“There is nothing wrong with your TV 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 can reduce the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to…The Outer Limits.”
When that deliciously sinister opening narration kicked in, viewers knew they were in for an hour not quite like any other on TV. The Twilight Zone was a similarly and effectively creepy 1960’s anthology, but if you liked science fiction and otherworldly cinematography, if you were eager to be transported out of reality for a full hour and not just a half, then The Outer Limits was where you went to hole up.
Even more than The Twilight Zone did, this show loved creepy, hard-science premises. It loved space travel, time travel, aliens, invasion conspiracies and man’s debatable evolutionary dogma. The special effects, for the time, were impressive, and the camera work was steeped in German expressionism—the moodily-lit episodes looked much more like film than regular old TV.
Though the cast changed every week, some of the actors who appeared and later went on to great small and big screen success included Martin Sheen, Martin Landau, Ed Asner, Bruce Dern, Dabney Coleman, Sally Kellerman, Carroll O’Connor, Robert Culp, Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. Vic Perrin, the narrator—or as the show deemed, the “Control Voice”—was a popular actor in sci-fi shows and comic book adaptations. By the end of the episode, the Control Voice’s closing comments emanated from the TV set, replete with a moral or a lesson, then informed you that it would now return the control of your television back to you. The idea being…you had truly spent the last hour someplace else, and in that someplace else, you weren’t exactly in control of your own destiny.
In 1995, thirty years after the original black and white Outer Limits was produced, Showtime got back into the spirit and produced a batch of new shows for weekly cable viewing. There was no more Vic Perrin, unfortunately, and no more of the inherent Cold War fear that made viewing those shows in the 60’s extra creepy. But when a foundation as interesting as this, a remake’s bound to score a few points.
USA / ABC – United Artists – Daystar – Villa di Stefano / 49×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 16 September 1963 – 16 January 1965
Creator and Executive Producer: Leslie Stevens / Producers: Joseph Stefani (Season 1), Ben Brady (Season 2)
Vic Perrin as The Control Voice