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Monday, December 2, 2013

Episode Spotlight: "Nightmare" (12/02/1963)

Season 1, Episode 10
Originally aired 12/02/1963

Unified Earth is at war with the distant planet Ebon, a war which was prompted by an unprovoked attack by the Ebonites. Two attack ships have been sent to Ebon so far, neither of which were ever heard from again. Our story concerns the third ship, which is captured immediately upon entering Ebonite space.

The “unfortunate group” (as the Ebonite Interrogator calls them) is comprised of Colonel Luke Stone, Major Jong, Captain Terrance Brookman, Lieutenant Esra Krug, Lieutenant James Willowmore, and Private Arthur Dix. The Interrogator demands information about the fourth attack ship, which is en route to Ebon, and the men are subjected to a variety of sense deprivation (the loss of speech for one, eyesight for another) and induced hallucinations designed to soften them up.

Krug dies during his interrogation; meanwhile, the bones in Jong’s left arm are pulverized during a torture session, after which the men are advised that the interrogations are no longer necessary; they are now free to roam the camp without supervision. They conclude that Jong must have betrayed them, and should therefore die. Brookman pulls the short straw but is unable to kill his own kind. Further discussion reveals that it was actually Dix who talked (under the influence of a hallucination of his mother). He flees and is promptly apprehended by the Ebonite guards. 

The Interrogator, troubled by these events, brings Col. Stone before a pair of top-ranking Earth military officials (General Benton and an unnamed Chief of Staff) and reveals that the entire war is a sham: Ebon’s attack on earth was accidental.To make reparations, the Ebonites agreed to maintain the facade as a form of war games to test the resilience of Earth soldiers. Given Krug's death and Dix's mental breakdown, the Interrogator can no longer facilitate the psychological abuse the human soldiers are enduring. Stone is similarly outraged and refuses to cooperate.

Back at the compound, the men suspect that the drinking water is laced with a hallucinogenic drug. They decide to murder the next Ebonite they see and, when the Interrogator shows up to confess the truth to them, they pounce on him. The Chief of Staff arrives and draws his gun, demanding that they release the Interrogator. Brookman disarms him and, believing him to be an Ebonite in disguise or an outright hallucination, shoots him dead.


“Nightmare” is the first Outer Limits episode written in its entirety by series producer Joseph Stefano (the first to air, anyway; his “A Feasibility Study” was produced first but not aired till much later in the season). Stefano would ultimately write or co-write a total of ten episodes (as well as perform uncredited polish on a few more), and his offerings are by far among the series’ most memorable. His scripts possess a psychological depth and a bent toward Gothic horror that manage to enhance the science fiction trappings of the show instead of conflicting with them, a fascinating collision of genres that would reach its zenith in his script for “The Forms of Things Unknown” (we’ll get to it in May; patience, Grasshopper). His script for “Nightmare” is excellent, and dizzyingly so: every line is perfect, every character beautifully drawn; the themes of allegiance and betrayal emerge universal despite the distant alien setting. It may not be my absolute favorite episode of the series, but it IS my favorite script.

In the director’s chair is John Erman, the series’ resident casting consultant (he previously directed two episodes of Stoney Burke for Daystar Productions: “Joby” and “Image of Glory”). He also directed the Star Trek episode “The Empath” in 1968, which also features a stark, minimalist alien setting that’s more theater stage than film set (not to mention a heroes-captured-and-tortured plot not that dissimilar to “Nightmare”).

John Nickolaus is the Director of Photography this week. Normally I’d complain about missing Conrad Hall’s indelible visual style, but the wide open impressionistic Ebon setting, with its blank background and seemingly endless sky, doesn’t really afford a lot of opportunity for deep noiry shadows... or so you'd think. Nickolaus’s work here is fine, and I'm happy to report that shadows abound here. I personally would've employed more canted angels and other camera tricks to further convey the mental anguish the men suffer; however, there are a few nice stylish shots, particularly the overhead view of Brookman being led away by the Ebonite guard and, later, the same view as Dix runs amok. Speaking of Dix, the extreme close shot of his face during his earlier freak-out (the scene used as the episode’s teaser) is highly effective (and was chosen to grace the VHS cover; see below).

I had aspirations of being an actor when I was young. I auditioned for a 7th grade play on a whim and, despite having zero experience, managed to land the part. For the rest of middle school and all through high school, I fancied myself a master thespian-in-training. I was involved in every single production, and took it rather seriously (not douchebag levels of seriousness, mind you, but I was probably more committed than your everyday average teenager). I was even supposed to direct a play my senior year (Bye Bye Birdie), but our Conrad Birdie dropped out unexpectedly, requiring me to step in and save the day (I’m not sure I actually pulled it off, but it was a helluva lot of fun regardless). What really drove me, in retrospect, wasn’t the thrill of performing, or the gratification of applause, or even the prospect of getting a date with Cathy Hockman (which I did, eventually, thank you very much)… it was the paradoxical living quality of theater despite its intrinsic artifice. Everything that comprises a stage production (sets, lighting, props, costumes, etc.) combines to create a manufactured suggestion of reality, and yet somehow a heightened (almost surreally so) form of reality emerges. Perhaps it’s because of theater’s immediacy:  it happens right before the audience’s eyes, a precarious tightrope walk with vast potential for flubbed lines and missed cues, which makes it seem more real-to-life than a polished, edited film. I responded on a visceral level to the heightened reality of the stage, and subsequently found myself drawn to films the leaned in that direction. “Nightmare” was one such film, and to this day I wish like hell I could put together a stage version.

The episode represents the series’ first depiction of an alien planet (the first to air, anyway; “A Feasibility Study” would've held that distinction too had it not been held back), and it’s a jarring sight indeed. Our first view of Ebon's surface is essentially a blank space, stretching forever, with dark shiny flooring. Are we indoors? Or is this the actual surface of the planet? We aren't told. The men will witness the apparent destruction of the next attack ship from Earth directly overhead, which would seem to imply that the POW camp is in fact outside; however, the loudspeaker hanging over the compound is suspended on wires that must lead upward to something. Some maybe there's a glass ceiling...? That’s the obtuse, reality-based part of my brain trying to make sense of these bizarre surroundings. When I relax that particular lobe, I begin to understand that I’m not seeing a literal depiction of anything; this is all suggestive, fragmentary; an intentionally simplified construct that allows the audience to focus their full attention on the story and the dialogue. Y’now, just like a stage play.

The barren landscape, sharply bisected and peppered with jagged rock formations, reminds me of the opening sequence from the first season of The Twilight Zone. Hey, I'll jump on any connection between my two favorite shows, no matter how tenuous.

I love the choice to introduce each character by having them recite their names and ranks, facing the camera. They're complying with the Interrogator's demand that they identify themselves, but at the same time they're identifying themselves to the audience, like a list of characters in a playbill (a-ha! Another theater connection!).

We could talk all day about the human characters and the fascinating archetypes they represent (Dix is the all-American shithead racist, Jung is the wise yet impish Eastern cipher, Stone is the fatherly--- or motherly--- team captain, etc.) but that’s been done elsewhere by better writers than me. Let's instead touch on the amazing design of the Ebonites. They're freaky as hell, with their clawed hands (with webbed fingers!), not to mention those awesome bat wings (we never see them fly, but I like to think that they can). John Anderson turns in some excellent work as the Ebonite Interrogator: steely and menacing (but measuredly so) and, later, deeply sympathetic once the truth is revealed and he drops the hard-ass act (one wonders if all the Ebonites are actually friendly chaps). Anderson manages to cut through the elaborate makeup (not to mention the extensive distortion of his voice) to present a fully three-dimensional character. It's easy to focus on the acting chops of those playing the humans (Particularly Martin Sheen and James Shigeta) but, for my money, Anderson's performance is the real standout.

Now, just where exactly in time are we? Krug turned in his Jewish grandfather to the Nazis as a child… let’s say it was 1942, and he was 10 years old. Here he appears to be in his late twenties or so, we’ll say 28, which would place “Nightmare” around 1970. Man, you've gotta admire Stefano’s optimism, imagining a Unified Earth coming together (and mastering deep space travel) only seven years down the road.

The Ebonite wands are engineered to manipulate the human senses and inflict assorted pains and sufferings, but what's that other object the Interrogator holds, and what does it do? I used to think it was a wireless microphone of sorts that broadcasts his voice over the speaker that hangs above the POW compound, but he actually holds it throughout the episode, even when he's speaking face to face with Stone and the military bigwigs in act four. I'm now inclined to think it's a universal language decoder of sorts (which makes sense, since it's highly unlikely that English would be the native language on Ebon. 

Both the Interrogator's language decoder and the loudspeaker are adorned with a spiral design, and the aforementioned wands emit a spiral-shaped energy field. The glowing coil inside the Ebonite defibrillator (or whatever the hell it is) is yet another spiral. This recurring design creates an impressive visual continuity across everything on Ebon that isn't nailed down. I suppose we could look deeper and infer that the spiral could represent the descent into anguish and madness that the men face at the hands of their captors.


“Nightmare” features---- no, showcases--- an original music score by Dominic Frontiere. It’s unlike anything ever composed for television (then or now).I try not to do much quoting from other works, but in this case David J. Schow sums it up perfectly in his essential Outer Limits Companion: “20 November 1963: A red-letter day in the history of bizarre music, as twelve musicians lay down the score to ‘Nightmare.’ Into this virtual Chamber Orchestra from Hell, Frontiere incorporated the Onaphets, making an already-eccentric score brilliant.” It’s marvelously weird, thoroughly disorienting and at times almost manically gleeful in its own daffiness, but it never crosses the line into comedy or Esquivel-style cartoonishness.

Frontiere’s score has been made available twice: on the 1993 TOL soundtrack from GNP/Crescendo Records (which is out of print) and, more recently, on the expanded (and essential) three-disc release from La La Land Records (which is not only still in print, but available at the low low price of only $19.99 plus shipping). If you don’t already own it… well, you oughta be ashamed.


An excellent script can be sabotaged by a sub-par cast; thankfully that’s not the case here. The performances are absolutely spot-on, and most of the cast should be quite familiar to Twilight Zone and Stoney Burke fans.

Stone is played by Ed Nelson, who also appeared in the "Five by Eight by Eight" episode of Stoney Burke. Twilight Zone fans will remember him in "Valley of the Shadow."

Jong is brought to life by James Shigeta, who will return in season two's "The Inheritors, Part 1." He's enjoyed a long and varied career in Hollywood, but he's most recognizable to modern audiences as Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi in 1988's Die Hard

John Anderson (the Ebonite Interrogator) appeared twice on Stoney Burke ("To Catch the Kaiser" and "Spin a Golden Web"). He crossed over into The Twilight Zone four times: "A Passage for Trumpet," “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville,” and “The Old Man in the Cave” (which just turned fifty a few weeks ago).

Martin Sheen is quite fun as Dix. This section of the blog is generally reserved for actors who either appear in other Outer Limits episodes or other similar productions (The Twilight Zone, etc); however, Sheen’s impressive credits contain no other genre work to speak of (unless you count 1979’s Apocalypse Now as horror, which I can kinda see). Regardless, I’m including him here because, well, he’s Martin. Fucking. Sheen. 'Nuff said.

Willowmore is portrayed by Bill Gunn, who also appeared twice on Stoney Burke (“Kincaid” and “The Mob Riders”). Willowmore is probably the character who suffers the most throughout the episode, and Gunn expertly conveys his anguished terror.

David Frankham plays Brookman; we'll see him again in "Don't Open Till Doomsday" next month. Ben Wright (Gen. Benton) will become a very familiar face over the course of the series. He'll appear in "Moonstone" and "A Feasibility Study" later this season, and "Wolf 359" next season. He passed through The Twilight Zone three times ("Judgment Night," "Deaths-Head Revisited," and "Dead Man's Shoes"), and he popped up in the "Point of Entry" episode of Stoney Burke. Frankham and Wright share a previous credit: both provided voiceover work in Disney's 101 Dalmatians in 1961. Frankham voiced the cat, Sgt. Tibbs, while Wright was the human Roger.

Willard Sage plays he unnamed Chief of Staff. We'll see him in two weeks in “Tourist Attraction,” and in “Production and Decay of Strange Particles” in April. And hey, he played Thann, one of the Ebonite-like aliens in the above-discussed Star Trek episode "The Empath."

Finally, Paul Stader plays the Ebonite Guard, and he'll also appear in "Tourist Attraction" in two weeks... as one of the guys in the Ichthyosaurus Mercurius suits. For my own twisted and nonsensical purposes, I'm gonna pretend he's wearing the Ebonite costume inside the Ichthy costume. C'mon, you know that'd be awesome.


Wanna add "Nightmare" to your home video library? You have several options.

First up, the episode enjoyed three distinct releases on the awesome dinosaur format that is VHS (we tend to disregard it in this Digital Age, but we owe it mad props for making home video a reality). These are: the standard retail VHS, the mail-order-exclusive Columbia House tape (which also included the season two classic "Demon With a Glass Hand," written by Harlan Ellison), and the UK retail VHS (which also included the season two classic "Soldier," also written by Harlan Ellison).

DVD's precursor, the LaserDisc format, spawned four Outer Limits volumes, the second of which included "Nightmare" in 1992.

It’s shown up on DVD three different times: 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 (to commemorate the show’s 45th anniversary). And here we are, celebrating 50 years, which would be the perfect time for a blu-ray release.... or so you'd think. Nay, I say, nay. MGM seems to have no interest and treating the series with the respect it deserves. 

The entire series can be viewed for free on Hulu; however, they're the same standard-definition versions you'll find on the DVDs. They appear to have added a short trailer for the series recently....


Topps' 1964 Monsters from Outer Limits trading card set featured six "Nightmare"-themed cards (the only other episode to grace that many cards is "The Man Who Was Never Born"). The accompanying story is actually pretty accurate to the episode, except that the action is moved to Mars and the human soldier (there's only one) ends up dead.


Sideshow Collectibles released a total of eight deluxe action figures based on TOL characters several years back (2002-2004), and when I started celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary in these very pages in September, I didn't have any of them. Funny how quickly things change when one’s OCD Monkey* takes over… Over the past two months I've amassed five of them (I’m still missing the Zanti Prisoner and the Helosian/Andro two-pack, but those holes will be filled eventually, goddammit, mark my words). This means that I have, in my possession, their amazing Ebonite Interrogator.

I’ll post a more thorough critique at some future point (when I actually remove him from the package), but I can give you a thumbnail review now: it’s an awesome rendering, just beautiful. Look at that head sculpt. And those accessories are dead on!

The Ebonite Interrogator was one of the first releases in the line, so it enjoyed a larger production run and is therefore pretty easy to track down in the wild. In other words, he can be had cheap (mine was thirty bucks, which I think is more or less what he originally went for back in '02). There are lots of ‘em on eBay, if you want your own.

The Ebonite Interrogator, like most Outer Limits aliens, got the model kit treatment courtesy of Dimensional Designs. Sculpted by Chris Choin (product # DD/OL/EI-02), it can be yours for $49.95 plus shipping, but you'll have to assemble it and paint it yourself. Since I suck at all things craft-related (see my homemade Crystalline Parasite for gruesome proof), I'll just stick with my Sideshow figure.

Lunar Models also had a go at the Ebonite Interrogator. I couldn't find a decent picture, but it doesn't look as impressive as the Dimensional Designs effort.

The Ebonite Interrogator was featured in a couple of TOL puzzles from Milton Bradley in 1964, and, look! He’s fucking flying. So I guess that settles the age-old argument about whether those bat wings are the real deal or just a wardrobe choice.

And finally, he showed up on the highly collectible 1964 board game, also from Milton Bradley. He wasn't depicted on the box, but you'll find him on the board itself, in the lower right hand corner (under the TOL logo).


“Nightmare” is absolute top-tier Outer Limits. Top five for sure, maybe even top three. It’s just perfect. I defy you to name one thing wrong with it. You can’t, can you? Well, Peter Enfantino, half of the dastardly duo behind We Are Controlling Transmission (the 2011 TOL blog that made me seriously doubt myself when I was launching this blog), can. He clearly hates "Nightmare" (he gave it one measly Zanti out of a possible five! Read his comments here). Now, I don't doubt that Enfantino loves the series (almost) as much as I do, but it positively mystifies me that two hardcore fans could have such dramatically different views. But all things considered, he did give "The Brain of Colonel Barham" (a truly shitty episode from season two) one-and-a-half Zantis... so yeah, I think he just won my argument for me. To quote Martin Sheen's notorious son Charlie: "I'm not bi-polar, I'm bi-winning. I win here and I win there!" 

This week's entry was brought to you in part by Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, which has been manipulating human senses since 2006. Nine out of ten Ebonites choose Fireball, and you should too. Drink responsibly.

* I wrote about my “OCD Monkey” a few years ago in my Twilight Zone blog, when I was feverishly and desperately trying to collect back issues of Twilight Zone Magazine. In this case, it’s more like a Crystalline Parasite, seizing control of my motor functions and forcing me (quite against my will) to bid on eBay auctions. See honey? It's not my fault!


  1. Glad to see we agree on this excellent, disturbing episode. Congratulations on your Sideshow purchase; I'll go into more detail when my computer comes back from the shop.

  2. Craig -- So you're no armchair critic, but a guy with some real stage time to his credit. That may help to explain your point of view in great blogs like this one.
    If Fireball is "whatever you're drinking", then this time I'LL have two. You can't beat their classy, subtle packaging!
    The photo identified as Ben Wright is actually Whit Bissill, whose character Schow refers to as "Commanding General", with the long establishment-justifying speech about POWs in the Korean War. Bissill was in everything for decades, including "The Time Tunnel" (sorry to even mention Irwin Allen's kid shows on the same page as Joseph Stefano and TOL).

    1. Adrian - are you sure? Looks like Ben Wright to me. Perhaps you had a sip of that Ebonite water....?

      In all honesty, I totally mislabeled my screen captures. That, coupled with the Fireball's influence, was bound to result in a stupid mistake like that. It's been fixed.

    2. I finally got the reference to Ebonite water. My own "human senses" could use a little "manipulating" right about now, but I think I'll explore Fireball (and other, more conventional Earth-based liquors) before conducting any "controlled experiments" with ET intoxicants... although I hear that Tranya comes highly recommended.

    3. Irwin Allen ruined science fiction for me. Thank heavens Gene Roddenberry got it right...until they forced him out.

  3. "Nightmare" is another classic Outer Limits with one of the coolest alien creations of the series. The Ebonites are demonic in appearance and their power over the captured Unified Earth crew is intimidating. The outer space POW camp would have to be among the most terrifying situations one could ever be in.

    The cast does a great job here. The suspicion among the six person team is relentless, at times making the viewer forget that the Ebonites are the real problem. It seems the crew will kill each other before the Ebonites get their chance.

    I like the minimalist set. It's featureless appearance adds to the feeling of hopelessness. There is absolutely no place to hide. The twist ending is practically out of the Twilight Zone. The opening Control Voice speech really sets the stage for the struggle that is to follow.

    Another great one and one of my favorites. A 10 out of 10!

  4. Well, it's always nice to see your OCD Monkey back at work, honey!

  5. There are a lot of TOL fans that rank this episode lower than I do. I will always rate The Invisibles as the absolute best of Season 1. Nightmare is #2. It has the demonic alien, incredible acting, unbelievable music and a story I would love to see expanded upon in a feature.Frontiere's music has never been better than in this episode. The guy was a freakin' genius. The ONAFETS is as good as any synthesizer around today. (I AM biased, however). AS creepy as Andy the Andromedans voice was John Anderson's Ebonite interrogator was that times 10. The Ebonite wand and that watery sucking effect haunts me even today. Stefano is beyond genius. I wish I could have met the guy and just talked to him about his ideas. What a treasure of an episode.

  6. Hey, Craig! Just wanted to finally tell you how much I've been enjoying your blog. I also have some thoughts on "Nightmare":

    • One aspect of Stefano's I rally like is how he hints at his characters' backstories. I specifically remember Willowmore saying "My father's heart is already broken and my mother's heart is unbreakable", and Stone relating that he broke up with "the most beautiful woman in the world" because she couldn't accept him being a professional soldier. These lines have nothing to do with the story, and they're never elaborated upon, but they remind us that these people had lives before they wound up int he middle of a war with aliens.

    • I'm surprised you didn't mention that John Erman worked on The Twilight Zone as a casting director.

    • Ben Wright did at least two more voice roles for Disney: an unnamed wolf in The Jungle Book and Grimsby in The Little Mermaid--his final role, since he died before the film was released. When Grimsby appeared in Mermaid's made-for-video sequel and TV series, he was voiced by another Outer Limits alumnus: Kay E. Kuter, known to us as the Limbo Being from "The Premonition". Small world, ain't it?

    1. Whhops! Three years later, I finally realize that it's actually Brookman who says "My father's heart is already broken and my mother's heart is unbreakable". All apologies!

  7. I thought I'd add a bit more to this great blog, as I'm a friend of David Frankham who appeared in this episode. I watched it again recently with David, and he has some stories which have probably never been heard before.

    He remembers the episode very fondly, and all the actors in it. Probably most memorably, he remembers John Anderson complaining of his Ebonite makeup: "I look like Heckle and Jeckle in this goddamned thing!"

    Willard Sage was very nice. Martin Sheen was very intense and would run around the stage to get worked up. John Erman, the director, gave him rides to the studio because Sheen was young and poor and didn’t have a car.

    David was thrilled to work in such a great scene with his friend Ben Wright, whom he probably shared the most credits with in his career -- in one play, on the radio show "One Man's Family", in a few TV shows, doing voice work in "101 Dalmatians", and doing voice dubbing on "Ben Hur" (where Mr. Wright and David did a large number of the voices you hear throughout the film).

    David especially liked James Shigeta. He told Mr. Shigeta that he loved Miyoshi Akemi in "Flower Drum Song". Later, during a break in filming, Mr. Shigeta walked up to David and said, “Phone call, David.” David went to the phone and said, “Yes, this is David. Who is this?”

    “This is Miyoshi” … and David almost keeled over and has no memory of what conversation followed.

  8. "Nightmare" is one of those OL episodes that grows on you after time. It did not appeal to me at all when I first saw it (ca. age 12), nor even when I saw it again some time later. I happened to catch it again this weekend on a local channel and found the plotting and acting to be much better than I remembered.

    Also, OL was one of the first TV shows to use black actors in decent dramatic roles. Didn't realize this at the time I first saw the series--I just thought the characters were realistic and believable.

    Over the years, one of the very best dramatic roles for a black actor that I've seen was that of Lennie James' portrayal of Robert Hawkins in the 2006 series _Jericho_. I was mortally pissed (U.S. slang) when that was taken off the air. At least fan pressure made CBS generate another 7 episodes to sort of wrap up the major plot points.

    A close second for suspense-drama acting goes to Taraji P. Henson for her portrayal of Det. Joss Carter in _Person of Interest_.

    Okay, relinquishing soapbox ...


    1. Er, one more thing. Where can I get one of those wands that removes the ability to talk? There are times when the spouse really, really gets on my nerves ...


  9. Why did they not stick with the original name "Ebon Struck First". "Nightmare" is such a generic name for any OL episode. Lot's of them ARE nightmares. Good nightmares but still nightmares.

  10. First time director John Erman's work on this show was not well received by Joseph Stefano, it was perceived as looking too much like a play, and Erman never directed another episode. Stefano did what he could to improve it in the editing room, but it still looks like a play for the most part. The show would have benefited greatly with more imaginative camera angles, more close-ups on the actor's faces, which could have at least partly distracted the viewer from the bare-bones set. The idea of a blank, featureless planet was good and, perhaps not coincidentally, it also accommodated the Outer Limits' low budget for special effects. Unfortunately the stage floor looks dusty, with visible footprints, which makes it pretty much look like what it was: a stage floor. They should have at least mopped and polished the stage to enhance the idea of the surface of an alien planet, you would think. Also, the Ebonite mask was not well blended into actor John Anderson's face, around the eyes and especially around his mouth. I don't remember noticing these shortcomings when I saw the show in 1963 at age eight, but then we didn't notice such things back then. The acting still hold up as top notch, and of course the score is wonderfully timeless and somewhat makes up for the dusty floor and plastic "rocks", or whatever they were supposed to be, that formed the POW compounds.

  11. I never liked this episode as much as some of you guys and gals do. Just doesn't do it for me. I still don't understand some of it. Mostly near the end. Maybe I'm an idiot, whatever. Just doesn't work for me.

  12. The show improves visually in the second half, when night falls on the planet Ebon. In the reduced illumination, the drawbacks I mentioned in my earlier post become far less noticeable. I think if the entire episode had been filmed at "night" it would have been more effective.

  13. >>let’s say it was 1942, and he was 10 years old. Here he appears to be in his late twenties or so, we’ll say 28, which would place “Nightmare” around 1970.<< It's worse than that! If he was 10 years old in '42, then he was born in '32. If we say he's 28, that would place "Nightmare" around 1960 - i.e., even before production of this episode! Optimistic, indeed! Seriously: Both here and in "Moonstone," there are pointed references to the Korean War as having been a very recent event. This seriously dates the stories and in-story characters. Imagine producing, today, a sci-fi show portraying Earthmen undertaking interstellar journeys - but Earthmen who also casually refer to, say, the abuse of detainees in Abu Ghraib.

  14. I guess this would be called a “bottle” episode; that is, one that is restricted to just a few sets to save money. But the production values here are minimal in the extreme; they must have saved a ton of money! Though I will say, that I thought the alien masks were kind of cool; effectively demonic.

    I don’t know that I’ve disagreed with the general opinion on any other Outer Limits episode as much as I do with this one. It seems to be held in high regard, but I thought this psychological drama failed to deliver.

    My very first thought was, how on earth was anyone even able to get to this planet, given that travel to anyplace beyond the solar system is basically impossible; this was never explained. Also, a ship containing an invasion force of just six men? How were they to subdue an entire planet of hostile aliens?

    I knew there was going to be some sort of twist ending, but the journey to that twist seemed so dull and talky, full of highly artificial dialogue; I just wasn’t engaged by what was happening on-screen. And in the end, what was the point of this entire experiment? What was the military hoping to learn here, that they hadn’t already been able to directly observe during all the previous earth-bound wars?

    So yeah, while viewing these in broadcast order, this is easily my least-favourite episode so far.

  15. They carry those Magic Wands and point it around make strange things happen

  16. Craig Beam I very much enjoyed your elaborate commentary on this magnificent work of art.

    Question: How do you KNOW that UE stood for "Unified Earth?" Might it be perhaps "United Earth?" (Or maybe instead "Unlimited Eclairs?" J/K!) And do we know anything more about that future fictional world government beyond the patch on their breastplates? THANKS! tad daley in los angeles