Outer Limits – Criminal Nature (01/23/98)

Detectives Renfro and Venable show up to the scene of  murder. Coroner Carolyn says the cause of death is cervical trauma which isn’t located where I thought it would be.  They explore a nearby warehouse.  Venable gets trapped and Renfro shoots the suspect.  Venable finds two strange things:  The woman is severely deformed, and is carrying a vial of green liquid.

Back at the police station, Carolyn tells the captain the woman is a victim of GRS — Genetic Rejection Syndrome, but based on the evidence, she was not the killer.  Ten years ago, underground labs began producing drugs to create super-kids.  Sometimes however, the kid got GRS and became violent and deformed.  The green stuff was a shot that could turn an adult into a super-adult or serve as a booster for someone who was already super.

The woman survived the shot.  She says her name is Melanie.  Her parents had wanted her to be tall so they gave her the shots and she got GRS.  Rather than be questioned, she breaks her own neck which will probably take about 8 inches off her height as her head flops around.

Carolyn goes into an elevator and a GRSer jumps in and kills her.  This was a shock in more than one way. Carolyn was a strong, beautiful, intelligent character.  Her death so early in the episode, or at all, was like Janet Leigh’s death in Psycho; except we didn’t get a shower scene.  C’mon, did this really air on Showtime?  I applaud their boldness, but I was also a little shocked by how the scene was directed.  Just seeing the GRSer, she collapsed in the corner screaming.  This woman would have put up a fight.

After leaving Carolyn dead in the elevator, her killer throws Venable against a column in the parking garage.  Turns out the deformed killer is Venable’s son Dylan.  That night, he pulls out the baby pictures.  Dylan is seen as a healthy baby, then tragically begins showing deformities as a young boy.  On the bright side, Pa Venable doesn’t seem to have aged a day in 10 years.  If this were Science Fiction Theatre, he’d be wearing the same shirt.

I’m getting increasingly uncomfortable with this episode as I was with Unnatural Selection.  The whole “deformed kids” trope is just too heart-breaking.  Not to mention, deformed humans are getting a little too frequent on Outer Limits.  We’ve just had:  Feasibility Study — humans mutate in an effort to prevent colonization of earth by aliens, the Music of the Spheres — humans mutate to survive a solar event, and Double Helix — man mutates to reveal a map on his back.

Time to bail.

Some Other Stuff:

  • Jill Teed (Carolyn) also played a coroner in The X-Files.
  • No pics.  Just nothing I really wanted to show here.  I will say that the deformed Pa Venable reminded me a little of that Nick Nolte mug shot.

Outer Limits – A Special Edition (07/25/97)

From my Voice of Reason post:  Sometimes I wish I had an editor.  The downside, of course, is that I would be fired immediately.  But it would be nice to be able to ask someone, “C’mon this is a clip-show, do I really have to do a post?”  I would happily skip it with permission, but my completist philosophy forces me to watch it.

Whereas Voice of Reason assembled a diverse group of both white men and white women, this episode goes one better and has four clones of the same white guy kick off the action.  They are parked conspicuously about 15 degrees off-kilter in a hotel parking lot waiting for newsman Donald Rivers.  The crusading journalist, the progres-sive savior of the oppressed, the afflictor of the comfortable, [3] the champion of the underdog,  outsmarts them by sending a homeless guy in his coat & hat out to be killed in his place while he sneaks down the back stairs.

Rivers takes a cab to the studio where he anchors The Whole Truth.  For this very special broadcast, they are going live.  The script is loaded into the teleprompter, back-up generators are in place, studio doors are locked down, and most importantly Rivers makes sure his make-up is perfect and tells the camera-man he wants lots of close-ups.
His producer Sandra [1] counts down.  The opening of the show, backed by a musical score, teases the big story to come.  Rivers voices over, “DNA, genetic engineering, cloning.  The daily advances in bio-technology are almost overwhelming, but what does it mean for our lives and where will it ultimately lead us?”  OK, so he has a blockbuster story about aliens, government conspiracies, the military-industrial complex, eugenics, immortality, and genocide — and his tease could have been from a 1957 episode of Nova [2] ?  Rivers just doesn’t understand ratings.

After congratulating the network for their courage in airing the episode, Rivers goes to Exhibit A, Last Supper.  He describes the horrifying tests performed on a young woman to find the secret of her immortality. Rivers runs a “dramatization” of those events which is pretty amazing since he only gave his producer the script minutes before.  Sadly, the segment does not include the part where Fred Savage hooks up with a girl his father banged 30 years earlier.  Rivers just doesn’t understand ratings.

After a commercial, Rivers introduces his source.  The informant, in shadows, is a molecular biologist from the Pentagon who claims the government is trying to “change the course of human genetic development.”  He has no beef with research into human longevity, but says the government didn’t plan on sharing that discovery with the riff-raff (i.e. him & me).  Exhibit B concerns reversing necrosis — reanimating the dead — as seen in New Lease.

Outer Limits is a little boxed in on these type of clip shows because they can’t use any episode set in the future, can’t use any episode that ended with the earth being destroyed (Trial by Fire!) or humanity being permanently altered, and it must fit within the theme of the clip show.  I guess that is why they had to reach all the way back to Blood Brothers (S1E3) for Exhibit D.

Rivers interrupts his own show to tell viewers that the show’s parent company is giving a press conference airing on some of his affiliates.  The corporate spokes-weasel says they do not control Rivers’ show and they are appalled by the sensationalism.  She says his informant is mentally ill and, “The name of his show not withstanding, he is only interested in ratings.”

What?  Didn’t I debunk that already?  Keep up, lady!  This network’s knee-jerk defense of the government and lack of curiosity is, of course, ludacris.  Well, except for 2009 – 2016.  Welcome back!

As affiliates start dropping out, Rivers brings his informant out into the light — hey, it’s Byers from The Lone Gunmen!  He is using the alias Avery Strong, but I’d know him anywhere!  In a masterstroke of economic storytelling, Exhibit E in this clip show is a scene from the first season clip show Voice of Reason, which reveals that Randall Strong, the informant in that episode, was Avery Strong’s brother.

What finally prompted Avery to go public — other than his family’s genetic disposition to be tattle-tales — was seeing alien DNA injected into a human.  We get another “drama-tization” from Exhibit F, Afterlife.  A soldier was painfully transformed into an alien. Stretching the boundaries of clip show technology, they even graft Avery into that earlier episode.

Avery’s unified theory is that the government is creating clones which they can control.  These look-alike clones will then be used to replace world leaders and other powerful individuals.  For Exhibit G, they completely wreck the time-space continuum by using a clip from a future episode, season four’s In Another Life.  They have invented the self-spoiling spoiler, so I have to fast-forward past that segment.

When I rejoin the program, power in Rivers’ studio has gone out.  As Feds pound on the door, Avery and Rivers grab the evidence and run.  We follow as the episode turns hand-held.  They end up in the Whole Truth news van.

The last Exhibit is from Dark Rain showing thousands of mutant cloned babies.  Avery shot that footage himself.  Rivers announces that they are going to that facility now.  There is a fine twist.  The repetitive stacking up of the evidence actually contributes to the denouement rather than just being a cheap dramatic device.  The episode was hurt a little by the necessary lack of a score.  As it swells over the ending, it really sells the twist.

Playing a news-reader or DJ on TV seems to be nearly impossible to do well.  DJs in particular are nearly always dreadful.  I have to give credit to Alan Thicke (Rivers).  I might not have watched Rivers’ show (or any of Thicke’s for that matter), but he did an excellent, credible job as the anchorman.  I even kind of secretly like clip shows, and they at least tried a couple of new ideas here.  The last few minutes even rise to a Trial by Fire level of quality.

A Special Edition was no Special Bulletin, but it was pretty good.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] In a bizarre choice, Sandra wears an almost comically short skirt.  It’s not like she is a floozy — she is a 39 year old professional woman.  She’s attractive, but not eye-candy for the episode.  Weird, man.  Maybe that’s what the producers at FOX News look like.
  • [2] OK, PBS was created in 1970, and Nova began in 1974.  Wait, the evil Richard Nixon allowed this to happen?  Next you’ll be telling me the EPA began on his watch.
  • [3] As in “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”.  Which is complete bullshit.  How about honestly reporting the story?

Outer Limits – Feasibility Study (07/11/97)

Sometimes I will accuse an episode of setting up a story that is never told.  Usually, my complaint is because the other story would have been an improvement over the bile left on the screen. Tonight, however, I am happy to see the alt-plot take off on a motorcycle not to be seen again for 40 minutes.

Sarah Hayward brings her boyfriend Nicky home to meet her father.  Pop is not crazy about the motorcycle-riding hooligan.  The good news for him and the viewers is that they will never see each other again.  What could have been another angsty teen drama with a sprinkling of sci-fi is pared down to its SF essence.  Mr. Hayward convinces Nicky to slow down their relationship and sends him away.  While calling Sarah from a phone booth, Nicky sees Sarah’s neighborhood scooped up from the earth like Jouret IV  [1] and get transported away.

Hayward is returning from a run when he is caught by his neighbor Pat Dooley.  Despite being neighbors for three years, they’ve never spoken.  Within seconds, Dooley is blabbing his life story about his wife’s death from cervical cancer, and asking for a ride to work, thus illustrating why people don’t talk to their neighbors.  Hayward gets the last laugh by transporting Dooley to work after not taking a shower because the utilities are off.

Another set of strangers neighbors is having breakfast.  Dickish attorney Daniel Tenzer is established as a tool early on.  He pictures himself a tough-guy because of his prowess in the court-room.  Their phones are out and his too-good-for-him wife suggests he ask to use a neighbor’s. He says then they will think he owes them a favor.

Dooley and Hayward begun their drive to the city.  They soon encounter a shimmering barrier across the road which blocks their passage, however, they are thrilled to now be living in a gated community. The camera pulls back to show the neighborhood now sits atop a spire on an alien world.  Tenzer pulls up in his Mercedes and is literally about as useful as a lawyer in an apocalypse.  I’ll say this for him, though, he is smarter than Dooley who gets handsy with the barrier and is sucked into it.

Sarah sneaks out of the house in a fabulous ensemble topped off by a beret.  In the woods, she is grabbed by a blue alien with barnacles on his head.  She screams and he says, “I know I look horrible.  It is the disease.”  He is an alien, so what is the symptom that he thinks scared her?  The blue skin, the webbed fingers, the cthulhu tentacles, the barnacles?  He is an alien, for crying out loud — how does he think she knows what his “normal” is?  To his credit, though, he did not scream at the sight of her nose-ring.

He says most of his people are dead, that it is something in the air.  He explains that they are both are in the same predicament.  They have been brought to this moon by the Triunes. He says “you have machines that protect you” as he fondles her headphones.  He asks for her help.  Boy, is he in the wrong neighborhood.

Like Maple Street when the titular monsters were due, the neighbors meet in the street.  Hayward suggests pooling their resources, but they aren’t crazy about that idea. When the neighborhood security guard shows him Sarah’s backpack, he asks for help finding her.  Again, no takers.  Tenzer says they have their own families to worry about.

Blue-Boy leads Sarah through a breach in the barrier.  Although an earlier shot suggested they should be falling to their death, they arrive in a rocky desert wasteland.  Scattered around are his dead, fully barnacled “people”, all in red garments. Strangely, there are 5-foot towers of rocks with red material tied around them.  At first I thought his people had turned into these stones, but no.  It took me a minute to figure out that they must be elaborately stacked cairns with a ribbon of the deceased’s clothing.  It amazes me that most TV is such crap that a little thing like this is awesome.  Kudos on leaving this for the viewer to figure out!

But then the tone-deafness returns.  Blue-Boy again refers to Sarah’s Walkman as a “medical device” that will protect her.  That’s a fun idea, although, why the hell would he jump to that conclusion?  But the boneheadedness is in the branding.  The unit clearly says WALKMAN [2], which was a product made by Sony.  OK, TV likes to hide brand names unless they are getting paid for it, so Sony is replaced by fake company MD. Blue-Boy calls it a medical device — MD.  Hunh?  Is that a coincidence?  Did he call it a medical device because it said MD?  How did this gargoyle who never saw a human before learn to read English?  Plus, when he referenced it earlier, he motioned toward her headset — the unit with the MD logo was hidden on her belt.  I am utterly baffled by this.

While Hayward and the security guard are looking for Sarah, they find Dooley is back from the other side.  He says the aliens examined him, but he seems to have not gotten the standard anal probe.  He tells Hayward that they are no longer on earth and seems oddly chipper about it.  Hayward hears Sarah’s voice and goes through the barrier to find her.  Unfortunately, he is diverted to the examination room where he gets the full Dooley.

The aliens tell him the neighborhood was brought to their world to test human’s feasibility as slaves.  The aliens assure him humans “will enjoy the usual perquisites of slavery” which I guess are room and board; although interstellar slaves miss out on the fabulous sea cruise. If humans are the first species to survive their atmosphere, the aliens will come pick up a few million more.  This group is the Swedish Meatballs at the end of the CostCo aisle.

Hayward proposes to his neighbors that they all infect themselves so the aliens believe humans can’t survive their atmosphere, thus saving the earth.  He takes his daughter’s hand to infect himself.  The preacher takes Hayward’s other hand.  Another man takes his free hand and Mrs. Tenzen joins in probably just to get away from her husband.  It’s a nice kumbaya visual, but unless this disease conducts like lightning, and about that fast, I don’t think this daisy-chain approach would work.

Meanwhile back on earth, Nicky returns to look at the big hole in the ground.  I wonder if he is silently thanking Hayward for saving him, you know, from marriage.

Another fine episode.

Other:

  • [1] Although The Best of Both Worlds is two of the best hours in TV history, I was always disappointed we never got to see the Borg city-scooping in that episode or any other.  And what was the point of it, anyway?  The Borg wanted bodies and technology.  How did scooping up a city fulfill those needs?  Maybe they will show us on Star Trek: Discovery, but I won’t see it — I will NEVER pay for TV other than VHS, DVDs, Blu-Rays, cable, NetFlix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.  NEVER, I tells ya!
  • [2] Does anyone under 25 even know what these were?  They were like early iPods . . . does anyone under 30 even know what they were?  They played cassettes . . . does anyone even know what they were?  They were like tiny reel-to-reels . . . does anyone even know . . . feeling old now.  BTW, this is the 2nd 1997 Outer Limits episode where a cute blonde girl listening to rock & roll was expected to save the world.  Is there anything they can’t do?
  • There is a preacher in the episode played by an actor named French Tickner.  I wonder if he ever had a nickname.

Outer Limits – Bodies of Evidence (06/20/97)

Captain William Clark is being court-martialed for abandoning ship.  The brass don’t believe his wild Outer Limits style story.  They think he stayed in space too long and went crazy.  And, oh yeah, as an aside, he is accused of killing his crew.

We flashback 3 weeks to the UNAS Meridian space station because they couldn’t allow this to be an American mission.  C’mon, I expect American producers to hate America, but this was made in Canada!

One of their experiments is to cure Space Psychosis which prohibits long stays in space.  Clark has already been in space 18 months and has nothing to go back to.  The psychosis seems to set in early on crewman Gordon, though.  As he is inspecting an air duct, he sees his son.  The “kid” runs into the airlock and Gordon follows him.  There is a tight shot of a gloved hand hitting a button that says SEAL AIRLOCK.  The hatch slams shut.  The hand hits the DEPRESSURIZE AIRLOCK button.  Gordon is blown out into space while the “kid” — whatever it is — is apparently immune to the laws of physics. The outer hatch closes again and the “kid” gives a gap-toothed smile at the dead Gordon.[1]

Crewman Somerset believes he sees his wife in the lab.  She shows her boobs and hands him a bottle of wine which he chugs.  He then sees it is actually acid.  There is another tight shot of a hand pressing an alarm button.  Captain Clark finds him dead, foaming at the mouth.

After the laptop fad has passed, we will use chest-tops.

Crewmember Laura is not as fortunate as she is visited by Gerard Depardieu[2] (who, at least, has bigger boobs).  Well, it is some disgusting, greasy-haired Frenchie.  He pulls a knife on her. She fires a pistol which causes an explosion thus illustrating why women pistols should not be allowed on spaceships.

William Clark grabs Dr. Helene Dufour and they abandon ship.  At Clark’s trial, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence.  The lab explosion could have been caused by a pistol like the one Clark carried; and Laura also carried.  The Black Box plays a recording of Gordon talking to Billy in the airlock, as in Billy Clark.  But Gordon’s son’s name was also Billy.  They also have a clip of Somerset calling his visitor Captain; but that  was before he saw who it actually was.

Against the advice of his attorney who happens to be his ex-wife, Clark takes the stand. He has a flashdance flashback to Jennifer Beals appearing on the Meridian as his wife. Unlike the others, he questions her being there immediately and shoots her.

The court rules that the crew went crazy from a gas-leak and each committed suicide.  They relieve Clark of his command and send him to the asylum.  Blah, blah, blah.  Dufour reveals to Clark that she is actually the alien who has morphed into Dufour’s hot, hot body.  There is just absolutely no reason for her to do this.  Sure, he tries to warn everyone, but they have already ruled him insane.  Even for the story, there is just no reason for her to tell him.

Why do movies insist on making screens translucent in the future? You can see the judges right through it.

That’s not the real problem though — there is just a lethargy to the episode.  The murders are expedited 1-2-3 pretty efficiently. This gets us to the trial pretty early.  I would have preferred a little more time aboard the Meridian.  It seems like a lot of money was spent on sets, design, and weightless effects, but they are mostly gone after less than 10 minutes. I guess they made up the budget on the back end.  The trial scene seems to have been filmed in someone’s dark workshed.  Apart from one entirely impractical translucent video screen, it is just wooden chairs and a table.  Maybe it would have worked better to have more flashbacks in the beautiful well-lit space-station interspersed throughout the dark trial.

Outer Limits is never going to fall below a certain level, but this one tested me.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Not to nitpick, but whose hand was hitting the airlock button?  The alien was imitating the kid.  Gordon was not wearing gloves and would not have blasted himself out the airlock anyway.  If this was a deliberate ruse to make Clark look guilty, for shame, Outer Limits, for shame.
  • [2] There is a later suggestion he is a Russian.  Don’t know, don’t care.

Outer Limits – The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson (06/06/97)

The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson is based on a story by Stephen King that appeared in Rolling Stone.  I am unable to determine whether they printed it as fiction.

We start out with the titular ‘Becka Paulson unpacking her Christmas decorations.  She even takes time to kiss baby Jesus from the nativity scene.  Oh great, Stephen King is going to lecture us on how crazy Christians are again.

In one of the boxes, she finds her husband’s pistol which, like all gun owners, he keeps loaded and unsecured in the closet.  Oh great, Stephen King is going to lecture us on how terrible guns are again.

She stares down the barrel of the gun.  When she loses her balance, she falls and shoots herself right in the forehead.  Oh great, Stephen King is going to lecture us on . . . what, having a spotter?  Oh, who the hell knows with that guy anymore.  Although, that is a good safety tip.  Cheers for having her apply the smallest band-aid in the official Band-Aid brand box to her head-wound. Jeers for it being flesh-colored.

She feels well-enough to go right back to watching her “stories” which, to be honest, don’t require a full noggin.  She might have done some real damage as the dude in a picture frame on top of the TV winks at her.  Strangely, though, he does it after she turns away, implying it is a real phenomenon.
She microwaves two Swanson Hungry-Rube Dinners and starts eating before her husband Joe gets home from his job as a mailman.  He is only mildly miffed as he wolfs down the meal and reclines in his La-Z-Boy to check out the “Sports for Sports” Swimsuit Edition like a Horn-E-Boy.  Becka is bored with her husband and her life as he doesn’t care about the Christmas decorations, isn’t much for conversation, and gives her a pretty listless rogering in bed.  She even turns picture-frame model guy down so he doesn’t have to see this.

The next morning, looking in the mirror, she peels off the Band-Aid to reveal the bloody hole in her skull.  It is indeed cringe-worthy as she decides the proper course of action is to slowly insert a pencil a few inches into the hole rather than, say, go to a doctor. This triggers a series of flashbacks, but she is able to pull it back out with little harm.

She puts a tiny fresh Band-Aid on the wound, because you can’t be too careful.  Her husband, who still thinks it’s just a bump, suggests she go to Doc Fink.  She replies that he is a veterinarian, but he says he only charges $9 for a visit.  This new comedic tone is the most alien thing I’ve seen yet on The Outer Limits.  While not as dour as The Hitchhiker, Outer Limits has always been pretty humor-free.  This episode has an unprecedented fun weirdness to it.  It is only partially due to the script.  Catherine O’Hara and John Diehl give performances that sell it perfectly.  She had years of comedy experience on SCTV, and he learned to be a straight man on Miami Vice by not laughing at Don Johnson’s wardrobe.

After Joe leaves for work, she sits down to watch her stories.  She hears the picture-frame guy (credited as 8 x 10 Man [2]) start speaking to her.  She says, “Pictures don’t talk” . . . to the guy sitting on top of the TV.  Well, granted, they don’t usually tell you your husband is having an affair.  After she gets a call from her dead father, she takes Joe’s advice and goes to see Doc Fink.

In another good comic performance, Fink checks out her wound.  Being a vet, he doesn’t really do much for her, but at least doesn’t give her a cone to wear around her head.  There is some fun dialogue and I got a laugh out of the occupational hazard scratches on his head that are never mentioned.

After some weirdness at the store, she returns home to her stories.  Today’s episode is about surgery on a woman who was shot in the head.  Somehow, Doc Fink is in the scene.  The TV-woman survived the shot because the bullet excised a tumor that was already there.  It also increased her intelligence, creativity and sex drive.

Sure enough, Becka discovers the Pythagorean Theorem [1] just weeks before Amy Schumer.  She invents The Roomba just days before Amy Schumer.  Then she drags Joe to bed for a wild ride, just before . . . I don’t even want to think about that one.

Yada yada, some other stuff happens and we come to a cheerfully dark end.  This was just a shock, like if out of nowhere the next episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents were a musical.  They tried something different and they pulled it off masterfully.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I was disappointed that she mispronounced hypotenuse.  Joe got it right, so I think it was just a mistake.
  • [2] Or maybe she was saying “ate by tinman”.
  • There is something unseemly about director Steven Weber casting himself as the 8 x 10 model.  The man in the frame was Jesus in the short story, so I guess he did show some restraint.
  • Some bits of King’s short story were used in The Tommyknockers.