Saturday, 15 December 2018

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas and a Hap-Hap-Happy New Year to all of you. We've been a tad quiet this year or two, largely due to writing commitments and a major operation that took awhile to recover from - and while I can make no promises, I'll certainly be posting in 2019. Love to all, VC. 

Saturday, 6 October 2018

OUTLAND - a forgotten Sci-Fi Treasure from the '80s


Io. Third moon of Jupiter. 2273 Miles in diameter. In stable orbit 262,070 miles from planet surface.  70 hour’s travel from Space Station & weekly supply shuttle. Gravity one-sixth of Earth gravity.  Perched on the edge of a black chasm; Con-Am 27, company mining operation, a League of Industrial Nations franchise. 2144 souls; 1250 labour, 714 support and 180 admin and maintenance. The numbers that keep the machine working on tours that last a calendar year. Security is maintained by a District Federal Marshal. And all this for the moon’s rich supply of Titanium ore
(ABOVE) Lobby card showing the mining complex
Below the gigantic surface structures, a lift shaft takes workers down to and up from the mine, a literal descent into darkness; the sun never reaches the lower levels here. The lift is descending now,  miners in environment suits exiting to begin another shift. Another shift nearer to end of tour and Home. Around the massive shaft, the serried lights of the galleries resemble a liner at sea, but this is no party; here the workers’ lives depend on the integrity of their suits and the watchfulness of their colleagues.

Io is no place to be without friends. A team works a plasma cutter, boring into the rock face as two others engage in the time-old practice of bitching.
German Lobby card showing miners at work
No way will the Company bring automated vacuum loaders here; when they did it on 14 and 23 they claimed it was temporary – well, they’re still there and with a seven-worker shift!.

What did the shop steward say?; zip –  contract says eight, that’s what it says. And why can’t they regulate these suits? -175 degrees and they broil their asses off. Mylar over the sensor; that’s the trick – fools the sensor and steps down the coil. 

While these two grind their teeth, Tarlow, another miner seems to be having some sort of problem. Panicked and sweating profusely, he begins stamping on the metal catwalk – spiders – he has to kill the spiders. The two gripers aren’t falling for it; how could there be spiders out here?.
Gripped by some unseen terror, Tarlow screams for help, clutching at his oxygen hose and tearing it free from the coupling. 
Horrified, the others can only watch as exposure to the absolute vacuum of space handles the rest, Tarlow’s skull exploding against his faceplate, the corpse tumbling over the side into the fathomless depths below the gallery.
In the O’Niel accommodation unit, Paul O’Niel is complaining about the buttermilk and his mother tells him they ran out of the other kind. He can hardly talk with these braces. They’ll be off soon. How soon?. ‘How soon for what?’ Marshal William T. O’Niel enters, six feet two inches of languid forcefulness, moving easily in his muscled frame. He’s heard it all before; jokes the boy will be missing some teeth if he doesn’t eat breakfast.
Grabbing a coffee, the Marshal goes to his desk and pushes his card into the slot to access the system. There’s a message from Lowell, one of the Deputies; the Night Watch went ok – a few drunks. Next one from Sergeant Montone, O’Niel’s second in command. Nothing more on the incident in the mine – guy went whacko. The Company’s shipping what’s left of him out on the next shuttle.
As the Sergeant explains no autopsy was possible due to the mess, Carol looks at her son, worried about the effect on the boy. Montone’s image tells O’Niel it happens here; some people let this place get to them. Oh – and Transportation got the tickets Mrs. O’Niel wanted. Off-handedly, she claims they were for friends of friends.

O’Niel has to go to work, but seeing the dejection on Carol’s face he pauses.

He knows it’s a lousy assignment, how difficult for her. Just, give it a chance. As her husband leaves, Carol O’Niel’s mind is firmly set. She cannot bear to let him go without a kiss, a hug.
They tell each other they love each other and he tries telling her it’ll get better.

Spota walks through the crowded staff canteen. And Spota has a purpose. Seating himself at a table, he chews gum and stares at nothing. One of the diners walks deliberately from the table, going through to the accommodation block – also crowded, along to the locker area. Yes, it’s crowded. Men are busy changing into their environment suits for the next shift.

With easy familiarity, Spota walks along to the locker area, another worker slipping through the crowd. Finding his man changing for Outside, he makes the exchange in a heartbeat, walking on as if he was never there.

In the Ward Room, O’Niel is wrapping up his ‘Getting to know you speech’ for the privileged few. Here, your coffee is brought to you, by a person.

They even clean up after you, unlike the canteen. The occupants of the room – among them Sheppard, watch dispassionately as the Marshal struggles through his speech. Sheppard? Sheppard is the Station’s General Manager, a bear-like man with eyes like a fox  in a henhouse. One Flo Spector of Accounting Services stands to give the new Marshall a welcome that she’s just sure speaks for everyone, but then Sheppard delivers a speech of his own. Just another mining town. Never much trouble (O’Niel quips that he’s glad to hear it). But remember these men and women work hard, very hard.
Since he’s been general manager they’ve broken all productivity records, everyone in the room has had the bonus checks to prove it.
He tells a clearly tense O’Niel to let the workers play hard, to let off steam, plus to drop by his office for a chat. Who does this guy think he is?.

Feathers ruffled, O’Niel strides along a corridor with Montone, the Sergeant trying to smooth things over; Sheppard’s an asshole, but a powerful one. Don’t mess with him. Banging through the saloon doors to the security complex, all eyes are on the Marshal as Montone explains all Sheppard wants is things to go smooth.
Nobody’s here for the scenery; things go smooth, they make their money. O’Niel goes through the glass door with his name emblazoned across it, leaving Montone to look through it with a look that might mean a number of things.
Or that he’s wondering if this one’s going to cause trouble.

Shift change. The elevator arrives from the mine to discharge a tired load and collect a fresh one. Tired men are relieved of their bulky suits by the assistance staff, while others don theirs prior to charging their tanks and going Outside.

Through all this walks Cane, a miner. His expression is peaceful, serene – almost beatific.
Going to the airlock, he slips in his card and punches in his id code. Nothing odd in that. Except Cane isn’t wearing a suit. The elevator comes up from three and opens. He yanks a lever to open the door, at which people finally take notice; that guy isn’t wearing a suit. Smiling as if seeing his first sunrise, Cane steps into the elevator.
However fast you try, you can’t uncouple from an air charging station and reach the elevator in time to stop a man – not in a bulky environment suit, you can’t. Horrified, the miners can only look through the porthole to see Cane smiling back at them as the airlock door opens to the elevator itself.
And pounding on the glass does nothing to stop what’s coming. The elevator seems tiny as it slides down to the mine, surrounded by a latticework of girders and struts. A tiny box carrying a tiny man, depressurising as it goes...

Down in the mine, a readout follows the elevator’s inexorable progress as it decompresses. The glass ports are now covered with fresh blood. The miners waiting for the ride up gasp in horror at the sight they are presented with – Cane’s body lies in front of them, his intestines exposed where they burst from his body.

O’Niel returns to the family accommodation unit to find it in darkness, empty. He punches his card and a message comes up. Carol.
She’s trying to keep her composure, and like everything else she does she’s messing it up… she couldn’t look at his face and say what she’s going to; she’d change her mind and doesn’t want to.
She loves him, he should know that. She can’t take it anymore – they’ve been through this so many times, something snapped. She couldn’t bear to see Paulie clatter around another bleak place. He’s never set foot on Earth, ever.
He deserves a childhood, to breathe air, real air. So, she’s taking him back home. She has to go, but she’ll contact him from the Space Station before they leave for Earth itself. Through all this, O’Niel’s face speaks for his side of the conversation. Dismay. Sadness. Acceptance, perhaps. The screen blinks off and he sits, alone with his thoughts in the dark.

In the security complex, Montone smokes a cigar as he goes through the watch detail and roll call.
O’Niel is sat in his office, brooding. The Sergeant asks Deputy Ballard what’s going on with the Purser’s area. They monitored the area; things have been quiet. Montone says to keep the monitors on another two weeks, then asks Deputy Nelson about the detonators. They were found. Where?; he doesn’t know, just says the shift foreman reported them found and said to forget about it. Patiently, Montone explains these are nuclear detonators, you just don’t lose then find them – you lose your comb and then find it, not nuclear detonators. He wants to know where and by who. Next up, he asks Slater about the incident in the mine.
With a shrug, the Deputy says ‘Nothing much to tell.’ Some cupcake name of Cane decided he didn’t need an environment suit; they’re still sponging him off the elevator walls. O’Niel’s curiosity is piqued; Slater expands that Cane was alone, that some guys tried to get into the airlock, but he’d sealed it. No way it was homicide. ‘Did he leave a note?.’
O’Niel’s question cuts through the air. None that they know of. So, how do they know it was a suicide?. Awkwardly, Slater tells the Marshal there’s no other explanation – he knew what he was doing, that’s for sure. You can’t fall into an airlock and then an elevator; hatches have to be worked,  buttons pressed – it’s the only explanation. After a silence, O’Niel thanks the deputy, who is clearly relieved to be off the bosses’ hook. The Marshal wanders back into his office and Montone continues with the detail.

In the Hospital, Doctor Lazarus is demanding to know who ordered all the pressure packs.
This is a mine, not a war. The Nurse replies that she did, but Lazarus is not to be trifled with. She said one hundred, not one thousand. As O’Niel enters he finds Lazarus giving a demonstration of the difference; one thousand, one hundred… they are totally different – does O’Niel think they sound the same? Who is he anyway? Is she Dr. Lazarus? Yes, take two aspirin and call her in the morning – that’s a Doctor joke. He’d like to talk to her for a few minutes. Tells her about Cane and Tarlow before that. It happens here. How often? She doesn’t know why – it just happens here. She’s not a psychiatrist and can’t tell him why. Did she do autopsies? No, the company wanted them shipped out quickly and secondly when someone exposes themselves to zero atmosphere there isn’t a whole lot left to inspect. In the third place, he’s becoming a nuisance. Undeterred, O’Niel agrees, laying a folder onto her clipboard.
He would like a report of all these incidents happening over the past six months, he’d like it really soon – or he might just kick her nasty ass all over this room. That’s a Marshal joke. He leaves her to process the joke.

The miner’s accommodation is best described as functional, rows of stacked steel cages with enclosures just big enough for a bunk and a small locker for personal effects. Popping gum in his mouth, Spota walks along the catwalk past the rows of off-duty personnel as they chat or lie reading, killing time before they have to go Outside again.
One man waits on his bunk until Spota has passed, before sliding down to follow him into the washroom. Spota takes a stall, the other man the adjacent one. The exchange takes a second and the man, Sagan by name, returns to his bunk. Pulling down the blinds that provide the only semblance of privacy, he reaches over and removes a panel, retrieving a jet injector, which he loads with the phial of red liquid Spota supplied.
Injecting mid-thigh, Sagan’s eyes widen with the instant buzz.

O’Niel sits alone on the couch in his quarters.

A knock; it’s Montone with a tray of hot food. Setting it down, the Sergeant says he didn’t know O’Niel’s preference, so he brought everything. Can’t catch crooks on an empty stomach.
Helping himself to a beer from the fridge, Montone tells the Marshal he knows how he feels; second tour he got back to find his Wife had skipped with a computer programmer. He has two daughters who call the programmer Daddy. His Wife said she was happy – he asked how with such a boring guy. She said he wasn’t Mister Excitement, but he was home all the time. O’Niel says nothing, so Montone says to try the food. He will. After a pause, the Sergeant says the hookers here are nice, they can help with loneliness. He gets the feeling he’s bombing, but O’Niel reassures him he’s not, he appreciates what he’s doing, but wants to be alone. Before leaving, Montone offers an ear if he needs one. Alone once more, O’Niel gets up to review his messages, spooling forward to Carol’s. The phone chirrups and he takes the call. Bad news. He rushes out, grabbing a riot gun and his belt from the rack on the way. Carol O’Niel pleads her case to an empty room.

Montone and a group of deputies are waiting outside the leisure compartment. He’s in there with a hooker and is roughing her up; she hit the alarm.
A female Deputy tells the Marshal he says he’s got a knife. He’s a crane operator named Sagan, been here eleven months and hasn’t caused any trouble. Until now. Going up to the door, O’Niel raps on it. Inside, the hooker screams as Sagan holds the knife to her throat.
‘This is Marshal O’Niel; let the girl out and no-ones gonna hurt you.’
Sagan is freaked out, screaming for him to go away. O’Niel isn’t having any of it; he can’t go away and he knows that. Nobody’s going to hurt him; if he wants to talk they’ll talk. He won’t try to break in – and he doesn’t do anything crazy with that girl. Psychotic, Sagan leaps up, slashing at thin air, the girl hysterical with fear.
O’Niel whispers for a maintenance worker and one is found. He wants to know which panel leads to the air-con duct for the compartment, which she shows him. The panel opened, O’Niel sends in Montone, telling the maintenance tech he wants her to open the hydraulic valve to release the door locks on his command.

Inside the compartment, Sagan is crazed, stabbing the knife around and babbling incoherently. A total meltdown. As Montone approaches through the duct, O’Niel calls to Sagan, his voice calm, even. He’s going to explain it very carefully. He’s going to release the pressure and open the door. Why not come out and make it easy? Sagan screeches the second the door opens he’s going to kill her; he hates her. O’Niel isn’t going to argue, or trick him. He’s going to count down from ten to one.
On one, the door will swing open slowly. He won’t be shot – the Marshall doesn’t want to hurt anyone, including him. Whatever the problem is, they can work it out. Holding the knife up ready to stab, Sagan thinks O’Niel is going to kill him. The Marshal gives his word; he is not. He also has his word, if he kills the girl, he will kill him. Montone is now above the compartment, ready to drop through the grille. O’Niel begins the countdown. Ten… nine… eight… O’Niel gives the tech the nod and she begins to open the lock. On ‘One’, Montone drops to the floor and blasts the startled Sagan to the chest, killing him instantly.

O’Niel and the rest of the deputies enter the compartment to find a defensive Montone standing over the body. Furious, O’Niel says nothing as the Sergeant defends his actions; 'He turned – I saw the knife...'
The doors to the Hospital burst open as the medical team rolls in the girl, O’Niel marching along beside, riot gun still in hand. Doctor Lazarus watches as she’s rolled straight in to the MRI scanner.
Going to the console, she reviews the hooker’s injuries. Jaw looks broken… maybe the nose. Contusions and a superficial neck wound.
Jesus, who did this to her? The Marshal tells her, reminds her; it happens here, remember?. Lazarus hands across the list he wanted. Will the girl be o.k.? Maybe, if he lets her do her job.
Idly, he goes through to the morgue trays, pulling one open to find it empty. ‘28 in the last six months’ says the Doctor. Going through the trays, O’Niel wonders how many in the six months before that. 24; she’s got initiative. None of the trays contains a body, but O’Niel is gripped by Lazarus’ next statement. In the six months before that; 2. Is she sure? - yes, she’s unpleasant, not stupid. What accounts for it? She doesn’t know; almost everybody here doesn’t have both oars in the water as far as she’s concerned. Where do they send the bodies? Usually shipped out on the next shuttle. They jettison them halfway to the station. Burial at sea and all that crap.

The freight dock was deserted. The largest pressurised space on Io was an eerie place to be late at night, which made it perfect for O’Niel’s purposes.
Footsteps clanking hollowly on metal, he walks along the silent rows of containers ready for collection, shining his torch on the doors until he find the one he’s looking for. The one with the ‘TO BE JETTISONED’ tag hanging from it. Taking the power-lift up to the container, he opens the doors and walks in amongst the cages of waste material.
At the end, he finds the body of Sagan in a body-bag, takes a syringe from his pocket and draws some blood from the corpse. Sleeping on a hospital bed, Lazarus is woken by O’Niel’s call; he’ll see her in the hospital right away. Does he know what time it is? He does.

Weary, Lazarus squirts the blood sample into some tubes and drops them into the analysis machine.

O’Niel watches impatiently as she taps in a few commands, the readout coming to life. The blood is from a dead person, she says. No alcohol. He ate dinner. Protein, carbs, more carbs; didn’t eat his vegetables.
Tersely, O’Niel stalks the room, hands in pockets. Tranquilisers – company issue. Blood sugar and haemoglobin normal. A buzzer sounds. Hello. Frustrated, Lazarus bangs away at the keyboard, trying to make sense of it.
Wryly, she tells the Marshal he doesn’t have your medical all-star here. Company doctors are like ship’s doctors; one shuttle flight ahead of a malpractice suit… As the patterns on-screen coalesce into a shape, O’Niel says ‘Something’s there, isn’t it?.’ Maybe.

More beeping and a sigh from Lazarus. She spends her days dispensing tranquillisers to the workers and certifying the company prostitutes don’t have syphilis; she doesn’t know how to analyse a new molecule.

More tapping and another ‘Hello’ ‘Is it a drug?’ Asks O’Niel; he’s just won a prize. Some kind of narcotic… nothing she’s seen before, a synthetic. Then – bingo; the analysis is complete, positive for Euthimal, Polydichloric Euthimal.
She is appalled; those stupid bastards are taking Polydichloric Euthimal! Answering the Marshal’s unspoken question, she explains. It’s an amphetamine, strongest thing you ever saw. Makes you feel wonderful; you do fourteen hours of work in six hours, that kind of nonsense. Especially manual labor, it makes you work like a horse. The Army tested it a few years back. Made everybody work all right. Then it made them psychotic. It takes a while; ten, maybe eleven months – and then it fries your brain. O’Niel asks her if it could be made here on Io. No; impossible – it has to have been shipped in. O’Niel walks it through; no autopsies… so nobody knows. Workers produce more – the Company makes bigger profits. Quite a set up.
Leaving, he tells her not to say anything about this. She did good, didn’t she – for a wreck? Smiling, he agrees; she did good.

In his quarters, O’Niel works the machine, asking for a confidential rundown on employee’s criminal records.

There’s seventeen, the names appearing on-screen in their turn. He cross-references; how many drug-related?. The list reduces to two; Spota, Nicholas P. and Yario, Russel B. Who do they work for?: Leisure and Shipping. Gotcha… so, who approved their employment?. Sheppard, Mark B. He calls up the two mugshots, memorising the faces on the screen.

The Club; noisy, packed. In the smokey cones of laser beams, two pairs of dancers writhe together erotically, virtually naked.

The music is ambient, techno, pulsating and loud, bar-staff busy keeping the patrons lubricated. On the wall, one of the many large readouts counts down the time until the next Shuttle flight.
Unseen, a camera tracks the scene below, watched silently by Marshal O’Niel from the console in his office.
Spota breezes in, engaging a female customer in unheard conversation. The camera zooms in for O’Niel to make the I.d, but the target has moved. Following from above, the Marshal locates him at a crowded table. Talking with Yario. Russel B. However, some new arrivals catch his attention.
Sheppard and Montone, taking a table for a chat. O’Niel’s face hardens to stone. It gets better; Spota and Yario have now joined the General Manager and the Sergeant.
The racquet-ball bounces off the grubby wall of the court, the sections of which light up as they are hit. O’Niel is playing Montone, the Marshal going down hard with a curse.
Montone calls it; 9-7 and serves. As play resumes, O’Niel stops it again asking about Sheppard. How deep is he in?. Earnestly, Montone pauses for breath. Not too deep; he’s paid to look the other way. Dejectedly, the Sergeant launches the ball off the wall, but O’Niel catches it.

He gets it; he doesn’t do anything bad – he just doesn’t do anything good, right?. Montone sighs, unable to answer. Vehemently, O’Niel says ‘I’m gonna bust Sheppard.’ and bangs out a serve.

Is he serious? This is no place for heroes. The game continues, with the Sergeant warning the Marshal he’s messing with more than he thinks. He’s talking about the General Manager, a real hot-shot with the Company; big money.
The guy is connected and with more than just the company – there’s serious stuff involved. Pausing again, Montone looks the other man in the eye. What will this prove? O’Niel isn’t trying to prove anything; that stuff they’re selling is killing people. Eyes downcast, Montone wants to know his future; does he want his resignation. No; just don’t come between Sheppard and him – keep taking the money and looking the other way. He wants Sheppard.

In the freight dock, Yario sets the loader in motion, his arm tattooed with a snake, cigarette between his lips.
Lobby Card showing Freight Dock
He drives beneath a watchful camera. O’Niel is monitoring. Spota enters the bay and the cameras track the pair as they duck into a blind spot. They split up and O’Niel clicks the buttons to find Spota walking through an access-way. Grabbing a riot gun, he runs from the security complex, sprinting down access-ways as, unaware, Spota walks into the locker area.
The Marshal isn’t far behind. Spota’s next customer is waiting for him, but as they make the exchange O’Niel barges into a miner and the commotion alerts the dealer; Spota makes a run for it. Dashing through into the accommodation area, Spota moves fast, narrowly avoiding the Marshal who crashes down from the walkway above.
Hot on his heels, O’Niel sees the fleeing dealer go through one rack of bunks and leap across to the next.
Anything you can do… O’Niel’s own jump isn’t so graceful as he crashes to the steel decking.
The chase continues through the vast complex, Spota sliding down a ladder to the level below, where he hurtles up each set of steel steps beside the bunks to jump to the next. The athleticism doesn’t get him anywhere; O’Niel knows the layout of his territory and cuts him off. Spota isn’t done yet, with the Marshal closing he bulls his way back through the locker area.
Running through an access-way, the Marshal raises the riot gun, but no-one in their right mind opens fire in an access-way; too easy to puncture the thin skin and depressurise. Without pausing, Spota runs on, into a cross-junction, slamming and sealing the hatch behind him. By the time O’Niel’s got his card out and re-opened the hatch, the fugitive dealer has a head start on him.
Exploding into the canteen, Spota causes mayhem, terrorising the diners as he shoves aside a food cart and tramples his way across from table-top to table-top. Never the easy route with this guy. O’Niel comes in behind him, moving fast; Spota is running out of room to escape as he dives over the serving counter, knocking a terrified cook to the floor.
Finally, O’Niel has his man cornered in the kitchen, but Spota reaches into his bodywarmer for a bag of red liquid, dropping it into a pan of boiling water.
Without hestitation, O’Niel reaches in – screaming as his hand is scalded. Spota crashes some crockery over his head, following up with a vicious kick to the torso. The merchandise and the riot gun go skidding across the metal flooring.
Lobby Card showing the fight in the Canteen
Spota raises an orange juice container over his head, prepared to smash it onto the Marshal, but gets a leg trip for his trouble, the container shattering on the floor plates. The two men grapple, Spota possessed of a desperate strength – forcing the Marshal’s head back over the sizzling french fry fryer.
Federal Marshals are a tough breed, however and this one is no different. Freeing a hand, O’Niel delivers a solid punch to the ribs, breaking the thug’s hold and following up with a hard right to the guts. The two wrestle again, Spota lifting the heavier man clear of the floor before taking a bunched fist to the face. O’Niel finishes it by ramming the dealer’s head into a heavy dough mixer, or so he thinks.
Spota isn’t done just yet; grabbing a carving knife, he slices at his antagonist’s shoulder. O’Niel throws an arm over the knife arm to grab it with the other hand – and rams the would-be killer backwards into a row of storage lockers, the knife falling from his hand as the wind is knocked from him.
An elbow into the guts and he staggers away, exhausted, pausing only to kick the knife clear and retrieve his riot gun. The full-stop comes as the shotgun barks three times, sending shot screaming around Spota’s head.
With a grim finality, the Marshal tells him; ‘Think it over.’

Montone leads O’Niel into the cell block, the row of zero-g chambers brightly-lit, some with prisoners floating gently in atmosphere suits.
No-one wants to make trouble if it means risking their air line. Spota’s in 36. No-ones’ asked after him yet, O’Niel wants to know if anyone does. Picking up the intercom, the Marshal addresses his prisoner.
He was found with four ounces of Polydichloric Euthimal, 400 doses. Spota doesn’t know what he’s talking about. How much does Sheppard pay him?.
Spota doesn’t know what he’s talking about. O’Niel ramps it up a bit, telling the dealer some go crazy at night, unable to feel the floor – sometimes the air tether gets knotted and a man suffocates. Not too often. Spota tells him to piss off.

‘I like that. You're real quick with a comeback. I've got you nailed. I've got witnesses and evidence;
You'll be shipped back and do time that will make this place look like a picnic! Now don't do a deal with me. Don't get yourself a reduced sentence. Just do your hard time while Sheppard laughs his ass off. I've got to hand it to you. You're pretty sharp… see you around, tough guy.’
Hanging up, O’Niel tells Montone ‘Nobody talks to him, nobody touches him – I mean nobody; you understand?.’ He understands.

Sheppard’s ball hits the auto-putt and it sends the ball back across the expanse of office floor tiling. By Io standards, the room is huge.
Without turning from his practice, he addresses his visitor. ‘You know something? I can hit a seven iron five hundred yards in this place.’ O’Niel declines a drink. Sheppard observes ‘You’ve been busy.’ ‘So have you.’ Comes the reply. How much does he want?. When the Marshal stays silent, Sheppard comments that’s just what they need here – a god-damn hero.
O’Niel isn’t buying, his ‘Sounds wonderful’ making that clear. Nothing here is wonderful, says Sheppard; it works. That’s enough. Every year a new Marshal comes to start his tour. They all know the score – so does O’Niel, surely?.
If this hero routine is to get his price up he’ll consider it. What are you after?. The reply is simple. ‘You.’ Sheppard laughs – if O’Niel were such a god-damn super-cop what’s he doing on a Company mining op like Io?.
This hits home, but the general manager continues with it. They didn’t send him here as a reward for sterling service. They both know it. Besides, he read his record. O’Niel has got a big mouth, that’s why he’s sent from one toilet to the next. Sheppard? - he doesn’t plan on spending the rest of his life doing this. Good for him says O’Niel. Sheppard tries once more; this charade of his is silly. He meddles, he wants him to know what he’s meddling with – if he has something to prove, prove it to himself. Going to the door, O’Niel says ‘I’ll see you around.’ Sheppard has a parting shot. ‘If you’re looking for money, you’re smarter than you look. If you’re not, you’re a lot dumber.’
With a rueful smile, the Marshal’s response is ‘I’m probably a lot dumber.’ Sheppards smile loses what warmth it had. ‘That can be very dangerous.’ O’Niel returns his stare and exits the room.

Late that night O’Niel enters the cell block in darkness. Picking up the handset he goes to talk to Spota. He’s past that; he’s dead, blood all over the wall and viewport. Shit!.
The Marshal dashes back out, leaving Spota’s blood lazily rising into the air from where the tether was cut.
Going to Montone’s quarters, he finds them apparently empty, although the Sergeant’s cap is on his bunk. Opening a secure locker with his pass code, the Marshal is shocked as Montone’s corpse falls out, the garotte wire that killed him still embedded in his neck.
Back in his own quarters, O’Niel checks his messages to find an encoded message waiting for him.
It’s from Montone. Decrypted it reads simply; ‘Food Shipment Montone’

Alone again in the freight dock, O’Niel opens the refrigerated container, switching the internal lights on and zipping up his jacket against the bitter cold. Inside, carcasses hang in their straps, ready for processing.
Suddenly, a thin wire is whipped around his neck by Yario, who strangles him, the Marshal’s lifeless body falling to the cold floor. Well, that’s f*cked it… roll the credits, put up the house lights…
Yario turns to a carcass labelled ‘GENERAL MANAGER’ - and is slammed off it, losing teeth as his face connects with the solid meat.
Falling, he gets a savage knee to the face to finish the job. Going over to the side of beef Yario was interested in, O’Niel pulls out the plastic collar he was wearing underneath his own. Crafty bugger!. Reaching inside, he pulls out first one, then more long strips of pouches of a familiar red liquid. Enough doses to send the whole mine crazy.

This time Sheppard is standing in front of a green, projected onto the wall. He takes a swing and a computerised ball flies down the fairway, almost in the rough.
‘What’s the matter? Sun in your eyes?’ Sheppard turns to find O’Niel in the doorway.
He asks the General Manager if he can guess what he just found in a meat locker. Two hundred-fifty pounds of hamburger named Yario that works for Sheppard. Sheppard lines up another shot on another hole and O’Niel stands beside him, nonchalantly informing him he also found his shipment of PDE. So he threw the hamburger in the jail and the PDE in the toilet – or was it the other way round?, he really can’t remember.
‘You’ve been a busy Marshall.’ ‘Yeah, you proud of me?.’ ‘Real proud.’ Sheppard fires off the ball. Did he really destroy the entire shipment?. Yes. Smiling, the manager concedes he has a flair for the dramatic. Was it expensive?. More than he could ever imagine. ‘Looks like you could be out of business.’ Anger underneath the surface, Sheppard tells the Marshal he misjudged him; he’s not stupid – he’s crazy. Does he think he’s caused more than an inconvenience?. Who not go home and polish his badge? – he’s dealing with grown-ups here. O’Niel says whoever sent the shipment will be mad he lost it; grown-ups have no sense of humour. Hands in pockets, he walks out, advising Sheppard to play a firm eight-iron and swing easy.
Sheppard isn’t done; ‘Marshal. You’re dead. You hear me?’ Yes, O’Niel hears him.
Sheppard hits one straight down the fairway this time.

Signals flash through the ether; Sheppard calls someone called Bellows on the space station; his contact man. He asks for two of his best men.
What about the two he had? - just send them, he’ll have everything straightened out. When does he need them? On the next shuttle. He’ll see what he can do, he’ll call Sheppard back later.

O’Niel climbs down into the communications bay; here all the terminals for the various parts of the mine are housed.
Opening the housing on the bay marked ‘General Manager’, he reaches in and uncouples the fiber-optic cabling before isolating a cable, cutting it and slipping on a bypass before reconnecting.

Back in the security complex, he’s met by Sergeant Ballard with the latest; a failed break-in at the women’s quarters and a fight in the cafeteria. Both parties cooling off in the tank.
The Marshal notices he’s not wearing his sergeant’s stripes and Ballard explains it’s only a couple of days since Montone… but O’Niel isn’t in the mood. He’s the new sergeant; he wears the stripes. At his desk, O’Niel taps into Sheppard’s communications. 3 inter-office, 1 long distance, from the space station. He replays the message.
Sheppard’s face appears on-screen to be told by the unseen Bellows he has the men he wanted, but it wasn’t easy.
Bellows’ people are very unhappy; this could cause trouble for their other operations… if the Company got wind of it, they’d clamp down like a vise. If the Company lost the franchise, his people would be out of business. Unruffled, Sheppard replies not to worry, asking how good the men are. The best; they arrive on the shuttle Sunday. Weapons? Yes. O’Niel watches as Sheppard calmly states the target; Marshal O’Niel. Jesus!; he’d better not mess this up. Bellows asks how much help the Marshal will have. None. Yes, Sheppard’s sure of that; no-one here will stick their neck out.
Swallowing hard, O’Niel looks out through the glass doors to the squad room, realises he is alone. Sheppard will spread word that pros are coming – he’s got an inside man to do it. There’ll be no trouble. O’Niel is a dead man. Bellows has a threat of his own: ‘Sheppard I’ve gotta tell you – if this doesn’t work out the next guys who come for someone will be coming for you.’ Slowly, Sheppard pushes his chair away from the console, lost in his own thoughts.
The red planet hangs over Io like a portent as O’Niel walks into the Club. Heads turn; everybody knows. He walks past the dancers in their smoky cones of light, through the noise and chatter to order a drink, pausing with it halfway to his lips until the patrons get the message and finally look away.
Looking over to one of the ubiquitous shuttle arrival displays he sees he has a little over sixty hours until they come. The clock ticks loudly. 50 hours.

In his chair, O’Niel looks over the squad room, catches Ballard’s eye and beckons him over. ‘How many can I count on?’ Ballard doesn’t know.
What about him? Awkwardly, the new sergeant tells him most of them are young, they have families. ‘I have a family’ says O’Niel. Ballard stands there uncomfortably until the Marshal lets him off the hook by telling him at least he knows where he stands.

In the freight dock, teams of workers move to and fro, beneath another readout. 40 hours. Dr. Lazarus finds O’Niel killing time playing himself at racquet ball. He isn’t winning. ‘That’s pretty good – playing by yourself and losing.’ She’d join him in a game if she could play sitting down.
Yes, she’s well – not that he asked. Pretty busy. Some kind of flu going round – he’d be surprised the number of workers who’ll be sick this Sunday.
Leaning against the wall, O’Niel asks is she going to be sick this Sunday?. If he’s looking for sterling character, he’s in the wrong place. He slides down to sit facing her and she observes that if he was the kind of guy he was supposed to be, he wouldn’t stick around; that’s why they sent him here. Bravely, he says ‘Maybe they made a mistake.’
She was afraid he’d say something like that. ‘You really think you’re making a difference?.’ O’Niel makes a gesture that might be construed as a shrug. ‘Then why, for God’s sake?.’
‘Because… maybe they are right. They send me here to this pile of shit because they think I belong here. I want to find out if… well if they’re right. There’s a whole machine that works because everybody does what they’re supposed to. And I found out I was supposed to be – something I didn’t like. That’s what’s in the program – that’s my rotten little part in the rotten machine. I don’t like it – so I’m going to find out if they’re right.’ Lazarus considers what he’s said and then sighs. His wife is one stupid lady. Does he wanna go get drunk?. Yes, he does.

20 hours. And tick-tick ticking. Always ticking. (Quite why digital readouts have to tick evades me; ramping up tension?.) Alone in an access-way, O’Niel carefully adjusts the controls on a bulkhead, subtly altering the settings. Every game of chess begins with a small move. Next, he goes round adjusting the security cameras, tightening focus, tweaking angles of coverage.
10 hours. Sitting – alone, in his quarters, O’Niel waits as countless others have done before entering battle. The mind is the first enemy you have to overcome. He’s startled by the sudden blip as a signal for him comes in. Carol, from the space station.
They exchange Hellos. She’s doing it again; she’s had so much time to prepare what to say and she’s looking at his face and her mouth has gone to mush. How’s Paul?. Fine – he’s in the next room, she promised him he could talk to his father. Is he well?. Ok. She’s booked herself and Paulie on the next flight home. The reservations are for three. Thoughtful of her. She pleads with him, but he can’t. He just can’t. She wants to know what’s so important and, unable to tell her, he claims to be too tired to try to explain it. Does he think he’s making a difference? Is it worth giving up his family? Resignedly, she tells him he’s a stubborn son of a bitch. Choked, he tries to say ‘yes’, but it comes out in a quiet voice, barely a word at all.
Carol O’Niel has known her husband for years; something’s wrong there, on Io. He tries to lie, but she knows he’s in some kind of trouble; when he starts speaking in one-word sentences, she knows it. So he goes for the Big Speech; ‘I’m o.k.’ ‘Damn you.’ she says to take care, then calls in their son, telling her husband she loves him. The words hit him like a kick from a horse.
Paul comes on-screen and O’Niel pushes down his feelings to chat with him and make it o.k. again. Mommy says as soon as he’s done, he’s coming home. O’Niel reassures him. What’s it like on Earth? Beautiful – he’s going to see many wonderful things and have friends to play with. Mommy says on the flight they put you to sleep for more than a year. Will it hurt?. Not a bit; it’s like going to sleep and waking up at home. The boy’s worried he’ll sleep through his birthday. Next birthday, he gets two presents. Paul asks is O’Niel can’t come home with them and O’Niel’s mask cracks as he replies; ‘Not right now.’ Soon? Soon. ‘I love you daddy.’ Jesus. Leaden, O’Niel responds. He tells Paul to take care of mommy and the transmission ends. O’Niel sits with only his thoughts for company - and the ever-present ticking.

The Club is trying to do the usual trade, although the dancers are absent for once and the music with them. The conversation is subdued, as well it might be with the readout clicking down to an hour and a half. O’Niel finishes his pare bellum by stashing a riot gun beneath a maintenance panel.
In the washroom, men shave and clean the sweat from a shift Outside while Sheppard sits in his office., reading and smoking. Outside, a beacon blinks from inside an approaching shadow as, Inside the alarm goes and the readouts go from 42 minutes to EARLY.
In the freight dock, workers scramble to meet the shuttle. In the worker’s accommodation, nobody moves; everyone waiting until it’s over.
O’Niel enters the crowded Ward Room and interrupts the meal in progress as efficiently as if he’d arrived naked. ‘I could use a little help.’ Silence. ‘I thought so.’
One asshole pipes up; he’s supposed to protect them. He’s the police, it’s his job. Where are his men?. ‘My men? My men are shit.’
The Marshal turns his back on the room.

The alarm still sounds throughout Con-Am 27, the beacon is larger now, answered now by a radiating landing light on the pad. In the dock, a worker hands out pairs of ear defenders to the reception crews. Sheppard walks into the Club. O’Niel loads another riot gun. Outside, the gigantic landing vanes deploy, with a grinding noise that reverberates through the complex, ready to receive their burden, while Inside workers shut hatches and seal containers.
The shuttle is now more than a shadow, its become a definite shape and suddenly it’s thrown into stark relief by the landing lights that blaze downwards. The reception crews throw on the hearing protection and for a reason. The retros firing sound like hail and thunder, only a thousand times louder, even through the vacuum the gigantic forces at play resonate through the metal pad.
O’Niel finishes loading and moves out from his quarters, past a photo of his wife and child. The shuttle sets down on gigantic shock dampers as O’Niel jogs along an access-way, breathing hard now.
Massive gantries bend forwards to secure the umbilical access-ways to the shuttle’s hull. The Thunderbirds tune plays. Just kidding…

Gasping for breath, O’Niel bursts into the oddly-abandoned security complex and calls up the cameras covering the freight dock, a pressurised elevator making its way down the gantry from the shuttle.
Hand to his headset, a controller operates the massive steel airlock door and air rushes through to equalise the pressure, the dusty air lit by an unseen light source.
O’Niel’s eyes are glued to the screen as he waits for the first sign of the passengers who are disembarking. Sheppard sits, silently in the Club.
Shadows ripple through the vapor and, bags in hand, the new arrivals come in along the walkway, watched by the reception crews, but not as closely as by the Marshal. Just mine workers; nothing to see here.
Reaching the junction they file off automatically according to their assignments. All except one man, a tall, well-built fellow with red hair and a moustache who lingers in the junction. Waiting. Waiting for the man who joins him, a hard-faced individual with the features of a boxer or a nightclub bouncer.
Satisfied they are now alone, the two take a knee and open their bags, extracting what might almost be components for machine tools to lay them on the metal deck.
Quietly and efficiently, practised hands assemble the weapons of O’Niel’s death; they put together lethal-looking shotguns with high-tech looking sights, but O’Niel has seen enough. Dashing from the complex, he pauses only to grab a handful of spare shells for the riot gun.
The two killers split up, moving easily with the casual movements of the professional. The Club is the only busy place on Io; the safest place to be, it seems. The rest of the complex is eerily deserted, such as the canteen where O’Niel is prowling softly, gun in hand.
The rounds explode off a steel table, barely missing the Marshal who hits the deck to return fire through the ceiling grille to where the pug-faced killer is lurking. Swift footsteps sound from above and O’Niel moves across the floor and away. If he’d been in his office, he’d have seen Red walking through an access-way, tracked automatically by the cameras. All the while, Sheppard is alone at a table with his drink and his thoughts. Perhaps the other patrons avoid him because of his status – or perhaps because they know the score and keep a distance through fear.

O’Niel stalks his man through the service space above the canteen, the metal creaking beneath his weight, the darkness making it hard to see any threat. Unless you have an infra-red sight on your weapon like the pug.
The Marshal looms large in the centre of the cross-hairs and the round misses him by a hair’s breadth, the next two exploding around him as he shelters, blind, behind an uncomfortably thin stanchion.
O’Niel groans in agony; his left shoulder has taken a hit. Salvation is sometimes just luck; blinking away the sweat, the killer takes a second to re-focus on the target – just as O’Niel drops away to a catwalk on a lower level and runs for it, unarmed. He lopes through an access-way – watched only by the monitors. And, of course, Red who is watching them in the Marshal’s office. Going to the maintenance panel where he stashed the spare riot gun, O’Niel finds it has gone. He moves on, leaving a trail of blood spots.
Entering a junction, he ducks back as one of the doors begins to unlock – prepares to strike and almost takes out Doctor Lazarus.
What’s she doing here?; she went to his office and saw hi on the screens – he’s headed right for the two of them. Noticing his shoulder, she casts her physician’s eye over the wound. They missed the artery; she offers to dress the wound for him and they go off together.

In the abandoned worker’s accommodation, Lazarus bandages O’Niel’s wound with some material she found there. He asks which way they were heading; they were headed to the operations wing, trying to cut him off. He asks if she could seal off the access-ways in the East quadrant.
He could go around them. She agrees. Meanwhile, Red has entered the accommodation block and is on the hunt. Lazarus finishes off her makeshift dressing and O’Niel thanks her. She isn’t pleading character – just temporary insanity, she says. They both freeze as a footstep sounds somewhere in the vast chamber. Going through to the lockers, the Marshal tries them until he finds an environment suit. Whispering to Lazarus, he tells her to get the hell out of there; he’s going Outside. She stands there, unmoving. Go on! She offers to help, insists on it. Thinking it over, O’Niel tells her to seal the access corridors, lead them into C5. He smiles, grateful to have an ally, but she brings him back to Earth – or Io, at least; ‘Don’t get maudlin.’ And she leaves, sneaking off.

Red moves methodically, using his sight to quest for the target. Lazarus tippy-toes along and nearly has a heart-attack when she comes face to face with a Con-Am uniform left hanging up.
The second killer, meanwhile, kicks open the door to the O’Niel’s bedroom to find the place empty as the tenant himself is going Outside, waiting while the steel door pulls back and rotates to allow him egress.
Lazarus is playing her part, making plenty of noise as she runs towards C5, Red following. O’Niel steps Outside as Inside, the Doctor seals off a hatchway with her security code, leaving one option clear.
She runs on, to the next hatchway, C5 - which she seals and then back the way she came, ducking through the other hatch to seal that, leaving one way apparently clear. Red enters an access-way, following the blood spatter.
Outside, O’Niel slowy makes his way to a vantage point overlooking the junction. Six access-ways radiate from it.
Carefully, he measures the jump – and leaps into the airless void, falling gently to land on all fours atop the beam-framework of one of the passages.
Red enters the junction; there’s only one green option, so he takes it, stepping through to the access-way leading to C5. As O’Niel approaches the central joint above, the shadow of the killer is visible through the opaque plastic. Praying she’s timed it right, Lazarus goes back through the hatch into the junction and risks a look as O’Niel begins the laborious job of uncoupling the joint holding the two sections of access-way together.
Spotting Lazarus, Red begins firing rapidly, his shots sparking off the heavy hatch as he begins to sprint back towards the junction. Quickly, a frightened Lazarus seals the hatch as the sections begin to part with an explosion of electricity.
To his horror, Red realises what’s happening as the oxygen vanishes and his face expands and bursts. Exposed to Space, at least it didn’t take long…

The Greenhouse; hydroponic food supply for the operation.
If you can grow vegetables locally, shipping costs are lower. The Pug-faced killer enters level C2 and clambers down a ladder past the racks of vegetables and fruit.
O’Niel walks towards the exterior as, Inside, the hitman jogs along past the long rows of produce.

Lazarus runs into the security complex to the Marshal’s desk to check the monitors, but is startled by Sergeant Ballard. Can he help?
He’s a bit late… the Sergeant asks if the Marshal’s alright. Where is he?
Outside, somewhere. Outside where? How the hell should she know? Maybe the Greenhouse.
Outside the Greenhouse, O’Niel watches as Pug moves along the rows, going to a ladder to take him up the exterior structure, grunting with the effort despite the low gravity.
It’s a long climb; the greenhouse is thin, but tall, to catch what light it can from far away Sol. Atop the dizzying structure, O’Niel looks down to see a shadow tracking along from Inside.
The gunman pauses every few steps, scanning the dark green environment with his night scope. With an effort, the Marshal bends down to haul a cooling panel from its slot – holding it out to drop it over the side. It falls, spinning, down and keeps falling. The gunman is quick, but only on the trigger.
Spotting the movement, he fires, blowing a neat hole in the glass from which cracks begin to radiate. With a wooshing of air, plants are uprooted before the entire pane fails and, with an explosion of decompression, the contents are pulled through into the vacuum, including the killer, who screams as he is sent hurtling out to explode into chunks.
Wearily, O’Niel pulls himself to his feet and begins the long walk back Inside.

Lazarus goes into the Club, looking around the place. Everyone’s chatting to keep their spirits up, except Sheppard, who sits motionless.
O’Niel moves along the catwalk leading to the massive solar arrays that provide electrical power to the complex. A shot bursts off the girders beside him and a helmet lights up. Ballard.
Sheppard’s inside man, remember?. The Sergeant begins to run along a parallel gangway, his legs fresher than those of the man he is betraying.
The Marshal begins to climb another long ladder.
Ballard patrols along one of the narrow catwalks along the face of the solar collector panels, looking around cautiously. If he looked up, he would see O’Niel crawling along the catwalk above towards him.
The Marshal stands in his bulky suit, steadies himself and launches himself out over Ballard, crashing down on him and sending him sprawling, his riot gun falling down to spark off the huge panels, the lethal electricity running across their surface suddenly evident.
O’Niel hangs perilously from the catwalk, his insulated boots sparking as the toes come into contact with the panels.
He looks up in time to get a vicious kick from Ballard. He only just manages to hold on, struggling with the treacherous Sergeant. The two wrestle and fall the long distance together to the next catwalk down. This time, Ballard is left hanging, O’Niel gasping in pain from landing on his bad shoulder. The Sergeant pulls himself up and strikes at the Marshal, ramming him against the panel, his helmet sizzling and sparking with the contact.
Again he pushes him into the metal grid, hoping to short out O’Niel’s suit. Mining suits are built to take a lot of abuse, but only so much.
Lobby Card showing the fight on the Solar Grid
Striking back, O’Niel gets the younger man in an arm lock and the life or death struggle continues… until, with grim finality, the Marshal grasps the other man’s air hose and savagely yanks it free. Ballard’s scream is lost in the sudden vacuum and his corpse falls down leaving a trail of sparks to finally be incinerated atop an industrial transformer.
The forced, artificial cheerfulness of the Club dies as the door opens. O’Niel walks in, staggering and wincing the pain and effort. Lazarus is there as he approaches Sheppard. The General Manager turns to face the man he tried to have murdered as he approaches.

Standing before him, O’Niel croaks out his name, then half turns. ‘Oh, fuck it...’ his swing sends the heavier man clean over a table, the glass top breaking in his wake – much to Lazarus’ delight.
No-one moves as O’Niel casually walks out, save to shrink back from the vengeful Marshal.

In his quarters, O’Niel finishes his packing. Lazarus turns up to see him off. How’s the arm? Smiling, he says it’s all right. She was on her way to drinking herself into a stupor when she thought she’d drop in to say goodbye.

Touched, he tells her she was a good friend – and thanks her. Nonchalantly, the old war horse says she should be thanking him; there hasn’t been so much excitement in this heap for some time.
He has to leave. So does she; it’s going to hit the fan and she wants to watch it happen. Pausing, she says ‘You did good.’ ‘So did you.’ She returns his smile and nods jauntily. Damn right…

  (ABOVE) Re-Mastered Outland Trailer by

Sean Connery on the Racquet-Ball set with Director Peter Hyams and unknown
Peter Hyams wrote and directed Outland (1981), but he already has a place in Volcano Cat’s heart for his superb Capricorn One (1977) and his later Timecop (1994). Hyams conceived of a Western with more than a passing resemblance to High Noon (1952) in which Gary Cooper’s Marshal has to face a gang of killers alone.
Sean Connery on the set with Director Peter Hyams
Western’s weren’t in vogue at the time, however and funding didn’t appear – so he changed tack, setting the film in Space.

Filming at the legendary Pinewood studios, Buckinghamshire started with miniature work in May, 1980 and principal photography from June, 1980. The score was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, (Capricorn One, 1979’s Alien and many, many other great titles) Outland was the first film to use a revolutionary process called Introvison, a variation on the front-projection principle. Click the following links for more; Outland was one of the few films to be released theatrically with the "Megasound" sound system format. A movie theatre sound system created by Warner Bros in the early 1980s. It was used to enhance the premiere engagements of a handful of Warner features. Theaters equipped for Megasound, had additional speakers mounted on the left, right and rear walls of the auditorium. Selected soundtrack events with lots of low-frequency content (thuds, crashes, explosions, etc) were directed to these speakers at very high volume to thrill the audience.

Sean Connery – later Sir. Sean, plays the role of Marshal O’Niel with flinty Scots toughness; he’s made for the part of the slightly over-the-hill man trying to prove he’s better than the expectations of his corrupt contemporaries.
Sean Connery is Marshal W.T. O'Niel
Hard to pick out a ‘stand-out’ moment, but I’m going with the scene with Lazarus in the Racquet-ball court. His honest reflection shows a man looking inwards and afraid of what he might find, yet determined to do so and it is a moment of brilliance.
Frances Sternhagen as Dr. Lazarus
Likewise Frances Sternhagen as the salty Dr. Marian Lazarus; a quality performance throughout, as irascible as ‘Bones’ from Star Trek and with more credibility and toughness.
(ABOVE) Peter Boyle plays Sheppard, seen here relaxing between takes with Star Connery
Peter Boyle had worked with Director Hyams before and his portrayal of corrupt Manager Mark Sheppard is on the money – a ‘less is more’ performance that gives Connery just enough to fight against.
Peter Boyle is Sheppard
James B. Sikking (Hill Street Blues) plays Montone, the corrupt, but likeable Sergeant and plays the role to a ‘T’. Steven Berkoff (Beverly Hills Cop/Octopussy)has a minor role as Sagan, the crazed miner who attacks the prostitute. He plays nutters well, that man… Spota is played by Stuntman/Stunt Co-Ordinator Marc Boyle. Eagle-eyed viewers may wonder where they saw the character I described as ‘Red’, the Hitman; P.H. Moriarty played ‘Razors’ in 1979’s The Long Good Friday and ‘Hatchet Harry’ in the superb Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998).

Peter Hyman’s married George-Ann Spota, hence the dealer’s name in Outland. The name appears in many of his films.
(ABOVE) Martin Bower's incredibly-detailed model for The Shuttle
The working title for Outland was ‘Io’, but as a Ladd Company executive pointed out, audiences would read that as either ‘10’ or ‘Low’, so Hyams was persuaded to change it.

(ABOVE) Con-Am 27 - the model
‘Con-Amalgamate’ was also the name of the company making the defective life-support systems in Capricorn One.

(ABOVE) Teaser Poster
Some time after this film, Frances Sternhagen played the mother of John Ratzenberger’s character in Cheers (1982-1993). so?; Ratzenberger plays Tarlow, the first victim of PDE in Outland.

(ABOVE) UK Poster Variant
When Connery’s character says ‘I could use a little help’ he’s repeating the line Gary Cooper spoke to the townsfolk in High Noon, a film in which the Marshal’s only ally is a woman with a doubtful reputation.

When Spota tries to smash the orange juice container onto O’Niel, the clearly plastic container smashes with a ‘crockery breaking’ sound effect.
(ABOVE) The French Poster
Spota’s corpse; his dead arm changes position between shots.

Speaking of dead Spotas, Blood wouldn’t go up in zero-g.

The access key-pads used throughout are clearly just digital calculators.

O’Niel’s name-tag changes several times to read ‘O’Neil’.

As O’Niel struggles with Ballard Outside, for a brief moment O’Niel’s glove shifts, revealing a hirsute Scottish arm – and the fact that this isn’t in fact a real space suit. Another illusion shattered, eh?

The human body doesn’t explode when exposed to the vacuum of space.
(ABOVE) UK Poster
O’Niel is showing floating around in low Gravity; as Io is shown to have 1/6 Earth Gravity, the hitman seen inside the Greenhouse (For instance) should also be experiencing the same low gravity.

A semi-permanent base on Io is unlikely; radiation levels are too high for humans to survive without ridiculous levels of shielding.
Connery poses for a publicity shot

In the opening sequence, a computer readout gives us the statistics for the Con-Am operation on Io. ‘Marshal’ and ‘Principal’ are misspelled. (Who am I to talk?)

When messages are sent to and from the Space Station, they arrive instantaneously, instead of being delayed by the distances involved.

Had the Shuttle arrived early, it would have missed the moon entirely.
Connery poses for a publicity shot used on this Lobby card
To get blood from a corpse that has been dead for some time, you have to take it from beneath the body as it pools low in the body. It could be argued that this is ‘Space’, but the interior of Con-Am 27 is consistently shown to be ‘normal’ gravity (Aside from the inexplicable Zero-G confinement cells.)

Finally, when O’Niel goes Outside, he’s wearing a suit belonging to someone named ‘SZARAVAR’ -something or other; the label isn’t entirely visible. Later, when he fights Ballard, his name tape reads ‘STEVENSON’. He hasn’t nipped back Inside to change… so how is that happening?
Some Screen-used patches from the film
(ABOVE) Foreign-Language Poster variant
So, is this film worth seeing/spending two weeks of your short life reviewing?. Well, yes – to be fair if it wasn’t you wouldn’t be reading any of this twaddle… the plot is good fun, the sets are great and the effects – revolutionary in 1981, hold up well today, despite the old-fashioned cathode-ray computer screens and monitors. The miniature work is exquisite, adding greatly to the feeling of being far, far from home and in a hostile and claustrophobic environment. Volcano Cat gives Outland 8.5/10
(ABOVE) The US Poster

The artist Jim Steranko adapted the film for Heavy Metal magazine; some penals from this awe-inspiring series are shown below;

Finally, while researching this piece I stumbled across a wonderful site, catspaw dynamics (Cats get everywhere, don’t they?) I would be a tight old sod if I didn’t share this link;