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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Outer Limits Opening Sequence

TV shows almost invariably have an opening sequence to start things off each week, and The Outer Limits is no different. With narration by The Control Voice (Vic Perrin) and music by Dominic Frontiere, the series' opening sequence is utterly original and totally unforgettable.

Without further ado, let's break it down.

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 sharp 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 to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to...

...The Outer Limits.

Here it is in all its full-motion glory, downrezzed by Blogger's Draconian compression tactics:

This opening will be revised in one way or another three times throughout the series' run... we'll tackle each revision as we navigate the show's chrono-continuum.


  1. Cool recap. OL's signature opening sequence really set the tone and mood.

    Considering OL's context, its roots in post-war scifi cinema - especially as signaled by DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, with the mark it made in that story cycle - might one suggest a stylistic precedent for OL's opening? 1956 - IT CONQUERED THE WORLD.

    Unique among other films of that era, its title sequence was white lettered, on plain black background - with an ominous horizontal line, tracking up and down. Almost looking like a flatline, on an oscilloscope or something - a la OL. But without the spikes and peaks (or sine wave etc).

    As the film shifts from titles to scene one, visual connection is made - not to an oscilloscope, as in OL. Rather, to some sort of radarscope apparently. The horizontal line we saw in the title sequence, part of its display. Between Stefano and Stevens, I wonder how that OL title sequence was conceived, i.e. what its inspirational influences may have been, especially from 1950's scifi cinema. The possibility that one or both might never even have seen IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, seems hard to imagine.

    OL's whole 'thing' just seems endlessly rich and engaging, even now a half century later.

  2. (con't ... more than a year later)

    The Opening Sequence's visual style recalls IT CONQUERED THE WORLD's title credits. But now I mighta just stumbled onto a thematic "cousin" of OL's opening sequence, by common descent - from an ominous agency in the 'Golden Age of TV' - the Emergency Broadcast System.

    A low-budget 'end of the world' flick called THIS IS NOT A TEST came out 1962 - the year before OL debuted. In its era, of 'WW-3' and 'nuclear missile crisis' fears -no bones about it - forcibly evokes the Emergency Broadcast System's tv spot:

    "This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test. Had there been an actual emergency, you would be notified ..." blah blah blah.

    'This is not a test' - the 1962 film title - is a presumptive line from the EMS 'real thing' emergency script, 'reverse engineered.' It was a line never read, a scene that never aired. To my knowledge. WW-3, the feared nuclear missile strike etc - never materialized.

    But it only struck me recently, from my first viewing THIS IS NOT A TEST - how directly its title derives from the EMS tv spot ("this is a test"). Recalling from 'good old days' the EMS, its tv spot and 'control' it would take, interrupting whatever broadcast to bring us its message - it never occurred to me.

    Vic Perrin's delivery, his reading - 'There is nothing wrong with your television set' - his voice as he uses it, sounds almost identical to the EMS 'control voice' - almost to the extent of a Rich Little impersonation of it.

    As staged, taking control (of the vertical, the horizontal, etc) - while announcing what's going on, and directing viewers what to do (sit quietly and ...) - OL opening sequence seems to masterfully harness, for its own entertainment purposes - the ambience of that early 1960s EMS tv spot.

    As does that 1962 film title - OL's cousin (?) - their common ancestor being - the EMS.


  3. Ooops - its EBS (Emergency Broadcast System), abbrev'd.

    Not 'EMS' ... like I cluelessly typed (above).

    Duh. Sorry bout that, Chief.