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The Outer Limits: The New Breed (1995)
Great Security Measures!?
This episode is about a man who begins to play God. He actually announces to his critics that he will improve on God's work. Well, we know from Mary Shelley that this is not a good idea. When one starts to get a little smug about his accomplishments, he is going to hit the wall at some point. Richard Thomas is an arrogant nano-scientist who doesn't think he should wait to do the ultimate testing on living creatures. But unlike many of his predecessors, he doesn't inject himself. Instead, the honor goes to his cancer-riddled future brother-in-law. He sneaks into the lab and helps himself to the priceless little buggers and injects them into his bloodstream. How could any lab of this import have so little security. As a matter of fact, as Thomas works in his lab to try to counteract the horrors that are happening to his friend, there never seems to be anyone else around. I know this is a bit nit-picky, but it bothered me from the get go. Anyway, at first the stuff does amazing things, curing and enhancing any defects in the man's body. It even builds gills so he can breathe under water, but when the defense systems begin to be enhanced, he becomes less human and more jellyfish. Thomas, who previously would have done anything to get his way with the scientific community, now is faced with dealing with scientific ethics and his own morality. This is a thought provoking episode on some levels, but there are too many hard-to-swallow events to make it a really good one.
The Emptiness of the Outer Limits
One of the hard things about this series is that there is very little sunshine. In this episode a couple of leftover humans are in a dungeon-like environment, trapped by impersonal, warrior aliens who treat them as trash. These people are introduced as soldiers. The man is himself a combatant who has fought the good fight with a marine-like affirmation. The young woman (about 20 years old) says that she has been drafted and taught to fly fighter jets. She is just a child and is routinely removed from the prison cell and operated on. It appears that the aliens are in the process of turning her into an alien. She starts with skin lesions and eventually grows spikes on her back. He spends his days trying to get through an vent opening above the cell. He doesn't know what's out there, but it behooves him to try. A relationship develops between them and he begins to feel protective of her. They talk about their humanity and their connection to earth and resisting being changed. This would be a relatively simple plot, but because this is one of the harshest episodes the writers/producers had something else in mind. Stay with this to the end and count your blessings.
The Outer Limits: The Conversion (1995)
It's a Wonderful Life Plays It Forward
This is a truly memorable offering from the first season of the series. It's about a man who has rotted in prison, being made the fall guy in a blue-collar caper. While he girds his loins but meets a beautiful blonde (Rebecca de Mornay) who tries to settle him down. He has several opportunities to avoid avenging himself, but follows through with a cold-blooded attack during a Christmas party. He is himself shot, hijacks a car, and heads off to the hinterlands. Bleeding from his wound, he goes to a local bar and asks for a drink. He is given soup and drink by a kind bartender/owner. While he sits in his misery, a man about the same age begins to talk to him in a friendly way. Our hero is annoyed and tries to rid himself of the "pest." However, this guy knows a lot about the murderer and his actions and begins the process of trying to talk the guy down. As the two interact, it becomes obvious that the young convict has been somehow chosen and has been given a chance at reclamation. What transpires is a wonderful bit of television with a neat twist. This is one of the better episodes in this series.
The Outer Limits: Dark Matters (1995)
Good Suspense and Decent Character Development
Some of the better entries in this series are those that take place in deep space. This is a bit of a "Star Trek Voyager" type of episode. A cargo ship has been driven into a hole of some kind where the stars have disappeared and ghosts of dead space travelers come aboard. Add to that the fact that the brother of one of the principle characters, who disappeared years ago on an explorer vessel, appears as a hologram/ghost. He imparts his contentiousness. The sibling rivalry continues beyond death. The dead man was the perfect son, sports star, military hero, and dad's favorite. However, he does have a secret that if brought up would tarnish his reputation. There are also some aliens that look like big praying mantises. They are also non-corporeal but very threatening. The issue at hand is, how does one get out of this spot and not become the next victim of this interplanetary graveyard. As with the aforementioned "Star Trek" thing, there is considerable jargon and a lot of activities taken at faith. Still, it's fun and suspenseful, and not as depressing as some of the other episodes.
The Outer Limits: Under the Bed (1995)
Twilight Zone Meets Poltergeist
Generally speaking, I liked this episode. It reminded me a bit of the "Twilight Zone" episode where the little girl goes through the wall, into another dimension. They hear her crying in the night. If you want to make it so your child never sleeps again, let them watch this. The little boy reaches under the bed to get his Teddy Bear and is grabbed by something down there and taken away. This is the set up. What ensues is some very strange activity on the part of the authorities. Given the supernatural elements, the conclusions reached by the power that be are pretty hard to fathom. The use of databases to narrow down things really pushes the envelope. Timothy Busfield (Thirty Something/Field of Dreams/The West Wing) is a child psychologist who pairs with his girlfriend, a police detective to solve the case. Busfield lost his older brother who "just disappeared" in the woods when he was six and has a father who has never been able to deal with that loss. While the conclusion is acceptable, the road to the discovery is a bit bumpy. Also, if the little girl is stupidly put in danger time and time again. Still, a decent episode.
A priest who ministers to the homeless and disenfranchised, is able to see the faces of tormentors as an alien species. He has become frustrated with his lack of accomplishment and begins to lose faith. Add to that the fact that he has been given a death sentence, about three months to live. He confronts the aliens but is finally able to meet one of them. Not only does this person cure his disease, he give him the power to heal himself. He begins by saving the life of a young woman who is comatose after an accident crossing a street. Of course, he now has celebrity and for a while begins to bask in his fame. He has a colleague, a young priest who sees Jesus as the only one with healing power. He suspects something isn't kosher (oops! I guess they are Catholics). This is ultimately a moral battle, but its foundation, for me, is pretty much a cliché and depends on things that I find pretty restrictive when it comes to belief. It is interesting just as an "us" versus the aliens tale but the filmmakers couldn't resist going the next step. The acting is quite good and the scenes in the street are quite striking.
The Outer Limits: Living Hell (1995)
A man who has just been turned down for a construction job is shot in the head by a mugger. He is brought to the hospital in critical condition. Since he will probably die anyway, a young woman doctor/researcher decides to put an experimental implant in his brain. After he wakes up, he is furious, but he soon adapts to the thing. The down side is that he begins to have violent hallucinations. He is at the scene of brutal rape/murders and seems to have some connection with the rapist. He can't understand what is going on but insists that the operation is responsible for these. Over time, he gets closer and closer to the events. He even sees the face of the man who is killing and raping. Unfortunately, he has done time for manslaughter during the rescue of a woman who was, herself, being assaulted. The police won't believe his story. It is far fetched enough and add to it his first person account of the attacks. This is a well done episode because it science but with the courageous acts of the man in question.
The Outer Limits: Virtual Future (1995)
There's Always a Bad Guy!
Why is it that whenever one of these episodes deals with technological advances, there's always someone there to ruin the moment. In this case a young researcher, played by a really youthful Josh Brolin, discovers that while experiencing a virtual trip, using a device he has largely developed. The kicker is that while he is on this trip, he realizes he can see about six seconds into the future. To make it even more interesting, the future is mutable; in other words, he can change it. Enter the world renown CEO of a mega-research and development facility who has political aspirations. Once he knows about the virtual time travel, it becomes really important for him to step in on the research and expend big bucks, hiring the young man to work for him. The guy has a reputation as dishonest as nearly all prototypical big-business people are in fiction. Of course, what could be a boon for mankind (and womankind) becomes his pet means to move ahead political, seeing the future and then changing. Brolin doesn't listen to his young wife (a law student) because he knows the corporate world often plays hardball. Things heat up when it is realized that he needs to be stopped. Unfortunately, in addition to the obvious stereotypes, there are a lot of holes in the entire time continuum. Still, it's pretty entertaining.
The Outer Limits: The Choice (1995)
There is some potential here, but it never really works. This is yet another story about a child (or children) with telekinetic power. The girl is a little "Carrie" who can give bloody noses to the bullies on the playground, and though she is the one attacked, the school chooses to expel her (probably not a bad move, though from a fairness perspective it's not really right). The parents hire a nanny who uses her own powers to disable the competition for the job. She is hooked up with a group from a place called Sanctuary, and it looks like her job is to help the young woman handle her powers. Meanwhile, there is a group whose purpose is to root out these exceptional children and have them deprogrammed (sort of lobotomized). The parents are happy as clams that their daughter is doing so well (they know nothing of her powers) and grow to trust the young nanny. An elderly woman who runs a bookstore is the protectors of these young people, and she is hunted down by the aforementioned organization. It is decided at some point that this girl must be brought to the safety of Sanctuary. There are some really unbelievable things that happen toward the end which I won't ruin. It has so much potential, but offers nothing new. One thing to think about. Why do the people with the special powers wear those crystal necklaces where everyone can see them. It certainly makes their identification easy. Not a very good episode.
Good Performances Weak Religious Clichés
An ornery billionaire has his own suite at a hospital where research is being done on a modified heart. The old guy is about as nasty as one can get. He has the bad ticker and is pretty much holding the hospital and its principle researcher hostage. His money is talking as loudly as he is. People who are eligible for heart transplants are overlooked so the old guy can supersede their moral rights. Now throw in the old light in the tunnel thing that has been bandied around forever and a few close trips for our patient, and we have the moral dilemma to the nth degree. But there is a force out there that seems to be attacking the old man. It is lightning-like and it travels through electric cords, computers, and even elevator cables. The researcher must make a decision to save a nineteen-year- old patient or give the donor heart to the insufferable man. He chooses the latter and then the forces get stronger in retaliation. Unfortunately, there are the usual heaven and hell clichés and it's hard to take it very seriously.