played to its horrific extreme in the episode. It opens with a male soldier, seemingly the Lone Survivor of the male gender, entering an all-female village, without warning or fanfare, and collapsing from exposure to the elements. Note that just moments before his arrival, the girls' teacher was sharing stories with a room full of small children that could easily fit with the most radical of Taliban doctrine if the genders were reversed. After the entire episode shows just how badly things could go in that kind of environment, the ending goes and shows that there are other men, all in cryostasis, and the narrator basically proclaims that humanity doesn't really need the male gender, aside from being a Glorified Sperm Donor. Of course, if the other men mentioned were re-introduced into society like he was, it's a small wonder the attempts were horrific failures.
  • One-Gender Race: In the episode, the world is now an all-female post-apocalyptic society in which almost all males were wiped off the planet due to war and a virus. They decide to not reintroduce the remaining men into the population because every time they took one out of stasis, it caused conflict in the society because the men pushed limits that the elders were not comfortable with, like building generators or stealing from other towns. Sucks to be male.
  • One World Order: The society in the future is ruled by a body named the World Council. It's justified by the fact that most of humanity died as a result of war and then a plague, so the survivors presumably banded together for their mutual benefit.
  • The Plague: In the aftermath of the Great War which killed seven billion people (99% of the world's population), a plague known as the Scourge killed all the remaining males. Preserved genetic material, enough to last them generations, is used to propagate humanity, but the Scourge remained in the atmosphere and all of the male children died within weeks of birth.
  • Porn with Plot: A soldier is awakened from cryogenic stasis to find that he is the only man in a world ruled by women. He has sex with two of them.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Dog: A black Labrador is seen in the titular enclave.
  • Prisoner Exchange: Major Mercer tries to trade Miranda, who's being held prisoner, for a woman who is from the enclave holding her. Sadly, the exchange turns into a battle, resulting in her and Ariel's deaths.
  • Ray Gun: Mercer is armed with a "laser pistol", apparently something the episode's writers felt would be available in 2015, when he's from.
  • Shower of Love: Miranda and Pelé take a shower together, in which they're having sex or about to when Major Mercer interrupts them.
  • Technophobia: The all-female society opposes most post-Industrial Revolution technology as a result of the war destroying civilization with biological and nuclear weapons. For coordination, they allow a kind of video phone. This is the source of the conflict when Major Mercer tries to reintroduce an electrical mill in the community.
  • Theme Naming: There are two examples of theme naming in the episode. Hera and Phoebe are named after female characters from Greek Classical Mythology, while Lithia's neighboring enclave Hyacinth is named after a male Greek hero, in spite of the fact that this female-only world abhors men. Major Jason Mercer is presumably named after Jason, the leader of the Argonauts. The second is a more minor example which relates to The Tempest: two of the other women are named Ariel (a male character in the play) and Miranda. Hyacinth may be following a different theme, as it is also the name of a flower, and flowers are often associated more with women than men in real life culture and fiction.
  • Token Minority: Pelé is the only person of color in the episode, and the sole one among her community.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Pelé, the only person of color and also a lesbian.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The episode is one to the 1984 Polish science fiction film Sex Mission as it involves a soldier, Major Jason Mercer, waking from cryonic suspension decades later than planned to find that the world is populated entirely by women as all men have died.
  • Women Are Wiser: Played straight and to extremes in the episode. A male soldier awakens in the near future from cryogenic hibernation to find that men have been completely wiped out by war and that only women remain, creating an Amazonian society. The women live in relative peace and harmony with each other, but the male soldier proceeds to make trouble, including getting several women killed while trying to steal items from other villages. It turns out that every male that they have unthawed has caused similar problems for the villagers, and that the women no longer trust the male sex, meaning Mercer will be returned to cryostasis. The episode ends with an equally ham-fisted moral from the narrator: "The differences between men and women have been debated among philosophers since recorded history began. If indeed males are by their nature the aggressor, it is this quality that may one day be their undoing." Apparently the problems that arose had nothing to do with him being a trained, futuristic soldier several decades out of place in a communist, extremely primitive village.
  • World War III: The Great War, which began in or before 2015, killed seven billion people (99% of the population).
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