Outer Limits – A Special Edition (07/25/97)

From my Voice of Reason post:  Sometimes I wish I had an editor.  The downside, of course, is that I would be fired immediately.  But it would be nice to be able to ask someone, “C’mon this is a clip-show, do I really have to do a post?”  I would happily skip it with permission, but my completist philosophy forces me to watch it.

Whereas Voice of Reason assembled a diverse group of both white men and white women, this episode goes one better and has four clones of the same white guy kick off the action.  They are parked conspicuously about 15 degrees off-kilter in a hotel parking lot waiting for newsman Donald Rivers.  The crusading journalist, the progres-sive savior of the oppressed, the afflictor of the comfortable, [3] the champion of the underdog,  outsmarts them by sending a homeless guy in his coat & hat out to be killed in his place while he sneaks down the back stairs.

Rivers takes a cab to the studio where he anchors The Whole Truth.  For this very special broadcast, they are going live.  The script is loaded into the teleprompter, back-up generators are in place, studio doors are locked down, and most importantly Rivers makes sure his make-up is perfect and tells the camera-man he wants lots of close-ups.
His producer Sandra [1] counts down.  The opening of the show, backed by a musical score, teases the big story to come.  Rivers voices over, “DNA, genetic engineering, cloning.  The daily advances in bio-technology are almost overwhelming, but what does it mean for our lives and where will it ultimately lead us?”  OK, so he has a blockbuster story about aliens, government conspiracies, the military-industrial complex, eugenics, immortality, and genocide — and his tease could have been from a 1957 episode of Nova [2] ?  Rivers just doesn’t understand ratings.

After congratulating the network for their courage in airing the episode, Rivers goes to Exhibit A, Last Supper.  He describes the horrifying tests performed on a young woman to find the secret of her immortality. Rivers runs a “dramatization” of those events which is pretty amazing since he only gave his producer the script minutes before.  Sadly, the segment does not include the part where Fred Savage hooks up with a girl his father banged 30 years earlier.  Rivers just doesn’t understand ratings.

After a commercial, Rivers introduces his source.  The informant, in shadows, is a molecular biologist from the Pentagon who claims the government is trying to “change the course of human genetic development.”  He has no beef with research into human longevity, but says the government didn’t plan on sharing that discovery with the riff-raff (i.e. him & me).  Exhibit B concerns reversing necrosis — reanimating the dead — as seen in New Lease.

Outer Limits is a little boxed in on these type of clip shows because they can’t use any episode set in the future, can’t use any episode that ended with the earth being destroyed (Trial by Fire!) or humanity being permanently altered, and it must fit within the theme of the clip show.  I guess that is why they had to reach all the way back to Blood Brothers (S1E3) for Exhibit D.

Rivers interrupts his own show to tell viewers that the show’s parent company is giving a press conference airing on some of his affiliates.  The corporate spokes-weasel says they do not control Rivers’ show and they are appalled by the sensationalism.  She says his informant is mentally ill and, “The name of his show not withstanding, he is only interested in ratings.”

What?  Didn’t I debunk that already?  Keep up, lady!  This network’s knee-jerk defense of the government and lack of curiosity is, of course, ludacris.  Well, except for 2009 – 2016.  Welcome back!

As affiliates start dropping out, Rivers brings his informant out into the light — hey, it’s Byers from The Lone Gunmen!  He is using the alias Avery Strong, but I’d know him anywhere!  In a masterstroke of economic storytelling, Exhibit E in this clip show is a scene from the first season clip show Voice of Reason, which reveals that Randall Strong, the informant in that episode, was Avery Strong’s brother.

What finally prompted Avery to go public — other than his family’s genetic disposition to be tattle-tales — was seeing alien DNA injected into a human.  We get another “drama-tization” from Exhibit F, Afterlife.  A soldier was painfully transformed into an alien. Stretching the boundaries of clip show technology, they even graft Avery into that earlier episode.

Avery’s unified theory is that the government is creating clones which they can control.  These look-alike clones will then be used to replace world leaders and other powerful individuals.  For Exhibit G, they completely wreck the time-space continuum by using a clip from a future episode, season four’s In Another Life.  They have invented the self-spoiling spoiler, so I have to fast-forward past that segment.

When I rejoin the program, power in Rivers’ studio has gone out.  As Feds pound on the door, Avery and Rivers grab the evidence and run.  We follow as the episode turns hand-held.  They end up in the Whole Truth news van.

The last Exhibit is from Dark Rain showing thousands of mutant cloned babies.  Avery shot that footage himself.  Rivers announces that they are going to that facility now.  There is a fine twist.  The repetitive stacking up of the evidence actually contributes to the denouement rather than just being a cheap dramatic device.  The episode was hurt a little by the necessary lack of a score.  As it swells over the ending, it really sells the twist.

Playing a news-reader or DJ on TV seems to be nearly impossible to do well.  DJs in particular are nearly always dreadful.  I have to give credit to Alan Thicke (Rivers).  I might not have watched Rivers’ show (or any of Thicke’s for that matter), but he did an excellent, credible job as the anchorman.  I even kind of secretly like clip shows, and they at least tried a couple of new ideas here.  The last few minutes even rise to a Trial by Fire level of quality.

A Special Edition was no Special Bulletin, but it was pretty good.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] In a bizarre choice, Sandra wears an almost comically short skirt.  It’s not like she is a floozy — she is a 39 year old professional woman.  She’s attractive, but not eye-candy for the episode.  Weird, man.  Maybe that’s what the producers at FOX News look like.
  • [2] OK, PBS was created in 1970, and Nova began in 1974.  Wait, the evil Richard Nixon allowed this to happen?  Next you’ll be telling me the EPA began on his watch.
  • [3] As in “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”.  Which is complete bullshit.  How about honestly reporting the story?

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