Andy and Vince are two friends at a Gettysburg re-enactment. Vince is dressed as a union medic, while Andy is a Confederate soldier. It shouldn’t be any surprise that Vince is sweet and charming while Andy is a total dickhead. He makes statements about how much better the country would be “if the good guys had won” and is a proud supporter of waving the confederate battle flag.
This episode was first aired in November 2000. When Andy begins to moan about how there are no wars, and this world is boring – it’s unsettling knowing what is about to happen to America in less than a year’s time.
The two are stopped by a man in a black carriage and asks to take their photo. Thinking he is a part of the re-enactment, they agree. But this isn’t any ordinary camera, and the friends are sent back in time to June 30th, 1863 just before the beginning of the Battle of Gettysburg.
They are accidentally sent back with another boy. The three are confused, realising they are in the same place, but the memorial for the battle has disappeared. They are approached by Col. Angus Devine (played by, of course, Meat Loaf) and another sergeant. The tag-along is shot dead, waking the boys up to the reality that they aren’t in Kansas anymore (or 2000, at least).
Devine takes the two soldiers with him, thinking them to either be spies, traitors or deserters. When they arrive at camp, Andy and Vince immediately look in their Gettysburg book and read that Devine had disappeared before the battle and in fact had viral meningitis, making him mad.
And he is crazy. But that doesn’t stop Andy from being over-the-moon. The photographer shows up at the camp, and warns the friends that they need to learn a lesson, as he thinks that the future can change. Andy believes this means that it is his destiny to change the outcome of the battle, thus changing the outcome of the American Civil War. Vince, being a lot more level-headed and a Unionist, warns his friend that changing the country’s history might in fact change the whole world. But Andy ignores him because he’s a total dickhead.
The troops move to a home with a pregnant woman, who is all alone. While Andy is trying to argue battle strategy with his superiors, Vince is the only person to head upstairs and help the woman delivery her baby. The symbolism here is layered pretty thick, but as a Northerner, I can’t hardly find fault in this.
Devine continues to be uncooperative and unwilling to listen to Andy. He becomes erratic. For their safety, Vince decides to steal the photographer’s camera to send him and his friend forward in time before his friend can change history. But light targets Devine instead, who is sent somewhere else in the future.
As the battle is beginning, the two friends start to tear into each other. Andy is still convinced that he can change the outcome of the war, like he believes the photographer wants him to. But when the photographer appears again, he tells them that he’s brought them back for Andy to learn his lesson, but he finally explains why.
In 2013, there is a black president. A man who is the greatest leader of the United States, but he is assassinated. And Andy is his killer.
Andy seems indifferent to the news. But even then he doesn’t learn. He’s shot and killed in battle. And the photographer, satisfied that he has changed the future, sends Vince back to 2000. Thirteen years later, the president is giving a speech at the Gettysburg memorial. It’s then that Devine arrives in the future. He shoots the Abraham Lincoln impersonator, but also kills the president as well.
And the photographer looks on in dispair, knowing he can’t change the course of history.
Meat Loaf is so good at being gross and dangerous at Col. Angus Devine. Plus he is wearing a truly fabulous hat here. Though, he isn’t the best part of this episode. Like the best science fiction, this episode of The Outer Limits gives us a stern warning about our own future. Watching this episode 16 years after it’s aired, it’s disheartening to see how prevalent it still is. The photographer thought we’d learn our lessons. Just read any news headline, and you’ll see that we probably haven’t.