The Outer Limits: Science Fiction TV at its Best

by Guy Belleranti
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When one thinks of spooky 1950/1960 television shows several series come to mind. Among them are The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and One Step Beyond. Another classic, and much more science fiction based than the others, was The Outer Limits.

The Outer Limits ran for 49 episodes on ABC beginning in 1963 and ending in 1965. Like the previously mentioned series each Outer Limits' episode was a self-contained story. And what stories they were!

Beginning with Vic Perrin's unemotional opening narration you knew you were entering another world and going to see something unique, even brilliant. Perrin's opening ran as follows:

"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 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 Outer Limits was created by Leslie Stevens. He also wrote many of the episodes. Other writers included science fiction author Harlan Ellison and Joseph Stefano (the man responsible for the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's classic film Psycho).

Along with the writing, great mood and atmosphere were added by the music and black and white cinematography.

Dominic Frontiere did the theme song. Frontiere also did the scores for the 1960 TV series The Invaders and The Rat Patrol.

The cinematography was handled by Conrad Hall. Hall later did the cinematography for such famous films as Cool Hand Luke, In Cold Blood, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and American Beauty.

Episodes of The Outer Limits were eerie and often scary. Humans, aliens and monsters filled the tales, and the thought-provoking stories made you think of our own place in the universe. Many left the viewer with a sense of unease.

Since each episode was a tale of its own there were no repeating characters week after week. Both well-known and soon-to-be well-known actors and actresses appeared on the series. Included among them were Robert Duvall, David McCallum, Robert Culp, Cliff Robertson, Vera Miles, Martin Sheen, Sally Kellerman, William Shatner, Martin Landau and Leonard Nimoy.

The Outer Limits returned to TV in color episodes in 1995, running until 2002. But I still much prefer the original series, a series that is now available on DVD.

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