20 February 2004 | bregund
A pale imitation of the classic original
The original Outer Limits was a groundbreaking show: even now, forty years later, the program is thoughtful, provocative, and imaginative. It was sci-fi with a human twist, showing real-world problems against a backdrop of aliens, monster, mad scientists, and powerful political interests. The show was steeped with Shakespearean themes of love, murder, betrayal, faith, family quarrels, romance, redemption, and greed, all cleverly offset against, for instance, the site of a man in an alien costume or a woman who was actually a queen bee. This process of pairing two seemingly dissonant halves has proven to work well in other forms of entertainment, most notably the Singing Detective. It was a formula that worked well for the 1960s anthology series, because it provided both real substance and genuine entertainment, a void which the X Files was to fill later on in the 90s.
The 90s version of the Outer Limits lacks the sense of drama, and the magic, that the 60s version had. Sure the special effects are better, but the writing is horrible. Every time I watch this show, it's one of three storylines that they beat into the ground:
1) Mad scientist invents something, can't wait to try it out, tests it on himself, guess what happens (and there's always an evil board of directors out to stop his funding).
2) Human beings are being slowly changed into something else, and the mystery will be revealed at the end of the show.
3) Aliens (or a robot) have an ulterior motive, and it's not a good one.
Oh, and you totally can't tell that they shot the series in Vancouver.
Where is the drama, the acting, the great writing that the original show had? For example, Sally Kellerman, Martin Landau, and Chita Rivera are fantastic in the Bellero Shield, my favorite OL episode. You have a greedy, ambitious Kellerman, a slightly loopy but brilliant Landau, Chita's weird dance-like movements and vaguely threatening presence, an alien murder, a wealthy industrialist, a spooky old house, and excellent writing. Now that is an OL episode that none of the new episodes can even begin to compare with. You feel something for each of the characters, and the storyline pulls you along.
On the new OL, you can't care about the characters; they are flat, dull, lifeless, unlikable. You can't identify with any of them, it's like they are made of flexible plastic or something. And everyone is either good or evil, and the writing goes out of its way to make sure that the evil characters are pure evil and nothing else. Like the one about the cloned robot who was put down by the greedy businesswoman at the end of the show, only to have the robot come back to life again and strangle her. Gee, I didn't see that one coming. Who wrote this crap?