THE OUTER LIMITS: Behold, Eck!

THE OUTER LIMITS: Behold, Eck!

SEASON TWO
EPISODE THREE
Transmitted OCTOBER 3, 1964

“Since the first living thing gazed upward through the darkness, Man has seldom been content merely to be born, to endure, and to die. With a curious fervor he has struggled to unlock the mysteries of creation and of the world in which he lives. Sometimes he has won. Sometimes he has lost. And sometimes, in the tumbling torrents of space and time, he has brief glimpses of a world he never even dreams…”

A series of weird murders plagues the local police. There did not seem to be any connecting clues that could shed some light on the events until an optic engineer starts his own investigation. Lenses using meteoric quartz have allowed those looking through them the brief experience of viewing a being from another dimension. Insecure with being witnessed by anyone else, the creature struck out and killed each person who saw it, leaving only death and scattered custom eyeglasses in its wake. As bizarre as it appears, it soon becomes clear that Dr. Stone has made contact with a two-dimensional being named Eck who is stranded in our world, unable to get home due to poor vision. What luck that Dr. Stone (and his lovely assistant Elizabeth) can help!

One of the strengths of The Outer Limits in my opinion is its ability to connect fantastical stories to very human situations. While it can be a bit corny at times, it’s still quite heartening and charming to witness the subtle romance between Dr. Stone and his secretary as the mystery of the strange two-dimensional monster unravels. It’s also quite poetic that someone working with lenses for eye glasses fails to see that his secretary is in love with him. Played with such aplomb by Peter Lind Hayes, Dr. Stone is so sympathetic in his scattered-brained way.

The visual effects are quite simple but leave a strong impact. Eck is a bizarre and startling creature yet the respect that the cast gives to the effect gives it life. Drawing inspiration from a nineteenth century novella Flatland, Behold, Eck! is a tale that is equal parts comedy and fantasy.

The Outer Limits Original Series Complete Box Set Volumes 1-3[/caption]

The Outer Limits: The Vanished

Outer Limits: The Official Companion

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The Outer Limits ‘Corpus Earthling’

Corpus Earthling

TheOuterLimits-logoSeason 1, Episode 9
Written by Orin Borsten and Louis Charbonneau
Directed by Gerd Oswald
Transmitted 18 November, 1963

Rocks: silent, inanimate objects torn from the Earth’s ancient crust. Yielding up to man over the long centuries all that is known of the planet on which we live withholding from man forever their veiled secrets of the nature of matter and cosmic catastrophe, the secrets of other worlds in the vastness of the universe, of other forms of life, of strange organisms beyond the imagination of man.

One of the greatest strengths of the Outer Limits for me is its use psychological horror, and it’s greatest star is Robert Culp. This story combines both in one of the most chilling and disturbing of tales… about killer rocks from outer space.

The story features a rational physician Paul Cameron who has dropped in to his wife’s work space (where she works with a geologist Jonas Temple) to take her out to lunch. While there, he is left alone for a moment and upsets an experiment causing an explosion that prompts an unusual reaction… he hears voices. The voices are insidious and plotting evil deeds… and only Paul can hear them.

His wife Laurie is supportive and worried, but Paul slumps into a deep state of paranoia and anxiety as a series of tests reveal that the voices (which he presumed were picked up through a faulty metal cranial implant) can only be in his head. Returning to the lab, he once more hears the voices who compel him to jump out the window. At home, he cannot rest. He refuses to answer the phone or the door. His wife is beside herself and in a move of desperation the pair decide to take an impromptu honeymoon, making up for the one they never took after getting married not long ago. As they leave with very few belongings, the phone rings unanswered. The lovers disappear for Mexico in the middle of the night, hoping to find some relief from what is surely a mental breakdown.

Unfortunately, they are very wrong. The phonecall is from Dr Jonas Temple, who has become a zombified slave of the alien rocks. His hair a shocking white frizz, his face gaunt, he plots with his fellow rock to kill Paul Cameron who knows far too much and is a direct threat to their plans. Rational people leave a trail, one that is easily traced, so the aliens start tracking the lovers to their getaway.

Corpus Earthling is so haunting, so unsettling and emotionally wrought with tension that it is heart breaking to watch. Seeing Culp’s character struggle to confront his fears and work past them is made all the more painful when the true nature of his situation is revealed. One of the most moving and stunning of the first season, Corpus Earthling is a classic.

The Outer Limits ‘It Crawled Out of the Woodwork’

It Crawled Out of the Woodwork

TheOuterLimits-logoSeason 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.

The Outer Limits Original Series Complete Box Set Volumes 1-3

The Outer Limits- The Man With the Power

TheOuterLimits-logo“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

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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.

The Outer Limits Original Series Complete Box Set Volumes 1-3

The Outer Limits: The Vanished

Outer Limits: The Official Companion

The Outer Limits: Demon with a Glass Hand

“Through all the legends of ancient peoples — Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Semitic — runs the saga of the Eternal Man, the one who never dies, called by various names in various times, but historically known as Gilgamesh, the one who has never tasted death… the hero who strides through the centuries…”

The Outer Limits: Demon with a Glass Hand

Season Two, Episode 5
October, 1964

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Robert Culp in 'Demon With A Glass Hand'

Robert Culp passed away just this past year. A magnificent actor, he is likely familiar to readers from his parts in I Spy or Greatest American Hero. He starred in a few Outer Limits stories and all of them are remarkable. His ability to convey so much sincerity in his performance makes the episodes that he starred in poignant and haunting. In Demon With a Glass Hand, he plays the role of a man known simply as Trent. With a memory only a day old, he knows that he has been on the run for some indeterminate amount of time and is pursued by alien killers from the future. In another time, the planet Earth is at war with the Kyben. As the war grew more devastating, it suddenly stopped and 70 billion humans disappeared over night, leaving Trent as the only clue to their whereabouts.

Alone and confused, Trent wears a glove that covers an incomplete glass hand housing a computer. The hand can only advise Trent so much, but assures him that the survival of the Earth’s population rests on his shoulders. Ducking into an old apartment building, he makes his last stand against the Kyben.

A veteran science fiction writer, Harlan Ellison contributed two scripts to the Outer Limits; this one and Soldier from the previous season. If the program had lasted another year, perhaps he would have submitted a third. One consistency in both stories is a visceral humanity, which of course ironic in this case. Trent is a very sympathetic character who seems adverse to violence, but must kill his pursuers in order to live.

The macho attitude of Trent and the Kyben soldiers is off-set by the inclusion of innocent bystander Consuela Biros, a lonely seamstress who only recently escaped an abusive marriage. Upon meeting Consuela, Trent finds a companion that grounds him in reality as her reactions are both rational and human. While she is decidedly against any violence at first, in the end she takes part in Trent’s war with the Kyben. Terrified and realizing that it is a kill-or-be-killed situation, her pacifism evaporates and is overtaken by a drive of self-preservation. Her aversion and disgust at discovering the truth about the man she has suddenly fallen in love with is also both tragic and all too believable.

Filmed inside the legendary Bradbury Building (the same location used for JS Sebastian’s apartment building in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner film), the setting is nothing short of fantastic. The labyrinthine hallways and stairwells are shot with such inspiration that it results in a dream-like atmosphere. As Culp’s Trent runs about dodging the attacks of the Kyben troopers, I felt like I was reliving several childhood nightmares at once, desperately trying to escape some shadowy tormentors.

Demon With a Glass Hand earned several accolades over the years and was adapted into comic book form along with the other Kyben tales, drawn by Ken Steacy in the graphic novel ‘Night and the Enemy.’ Personally, I consider it one of the best pieces of televised science fiction that I have ever seen. Each time I watch it, I worry that I will lose interest from over-familiarity, but each time the program has the same impact.

Recommended:

Buy 'Night and the Enemy'

The Outer Limits Original Series Complete Box Set

The Outer Limits – Architects of Fear

Is this the day? Is this the beginning of the end? There is no time to wonder. No time to ask why is it happening, why is it finally happening. There is time only for fear, for the piercing pain of panic. Do we pray? Or do we merely run now and pray later? Will there be a later? Or is this the day?

The Outer Limits: The Architects of Fear

Episode 3
September, 1963

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Veteran screenwriter (of Star Trek, the Invaders, Science Fiction Theatre and Mission Impossible) Meyer Dolinsky crafted a superbly gripping and suspenseful tale in The Architects of Fear. The episode opens with a meeting of men discussing the current plight of the planet. Rather than raising the culture of its people, all of the scientific advancement of modern Man has brought humanity to the brink of war. Seeking to find a way to save the world from its own primal urge toward self-destruction, they develop a threat so convincing that it will unite all of the warring power blocks into a single nation devoted to saving the human race from an alien threat.

Drawing lots from a hat, young Dr. Allen Leighton is chosen to undergo the rigorous experiments that will transform him from a kind man into a bizarre monstrosity. The method is excruciatingly clear as we see his fluids slowly replaced and his muscle tissue steadily mutated, but the basis for the operations is never really explained. Early on we see an odd screeching little thing in a cage that resembles Leighton’s final stage, but where it came from is never addressed.

A married man, Leighton and his wife had decided against starting a family due to his wife’s poor cardiovascular health. However, her doctor has just given her a clean bill of health, making her joyful of the future as Leighton desperately tries to keep his a secret from her. What follows is a mournful hour of experiments painfully removing every once of what made Leighton who he is as he becomes something other. To save her the agony of wondering where her husband is while he mutates further and is placed into isolation, his wife is told that he is dead. Frustrated, she refuses to believe this. She just knows that he is alive. A rocket is crafted that only he can pilot, everything has been thought out to the letter. He is to crash land outside of the United Nations building while it is in session, fire his ray gun and die. His very presence will convince the world leaders that there are more dangerous threats in the universe than each other.

Of course, it all goes horribly wrong.

Robert Culp (of I Spy fame) is just incredible here. He stars in several episodes including the classic Demon with a Glass Hand and in each one he knocks it out of the park. He captures that quintessential quality of the ‘average joe’ that makes his characters so easily relatable. This is a key trait because all of the Outer Limits stories are short tales with little time to develop character and a plot at the same time. Leighton’s descent into madness on the lab as he recites nursery rhymes and hurls beakers at the scientists is simply chilling while the moments where he quietly watches his wife dreamily stare at maternity clothes heartbreaking. They don’t make them like Culp anymore.

There aren’t many episodes of the Outer Limits that I don’t love, to be honest. There is something about the music, film quality and sound that just transports me to another world, that of 1960’s sci-fi. This adventure is no exception as it combines the fears of a people with the well-meaning solution of a group of devoted scientists. There have been many moments where most of us have looked around at the horrors of the modern world and wondered why no one does anything to help instead of building better iPhones. This episode addresses that.

In the end, the solution is too much of a trick, too much of a cheat. If we are to advance as a culture, it must be through baby steps rather than short cuts. As agonizing as this is to accept, it is the truth. Following the slow painful demise of Leighton in his distorted alien form, the camera watches him return to the lab where he was constructed only to die at the feet of his wife. The episode closes with its lamenting refrain of signature music and a fade to black.

“Scarecrows and magic and other fatal fears do not bring people closer together. There is no magic substitute for soft caring and hard work, for self-respect and mutual love. If we can learn this from the mistake these frightened men made, then their mistake will not have been merely grotesque, it would at least have been a lesson. A lesson, at last, to be learned.”

The Outer Limits Original Series Complete Box Set

Outer Limits: The Guests

The Outer Limits: The Guests

Episode 26
March 1964

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With only two years on the air, the Outer Limits has a rather limited number of episodes in comparison to similar programs such as the Twilight Zone. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying this program and finding more in every episode each time I revisit the series. Unusually, each installment opens with a clip featuring a portion of the episode that the viewer will see again as they watch. This is presumably to pull the audience in with a glimpse of some hideous mind-staggering monster. The pace of Outer Limits is often tense but admittedly slow and dream-like, perhaps making these pulls necessary.

The Guests follows a typical drop-out youngster who happens upon an old man in need of help in the middle of a country road. Pulling his car over to the curb, the youngster attempts to help the old man, but cannot get any words from the stranger’s mouth. Curling him up in his leather jacket, he leaves the old man to look for help and sees a giant brain on the hillside. Behind him, the old man is blown away in the the wind as dust.

The bizarre imagery comes fast and furious in this one

On second view, the brain becomes an old mansion the likes of which are seen in several haunted house stories. As he approaches the doors of the mansion, a kind of thrumming is heard in the soundtrack, mimicking the trembling heartbeat of anxiety as he draws closer to the horror within. The interior seems dark and empty, perhaps no one lives there after all, but the old man does need help. Glimpsing at a pocket watch he found on his way up the hill, the youngster finds a photograph of a young beautiful woman and finds courage to investigate further. In time, the young man is introduced to three occupants of the house.

A trio of idiosyncratic personas, all three residents seem trapped in the house and from many years in the past. A wealthy banker and his wife are torn on the entire experience existing only in the mind as a kind of dream. A faded starlet is sure that there is a job for her in the outside world and that she will find acceptance in the new ‘talking plays’ on the big screen. Not sure what to make of any of them, the intruder attempts to escape and is pulled up to the lair of his jailer.

At this point, the episode enters the realm of nightmare fuel. I can see that the special effect of the monster is rubber melted over a mold, but that doesn’t stop it from being both hideous and unnerving all at once. The alien is attempting to gather data regarding the grand equation of Mankind’s destiny. Communicating via telepathy, the alien explains the many obstacles standing in the way of humanity on its path to greatness, ranging from nuclear oblivion to sheer hopelessness (depicted as a stream of prisoners entering confinement). The other side of the equation consists of procreation, labor and art. With so little stacked on one the side of hope and so much going against the human race, the alien entity is sure his missing something that he hopes to find in the minds of its guests. The drifter refuses to cooperate and vows that he will fight the menace with all of his might.

Adding fuel to his determination to fight the alien creature domination and the dreary hopelessness of his fellow inmates is his budding romance with Tess, the young lady in the pocket watch portrait. Resistant at first, she leads him on a mad chase through the seemingly endless corridors of the house before revealing that there is a path out to a small private graveyard. She encourages the drifter to leave, but he has become smitten by Tess’ beauty and has become resolute in staying by her side. This is especially unusual, as the drifter’s nature is that he simply continues from one place to the next, calling no place home. However, he has found a kind of home with Tess, which terrifies the young lady and confuses the drifter more than his encounter with the alien. At this moment, the alien captor retrieves the drifter. It has found a uniquely strong portion of hope and affection within the mind of the drifter, the likes of which could overcome all of the world’s ills.

Sensing that the drifter will waste away in the house as a prisoner of the alien, Tess reveals that she cannot leave with him because inside the confines of the mansion time does not pass. Were Tess to leave the alien’s influence, she would no doubt turn to dust as her father had. The drifter fails to see her argument, so Tess sacrifices herself, disintegrating almost instantly in the atmosphere of present time. Without any other recourse, the drifter stumbles away from the house, urged on by the alien entity to find all that is great in existence in the wide world. Providing these poetic last words, the house transforms back into a bizarre brain-like structure. As the three occupants scream in manic horror, the image of the brain explodes into flight.

At heart I’m a simpler romantic and the corny elements of this episode really appeal to me. Added to the fantastic performances by the cast (especially Gloria Grahame who had played that trollop Violet from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’), the monster is truly disturbing. Appearing to be some kind of noxious pulsating living thing, it gurgles out words from a wet hole, the entire structure quivering with every utterance. In addition to the odd visuals, the always stunning soundtrack does not fail to impress.

Highly recommended:

The Outer Limits Original Series Complete Box Set

The Outer Limits: Soldier

Night comes too soon on the battlefield. For some men it comes permanently; their eyes never open to the light of day. But for this man, fighting this war, there is never total darkness. The spidery beams of light in the sky are the descendants of the modern laser beam — heat rays that sear through tungsten steel and flesh as though they were cheesecloth. And this soldier must go against those weapons. His name is Qarlo, and he is a footsoldier, the ultimate infantryman. Trained from birth by the State, he has never known love, or closeness, or warmth. He is geared for only one purpose: to kill the Enemy. And the Enemy waits for him…

The Outer Limits: Soldier

Season Two, Episode 1
September, 1964

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In celebration of the upcoming Terminator film, here is footage from an eerily familiar story of a war from the future that finds its way into our time.

Based on a short story by Harlan Ellison (the man behind another OL classic Demon With a Glass Hand), Soldier is a clever time travel story with many wonderful touches. The last two soldiers of a war set in the far future are somehow cast backwards in time to the 20th Century. Appearing to be mentally deranged or damaged, Qarlo attempts to form a mental link with a house cat, light a cigarette by striking it along the side of the box and speaks in a guttural slur of words that sounds foreign but is actually English chopped to pieces and re-assembled.

The Outer Limits is a 1960’s TV series responsible for some of the most mind-bendingly original ideas ever developed for science fiction. A hallmark of its time, the series is surprisingly not remembered as fondly as other programs of its era such as the Twilight Zone. Recently released on DVD, the program has a new chance to attract a whole new audience.

As the science fiction genre enjoys another revival, there can be no better time to delve into this world and be part of ‘a great adventure.’

The Outer Limits- ‘Nightmare’

A war between worlds has long been dreaded. Throughout recent history, Man, convinced that life on other planets would be as anxious and belligerent as life on his own, has gravely predicted that some dreadful form of combat would inevitably take place between our world and that of someone else. And Man was right. To the eternal credit of the peoples of this planet Earth, history shall be able to proclaim loudly and justly that in this war between Unified Earth and the planet Ebon, Ebon struck first. Ebon: Its form of life unknown, its way of life unpredictable. To the fighting troops of Earth, a black question mark at the end of a dark, foreboding journey.

The Outer Limits: Nightmare

Season One, Episode 10
December, 1963

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Vintage Outer Limits trading card

Recently re-released on DVD, The Outer Limits is the finest science fiction series to ever grace the small screen is back. From 1963 comes this terrifying vision of the inner psyche of American culture. Each episode delved into the mind scape of the country, pulling out paranoid delusions, uneasy feelings about the unknown and a general feeling of helplessness in a world that was violently rocketing into tomorrow.

One of my favorite episodes is ‘Nightmare,’ featuring a very young Martin Sheen as a brash private held as a prisoner of war on the alien planet of Ebon. We watch the Ebonites try to break the soldiers’ spirit one by one as the each is tortured with painful devices and equally painful visions of home. One of the most haunting and evocative episodes of the entire series, ‘Nightmare’ is just one in a series of television episodes far ahead of its time.

These newly remastered box sets are available online and at local retailers including Target and Best Buy. Well worth the small price tag, these DVDs belong on the shelf of any science fiction fan looking for the best entertainment available.

Recommended:
The Outer Limits (The Original Series) – Volume 1

The Outer Limits (The Original Series) – Volume 2

The Outer Limits (The Original Series) – Volume 3