The Outer Limits and The Outer Limits (1995-2002)

The Outer Limits (1963-1965)
The Outer Limits (1995-2002)
Type: Revival

   "Do not attempt to adjust your computer. We control the type face. We can make it bigger. We can make it smaller. We can provide a link to a picture of a monkey. You have reached... my page on The Outer Limits!"

   Any sci-fi fan will recognize that as a homage to, or more accurately a blatant rip off of, the opening of the classic 60's science fiction series The Outer Limits. Every week the show was introduced by a voice which would demonstrate that it had utter control of your TV set, playing with the vertical and horizontal controls, the sharpness of the picture etc. It would then tell the viewer to sit for the next hour as they were taken to The Outer Limits.

   The Outer Limits was similar to The Twilight Zone which was also on the air at the time and yet also unique to itself. Less fantasy oriented than the Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits was more hard core science fiction. It also had an hour to tell its stories as opposed to The Twilight Zone's half hour format (although The Twilight Zone did try the hour long format for single season).

   The show featured many actors who went on to bigger fame as well as well as episodes written by acclaimed science fiction authors like Harlan Ellison. At its best it was classic science fiction but at its worst it... well lets not go there. The Outer Limits was a network show and the network wanted certain things from a show like The Outer Limits. Like monsters! They would try to get the show to include monsters and the like in episodes even if it didn't make sense in the plot! You can have horror and science fiction without giant spiders believe it or not! In spite of this interference the show managed to put out some really terrific stuff.

   In 1995 The Outer Limits got dusted off for a new version to be aired on the Showtime Cable Network. Talk about a perfect opportunity. First of all, the show was being revived by people raised on the original, people who had respect for the kinds of stories that show tried to tell and wanted to do it justice. Secondly it was on Showtime! Showtime was a pay cable movie channel. That would mean more freedom in storytelling than the show had on ABC. And again, the Showtime came in with a respect for the original shows intent and wanted a quality update: no sticking monsters into episodes where they didn't belong this time. Add in the improvement in special effects and an audience demanding quality stories... for once a new version of a classic show lived up to the original.

   To give you an idea of the stories told, let me give you an example in the form of one of my favorites from the new Outer Limits. Read no further if you're going to cry about me spoiling an episode.

   There was an episode about a young female police officer who was trying to catch a man who was sexually assaulting and murdering young women. Meanwhile, a female scientist who had been sexually assaulted as a child had built a time machine. Whenever she would learn of a sex offender/murder who had been caught, she would go back in time to before they had committed their crimes and kill them. This would result in history changing and she would have to try to live with two sets of memories - both the original history of events and the new one - each time she did this. It did horrible damage to her brain but she wanted to save those poor victims.

   Eventually the female officer crossed paths with her and learned what she had done. She was shocked and outraged. You can't punish someone by killing them for a crime they haven't committed yet! She and the scientist ended up traveling back in time to when the scientist herself was assaulted as a young girl. They arrived just as the crime was starting and in defending the young girl the detective ended up killing the rapist/killer before he could actually commit his crime. The older version of herself was happy to be erased from existence knowing the younger her would live a happier life.

   Returning to the present, the detective was in for a shock. She was now the one with a dual memory of history. Because she was never sexually assaulted, the scientist in this reality never went back in time to kill all those rapists. Much to the detective's surprise, one of the women that the scientist had saved was the detective's best friend. All her platitudes about not punishing someone before they commit the crime seemed pretty empty. Her best friend was dead!

   The detective hunted down the now happy scientist, who had still built a time machine and forced her to let her use it. The episode ended with the detective beginning to re-kill the same rapists and murders who had been killed earlier. A discussion on the morals and ethics of an impossible and fictional situation with a huge emotional kick in the ass ta boot. Ya can't beat that. Classic science fiction.

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