The Outer Limits

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The Outer Limits is a television series from the United States. In its original incarnation it ran for two seasons from 1963 to 1965 in black-and-white. It was revived in 1995 and ran for seven seasons until 2002. Similar in style to the earlier The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits is an anthology science fiction show in which each episode is a self-contained story with a plot twist.


The Outer Limits originally ran from 1963 to 1965 on the U.S. broadcast network ABC, and a total of 49 episodes. It was created by Leslie Stevens and was one of the many series ostensibly influenced by The Twilight Zone, though it was ultimately influential in its own right.

Writers included creator Stevens and Joseph Stefano (screenwriter for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho), the series' first-season producer and energetic guiding force. Harlan Ellison wrote two episodes (Soldier and the award-winning Demon with a Glass Hand) for the show's more cautious second season; Ellison later argued that both episodes were the inspiration for the Terminator film series, and indeed in the closing credits of the first movie the creators "wish to acknowledge the works of Harlan Ellison".


Like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits had an opening and closing narration to almost every episode -- known as the "Control Voice" (vocal artist Vic Perrin) -- and distinctive music, in this case by Dominic Frontiere. The pacing of the two shows, however, was completely different. The Twilight Zone was based on a surprise ending built up to in half an hour, while The Outer Limits was an hour long and dealt with ordinary people's reactions to the situation. The basis of each episode was a monster, referred to colloquially by the producers of the show as the bear. Usually there was an actor in a rubber mask and gloves, and wearing special "alien" clothing. Occasionally it was a prop or puppet, and in one episode the monster was created by stop-motion animation.

The Outer Limits was an anthology show and episodes are unrelated; they have no direct "sequels" or consistent characters. However, subtle recurring entities, such as the notable alien creatures seen in most episodes provided a thread of continuity. So did the fictional United Space Agency (a mix of experimental scientists, psychiatrists, and G-men), whose space suits, equipment and other props, set pieces, and models were reused from Men Into Space, a program paid for by the United States Air Force.

A few of the monsters reappeared in Gene Roddenberry's 1960s Star Trek show. A feathered creature was modified to appear as a zoo animal in the background of the first pilot of Star Trek. The moving carpet beast in "The Probe" later was used as the "Horta", and operated by the same actor. The process used to make pointed ears for David McCallum in one episode was reused in Star Trek as well.


After an aborted attempt to bring back The Outer Limits during the early eighties, it was finally reborn in 1995. The success of television science fiction such as Star Trek and Babylon 5 and anthology shows such as Tales from the Crypt convinced the rights-holders, MGM, to revive it. A deal was made with Trilogy Productions, the company behind such cinema hits as Backdraft and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and the show would run on the pay-tv channel Showtime. It continued on Showtime until 2001, when the U.S. Sci Fi channel quietly took over production. It remained in production until 2002 before finally being cancelled, after a total of 154 episodes — far more than the original incarnation of the show. In the revived show, the Control Voice was supplied by Kevin Conway.

Filmed in Canada, the show used many Canadian actors and featured many familiar faces from other successful science fiction TV shows:

In every season there is a clip show that connects the plots of several of the season's episodes (see "The Voice of Reason" for an example). The revived series contains more adult content than the original. Several DVD anthologies have been released: Sex & Science Fiction, Aliens Among Us, Death and Beyond, Fantastic Androids and Robots, Mutation and Transformation, Time Travel and Infinity.


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