The Outer Limits: Season One

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Mar 26, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture…”

The Outer Limits arrived in the wake of The Twilight Zone, and is perhaps the only sci-fi anthology show to ever rival it. From 1963-1965, viewers tuned in as their TVs were taken over by coldly assuring voice: “We are controlling transmission… We will control all you see and hear.”

Whereas The Twilight Zone flirted with many different genres of speculative storytelling, The Outer Limits typically drew its line at hard science fiction. Alien monsters and deadly robots were the norm, giving the show a purer horror bent than Rod Serling’s landmark series. Twilight Zone episodes were usually written around a parable-like lesson or clever twist; Outer Limits did that too, in many cases, but was more interested in scaring your pants off in the buildup.  

We can get a good feel for The Outer Limits by looking at one of its numerous episodes that can now be considered TV classics. “The Zanti Misfits” aired just ahead of New Year’s Eve, 1963. Mankind has made first contact with extraterrestrial life before the episode has even begun. We’re dropped into a California ghost town-turned-military base, right into the control room, where government personnel are preparing for the arrival of a Zanti ship. Humans know little about their race, or what they look like. The Zanti have delivered a grim promise: they will attack Earth with great, destructive force, unless mankind promises to house their society’s outcasts and criminals. The arriving vessel, then, is a penal ship. The Zanti’s conditions include absolute privacy: human contact on the Earth’s surface will also trigger an attack. Everything goes according to plan, up the military base discovers that a pair of bank robbers on the run from the law are hiding out in the protected area, right where the Zanti ship has landed.

The incredibly tense, hour-long episode mostly deals with the diplomatic repercussions of that unintentionally broken promise, as the military tries to explain themselves to the aliens, and argues among themselves whether they should shoot down the alien aircraft before they can retaliate. (It’s hard to imagine this wasn’t inspired in some way by the Cuban Missile Crisis.) It’s a piece of smart sci-fi horror, which cleverly and indirectly mined its audience’s already-existing Cold War fears.

The Outer Limits employed severable notable scribes, such as screenwriters Joseph Stefano (Psycho) and Robert Towne (Chinatown.) (Harlan Ellison famously penned a pair of episodes for the second season.) And like Twilight Zone, it was a great showcase for rising actors. A few of the recognizable faces in the episodes in this set include Donald Pleasance, Bruce Dern, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Martin Landau, and Leonard Nimoy.

Kino Lorber’s The Outer Limits: Season One collects the first 34 of the show’s 49 produced episodes, and they look fantastic. The Outer Limits was most stylishly shot, with plenty dark shadows and daring angles, than most other TV shows from the period, and the crisp, Blu-ray image really does it justice. The majority of episodes include new audio commentaries from a stabled of knowledgeable historians and critics; also included is a thick booklet with a sizeable essay by David J. Schow, which puts the series in context both historically and retrospectively.  



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