Outer Limits, The: Season One (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)1963-1964 (March 27, 2018)
Studio(s)United Artists Television/MGM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about the participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits.”
The TV landscape of the 1950s and the 1960s had already had its share of science fiction programming by the time The Outer Limits premiered in September of 1963. This included, but wasn’t limited to, Tales of Tomorrow, Science Fiction Theater, One Step Beyond, and of course, The Twilight Zone. While the argument as to which show was better, The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone, continues to be debated amongst fans of both shows, it’s clear that each of them made a distinctive mark upon their audiences.
Anthological storytelling with a heavy dose of morality and the otherworldly was the framing device of choice for both shows. While The Twilight Zone depended more on characters being put into fantastical situations, usually with a twist of some kind, The Outer Limits relied more on scientifically-informed narratives and character development. I personally have no love for one show over the other, but the differences between them aren’t terribly difficult to discern. It’s a bit like the differences between Star Trek and Star Wars. The show’s stark opening with a single dot of light appearing in the center of the screen with an unseen narrator informing the audience that “There’s nothing wrong with your television set” only made it that much more memorable, particularly to anybody watching that was 12 or younger who had their wits scared out of them.
Created by Leslie Stevens and airing from 1963 to 1965, The Outer Limits only managed to garner a total of 49 episodes, most of which aired during its first season (it was unfortunately cancelled later on during its second). Each episode dealt with something different, whether it involved alien beings from other worlds (Corpus Earthling) or human development and communication (The Hundred Days of the Dragon). Fan favorite episodes from Season One included Nightmare, The Invisibles, Don’t Open ’Til Doomsday, The Sixth Finger, The Bellero Shield, The Zanti Misfits, and The Architects of Fear, with others to follow in Season Two. Attempts to reboot the show have only been mildly successful, depending upon who you ask, but nothing can ever touch the original show’s quality.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Season One of The Outer Limits for the first time on Blu-ray with a remarkable high definition presentation. For a show of its vintage, having anything left to do any kind of a transfer is special enough, but with Kino Lorber’s presentation, the video quality far surpasses any previous DVD release by a country mile. It’s a naturally film-like presentation with solid grain structures, outside of occasional opticals. Deep blacks and bright whites are also on display, the latter of which never appear blown out. Grayscale and overall brightness and contrast levels are nearly perfect while stability is never an issue. There may be an occasional missing frame here or there, as well as some mild speckling and scratches, but otherwise, it’s remarkably free of any obvious debris. The audio is presented on an English 2.0 mono LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. While the audio has its limits due to how and when it was recorded, it’s recreated beautifully for modern home video consumption. Everything is well separated without any heavy distortion. Dialogue is clean and clear while the score has some surprising weight to it. It’s a fairly flat presentation, but the obvious fidelity of it makes up for any of its built-in shortcomings. It’s also free of leftover hiss, crackle, or dropouts.
Not to be outdone, this set also comes with a healthy amount of audio commentaries by various film historians for nearly all of the episodes. Disc One contains audio commentaries for The Galaxy Being and The Sixth Finger by David J. Schow; The Hundred Days of the Dragon by Reba Wissner; and The Architects of Fear by Gary Gerani. Disc Two contains an audio commentary for The Man Who Was Never Born by Gary Gerani; O.B.I.T. and Corpus Earthling by Craig Beam; and Nightmare by David J. Schow. Disc Three contains an audio commentary for The Zanti Misfits by Tim Lucas; an additional audio commentary for The Zanti Misfits by Gary Gerani & Steve Mitchell; and one for The Mice by Reba Wissner. Disc Four contains audio commentaries for Controlled Experiment and Don’t Open Till Doomsday by Reba Wissner and ZZZZZ, The Invisibles, and The Bellero Shield by Tim Lucas. Disc Five contains an audio commentary for Specimen: Unknown by Craig Beam and The Mutant by David J. Schow. Disc Six contains an audio commentary for The Guests by Gary Gerani & David J. Schow; Fun and Games and A Feasibility Study by David J. Schow; The Special One by Gary Gerani & Michael Hyatt; and Production and Decay of Strange Particles by Tim Lucas. And last but not least, Disc Seven contains an audio commentary for The Forms of Things Unknown by Tim Lucas. All of the discs are housed within a thin (perhaps too thin) slipcase which also contains a 40-page insert booklet with the essay “There is Nothing Wrong With Your Television Set” by David J. Schow and a Season One episode listing with air dates, cast lists, and audio commentary providers for each episode. All of these audio commentaries are informative and more than make up for a lack of other bonus materials (which the Season Two set is likely to contain).
Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ presentation of The Outer Limits: Season One on Blu-ray is stellar. One can only hope for the same kind of treatment for its second season, which is set to debut later in 2018. For now, this is a terrific collection that should please long-time fans of the show. Highly recommended.
“We now return control of your television set to you. Until next week, at this same time, when the control voice will take you to... The Outer Limits.”
- Tim Salmons