Outer Limits – The Awakening (03/14/97)

Dr. Molstad is showing a journalist [1] around his clinic where he studies people who have no emotions.  A little girl is licked by a puppy and doesn’t want to wash up.  A little boy is treated to a concert by a piccolo-playing clown and isn’t screaming in terror.  Molstad says they have Alexithymia, which is an actual condition.

Joan Harrison [2] interrupts to show them a hostage situation on TV.  Beth Carter, one of Molstad’s patients, is being used as a human shield by a robber.  SWAT saves the taxpayers the cost of a trial.  Beth Carter is led away not just emotionless, but completely devoid of any reaction or interest in her endangerment, the man’s life or if he got blood on her sweater.  She doesn’t give a damn that the criminal died, so in this case her stoicism is appropriate.

Back at the clinic, Molstad tells Beth he has a huge potential break-through in her therapy.  And by therapy, he means implanting an emotion chip in her brain because he has seen how that always worked out well for Data on Star Trek TNG.  He tells her she is the perfect test case for the implant.  Well, yeah — what is she going to do, say she’s scared to have the operation?  Perfect!  He assures her this test could help millions of sufferers.

As they observe, Beth eats lunch and watches TV after the operation. There seems to be no change at all. Then Molstad sees her eyeing the TV remote.  “She wants to change the channel.  She’s bored with it, dissatisfied.”  I feel her pain.  He is ecstatic as she changes the channel. “She expressed a desire!”

Three months later, Joan takes Beth into her home.  They work on her hair, her wardrobe and have some chamomile tea.  Soon she is back at work.  After her first day, she excitedly rushes home to tell Joan about it.  Joan is not there, however, and Beth begins hearing noises and voices.  She faints, but comes around in time to go with Joan to their cute neighbor Kevin’s boat.

She later hears the voices again.  This time, however, something grabs her hand and she finds Joan’s cat dead on the doorstep.  As she is fleeing the apartment, she sees a giant green alien in the living room.

Molstad says the emotion chip is a failure.  Considering Beth’s emotional reaction to that assessment, he is either right or wrong and I firmly stand by that conclusion.  That night Kevin cooks her dinner and pours her wine.  As they start to get more horizontal, she again sees the aliens and they drag her away to their spaceship for a different kind of probe.  Or maybe the same kind.[3]

When she reports this, Molstad is adamant that the experiment is a failure. As he is calling the 24-brain surgeon to give her a Rosemary Kennedy, she flees the clinic.  She runs back to Joan’s apartment which is the first place they would look, but where else does she have?  She sees Joan’s cat is still alive.  Then she sees Kevin’s apartment is just a storage closet (and BTW, she apparently teleports into the room without him seeing her).  After Kevin leaves, she checks out his typical bachelor pad . . . no furniture, junk everywhere, pizza boxes, alien costumes, brightly lit mock-UFO interior.

Kevin and Joan come back and Beth sees them smooching.  She over-hears them discussing how they were gaslighting her because they had developed a rival emotion chip that could be worth billions.  She grabs the operating table from the UFO and rams Kevin and Beth right out the window.  It is laughable that the table was fast enough and had the mass to push two adults to their death.  On the other hand, it was satisfying and pretty awesomely shot.  Beth’s reaction is no reaction.

Molstad diagnoses her as returning to her previous state, so she escapes any punishment.  In his office, he tells her that the chip is dormant and will do no harm.  She goes back to Joan’s place because when you kill someone, you get to live in their apartment.

The ending is as much a construct as the fake UFO set.  Beth is alone in Joan’s apartment stroking Joan’s cat with that same blank expression.  Then she slowly gives us a big smile.  OK, maybe she faked the relapse to avoid punishment.  But why was she keeping up the ruse alone with cat?  And by faking, she has cost Molstad — who actually was a good guy — his chance at fame and fortune.  Oh, and those millions of Alexithymia sufferers Molstad mentioned?  Yeah, they shouldn’t get too excited about a cure any time soon . . . even if they could. [4]

The episode started losing me as it got a little sappy.  Also, Beth in her emotionless state was unconvincing.  However, she was perfectly fine after getting the chip.  It was also interesting to see a young Curtis Manning from 24 as Kevin.  Not a great outing, but this show seems to have a natural floor — it can never be any worse than just OK.

Tomorrow: Science Fiction Theatre, which I also think can never get any worse.


  • [1] The actress has an almost Garrett Morris level of ability to find just the wrong inflection in any sentence.
  • [2] LA Law’s Michelle Green in a role that just screams for Teryl Rothery.
  • [2] Khaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnn!
  • [3] Er, he actually kind of admits to date-raping her and Joan is mostly OK with it.
  • [4] After news of this ruse hits, the rival chip maker will be crippled by fines and lawsuits.  Who am I kidding?  They will pay a fine equal to 1% of their Net Income, no one will go to jail, and a few Senators will have new swimming pools.
  • Half the same plot and 9/10ths the same title as Awakenings.

The Hitchhiker – The Legendary Billy B (03/31/87)

It wasn’t much of a twist, but way to blow it in the opening credits.

It is almost a certainty that an episode centered around a rock band or rock musician will be as dreadful as most episodes with a Christmas theme.  That Outer Limits episode with Sheena Easton was tolerable because it was The Outer Limits and had Sheena Easton.  The Christmas episodes have to be mawkish or show that miracles do come true. In the rock & roll episodes, the miracle is that anyone on-screen cares about the god-awful music or the repulsive artists.  Even trying to introduce a edgy vibe by using someone like Henry Rollins or Iggy Pop usually serves only to demonstrate how utterly vacuous and laughable they are.

Kirstie Alley and Andy Summers are hiding outside a house spying on a couple coupling like a couple of rabbits.  It seems like a fairly mundane story until Summers recognizes the girl as being the man’s sister.  Kirstie is giddy — this will finally catapult her to the big time!  Publicizing people’s most intimate moments can only lead to fortune and a long career as the fine people at Gawker can tell us.

When the story and pictures are published, Kirstie shows her excitement by buying a fake fur coat.  Summers is a little more sympathetic, showing her a new headline, “Actor’s Wife Takes Life After Illicit Love Nest Exposed.”  Her main concern is that another magazine is stealing her story.  She does calm down again when Summers reveals he has been sneaking pictures of the titular Legendary Billy B. who is supposed to be dead.

Summers tells her, “Billy B. was one of the original acid rockers, the greatest American guitarist pre-Hendrix, the big rock sex god after Elvis and before Jim Morrison.” Unlike the other three dumb-asses, his death was not self-inflicted by drugs — he was shot on stage 20 years ago. And unlike two of those three, he seems to be alive.

Kirstie is ready to get the scoop and ruin his retirement, but Summers is again the voice of reason.  He was just stalking Billy B. for his own amusement; a defense which has never worked for me.   She talks him into making it a story.  They go to his house and jump the wall.  Kirstie mentions how Billy B. appeared only 25 in Summers’ pictures, but he should be in his fifties.  Summers says rock & roll keeps you young.  To be fair, in 1987 he had no way of knowing what Keith Richards would look like in 2017.[1]

They break into the house and hear guitar riffs that could only be coming from Billy B. They follow them to the 2nd floor which smells like “beer and piss and vomit.”  They follow some flashing lights up to the 3rd floor.  They catch Billy B. playing the guitar.  He stops and says, “Glad you could make it.”

When Kirstie suggests a comeback, he tells her, “I’m not exactly one of those forgotten cult heroes, you know.  If I can still make you shiver on record, I’m not forgotten am I? Don’t it make you shiver just to hear my music?  Don’t you just want to rip your clothes off when see me?  I don’t ask, I don’t say anything.  I just play.  That is what it means to be a rockstar.”

Summers busts him for giving the exact same inane response he gave a reporter 20 years earlier.  His other dopey answers are also rehashes of old interviews.  They want some new material, so Summers challenges Billy B. to play more than a simple riff.  When he seems unable, they peg him as a phony.  He pulls a gun on them. Summers proves to be quite agile as he leaps through a glass window, then jumps from the 2nd story.  Sadly he is killed by Red or Sonny or whatever Billy B.’s lackey is named.

Kirstie is able to run downstairs (Note to self: Be nice!).  On the first floor, she hears more guitar riffs, although these are not as terrible as the others.  She finds the real, more age-appropriate, Billy B., but he is unresponsive.

She increases his IV to a VI, but that doesn’t do much other than get him shaking.  Young Billy B. shows up with Red or Sonny.  Young Billy B. admits he is actually the son of Billy B.  This is not much of a shocker as the opening credits listed “Brad Dourif as Billy Baltimore Jr.”  They inject Kirstie with something and hook her up to an IV just like Billy Baltimore Sr.  For what reason, I have no idea.

The extent to which this episode is redeemable depends on how much you like Kirstie Alley.  As it happens, I like her, so she mitigated the awfulness.  I can imagine her over-the-top performance would grate on many people.  Despite being a musician, Andy Summers seems like a decent guy.  His acting isn’t up there with Roger Daltrey’s, but he was a nice addition.[2]  Overall, though, it is just another mediocre music episode in an often lackluster series.


  • [1] Although credit is due for being alive at all.
  • [2] FYI, Sting is an asshole.
  • In 6 months, Kirstie Alley would begin her run on Cheers. Sadly, I don’t think she did much running after that (Note to self: Nicer than that).
  • I saw no opportunity for a Kobayashi Maru reference.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Banquo’s Chair (05/03/59)

The episode opens with the same type of pointlessly specific title cards that Hitchcock aficionados will recognize from Psycho.  Blackheath . . . near London . . . October 23, 1903 . . . 7:20 PM.

Inspector Brent is making a call on Major Cook-Finch.  Brent asks to see Cook’s dining room and to speak to his “man” Lane.  Brent’s plans are as meticulous as the title cards, as he dictates everything from the seating arrangement to the position of the gas valve. The Shakespearean actor Robert Stone arrives.  Before the actor can have an hysterical tantrum about leaving England if George V takes the throne, Brent explains the haps.

There was a murder 2 years ago in this house.  The suspected murderer, John Bedford, is the guest of honor.  He was the sole heir to his Aunt Mae’s estate, but had an alibi. Inspector Brent has devised a plan where an actress will appear to be the ghost of Aunt Mae.  She appears during the pheasant and Bedford blurts out a confession.  They read him the Miranda Warning [1] and haul him off to gaol.

This episode uses one of the oldest tropes on TV — the pseudo-supernatural event that is staged, and occurs despite the unexpected absence of the perpetrators.  Not only is this lazier than I expect from AHP, it breaks with their tradition of non-supernatural episodes.  I can think of only one previously.

And it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock?

Not only that, but it ran laughably short.  Hitchcock’s vignettes seemed longer than usual, but the closing credits really showed the padding.  My God, they just went on and on. The make-up and gaffer credits were on the screen so long their mothers were saying, “Get on with it already!”  The union called and said, “We’re satisfied, let’s move on!”.  The theme was repeated countless times.  Really an off week for AHP.


  • [1] I didn’t realize this was a thing outside the US, much less in 1903. Although, back then it referred to Carmen Miranda and was a warning to wash fruit before eating it.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  According to IMDb, Kenneth Haigh (John Bedford) is listed as still alive at 88. But I have to wonder who notifies them in case of death.
  • Banquo is a reference to a character in Macbeth, and not Spanish for Bank as I thought.
  • For an in-depth look at the episode and the original work it was based on, check out bare*bonez e-zine.  Spoiler:  He liked it a lot more than me.

Twilight Zone – To See the Invisible Man (01/31/86)

Mitchell Chaplin has been found guilty of the crime of coldness — not opening up his emotions to his fellow citizens.  Frankly, with Jerry Springer, Dr. Phil, reality TV and dumb-bell bloggers, today I would give him a medal; but clearly this is meant to be a dystopia. [1]  Witnesses have described him as cold and uncaring, so he is sentenced to one year of invisibility.  Holy smoke do I love this premise — please don’t turn it into another sappy Hallmark segment!

The state puts a mark on his forehead which renders him invisible.  Because of his coldness, he defiantly exclaims, “This is nothing to me!”  Outside, a man is looking at some papers and walks into him.  Once he sees the mark, he disregards Chaplain.

It took me a while — in fact, stupidly, way past this point — to realize the invisibles are not literally invisible.  I had to delete a lot of, frankly, Nobel Prize-caliber bon mots.  When people see the mark, they are just required to ignore the markee.

Chaplain goes to a cafeteria.  He orders the roast, but the server can’t “see” him. Chaplin decides to make this a self-serve line as he leaps over the counter, steals the server’s hat, and begins serving himself.  When Chaplain sits down at a family’s table, their kid finally does acknowledge him.  His mother admonishes him.  Maybe this was when I realized he wasn’t truly invisible.

Later, he goes “shopping” at a liquor store.  As usual, government regulation has screwed small merchants who must watch their merchandise walk out the door with these misanthropes.  He encounters another invisible with the same mark.  There is a uncomfortable moment when they seem desperate to communicate, but do not when they see a drone monitoring them.  This is a busy location — he sees 3 women come out of a women’s spa and they completely ignore him.  I feel your pain, pal.

On the other hand — women’s spa! He goes in and heads for the sauna. Sadly this was not on Showtime because he finds 6 women naked in a Jacuzzi and many others sitting around in towels.

This is even more dickish than it seems as he is not literally invisible. Despite the dictates of the state, these women subtly acknowledge his presence.  It is not a cartoonish hysteria, but a quiet silence and humiliation as they group together and speak softly, supporting each other.  This is genuinely effective stuff.  I might never watch Porky’s every week the same way again.  Even Chaplain is ashamed of his violation, and backs out of the door.

After 105 days of this desolation, Chaplain finally communicates with someone.  A blind man in the cafeteria sits at his table and begins talking.  A waitress busts him and tells the blind man that he is an invisible.  There must be some stiff penalty because the blind man is very shaken and quickly leaves the table.

At the 6 month point, he goes to a comedy club.  The comedian immediately shuns him as an invisible.  That must be some brutal punishment for just acknowledging invisibles. Would he be tortured?  He leaves the club and sees an invisible woman.  He begs her to talk to him, but she refuses to risk lengthening her sentence.  Chaplain finally breaks down in tears.

At day 229, he is walking at night and sees a couple of guys stealing a car.  They ignore him when they see the invisibility mark — that law they seem to respect.  Boy, what could the punishment be for “seeing” him? Water-boarding?  I’ll bet it’s water-boarding.  The thugs steal the car, spin around and purposely pursue Chaplain to run him down.  Being an invisible, the hospital will not treat him.

Day 365 — the state comes and removes the invisibility mark. Chaplain is a changed man.  He is friendly and caring with his co-workers, even the homely ones.  Apparently the state also requires that you are re-hired after your sentence.

As he is leaving work, the same invisible woman from before, still under her sentence, approaches him.  She begs him for simple acknowledgement.  They have constructed this very well, and it is heart-breaking.  As she is pleading, however, I started thinking the actress really wasn’t selling the scene — it had the potential to be devastating.  This was curious; why wouldn’t she . . . then my heart kind of sank.

They just couldn’t let the story go where it wanted to go.  This could have been a masterpiece ending.  But no, TZ again retreated to the Lifetime-Hallmark industrial complex.  Rather than getting a gut-wrenching performance from the actress [2], and rather than allowing that Chaplain still had some basic human flaws (i.e. there was no magic solution), and rather than allowing that the bad guys sometimes win . . . it ends with a big ol’ hug.

Even worse, this undermines the entire premise.  The drones monitoring her issue a warning for him to back off, or at least get a room.  A warning?  That’s what has people scared to death of even making eye-contact?  A warning?  That’s your dystopia?

Still, the rest of the segment is so good, it gets a solid A.


  • [1] How is dystopia still not in spellcheck?  Did we learn nothing from Hunger Games?  Except to not make the head of a reality show the president.  So yeah, nothing.
  • [2] I saw a slightly similar scene done right on the great underrated series Nowhere Man 20 years ago, and it still gives me chills to think about it.
  • Classic TZ Connection:  Superficially similar to The Silence and A Kind of Stopwatch for the theme of isolation.
  • Tortured Connection:  The previous segment was written by Ray Bradbury who wrote I Sing the Body Electric for the 1960s TZ.  This segment was directed by Noel Black who directed a TV movie based on I Sing the Body Electric.
  • Rainbow Connection.

Twilight Zone – The Elevator (01/31/86)

At a svelte 11 minutes, I’m not getting 500 words out of this one.  But that’s not a bad thing, as readers of this blog can attest.

Two brothers are curious what their father has been up to late nights at an old ware-house, although it only seems to require two nights per year.  They know he was doing some sort of experiments to produce cheap, plentiful food.

Inside, they find huge dead rats, then huge dead cats, then the titular elevator.

There is virtually no characterization, no story, no irony, no twist, no arc.  It raises a warehouse of questions that are never addressed.  And yet I really like it.  It is creepy and suspenseful.  The score doesn’t torpedo the segment as frequently happens on TZ.

It is just one of those short TZ time-fillers, but this one happens to work.

Good stuff.


  • Classic TZ Legacy:  Ray Bradbury wrote one episode.  This simple segment didn’t require a writer of his talent.  Luckily they did not use this on Ray Bradbury Theater.
  • The director of this segment also helmed one episode of RBT.
  • The actors portraying the brothers are 7 years difference in age and look every bit of it.  In a flashback, however, they both look about the same age as kids.