When a dangerous alien creature called a Megasoid escapes, the scientist who smuggled him to Earth creates an illegal clone of himself to hunt it down. But his plan is complicated when his ... See full summary »

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(teleplay), (story) (as Clifford Simak)
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...
Henderson James
...
Laura James
Mike Lane ...
The Megasoid
Steven Geray ...
Basil Jerichau
Konstantin Shayne ...
Murdock - The Gardener
Alan Gifford ...
The Guide
Jeffrey Stone ...
The Cop
Jonathan Hole ...
The Pedestrian
Ivy Bethune ...
Miss Thorsen
...
Karl Emmet
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Storyline

When a dangerous alien creature called a Megasoid escapes, the scientist who smuggled him to Earth creates an illegal clone of himself to hunt it down. But his plan is complicated when his neglected wife begins to fall in love with his duplicate. Written by Gazhack

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human clone | See All (1) »


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19 December 1964 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Features the famous Chemosphere House. Designed by architect John Lautner, the house is seen in a few exterior shots but the inside shots were on a set designed to resemble the house's interior. See more »

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Doubling Down
18 February 2009 | by (nashville, tn) – See all my reviews

When it comes to the ground-breaking sf anthology series "The Outer Limits", the episodes most people remember are often the more shocking and lurid, like "Corpus Earthling" and "Nightmare", or the superbly bizarre "Demon with the Glass Hand".

In its own quiet way, though, the "The Duplicate Man" is one of the most notable entries in the original series. The story -- written by well-known sf author Clifford Simak -- explores some unusual themes in Simak's own distinctively humanistic style, weaving a surprisingly complex and powerful narrative within the limitations of a 50-minute-long TV show.

"The Duplicate Man" is set in the early 21st Century, decades after the first interstellar expeditions of the 1980s and 90s. (Yeah, I know: "The Future ain't what it used to be.") Henderson James (Ron Randell) is a wealthy scientist whose obsession with studying an intelligent, telepathic, but implacably hostile and deadly alien lifeform known as a Megasoid is complicated by the fact that the creature is deemed so dangerous it's a capital crime to keep a living specimen anywhere near Earth. However, two years earlier he managed to bribe starship captain Karl Emmet (ubiquitous Irish character actor Sean McClory) to smuggle a live one in for him.

Of course the monster escapes. The good news is it isn't interested in going on an immediate rampage; the bad news is that's because it's getting ready to enter its reproductive phase. (I guess you only need one Megasoid for that.) Uncertain of his ability to kill the Megasoid on his own, James arranges for an illegal "bootleg" clone, programmed to hunt down and destroy the alien.

James is warned that his clone will quickly begin to assume more and more of the original's memories and identity, until the duplicate becomes indistinguishable from the original. (In fact, there have been several cases where the original was destroyed instead of the clone.) So the illegal duplicate will have to be eliminated as soon as he's completed his assignment.

The focus of the story then shifts to James' clone, as he wakes up in the museum where the Megasoid is hiding. When he confronts the alien, it tells him he's not the real Henderson James, but a temporary duplicate, then takes advantage of duplicate-James' shock and confusion to escape.

And then, as they say, complications ensue. The neat trick the author pulls here is to introduce James as a rather unlikeable individual who cold-bloodedly creates a disposable human being to deal with the dire consequences of his insane gamble. Then Simak turns right around and skillfully evokes the audience's sympathy for his duplicate. Uncertain of his identity, an inexorable fate hanging over him -- the duplicate's dilemma is something straight out of a film noir.

And like many episodes of the Outer Limits, this one has a distinctly noir look to it, too, especially since the story takes place over the course of a single night. It's also remarkable how the costuming and art direction achieve a striking "New Frontier Futuristic" ambiance with really very little. Jame's turbine-powered (ok, so it's just a sound effect) George-Barris-customized Buick Riviera is an especially cool prop, and the awesome "Chemosphere House" features prominently in several exterior shots, as well as an interior set designed to look somewhat like the real thing.

Of course, no episode of this series would be complete without Harry Lubin's eerie electronic score, including a wistful and haunting little theme associated with the duplicate Henderson James.

Though not quite as memorable as some of TOL's highly original aliens, the Megasoid is fairly scary -- if you can get past that silly beak. Better camera work and editing would have made it more terrifying, though I also have to say whoever wore the suit managed some disturbingly convincing moves, like when you see the creature from a distance, half-loping, half-scurrying across the grounds of James' estate.

But ultimately the Megasoid is more a plot device than a fully-realized entity. The real drama lies in the interaction between the duplicate and original James, and their(?) wife (Constance Towers). She finds herself torn between the two, attracted to the duplicate because his "younger" personality reminds her of James as he once was, before they grew apart.

A meditation on memory and identity, played out against a background of marital angst, set at night in a gloomy mock Tudor mansion with a ferocious alien monster roaming the grounds? This is why the original Outer Limits series remains unsurpassed in both style and content.


23 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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