Taking Television to the ‘Limits’

For anyone who misses the 1960s science fiction anthology series “The Outer Limits,” or for those who missed it when it first aired, dozens of the episodes are now available at local video stores.

The mysterious Command Voice, which asserted complete control of our television sets at the opening of each show, just as easily takes over our VCRs: “We control the horizontal. We control the vertical. . . . For the next 60 minutes, we will control all that you see and hear.”

Don’t pass up a chance to see “Demon With a Glass Hand,” the best episode of the black-and-white series, which ran for two seasons starting in 1963 and boasted top writers, directors and actors of the time. Each week it featured a different cast and story. “Demon” stars Robert Culp as Trent, who wakes up on a city street in 1964, with no memory of who he is--or why there are men trying to kill him.

Trent’s only link to his past is his glass hand, an enigmatic limb with a computer brain. It informs him that he has escaped through time from a war-ravaged Earth 1,000 years in the future where most of the population has been slaughtered by an alien race called the Kyben.


Trent finds that he is the key to a desperate plan conceived to save the remaining people of the future Earth. But he has no idea what he must do now--other than escape the killers hunting him. The episode was written by fantasy writer Harlan Ellison especially for Culp.

Another episode, “Nightmare,” stars a young Martin Sheen in his 1963 TV debut as a prisoner of war on an alien planet. Along with five other men, Sheen, as Pvt. Dix, is physically and psychologically tortured for information by a savage race of aliens that has initiated a nuclear attack on Earth.

The men are cruelly interrogated by the bat-winged, troll-faced “Ebonites.” And after the prisoners’ treatment suddenly improves, the men come to believe that there is a traitor in their midst who must be killed.

The episodes are just some of the two dozen “Outer Limits” shows now available on videocassette. Blockbuster stores are among those that carry the episodes.

“Demon With a Glass Hand,” (1964) directed by Byron Haskin. 52 minutes. Not rated; “Nightmare,” (1963) directed by John Erman. 52 minutes. Not rated.