Outer Limits Original Series

The Outer Limits Original Series is a journey that will change the way you look at classic television

Back in 1963 the world was facing change, turmoil and uncertainty. Political assignations seemed to constantly be on the headlines, nuclear war was the greatest fear in America and the space program had revived the interest in America for the sciences. This was also a time when there was a lot of restrictions placed on the television producer. To comment on the government or tie concerns of the people was just not done. Joseph Stefano found a way to get thought provoking ideas and criticism on television, disguise it as science fiction. It was from these factors that the American public first heard the ‘Control Voice’ warn us not to try to adjust the TV, to sit back and let them take us to the Outer Limits.

Now after four decades of Outer Limits being my favorite TV series I can retire the many tapes of the first season I have collected over the years in favor of this DVD collection. What made Outer Limits different than most other TV series is the ominous Control Voice bracketed each episode. His voice set up the premise of the episode and concluded with a thought provoking statement concerning the moral lesson presented in the story. On the surface the stories were presented for pure entertainment but there was much more there. For example in one episode, O.B.I.T. a machine that could provide surveillance of any person reflected the post-McCarthy era fear that the government was always watching its citizens. While an out right story on this topic would never make it to prime time television, disguised as fantasy the Outer Limits show was broadcast and the audience was given something to think about. Sure, by today’s standards the special effects were often cheesy but this only helped to get the episodes past the studio suits. Personally I always found the make up and special affects endearing, just part of what made the Outer Limits so special. The episode ‘The Sixth Finger’ demonstrated the potential dangers of science pushing the envelope too far. In it a scientist manages to accelerate evolution transforming a simple coal miner into the man of the distant future, one bent on dominating the world for its own good. Like its immediate predecessor the Twilight Zone, this series provided the best in writing, direction and acting to elevate the mind numbing television of the day into a media that could provoke discussion and challenge the way we thought.

No television series made today could afford the actors that populated the worlds created in Outer Limits. Many have gone on to fame and great roles in film. If there were a reunion of these actors there would be a significant number who could attend holding Oscars, Emmys and a plethora of esteemed awards. Among the favorite actors present in this first season are talents like Robert Duval, Robert Culp, Martin Sheen, David McCallum and Sally Kellerman. Each actor puts forward performances on par with the best they have every given. This collection affords the audience an opportunity to see some of the earliest work on these actors. Although Outer Limits was usually seen as only a Sci-Fi show these performers knew that they where part of television history in the making. If you need an example of the caliber of acting check out the interaction of Robert Culp and Geraldine Brooks in The Architects of Fear. There is such emotional perfection to the portrayals that it rivals any drama around. Culp is a man asked to literally transform into an alien in order to provide a common enemy and unite the earth. In doing so he must give up the life he knew and the wife he dearly loves.

While Joseph Stefano (screenwriter for the classic Psycho) was the real driving force behind the Outer Limits he shared the helm with many fine directors. Among them are the likes of Byron Haskin, director of the 1952 classic ‘War of the Worlds’ along with ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ and ‘Conquest of Space’. Then there was Gerd Oswald, who launched the career of Robert Wagner with his 1956 ‘A Kiss Before Dying’. These directors often came from successful film careers drawn by the writing and production values embodied in this groundbreaking series.

In the last episode of the Outer Limits Oswald directs such actors as David McCallum, Barbara Rush and Vera Miles in ‘The Form of Things Unknown’, just one example of how this series was without peer in sixties television. Since this was way before the special effects we have become accustomed to now, many may shun the series. This is a tragic mistake. The stories and presentation is what is worthwhile here. The series was presented as TV that would provoke a reaction to the state of the world. Make sure you listen to the Control Voice as each episode ends with a question to ponder or a way of looking at the topic perhaps you never had previously. This group of directors knew how to make full use of black and white as a medium. They work so well with the cinematographers that they create a world of light and shadows, sharp contrasts so rarely seen today. Black and white is almost a lost art form today, watching these episodes will bring you back to a time when the lack of color was not considered a limitation but an alternate and powerful way to express ideas.

The Outer Limits first season is spread over four discs. Disc three presents seven episodes, the others eight each. While the audio is a modest mono I’m glad they didn’t re-master it to surround sound. For me this really brought me back to those first exciting viewings of the show, back to when the equipment required for home entertainment was much more modest. The video is black and white full screen. The quality of the video is excellent, especially considering the age of source of the original material. Again, don’t be put off by these specs; the wonder is in the series itself far more than the medium. So sit back, we will control your television set. We will take you from the inner mind to the outer limits. A journey that will change the way you look at classic television.

The Outer Limits Episodes are presented on four double sided discs:

Disc One: Side A
The Galaxy Being
The Hundred Ways of the Dragon
The Architects of Fear
The Man with the Power

Disc One: Side B
The Sixth Finger
The Man Who Was Never Born
The Human Factor

Disc Two: Side A
Corpus Earthling
It Crawled out of theiWoodwork
The Borderland

Disc Two: Side B
Tourist Attraction
The Zanti Misfits
The Mice
Controlled Experiment

Disc Three: Side A
The Invisibles
The Bellero Shield
The Children of Spider Country

Disc Three: Side B
Specimen: Unknown
Second Chance
Children of Spider County

Disc Four: Side A
The Mutant
The Guests
Fun andiGames
The Special One

Disc Four: Side B
A Feasibility Study
Production andiDecay of Strange Particles
The Chameleon
The Forms of Things Unknown

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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