The Outer Limits began on 16 September 1963 as a one-hour
segment on ABC. The series only lasted 2 seasons and produced 64 episodes that
explored the realms of horror and science fiction to a level rarely seen on
television. The show became an icon in television history and later enjoyed a
great success as VHS resales.
Outer Limits, like most science fiction shows of that era, had an extremely
small budget. Ultimately, this added to the show’s charm as it forced
creativity to the forefront of productions. What it lacked in finances it more
than made up for in ideas and concepts.
Some of the best writers of the time contributed their
short stories and teleplays to create some of the finest stories ever filmed.
Harlan Ellison, who wrote the episodes
"Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand" provided producers
Joe Stefano (1st season) and Ben Brady (2nd
season) with the source material for productions that could easily have been
released as theatrical films.
At times the series wandered into political commentary
with the narrator ending the show with some thought-provoking comments.
Usually, it provided core science fiction stories with a humanity not before
seen in the genre.
fans recall the beginning narration, called the “Control Voice” in which the
opening warned that “they” had taken control of your television set. The music
was stunning and still invokes feelings of awe and wonder. Stories like “The
Man who was Never Born” provided the foundation for later big-budget
blockbusters like “Terminator”. Indeed, if not for The Outer Limits, science
fiction would likely have taken a very different form in later films and
television series. The series really was a landmark that still directs the
course of contemporary stories.
One key hidden tribute to the series
occurred in a key episode of Star Trek – The Next Generation. In “Best of
Both Worlds”, the Federation fleet was destroyed at Wolf 359, a cosmic
battleground first mentioned in The Outer Limits.
In hindsight, the original series was
never given its proper chance. It was placed against the immensely popular
Jackie Gleason show and stopped after its second season by studio executives who
honestly didn’t understand the show. Although never syndicated in the way
Twilight Zone was, The Outer Limits remained strongly popular with fans.
That popularity led to a revival in 1995
on the Showtime cable channel. This “updated” series lacked much of the
original’s charm, although its first season did have some worthy moments.
Although the larger budget produced a nicer looking show, the quality just
wasn’t there for many of the episodes. As it progressed, it relied on
unwarranted sex and nudity and employed scripts that failed to meet the quality
of the original series. Further hurting the later series was the efforts of
liberal writers and production members who used the series to promote political
agendas that were only lightly “window dressed” as science fiction. Like all
series, some gems can be found in these later episodes.
To be fair, the newer show had a hard act
to follow. The innovation used in the original is unparalleled and speaks
volumes for the accomplishment of the production teams that made those shows a
reality. Stephen King often called the original series the “Best television
Many people agree with him.