The Outer Limits is an American science fiction television series that aired on ABC from September 1963 to January 1965 every Monday at 7:30 p.m. The Outer Limits was often compared to another TV series entitled The Twilight Zone, but with a better emphasis on science fiction stories rather than supernatural or fantasy matters. This TV series is an anthology that features self-contained episodes that sometimes has a plot twist at the end.
The Outer Limit’s Unique Introduction
Each episode of the show would either have a preview clip or a cold open, which is a narrative tactic that is used in films and TV. This would be followed by a controlled voice narration that is played over visuals of an oscilloscope. The earliest version of the narration used an Orwellian theme of taking over your television, and it goes like this:
“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly, and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: There is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits.”
After each episode, a shorter monologue is also played, and it says:
“We now return control of your television set to you, until next week at this same time, when the Control Voice will take you to… The Outer Limits.”
However, later episodes of the show sometimes used one of two reduced versions of the introduction. The first few episodes just start off only with the show’s title screen, which was followed by the narration, or it sometimes does not have any preview clip or cold open.
Production of The Outer Limits
The Outer Limits had a total of 49 episodes that aired on the American Television Network or ABC. The show was one of the several series that was influenced by the shows Science Fiction Theatre and The Twilight Zone. However, The Outer Limits still proved that it is influential in its own right. At first, the show was initially entitled “Please Stand By,” but ABC did not like the title. That is why the creator of the series, Leslie Stevens, retitled the show and called it The Outer Limits.
The first season of the show had both horror and science fiction themes. Each show during that season has a creature or a monster that plays an essential role in the story. This is because The Outer Limit’s season one writer, Joseph Stefano, believed that “monster element” in the show was essential to give the viewers suspense, fear, or at least just give the show a center for plot development. This kind of element in the story became known as “the bear.” On the other hand, the show’s second season focused more on science fiction, and it let go of the recurring scary monster theme that season one had.
The Outer Limits were filmed at KTTV, and it sometimes used techniques such as make-up, lighting, and camerawork that are associated with German Expressionism or film noir. That is why several episodes of the show had some sheer eeriness into it.
Why was it Compared to The Twilight Zone?
As we mentioned, The Outer Limits was often compared to another TV show entitled The Twilight Zone. This is because both of the shows had an opening and closing narration that is present in almost all episodes. Both of them were somewhat philosophical for science fiction anthology series, but they differed in style. For example, The Outer Limits had a straight action-and-suspense theme that often had the actor in confrontation with some dark existential forces. On the other hand, The Twilight Zone deals with applying whimsy, irony, parables, and even unusual problem-solving situations.
The Outer Limits aired its last episode on January 16, 1965, after two years of being on the air. But, the show was revived in 1995, and it aired in Showtime for over five years, then on the Sci-fi channel in 2001 until it got canceled in 2002. As of April 2019, there have been rumors going on that there would be a revival of the show, and it will be aired at a premium cable network in the United States of America.