Monday, April 10, 2006

The Outer Limits: The Galaxy Being

"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."

I picked up the Outer Limits box set for a bargain £11.99 from I used to watch the various repeats that were scattered ad-hoc throughout my childhood (I was certainly not around for it's first run in 1963) but I've never had the opportunity to watch the series in full. Twelve quid and the internet have changed all that.
Now for some reason
The Outer Limits seems to have a reputation for being nothing more than a second-rate rendition of The Twilight Zone. That generalisation really isn't right, because whilst both shows were landmarks in their own right they were quite different in both their context and content. The Twilight Zone was based more in the realm of science fiction and usually relied on a twist in the tale wheras The Outer Limits was more like horror and was perhaps a little more downbeat. Not that I dislike The Twilight Zone, I love it, it's just that The Outer Limits should be regarded in it's own right.

In the first episode "The Galaxy Being";
Cliff Robertson (Ben Parker in Spiderman) is a radio station owner who also loves to dabble in science. He steals power and equipment from his own station and builds a transceiver that makes contact with the galaxy being of the title. The being (who is fairly benign) accidentally gets loose and creates havoc and kills before giving mankind a warning and disappearing. This episode is very much a product of it's time with various references to the cold war, but that doesn't detract from the spellbinding way this tale plays out. The special effects may also seem hokey in this CGI filled age but there's something inherently spooky about the film negative effect used to portray the galaxy being and his energy. This is a great opening episode and sets a high benchmark for the rest of the series.

These days this wouldn't frighten a two year old, but that's not the point of watching them. Programmes like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits are the standard for the genre. This one episode is considerably better than anything I've seen in the past two weeks masquerading as science fiction.


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