Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Outer Limits - Season One, Episode Twenty-Nine - A Feasibility Study - Original Air Date, April 13, 1964

"There is nothing wrong with your television set ..."

I was pretty certain I had seen every original Outer Limits episode, but for some reason this title didn't bring any images to mind.  But I do have to admit that this is one of the creepiest episodes of The Outer Limits that I've seen.  This episode stars Sam Wanamaker, Phyllis Love, Joyce Van Patten and David Opatoshu.  It's produced and written by Joseph Stefano and directed by Byron Haskin, with music by Dominic Frontiere.

The story begins as an alien spaceship enters the Earth's orbit and teleports an entire neighborhood to the alien's home planet "Luminos" in order to conduct an experiment.  The "Luminoids" are seeking new civilizations to serve as slave labor for their planet.  If the experiment is successful, the entire population of the planet is doomed to be enslaved.

Ralph Cashman (Opatoshu) starts his day with a shot of booze and half a pretzel, and it's off to the office (I think it's actually Sunday) to put in a few hours of work.  After stepping outside for the morning paper, his wife Rhea (Van Patten) tells him about a strange mist outside.  What they don't know is that the mysterious mist and the ominous cloud filled sky that blocks out most of the sunlight conceal strange beings from another planet who are observing the humans. 

Ralph notices his neighbor, Dr. Simon Holm (Wanamaker), having some car trouble and offers to give him a ride into town and drop him off at church.  Ralph sends his wife over to check out the engine problem ("She's one of those housewives who can fix anything") and she quickly discovers the reason.  Ralph drops Holm off and drives into the mist but stops when the visibility becomes too bad to continue.  And in true classic sci-fi style, when things start to go wrong, instead of staying in the relative safety of the vehicle he exits the auto and stumbles into the choking cloud to be pursued by the alien creatures.

When Simon changes his mind about going to church and returns to his house and his wife Andrea (Love), they encounter one of the strange beings.  After realizing what's happening the humans gather together in a church to make a final stand against the alien threat.

With special effects similar to those of a low budget sci-fi film (including a spaceship that looks like a salt shaker on steroids), but probably very costly for a television series at that time, the sets and costumes though relatively cheap looking are very effective.  The director's use of lighting and camera angles give the episode a kind of nightmarish quality that sticks with you.

Lots of people try to compare The Outer Limits with The Twilight Zone, and some prefer one over the other.  I sat here for a while and tried to decide which I liked better and it's really a tough call.  I can't really say one series is better than the other.  They both have some remarkable episodes.  The Outer Limits has some stand-out episodes like The Sixth Finger,  I, Robot and The Zanti Misfits.  While The Twilight Zone has classic episodes like The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, The Shelter, and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.  And both series have a few episodes that maybe just aren't as fun or entertaining to watch (I'm trying to refrain from using the word bad because I don't think either series has any really bad episodes).  Both have incredible writers and storylines and both have pretty good special effects.  Please feel free to leave some comments and let me know which series you prefer, and the titles of some of your favorite episodes ...

"Feasibility study ended ...  Abduction of human race ? ..."  You'll have to watch and find out.

Control of your viewing device has now been returned to you ...


  1. I remember this one, Dave! It was good. I agree that you can't really compare Zone with Limits. They are too different. I like them both!

    1. Becky -

      For some reason I don't remember seeing this episode ever before. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And you're right, it's really tough to compare the two series (though a lot of people do try).

  2. A nice selection for a review of an OUTER LIMITS episode. I agree that Stefano et al got a lot of mileage out of a modest budget. In addition to the ones you mentioned, I'm an admirer of DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND (which I reviewed on my blog), THE INHERITORS, and ZZZZ.

  3. Rick -

    "Demon With a Glass Hand" is one of the all time classic TOL episodes (I'll have to look up your post). I'm sure budget was more of a concern with THE OUTER LIMITS than with THE TWILIGHT ZONE since all of TOL episodes were twice the length of most of the TZ episodes.