Outer Limits – Tempests (03/07/97)

Another grossly inefficient spacecraft. But the floating chair is cool.

John Virgil is in the spaceship Tempest returning from Earth.  He has picked up a serum that he is taking back to his colony.  There have been a few deaths, but his wife and son appear fine on the video they sent.

He is joined by Burt Young.  His character Captain Parker is given no first name.  I assume, like every character Burt has ever played, it is Paulie.[1]  There is also Dr. Vasquez and Governor Mudry. They are preparing to drop out of the matrix, but do so too close to the planet Leviathan and get pulled into its gravity well. They have an immediate argument over who should get to use the emergency escape pod.  Parker and Virgil are pretty selfless unlike a certain roly-poly President I could name.  They want to send the doctor with the serum.  Naturally, the Governor has a gross over-estimation of her value.

Unfortunately, no one gets out before The Tempest crashes.  Everyone is roughed up, but Parker is in the worst shape.  He has a hematoma and a concussion and his brain will soon be too large for his skull, which is never something I expected to say about Burt Young.

Virgil goes outside to check the damage, but is attacked by a giant spider.  Not shelob-giant, but a meaty little package the size of 2.5 small dogs.  Understandably freaked out, he flees into the ship.  He is not too diligent about keeping the beast out, unlike a certain Warrant Officer I could name.  He collapses, then awakens in the hospital at the colony. His wife praises him for saving the colony.  Then — bang — he wakes up back on The Tempest.

The doctor says the 12-hour hallucination is due to a spider-bite. We can judge it for ourselves as the doctor didn’t feel the need to bandage the gaping 4 inch wound on Virgil’s arm.  Another spider got into the ship and found the Governor as scrumptious as she found herself.  It doesn’t have the cocooning skills of an Alien or me on a long weekend, but has webbed itself to her neck and is controlling her autonomic functions such as heart-rate and corruption.  It is an effective shot as she begs to have it removed.

Like Billy Pilgrim’s being unstuck in time, Virgil snaps back to the hospital.  His wife and the doctor tell him about the crash, but get a few details wrong.  He goes to Parker’s room.  Parker screams at Virgil to not leave him with the spiders and Virgil snaps back to The Tempest.  He continues flipping back and forth as we learn more about the condition of the ship.

It comes to the kind of grim, disturbing conclusion that the 1980s Twilight Zone could use more of.  The only downside is that it felt a little padded out.  I wish the producers had not been forced to make every episode the perfect length for future syndication.

Good stuff.


  • [1] Upon doing 30 seconds of research, I am shocked.  Burt Young only played a character named Paulie in the Rocky movies.  He sure seems like a Paulie in every movie.
  • Title Analysis:  Sure, it is the name of the ship, but I’m not sure what they were going for.  A tempest is a violent windstorm, which does not apply.  Or a violent commotion . . . maybe.  I see no connection to Shakespeare’s play.  And why is it plural?  I guess the spiders are the titular tempests, but why?
  • I initially thought Virgil was a play on Virtual.  Maybe it is — makes more sense than tempests.
  • Them pests!

One thought on “Outer Limits – Tempests (03/07/97)

  1. Of the rebooted Outer Limits, this was one of the best I saw. The first time I caught it, was like at two in the morning, alone, and drifting in and out of sleep myself. Maybe that upped the strangeness of the episode for me, as I was sort of like John Virgil, where I was going back and forth between reality and irreality.

    The powerfully hideous ending creeped me out big time. Like “Alien”, this episode is really horror with a sci-fi setting.

    As for the title “Tempests”, perhaps it alludes the havoc the spider venom is causing in Virgil’s mind. That makes the most sense to me.

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