Evolution of Science Fiction in Television: The Outer Limits

“There is nothing wrong with your television. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are now controlling the transmission. We control the horizontal and the vertical. We can deluge you with a thousand channels or expand one single image to crystal clarity and beyond. We can shape your vision to anything our imagination can conceive. For the next hour we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the deepest inner mind to the outer limits…..”

The Outer Limits debuted in 1963 on ABC for 49 episodes till 1965. The first season combined science fiction and horror, while the second season focused more on ‘hard’ science fiction stories. The first season featured the popular episodes “The Galaxy Being” and “The Chameleon.”

Two notable episodes from the second season were “Demon with a Glass Hand” and “Soldier.” Then in 1995, Showtime revived the series till 1999, then the show found a more natural home on the Sci-Fi Channel from 1999-2002.

In 1997, the episode “The Zanti Misfits” was ranked #98 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. Another ingredient that made the Outer Limits stand out was the actors that appeared in several episodes. Most notable were: William Shatner, Martin Sheen, Adam West, Jill Haworth, Bruce Dern, David McCallum, Robert Culp, Sally Kellerman, and future Oscar winner Robert Duvall.

The Outer Limits tackled such heady subjects as space travel, time travel, and human evolution in each episode.

A few stand-out episodes in my opinion are:

THE SIXTH FINGER (10-14-1963)

A scientist experimenting with speeding up human evolution, hires and uneducated, but bright Gwyllim, from the nearby Welsh mining town. He proves a devoted lab assistant, but not content to stick to animal subjects, Gwyllim speeds up his own evolution becoming a super genius with 6 fingers and a huge cranium. With such mental powers, does the rebellious, former coal miner acquire an equivalent wisdom and maturity too?

DON’T OPEN TILL DOOMSDAY (1-20-1964)

A tiny space creature, bent on destruction, is captured by the scientist Mordecai Spazman. His rival, Professor Harvey Kry, convinces the media that Spazman’s claims are bogus. The vengeful Spazman boxes up the invaders’ miniature spacecraft as a wedding gift and presents it to Kry’s son. The alien imprisons Harvey Jr. inside the ship and forces Dr. King to help him complete his mission.

THE GALAXY BEING (09-16-1963)

An adventurous radio station operator contacts a fellow experimenter in another galaxy. The operator locks in 3D communication, but a DJ who wants to impress his girlfriend with the station’s range, boosts the signal all the way up, unknowingly sucking the alien, who’s composed of electricity, into the remote desert town.

O.B.I.T. (11-4-1963)

The Outer Band Individuated Teletracer, or O.B.I.T., is a remarkable technology that can track and monitor any individual, anywhere, for any length of time! When a man is found dead, slumped over the machine, it and the military base where it is used come under scrutiny. But what no one knows is who built O.B.I.T. and why? And on that answer may hang the fate of civilization……

THE ZANTI MISFITS (12-30-1963)

The perfectionist rulers of the planet Zanti have solved the problem of what to do with their undesirable citizens….they are incapable of killing their own people, so they decide to exile them to planet Earth. At a Top Secret Military base in the ghost town of Morgue, California, a small group of Air Force officers and guards are awaiting the landing of the Zanti penal ship.

They are informed that the Zanti place a high value of privacy and they are to leave the ship alone upon landing. The military is prepared to comply until a car with a runaway wife and her three time loser boyfriend Ben Garth arrive……..

THE GUESTS (3-23-1964)

A drifter enters a lonely house, unaware that it is actually an alien creature in disguise. Soon he realizes that he is a prisoner, along with several other half-mad inhabitants, but he is determined to escape.

A FEASIBILITY STUDY (4-13-1964)

The inhabitants of a typical suburban street find that they’ve been abducted by a diseased alien race, which want to discover if humans will make suitable slaves for them.

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