Outer Limits - Season Two
In 1964 the second season of the television series ‘The Outer Limits’ began amidst a strange climate here in the United States. The country was still reeling from the assignation of President Kennedy, LBJ was in the White House, the space program was ramping up and the cold war was in its prime. The groundbreaking show created by Joseph Stefano was able to push the envelope a bit more than was possible in the first incredible season. For one thing they were able to attract such notable Science Fiction writers as Harlan Ellison to episodes bringing even more depth to the stories. In fact, Ellison started off the new season with his first teleplay, Soldier. This tale of a man (Michael Ansara) genetically engineered to fight wars is transported into the past where he must interact with a normal family. Ellison’s second story for the Outer Limits is my personal favorite, Demon with a Glass Hand. Here a man (Robert Culp) is being chased by aliens that have invaded the Earth of the future. He is equipped with a glass hand having only three of its fingers. The hand is a computer and grows in knowledge with each finger added. Set in the Bradbury building (the same one used as the set in Blade Runner), this story examines the human spirit and its ability to transcend the most unusual circumstances. Almost every episode of this second season uses Sci-Fi and fantasy to give a glimpse at social trends, collective fears and the hope of this generation. While the space program was the great hope for America episodes like The Invisible Enemy and The Inheritors show that whoever we meet out there may act as our friends or foes. Often the aliens shown in these episodes reflect the growing concerns of the Soviet communists, once part of the alliance that defeated the Axis in World War Two, but later a dreaded foe. What set this series apart from so much of television was its ability to actually make the audience think about what is going on while still providing entertainment. Each episode began and ended with the resonating tones of the Control Voice. He would set up the episode and finally pose a question to ponder; the topic of the episode is left in your mind after the closing credits. In a time when most television was almost mind numbing sit-coms, westerns and variety shows, the Outer Limits presented itself as just fun fantasy while opening the human condition for review and reflection. While the times have changed the social issues investigated here remain with us. I have had a collection of tapes of this series for many years and I am thrilled that finally this second season has come to DVD.
In order to permit the audience to identify with the characters portrayed in the stories actors of talent, willing to take a chance with a new type of television were required. Fortunately they were found for each episode. Robert Culp was a favorite and used quite often in both seasons. In Demon with a Glass Hand it takes the audience along for a journey in a familiar place, a closed office building, but has to face his own humanity in stark contrast to the alien menace he faced. One of the best actors around Robert Duval is in the only two part episode of the series, The Inheritors. As a government agent investigating four men shot in Viet Nam with bullets made from a meteor, he presents such a performance that the audience is drawn into the tale, taken in by his talent we can suspend belief as we watch. Then there was the Probe, where the actors, including Mark Richman, Peggy Ann Garner and Ron Hayes are able to use a minimum of set design to demonstrate the resilient nature of the human nature. In Counterweight six emotionally lost humans a NASA space simulation only to find a real alien there and face how meaningless their lives on earth actually are.
Although Joseph Stefano left by season two Ben Brady took up the helm and shouldered most of the production work for this season remaining true to the standards set by Joe Stefano and Leslie Stevens. It is extremely rare for a series to experience a major shake up in the production staff and retain such quality. The directors they gathered for work on the episodes may not be household names but they are certainly among the most talented men that ever worked on TV. While each director brought their own twist to the series there is a consistency of excellence that pervades the season. One director of note is Gerd Oswald, who introduced the world to a young Robert Wagner in his ‘A Kiss Before Dying’. Oswald was at the helm for some of the best episodes of both seasons. Among his contributions to this season are Soldier and Duplicate Man. He is able to use the limitations of the special effects, crude by today’s standards, and lack of funding for sets and concentrate on the performances and storyline. Byron Haskin who directed the classic ‘War of the Worlds’ and ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ takes on such episodes as ‘Demon with a Glass Hand’ and ‘Behold Eck!’. With each his use of black and white cinematography utilizes light and shadow to create a mood appropriate for the underlying message in the story.
The episodes are distributed over three double sided discs:
Disc One: Side A
Disc One: Side B
Disc Two: Side B:
Three: Side B