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THE Outer Limits:

The Outer Limits, Season 2
MGM Home Entertainment
1964-65 / B&W / 1:37 /
14 hours, 30 min. / Street Date September 2, 20023 / $69.96

Created and Produced by Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

See Savant's review of The Outer Limits The Original Series Volume 1

Season two of this favorite Sci-Fi show marked a creative pullback by Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano. Books indicate that both men more or less quit before the entire second season. Stefano no longer took a story supervisor credit, and neither he nor creator Stevens wrote or directed any episodes.

The second season was cancelled just a little more than halfway through, which is a shame because there were fans like Savant who hoped and prayed that the show, which I believed had by then moved to Saturday nights (?), wouldn't conflict with my father's viewing plans.

Anyway, MGM needn't worry about fan interest in this set, because it contains two fondly-remembered classics, Soldier and Demon with a Glass Hand, which were early telefilm work by the respected author Harlan Ellison. Demon grew into a cult favorite, thanks to its mind-blowing concept of an entire civilization stored like data, waiting to be released. Soldier became news in 1984 when Ellison sued (and came out victorious) against the movie The Terminator for stealing his original idea. Actually, James Cameron's movie has elements from both Harlan Ellison's OL episodes.

There were season 2 OL episodes that didn't look very original themselves. The Brain of Colonel Barham owed a definite debt to Curt Siodmak's Donovan's Brain. I know I've seen Wolf 359 almost verbatim as a radio play from the late 40s; perhaps it was a legit adaptation. I, Robot seems like a dead ringer for one of Issac Asimov's Robotic Code tales. And one very successful episode, The Premonition seemed to copy both an earlier OL episode from season one, and a popular Twilight Zone installment where a stopwatch freezes time.

Making up for this were ambitious efforts like the 2-Part The Inheritors, which dared to pay off a story about a presumed menace from space, with an uplifting peaceful conclusion.

Rather than go through the talented writers and directors individually, I'll list them with the shows as presented on the disc.

Disc One:

1. Soldier
Director: Gerd Oswald Writer: Harlan Ellison Starring: Lloyd Nolan, Michael Ansara, Tim O'Connor

Opposing warriors from the future cross time to continue their battle in the present. Lloyd Nolan is the numbskull language expert who has no trouble bringing an unpredictable killer to live with his family. Brilliant ideas with a Coneheads presentation, and still a classic.

2. Cold Hands, Warm Heart
Director: Charles Haas Writer: Dan Ullman Starring: William Shatner, Geraldine Brooks, Lloyd Gough, Malachi Throne

William Shatner returns from space a changed man, in this Quatermass- influenced transformation saga.

3. Behold Eck!
Director: Byron Haskin Writer: John Mantley Starring: Peter Lind Hayes, Joan Freeman

On oculist befriends a 2 dimensional being lost in a 3 dimensional world, trying to find the time-rift to go back to his planar existence. Solution: a good pair of glasses, of course.

4. Expanding Human
Director: Gerd Oswald Writer: Francis Cockrell Starring: Skip Homeier, Keith Andes, James Doohan

It's LSD time! Conscience-expanding drugs (hey, very progressive - and with subject material soon to be banned) turn a scientist into a Mr. Hyde-like murderer. Not too original, but well-directed.

5. Demon with a Glass Hand
Director: Byron Haskin Writer: Harlan Ellison Starring: Robert Culp

Lone time traveller Rober Culp has to fend off strange assailants, while figuring out the purpose of his hand - a robotic crystalline sculpture with fingers that lead him to the truth about his identity as the repository of a race desperate to survive.

6. Cry of Silence
Director: Charles Haas Writer: Robert C. Dennis Starring: Eddie Albert, June Havoc, Arthur Hunnicut

It's the tumbleweeds, you fools! Strange dramatics take place in a desert ghost town, with weird phenomena all around involving objects animate and inanimate. I think somebody saw Beast with a Million Eyes, but still didn't get the concept right.

Disc Two:

7. The Invisible Enemy
Director: Byron Haskin Writer: Jerry Sohl Starring: Adam West, Rudy Solari

A rescue mission to Mars hits bad luck with an astronaut-snatching sand pit.

8. Wolf 359
Director: Laslo Benedek Writer: Seeleg Lester Starring: Patrick O'Neal, Sara Shane

A scientist grows a kind of Sim Planet in a petrie dish as big as a tabletop, and watches while the mini civilization grows, and then threatens the Earth.

9. I, Robot
Director: Leon Benson Writer: Robert C. Dennis Starring: Howard da Silva, Leonard Nimoy

Slick shyster Howard da Silva uses a classic legal defense for Adam, a robot accused of killing his own creator. Outer Limits goes the way of Perry Mason, with Leonard Nimoy as a sharpie newspaper reporter.

10. The Inheritors Part 1
Director: Writers: Seeleg Lester & Sam Neuman Starring: Robert Duvall, Donald Harron, James Shigeta

Government spy Robert Duvall tries to zero in on alien invaders plotting what may be an invasion of Earth.

11. The Inheritors Part 2
Director: Writers: Seeleg Lester & Sam Neuman Starring: Robert Duvall, Donald Harron, James Shigeta

The conclusion. Robert DuVall's G-Men discover the aliens among us are rounding up impaired children - but for what?

12. Keeper of the Purple Twilight
Director: Charles Haas Writer: Milton Krims Starring: Robert Webber

In kind of a de Maupassant deal with the devil, a scientist trades a shortcut to a death-ray invention, for his human emotions. This leaves us with a guy with no emotions, who has a working death ray. This is the episode with the famous gill-mouthed alien.

Disc Three:

13. The Duplicate Man
Director: Gerd Oswald Writer: Robert C. Dennis Starring: Ron Randell, Constance Towers

Confusion sets in with an odd pair of concepts. Alien creatures called Megasoids are banned from Earth (as in some Philip K. Dick books), and a man who can copy himself.

14. Counterweight
Director: Paul Stanley Writer: Milton Krims Starring: Michael Constantine, Jacqueline Scott

An endurance simulation test for astronauts turns into a bizarre conflict when an alien force threatens to turn the spacemen against each other. But is it just part of the test?

15. The Brain of Colonel Barham
Director: Charles Haas Writer: Robert C. Dennis Starring: Grant Williams, Elizabeth Perry, Anthony Eisley

This reworking of Donovan's Brain finds a liberated noggin' getting megalomanic ideas.

16. The Premonition
Director: Gerd Oswald Writers: Sam Roeca & Ib Melchoir Starring: Dewey Martin, Mary Murphy

An overused premise makes for an exciting show. Dewey Martin lands his jet plane, but finds that time has frozen everyone and everything but he and his wife. He has to unfreeze it, yet somehow save his daughter - who is frozen in time, about to be hit by a truck.

17. The Probe
Director: Felix Feist Writer: Seeleg Lester Starring: Mark Richman, Peggy Ann Garner

The final episode of the series. Captured by aliens in one of those budget-safe 'limbo' settings, two humans give up on logic but finally communicate with their emotions. Another concept 'visited' by James Cameron for a later feature.

MGM's full season 2 DVD set of The Outer Limits continues the volume bargain of the first season offering, at least for those of us who remember MGM's bulky boxed sets of laser discs that once sold for $100 a pop. The economic factor isn't quite as generous as last year, but is still nothing to sneeze at.

I still think the DVD public would have welcomed slightly more expensive collections, with fewer episodes per set, if the quality were higher. The tape masters on these shows are as sharp as a tack, but the encoding softens them somewhat, and adds a frequently-noticeable digital texture, at least on a large monitor.

I watched a little over half the shows, and was pleased with all of them. Of course I watched my favorites again, along with I Robot and the The Inheritors double episode, which is kind of klunky but has unexpected positive sentiments. The Duplicate Man is nobody's favorite, but I also had to watch it - my editorial assistant Todd Stribich loved the episode, and used a wav. file of someone saying "It's a Megasoid!" as his computer prompt.

I still need eye assistace to read what side of the DVD I'm feeding into the DVD player, but that's more my problem than the disc's.

There are one or two good books on The Outer Limits series that delve nicely into the episodes and the working relationship of the men that made them. One of them and these two collections would make a nice study companion. Of all the Sci-fi TV series, The Outer Limits is still Savant's favorite.

The fat two-chambered keep case again includes a welcome episode guide that fleshes out the info above, and includes nice notations such as the actual air date of each show.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
The Outer Limits: The Original Series Volume 2 rates:
Television shows: Good to Excellent
Video: Good
Sound: Good
Supplements: None
Packaging: Triple keep case
Reviewed: August 27, 2002

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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