Main cast: John Hurt (Samswope), Brian Dennehy (Bedzyk), James Denton (Barney Curran), Gina Chiarelli (Annie), Lori Triolo (Harmony Teet), Donny Lucas (Steve), Vicky Lambert (Frenchy), Alex Zahara (Bucky), Leanne Adachi (Sharon), Jason Diablo (Smiler), and Stephen Hawking (The Host)
Director: Jonathan Frakes
It’s the future, and a plague has struck mankind. It’s not really a plague, actually, more like a series of genetic mutations that are spreading from people to people. Because Earth is running out of space, a plan was concocted a few decades ago to send the infected to colonize other planets. As you can guess, things sound better on paper: The Discarded focuses on one such ship, where the colony of infected people has been cooped up for 37 years. Adding insult to the injury is that they are running out of food and everything else, even toilet paper, and they can see the Earth from outside their window.
These folks have an unofficial leader in Bedzyk, a gruff man with a mutated, enlarged left arm, and he often hangs out with Samswope, a man whose Siamese twin is a small head growing out of his right shoulder. Samswope is his polar opposite: the scholarly man is still optimistic after all they have gone through. The two men could only watch as their fellow discarded ones eventually lose hope and commit suicide by smashing their heads against the wall until their skull caves in.
Trouble begins when a ship from Earth arrives. Barney Curran, the captain, is also infected, and he tells them that the people on Earth are increasingly succumbing to the mutation. A scientist has found the cure, however, but it requires the blood of the people on this ship – the blood of the infected whose DNA has yet to be thoroughly changed by the mutation. Curran shares that Earth will give the folks on this ship new homes in South America if they would agree to donate their blood to synthesize the cure.
The folks on the ship then become divided into those who want to accept the offer – including Samswope and Bedzyk’s lover Annie – and those who don’t, which include Bedzyk and… well, only Bedzyk. Bedzyk insists that they cannot trust the people on Earth and they should instead ready for a forced invasion by people who would seize their blood by force. Is he right, or is he being overly paranoid?
Unlike the last few episodes in this series, The Discarded is already a cut above those episodes by being shockingly – for this series at least – not preachy in a pickax-between-the-eyes way. The script, co-written by Harlan Ellison whose story this episode is based on, can be slow moving at first, but it’s a good kind of slow moving as this allows the episode to develop the key characters better, to get me to care for them. The tension builds slowly but effectively in chilling precision as Samswope and Bedzyk become increasingly at odds with one another. This is a story by Harlan Ellison, so expect a heartbreaking ending.
There is some anti-politician sentiment here, but come on, that’s pretty much the norm for science fiction. This one is more of a tale of how cruel life can be, however; how holding on to hope only to have it seized from you at the last minute, especially when you have gone over the brink so completely that this hope is the only thing keeping you tethered to sanity… ouch, ouch, ouch.