It Crawled Out of the Woodwork
Season 1, Episode 11
Written by Joseph Stefano
Directed by Gerd Oswald
Transmitted 9 December, 1963
His name is Warren Edgar Morley. For the past six months, he has guarded this gate from eight in the morning until six at night, at which time he is replaced by another just like himself. These are the last few moments of his life.
At NORCO, something is amiss. A beast has taken over the facility and is drawing life to it like a spider traps flies. The latest scientist pulled into the center is Stuart Peters who has traveled to the base from his home state with his orphaned brother Joey in tow. The staff of the facility are in the thrall of an alien entity, something that defies description and seems to have come from between the cracks of realities.
The Peters brothers are trying to set up their new lives, which becomes interrupted when Stuart disappears within NORCO’s security perimeter. When he emerges, he is changed and hostile to Joey. The two argue and Stu falls into the bath, causing what appears to be hastily installed pacemaker to explode and kill him instantly. Only Stuart was in perfect health and never needed a pacemaker. Police Sgt. Siroleo (played by TV luminary Ed Asner) arrives and soon realizes that something is amiss at NORCO. But when he investigates, Siroleo soon finds that it’s not just a murder that is being covered up. It is something outside of human reckoning.
A lesser known episode of the Outer Limits, It Crawled Out of the Woodwork is one that is very dear to me for a unique reason. Most science fiction of this era is remarkable for some gimmick or monster. I am fond of gimmicks and monsters, but what makes The Outer Limits so appealing to me is because of its humanity. In this story, a pair of brothers arrive in a strange new town and become embroiled in something dangerous and alien. Seldom has a warm relationship between two brothers been portrayed in such a way as it is here. You can call it corny, but I love the way that Joey acts the juvenile to his older brother Stu and how lost and lonely he is after Stu is taken from him.
There’s a very touching moment after the coroners take Stew’s body away in which Joey remarks on the haunting and maddening absurdity of a loved one, someone you always counted on being there, taken away before your eyes that is quite painful to watch. The stop-motion dust cloud of pure energy is bizarre and terrifying, but it is the way in which it takes life away from such human individuals that is so scary. The direction simply yet deftly establishes each victim for the viewer before diminishing them, from the simple security guard to the warm and kind police detective.
One of the finest television programs of its kind, The Outer Limits is the perfect way to spend a long dark wintry evening.