Outer Limits – The Message (S1E17)

olmessage01Marlee Matlin, stretching her acting chops by playing a deaf woman, is “hearing” things despite the failure of her implants . . . no, hearing implants.

The next day, teaching her class of deaf kids, she begins hearing things again.  She frantically begins filling the chalkboard zeroes and ones and X’s.

She is taken to the hospital where she meets Larry Drake.  After playing a retarded man on LA Law for years, here he is a NASA engineer who fortuitously happens to be working as a janitor in the hospital.  Now that’s stretching your chops.

He identifies her writings as binary code despite the inclusion of lots of X’s.  He runs the code through his computer, and tells her it is a message.  Just as in Contact, it is a Primer for the rest of the message.

After Marlee inputs more code into a handheld device he gives her, he prints out pages that cover an entire wall.  Tracing through the X’s produces the space-porn from the Pioneer 10 spacecraft.  Alongside a picture of the alien.  The big, big alien.

Marlee’s husband gets home from a trip and is not thrilled to see his wife working with Larry on this project.  He also isn’t thrilled that they have put $900 on his credit card for capacitors and other electronic equipment that aliens have asked for.  I don’t know why capacitors were singled out unless the charge was from  Capacitors R Us; or that’s the only electrical component the writer had heard of thanks to Dr. Emmet Brown’s ground-breaking work on the flux capacitor.

She is upset that her husband doesn’t believe her, so goes to Larry’s place where they set up the equipment on his roof as per the alien’s instructions.  While getting an aspirin, she notices that he takes the same anti-psychotic drug they tried to give her.

olmessage06Marlee’s husband finally tracks them down and tries to stop them.  However, they are able to answer the alien’s plea by firing a blast from the space laser into the alien’s solar sail, enabling them to divert the craft from crashing into the sun.

So-so story, but well performed.


  • This is the 4th episode written by Brad Wright this season.
  • Larry Drake says the message is a palimpsest, but I don’t think he (or Brad Wright) knows what that means.
  • The husband was just kind of annoying here, but was great as Pusher in a couple of X-Files episodes.
  • Larry Drake was last seen in And All Through the House.
  • They seem a lot happier in the original Pioneer rendition:

“You idiot, I told you no one else would be naked.”

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