Saturday, November 11, 2006

THE OUTER LIMITS- The Human Factor

On an American military base in Greenland army psychiatrist Dr. Hamilton has created a machine that enables him to tune directly into another person’s thoughts. He uses it on Major Brothers, a dangerous guilt ridden paranoid who had been brought to him because he insists the base is about to be invaded by aliens. But while the doctor and Brothers are linked mentally through the machine an accident occurs that switches their minds from one body to the other. The psychiatrist’s body now possesses the brain of Major Brothers and he is intent on blowing up the base with an atomic bomb to stop his possibly imagined aliens. Major Brothers' body now contains the doctor’s brain, but is placed in a medical cell under sedation and is unable to make anyone believe the truth. In the doctor’s body Brothers’ moves quickly to gain access to a weapon and destroy both the base and his feared invasion.

Not a great episode but not a bad one either THE HUMAN FACTOR falls somewhere in the middle. The paranoid visions Brothers has of the alien monster reaching towards him out of the snow storm is the only ‘bear’ in the show and their final explanation is good, wrapping the tale up well. The story is well developed and flows well & logically from one point to the next. This episode benefits greatly from some good pacing and strong performances from Harry Gardino (Brothers), Gary Merril (Dr. Hamilton) and Sally Kellerman as the doctor’s secretary and lab assistant. All three actors are good with the standard TV close-ups really showing off their skills at complex emotions. Each of them has at least one scene requiring them to convey conflicting feelings with no dialog and they succeed every time. Good stuff!

The first successful use of the mind melding machine is between the Doc and his secretary. During their close contact her feelings for her boss become known. She loves Hamilton but also knows he doesn’t feel the same for her. Wrapped up in his work he has never thought about that part of his life. But with Miss Kellerman around he’d have to be a eunuch to not feel something! Her feelings for the Doctor and her familiarity with his mannerisms (as well as some notes made before the experiment went bad) allow her to see through the switch and help Hamilton escape his cell. It become s a race to see if the good Doctor can find a way to switch the bad Major back to his own body before Brothers can get access to a bomb and kill everyone on the base. As the title suggests it’s the human factor that both causes the problem (guilt over a death) and solves it (love conquers logic). It’s the Human Factor that makes us our own worst enemies as well as our only saviors. Hopefully.

A good mid-range episode with some above average elements.

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