Outer Limits – Double Helix (03/28/97)

Well, we start off with a laugh as Dr. Martin Nodel walks in wearing what appears to be David Byrne’s big suit in charcoal gray.  I can imagine maybe the shoulders were a little padded in 1980s style, but the sleeves end mid-palm, so there was apparently a problem in wardrobe.

He asks his students if they consider themselves Darwinians [1].  There is a priest present among the students wearing his black suit and collar.  I’m not sure why he’s there; you might as well have a fireman sitting there. [2]  Nodel is researching junk DNA which he thinks could contain messages from God.  Others think it might be leftovers from evolutionary dead-ends such as gills or tails, which makes sense.  Nodel thinks it is there for future evolution which makes no sense.  I am on team-evolution, but it is not known for acting pro-actively as my back can attest.  To prove his theory, he has come up with a way to activate that DNA.

He has done the testing and I haven’t, so maybe he’s right.  He uncloaks an aquarium which contains a big fish with less space than those bowls used to torture beta-fish.  To the shock of the students, the bass lowers four legs and climbs on to a bit of dirt so that it now has less room than those pens used to torture veal.  I must say it was pretty effective, although not as much as if it had started singing Take Me to the River.  And Nodel had just the suit to join in.

Nodel has self-diagnosed himself with the markers of Wilson’s Disease, which I believe is known more colloquially as Soccer Balls.  Nodel injects himself.

He begins team-building stunts with his class.  He has the guys form a circle around a circle of the girls.  The girls then do a trust fall where they tip over backwards and trust the guys not to grab their boobs.  They then do the experiment where six of them lift a classmate using just their fingers, and are really trusting of the guys.  Nodel tells them they are going to be working in close quarters and will have to abandon all modesty.  He reminds them that they had already committed to having not had any surgery or bodily alterations.  The dude with the dopey pierced ears doesn’t seem to understand the question.  Oh yeah, then the professor says they all need to get naked.

They protest, but he insists he needs to examine them for birthmarks, scars and tattoos. Unsurprisingly, earring guy has a problem with this and bails.  The remaining students strip.  He notes one of the girls has a small tattoo, but upon closer examination, he decides it is tolerable.  He detects an appendectomy scar on another girl and boots her out because she is not a whole person as humans naturally evolved. He found no defects on any of the guys, so maybe he wasn’t checking them out as closely.

At home that night Nodel, worries that he is left with only 6 subjects when he needs eight. He suddenly cringes in pain.  He takes off his shirt and we see his horribly deformed back.  He realizes that the scars are actually a map.

The next day, he tells the students they are officially part of his research project.  He gives them a list of supplies to bring with them the next day.  I hope clean clothes are on the list because they all seem to be wearing the same clothes as yesterday.  WTH was the wardrobe department doing during this episode?

He is still two bodies short.  Fortuitously, his estranged son drops by with his strange girlfriend.  Nodel drives them out to the designated meeting place.  As they are exploring the area, they are surrounded by soldiers.

The soldiers lead the group to an underground facility housing a mysterious object.  Like Admiral Yamamoto, it has stayed in the same position since WWII.  Even digging out the ground below it will not cause it to fall.  The army figures it is 60 million years old. The object is too hard for them to even take a sample.  Nodel sees a triangular indentation on the object.  He pulls his glove off to reveal a similar triangular deformity on his palm.  The weird part is that the marking on the object has the point at the top.  When Noel presses his palm to it, his scar has the point at the bottom.  It should have been like a USB connection where he has to reverse it three times to get it to go in.

A blue light shoots out and raises Nodel like Jesus with his arms outstretched.  He speaks in the voice of the aliens.  They spread their their genetic material across the universe like a hotel bedspread to assure the continuation of their race. The object is a vessel to take the group back “home” so the aliens can see how we growed up. NASA can’t keep track of its moon rocks and home movies for 40 years [3], and they’re expecting these aliens to have a welcoming committee after 65 million?

Like Roy Neary, with no regard for their safety, they board the ship and leave behind family, friends and student loans without a thought.

Pretty straightforward, but dang if it didn’t reel me in like it always does.


  • [1] It is kind of Jesus-fishy that Darwin had a name so ripe for turning into a noun.  Wallacerians would never have taken off.  See also, Alexander Graham Bell.
  • [2] Of course, he is there for shots of him grimacing as Nodel talks about evolution. It is just strange that he appears with the students, and not with the administrators that come in later.
  • [3] Or so they would have us believe.

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