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.

Outer Limits – Identity Crisis (03/27/98)

Behind an ultra-secure chain link fence of the same kind that kept us so safe from Captain Trips years ago,[1] the military is performing super-secret Super-Soldier experiments.  There is a tower of sparking electronic equipment in a building that looks like the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA.  The giant doors open a few feet to let in a soldier and dramatic backlighting.  But why did they make him wait outside?  And, they do know there is a little man-size door cut into giant ones, right?  To be fair, the production here is great.  Whoever scouts out such locations deserves more cash than most of the actors.

The shirtless soldier walks fearlessly to the sparking tower.  He is bulky, and sporting the Vladimir Putin style of camo with no shirt.  We can tell he is not fully human, though, by his clunky walk; also his smooth, bulbous head with cables coming out of it.  He climbs the tower, suffering no effects from the fire, magnetism, noise or whatever the unmentioned danger is supposed to be.  He not only performs some non-scheduled repairs while he’s up there, but tempts fate by flossing his teeth.

The soldier descends and walks to one of a pair of pods that were purchased from old Brundle estate.  He is sealed inside and the transfer process is initiated.  The consciousness inside the super-soldier is transferred back to the noggin of Captain Cotter McCoy (Lou Diamond Phillips).  The scientists are thrilled that the super-soldier shell came through virtually unscathed.  His boss, Colonel Peter Butler, jealously thinks McCoy gets a little too much credit for merely “driving” the synthetic body.  But he might just be twitchy because the other kids called him Peanut Butler [2] as a kid.

< uninteresting 5 minute scene with wife >

The next day, McCoy is again secured in the pod.  During the transfer process, his katra is successfully transferred to the Michelin-solider.  After the transfer, however, there is a malfunction in McCoy’s pod.  It is an interesting concept as the McCoy-bot realizes what is happening and tries to rescue his body.  Sadly, by the time he can open the pod, his body has been burned to death.

Needless to say, McCoy is peeved.  To make things worse, his consciousness can only operate in this experimental body for a short time.  So his wife won’t even have a chance to be disappointed that he is not anatomically correct; and bald.  Regardless, McCoy locks the scientists up and goes home to see his wife.

McCoy rings the bell and runs — what a scamp!  When his wife comes out, he speaks to her from behind the bushes.  Soon, he collapses and she runs to him.  “What have they done to you?”  She takes him inside.  He explains the sitch to her.  He had never been able to tell her about his top secret work, and its danger to his life and hair.

In an act of Holmesian perspicacity, the soldiers track him down at his house.  They come in, machine guns a-blazing.  Hilariously, the spray of bullets hits a vase of flowers and it bursts into flames.

Amazing Exploding Vase

Mr. & Mrs. McCoy escape and go to the chief scientist’s house.  They find his father is visiting, but he plays no part in the story at all.  I guess he is there as a reason for the scientist to obey McCoy’s demand that he come home.  This is kind of misguided anyway.  As he further deteriorates, McCoy demands an explanation from him as to what went wrong.  Surely their time would have been better spent working on a solution in the lab, or rousting some homeless guy with an able body and a nice head of hair.

They go back to the lab — told ya so!  The scientist has an idea how to give McCoy more time.  When they get there, they find out Col. Butler has transported into the back-up prototype body, although WTF he would choose this particular time to test drive it can only be explained by plot-necessity.  He jealously tells McCoy he was tired of him “always being in the lead.  Whenever we were up for the same assignments, the same promotions, they always went to you.”  Dude, you do know Colonel outranks Captain, right?

Anyhoo, there is a fight between the two prototypes.  You can probably guess what happens at this point.  McCoy needs a body, and Butler’s soulless husk of a body is already sitting in the pod.  What seemed to me to be a couple of yuge errors in this sequence turned out to be an unexpectedly clever way of manipulating the characters to this conclusion.  It is not explicitly shown that McCoy’s consciousnesses is transferred into Butler’s body.  In fact, it kind of looks like they blew it.  So rather than the final scene being trite and obvious, it does preserve some element of suspense.

The last scene is the funeral for McCoy’s body.  That McCoy now inhabits Butler’s bidy is confirmed by Mrs. McCoy’s last line, “Let’s go home, Cotter.”  So she gets her husband’s soul back, and McCoy gets the weirdest promotion ever.  He will also forever be revered as a god at the officer’s club as the dawg that started plowing his best friend’s wife 5 minutes after her husband’s funeral.

Another good episode.  Lou Diamond Phillips was great as McCoy, even when in the rubber suit.  Sadly, his wife was a bit of a non-entity.  However, the strength of the story, script and production design made this a winner.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Despite the guards and portentous music, there isn’t much dangerous going on behind this fence.  That fence in The Stand has bothered me for years, though.  You’re monkeying around with a virus that can kill 99.4% of humans and you put it behind a flimsy roll-away Sears chain link fence?
  • [2] Which was better than McCoy’s nickname, Blue Diamond Filberts. [3]
  • [3] Sadly, Blue Diamond does not sell Filberts.  Also, why would fictional kids call him a name that riffed on an actor who would play him 30 years later?  I’m getting dizzy.

Outer Limits – Glyphic (03/20/98)

Dr. Boussard sends his kids Cassie and Louis out to play while he goes to deliver a baby.  He passes a deputy painting the new population number (Pop. 103) on the Welcome to Tolomey [1] sign and makes a pretty good joke about delivering twins.

The kids hear voices and follow them into one of those TV caves that have a cleaner, flatter floor than the Bat-Cave.  Cassie sees a glowing device embedded in the rock.  She puts her hand on it and it emits a green light which blankets the entire town, which is a neat trick since it is coming from a hole in the ground.

Ten years later, Tom Young of the Dept. of Health & Human Services comes to Tolomey (now Pop. 63) and he’s here to help.  He is yet another therapist coming to see if he can help Cassie’s learning disability.  She is better off than her brother Louie who has been in a coma for 12 years.

Tom hypnotizes Cassie back to her 6 year old self.  She says her disability is because she is different than the other kids due to something she heard.  She doesn’t know what it was despite a flashback that seems to indicate her reliving the incident in detail.

Tom asks what happened in Tolomey.  Because the death of 40 kids would not have made the news, Dr. Broussard tells him about the strange brain cancer that hit the community 12 years earlier which only killed the children.

The CDC came in and claimed it was run-off from the mill that caused the deaths, so the govern-ment shut down the mill and killed the local economy.  Now, I’m having a flashback.  They did name the disease after Tolomey, though; so they got that going for them.

While looking at the machines keeping Louis alive, Cassie begins hearing the voices again.  She steals some of Louis’s medicine and, per the voices, mixes a cocktail. She takes it to the cave and is zapped by a green light from the object.  She begins speaking alien until a local hick shoots the object, shutting it down.  Cassie takes the vial back home and pours it in Louis’s mouth.  The grown-ups stop her and drag her away screaming, to have brain surgery.

Hmmmm, for some reason I’m skeptical about that bottom box.  I have a blind faith in that top one, though.

Tom suggests that maybe the alien device was trying to transform Cassie into a living translator.  Louis shocks everyone by waking up.  Tom calls the hospital to stop the surgery.  When they start lasering into Cassie’s brain, she kicks the doctor away.  She grabs a marker and begins writing on her arm.  There are some alien symbols, then “We offer knowledge.  Learn to ask.”  The surgeon says she is not dead, but they visually imply she is.

The government shows up to analyze the device, but Jethro seems to have broken it.  So, once again, we have an alien species that has experienced an individual act of violence by a human, and responded by condemning the earth to be destroyed (or in this case, missing out on all sorts of life-saving knowledge).

These aliens are always so bloody arrogant.  They send a device with no instruction manual, bury it in a cave, murder nearly all the children in the town, then get pissy when some yahoo takes a shot.

Some good performances here.

Other Stuff:

Outer Limits – Rite of Passage (03/13/98)

In a small forest commune, people, goats and chickens are doing their thing.  Brav is carving a big-bellied fertility statue, other people are working in a garden that should sustain the community for about three days, a young couple is making out on the stairs.

Brav’s wife Shal begins screaming.  He shouts, “Come to her, Mother!” and runs to Shal.  The community, including the cloaked Mother, surround Shal.  The people don’t understand what is happening as Mother delivers a baby; although not understanding why Mother was exposing Shal’s lady parts in the town square was probably equally disconcerting to them.  Mother holds the human baby up to her face which we see is alien Vorak, somewhat like a Cardassian. [1]

Some time later, Mother sees Brav carving the wooden statue.  She says, “It is a good likeness, but of a form she no longer has.”  Brav starts whittling away the belly to be more accurate, but optimistically leaves the boobs.  He asks when Shal will be returned since Mother took her away to The Obelisk to care for her.  She says it is far too far and far too dangerous for him to visit.  Mother also has to assure him that the baby will grow up to look like he and Shal.  This confuses him since they don’t look like Mother.

Mother has brought a human girl named K’ren to be his new companion until Shal eventually returns someday far in the future.  Brav is not interested despite Mother stripping K’ren naked to entice him.  K’ren begins making out with him, but he bails.

The next day, K’ren gives him the stink-eye out in the woods.  One of the other guys is playing with the community dog and accidentally runs through the barrier surrounding the community.  He stumbles back through, writhing in pain.  Brav is going to help him when he sees two Voraks returning Shal to the community.  Wait, so Mother waited some indeterminate stretch of time to whore K’ren out to Brav the night before Shal was being returned?

Shal says the Voraks want to keep the baby at the Obelisk.  She is just back for a visit, but has a plan to break out of the community and get their baby.  They break into Mother’s house to steal a tool to remove the ankle-bracelets which are on their wrist (this is sci-fi, after all).  Shal also sees a book with pictures [3] of other people, but Mother had told them there were no other people.  They remove their bracelets and escape through the barrier.

As they are walking through the woods to the Obelisk, Shal is attacked by a snake thing.  The bite leaves an organism in her leg which begins crawling up her thigh under her skin (this is sci-fi, after all).  Wait, isn’t this earth?  Where did the snake thing come from?  Did the Voraks bring them?  WTF would they do that?

They find a structure which clearly was not built by the aliens.  It is a large concrete building, dirty, crumbling apart, with no signs of life, like a Sears.  They find a couple of skeletons holding a baby skeleton.  Shal suggests, maybe these are their ancestors, not the Voraks.

After an encounter with some more snake things, they reach the Obelisk.  It is actually a lovely lighthouse, although what the hell it is doing on the bank of a river is a little baffling. [2]  It also seems to be in pristine condition with a fresh red & white paint job.  After the ruins and grown-over bridges we have seen, I guess the Voraks are real handy-men; maybe four-handy-men, like the dudes on Barsoom.  And nice of them to have the humans living in Camp Crystal Lake cabins while they live in a hipster Architectural Digest showplace.

They enter the lighthouse and snatch the baby.  When they are discovered by a Vorak, the racist Shal shouts that the baby belongs with its own kind.  Brav says they saw what the Voraks did to their parents.  The Vorak says they did nothing.  When he tries to stop them from taking the baby, Brav stabs him, but gets blasted.  Shal runs off with the baby.  She goes back to the Sears, but is surrounded by snake things in the Automotive Department.  Mother and the other Vorak kill all the snake-things and rescue her — luckily the baby had an ankle-bracelet tracker that looks as stoopid-big as an Apple Watch on its tiny wrist.

The blaster was only on stun, so Brav is able to reunite with Shal.  Mother gives their baby back, but says the Vorak will continue to watch over them.  The earth’s population died out hundreds of years before the Voraks arrove, for reasons unknown.  The humans in the community were cloned from bodies they found in the ice.  This is the first baby to be born old-school.

Brav asks what they were like.  Like every snotty Star Trek alien, the first thing Mother comes up with is not love or laughter or curiosity.  She says, “They had to be taught the value of lifeforms different in appearance from themselves.”  However, the Voraks appreciate that humans saw the error of their ways.  They respect that humans even tried to restore some species it drove to extinction, although they might have just mistaken an old Jurassic Park DVD for a documentary.  “We believe any species capable of correcting such a terrible flaw, and finally appreciating the beauty that lies in diversity deserves a second chance.”

So the Voraks demonstrated their commitment to diversity by giving the human race a second chance by creating a sheltered safe-space; a cloned community with a smokin’ hot population of young white models of diverse height and hair styles.

Good episode, as usual.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t work in a Kardashian reference.
  • [2] I now see river lighthouses do exist, but it still bugs me.
  • [3] The pictures are referred to as reflections.  Why wouldn’t they just be called pictures?  The Voraks know every other English word.
  • It’s like the Star Trek aliens who called the crew giant-bags-of-mostly-water.  They knew the meaning of giant, bags, of, mostly, and water but didn’t know humans?  And what happened to that fancy Universal Translator?  Isn’t this the kind of colloquialism it is supposed to smooth over?

Outer Limits – Josh (03/06/98)

The last time I watched an episode with Kate Vernon, it was so uninteresting that I just ended up just posting sexy pictures of her. This episode is better, unfortunately.

Allison James and her young daughter Sarah are hiking in Gold Mountain National Park, Alaska. [1] After a misstep, Sarah takes a lengthy tumble down the side of the mountain.  Her mother reaches her just seconds before the titular Josh.  She begs him to go for help, but he is suspiciously adamant that her Mom go for help and he stay with the unconscious teenage girl.

Mom goes for help.  Of course, the man has nothing salacious in mind.  Although it is strange that he places each hand in the two areas where the fabric is most worn on the doll in the psychiatrist’s office.  His head and strangely only one of his hands glows as he brings the girl back to consciousness.  Unfortunately, he is caught on camera by some other hikers.

The tape finds its way to reporter Judy Warren of the TV show Hot Pocket Topic.  She and her cameraman Todd go to Josh’s cabin in the mountains.  He claims to run a center in Utah that helps the homeless and the poor, which is probably what I would tell Kate Vernon too.  However, she has done some checking and can find no evidence that he exists, which is probably what she would tell me.  When confronted with the tape of his glowing hand healing the girl, he calmly says it is a fake, and boots her out for clandestinely recording their conversation.

She and Todd see Josh drive off, and seconds later his cabin explodes in the same blue light.  She calls him; he says he is “going home” and begs her to leave him alone.  Judy tells him that he is news and there is nowhere he can run.  One place he can run is out-of-gas.  He is able to fill a jug with water and use his glowy hands — unlike merely resurrecting a human being, this is a two hand job [2] — to turn it into gas.  He doesn’t get far before being cut off by Judy and the Air Force.

The General says satellites detected an EMP two days ago when Josh healed the girl.  Tonight when the cabin exploded, the EMP knocked out the satellites.  The General has him strapped to a gurney.  When they begin torturing him, he explodes into a light show that gives each person a different vision.  When they find out he is some kind of uber-man that might have some answers as to why we are here, or the key to living in peace on earth, the government decides he has to be killed.

Judy is able to rescue Josh and they escape from the secure underground bunker.  Their Scofieldian escape plan is summed up by Judy’s line as they drive away, “I can’t believe how lucky we were getting out of there.”  Josh leads them to a mountain-top where he is taken back home or to Jesus or to a UFO.  That’s about it.

Screenwriting 101 (I’m being sarcastic — the 101 is backwards)

I appreciate that there were no answers given.  Everyone got their few seconds to call him a demon or an an angel, God or Jesus, an alien or just a regular ol’ threat to national security.  Alex McArthur was excellent at making all possibilities believable.  I mean, just crazy-good.

I could watch Kate Vernon all day.  Unfortunately, the script does have her tough reporter character get a little hysterical and needy at the end.  But, hey, if Hiker-Jesus were leading me up a mountain, how cool would I be?

The script was a little talky.  It also was pretty superficial with the reactions to this supernatural being, and discussions of choices, decisions, and free-will.  However, I’m a sucker for this sort of quasi-religious / what-is-he / government cover-up kind of show.  So, more good stuff from The Outer Limits.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Thank God they placed this in a fictional park rather than scaring off visitors to Denali or Glacier Bay who might think this is a documentary.
  • [2] Heehee, hand job.
  • Judy’s cameraman (Grant Heslov) also posed as a cameraman in True Lies, played TV Crew on MANTIS, and was National Enquirer Photographer in The Birdcage.  Maybe he brings his own camera.
  • Title Analysis:  Just some lazy shit, unworthy of the episode.