OK, Outer Limits gets another chance after my ordeal with the commercials last time. I noticed that this episode was written by Jonathan Glassner who directed my favorite episode of this series; one of my top 5 favorites of any series, ever. I remember Trial by Fire from its original airing, and have watched it many times since. It is consistently intelligent, suspenseful, surprising, just outstandingly executed in every way.
However, we are here to discuss Valerie 23.
Uber-that-guy William Sadler is Frank Hellner, a wheelchair-bound engineer working on a synthetic skin project. His friend / boss Charlie wants to set him up with a new employee. He assures Frank that she knows about his condition and it isn’t a problem. Frank, but not the audience, is shocked when she turns out to be incredibly hot.
When he finds out she is a robot, he is furious that Charlie thinks he needs a mechanical device to help him live his life — you know, other than the chair . . . and the special van. After a swing and a miss at his physical therapist, Frank grudgingly agrees to give Valerie 23 a test drive.
The engineering team (which includes Byers from The Lone Gunmen) tells him he will have to keep a log (heh, heh), and that there will be a daily de-briefing (heh, heh).
Things start off awkwardly as Frank compares her to a dishwasher. He is surprised that she is hurt by this. He comforts her as she begins to cry. Clearly Innobotics has a gender-based division of labor — programming handled by the women, hardware was handled by the men.
At the next debriefing, the team tells Frank that he needs to make more of an effort with Valerie, to actually treat her like a human. Also that he needs to try out some of her other documented features as a — ahem — companion; the word being used in the same sense as on Firefly 7 years later.
After a little snuggling on the sofa, Frank freaks out and bolts to a bar. Seeing another couple there, he realizes his loneliness. Back at the house, he finds that Valerie now has a 2nd outfit. Then no outfit. Finally Frank wises up and puts Valerie to the work for which she was designed.
Showing that his accident also left him brain-damaged, he is wracked with guilt and / or self-loathing the next day.
His therapist has suddenly become available, so Frank meets her at the bar. Valerie follows him and reads their lips through the window like HAL in 2001. With pretty much the same results. The next day, she follows them on a date rappelling (again, I am apparently the last person on earth who can’t rappel) and confronts them. Frank is able to put her in sleep mode before she throws his date off a cliff. There is another confrontation and ultimate resolution that I will not describe.
Overall, a very well produced episode. In fact, my memory is that this was a very good series. I also see that they are commercial free on You Tube, so there will be more to come; just with crappier screen-caps.
- It is an insult to give William Sadler that-guy status. He has had a huge career and is recognizable from many roles. Looking over his IMDb page reminded me of a great offbeat movie of his that not many people have seen. Some rainy afternoon catch up with Freaked. If it isn’t a cult classic, it ought to be.
- Sofia Shinas does a great job as Valerie. She has an almost too-perfect face, and looks great in that white jumpsuit. She also excels in making sure we remember she is not quite human — the head tilts, the wide-eyes, the inflections. For my money, her performance is equal to Brent Spiner’s as Data; and with contractions! She should have been a bigger star.
- A year before this episode, she witnessed Brandon Lee’s death on the set of The Crow.
- BTW, the therapist was genre perennial Nancy Allen.