Thursday, November 09, 2006

THE OUTER LIMITS- The Invisible Enemy

I’ve had a great love for the original OUTER LIMITS series since my childhood. I was only able to catch a few episodes from time to time as a kid but each one was wonderful. Since the show came out on DVD I’ve been going through the whole run kind of randomly and have decided to blog my impressions. For no good reason I’m starting in the middle of the second season but will be jumping around later.


After the first manned Mars mission ends in catastrophe a second team is sent three years later. Unsure of what caused the destruction of the first mission the four man crew is very cautious. But when a crewman disappears screaming in agony as soon as he’s out of sight of the other astronauts they begin to fear an invisible killer lurks on the red planet. Gradually the men discover what we lucky viewers have known all along- that the nearby expanse of sand is a sea in which a vicious clawed monster lives. Drawn to movement or the smell of blood this shark-like beast is clearly enjoying its tasty new snacks from another world!

Rewatching THE INVISIBLE ENEMY last night I was happy to find it stood up very well to my memories of it as a top flight episode. It’s not one of the best but it’s very solid. I really enjoy this one and have found myself thinking of it often over the years. As with many Outer Limits episodes the most memorable element is the ‘bear’ or monster and this one is no exception. I’m sure many will find the sand creature laughably fake looking with the composite shots putting it in frame with the actors being a low point. But I still feel that same sense of wonder I felt as a kid during these scenes. When the monster rises out of the sticky looking sand I’m spellbound and creeped out even as I see that there is no life in the obvious puppet’s eyes. It’s this twin feeling of being caught up in the story and knowing that its unreal that makes revisiting so many older science fiction shows appealing to me. For instance, THE INVISIBLE ENEMY had me from its beautiful opening shot of the Martian landscape as the classic old style rocket made its descent. The wonderfully detailed matte painting and crude but effective landing effects immediately pulled me in putting a smile on my face. This is comfort television. Black & white visions of a future never to be, almost out of date before they could be broadcast and imprinted on young minds. Those same young minds longing for the adventure of space travel even as they feared the unknowns repeatedly pointed out in such tales. This is wonderful stuff and truly inspiring.

Of course, the show isn’t perfect. The biggest flaw is the inclusion of one of my most hated clichés of 50s & early 60s filmed science fiction, the rascal team member. You know the rascal team member, don’t you? The guy who’s obviously too cool to be bothered with worry, too clever to be concerned and just enough of an arrogant dumbass to get himself and others killed. You know- a punk. You can spot these idiot characters immediately as they usually have sharp hair and lean against walls. I hate this stupid character type and can never understand why there is one in these kinds of stories more often than not. I guess they’re there to jump start the drama as they always do something incredible short sighted and brain-dead just in time to screw everything up. Then they play the ‘I’m so sorry. I’ll make it up SOMEHOW’ card as they nearly weep in self-disgust. And these bastards never die! They always live to the end credits no matter how much they deserve to be barbequed alive for their asinine actions. I hate these morons! As plot devices they piss me off and they smack of lazy writing. A pox on them all!

But still, this is a good episode –even with the moron punk character. I expect I’ll be watching it again pretty soon.

1 comment:

Randall Landers said...

the punk astronaut is 60's TV regular Rudy Solari who played a shaman on Star Trek's "The Paradise Syndrome." The lead astronaut is TV's Adam West. Both did a really nice job with their roles.

Ironically Adam West was paired with another Star Trek guest star in Robinson Crusoe on Mars.