The first season of the classic science fiction anthology series The Outer Limits makes its grand debut onto Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber. With the rising popularity of science fiction anthology shows like Black Mirror, Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, and a rumored reboot of The Twilight Zone, this Blu-ray set is the perfect opportunity to go back and watch some of the very best in sci-fi television writing and execution. Kino Lorber brings all 32 episodes of the first season to Blu-ray with beautiful video transfers and cracking good audio mixes. To top things off, there are 24 fantastic audio commentary tracks for various episodes along with a beautiful 40-page booklet. If you're a fan of the show or are in need of some of the very best television committed to Blu-ray, it doesn't get better than The Outer Limits Season One. Highly Recommended.
"There is nothing wrong with your television. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are in control."
There's something unique and grand about a great anthology television series. With a loose connection to a host or central theme, the rampage of ideas and the real estate to explore various themes virtually guarantees that each episode will bring something exciting to the screen. Provided, of course, that the talent pool driving the production is deep enough. Because there isn't an interconnected plot that requires the writer's room to stick to continuity or over stretch a ridiculous plot past the point of breaking, a singularly unique episode can emerge.
When The Outer Limits first premiered in 1963, it wasn't exactly groundbreaking in its format. The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Terror had already been on the air for a number of years. Each of these shows were anthology series that traversed the genre spectrum from horror and science fiction to drama and comedy effortlessly showcasing terrific new talent in front of and behind the camera. When the first episode of The Outer Limits "The Galaxy Being" aired in September of 1963, it was a terrific piece of science fiction television tossed into a crowded field of science fiction television.
Who can really say why this amazing show only lasted two seasons. Any number of factors from the other previously mentioned similar anthology shows to the public's need for lighter fare during an intense period of geopolitical upheaval could have lead to this show's downfall. It certainly had nothing to do with quality as right out of the gate, The Outer Limits was producing intoxicating, thought-provoking science fiction. Each episode knew how to pace itself with a slow simmer of an idea and let the story roll to a boil that often ended with a gut punch of a final moment. This show isn't easily bingable as you're required to spend an incredible amount of energy simply paying attention to the details. So much can be missed so easily that you dare not watch this show with any nearby distractions. After each episode rolls to a close, you're tempted to sit back and let another episode startup, but deep down you know you need a break. You need to savor the moment.
For my self, my love of The Outer Limits is intertwined with my love for The Twilight Zone. Growing up with these shows airing on small mom and pop stations meant that I got to enjoy them side-by-side along with reruns of the original series of Star Trek. So many episodes that I thought belonged to The Twilight Zone actually were episodes from The Outer Limits and vice versa. For example the second episode "The Hundred Days of the Dragon" which plays as a more literal plotting of The Manchurian Candidate about a Chinese agent with a flexible face supplanting a popular presidential candidate. That episode I was dead certain for years was, in fact, a Twilight Zone story and not something from The Outer Limits. It was years later in college that I discovered the truth and began separating the two shows and got to fall in love with both series all over again.
It's probably because of the fact that I grew up thinking that The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone were the same things that I don't have a strong-hearted love for one over the other. I've witnessed some pretty intense debates about the validity of one show over the other, I had two dearly loved television studies and writing professors who shared an office space that would routinely egg the other on about one show or the other being better. For my money, both are great and worth every cent you invest in expanding your collection. As for their later run reboot shows, the updated 90s version of The Outer Limits that ran on Showtime offered up some decent episodes but nothing that I would call anything close to as memorable or groundbreaking as what appeared in the original series. It's also a show that is nearly impossible to pick a favorite episode. There are certainly standouts, "O.B.I.T," "The Hundred Days of the Dragon," and "Don't Open Till Doomsday," are highlights in my book - but they're all so good! Trying to pin down one as better than the other is a tough task.
Digging back into The Outer Limits Season One was honestly like going back to college all over again when my various professors would pull episodes from the series as examples of tight editing or scripting. I spent so much time of my early 20s digging through this show that the refresher was a great way to burn several hours of a day. It's impressive that the first season was a 32 episode run and still maintained quality and interest. As we're in the middle of a Television Renaissance as Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and various cable outlets push traditional network television to rethink and expand their programming options, it's important to note how groundbreaking the late 50s and early 60s were for their contributions. The Outer Limits Season One offers up 1,632 minutes of incredible entertainment for you to discover - or rediscover if you haven't plugged through the series in some time. After parsing through some of my favorite episodes again, I can't wait for Kino Lorber to release Season 2 on Blu-ray. I truly wish there had been a complete series offering from the get-go, but as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, the wait for more episodes of The Outer Limits will be worth it.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Outer Limits makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Kino Lorber in a seven-disc Blu-ray set. Pressed onto seven Region A-locked BD-50 discs, the discs are housed in a foldout case with slipcover and a 40-page booklet containing a terrific essay by author David J. Schow along with plot descriptions for each episode. The discs load to their respective static-image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Fans of The Outer Limits should be exceedingly happy with what Kino Lorber has brought to the table with this first season. I haven't been able to ascertain when the scans were done for these 1.33:1 1080p transfers, but I figure they have to be fairly recent as these episodes look as close to flawless as humanly possible for a show produced nearly 55 years ago. Each episode was shot on black and white 35mm and look to have been cared for fairly well over the years. Film grain is intact ensuring that each frame gives a terrific sense of depth and dimension well beyond what televisions of the original broadcast era were capable of replicating. It really shows that this was not a cheap production as even the smallest production details come through with terrific clarity.
The grayscale is spot on allowing for a gradience from bright natural white to pitch black with plenty of shadow shades in between. Overall each print for each episode is in great shape, there are a few bits of scratches or speckling here and there, but hardly anything noticeable or to get worked up over. The worst damage or scratches really only appears during the various episode's optical visual effects. The first episode "The Galaxy Being" is a prime example of the titular alien life form was superimposed into the film in post-production. These elements can look a little rough around the edges, but far from the worst thing out there. That said, everything else about the image transfers provided for this show is excellent. It had been a few years since I last saw The Outer Limits and I was very impressed with the results.
Each episode of The Outer Limits arrives with a solid English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix. The original broadcast tracks were in mono and these sound as if the same mono track is simply being punched through the right/left stereo channels without undergoing any kind of remixing giving an authentic experience to the original broadcasts. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout. Scoring is on point and never out of place. Sound effects keep the mix lively, but haven't been tinkered. Together the elements come together perfectly for each individual episode allowing that sense of mystery and tension build through the audio as well as the visual aspects. Throughout I never detected any age-related issues or hiccups. All around great stuff.
Kino Lorber brings The Outer Limits Season One to Blu-ray with a solid collection of Audio Commentaries. Unfortunately, there aren't any documentaries or retrospectives, but the 40-page booklet and the commentaries prove out giving fans a great amount of insight into the show as well as the individual episodes.
"The Galaxy Man" Audio Commentary features film historian David J Schow.
"The Hundred Days of the Dragon" Audio Commentary features film historian Dr. Reba Wissner.
"The Architects of Fear" Audio Commentary features film historian Gary Gerani.
"The Sixth Finger" Audio Commentary features film historian David J Schow.
"The Man Who Was Never Born" Audio Commentary features film historian Gary Gerani.
"O.B.I.T." Audio Commentary features film historian Craig Beam.
"Corpus Earthling" Audio Commentary features film historian Craig Beam.
"Nightmare" Audio Commentary features film historian David J Schow.
"The Zantini Misfits" Audio Commentary 1 features film historian Tim Lucas.
"The Zantini Misfits" Audio Commentary 2 features film historian Gary Gerani and Steve Mitchell.
"The Mice: Audio Commentary features film historian Dr. Reba Wissner.
"Controlled Experiment" Audio Commentary features film historian Dr. Reba Wissner.
"Don't Open Till Doomsday" Audio Commentary features film historian Dr. Reba Wissner.
"ZZZZZ" Audio Commentary features film historian Tim Lucas.
"The Invisibles" Audio Commentary features film historian Tim Lucas.
"The Bellero Shield" Audio Commentary features film historian Tim Lucas.
"Specimen Unknown" Audio Commentary features film historian Craig Beam.
"The Mutant" Audio Commentary features film historian David J Schow.
"The Guests" Audio Commentary features film historians Craig Beam and David J Schow.
"Fun and Games" Audio Commentary features film historian David J Schow.
"The Special One" Audio Commentary features film historians Gary Gerani and Michael Hyatt.
"A Feasibility Study" Audio Commentary features film historian David J Schow.
"Production and Decay of Strange Particles" features film historian Tim Lucas.
"The Forms of Things Unknown" features film historian Tim Lucas.
The Outer Limits Season One is classic television. Plain and simple. 32 episodes and 1632 minutes of some of the best science fiction committed to celluloid is at your fingertips with this terrific Blu-ray box set. While there may be some who think The Twilight Zone was a better show, I can't make that judgment call so easily. There are so many interesting and provocative stories in both series that it's impossible to say one is inherently better than the other - they're both great and should occupy equal shelf space in your collection. Kino Lorber has done a great job bringing The Outer Limits Season One to Blu-ray. With a stellar A/V presentation and dozens of audio commentaries, there is a lot to see and enjoy with this set. Fans will absolutely want to pick this one up and newcomers shouldn't hesitate a blind buy, I'm pretty sure anyone who has never seen the show will have a great time. I can't wait for Season Two to arrive now! Highly Recommended.