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The Outer Limits

The Outer Limits was an American science fiction anthology television series. It originally ran for two seasons from 1963 to 1965 in black-and-white, and was revived in 1995 and ran for seven seasons until 2002.



The Outer Limits originally ran from 1963 to 1965 on the American broadcast network ABC, and a total of 49 episodes. It was created by Leslie Stevens and was one of the many series ostensibly influenced by The Twilight Zone, though it was ultimately influential in its own right.

Writers included creator Stevens and Joseph Stefano (screenwriter for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho), the series' first-season producer and energetic guiding force. Harlan Ellison wrote two episodes (Soldier and the award-winning Demon with a Glass Hand ) for the show's more cautious second season; Ellison later argued that both episodes were the inspiration for the Terminator film series.

Like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits had an opening and closing narration to almost every episode -- known as the "Control Voice" (vocal artist Vic Perrin ) -- and distinctive music, in this case by Dominic Frontiere . The pacing of the two shows, however, was completely different. The Twilight Zone was based on a surprise ending built up to in half an hour, while The Outer Limits was an hour long and dealt with ordinary people's reactions to the situation. The basis of each episode was a monster, referred to colloquially by the producers of the show as the bear. Usually there was an actor in a rubber mask and gloves, and wearing special "alien" clothing. Occasionally it was a prop or puppet, and in one episode the monster was created by stop-motion animation. The Outer Limits was an anthology show and episodes are unrelated; they have no direct "sequels" or consistent characters. However, subtle recurring entities, such as the notable alien creatures seen in most episodes provided a thread of continuity. So did the fictional United Space Agency (a mix of experimental scientists, psychiatrists, and G-men), whose space suits, equipment and other props, set pieces, and models came were reused from Men into Space , a program paid for by the United States Air Force.

A few of the monsters reappeared in Gene Roddenberry's 1960s Star Trek show. A feathered creature was modified to appear as a zoo animal in the background of the first pilot of Star Trek. The moving carpet beast in "The Probe" later was used as the "Horta", and operated by the same actor. The process used to make pointed ears for David McCallum in one episode was reused in Star Trek as well.


The Outer Limits was revived in 1995 by the pay-tv channel Showtime. It was eventually sold into syndication and ran for seven seasons until 2002, with a total of 154 episodes — far more than the original show. The U.S. Sci Fi channel quietly took over production of the show in 2001 after it was cancelled by Showtime.

In its revived form, the Control Voice was supplied by Kevin Conway. Filmed in Canada, the show uses many Canadian actors and featured many familiar faces from other successful science fiction TV shows: Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1), Michael Dorn and Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek), William B. Davis (The X-Files), Robert Patrick (The X-Files, Terminator 2), Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Benson), Nicole de Boer (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5). In every season there is a clip show attempting to connect the plots several of the season's episodes (see The Voice of Reason for an example). The revived series contains more adult content than the original — a DVD anthology was released called Sex & Science Fiction. Decision making is a common theme of the series.

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Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13