The Outer Limits – Mary 25 (05/29/98)

Innobotics has gotten stagnant.  That’s why Charlie Bouton has been searching for new opportunities.  Today he is giving a presentation about his newest product.  He brings out the beautiful Mary 25 which looks a lot like the earlier “companion robot” Valerie 23, but is redesigned to be a nanny.  Because what new mom, just home from the hospital, wouldn’t want a flawless young, athletic 25 year old nanny in a form-fitting uniform whose prototype was a sex-bot moving in with her and her husband?  The board thinks the project is too risky because the Valerie 23 went haywire.  Charlie says he will test her out with his own family.  The risk to his noggin by his wife, who was not consulted, does not seem to be a concern to them.

Charlie goes home and tells his wife Teryl they will have a guest for dinner the next few years.  Within 30 seconds of entering the house, he fires the dumpy current nanny.  The next morning, Charlie’s hunky associate Milburn Ross delivers Mary to the house.  She gets along with the kids, so he heads back to the office.  Milburn, who had an affair with Teryl long ago, stays behind to observe.  The grammatically-challenged Milburn asks, “Why didn’t you ever return my calls?  Or wrote me a note?”

That night, Teryl suggests Mary’s programming might need some work.  Charlie belts her.  He walks out and sees Mary “checking her lubrication system” which looks a lot like giving herself a breast exam.  Charlie asks if Melburn left the old Valerie 23 subroutines in place.  She says she no longer has that programming.  Luckily, however, her AI makes her a fast learner.  Charlie begins making out with her, and is seen by Teryl.

When Teryl gets home the next night, Mary is acting very strangely, keeping the kids separated so they don’t fight.  When Teryl objects, Mary chokes her until Charlie uses a remote to shut her down.  When Teryl suggests Mary might not be ready for production yet, Charlie whacks her again.  That night, Teryl shows what she and Milburn had in common by saying.  “Are you replacing me with Mary?  She’s got Valerie 23’s looks which I know turns you on.” [3]

Yada yada, when Charlie next hits Teryl, Mary breaks his neck.  Teryl and Melburn resume their affair.  Melburn tells her, “You haven’t changed a bit in nine years.”  Then he discovers that she is a robot.  Charlie built her to replace the real Teryl after he killed her.

Love the story, but one thing I can’t figure out.  Mary 25 is still somewhat robotic.  She moves awkwardly and does not understand certain phrases, emotions, and actions.  Then, how was the Teryl robot, made nine years ago, able to pass for human all that time?  She seems to hold a job, and even her former lover never suspected all that time.  WTF wasn’t she trotted out as the nanny prototype; or three years ago as the Valerie 23?  [2] And why would Charlie have programmed her with the memories of her affair with Melburn?

Mary 25 is no Valerie 23 in more ways than one.  The episode Mary 25 had some great moments, but overall wasn’t as satisfying as Valerie 23.  What baffles me is how much more I liked the character of Valerie 23.  They were both played by Sofia Shinas, and just three years apart.  Yet, she is quite different looking.  Sure, the black wig does her no favors, but that is not the problem.  Maybe there should be a difference since she was playing a sex-bot before and not a nanny.  However, Valerie’s smile and sunny disposition would also be welcome in a nanny.  Mary 25 is kind of a downer.  Valerie’s robotic tics were endearing; Mary’s are merely robotic.  I just think this is not a very good performance.

Maybe it’s the liquor [1] talking, but a few times the script stunned me with how good it is.  I half-watched this once, then gave it a proper viewing later, so I knew what was coming.  Frequently the dialogue is perfect in its misdirection and double meanings.  The script has just the right balance to let the viewer know something might be up with Teryl, but doesn’t beat you over the head with it.  It straddles that line as cleverly as any story I can recall.

So, maybe not what it could have been, but still pretty good.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Grand Old Parr.
  • [2] Mary says she was developed from a discarded 24 prototype, which would have been within the last three years.  But then the “nine year” comment makes no sense.
  • [3] I go back and forth on this . . . see [1].  Is “looks” singular or plural?
  • Charlie says Mary has “three fail-safes”.  C’mon, just call them what they are.
  • He also told the board she was named “Mary, after the nanny in the movie.”  C’mon, just say Mary Poppins.  You don’t have to pay just to say the name, do you?
  • Teryl Bouton is clearly named after the fabulous Teryl Rothery.

Outer Limits – To Tell the Truth (04/24/98)

Dr. Larry Chambers and Miss Amanda Harper — because who would believe a woman scientist? — are watching a storm and solar flares wreaking havoc on the colony.  The green-screen is just terrible, it does not appear real at all, totally unbelievable!  The fusion plant explodes, and there is massive destruction.  Chambers freezes the picture — it is a simulation.  Oh, in that case it is the best simulation ever, totally believable!  Unfortunately, his simulation has determined that this destruction will occur in mere days — although, since this is not earth, who knows how long that is?

Amanda’s father Ian is a councilman — because who would believe a woman councilman, or even a councilwoman?  He is skeptical of Chambers’ prediction of doom because he cried wolf once before.  Five years earlier, as the colony was 40% complete, he insisted that it be relocated because a nearby volcano was going to blow.

With timing better than a Swiss watch, Chambers’ neighbor Fenton stops by to remind Chambers that his wife fled the planet with their kids after his first prediction.  The angry, beady-eyed man doesn’t mention why they never came back to him, though.  I don’t think Chambers is to blame on that point.  After this perfectly pooped choad [1] of exposition, he unceremoniously exits.  Ian says that is the kind of reception his new theory will receive.

Later, Amanda admits her father might have a point — the doomsday scenario only occurred in 2 of 46 simulations.  Yeah, but the last time was after Chambers added new data to the model.  And here’s an idea — if the future of the freakin’ planet is at stake, maybe keep running simulations.  I’m willing to authorize some OT for this.

As further evidence, he shows her an alien (i.e. indigenous) skeleton he looted from a reservation.  They were shape-shifters.  Somehow he also looted a rock wall with petroglyphs that seem to confirm his theory.  As they are talking, Chief Bennett walks in.  Dude, you have a door!  I see it right there in the shot!

Chambers goes to see head councilman Murdoch, and if there was ever a trustworthy character named Murdoch on TV, I missed it. [2]  Chambers suggests they evacuate the planet or take some core samples to maybe, ya know, check out this potential world-wide Armageddon.  Murdoch thinks he subconsciously wants to sabotage the colony because his wife died of cancer there, far from the facilities on earth that could have helped her.

Chambers goes back home.  He finds Fenton there lounging in his living room.  Ian walks in and runs Fenton out.  Seconds later, Amanda walks in.  Seriously, does this guy not get the whole door concept?  It’s right there and says “Chambers Quarters”!   BTW, a much better episode could have been filmed in “Quarters Chambers”.  He tries unsuccessfully to convince the colony of the danger.

The next day, Ian, Fenton, Bennett and Murdoch open his door and walk right in.  So he has figured out the door, but not mastered the lock yet.  Fenton saw an alien leaving Chambers home.  Murdoch concludes Chambers must be a shape-shifting alien, overlooking the fact that every f***ing bi-ped in this colony seems to waltz in and out of Chambers front door whether he is there or not.  He forces Chambers to take a DNA test which reveals him to be an alien.  He is hauled off to jail.

Ian and Amanda break Chambers out of jail after determining that the first DNA test was rigged.  Blah blah, there are twists and turns but it was hard for me to get invested.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Apparently I’ve had the meaning of this word wrong all my life.  I kind of like my definition better, though.
  • [2] OK, I just thought of The A-Team.

Outer Limits – The Joining (04/17/98)

The title card tells us we are on the USAS [1] outpost in the Aphrodite Highlands on Venus.  I think it is on Cytherea Lane, across from the Cypris Mall.  Jeez, Goddess of Love, get over yourself — you’re worse than Robert Byrd.

The structure has been compromised, and a team is checking it out.  They find Captain Miles Davidow still alive.  When no one is looking, a pot-sticker wriggles down his leg [2] and slinks away, but that real-fast slinking.  The search party takes him back to the ship, and seven months later, he is debriefed (hee-hee) on the crash of Highlander.

Mile was a no-air traffic controller bringing her in.  They replay a tape from Highlander’s black box.  The ship disintegrated 1,000 feet above the surface, and the debris badly damaged the outpost and its antenna.  Dr. Hughes was killed, but Miles evacuated to the Lab Module with Major Braithwaite.  They only had a 3-month supply of oxygen — if there were two people and they both breathe.  However, the party found Braithwaite with a gunshot wound in the melon.  Awkward.

Miles’ telling of Braithwaite’s death contains a brutally hackneyed trope.  They know there is not enough oxygen for two people.  Braithwaite pulls a gun on Miles and yells at him about the oxygen crisis.  He seems crazy and is very menacing pointing the shaking gun at Miles.  As Miles cowers, Braithwaite says, “Forgive me”.  Then he suddenly swings the gun back at his own head and fires.  Yeah, you get a few seconds of suspense out of it, but it bugs me.  Why point the gun at Miles?

Miles says he injected himself with Cryotol to slow his breathing.  Thus he could make the now-six month supply of fresh air last seven months; eight if he didn’t eat the freeze-dried burritos.  They accept his explanation and ask about Dr. Hughes’ encrypted files about the fossil microorganisms.  He says unfortunately the password died with her.

Later, Commander Kate Girard of the rescue party — his fiancee — comments how pale he looks.  Miles says, “I have the resistance and metabolism of a chemo patient.  I keep losing weight.”  Kate says “You must have been breathing like a yoga master to survive on air that thin.  I don’t know how you did it, Miles.”  It’s the Cryotol, baby — you were in the debriefing!

Dr. Perkins has a theory that putting him a contraption that simulates Venus might help, as sulfuric acid always does.  The device is pretty impressive though.  To be honest, this episode was a slog until now.  After Miles gets out of the machine, his arm begins pulsating.  There is something under the skin which it bursts out like an alien Alien.  It is just a glob of tissue though.  Dr. Perkins later says it appeared to be in the early stages of becoming a hand.  Good stuff.  Amazingly the wound heals almost immediately.

While locked up in quarantine, Miles asks Kate to marry him the next day.  During the ceremony, Miles has a flashback to the thing bursting out of his arm which can’t be a good sign.  I must say, though, the USAS dress uniform is pretty snappy with the white band collar shirt.  I could totally see that in the future.

During Miles’ next treatment, he gets a literal chest-burster as a huge mass of tissue bursts through his chest.  This glob is like an unformed rib-cage leading the doctors to theorize that it mimics the part of the body that expelled it.

A few days later, Dr. Perkins is called because Miles is in great pain.  When he arrives, Miles has already expelled another glob of tissue, this one almost the size and shape of a human.  OK, where was this one expelled from?  I was able to overlook the arm expulsion and the 20 pound chest expulsion, but this is the size of a human.  WTF is all this mass coming from?  Is Miles hollow inside now?

Miles admits he injected himself with DNA from a Venusian creature in order to extend his life support supplies.  He has another attack.  This time, through his gut, he gives birth to a full grown human that seems to be even bigger than he is.  Again, WTF is all this meat coming from?  It attacks Dr. Perkins and Kate, but she stabs it.    In seconds, Miles Prime is back on his feet and Miles Prime Rib is dead.

The USAS decides Miles must be killed.  Kate comes up with an alternate plan.  Miles is sent back to Venus where the outpost is now staffed by a multitude of Miles looking like the worst 1980s movie ever.

This story was a little tedious until we got a boost from the production.  I never got a decent shot of the device Miles was treated in.  The lights and spinning horseshoe arms on each end were just great.  The meat Miles ejected was nothing special, but the idea of it getting closer to human each time was interesting (physics be damned).  C. Thomas Howell, frankly, was not great as Miles.  I must say, though, the more he had to endure, the better he got.  I could feel the pain as he was birthing these things.

But mostly that band collar.  Must buy band collar shirt.

Other Stuff:

  • [1]  I would like to know what USAS stands for.
  • [2] That is ridiculous.  Upon closer examination, it could be a pasta shell.

Outer Limits – Fear Itself (04/10/98)

Bernard Seldon has crippling fears and anxiety.  He is also haunted by visions of fires and demons.  Father Wilkes from his old orphanage even returns in his dreams to taunt him and peek at his Underoos.

The next morning, Bernard leaves his apartment and his mind reels at the sights and sounds.  He is terrified at the open space, the strangers, vehicles zooming past, the honking, the loud noises — wait, are they saying this isn’t a normal reaction?  After imagining Wilkes pursuing him down the street, Bernard seeks the clean, peaceful refuge of a city bus, which tells you how scary Father Wilkes must be.

Dr. Pike of the Osgood Psychiatric Clinic tells us that Bernard “suffered a trauma at age 6 from which he never recovered.  In the midst of a raging tantrum, he started a fire in his orphanage which resulted in the death of his 4 year old sister.”  Pike has never seen a patient so crippled by his phobias.  Like all Outer Limits doctors, Pike has a theory.

They strap the terrified Bernard into a chair to perform the first procedure.  For some reason, Pike seems to think that after the quivering Bernard is strapped in, that is a good time to give his students a basic lecture on the amygdala.

Afterward, as Bernard walks home, he is confronted by some neighborhood bullies.  Mind you, these bullies are in their 30’s, so assholes is probably a better word for them.  And, frankly, after just seeing the worthless trash in Tough Guys Don’t Whine yesterday, I’m ready for Bernard to skip ahead to the inevitable scene where he massacres them.  Unfortunately, this is a 60 minute show so we first get a scene where the big tuff men steal his wallet, and send him running in fear as they laugh at him.  Making them even more manlier is the fact that Bernard is so debilitated that he might as well be mentally challenged.  I’m sure their mothers — who they probably still live with — are proud.

When he gets back to his building, his new neighbor Lisa says she baked a butt-load of lasagna, but he seems oblivious to the fact that she is inviting him to join her.  She is undeterred and shows up at his door the next morning to see if he would like to take a walk in the park.  He says yes, but comically closes the door in her face to finish his coffee.  He plays this very Rain-manesque.  It is not clear whether she is pursuing him because she thinks he is special or because she thinks he is “special.”

They take their walk in the park.  The bullies confront Bernard again, but we just get another scene of him being pushed around.  This show is only 60 minutes, right?  This isn’t a two-parter?  At least we make a little progress — there is a vein pulsating in his forehead.  I expect some whoop-ass next time.

Lisa takes Bernard up to the roof of their building and shows him her pigeons.  Sadly, that is not a euphemism.  The treatments are starting to have an effect.  Not only is Bernard no longer afraid of being on the roof, he is dancing around the parapet.  Doctor Pike is happy with the progress, but wants to slow down the treatments.  Bernard disagrees and his forehead starts pulsating again.  He is able to project into Pike’s mind the same kind of horrific hallucinations that he had been living with.

Bernard continues to become more confident.  He rescues a kid in a well — wait, what?  That was so 1980s!  Then the middle-age gang confronts him again.  The leader slams Bernard against a wall and punches him in the gut.  Oh boy, this is going to be great!  Bernard grabs the guy by the throat and . . . that’s pretty much it.  He let’s him go and the gang runs away.  WTF, is this a mini-series?  Let’s get to the good part!

After Lisa says she is falling in love with Bernard, the head thug breaks into her apartment.  Bernard hears this and chokes the guy again.  OK, he does transmit to the idiot images of the guy’s worst fear — in this case, being buried alive. [1]  Kind of out of left field, but it is high on my list too, so it was effective for me.  But still, he lets the guy get away.

There is a revelation about how the fire started.  There is also a fairly pointless case of mistaken identity. The good news is that Bernard finally goes full Charlie McGee on somebody in a pretty disturbing scene.  I’m just sorry it wasn’t the bullies.

Arye Gross was amazing as Bernard.  Was his performance realistic, or was it over the top?  Having never seen a person with this affliction, I couldn’t say, but he did make it effective.  My only quibble is that I felt like the character was blurred between having crushing anxiety and actually being mentally challenged in the usual sense.

Tanya Allen (Lisa) struck me as authentic as a woman who had had some mental issues herself, and had been hurt in a relationship.  Although I wasn’t clear on the motivation, I could imagine her becoming friends with Bernard.  Sometimes her delivery reminded me of Shelley Duvall in The Shining, which ain’t good.  But then, she was supposed to be a little “damaged” so maybe that was intentional.  It worked for me.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Coincidentally, being buried alive also played a part in a pretty good movie I just saw on NetFlix — an Argentinean joint called Ataud Blanco (White Coffin).
  • Maybe I should get out on the roof and see some pigeons more often too.

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.