The Outer Limits was originally titled ‘Please Stand By’
The Outer Limits was originally titled ‘Please Stand By‘. Network executives were concerned that the title would prompt audiences to mistake the opening credits sequence. It’s an emergency broadcast interruption of service. Remembering how the ‘War of the Worlds’ radio broadcast in 1938 sent so many listeners into a panicked frenzy. They think that the planet is being invaded by little green men. They decided to swap out the name and intro which included images of test patterns typically used for emergency announcements. The show premiered at the height of the Cold War after all. At a time where Americans were already on edge over the fear of a nuclear attack.
The scripts were written by award-winning actors
What’s a great show without a great writer? The Outer Limits had an amazing line-up of legendary creative minds on deck for scripting purposes. Robert Town, for example, was an Oscar Award winner for the film Chinatown. He wrote ‘The Chameleon’ which is highly regarded as one of the finest episodes in the Outer Limits series.
Harlan Ellison, a master of the genre, contributed several groundbreaking scripts. Also, Joseph Stefano, the series producer wrote more episodes than anyone else. Before working on The Outer Limits, he wrote the screenplay for Psycho for his good friend Alfred Hitchcock.
An episode was censored for being too terrifying
In the episode ‘The Architects of Fear’, a monstrous beast proved to be so frightening to test audiences. ABC felt the need to censor the episode by covering the ‘Thetan’ creature with a blank black screen. In some markets, the footage was pushed back to a time-slot after the 11 pm nightly. News to make sure that younger audiences didn’t wet themselves when they laid eyes on the behemoth. Of course, to today’s standards, it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. Back then it struck fear in the minds of viewers who weren’t as desensitized as we are.
The series employed one of the industry’s leading cinematographers
Conrad Hall was named one of the top ten cinematographers in history by the members of the International Cinematographers Guild.
Some of his work included shooting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and American Beauty. The films he won Oscars for just in case you were wondering.
He also utilized his creative cinematic vision for 15 episodes of The Outer Limits. It includes that “Architects of Fear’ episode we just talked about a minute ago.
Monsters were recycled for Star Trek
After The Outer Limits wrapped up in 1965, many cast and crew members moved on to work on Star Trek. That includes some of the amazing monsters as well.
In the series finale ‘The Probe’, a giant ‘microbe beast’ rattled viewers before it went on. It is to become the Horta in the Star Trek episode ‘The Devil in the Dark’. In Star Trek’s pilot episode, several other Outlet Limits vermin can be seen in cages as well.
Additionally, the pointy-ears makeup effect employed in the Outer Limits episode ‘The Sixth Finger’. Later, be put to great use creating the signature aesthetic of the Vulcan race in Star Trek.
Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner both appeared on The Outer Limit
Not too long before Spock and Kirk became television fixtures on Star Trek, the two actors appeared on episodes of The Outer Limits.
Leonard Nimoy acted in the episode ‘I, Robots’, and William Shatner lent his likeness to “Cold Hands, Warm Hearts’.
James Doohan, aka Scotty, also starred in the episode “Expanding Human’.
‘The Terminator’ was effectively sued for plagiarism
Tell me if this doesn’t sound super familiar to you. A soldier from a dystopian future world, a grim era where men are machines that are born to inflict death, is sent through the sands of time and gets jettisoned onto a city street during an electrical storm. Following him to the past, is a villainous foe, another savage killer from the same future time period he came from.
Some 20 odd years later, The Terminator premiered in theaters and Harlan Ellison filed a lawsuit against Orion Pictures.
James Cameron, director of the first Terminator film was forced to admit that the film borrowed from the Outer Limits episode and was ordered to pay Ellison a large cash award as well as adding him to the movie’s credits.
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The Monsters were called ‘The Bear’ by production members
The production team used a lot of exclusively unique jargon when talking about the show. For example, the creatures, giants, freaks, and aliens were referred to as ‘the bear’.
Most episodes follow the pattern of some sinister ‘bear’ posing a significant threat to the protagonists.
This antagonistic evil ‘other’ motif really is what differentiated The Outer Limits from The Twilight Zone – which focused less on spooks, martians, and villains and instead honed in on supernatural phenomena that tinged with poignant social commentary.
Episodes were filmed at intriguing locations
A modernist style house on the San Fernando Valley side of the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, California called the Chemosphere – located at 7776 Torreyson Drive just in case you wanted to pull it up on Google Earth – was used in countless sci-fi films and TV shows back in the day due to the fact that it greatly resembles a classic conceptualization of a UFO.
The unique octagonal design was once applauded as ‘the most modern home built in the world’ by the Encyclopedia of Britannica.
The domicile was featured in the 1964 Outer Limits episode ‘The Duplicate Man’. The home was also featured in the 1984 film Body Double and inspired a house in the 2000 Charlie’s Angels film. The Simpsons also made reference to the iconic house in 1996 and most recently it appeared in the 2015 Disney film, Tomorrowland, in the end credits.
A 1990’s reboot ran for seven seasons
Taking note of the fact that the original series did quite well in syndication after its cancellation, Showtime chose to revive the franchise in 1995. This incarnation proved to be much more fruitful than It’s short-lived predecessor.
The series aired until 2002, first appearing on the pay cable channel before making the move to Syfy, which was called the Sci-Fi channel at the time.
Leonard Nimoy made an appearance in this series as well in the remake of the episode that he appeared in the original series titled ‘I, Robots’.
There was an Outer Limits theme park ride
The Outer Limits: Flight of Fear opened in 1996 at what was then known as Paramount’s Kings Island and King’s Dominion amusement parks in Cincinnati, Ohio and Richmond Virginia respectively.
The attraction takes the rider through an Area 51 inspired secretive military hanger before entering a large mock-up of a UFO where they are launched at great speed through the dimly lit hanger lit with strobe lights and imagery inspired by the classic television series.
Paramount’s licensing of the show expired in 2001, so all references to the show have since been removed but the ride is still in operation at both theme parks to this day.
The network made the terrible decision to move the show to a different time slot
The series was a huge hit for young, educated audiences in its first season. This was the same demographic that latched on to Star Trek as well and secured its place in sci-fi history.
When ABC moved the series to Saturday evening as the lead-in to The Lawerence Welk Show, they had completely dropped the ball in terms of recognizing their target audience. Jackie Gleason and His American Scene Magazine absolutely obliterated The Outer Limits in the ratings.
Younger people tend to go out on Saturday evenings, they weren’t going to stay home to watch the show regardless of how good it was. The Outer Limits was subsequently canceled after the second season.
ABC should have rescheduled the show to a better time slot. Judging by the fact that the show became a cult classic following its cancellation, it’s certain that they could have squeezed out at least one more season if they played their cards correctly, but oh well, at least Showtime did what they did back in the 90s.
Fans of The Outer Limits may still have something to look forward to in the future.
In 2014, it was rumored that an Outer Limits film was in development based upon the episode ‘Demon with a Glass hand” and in 2019 Variety magazine reported that a new reboot of the series was in the works for a premium cable network.
But, between the original series and the 90’s reboot, which was your favorite? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
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