“In the course of centuries, Man has devoured the Earth itself. The Machine Age has dried up the seas of oil. Industry has consumed the heartlands of coal. The Atomic Age has plundered the rare elements — uranium, cobalt, plutonium — leaving behind worthless deposits of lead and ashes. Starvation is at hand. Only here, in the void of space, is there a new source of atomic power. Above us, in the debris of the solar system, in the meteorites and asteroids, are the materials needed to drive the reactors. Yet in their distant, silent orbits, these chunks of matter are beyond the reach of man, beyond the reach of human hands, but not beyond the reach of human minds. Driving along a country road in an ordinary car is a modest man: Harold J. Finley, quiet and profound…”
The Outer Limits: The Man With the Power
Season One, Episode Four
October 7, 1963
Somehow I had missed this gem when reviewing the classic Outer Limits series. The outstanding Donald Donald Pleasence stars as a mild mannered teacher with the unusual ability to exert control over cosmic energy with his mind. The story opens with a tense meeting among space program officials discussing the concerns of a deep space exploratory mission. Pleasence is introduced as the solution to this problem and promptly lifts a massive weight from one side of the room to the other using invisible force and his steely eyes.
Finley returns home to impart the exciting news to his wife only to be exposed to her hen-pecking personality that reduces him to little more than a joke. His dreams of excitement and adventure are dashed on the rocks of her shrill voice reminding him of his job at the college and his responsibilities. What makes the scene so haunting is Pleasence’s somber delivery of these icy words: “Some women take their husbands hand and say together we will climb to the stars. But not you. Never you.”
As his work with the space agency progresses, he finds that his concentration results in still greater power, yet he cannot get time away from his teaching because the college’s dean (played by Get Smart’s Edward Platt) refuses to make an exception for him. So enraged is Finley that his darkly violent thoughts become solid, physically manifested as a black cloud sparking with weird energy. So intense is his anger that he brings the ceiling down in the dean’s office, nearly killing him.
Still unaware of his potential destructive tendencies, Finley is introduced to a young astronaut who is eagerly looking forward to having a device implanted in his own frontal lobe which will allow for the most self-sufficient trip into space ever attempted. As the young volunteer attempts to impart words of gratitude to Finley, his elder encourages him to live life now while he is young, before he is battered down by life. It’s such a heart breaking scene.
Everything comes to a head as Finley’s demons start to get the better of him. When he confronts his wife with the truth, that he has god-like power of devastation, she reminds him that he is nothing but a ‘little man,’ eliciting an explosive eruption of power from Finley. As his wife realizes the near-limitless power her husband has, she spills that she hates him, that she has been an awful wife but pleads for mercy.
With a chilling whisper, Finley admits that he doesn’t think he can control it.
One of the most moving and visually stunning episodes of the Outer Limits, (the noir-ish camera angles and use of shadow is very impressive) The Man With the Power is not to be overlooked.