Now that I’ve finished Thriller, or at least the “Fan Favorites,” it’s time to get back to the regularly scheduled Outer Limits. But no, Hulu still has them behind the paywall; commercials aren’t enough. Oh, I know they have a commercial-free option now (yet another cash-grab), but I was ready to swallow my pride.
However, when I went to sign up, I was stopped dead. They are just a little too cozy with the fascist Facebook. It wasn’t clear on the registration screen that you were not also signing up for Facebook as you enrolled in Hulu. So fuck  Hulu.
And come on, America — why isn’t there a USA release of Outer Limits? There are Canadian releases on Amazon, but they are absurdly expensive. I ponied up for season 2 just because of Trial by Fire. I would probably even spring for season 3 which cost more for fewer episodes, but I have read that they are censored. Big Brotherish shielding of the delicate eyes of consenting adults from a little bit of constitutionally-protected skin like they are children? Hey, that’s our thing, Canada! You speak French, for God’s sake!
So now the coveted slot goes to Tales of Tomorrow. Yeah, I never heard of it either, but I’m not really in the mood to start Amazing Stories yet. Tales of Tomorrow ran only 2 seasons (1951 – 1953), but managed to rack up an astounding 86 episodes. Of course this was an era when actors actually worked instead of spending their time worshiping the president, mocking the country that made them rich, insulting their fans, and trying to ban guns while flanked by their armed bodyguards.
Now on to Verdict from Spaaaaaace!
Oh, ach du lieber, we start out with a commercial — I’m getting Hulu flashbacks. At least these are the original 60 year old commercials, so they might be interesting. Tonight’s episode is brought to you by Jacques Kreisler Watchbands. Note to research Dept: I wonder if Apple lets you replace a watchband or do you have to buy another useless Apple watch?
Now on to Verdict from Spaaaaaace!
Gordon Kent has a problem. Actually, he has two problems: He is on trial for murder and he has an enormous head. Seriously, he’s built like Steve Rogers before he became Captain America. So he might go to prison, but on the plus side, his trim little body will make him very popular. That’s good in prison, right?
He is being grilled on the witness stand about $5,000 that was stolen from the corpse of a Professor Sykes and a $5,000 deposit coincidentally then made into his own account. Also by coincidence that is just the sum he needed to start production on a new type of blowtorch he has invented which does not blow and has no torch.
As the jury goes out to deliberate, he sees that his lawyer has been playing tic-tac-toe. Who was he playing with? There were just the two of them at the table. No one expects a lawyer to give a damn about justice, but Kent is facing the death penalty, and back when it actually meant something (namely, death) — so I can’t imagine he was in a gaming mood with his rather bulbous head on the chopping block. He takes this time to reflect on how he got here.
While tinkering in his mother’s basement (blogging having not yet been invented), Kent receives an unexpected visit from Sykes, an archaeologist. He says he has found “the key to the past” and he needs Kent’s new blowtorch to open a secret door. In a cave, he has found a remarkable machine that has recorded every storm, earthquake and tidal wave for the past million years.
OK, finding a million-year-old computer is an amazing scientific find. But couldn’t it have done something a little more interesting? Maybe predict future storms? That technology still eludes us. I’m lookin’ at you, Yahoo Weather!
Sykes insists they go to the cave that very night. After entering the cave, Sykes is unable to locate the door and Kent becomes skeptical. Could it be just coincidence or is it the first recorded case of product placement when both their watches stop and we are treated to a closeup of Sykes’ watch — banded, no doubt by Jacques Kreisler. A watchband was never this prominent again until Die Hard.
This and the eerie score tell them they are in the right cave. After an extensive search of about 12 feet — literally, you can see Kent and the door in the same initial shot — Sykes locates the door. It is large and rectangular like the 2001 monolith. Kent takes his new blowtorch to it, which means a little light bulb illuminates on the end. It seems to Kent and Sykes to be doing nothing (also the audience). Amusingly, as Kent turns it towards Sykes to comment, the sound effect for the blowtorch continues on.
Then they hear a mechanism inside the door. Kent declares that the door has “a heat lock — heat alone will open it.” They might have spaceships and weather machines, but we’re light years ahead of them in security systems. So he lights the little bulb again, and they are able to enter. Sykes shows Kent the markings on a wire of historic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The first mark on the wire is the test of the atomic bomb in 1945 (so that previous 999,994 years must have been pretty quiet on earth ).
The machine begins beeping and Sykes announces that an event larger than an Atomic Bomb has just occurred somewhere on earth. It is later revealed that this was the blast of a Hydrogen Bomb (which, in reality, wouldn’t occur until a year after this aired). In an utterly pointless argument and tussle, the machine is damaged. The ground begins shaking and Sykes is killed by falling rocks which are about the size of dandruff.
The jury returns and has found Sykes guilty. The judge agrees and asks if Kent would like to make a statement. He tells the jury that “somewhere in this universe, someone has been watching us for a million years.” He declares that whoever is out there in space was just waiting until we discovered the H-bomb, and then might be a threat to them . . . despite being untold light years away. He pounds the table and says he “doesn’t know when they are coming, but when they do maybe you’ll realize . . .”
As his odd post-verdict closing statement goes on longer than John Galt’s, a strange sound enters the courtroom. He runs to the window, points and screams, “look up there in the sky! Spaceships, thousands of spaceships!” The screen goes black and the destruction audibly begins.
Recorded on video and with a budget that makes The Twilight Zone look like Avatar — also a very poor transfer, or maybe just kinescopes. The story is certainly hacky by today’s standards and maybe it was even in 1951. But it was the kind of simple, cornball sci-fi story that I love, so my verdict is a 7.
-  Only the 4th time I’ve used that word on this blog; I’m trying to save it for special occasions.
-  Kind of a “holy crap” moment to realize this episode aired only 6 years after we A-bombed Japan (give or take 3 days!). Actually Pompeii and the San Francisco earthquake are mentioned; I don’t know why the A-Bomb was first.
- So the machine really served the same purpose as the 2001 monolith.
- The ads for the watchbands state “Fed. Tax Included.” Hunh? Was there once a national watchband tax that I forgot about? If so, that would partially explain why no one wears watches anymore. Way to kill an industry, government!
- These bands were running $50 – $100 in 2015 dollars.
- Written by Theodore Sturgeon, who came up with a couple of classic Star Treks as well as Killdozer.
- Available on YouTube as is as Killdozer.
- Hulu sucks.