Classic Sci Fi TV: The Outer Limits (1963)




Our ongoing look back at many of the classics of science fiction and fantasy television.

the-outer-limits-1963What Is It? This anthology series gave us science fiction focused tales that often worked around a monster-of-the-week format and that typically gave us the expected twist ending.  The opening narration has since become iconic for sci fi TV:

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.

When Did It Air? ABC, 1963-65, 2 Seasons Totaling 49 Episodes

Created By: Leslie Stevens

Notable Guest Stars: Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Martin Landau, Barry Morse, Adam West,

Is It Must-Watch Sci Fi TV? Absolutely.  This show may not have aged as well as The Twilight Zone because it relied more heavily on special effects and those do not stand up as well today.  But the stories are first rate and often challenging for their time and helped set the standard for sci fi TV for many years after it aired.

The Skinny: This series is often considered the lesser of the two 1960’s anthology series (with TZ outranking it), but it was an important show for its time and for the legacy it offered.  Its monster-of-the-week format could have doomed it to repetitive, juvenile tales, but the writers–including well-known scribes like Harlan Ellison and Clifford Simak–made the most of this and delivered some hard-hitting tales.  It’s true that this show has not dated as well because of the perceived cheesiness of its special effects, but it accomplished much during its short run and helped the genre mature beyond the “for kids only” perception it carried over from the 50’s (though it would take time for that to be recognized).  Discerning viewers should be able to look past its outdated visuals and see the true classic television show that lays at its core.

Cancelled Too Soon? Yes. This show performed well in its first year according to the Nielsen ratings, but then ABC moved it to Saturdays to air against the popular Jackie Gleason Show (with new series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea taking over the Monday timeslot The Outer Limits previously had).  The ratings plummeted, and instead of rescheduling it, ABC cancelled it half way through its second season.

Essential Episodes: I would argue all of them since it only managed a total of 49 episodes (vs. TZ‘s 156).  The Nerdist offers these seven as the best examples or the original series.

Revival: The Outer Limits returned to television in 1995 and had a seven season run that started on Showtime and ended on the Sci Fi Channel for its last two years.  While the revival was well received and delivered some classic episodes of its own, it has never achieved the legendary status of the original series.  There are currently talks of a revival of the franchise on the big screen, though there has not been much movement on the front of late.

Did You Know? The original title for the show was “Please Stand By”.  However, due to heightened tensions in the country with the Cuban Missile Crisis at its peak, the network felt that might cause panic if those word appeared on the screen to start the show.

Read More About the Show: Wikipedia | IMDb.com

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