1 9 6 3 – 1 9 6 5 (USA)
49 x 60 minute episodes
At the beginning of each episode of this science fiction anthology series – conceived by TV producer Leslie Stevens – the picture on the TV screen distorted and the deep unemotional “control voice” (provided by Vic Perrin) intoned:
“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission . . . 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”.
“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.”
The special effects were good, the alien costumes were always very interesting, and the plots were inventive – often leaving viewers with a sense of unease that was either relieved or exacerbated by the moral delivered by the control voice at the end of each episode – just before returning control of your television, of course.
Writers included future Oscar-winner Robert Towne and Harlan Ellison and The Outer Limits provided early work for many fine, powerful actors who would later go on to make their names in movies, including Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, and Warren Oates.
One of the show’s best-remembered episodes is ‘The Sixth Finger’ (pictured above), starring David McCallum as the big-brained super-advanced humanoid, the subject of an unethical experiment, in innovative make-up by Planet of the Apes maestro John Chambers.
In its second season, ABC inexplicably moved the show to Saturday nights, opposite The Jackie Gleason Show.
This essentially doomed the programme, as most of its young audience wasn’t even home on Saturday night and Gleason had the older audience locked up.
The show didn’t survive the year and was replaced in January by the all-singing King Family Show.
A 1990s re-make of The Outer Limits may have had more technical special effects, but it offered none of the original spine-chilling factor (and viewed like a B-grade version of The X Files).