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DVD Review: The Outer Limits – Volume One – The Original Series

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The Outer Limits was a science fiction anthology series created by Leslie Stevens, with some help from Joseph Stefano (who also wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho). It came into being towards the end of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone run, it began in 1963, while Twilight Zone ran from 1959 to 1964. The two shows have a lot in common, first and foremost strong writing, the anthology format, the twist, and being able to stand the test of time. As I watch, realizing just how good it is, I recognize that there is no way that it would get made in today's television climate. Not to say that there are no shows today that can match its quality, it is just that television has changed, the landscape is a vastly different, and in many ways rockier terrain to navigate.

Smartly written, The Outer Limits was a series that aimed to raise a mirror up against society and perhaps make us question things around us, things we take for granted, make us look at the world from a slightly different perspective. The episodes tend to lean towards the talky side, lots of dialogue can be found strewn throughout the running time, that is the first thing that would be nixed today, way too many words, and considerably less action than we are used to today. Another factor towards it not surviving today is the anthology aspect. It seems that current television is leaning towards the long story arcs, serialized stories that last anywhere from a few episodes, to seasons, to multiple seasons. Yes, I know that there was a second run that lasted seven seasons, ending in 2002, but it never reached the heights of the original, and never made it to any of the major networks (actually, I am not sure what network it was on, Showtime?).

Each episode began the same way, narration from the Control Voice:

"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can change the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits."

What followed were episodes that presented us with creatures from outer space ("The Galaxy Being"), beings from beneath the sea ("Tourist Attraction"), experiments gone awry ("The Sixth Finger"), time travel ("The Man Who Was Never Born"), and others. Each episode offers up a different take, not quite as twisty and ironic as the the Twilight Zone series, taking a more straight up approach as the characters deal with the variety of strange situations that they are faced with.

This set contains the first sixteen episodes of the first season spread across two double-sided disks, four episodes on each side. Each episode is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio and in glorious black and white. The accompanying audio is the original mono track. Overall, the 40+ year old episodes look quite good, there is nice separation in the colors, offering a nice detail level. This is in addition to the nice cinematography, direction, and music employed in the initial creation of the series. There are no extras included, no featurettes, no interviews, no commentaries, nothing. This is a big missed opportunity, as I am sure there are plenty of folks involved in the show available to talk to, not to mention historians and television scholars that would be willing to discuss the impact and importance of the series.

Bottomline. This is a wonderful series, and anyone likes science fiction, speculative fiction, or the like should definitely give this series a spin, if you haven't already. The 16 episodes here are all worth your time. The series has a wonderful look and feel from the music, cinematography, and storytelling. I may prefer the Twilight Zone series, but there is no denying the place that this series holds.


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  • Victor Lana

    Chris, I can remember watching this show as a kid and being scared senseless sometimes. One episode involved a woman in her car in the desert being attacked by a space alien. I don’t know what season that was, but I have never forgotten how creepy that was.