Friday, 3 March 2023

The Avengers, four early Mrs Gale episodes

Some early Cathy Gale episodes of The Avengers, from late 1962 and early 1963. They feature what I call Steed Mark 2. Steed Mark 1, seen in the one or two surviving first season episodes, is a rather nasty piece of work with an edge of sadism to his character. He’s a spy, espionage is a dirty game and he plays it dirty. With the second season and the introduction of two female co-stars (Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale and Julie Stevens as Venus Smith were intended to appear in alternate episodes) the personality of Steed changed somewhat. He became more charming and there was plenty of witty banter with his female co-stars. Steed was still far more ruthless and manipulative than the Steed Mark 3 most people are accustomed to from the Emma Peel era but he was ruthless and manipulative in a charming way.

Steed would continue to evolve, gradually becoming a dandy with a love for vintage cars and the finer things of life. Interestingly enough he does not yet have his Bentley. In Traitor in Zebra he drives a very nice 1930s Lagonda.

He would also slowly become more obviously upper-class, more obviously a polished well-educated gentleman, albeit one with very few moral scruples.

Initially no-one was quite sure how Honor Blackman was to play Cathy Gale. The idea of having an expert in unarmed combat with a penchant for black leather emerged gradually during the first Cathy Gale season (May 1962 to March 1963).

The relationship between Steed and Mrs Gale was exceptionally interesting. She doesn’t really trust him completely, and with good reason. He manipulates her and he sometimes neglects to tell her things that she really is entitled to know.

The reason The Avengers lasted so long and became increasingly successful has a lot to do with the way the series was constantly evolving. The basic setup remained but the David Keel, Cathy Gale, Emma Peel and Tara King eras all have their own flavour. The differences between the Cathy Gale and Emma Peel eras will be startling to those who are only familiar with the Emma Peelers.

Traitor in Zebra

Traitor in Zebra was written by John Gilbert and aired in November 1962. There’s a security leak in a top-secret defence establishment, HMS Zebra, which deals with laser tracking systems. A young sub-lieutenant named Crane has been accused of espionage. Steed and Mrs Gale have the job of finding out if he’s really the traitor. Steed goes undercover as a naval psychiatrist and Mrs Gale as a research chemist.

The local village is a small tight-knit community and the circle of possible suspects is fairly small.

This is early Avengers so it’s a straightforward spy thriller plot without any elements of the surreal or the fantastic. There is some gadgetry but it’s all plausible technology. In fact the technical stuff basically makes sense.

The methods by which the secrets are passed is quite ingenious.

It’s always fun to see William Gaunt (later to star in The Champions). He plays another young officer who is keen to help clear the name of his friend Crane.

It builds to a very satisfying very tense finale in which Steed’s ruthlessness is very much in evidence.

There’s quite a high body count. At this stage The Avengers was still a fairly hard-edged spy series that portrayed espionage as a game in which nice people often get killed, and the good guys can’t afford to be too squeamish about using violence.

The problem with this episode is that John Gilbert’s script is a by-the-numbers spy story and all the plot twists can be seen coming. In fact the viewer more or less knows exactly what’s going on early on, although Steed and Mrs Gale obviously don’t. It’s a competent episode.


Intercrime was scripted by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke. It went to air in December 1962. A couple of safe-crackers are murdered on the job, or at least one is murdered and the other left for dead. The survivor, Palmer, provides Steed with the first clues to what’s going on. It’s already suspected that an international crime syndicate is operating in Britain. There’s been a string of major robberies and the MOs don’t fit with the habits of any known local criminals.

Palmer, in a semi-delirious state, lets slip some important information. A key operative in the crime syndicate, Hilda Stern, is about to arrive from Germany. She is arrested and is to be deported but Steed gets a brainwave. Why can’t Mrs Gale impersonate Hilda Stern and infiltrate the organisation. Mrs Gale is not happy about this idea at all but is pressured by Steed into agreeing (typical of the uneasy relationship between them in this season).

As you might expect Cathy’s fears that this was going to be an insanely dangerous idea prove to be well-founded.

The weakness of the script is that Intercrime is so ruthless that inevitably some of its employees are going to turn against it.

This is a solid enough episode with some decent tension (Cathy Gale really does get into a very sticky situation). The plot is routine but the idea of an international crime super-syndicate is a good one. And Intercrime really does seem like a formidable enemy.

It’s interesting to notice how feminine Cathy Gale looks. Skirts and very feminine hairdos. This was not yet the black leather-clad Cathy Gale. This is also a Mrs Gale who uses guns rather than judo to deal with bad guys.

Quite a good episode.

The Big Thinker

The Big Thinker was written by Martin Woodhouse and screened in December 1962. There are problems with a new experimental super-computer called Plato. The problems might be caused by sabotage.

Cathy inveigles her way into Plato’s domain by posing as an anthropologist hoping to use Plato to translate dead languages. Computer whizz-kid Dr Kearns is an obvious suspect. He’s brilliant but erratic, he chases women, he drinks and he gambles. All of which could make him susceptible to pressure to betray the project.

There are some really nice scenes in this one, especially when Cathy’s flat gets broken into. The gambling scene between Mrs Gale and Broster is also excellent.

What’s nice is that the computer is more than just a McGuffin. It plays a central role in the story and also becomes a character. The idea that Plato isn’t just a computer but in fact the whole complex is also rather nifty. It’s not very original but it’s made to work here. You get the impression that Martin Woodhouse has actually put a bit of thought into the computer angle.

Mrs Gale is still very feminine but she has picked up a few unarmed combat skills.

Anthony Booth is terrific as Dr Kearns. He very wisely doesn’t try to soften the character - Kearns is arrogant and obnoxious but he’s vastly entertaining and the fact that nobody likes him plays an important story in the story.


Warlock was written by Doreen Montgomery and went to air in January 1963. This was the episode that was supposed to introduce Mrs Gale but the producers were not satisfied and ordered a lot of reshooting.

In this episode Steed and Mrs Gale tangle with black magic. A physicist suffers what appears to be a stroke, but it isn’t. He then disappears. Steed found him clutching a hex symbol.

International spies (headed by a sinister fellow called Markel) are using black magician Cosmo Gallion to induce scientists to part with vital secrets. Mrs Gale just happens to be an expert in psychic and occult phenomena.

What’s interesting is that Gallion and Markel have totally separate and mutually contradictory agendas. Markel wants a secret rocket fuel formula; Gallion wants occult power.

It ends with Gallion performing a black magic ritual at which it appears that he intends to sacrifice Mrs Gale. The ritual scene tries to be as sexy and you could get away with on British TV in 1963, with a blonde girl dancing in a very skimpy costume. Wearing nothing but very brief panties on her bottom half was pretty startling in 1963. The mixing of voodoo and black magic is amusing and adds some spice. Of course all the occult stuff is a hopeless mishmash worthy of the Sunday papers but this is television and it’s supposed to be silly fun.

You have to remember that in the 60s the British press was continually creating moral panics about witchcraft in modern England.

The relationship between Steed and Mrs Gale is not yet clearly defined. She seems to be very disapproving of Steed at this stage. Steed is very obviously hoping to seduce her.

A well-crafted very enjoyable episode.

Final Thoughts

Four pretty good episodes with Warlock being the best of them.

I've reviewed other Cathy Gale episodes -in these posts - the Cathy Gale era The Mauritius Penny/Mr Teddy Bear and the Cathy Gale era.

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense

Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense was Hammer Films’ last desperate effort to save itself. Their final feature film was To the Devil…a Daughter in 1976. Due to unfortunate financial decisions, failed to make them any money. The British film industry was on its last legs and things were about to get worse, with home video about to arrive and drive the final nail in the coffin. Hammer’s decision to move away from movies into television was actually quite sound.

It’s a decision which should have worked. Hammer House of Horror, made in 1980, was well received and the ratings were healthy. The American network was initially keen on the idea of a second season. Sadly the deal fell through. Without the US network onboard the series was doomed.

Hammer House of Horror did demonstrate that Hammer could do TV horror extremely well. And by the late 70s it was becoming obvious that TV was more suited to Hammer’s style of horror. At the beginning of the 70s Hammer had realised that they needed to vary their formula, and that they needed to add more blood and more sex and more nudity. Their late 1960s efforts were starting to seem a bit tame and a bit stodgy. Hammer responded by making a series of extremely interesting early 70s horror films, with the extra blood, sex and nudity. But Hammer never seemed entirely comfortable with the idea of erotic horror. It just isn’t British. They preferred to leave that sort of thing to the Europeans who were very comfortable indeed with the concept. On TV however they could make the kind of horror that they were comfortable with, a bit bloody but not too much so and with just enough sexiness.

With Hammer House of Horror they hadn’t extricated themselves from their financial mess but the results of the series were still moderately encouraging. In 1984 they tried again, with Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense.

This new series was a co-production with Fox’s TV arm in the US. That caused problems from the start. Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense was too rushed, and to please their American partners the series had to be squeaky clean, bland and inoffensive. If Hammer were uneasy about sex they were to find that American TV preferred to pretend that sex just didn’t exist.

The episodes have a 70-minute running time, presumably at the insistence of the American partners who intended the series to be screened as a mystery movie series. The running times are definitely too long in some cases. Some of the episodes are a bit slower than they should have been, with not quite enough plot to justify the movie-length running times. But it's only a problem with some episodes.

The Americans presumably also insisted on imported American stars. 

Episode Guide

The Sweet Scent of Death was directed by Peter Sasdy. It was written by Brian Clemens so it’s no surprise that it plays out exactly like an episode from his 1970s anthology series Thriller. If you’re a Thriller fan you’ll know what to expect. The plot twists are done reasonably well but some key aspects of the story are a bit too predictable.

Dean Stockwell (an actor I have never been able to warm to) plays an American diplomat in England. Shirley Knight plays his wife Ann. Someone seems to be out to get Ann, although it’s not clear just how serious the threat might be. The prologue suggests to us that there’s a connection to events in New York ten years earlier.

There’s an obvious suspect on whom the police focus their attention but the viewer will immediately realise that there are three or possibly even four alternative suspects.

Peter Sasdy directs the episode competently. It’s an OK episode but just a bit on the bland side.

A Distant Scream
, written by Martin Worth and directed by John Hough, is more interesting. An elderly man is dying. He spent the lest few decades of his life locked up for the murder of his girlfriend years earlier. He has always proclaimed his innocence and has been obsessed with finding the real killer. Close to death, he is transported back in time (presumably by supernatural or paranormal means) and is able to witness the two days leading up to his girlfriend’s murder.

The old man is Michael (David Carradine). At the time of the murder Michael was a freelance photographer spending a holiday at a fishing village with his girlfriend Rosemary (Stephanie Beacham). She’s a married woman with whom he is having an affair.

Michael as an old man is not only able to witness the events leading up to the tragedy, he can interact with the people involved. Rosemary can see him. He can talk to her. At times others can see him and speak with him. Even his younger self sees him at one point.

This of course involves one of those famous time travel paradoxes. If he can interact with people in the past then he should logically be able to change the past. I was rather interested to see whether the scriptwriter (Martin Worth) was aware of the time travel paradox and if so how he was going to deal with it. Or whether he was simply going to ignore it.

The weak link in this episode is David Carradine. He just can’t act. There’s another problem - as a dying old man he looks younger healthier than he does as his younger self. Stephanie Beacham’s performance on the other hand is quite solid.

The Late Nancy Irving, written by David Fisher and directed by Peter Sasdy, concerns a lady golf champion. She has diabetes but it’s always been well controlled. She also has an incredibly rare blood type.

Then she wakes up in hospital. She is told that she crashed her car. She has only vague garbled memories of some kind of car accident. She is assured that her injuries are not all that severe. What worries her is that she feels rather confused. Her mind seems foggy. She is a bit disturbed by the bars on the windows of her private room but she is given a reasonably plausible explanation. The bars date from a time when the clinic treated mental patients who might try to throw themselves from windows. Of course she isn’t being locked in and she’s silly to think such a thing.

Gradually she becomes a little worried. Why hasn’t she heard from her fiancé? Why hasn’t she heard from anyone? Why does she feel so weak? And why are they giving her blood transfusions? And then she sees a story on the TV news and she starts to get the picture.

The main problem here is that while the basic idea is excellent there are not enough plot twists to sustain a 70-minute running time. The excessive length weakens the suspense. Cristina Raines in the lead rôle is also just a little bland. This is an OK episode that could have been a great episode.

Black Carrion was written by Don Houghton and directed by John Hough. Journalist Paul Taylor (Leigh Lawson) is hired to write an article about the Verne Brothers. They were (according to the story) a hugely successful pop duo who disappeared in 1963. Totally disappeared. No-one knows what happened to them. They were never heard from again. To Taylor it’s obvious that this is a promising story. Researcher/photographer Cora Berlaine (Season Hubley) has been assigned to assist him. Cora has a prodigious knowledge of 60s pop music.

Cora is troubled by memories. Disturbing but totally disjointed memories. Are they real memories? She thinks so but of course she can’t be sure.

The search for the Verne Brothers takes Paul and Cora to the village of Briar’s Frome. It was rumoured that the Verne Brothers were going to buy the palatial manor house there. The village is deserted. It’s a ghost town. But weird things are happening in Briar’s Frome, and Cora’s memories are getting more vivid.

The plot is all over the place and there’s some silliness but there are lots of great ideas (and even original ideas) in this episode. And lots of creepy atmosphere. I enjoyed this episode a great deal.

In Possession was written by Michael J. Bird and directed by Val Guest. Frank Daly (Christopher Cazenove) and his wife Sylvia (Carol Lynley) reach their hotel room only to find that it’s already occupied by a woman and an old lady. When they fetch the manager to sort things out the woman and the lady have vanished. Then Frank sees them again by the river, and again they vanish.

Frank and Sylvia start seeing various people in their flat. People who are not there. But they seem very real. Slowly it becomes obvious that in some way Frank and Sylvia are witnessing events that lead to a murder. Is this a shared dream? Or is it something that happened in the past?

Whether you consider this episode to be a haunted house story depends on how broadly you define that term. Whether this counts as a haunted house story doesn’t really matter. It’s a fascinatingly weird and disturbing tale with some real moments of terror and creepiness. An excellent episode.

And the Wall Came Tumbling Down was written by Dennis Spooner and John Peacock and directed by Paul Annett. An old deconsecrated church is being demolished by the Ministry of Defence. There’s a mysterious accident on the site, and we then get a flashback to events in 1949, events involving a coven of devil-worshippers. The devil-worshippers are betrayed by a young man. More than three centuries later another young man has a peculiar interest in this old church.

As you may have guessed the world of the 1980s is about to encounter evil from the 17th century. Maybe not wildly original but it plays out in a very satisfactory manner with plenty of gothic atmosphere and some real creepiness. Caroline Trent (Barbi Benton) works for the government but her real interest is in the occult. She isn’t sure what is going on with that old church but she knows that Dark Forces are at work. The site manager Peter Whiteway (Gareth Hunt) doesn’t believe her, at least not at first.

This one has an interesting cast. There’s Gareth Hunt (best-known for The New Avengers), the wonderful Peter Wyngarde from Department S and Jason King and there’s Barbi Benton, best known as a Playboy model. Hunt is very good, Wyngarde is sinister and charismatic and Barbi Benton is quite OK. It all builds to a satisfying conclusion. A very good episode.

Child's Play was written by Graham Wassell and directed by Val Guest. Mike and Ann Preston are a young couple with a daughter. They wake up in the middle of the night to discover something very odd and disturbing. They have been walled in. Their whole house has been walled in. And it’s getting rather hot. The telephone doesn’t work. The radio doesn’t work. The TV works, but every station has nothing but a station identification logo and it’s the same logo on every channel.

They haven’t noticed it yet but that logo has appeared on all sorts of items in the house. It’s getting hotter and they’re close to giving way to panic.

Mike comes up with various plans to break through the wall but it seems impossible. The two of them also come up with possible explanations. The actual explanation is one they hadn’t considered, and it’s pretty clever. There are some clues but I certainly didn’t guess the solution. This is a nicely scary creepy story, a bit like a good Twilight Zone episode. A very fine episode.

Paint Me a Murder
was written by Jesse Lasky Jr and Pat Silver and directed by Alan Cooke. Painter Luke Lorenz finishes a painting then gets into a rowing boat and heads out to sea. He then smashes through the planking of the boat. His body is not found. Suicide is assumed.

He wasn’t a very successful painter when alive but now that he’s dead his paintings start to fetch huge prices. That’s good news for his widow Sandra (Michelle Phillips). And for art dealer Vincent Rhodes (David Robb).

The major early twist won’t come as much of a surprise but the twists do keep coming. I liked this episode.

Tennis Court was written by Andrew Sinclair and Michael Hastings and directed by Cyril Frankel. This is a haunted tennis court story. A middle-aged woman, Maggie (Hannah Gordon), inherits an old but moderately palatial country house. She has recently married Harry Dowd, a Member of Parliament. In the grounds of the house is an indoor tennis court. Slightly odd things happen on that tennis court. It has some connection to events many years earlier, during the war. A British bomber was shot down. One member of the crew survived. They other did not.

The local vicar, John Bray (Peter Graves), knows something about that wartime incident. At the time he was a Canadian volunteer in the R.A.F. and he was there.

Maggie is becoming increasingly terrified of whatever is in that tennis court.

Not one of my favourite episodes, but entertaining enough.

The Corvini Inheritance was written by David Fisher and directed by Gabrielle Beaumont. This one starts with a young woman, Eva Bailey, encountering a peeping tom. She is unharmed but rather scared. And it starts with a robbery at a fine art auction room.

Frank Lane (David McCallum) is in charge of security at the auction room. He also happens to live in the same building as Eva. Frank offers to help make Eva’s flat more secure. They have dinner together. Frank is divorced and a bit lonely but he’s a nice guy.

Frank has a big security job on. The Corvini inheritance, a fabulous collection of jewels amassed in Italy during the Renaissance by a family of professional assassins, is to be auctioned. It will be in the keeping of the auctioneers for several weeks. It’s an obvious target for professional thieves. The most valuable piece in the collection is a necklace with a grim history. It may be cursed.

There are two plot strands here. Someone seems to be stalking Eva, and there’s the possibility of an attempt to steal the Corvini jewels. I liked this one a lot. There’s some nice ambiguity here.

Czech Mate was written by Jeremy Burnham and directed by John Hough. This is a straightforward Cold War spy thriller but it’s nicely executed with plenty of cynicism and paranoia. Susan George plays an Englishwoman, Vicky Duncan, caught up in a web of deceit and betrayal behind the Iron Curtain. In this story there is no difference whatever between the good guys and the bad guys. People disappear and corpses turn up and Vicky discovers that she can’t trust anyone.

Susan George and Patrick Mower (as her ex-husband) give excellent performances and it’s always nice to see Peter Vaughan in anything. This episode is a bit out of place in this series but it’s entertaining.

Last Video and Testament was written by Roy Russell and Robert Quigley and directed by Peter Sasdy. Victor Frankham (David Langton) owns a vast electronic empire. He has a heart condition and he has a much younger wife, Selena (Deborah Raffin). A much younger wife who may be looking elsewhere for certain pleasures which her husband can no longer provide. Victor’s doctor has been encouraging him to have an operation. An operation which will restore his vitality in the bedroom, which may not be to Selena’s liking.

Victor has a surprise in store for Selena, in the form of a videotape.

This one has quite a clever central idea and it works very nicely.

Final Thoughts

This is an extremely good series, much much better than its reputation would lead you to believe. Highly recommended.

The German Pidax DVD boxed set includes all thirteen episodes, in English with removable German subtitles. The box cover suggests that it only includes eleven episodes but it definitely includes all thirteen. The transfers are perfectly acceptable.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

The Twilight Zone - The Sixteen-Millimetre Shrine

The Sixteen-Millimetre Shrine was the fourth episode of the first season of The Twilight Zone and it’s always been one of my favourites. It was directed by Mitchell Leisen and written by Rod Serling and first went to air on October 23, 1959.

Barbara Jean Trenton (Ida Lupino) was, briefly, a major movie star. But that was many years ago. Her career took off quickly and crashed just as quickly. She is now a middle-aged recluse. She spends her time watching her own old movies on 16mm in a private projection room in her mansion.

While Barbara Jean Trenton, the character played by Ida Lupino, clearly has a kinship with Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard and while the initial setup resembles that of Billy Wilder’s film it is quite wrong to see The Sixteen-Millimetre Shrine as merely a television rip-off of Sunset Boulevard. The story does not follow the same trajectory, and there are differences in emphasis. And while it isn’t immediately obvious at first by the end of the story it has become very definitely a Twilight Zone story.

It has the essential Twilight Zone feel - everything seems just like everyday reality until suddenly it’s not everyday reality any more.

In The Sixteen-Millimetre Shrine there’s quite a bit of focus on the essential voyeurism of cinema. The twist here is that it’s self-voyeurism. Barbara Jean Trenton has no interest in other people’s lives. She has no curiosity about other people. The subject of her voyeurism is Barbara Jean Trenton. Not Barbara Jean Trenton the woman, but Barbara Jean Trenton the movie star. She watches herself obsessively on the screen. A further twist is that Barbara Jean Trenton the movie star no longer exists. This is voyeurism focused on the past.

And of course the viewer is watching Barbara Jean watching herself.

The twist at the end was later borrowed (or homaged if you prefer) by a certain very famous film director but to say any more would constitute a spoiler. It goes without saying that the film director in question was hailed as a genius for this ending, but The Twilight Zone did it first.

This is Rod Serling’s writing at its best. It packs an emotional punch but without sentimentality and without the viewer feeling manipulated. Serling could be guilty of sentimentality and manipulation but when he avoided those pitfalls he could come up with some top-notch scripts. And this is a wonderfully subtle script.

Martin Balsam is excellent as Barbara Jean’s loyal long-suffering friend and agent Danny Weiss.

But the success of this episode depends entirely on Lupino’s performance. She’s superb. She wisely avoids self-pity. Barbara Jean has isolated herself entirely from the contemporary world but we don’t despise or pity her. She has made a choice. She is happier living in the past. She knows that the modern world would destroy her. Lupino gives her a certain dignity.

While Sunset Boulevard was a rather scathing look at Hollywood and what it does to people The Sixteen-Millimetre Shrine has a different tone. It certainly acknowledges that Hollywood uses people, makes them stars and then discards them but Serling’s story lacks Sunset Boulevard’s venom. Barbara Jean’s fate is sad, and yet there’s no question that for a brief moment Hollywood really did give her everything she wanted. It gave her complete happiness. Would she have been better off never having experienced her brief moment of fame and fulfilment? If happiness is fleeting would we really be better off without it? Would we really be better off living safe predictable conventional lives with no insane highs and no insane lows?

Barbara Jean would undoubtedly say that the highs are worth the price one has to pay. She knows that she was a star, and no-one can ever take that away from her.

So rather than the bleakness and venom of Sunset Boulevard we get a bitter-sweet tone here, and the combination of Serling’s writing and Lupino’s acting makes it work.

I’ve now seen The Sixteen-Millimetre Shrine four times and it remains one of my favourite Twilight Zone moments. Very highly recommended.

Sunday, 8 January 2023

three more Outer Limits season 1 episodes

Three more Outer Limits season 1 episodes from 1964. They’re not among the best episodes but even lesser episodes of this series are pretty good and pretty interesting.

Second Chance

Second Chance was written by Sonya Roberts and Lou Morheim and directed by Paul Stanley. It went to air in Match 1964.

A group of people are drawn to a carnival spaceship ride. They don’t know why. It’s just a silly fake spaceship. They get quite a surprise when the fake spacecraft actually lifts off and they find themselves in deep space. The carnival ride has been transformed into a real spaceship by an alien from a distant planet.

The people on the ride are a motley assortment and it’s difficult to understand why the alien wanted them aboard. That will however gradually become clear.

This is yet another example of The Outer Limits giving the alien invasion idea a major twist. And it’s another example of the series treating aliens as beings who might not necessarily be hostile. The idea of a carnival ride turning into a nightmare ride through outer space is very cool.

And, as so often in this series, there’s more emphasis on character than you’ll find in most TV sci-fi. The plot is mostly a device to allow the characters to learn something about themselves.

The Children of Spider County

Written by Anthony Lawrence, directed by Leonard J. Horn, screened February 1964.

In The Children of Spider County the Space Security agency gets involved when four young men disappear. There are extraordinary links between these four men that suggest a possibility that seems insane, but the links just can’t be explained by coincidence and Space Security takes the matter seriously. There’s also a fifth young man, Ethan Wechsler, and he’s facing a murder charge.

This episode illustrates some of the weaknesses of this series - cheesy makeup and iffy special effects. But The Outer Limits never worried about stuff like that. If they felt that the monsters needed to be shown, they’d show them, and if they looked cheesy the producers felt that the scripts would be good enough to compensate. And usually they were.

This episode works because it takes the alien invasion idea and gives it lots of interesting twists, and lots of ambiguity. Cleverly, the ambiguities are never fully resolved. There’s some slightly cringe-inducing speechifying about accepting differences but there are some genuine moral and emotional dilemmas.

There’s some action, with Ethan and his girlfriend on the run from the cops, and maybe from the aliens, and maybe from Space Security. And again there’s ambiguity - maybe it would be better if the alien caught them, and maybe it wouldn’t.

Not one of the great Outer Limits episodes but even the less-great episodes of this series tended to be very good and very thoughtful.


Written by Stephen Lord, directed by Gerd Oswald, screened February 1964.

begins, naturally enough, on the Moon. American astronauts discover an artifact which is clearly not natural. At first they assume the Russians must be behind it but it soon becomes apparent that this small white sphere contains a number of alien intelligences. Are these aliens friendly or hostile? They seem benevolent. The aliens have a problem, and it’s a big problem. And it becomes a problem for the crew of the lunar mission as well. The commander of the lunar mission, General Stocker, will have to make a tough decision. He had to do that once before and it had consequences for which his second-in-command, Major Anderson, has never forgiven him.

It’s that decision made by General Stocker in the past that provides the main thematic interest of this episode. It’s all about decisions and decisions that have to be made by both the human and alien characters. The aliens simply function as a catalyst for major personal upheavals involving General Stocker and Major Anderson and the mission’s chief scientist, Professor Diana Brice (Ruth Roman). There’s a romantic drama between the general and Diana Brice but Major Anderson seems to be mixed up in it as well.

It’s not very profound but it is a bit more than just a space adventure yarn.

The special effects are very cheap-looking but the aliens are rather cool. These are aliens who really look profoundly alien, rather than being guys in rubber suits or cheesy makeup.

The acting is good enough to make the characters at least a bit more than cardboard cutouts.

Not a great episode but it’s solid enough.

Final Thoughts

I've described these as lesser episodes but I think they're all worth watching.

I’ve reviewed a number of other episodes of The Outer Limits, including The Sixth Finger, Don't Open Till Doomsday and ZZZZZ and The Man Who Was Never Born and O.B.I.T.

Monday, 2 January 2023

highlights of 2022 cult TV viewing

It's tie to once again look back over the year just gone. I was almost going to say that this hasn't really been a bumper year for me as far as cult television is concerned, but having a quick scan through my 2022 posts I find that in fact I discovered quite a few exciting series that were new to me.

My most exciting cult television find in 2022 was undoubtedly the 1983 first season of Simon & Simon, a delightfully quirky and charming private eye series.

My other exciting discovery was the Japanese anime TV series Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex. It was made in 2002 so it's a bit outside the normal time frame for this blog but it's a terrific science fiction series.

There was also the 1957 cop drama Decoy, the first cop series entirely focused on the work of a policewoman. Not an action series but intelligent, sensitive and occasionally provocative. In fact it's bet series ever made about a female cop.

And this was the year I discovered Miami Vice. This is my kind of TV show - style, style and more style.

So overall, not such a bad year.