Destruct that ship, General!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Episode Spotlight: "The Architects of Fear" (9/30/1963)




“The Architects of Fear”
Season 1, Episode 3
Originally aired 9/30/1963



Something streaks across the sky at a downward angle. A rocket of some sort? We see a crowded city street, its panicked citizens fleeing in terror. We see the object again, and we realize that it’s a nuclear missile. The mob reaches a chaotic fevered pitch as people are trampled underfoot, the whistling of the missile growing louder and louder until----


The camera pulls back to reveal that what we've been watching is a filmstrip. Roughly a dozen men are seated around a table in a darkened room. They discuss their view that the only way to avert an all-out nuclear war is to force humanity to unite. One of them casts an ominous look at a nearby crate. “It is one of us who must submit to that ordeal.”



The scientists and doctors that comprise United Labs have devised a plan to present earth with an extraterrestrial threat; fervently hoping that a common enemy will lead to international cooperation and subsequent world peace. One of them will be surgically transformed into a hostile alien (from the planet “Theta”) who will interrupt the United Nations’ General Assembly session to essentially scare the world shitless. Lots are drawn. Young physicist Allen Leighton’s name is pulled.


Allen conceals the project from his wife Yvette, who gingerly shares the news that her heart murmur, which has heretofore precluded her from bearing children, is no longer a problem. “If we’d only known five years ago,” he muses (in truth he means yesterday, when he still had a chance to back out of the mission). His death is faked as a necessary step in the process and, as his irreversible transformation moves forward, he learns that Yvette is with child. On The Twilight Zone, such a cruelly ironic twist would signal the end of the episode; but no, we've still got quite a bit of story here.


Despite a couple of setbacks, Allen survives the intense and comprehensive surgical conversion from human to Thetan. He is then secretly launched into space with instructions to land right outside the UN; however, a navigational error upon reentry causes him to overshoot his target. He lands in the woods near United Labs and, as he makes his way back to regroup with the rest of the consortium, runs afoul of a hunting party who fires upon him in terror. Allen’s colleagues rush to intercept him at the lab; meanwhile Yvette, who shares a sympathetic psychic link with him (and has never truly believed that he’s dead), senses his danger and makes her way there as well. All parties converge on the lab for a heartbreaking, tragic climax.



RANDOMONIUM


“The Architects of Fear” rests comfortably on the top tier of Outer Limits episodes; it stands with the best that the series has to offer (it’s all subjective, of course, but it just may be the best, period). Every element of the production achieves an almost astonishing level of excellence. The script by Meyer Dolinsky is absolutely top-notch, expertly balancing the grotesque (Allan’s transformation) with the beautiful (his relationship with Yvette). The acting is first-rate, Robert Culp (Allen) and Geraldine Brooks (Yvette) in particular. The cinematography is every bit as arrestingly noirish as last week’s “The Hundred Days of the Dragon,” despite a much more pronounced sci-fi basis (part of the brilliance of Conrad Hall’s photographic direction is his insistence on bringing such heavy shadows to a genre that is historically brightly lit). This is the first episode in the series’ initial production cycle to be directed by Byron Haskin; however, due to the fact that production order rarely (if ever) matches broadcast order, it was actually the second Haskin-directed episode to air (after last week’s “The Hundred Days of the Dragon”). He’ll also direct “A Feasibility Study” later this season, then return for three more episodes in season two.

The episode is filled with wonderful touches. Dr. Gainer's twitchy, repulsed expression as he reaches into the cage to grab the mini-Thetan by the scruff of its neck perfectly underlines the grotesque, horrific nature of the project and the desperate, very human impetus behind it. Once Allen's transformation is complete, we see the scientists place him a casket and, in the very next shot, a hearse driving past the maternity clothing store. A few scenes later, when Yvette sympathetically experiences Allen being shot, she hails a cab... right in front of the same store.



The scene in act two in which Allen suffers a schizophrenic episode in mid-transformation and terrorizes the scientists, all while quoting (and misquoting) various literary passages, is straight up brilliant (it's probably my favorite scene in the entire episode, but really, almost any scene could take that honor). I could go on at extreme length listing all the things I love about this episode, so the question must be asked: how does one review such a marvelous production without succumbing to ingratiating and/or obnoxious gushing? I must admit, I was a bit trepidatious when I began tackling this episode, unsure that I’d have enough content (outside of finding synonyms for "brilliant" and "excellent"). But then I started examining United Labs’ plan from a bigger picture perspective, and the old wheels started turning.



The episode coyly sidesteps the backstory of the Thetan and, by association, the planet Theta itself. So... what’s the story with the critter in the cage? Is it an actual Thetan? If so, is it a baby? Or are Thetans in fact the size of a Sideshow Collectibles deluxe action figure (roughly twelve inches tall)? If this is the case, then only the scientists must know this, since their plan requires an adult human-sized one. So are we to believe that this collective of big brains has secretly discovered another planet, traveled there, and successfully brought back a native? We only see a few glimpses of the little guy, obscured by shadows, so I can’t tell if it’s wearing a tiny nitrogen pack or not. 


The more plausible explanation is that they've transformed a chimp into a mini-Thetan as a test-run before they attempt the procedure on a human being (sorry, PETA), but this still doesn't explain how they know about the planet Theta at all (unless, again, they've discovered it and visited it in secret).  An even more plausible explanation is that the Thetan (and the planet Theta along with it) is a fiction dreamed up by the scientists, and the modified chimp was their first successful attempt at creating a living (albeit miniature) “alien.” 

Run, Bubbles, Run!!!

But who the hell knows? The episode never explains it one way or the other. I guess it doesn't really matter, since it ultimately has no bearing on the ultimate outcome (and the story's power certainly isn't diminished); however, if “The Architects of Fear” ever gets expanded into a feature, I’ll be expecting some goddamned backstory.

Focusing on the portion of United Labs’ plan that is depicted: what is the intended end game for this whole endeavor? I don’t mean the hoped-for achievement of world peace; I mean what’s supposed to happen when Allen confronts the UN? We've already seen that he can only communicate verbally through a special speaker setup, which doesn't appear to be part of his nitrogen-tank-and-loincloth ensemble. 

And how will the UN react to this mute (but undeniably scary) intruder? They may indeed just sit there, quaking in their seats and fearfully holding hands with representatives from other nations, but the US military is going to quickly show up and reenact the last act of “The Galaxy Being” from two weeks ago. Allen, lacking Andy the Andromedan’s radiation shield technology, will either get slaughtered immediately beneath a shit-storm of gunfire or, even more horribly, will be taken apart and studied piece by piece, Alien Autopsy-style. Either way, I’m pretty damned sure world peace isn't gonna be achieved.

So yeah, this noble plan is starting to look incredibly short-sighted and insanely reckless, even more so than the events in the episode would indicate.


And finally, here’s a sobering thought: Yvette is presumably impregnated after Allen starts his initial gene therapy. I understand why he’d want to, um, hit that while he still had the chance, but it evidently never occurs to him that he might just sire something other than a healthy human baby. Put another way: is Yvette’s baby gonna be some hideous human/Thetan hybrid? Robert Culp was so hot on the idea of Harlan Ellison writing a sequel to “Demon with a Glass Hand,” but maybe the real sequel potential was right here all along.


AURAL PLEASURE


"The Architects of Fear" is one of thirteen season one episodes to be graced with an original score by Dominic Frontiere (the rest of the episodes are tracked with a combination of recycled cues from both Stoney Burke and The Outer Limits). Frontiere's sweeping love theme for Allen and Yvette is lovely and effective, but of broader interest (to me, anyway) are the themes that debut here and will be heard in futures episodes: the frenetic strings that underscore Allen's attempted phone call to Yvette will also punctuate Laurie's forced encounter with the rock alien in "Corpus Earthling" (in which Robert Culp also stars), and the lurching, almost drunken music written for Allen's first appearance as his new Thetan self will reappear in "The Invisibles" to accompany Luis Spain's horrendous ankle injury. I'm hoping to take a more comprehensive look at the use and subsequent re-use of music throughout both seasons of the series at some point...



Frontiere's score can be found on a three-disc soundtrack release from La La Land Records. It was released in 2008, and it's still available for the insanely low price of $19.98. Get yours here before they vanish forever.


DRAMATIS PERSONAE

The wonderful Robert Culp makes his series debut in “The Architects of Fear" as Allen Leighton. Culp had the good fortune of appearing in three of the series’ finest offerings, and he’s brilliant in all three of them. He is to The Outer Limits what Jack Klugman is to The Twilight Zone, which is the highest praise I can possibly give him. I first became a Culp fan during his stint as FBI agent Bill Maxwell on TV’s The Greatest American Hero in the early 80's (which I was obsessed with in the sixth grade). I discovered TOL soon after, and became a fan for life. Like Klugman, Culp died pretty recently, before I ever had the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for his wonderful work. The Outer Limits, simply put, would not be the same without him.



The lovely Geraldine Broooks shines as Yvette Leighton, the first of two Outer Limits roles she’ll tackle (she’ll play  William Shatner’s wife in season two’s “Cold Hands, Warm Heart”); however, her association with Daystar Productions had already been established before her work here: she appeared in the “Death Rides a Pale Horse” episode of Stoney Burke earlier in 1963. She’d also go on to three appearances on TV’s The Fugitive (which, as fate would have it, would utilize some of Dominic Frontiere’s TOL music in its fourth season). TOL Babe? Why yes.


Dr. Phillip Gainer, head of United Labs, is brusque and conflicted (it appears Allen is a good friend, though we aren't given any background on their relationship), and he’s well essayed by Leonard Stone. This is Stone’s only Outer Limits appearance; however, he worked for series producer Joseph Stefano again in 1964 in The Haunted: "The Ghost of Sierra Cobre," a pilot for CBS starring TOL (and Twilight Zone) alum Martin Landau that never materialized into a series (and was never aired, at least not in the US).

Dr. Paul Fredericks is played by Douglas Henderson in the first of three TOL appearances; we’ll see him later this season in “The Chameleon” and next season in “Behold Eck!”  He also appeared in John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate, which we touched on last week.



Janos Prohaska lumbers monstrously about as the post-transformation Allen. Prohaska will reappear as Darwin the Monkey in “The Sixth Finger" in two weeks; we'll also see him next season in "The Probe" as the notorious Mikie the giant microbe (“notorious” in this case meaning goofy and ridiculous). He also did similar duty over on Star Trek, where he played several alien creatures, including Yarnek the rock monster in “The Savage Curtain” (which we already somehow connected to The Outer Limits last week).



Fred the Hunter is played by Clay Tanner, who previously crossed paths with Daystar Productions when he appeared on the “Forget No More” episode of Stoney Burke.



Finally, Ginger the Dog turns in a stellar performance as the hunting hound. I wasn’t able to track down any other acting credits, so maybe the sight of that Thetan scared her the hell right out of show business forever (sorry again, PETA).





HOME VIDEO RELEASES



I count eight distinct home video appearances of "The Architects of Fear.” It first arrived on VHS in 1988, then was re-released in the mid-90's with different artwork. I greatly prefer the original design; it's just gorgeous, don'tcha think?


It was also sold through Columbia House, paired with last week’s “The Hundred Days of the Dragon.” For the retail release in the UK, it was paired with next week's “The Man With the Power.”


"The Architects of Fear" also appeared on LaserDisc in 1990 in the first of four such collections. I never had a LaserDisc player, so I never collected ‘em. I have to assume that they looked better than their VHS counterparts, but not as good as the subsequent DVD releases.


It’s shown up on DVD three different times: in the season one boxed set in 2002, the volume 1 set in 2007 (which comprised the first half of season 1), and the complete series boxed set in 2008 (just in time for the show’s 45th anniversary; however, the 50th anniversary doesn't appear to merit jack shit).


In the virtual realm, MGM has made the series available for standard-def streaming on Hulu (but not Hulu Plus, dammit), but there’s been no indication that the series will ever be remastered in high definition (for blu-ray, 4K, holo-ray, direct neural interface, or whatever new formats might loom on the horizon). 


TRADING CARD CORNER


The Thetan is depicted on two cards in Topps’ Monsters from Outer Limits series from 1964. These cards create new storylines for the monsters that are patently silly; here, the Thetan is the “Man from Galaxy X” who mistakes a colony of ants for human beings. Sigh.


MERCHANDISE SPOTLIGHT



Japan’s X-Plus released a deluxe Thetan action figure earlier this year, which quickly sold out and is currently commanding aftermarket prices well over $100.00. I don’t have it, but I did find a great review of it here.


Dimensional Designs, who have immortalized most of the series’ creatures in model form, naturally included the Thetan among their offerings. It’s still listed on their (woefully under-maintained) website, but there’s no picture and no option to order, so I assume it’s no longer available (the image above came from a Google Images search). 


I did spot another model during my intensive internet search for All Things Thetan, a very limited creation by Saturn Ltd., that’s pretty amazing (and really expensive if you can track one down; here's one currently on eBay, fully assembled and painted, for $395.00!).


The Thetan was depicted on the box of Milton Bradley’s Outer Limits board game in 1964. Milton Bradley also released a series of series-themed jigsaw puzzles, at least two of which featured the Thetan, that same year.



THE WRAP-UP



"The Architects of Fear" is wildly successful on all fronts, and the fifty years that have elapsed since its premiere haven't lessened its impact at all. It's a beautiful, fascinating tragedy, rich and profound. The series will present equally brilliant episodes in the coming weeks and months, but there's something.... I dunno, complete about this one. Everything just plain works, and it's imminently satisfying even after multiple viewings (I've probably watched it at least thirty times over the years, and it still captivates me). I imagine my opinions and feelings will shift around some as I make my way through the series but right now, as I write this... it's perfect.



25 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree with ya more, Craig. I like your ideas on where the Thetan came from, too.

    By the way, did you know Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Chasing Amy") was once commissioned by Warner Bros. to write a feature-length "Architects" remake? That never came to be, but me being a Smith fan, I would've loved to see it.

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  2. Craig -- Great article about "The Architects of Fear". You wondered what it was like to watch these shows in first run (as your friend Bill Huelbig and I did). You can imagine that the first two installments had not prepared us for anything as hard-hitting as this one. In 1963, my dad, his friends and co-workers talked about it for days. They even mentioned the music. My dad could play anything by ear at the piano after one hearing (a bizarre gift), and he played what he called "The Outer Limits Love Theme" occasionally for the rest of his life. He knew a lot about music and explained that it was influenced by Ravel and so on, and he thought it was a very fine bit of music. More important for us is its role in the famous scene. Their delivery is restrained, but the music isn't -- it "knows" and feels what Allen can't tell her: that this is their last time together. I honestly think that this was what they had in mind when they shot & scored this scene. The return of this music at the end of the show is so powerful that… well, as you wrote, fifty years haven't diminished the impact of any part of this episode. A YouTube comment -- I don't know who wrote it, but it's from another 1963 viewer who shared a common reaction to this episode -- is worth quoting: "Their tragic love theme here is the highlight of the piece (and what the episode was ultimately about). It's so poignant and beautiful. I saw this when it first aired on 9/30/63 and never forgot it, 50 years later. It tore our (my family's) hearts out. Dominic Frontiere's music helped make this series special." This description takes me back (remember the entire family watching a TV show together?). The emotion that puts a catch in the throat of Leonard Stone / Dr. Gainer ("Maybe everywhere – people… all of us…") is evidently what a lot of us still feel at the end of this episode.

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  3. Troy - I was a big Smith fan early on, but his later stuff... not so much.

    Adrian - Thanks for that memory of your dad. What I wouldn't give for an ear like that...

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  4. One of my favorite TOL stories. The idea of a lottery to see who will be turned into an alien threat is a great premise and it is well executed. These men are dedicated to peace on Earth and are willing to sacrifice their lives for mankind.

    Everything from the transformation of Allen Leighton into the Thetan, the construction of the spaceship, the first encounter between Leighton's Thetan and humans...it all works. In addition, the love story between Allen and Yvette is established quickly and is convincing.

    The classic '60s special effects are a blast. Leighton's Thetan is a totally inventive alien creation. It's not hard to see why the Thetan was too shocking for some TV stations to show during its original airing. It still is a pretty creepy design. Part of me would have loved to see the Thetan actually make it to the United Nations building and address the world instead of experiencing a quick demise.

    The only thing that bothers me about this episode is the ease Yvette Leighton has entering the very area where Allen is undergoing his transformation. Geez, she walks right into the operating room.

    That fact aside, "The Architects of Fear" should be considered one of the great Sci-Fi moments in TV history (if it already isn't).

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  5. The Architects Of Fear was originally intended to be the fourth, not third, Outer Limits episode broadcast, this can be verified by checking the original United Artists Outer Limits preseason press guide. Just prior to the scheduled broadcast of The Man With The Power on September 30, 1963, ABC decided to switch the order of the two shows, and broadcast "Architects" on 9/30/63 and "Power" on 10/7/63. The reason was because ABC thought The Man With The Power was a predictable, slow moving episode and was afraid viewers would lose interest and change channels. The prologue, in which Finley encounters a pair of hostile tree pruners, though suspenseful, was too slow at getting to the "bear" of the episode, the energy cloud, so ABC added a teaser to the show for it's rescheduled broadcast on 10/7/63, which completely undermined the suspense intended to be generated by the prologue. The switch of the order of the two shows was made so late that many newspapers around the country did not catch it in time to correct it for their TV listings sections. For example, The Seattle Times completely missed the switch, while the Seattle Post Intelligencer announced The Man With The Power for 9/30/63, but the next week again announced "Power" with the notation "rescheduled after announced for last week". The New York Times, not surprisingly, caught the switch in time to correct it. Confusion exists to this day about the "official" order of the two episodes, TV guide occasionally got it wrong when the series ran in syndication, and some reference books list "Power" third in order and "Architects" fourth.

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  6. Simply the best episode. Scary as hell, touching, bizarre, unthinkable, cruel, painful, brave -- this one has it all. Always loved Culp's mad scene in the lab -- hilarious but shocking and very frightening when he get hold that X-ray machine and starts pointing it around. Sad and creepy. Also loved the delivery of the simple but revealing line "Headache...in back of...neck..." with our poor scarecrow's humanity being cut and re-engineered right out of him. I am going to have to make it my mission to introduce some of my non-SF friends to this episode, truly -- as you said -- one of the finest hours of TV ever. Still as powerful as the first time one sees it as 30, 40...who knows how many times more I've watched it. Thanks for a really great post!

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  7. The reactions of the people who actually get to see the Thetan, the three hunters and, at the end, Allen's wife Yvette, are brilliantly depicted. Each hunter gives a slightly different reaction, revealing something about each one's personality. My favorite hunter is the one identified as "Virg", the short guy with the wide brimmed hat. Upon seeing the alien he squints and almost, but not quite, mouths a WTF! His reaction is more complex that those of the other two. Not so much "I can't believe what I'm seeing", but more on the order of "What I'm seeing, this should not be". The hunter identified as Big Tom in the script inexplicably mistakes a laser pistol being pointed at him as a FRIENDLY GREETING and steps forward to greet the alien! He's obviously not the brightest of the trio. The alien casually sort of flops the weapon up and down, apparently a warning to Tom to back off, and Tom gets the message and quickly steps back. Then, instead of zapping the hunters like any REAL alien would do, this one turns and inexplicably vaporizes their unoccupied station wagon! No wonder these guys are confused, this is definitely not your stereotypical science fiction monster movie scene, although all the familiar elements are present. They're not so much scared as confused, and a bit disturbed as well. They've lost their dog and their station wagon, pretty much ruining what was supposed to be a relaxing day duck hunting. You'd think they would cut their losses at this point and high-tail it outta there, but they're just to STUPID to run away! Plus, they're men, and real men don't run away from aliens who cowardly disintegrate unoccupied station wagons! When Allen realizes that these guys are just not getting the message, he tries one last tactic, he comes lunging through the reeds at the hunters and then stops and BLINKS at them, twice! Interestingly, the Thetan has only lower eyelids, creating a believably otherworldly effect. The hunters just stand there, staring transfixed, almost hypnotized, and after a moment the Thetan finally gives up and marches away, at which point one of the hunters raises his rifle and shoots him! The alien then turns and looks skyward, as if thinking, "God forgive me for what I've done"!

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  8. The Architects Of Fear raises a number of questions that it either can't, or chooses not to, answer, forcing the viewer to try and guess which is the case, and also to read between the lines, fill in the blanks and connect the dots. We are not told, for example, exactly what goes wrong at the end that results in Allen bringing in his spaceship off course. At first thought it would appear to be a technical malfunction, and up to this point we've seen evidence that this could indeed be the case. At the show's outset, Dr. Gainer declares that the scientists' plan is "perfected", but we eventually see that it is not, that it is very much subject to miscalculation. Under the influence of a synthesized alien hormone, Allen unforeseeably goes crazy, and almost blows the lid off the entire scheme when he tries to phone his wife Yvette. Later, he almost dies on the operating table during a crucial moment in his transformation. So, it's certainly plausible that yet another technical mishap might occur. However, with all the incredible scientific knowledge and technology at the scientists' disposal, the idea that something as pedestrian as a navigational error would derail the entire plan seems a bit far fetched. The other, more intriguing scenario is that Allen, despondent over having sacrificed his life for a plan he no longer believes can work, decides to abort his mission by deliberately steering the ship back to earth off course. Presumably, at that point, all that would remain for Allen would be to get back to the lab before anyone could see him, and then, upon reuniting with the scientists, implore them to destroy him. This, in my opinion, is the more likely scenario, but if it had been explicitly revealed as such, it might have made the episode seem, in retrospect, too pat, too predictable. After all, we've already seen that Allen is clearly despondent and depressed, having lost his wife, his unborn child, and his own life, so it would come as no big surprise for Allen to single-handedly abort the mission. By presenting two equally plausible scenarios but not telling us which one was the actual case, writer Meyer Dolinsky manages to avoid the problems raised by both possibilities. We end up wondering, and this, I believe, was one of many reasons The Architects Of Fear has held up so well over the years. Some may feel that the ending was a letdown, even a copout, because we never get to see Allen do what he was supposed to do, land at the U.N. and try to scare the delegates into believing that an actual alien invasion was imminent. Realistically, though, the show's budget, as well as time constraints, could never have accommodated such an ending. Moreover, such an ending would almost certainly have required that we see more of the Thetan than the show's producers wanted to show, including clear, full-length shots of the thing. The Thetan's effectiveness was based, in large part, on it being shown mainly in partial glimpses, and too much exposure would have undermined its believability.

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  9. As others have noted, we are not told where the miniature Thetan came from. It's existence is treated basically as a given, it's there from the beginning of the show, as if no explanation was necessary. One possible scenario is that the scientists had secretly travelled to the planet Thetan and "picked up" an alien life form specimen somehow, but this is pretty far fetched, even for an already far fetched story. The more plausible possibility is that the scientists made the creature from a test animal, probably a chimpanzee. Presumably they didn't get it perfect on the first attempt, many attempts would have been made before they got the desired result. Not only is no explanation given for the thing's existence, the scientists seem to want to distance themselves from it, as if even THEY don't know where it came from. It's almost like it came from nowhere. The real answer, of course, is that it came from The Outer Limits! It's referred to only a few times by the men, and then only in dismissive, almost disdainful terms, as in "a thing like that" and "that thing in there". Later, Allen reacts to the strange bleating noise the thing makes and asks Dr. Gainer "How long until I begin to sound like THAT"? Dr. Gainer deftly sidesteps the question and changes the subject. It's hard to know what a writer was thinking when you watch his work on the screen, but I think what writer Meyer Dolinsky was aiming for was that when the scientists realized what they had created, they were so horrified and appalled that they instinctively, as human beings and not objective scientists, tried to disengage themselves from the thing. This was a brilliant tactic; without even seeing the thing we're already horrified by it. By not explaining its existence in the usual expository way, a mystique of sorts was built around it, and the viewer has to try to connect the dots.

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  10. The lab scene in which Allen freaks out is a gripping, gut wrenching piece of film, it's like a short play, with Culp reciting slices of nursery rhymes. We get to hear excerpts from "Wee Willie Winky", "Ba Ba Blacksheep" and "Goosey Gander". Under the influence of a "synthesized" alien hormone extracted from the miniature Thetan the scientists themselves created, Allen has a bout with schizophrenia; he goes completely crazy, but in his deranged state his true feelings about the plan to unite the world come to the surface. Though he's insane, he now realizes the insanity of the whole idea, and wants out. His fellow scientists, friends and colleagues, have become his tormentors, pursuing him like demons, determined to pull him down into an indescribable hell. But it's too late, the experiment has already gone way past the point of no return, and we're relieved when the scientists stop Allen before he can speak to his wife on the telephone, which would have had disastrous consequences.

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  11. One of the more interesting aspects of Allen Leighton's transformation is the removal of his vocal cords, at least I'm assuming they were removed. In the post-op scene near the end of act three, we see Dr. gainer "hooking" Allen up to the "voice box", apparently as that is the only way he can now can communicate with his fellow scientists. It's not made clear in the episode why he would need his vocal cords removed, I suppose one reason might be that a Thetan does not have any, but that seems hard to understand, you would think that alien creatures advanced enough to build a rocketship and fly it all the way to earth from the Andromeda galaxy would have some means of communicating verbally with each other. More likely, the cords were removed to prevent the possibility of Allen saying something to the U.N. General Assembly which would have blown the lid off the entire plan. Presumably Allen would have wanted his fellow scientists to trust him not to, but considering that Allen tried to telephone his wife during his lab freak out episode, you couldn't blame them for playing it safe.

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  13. One of the more confusing aspects of "The Architects Of Fear" is the business of Allen's rocketship being launched into space as a "weather satellite". Presumably, this was the only way that the scientists could get him into outer space, they sort of "sneaked" him up there. That's a cool idea, so far, so good. Since, as Dr. Herschel (Martin Wolfson) tells, "the flight has been cleared with the appropriate government agencies", we assume that the weather satellite will be radar tracked once it's launched into space, and while it's in orbit around the earth. But once the ship suddenly and unexpectantly leaves its orbit and goes off somewhere, something remarkable happens: apparently, earth's radar tracking technicians forget about the weather satellite, as if it never existed. Then, after the ship "lines up with the Andromeda constellation", and "begins re-entry sequence to destination", the weather satellite somehow turns into an "unknown space capsule". The gap in logic here is truly remarkable. Wouldn't the radar techs continue to assume that it's a weather satellite, regardless of its behavior in space? Apparently, not. This actually works somehow, which is quite amazing, but no less so than the entire story, I suppose.

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  14. What I really love about Allen's lab "freak out" scene is that it's very operatic, it's like a slice from a stage play. Robert Culp takes center stage and turns in a virtuoso performance, while the three scientists just sort of step aside and watch him do his thing. They seem transfixed, almost spellbound, as if they're part of the television audience, watching along with the rest of us, and not themselves actually part of the scene. Culp was originally a stage actor and it really shows here, that ability to project and connect with his audience.

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  15. About a week ago, a British commentator wrote, "As 'Independence Day' (1996) taught us, there's nothing quite like an extraterrestrial invasion to unite humanity against a common foe." ...Really? Good to know.

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    1. Yeah. Hard to believe we never learned that lesson before 1996.

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    2. Yeah. Hard to believe we never learned that lesson before 1996.

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  16. Unfortunately, "The Architects Of Fear", which looked fine on VHS and laserdisc, looks terrible on the DVD release. Exactly why, I don't know. It's dark and grainy, and no amount of tweaking the brightness and contrast can bring about a decent picture. The DVD release in general was poorly mastered. In some cases MGM/UA went back to the original negatives of the broadcasts or syndication prints, for other shows they used the same archived prints they used for the videotape releases, and for still other shows they used alternate archived prints not used for the original VHS and laserdisc releases. Why they didn't go with original negative transfers for all the episodes I can't fathom, except to save money I suppose. For "The Architects Of Fear" they went with the originally used archived print, but for some reason it looks terrible on DVD. The excessive compression required to cram eight episodes onto a double sided disc might have something to do with this. The recent Australian 14 disc (single sided) set is noticeably improved overall, with all the episodes brighter and with less grain, but the audio still sounds somewhat compressed, and you still have to crank up the brightness and decrease the contrast to get an acceptable picture and reduce the grain. Some episodes, like "the Galaxy Being", look and sound great. "The Hundred Days Of The Dragon" looks even better (they went back to the syndication negative for the transfer) but the audio is noticeably compressed. "The Chameleon" is a disaster, dark, grainy and murky, muffled sound. If we ever get a blue ray release all of this would presumably be corrected, but as we've already passed the 50th anniversary of the show, I'm not hopeful.

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    1. I was under the (possibly mistaken) understanding that the Australian DVD is the same as the earlier US release, just single-sided. I may need to pick this up after all...

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    2. I was under the (possibly mistaken) understanding that the Australian DVD is the same as the earlier US release, just single-sided. I may need to pick this up after all...

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    3. The Australian set is definitely better than the U.S. set, but the problems with the original DVD transfers made in 2001 are still there. Apparently the switch to single sided discs reduced the excessive amount of compression originally applied to the shows for DVD, although some will dispute that. I can only tell what I see. Reviewers on Amazon.com give mainly wonderful reviews, and I agree that it's better, but there's still room for improvement.

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  17. I'm 58 y.o. & saw the original broadcast in 1963. WEWS, the ABC affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio where I live, broadcast a black screen when the Thetan was shown. The audio, however, was intact. Being 6 at the time, my mother did her best the next morning to explain what I missed, even imitating the Thetans' shuffling gait. (The omitted footage was broadcast on the 11:00pm news). I didn't see the creature until the episode was rerun in the summer, when the episode was finally played intact. I could go on, but I don't wish to bore. To this day, my SP recorded VHS videotape copy is still my preferred viewing copy-the DVD copy I purchased doesn't come close. One interesting item to consider, though, is that director Byron Haskin 10 years earlier directed the 1953 version of 'The War of the Worlds'. Compare how he filmed both the Martian being and the Thetan-your imagination does most of the work! Thank you for this amazing blog!!

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    1. I also saw the initial broadcast on WEWS though I'm a bit older (65) and can remember how frustrating the black out was. At first we thought it was just a technical glitch but then realized that it only occurred when the Thetan was shown. It was the the talk of the classroom the next day at school and only one kid had been able to stay up to see the repeated broadcast on the 11 o'clock news. My eleven year old sensibilities were greatly offended.

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  18. In Seattle, KOMO TV Channel 4, the ABC affiliate, did not censor the episode, so I got to see the Thetan when originally broadcast. The Thetan is difficult to describe, to say the least. It looks like somebody's idea of the theory of evolution having gone completely berserk, an idea which seemed believable in a crazy sort of way. The creature looks part reptile (the scaly face), part human(the torso), part simian (the long, ape-like arms and long, curled fingers)and part bird (the turkey-chicken like legs and clawed feet). The head and face are almost beyond description, the face looks like a base up triangle with a dome like structure on top, and the head, when viewed from the side, protrudes way back. The eyes, bulging and bloodshot, were disturbing to my eight year old mind, in fact I never quite recovered from the trauma of those eyes. They conveyed evil and terror, but also pathos, there was something sad and pathetic about the entire image.

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  19. Scary enough that made my fingers tremble as a kid I watching this episode "Architects Of Fear" is one of my all time favorite chapters of the series and consider ahead of it's time. Years later around 1993 i bought the Architects Of Fear THETAN model resin kit by Demensional Designs like the one displayed photo you have above in the "Merchandise Spotlight" section though still unassembled after 27 years would be a true collectable for any Outer Limits fan, but no quistions ask, i'll never sell mine that's for sure!!

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