sci-fi TV dvds
1950's - 1960's
The Outer Limits is an
American television series. Similar in style to the earlier
Twilight Zone, with more science fiction than fantasy stories, The
Outer Limits is an anthology of discrete story episodes, sometimes with
a plot twist at the end. The original series was filmed in artistic
black & white and ran for two seasons from 1963 to 1965. In 1995, the
series was revived on the Showtime network and ran for seven seasons
1963–1965 (original series)
The Outer Limits
Episode Guide 63-65
Each show would begin with a cold open, followed by narration by
someone identifying himself as the Control Voice, which was played over
visuals of an oscilloscope.
“ 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 roll the image, make it flutter. 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. We repeat, there is nothing wrong with your television set. 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. — Opening narration – The Control Voice – 1960s ”
Many episodes used one of two shortened versions of this introduction.
* An example of a television network deliberately killing a popular series
by moving it to an inappropriate slot on their schedule. This series
was a big hit, especially among younger viewers. For the second season,
ABC moved it from Monday nights to 7:30 Saturday. It was not only an
inappropriate timeslot for younger viewers, it served as the lead-in
for "The Lawrence Welk Show" (1955) and was scheduled opposite the
highly popular "Jackie Gleason and His American Scene Magazine" (1962)
on CBS. The series was pulled halfway into the second season.
* Dominic Frontiere scored the first season of this series. The second
season was scored by Harry Lubin, who simply recycled his score from
the earlier television series "Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond" (1959).
* The original title for "The Outer Limits" was "Please Stand By". But,
America was facing the Cuban Missile Crisis and the executives thought
it might make people fearful of an air raid. This is why, in the new
series when the show would cut to a commercial, the Control Voice said,
"Please stand by." A tip-of-the-hat to the original series title.
* The opening Control Voice came first during first three episodes
("The Galaxy Being", "The Hundred Days of the Dragon" and "The
Architects of Fear"). Then, the executives wanted to see the "Bear"
(their name for the monster in the story) first so, beginning with the
4th episode ("The Man With The Power") it would begin with a scene from
the show where the Bear made an appearance. Then, the opening Control
Voice would start the show, a commercial, then the Control Voice
prelude as the show began. That continued throughout the entire first
season to the 32nd episode ("The Forms of Things Unknown"). With the
beginning of the second season, the 33rd episode ("Soldier") began with
not only the Bear but also the Control Voice prelude, which continued
to the 49th and final episode ("The Probe").
* Ended its network run in 1965, the same year as its "rival" the "The
Twilight Zone" (1959) ("The Twilight Zone" ceased producing new
episodes in 1964, but CBS broadcast repeats of the fourth-season
episodes in the summer of 1965).
* The second-season episode "The Duplicate Man" features the famous
Chemosphere House. Designed by architect John Lautner, the house is
seen in a few exterior shots but the inside shots were on a set
designed to resemble the house's interior.
* The final episode of the first season, "The Forms of Things Unknown"
(starring David McCallum, Vera Miles, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Barbara
Rush), was supposed to be a series pilot that series creator Joseph
Stefano presented to network executives. When it was rejected, he used
it as an episode of this series.
* When "The Probe", the series' last episode, was originally aired on
January 16, 1965, a live announcer spoke over the Control Voice's
closing statement about returning "next week at this same time." The
live announcer stated that "The King Family Show" (1965) would be seen
"next week in this time period." The regular Control Voice closing for
"The Probe" was heard only in re-runs.
* Many scenes and some entire episodes of the series were filmed on
location at series creator Joseph Stefano's home called Villa Di
Stefano, from which the production company took its name.
The Outer Limits originally was broadcast from 1963 to 1965 on the U.S.
television broadcasting network ABC; in total, 49 episodes. It was one
of many series influenced by The Twilight Zone and Science Fiction
Theatre, though it ultimately proved influential in its own right. In
the un-aired pilot, the series was titled Please Stand By, but ABC
rejected it. Series creator Leslie Stevens retitled it The Outer
Limits. With a few changes, the pilot aired as the premiere episode,
"The Galaxy Being".
Writers for The Outer Limits included creator Stevens and Joseph
Stefano (screenwriter of Hitchcock's Psycho), who was the series'
first-season producer and creative guiding force. Stefano wrote more
episodes than any other writer for the show. Two especially notable
second-season episodes "Demon With a Glass Hand" and "Soldier" were
written by Harlan Ellison.
The first season combined science-fiction and horror, while the second
season was more focused on "hard" science-fiction stories, dropping the
recurring scary monster motif of the first season. Each show in the
first season was to have a monster or creature as a critical part of
the story line. First-season writer and producer Joseph Stefano
believed that this element was necessary to provide fear, suspense, or
at least a center for plot development. This kind of story element
became known as "the bear". This device was, however, mostly dropped in
the second season when Stefano left. (Three first-season episodes
without a "bear" are Forms of Things Unknown, Controlled Experiment,
and The Borderland all three of which were produced as pilots for other
never-realized series and then re-edited as Outer Limits episodes.
Another early episode with no 'bear' was The Hundred Days of the Dragon
made before the "bear" convention was established. Second season
episodes with a "bear" are Keeper of the Purple Twilight , The
Duplicate Man, and The Probe. Bears appear near the conclusion of
second season episodes Counterweight, The Invisible Enemy, and Cold
Hands, Warm Heart.)
The show's first season had distinctive music by Dominic Frontiere, who
doubled as Production Executive; the second season featured music by
Harry Lubin with his Fear theme for One Step Beyond being heard over
the end titles.
Comparison to The Twilight Zone
Like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits had an opening and closing
narration in almost every episode, by the "Control Voice" (Vic Perrin).
Both shows were unusually philosophical for science-fiction anthology
series, but differed in style. The Twilight Zone stories were often
like parables or fables, employing whimsy (such as the Buster Keaton
time-travel episode Once Upon a Time) or irony, or extraordinary
problem-solving situations (such as the time-travel episode The
Arrival). The Outer Limits was straight action and suspense which often
had the human spirit in confrontation with dark existential forces
within or without, such as in the alien abduction episode A Feasibility
Study or the alien possession story The Invisibles.
The program sometimes made use of techniques (lighting, camerawork,
even makeup) associated with film noir or German Expressionism (see for
example, Corpus Earthling), and a number of episodes were noteworthy
for their sheer eeriness. Credit for this is often given to
cinematographer Conrad Hall, who would go on to win three Academy
Awards (and many more nominations) for his work in film. However, it
should be noted that Hall worked only on alternate episodes of the show
during the first two-thirds of the first season; the show's other
cinematographers included John M. Nickolaus and Kenneth Peach.
The various monsters and creatures from the first season and most props
were developed by a loose-knit group organized under the name Project
Unlimited. Members of the group included Wah Chang, Gene Warren and Jim
Danforth. Makeup was executed by Fred B. Phillips along with John
Characters and Models
Many creatures that appeared on 1960s Outer Limits episodes have in the
1990s or 2000s been sold as models or action figures, a large variety
in limited editions as model kits to be assembled and painted by the
purchaser issued by Dimensional Designs, and a smaller set of
out-of-the-box action figures sold in larger quantity by Sideshow Toys.
The former produced a model kit of The Megazoid from The Duplicate Man,
and both created a figure of Gwyllm as an evolved man from The Sixth
A few of the monsters reappeared in Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek series
of the late 1960s. A feathered creature was modified to appear as a zoo
animal in the background of the first pilot of Star Trek; a prop head
from "Fun and Games" was used to make a Talosian appear as a vicious
creature. The moving carpet beast in "The Probe" later was used as the
"Horta", and operated by the same actor (Janos Prohaska). The process
used to make pointed ears for David McCallum in "The Sixth Finger" was
reused in Star Trek as well. Actors who would later appear in Star Trek
included Leonard Nimoy who appeared in two episodes, "Production and
Decay of Strange Particles" and "I, Robot" and William Shatner appeared
in the episode "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" as an astronaut working on a
Project Vulcan. Other actors who subsequently appeared in Star Trek
were James Doohan in a supporting role as a policeman in "Expanding
Human", and Grace Lee Whitney in the episode "Controlled Experiment".
Gene Roddenberry paid a lot of attention to what The Outer Limits team
was doing at the time, and he was often present in their studios. He
hired several Outer Limits alumni, among them Robert Justman and Wah
Chang for the production of Star Trek.
Lawsuit on behalf of Harlan Ellison
Harlan Ellison contended that inspiration for James Cameron's
Terminator had come in part from Ellison's work on The Outer Limits.
Cameron conceded the influence. There are differing accounts about
whether this went to court. Ellison was awarded money and an
end-credits mention in The Terminator (1984), stating the creators'
wish to acknowledge the works of Harlan Ellison.
The series fared rather poorly in the Nielsen ratings at the time of
initial broadcast (as reflected in its cancellation after only 1 and
1/2 seasons) in comparison to the more popular Twilight Zone series.
However, the series was well-liked by those who did watch it. Many
decades later, revered horror writer Stephen King called it "the best
program of its type ever to run on network TV."
In a 2002 Salon.com review of the original series, Mark Holcomb wrote
that The Twilight Zone and Star Trek were more popular in part because
they played things more safely than The Outer Limits, choosing to
"never stray far from the rationalism that drives most American
entertainment". Holcomb writes
Their referring to The Twilight Zone and Star Trek human characters are
fallible, impulsive creatures uniquely adept at screwing up, but every
emotion, relationship and deeply held conviction they display remains
in place at the end of virtually every episode. However comforting this
may have been, it tended to refute the everyday experience of the
"The Outer Limits" wouldn't, or couldn't, cater to such needs. Stevens
and Stefano had something much less conciliatory in mind for their
show, and thus set it squarely in a universe ruled by labyrinthine
pressures and transient pleasures, where meaning and morality were in
constant flux and human beings fought desperately – sometimes
heroically – to keep pace. This starkly recognizable yet distinctly
off-kilter milieu made "The Outer Limits" television's most unabashedly
1995–2002 (modern series)
90's Outer Limits Episode Guide
“ 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. Please stand by. — Opening narration – The Control Voice –
After an attempt to bring back The Outer Limits during the early
eighties, it was finally relaunched in 1995. The success of television
science fiction such as Star Trek sequels,
Files, and anthology shows such as
Tales from the Crypt convinced the rights-holders, MGM, to revive
it. A deal was made with Trilogy Productions, the company behind such
cinema hits as Backdraft and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and the
show would run on the pay-tv channel Showtime. The episodes appeared in
syndication the following season (the same arrangement as MGM/Showtime
Stargate SG-1 and Poltergeist: The Legacy). It continued on
Showtime until 2001, when the U.S. Sci Fi channel quietly took over
production. It remained in production until 2002 before finally being
canceled, after a total of 154 episodes — far more than the original
incarnation of the show. In the revived show, the Control Voice was
supplied by Kevin Conway. The new series distanced itself from the
"monster of the week" mandate that had characterized the original
series from its inception; while there were plenty of aliens and
monsters, they dramatize a specific scientific concept and its effect
on humanity. Some episodes illustrating this difference include "Dark
Rain" (biochemical warfare causes worldwide sterility), "Final Exam"
(discovery of practical cold fusion power), "A Stitch in Time" (a time
traveler tinkers with history), as well as several episodes revolving
around a human mutation known as Genetic Rejection Syndrome (humans
mutating into violent creatures) as a result of a government
The series was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Stories
by Harlan Ellison, A.E. van Vogt, Eando Binder, Larry Niven, Richard
Matheson, George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, and James Patrick Kelly
were adapted with varying degrees of success, and some of the original
series' episodes were remade as well. The revived series on Showtime
contained more violent and sexual content, including occasional female
nudity (Alyssa Milano in episode 1,17) was not shown in most
syndication markets, including the Sci-Fi Channel. The series contained
an underlying story arc about mysterious or extraterrestrial forces,
including open-ended storylines that were related to each other in the
clip shows at the end of the season.
Most episodes in the modern series featured actors with name
recognition from their previous film and TV work. Actors in notable
roles included Tom Arnold, Beau Bridges, Josh Brolin, Nicole de Boer,
Michael Dorn, Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Forbes, Melissa Gilbert, Mark
Hamill, Neil Patrick Harris, Laurie Holden, Alyssa Milano, Pat Morita,
Leonard Nimoy, Amanda Plummer, Ryan Reynolds, Molly Ringwald, William
Sadler, Ally Sheedy, Brent Spiner, and Jessica Steen.
Leslie Stevens was a program consultant for the first season while
Joseph Stefano was an executive consultant. Stefano also remade his
episode "A Feasibility Study" and retitled it "Feasibility Study" for
the third season. He later served as a senior advisor on the episode
"Down to Earth" during the sixth season. Mark Mancina and John Van
Tongeren composed new music different from that of Dominic Frontiere
and Harry Lubin. They also scored ten episodes for the first season.
The musical theme for the modern Outer Limits series is credited to
Mark Mancina and John VanTongeren. However, the same music is used in
the Westwood Studios' video game Dune 2000.
In every season there is a clip show that intertwines the plots of
several of the show's episodes (see "The Voice of Reason" for an
example). At each commercial interval, the Control Voice can be heard
saying "The Outer Limits...please stand by". The voice also repeats
this phrase upon return from the television ads. The surreal images
from the opening are mostly the work of Jerry Uelsmann.
* Lasted longer than the original "The Outer Limits" (1963).
* One story with mostly the same original cast was shown in two parts
over consecutive seasons: "The Outer Limits: Double Helix (#3.12)"
(1997) and "The Outer Limits: The Origin of Species (#4.23)" (1998).
* The SciFi Channel quietly took over co-production in 2001, after the
series was cancelled by Showtime (Season 7). Apparently there were
already some cable-ready episodes in the can at the time of
cancellation, as the MA-rated "Flower Child" was only broadcast during
the show's syndication-only run. On the whole the SciFi-MGM
relationship resulted in lower-quality episodes and clip-shows. The
SciFi Channel was still administrated by the Vivendi-Universal group at
this time. An "unsanitized" version of "Flower Child" appears on DVD in
the US release of the Outer Limits' "Sex and Science Fiction"
* Several episodes contain plot threads that link them together. For
example, the "Innobotics arc" - the story of lifelike androids created
by the Innobotics Corporation - runs through these episodes: Valerie
23, Mary 25, The Hunt, In Our Own Image, and Resurrection.
* 'Sam Egan', the writer of the award-winning 100th episode of the
series, "Tribunal", based the story of the episode on his father's
experience in Auschwitz where his first wife and their young daughter
were murdered by the Nazis.