Outer Limits – The Vaccine (04/03/98)

After a devastating plague which has destroyed 99.9% of humanity, Marie Alexander writes, “Journal Entry Day 91.  If not for the quarantine that was already in place when the disaster struck, we would surely be dead.”  Unexpectedly, a truck pulls into their compound.  A man in fatigues and a gas mask gets out of the truck and holds up a sign that says I HAVE VACCINE.

Yea!  The group of 13 survivors is saved!  Oh, wait — he only has 3 doses.  The soldier hands her the medicine and instructions for determining who should get the vaccine, written up by the government.  The criteria are:

  • Healthy adults 19 to 40
  • Adults able to reproduce
  • No adults with communicable diseases
  • Children not recommended
  • No adults with degenerative diseases
  • No physically or mentally handicapped adults
  • Adults that are physically fit

The catch is that they must wait 3 days for the vaccine to gestate before hey can use it.  In the mean time, they are running out of fuel and food.

This is a classic set-up that has suspense and character work practically baked into it.  Surprisingly for Outer Limits, the premise can’t save the episode.  It is just deadly dull.

Much as it pains me to admit it, the government’s criteria for choosing the vaccine’s recipients are pretty solid.  The casting decisions also make the choices not as difficult as they should have been.

Marie definitely must survive because she 1) meets the age criteria, 2) has valuable medical skillz, 3) is Maria Conchita Alonso. [1]  

They have a kid in the group.  He has another 7 – 15 years left before he reaches his reproductive years, depending on how big a dork he is.  Anything, including standard childhood diseases, could take him out.  We need babies now!  This should be an agonizing decision, but the episode just can’t make me care.

There is a bed-ridden old man who already had terminal cancer before the plague hit.  Why is he even there?  He is certainly not a candidate.  Why would they not make that character someone who possesses a skill vital in the short term?  Then you must weigh whether his immediate contributions are worth the fact that that he will die before reproducing.  Although he would be a happy guy dutifully knocking up as many women as possible before he goes.

There are a handful of other older people.  Again, they just aren’t part of the equation.  Their presence creates no drama or suspense beyond whether the Depends supply will hold out.

A young man named James is working as Marie’s de facto lieutenant.  He is good with the old people and with the kid.  He has been keeping the generator running.  When it is low on fuel, he risks his life to go siphon gas out of some nearby cars.  He is fit, smart, motivated and compassionate — a keeper.

There are a few warm (for now) bodies and then the two antagonists in the episode, Graham and Barb.  They are both disgraceful, self-centered jerks.  Graham can’t be trusted to work with the group, or stay with them.  He is young and fit, but appears to have no useful skills.  All of this also applies to Barb, but she has a uterus.

There’s your slate: Marie, James, Barb.

To be fair, Marie does have a plan for “passive inoculation.”  By choosing the recipients by blood type rather than the government criteria, it might be possible to save the others by transfusion — if they live that long.  This would mean giving the shots to Barb, the kid and an old woman.

Nice try, but that sounds a little iffy.  With those transfusions coming up, they need the doctor to be immunized.  Also, the government’s criteria “Children not recommended” could be interpreted as the vaccine being dangerous to them.  Through a pretty convenient switcheroo and some goofy science, the good guys live and the bad guys lose.

A rare missed OL opportunity.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] At 40 years old, she’s cutting it close.  That is Maria Conchita’s age, though, so the character is probably 25.
  • Graham looks amazingly like Brendan Fraser.
  • Barb looks amazingly like Fox Mulder’s sister.  But she’s played by the same actress, so . . .

Mini-Review:  mother! is the best movie I will never recommend to a single person.

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