Looking back as classic sci fi and fantasy shows that aired from 1949 to 2010.
What Is It? This anthology series gave us science fiction focused tales that often worked around a monster-of-the-week format and that also delivered the expected twist ending. The opening narration has since become iconic for sci fi TV:
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.
When Did It Air? ABC, 1963-65, 2 Seasons Totaling 49 Episodes
Created By: Leslie Stevens
Notable Guest Stars: Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Martin Landau, Barry Morse, Adam West
Is It Must-Watch Sci Fi TV? Absolutely. This show may not have aged well because it relied fairly heavily on special effects and those do not stand up as well today. But the stories are first rate and often challenging for their time and helped set the standard for sci fi TV for many years after it aired.
The Skinny: This series is often considered the lesser of the two 1960’s major anthology sci fi series (with Twilight Zone outranking it), but it was an important show for its time and for the legacy it offered. Its monster-of-the-week format (imposed on it by the network) could have doomed it to repetitive, juvenile tales, but the writers–including well-known scribes like Harlan Ellison and Clifford Simak–made the most of this and delivered some hard-hitting tales. It’s true that the show might suffer in the eyes of the CGI-generation due to cheesiness of its special effects, but it accomplished much during its short run and helped the genre mature beyond the “for kids only” perception it carried over from the 50’s (though it would take time for that to be recognized). Discerning viewers should be able to look past its outdated visuals and see the true classic television show that lays at its core.
Cancelled Too Soon? Yes. This show performed well in its first year according to the Nielsen ratings, but then ABC moved it to Saturdays to air against the popular Jackie Gleason Show (with new series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea taking over the Monday timeslot The Outer Limits previously had). The ratings plummeted, and instead of rescheduling it, ABC cancelled it half way through its second season.
Revival: The Outer Limits returned to television in 1995 and had a seven season run that started on Showtime and then moved to the Sci Fi Channel for its last two years. While the revival was well received and delivered some classic episodes of its own, it has never achieved the legendary status of the original series.
Should It Be Rebooted? Sure. Like The Twilight Zone (which is being revived on the CBS All Access streaming service), the format of The Outer Limits lends itself to being rebooted ever so often. Black Mirror seems to have kicked off a return of the sci fi anthology series, so why not take this as an opportunity to bring back one of the originals. Just be sure to get some damn good writers onboard and follow the spirit of the original series and it should prove successful.
Interesting Fact: The original title for the show was “Please Stand By”. However, due to heightened tensions in the country with the Cuban Missile Crisis at its peak, the network felt that might cause panic if those word appeared on the screen to start the show.
Where Can you Watch It? The entire series has been released on DVD with a Blu-ray set on the way soon. It is also available for streaming on Hulu.
Buy The Outer Limits on DVD (Blu-ray Coming Soon):