Outer Limits – Feasibility Study (07/11/97)

Sometimes I will accuse an episode of setting up a story that is never told.  Usually, my complaint is because the other story would have been an improvement over the bile left on the screen. Tonight, however, I am happy to see the alt-plot take off on a motorcycle not to be seen again for 40 minutes.

Sarah Hayward brings her boyfriend Nicky home to meet her father.  Pop is not crazy about the motorcycle-riding hooligan.  The good news for him and the viewers is that they will never see each other again.  What could have been another angsty teen drama with a sprinkling of sci-fi is pared down to its SF essence.  Mr. Hayward convinces Nicky to slow down their relationship and sends him away.  While calling Sarah from a phone booth, Nicky sees Sarah’s neighborhood scooped up from the earth like Jouret IV  [1] and get transported away.

Hayward is returning from a run when he is caught by his neighbor Pat Dooley.  Despite being neighbors for three years, they’ve never spoken.  Within seconds, Dooley is blabbing his life story about his wife’s death from cervical cancer, and asking for a ride to work, thus illustrating why people don’t talk to their neighbors.  Hayward gets the last laugh by transporting Dooley to work after not taking a shower because the utilities are off.

Another set of strangers neighbors is having breakfast.  Dickish attorney Daniel Tenzer is established as a tool early on.  He pictures himself a tough-guy because of his prowess in the court-room.  Their phones are out and his too-good-for-him wife suggests he ask to use a neighbor’s. He says then they will think he owes them a favor.

Dooley and Hayward begun their drive to the city.  They soon encounter a shimmering barrier across the road which blocks their passage, however, they are thrilled to now be living in a gated community. The camera pulls back to show the neighborhood now sits atop a spire on an alien world.  Tenzer pulls up in his Mercedes and is literally about as useful as a lawyer in an apocalypse.  I’ll say this for him, though, he is smarter than Dooley who gets handsy with the barrier and is sucked into it.

Sarah sneaks out of the house in a fabulous ensemble topped off by a beret.  In the woods, she is grabbed by a blue alien with barnacles on his head.  She screams and he says, “I know I look horrible.  It is the disease.”  He is an alien, so what is the symptom that he thinks scared her?  The blue skin, the webbed fingers, the cthulhu tentacles, the barnacles?  He is an alien, for crying out loud — how does he think she knows what his “normal” is?  To his credit, though, he did not scream at the sight of her nose-ring.

He says most of his people are dead, that it is something in the air.  He explains that they are both are in the same predicament.  They have been brought to this moon by the Triunes. He says “you have machines that protect you” as he fondles her headphones.  He asks for her help.  Boy, is he in the wrong neighborhood.

Like Maple Street when the titular monsters were due, the neighbors meet in the street.  Hayward suggests pooling their resources, but they aren’t crazy about that idea. When the neighborhood security guard shows him Sarah’s backpack, he asks for help finding her.  Again, no takers.  Tenzer says they have their own families to worry about.

Blue-Boy leads Sarah through a breach in the barrier.  Although an earlier shot suggested they should be falling to their death, they arrive in a rocky desert wasteland.  Scattered around are his dead, fully barnacled “people”, all in red garments. Strangely, there are 5-foot towers of rocks with red material tied around them.  At first I thought his people had turned into these stones, but no.  It took me a minute to figure out that they must be elaborately stacked cairns with a ribbon of the deceased’s clothing.  It amazes me that most TV is such crap that a little thing like this is awesome.  Kudos on leaving this for the viewer to figure out!

But then the tone-deafness returns.  Blue-Boy again refers to Sarah’s Walkman as a “medical device” that will protect her.  That’s a fun idea, although, why the hell would he jump to that conclusion?  But the boneheadedness is in the branding.  The unit clearly says WALKMAN [2], which was a product made by Sony.  OK, TV likes to hide brand names unless they are getting paid for it, so Sony is replaced by fake company MD. Blue-Boy calls it a medical device — MD.  Hunh?  Is that a coincidence?  Did he call it a medical device because it said MD?  How did this gargoyle who never saw a human before learn to read English?  Plus, when he referenced it earlier, he motioned toward her headset — the unit with the MD logo was hidden on her belt.  I am utterly baffled by this.

While Hayward and the security guard are looking for Sarah, they find Dooley is back from the other side.  He says the aliens examined him, but he seems to have not gotten the standard anal probe.  He tells Hayward that they are no longer on earth and seems oddly chipper about it.  Hayward hears Sarah’s voice and goes through the barrier to find her.  Unfortunately, he is diverted to the examination room where he gets the full Dooley.

The aliens tell him the neighborhood was brought to their world to test human’s feasibility as slaves.  The aliens assure him humans “will enjoy the usual perquisites of slavery” which I guess are room and board; although interstellar slaves miss out on the fabulous sea cruise. If humans are the first species to survive their atmosphere, the aliens will come pick up a few million more.  This group is the Swedish Meatballs at the end of the CostCo aisle.

Hayward proposes to his neighbors that they all infect themselves so the aliens believe humans can’t survive their atmosphere, thus saving the earth.  He takes his daughter’s hand to infect himself.  The preacher takes Hayward’s other hand.  Another man takes his free hand and Mrs. Tenzen joins in probably just to get away from her husband.  It’s a nice kumbaya visual, but unless this disease conducts like lightning, and about that fast, I don’t think this daisy-chain approach would work.

Meanwhile back on earth, Nicky returns to look at the big hole in the ground.  I wonder if he is silently thanking Hayward for saving him, you know, from marriage.

Another fine episode.

Other:

  • [1] Although The Best of Both Worlds is two of the best hours in TV history, I was always disappointed we never got to see the Borg city-scooping in that episode or any other.  And what was the point of it, anyway?  The Borg wanted bodies and technology.  How did scooping up a city fulfill those needs?  Maybe they will show us on Star Trek: Discovery, but I won’t see it — I will NEVER pay for TV other than VHS, DVDs, Blu-Rays, cable, NetFlix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.  NEVER, I tells ya!
  • [2] Does anyone under 25 even know what these were?  They were like early iPods . . . does anyone under 30 even know what they were?  They played cassettes . . . does anyone even know what they were?  They were like tiny reel-to-reels . . . does anyone even know . . . feeling old now.  BTW, this is the 2nd 1997 Outer Limits episode where a cute blonde girl listening to rock & roll was expected to save the world.  Is there anything they can’t do?
  • There is a preacher in the episode played by an actor named French Tickner.  I wonder if he ever had a nickname.

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