Destruct that ship, General!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Episode Spotlight: "The Chameleon" (4/27/1964)



“The Chameleon”
Season 1, Episode 31
Originally aired 4/27/1964



An unidentified flying saucer has crash-landed in an unspecified forested canyon in the US. The military has already lost a platoon of men who attempted to engage the ship’s occupants, and they’ve spent an indeterminate amount of time waiting for the aliens to make their next move. The intelligence community proposes a rather unorthodox plan: using a sample of the alien’s DNA (recovered from one of the soldiers’ bodies), they’ll genetically modify a human subject to become one of them and infiltrate their group.

Retired deep cover agent (and occasional assassin) Louis Mace is brought out of retirement to endure the transformation, which uses super-sonic sound to rewrite his DNA from the ground up. He volunteers without hesitation.

After Mace is successfully transformed, he is dropped in the forest a short distance from the ship. He enters the craft without incident and, using a concealed camera, transmits images and sounds back to headquarters. The actual aliens --- two benign and decidedly non-hostile chaps --- capture him with a force bubble and quickly deduce that he's a fake. He wins them over by accurately describing the various pieces of equipment on the ship, a sign that his revamped DNA is informed by genetic memory.


The aliens don't hesitate to offer Mace a new life on their planet; however, at first opportunity, Mace grabs their sole weapon and promptly kills one of them. The other ditches the ship and makes a run for it. Mace overtakes him but, before he pulls the trigger again, realizes that he is merely proving mankind’s destructive tendencies. He asks if the offer of a new life is still good. “It’s a long journey to my planet,” the alien gingerly replies. “It would be better to make it with a friend.”

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RANDOMONIUM
The teleplay for “The Chameleon," which aired fifty years ago tonight, was written by Robert Towne, with input from associate producer/story consultant Lou Morheim and producer Joseph Stefano. Towne wrote (and acted in) Roger Corman’s 1960 film The Last Woman on Earth, which starred TOL alum Betsy Jones-Moreland (“The Mutant”); he also took on multiple roles in Corman’s Creature from the Haunted Sea in 1961 (another Jones-Moreland vehicle). Neither is particularly impressive, I’ll grant you, but Towne did write Chinatown, which gives him automatic legend status.


If I have a complaint about Towne’s script, it concerns the familiarity of it. It’s essentially a mash-up of themes and story devices already explored in the series, most obviously the transformation of a human being into an alien ("The Architects of Fear") and the Bellero-like shield used by the aliens to immobilize Mace; there’s also that overarching idea that extraterrestrials could be peace lovers and Earthlings could be the warmongers. It certainly feels like we've seen it all before but, the more I think about it, the less it bothers me. Since next week’s “The Forms of Things Unknown” was actually intended as the pilot for a different series (and as such doesn’t feel much like an Outer Limits), “The Chameleon” is, for all intents and purposes, the final production of the Leslie Stevens-Joseph Stefano regime. Viewed in that light, the episode feels less like a retread and more like an affectionate overview of what’s come before, a celebration of the brilliant (often audaciously so) concepts and stories that continue to haunt and inspire fans of intelligent science fiction and horror half a century later.


This week’s proceedings are headed up by Gerd Oswald, unarguably the Grand Poobah of Outer Limits-directing with a whopping fourteen episodes under his belt. Oswald’s other genre credits include two Star Treks (“The Conscience of the King” and “The Alternative Factor”) and two segments of the 80’s Twilight Zone revival series (“The Star” and “The Beacon”; the latter featured TOL alum Martin Landau). “The Chameleon,” for all its charms, isn’t one of the more interesting episodes to behold. Don’t get me wrong--- there’s nothing expressly wrong with the production, but it’s not terribly stylish. The same can be said of DOP Kenneth Peach’s photography… it all works fine, but there’s little of that Outer Limits sparkle. Am I making sense here? I wouldn’t even call it visually boring…. just workmanlike. It looks and feels particularly prosaic when compared with next week’s “The Forms of Things Unknown,” another Oswald effort photographed by the legendary Conrad Hall (his final contribution to the series).  

Robert Duvall is quite good as Mace, so good in fact that apparently Daystar felt his was the only name that deserved to appear at the top of act one (where we usually see three or four names). His performance here is a nice contrast with the one he’ll turn in for season two’s “The Inheritors”: here he becomes an alien who voluntarily leaves for a “warm, yellow planet”; there he’ll play a government agent trying to stop four fugitives from doing the exact same thing… to another far-off and benevolent world. 


The “Chameleon” aliens are charming and delightful. Their faces just look… well, happy. It’s not surprising at all that Mace’s first act as an alien is to giggle; we initially assume it’s a chemical side effect, but it becomes apparent that it’s actually a reaction to his dawning genetic awareness. This species --- the name of which we never learn --- is gentle and friendly, and very probably good-humored. Mace is likely giggling at the irony of it all, that the military’s xenophobic fear that led to his genetic rebirth was completely unfounded.


The dead recon soldiers are described as having been “all but disintegrated"; however, the rifle inside the ship (used by Mace to kill one of the aliens) emits a deadly gas that doesn’t appear to burn its victim at all. It’s fairly safe to assume that the same weapon was used on the soldiers (and at a similarly close range), since one of the dead soldiers got close enough to get the aliens’ genetic material under his nails. In any event, it’s refreshing to see someone dispatched by an alien weapon that doesn’t disintegrate them, which is almost invariably how alien weapons work on this show.

The aliens are yet another species that wears clothing but opts not to utilize footwear of any kind. In 31 episodes, I can count the number of alien races who don’t walk around barefoot on one hand.* And while we’re talking about wardrobe matters, these aliens wear medallions similar to the one worn by the Empyrian in “Second Chance”; yet another example of how forward-thinking The Outer Limits was (one wonders if 70’s disco fashion was inspired by the show).






Is it just me, or does the ornate cylindrical mechanism at the ship’s center (presumably some sort of navigation device, like the glass globe at the center of the ship in Forbidden Planet) look like a giant hookah pipe? It makes me wonder if the smoke that emanates from their weapon isn’t so much deadly as… well, chill-inducing. I can definitely see these cats getting their toke on whilst pondering the awe and mystery of the universe.


How long has the alien ship been stranded on Earth? When the episode starts, the army guys have already been dispatched and the army has made repeated attempts to coax the aliens out. We can gather that it’s been at least a few days or so since they touched down. Going forward, Mace is located in Mexico, brought back to the US, is briefed on the mission, got transformed into an alien, and dropped off in the forest to commence his infiltration of the ship. This has gotta equal several more days, perhaps even a week or two. How severe is the damage to the aliens’ ship that it takes this long to fix? The ship’s structure seems intact, so it’s really just engine trouble keeping the aliens grounded. I find it highly unlikely that the military would sit on its haunches for a couple of weeks without at least sending in a second round of soldiers; in fact, I think their relative lack of action softens the whole "humans as aggressors" point the episode is striving to make.

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AURAL PLEASURE



“The Chameleon” is the final stock-scored episode of the first season, which means this is the last time the series will fall back on familiar and beloved library cues by composer and production executive Dominic Frontiere (next week’s “The Forms of Things Unknown” features an original Frontiere score… which will be his last for the series).The bits tracked in this week include:


TOL Signature Loop, Andro #10, Son’s Son of 89 (Grooms with Guns/Chase) 
Double Vision (from “The Architects of Fear”)
Time Loops (from “Controlled Experiment”)
Phone Call, It’s Here, The Key, Escape (from “The Human Factor”)
The Price of Freedom, Upstairs, Bride Be Gone, Zapped Into Box (from “Don’t Open Till Doomsday”)

Since we’ve been dealing with stock-scored episodes over the last few months, I haven’t been plugging La La Land Records’ stellar Outer Limits soundtrack set, which is priced to move at $15.98 plus shipping. It includes the majority of Frontiere’s compositions for the series (all that survives, reportedly), comprising three discs’ worth of audio brilliance. Simply put, you must have it.






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DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Robert Duvall is excellent as Louis Mace; he’ll also shine in next season’s two-part “The Inheritors.” He first worked for Daystar Productions in the “Joby” episode of their pre-TOL series Stoney Burke and, around the same time (early 1963), starred in “Miniature” over on The Twilight Zone. Genre fans may also recall his star turn in George Lucas’s 1971 pre-Star Wars dystopian-future classic THX: 1138 (which co-starred TOL alum Donald Pleasance).







Intelligence bigwig Leon Chambers is played by Howard Caine in his only Outer Limits role. Other genre credits on Caine’s résumé include appearances on The Twilight Zone (“He’s Alive,” which also guest-starred TOL alum Curt Conway), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat” and “You Can’t Be a Little Girl All Your Life”) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“Thou Still Unravished Bride,” which also features TOL alums Sally Kellerman, Kent Smith and Ben Wright).


Douglas Henderson (Dr. Tillyard) seems familiar because he was Dr. Paul Fredericks in “The Architects of Fear” (where he also transformed a human into an alien); he'll return for “Behold Eck!” next season. He can also be seen in two episodes of The Invaders (“Quantity: Unknown” and “The Captive”) and one Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“Diagnosis: Danger”). He also played a Staff Sergeant in 1953’s big screen adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, which was directed by TOL vet Byron Haskin.


General Crawford is played by Henry Brandon in his only Outer Limits appearance. Crawford’s other genre work includes one-offs on Suspense, Lights Out, Kolchak: The Night Stalker (“The Trevi Collection,” which also guest-starred TOL alum Nina Foch) and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (“The Doll of Death”). Like Douglas Henderson, Crawford can also be spotted in the aforementioned The War of the Worlds (he plays an unnamed police officer at the crash site).


Roy Jensen plays the unnamed pistol-packin’ tough guy whom Mace strangles in Mexico in act one. His other genre roles include appearances on The Invaders (“The Mutation”), Star Trek (“The Omega Glory”), and three gigs on I Spy, a series headlined by TOL leading man Robert Culp (“It’s All Done with Mirrors”, “Magic Mirror,” and “Tag, You’re It”). Oh, and he also appeared in 1974's Chinatown, written by this episode's scribe Robert Towne.

Jensen (right) with Outer Limits alum James Frawley

Alien #1 is played by William O’Connell, whose genre credits include a Twilight Zone (“Cavender is Coming”) and an Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“Off Season”); you’ll also find him playing Thelev the Andorian in Star Trek’s “Journey to Babel.” Alien #2 is played by stuntman and Olympic Gold Medalist Dean Smith, who will provide stunt double work for Robert Culp in season two’s “Demon with a Glass Hand.”


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HOME VIDEO RELEASES


“The Chameleon” didn’t receive a VHS release until 1991, making it one of the last episodes to hit retail stores (meaning I didn’t own it, since my collecting ground to a halt about halfway in; detailed here). It appeared on the very first VHS volume in Columbia House’s exclusive mail order club, smartly paired with a feature-length edit of the second season two-parter “The Inheritors,” which also starred Robert Duvall, making it a Duvall double (or triple, depending on your level of purism) feature.




In the digital realm, “The Chameleon” appeared on the inaugural LaserDisc volume in 1990, which means the Platterheads actually got something before the Tapeheads for a change. However, this particular collection also included season two’s disappointing “Cold Hands, Warm Heart” (which was also unavailable on tape at that point), which sours that victory a bit. And of course, the Platterheads ultimately lost altogether when the LD sets dried up after four volumes, 21 episodes shy of completion.


And then the DVD format came along in 1997 and, by 2003, both VHS and LaserDisc had been rendered obsolete.  The first season of The Outer Limits was released in 2002 (season two followed in 2003). Subsequent DVD releases in 2007 and 2008 were simple repackagings of the original DVD sets, which means that it’s been about 12 years since MGM has legitimately revisited the series for home video.


That is, unless they count making the entire series available for streaming via Hulu as a revisiting… which they damn well shouldn’t, since the streams are identical to the DVDs (meaning no restoration or remastering has occurred). I really can’t complain too much, since they’re free to watch and all, but the lack of The Outer Limits in high definition (on Blu-ray or otherwise) continues to piss me off.

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TRADING CARD CORNER


Well, this is weird. “The Chameleon” was allocated three spots in Topps’ 1964 Monsters from Outer Limits trading card series… or is it six? The backstory of cards 24-26 involves an all-out war between Earth and Mercury; the “Chameleon” aliens are the Mercurians here. Now, here’s where it gets a bit wacky: the story continues through cards 27-29, but the Mercurians are now inexplicably played by the aliens from season two’s “Keeper of the Purple Twilight”! There’s certainly some similarity in the facial design of both species (mostly in the gill-like slits found on the “Chameleon” aliens’ foreheads and in the nose-mouth region on the “Purple Twilight” aliens); so I dunno, maybe they’re supposed to represent two different Mercurian races. Your guess is as good as mine.


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MERCHANDISE SPOTLIGHT

It’s a goddamned shame that Sideshow Collectibles never made an action figure of Mace in his alien form (the same can be said of most Outer Limits aliens and monsters, since the line only covered a meager six episodes). This leaves the model kit industry to step in and pick up some of the slack which, happily, they have.


You can have your own post-op Mace in the form of a 1/8-scale resin/metal model kit from Dimensional Designs (DD/OL/MA-18). It’s a nice sculpt by Chris Choin, and it’ll set you back $59.95 plus shipping. Here's Mr. Enamel's completed specimen:



There’s another “Chameleon”-based resin model kit out there, courtesy of Saturn Ltd., which you can obtain from Monsters in Motion. This one’s a bit bigger (1/6-scale; 14” tall) and a lot more expensive ($139.99 plus shipping). It’s hard to compare them without more pictures, but the Saturn offering’s face looks a bit cartoonish to me. I think I prefer Choin’s rendering.

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THE WRAP-UP

"The Chameleon" marks the end of an era. We've still got one more Stevens-Stefano episode to go, but it features no aliens or monsters, the true hallmark of the series. Season two will certainly have its share of such creatures, but things just won't be the same under the new management. Cherish this one, kids, and as those end credits roll, cast a look back at the 30 wonderful episodes that came before. Even those less-brilliant efforts still contained that ineffable spark of Outer Limits genius.





* Don’t believe me? Here goes: Andy the Andromedan, the Ebonites, the Empyrian and the Bifrost Alien all wear shoes… and that’s it, a whopping four. I’m not counting the Martians in “Controlled Experiment” because they’re merely wearing earth clothing to blend in; it’s probable that their native wardrobe doesn’t include Hush Puppies or Florsheims, but they may still wear shoes of some kind. We don’t know, so I won’t count it. Every other alien in season one (those that have feet to begin with) is barefoot.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Episode Spotlight: "Production and Decay of Strange Particles" (4/20/1964)



“Production and Decay of Strange Particles”
Season 1, Episode 30
Originally aired 4/20/1964


Fifty years ago tonight, The Outer Limits attempted to baffle viewers with bullshit while blinding them with lots of pretty lightning. Did it work? I dunno, I wasn’t born yet. Does it work now? Um…..


“Production and Decay of Strange Particles” introduces us to Dr. Marshall, who oversees operations at a nuclear power plant. Marshall has unintentionally exposed some high-velocity subatomic particles to Nobelium-238, which has created a highly-radioactive crack between our world and an alternate dimension. The fissure’s intense energy output vaporizes two plant workers, whose empty radiation suits rise up and inexplicably resume their work. Marshall theorizes that formless energy beings from the other dimension are occupying the suits and endeavoring to widen the crack by causing a nuclear explosion.


More plant workers are forcibly drafted into this effort, creating a small army of zombie-like stuffed suits. Marshall’s initial instinct is to run like hell, but his wife guilts him into sticking around. It then becomes a race against time as he tries to figure out a way to stop the beings’ growing fusion reaction before their China Syndrome shenanigans comes to fruition.




He finally decides that, if he can beat them to the punch by creating his own nuclear explosion, the inter-dimensional rift might be sealed; better yet, the collision of matter and anti-matter from the other dimensional just might cause time to reverse and undo the entire mess. He MacGyvers a “hydrogen thermonuclear component” out of whatever’s lying around and dangles it like a carrot in front of the lightning zombies, who drag it back to the fissure like the hulking idiots that they apparently are.

From a safe distance, the Marshalls watch as the entire power plant and the surrounding area is vaporized by a massive atomic explosion… which then reverses itself as time runs backward to the point that the inter-dimensional crack was first formed.






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RANDOMONIUM

“Production and Decay” (that’s right, I’m abbreviating the title; deal with it) is the fourth and final episode written and directed by series creator and executive producer Leslie Stevens. The above synopsis suggests that the story is fairly straightforward, right? Unfortunately, Stevens drenches the proceedings with so much technobabble that it’s easy to lose track of the narrative line. The first half moves like a scientific procedural, in which Marshall gradually learns details of the lightning zombies’ activities (at the expense of his staff, who all end up dead trying to contain the ever-growing shit storm); the second is considerably muddier, as Marshall wildly theorizes about what’s happening (and being correct 100% of the time, magically enough) and ultimately crafts his day-saving makeshift nuke. All things considered, however, it’s still easier to follow than Stevens’ earlier “The Borderland,” a mystifying exercise in the opaque if there ever was one.

If the episode is difficult to grasp on a story level, it’s at least pleasing to look at thanks to Kenneth Peach’s photographic direction. The power plant is dark and foreboding, particularly in the furnace reactor where most of the action takes place. The fusion of that darkness with the copious amounts of lightning and radioactive glowing on display creates a compelling visual depiction of the series’ horror and sci-fi hybridization ethic.


Y’now, I every time I state something definitively in these pages, I swear I end up being proven wrong. Most season one episodes open with a short teaser clip instead of an actual pre-opening title prologue. “The Special One” two weeks ago had a proper prologue, and I cockily stated that it would be the last prologue we’d see this season. So what’s the first thing I saw when I started up “Production and Decay”? That’s right, a goddamned prologue. Now, not much happens in its two-and-a-quarter minute run time; it only serves to establish the power plant setting and indicate that there’s some sort of emergency brewing, but it’s definitely a prologue. Thing is --- I checked every episode a few months back to make sure I caught ‘em all.  At least I thought I did.

But there’s more: as “Production and Decay” unspooled before my eyes, I realized with no small measure of surprise that I didn’t recognize any of it. That’s right, kids: I’m a self-proclaimed Outer Limits mega-fan, and I was watching an episode that I’d never seen. I’m still trying to figure out how this profound an oversight could have happened; suffice it to say my mind is blown. It’s an unfathomable mystery, which is oddly appropriate given the episode in question’s impenetrable gobbledygook.




So our coward-turned-hero protagonist is named “Dr. Marshall.” However…. as we get further into the episode, his wife repeatedly refers to him as, simply, “Marshall.” So… does that mean his name is “Marshall Marshall”? I vote yes, and shall refer to him thusly for the duration. On the subject of Marshall Marshall... goddamn, George MacReady hams it up big time here. Like, ridiculously so. His overacting is almost operatic at times; I almost wonder if it was an intentional choice. A more subtle performance could easily get lost within the blinding, cacophonous chaos environment of the Power Plant Gone Mad, so I dunno, maybe it was the right choice. However--- he still annoys me at times, particularly during his over the top panic attacks (I kept waiting for his wife to slap him; I probably would’ve cheered if she had). And what’s up with the scene in act three in which he stares at length directly into the camera? I know he couldn’t really see me through the TV, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t still uncomfortable. There’s also a shot in act one in which he saunters right up to the camera and sticks his face in it; the accompanying music (“Jong Returns,” a queasy li’l number from “Nightmare”) only adds to the weirdness.  Why all the fourth wall-breaking? I think George MacReady may just be The Outer Limits’ oddest, most awkward leading man.





It’s hard not to compare “Production and Decay” to the earlier “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork,” which was written by series producer Joseph Stefano. Both take place in shadowy facilities with lots of pyrotechnics and noise, and both concern incalculably powerful energy sources running amok. The main difference lies in the fact that Stefano’s “Woodwork” is populated with interesting characters and some really crisp dialogue (not to mention a complete lack of wide-eyed George MacReadys wetting their pants in terror every ten minutes). Sure, “Woodwork” has its issues (the Energy Being’s electrified dust bunny origin is ludicrous, and some of the characters’ motivations are questionable at best), but I love it because I like the characters; meanwhile, there’s nobody in “Production and Decay” that I even remotely give a shit about. And hey, if nothing else, “Production and Decay” has Allyson Ames.... while “Woodwork” has Barbara Luna. Ames is cute and all... but c'mon. You know I'm right.

There's hot, and then there's smokin' hot.





The Lightning Zombies are a pretty cool menace, unlike anything else in The Outer Limits’ roster of aliens and monsters. There’s a bit of the Frankenstein Monster there as they lumber around slowly, but modern viewers may be more reminded of Star Trek’s cybernetic Borg species. They too assimilate whoever they touch and are essentially links in a chain, pieces of a collective hive mind working in tandem toward a common task. Both species move slowly but relentlessly with purpose, and both represent a fearsome loss of identity and individuality.


The episode begins with what I can only assume is an editorial error. The very first shot we see of the nuclear power plant includes copious amounts of the radioactive lightning effect we’ll see later as the facility becomes increasingly irradiated; since the particle/element collision hasn’t happened yet, there’s no reason this phenomena should appear at this point (unless it’s some kind of foreshadowing concerning Marshall’s atomic time reversal, but that really wouldn’t make sense either). The preceding shot is stock footage of a lightning storm, which makes me wonder about the nature of the mysterious particles in Marshall Marshall’s cyclotron: did they in fact come from outer space, and piggybacked to the power plant on a bolt of lightning? Hell, maybe it’s not an error at all.

What is an error is the side shot of one of the Lightning Zombies (time stamp 24:43), which we know are empty radiation suits filled with the sentient energy creatures. So why the hell does this one have a nose....?







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AURAL PLEASURE


“Production and Decay” doesn’t include an original music score; rather, bits and pieces from earlier Outer Limits scores by Dominic Frontiere are peppered throughout (one in particular, “It’s Here” from “The Human Factor,” seems to loop endlessly throughout the second half of the episode). Here’s the rundown:

The Lottery, The Spaceship, Alien on the Loose (from “The Architects of Fear”)
Mother’s Loops, Jong Returns (from “Nightmare”)
It’s Here (from “The Human Factor”)
The Big Finish (“The Borderland”)

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DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Wow, we've got a fairly large cast this week, and they’ve all got noteworthy genre connections. Let’s take a deep breath (y’now, kinda like the one required to state this episode’s title) and dive on in.

Coward-turned-hero Dr. Marshall Marshall is played by George MacReady, last seen in “The Invisibles.” MacReady’s other genre credits includes appearances on The Twilight Zone (“The Long Morrow”), Boris Karloff’s Thriller, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and the first very installment of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (“The Cemetery”).


Laurel Marshall is played by Stockholm’s own Signe Hasso. Her genre credits are pretty slim (she appeared in episodes of the radio shows-turned-TV series Lights Out and Suspense), but she did appear in 1945’s The House on 92nd Street, a classic Fox film noir that starred future TOL alum Lloyd Nolan (who we’ll enjoy in season two’s “Soldier”). I’m delighted to report that Hasso co-starred in 1950’s Sånt händer inte här (This Can’t Happen Here), an early film by one of my favorite directors, Ingmar Bergman.


If Robert Fortier (Dr. Paul Pollard) looks familiar, it’s because he was also the philandering rat Bert Hamill in “Controlled Experiment” back in January; he’ll return in season two as the Kyben goon Budge in “Demon with a Glass Hand.” Fortier also appeared in Leslie Stevens’ post-TOL horror film Incubus (1966) and, soon after, showed up on Star Trek (“By Any Other Name,” which also guest-starred TOL alum Warren Stevens).


Dr. Pollard’s wife-slash-widow is played by the lovely Allyson Ames, who also appeared in “The Galaxy Being” as one of Gene “Buddy” Maxwell’s groupies. Before that, she popped up on Daystar’s pre-TOL series Stoney Burke (“King of the Hill”), and she could also be seen in Incubus. It’s possible she had a bit of extra casting pull on her side, since she happened to be Leslie Stevens’ wife. TOL Babe? Yes indeed.


Dr. Terrel is played by John Duke, whose Daystar association began with an appearance on Stoney Burke (“The Mob Riders,” which also guest-starred future TOL alums Bill Gunn and Curt Conway). He also did one episode of The Invaders (“The Ivy Curtain”) and two Star Treks (“The Ultimate Computer” and “The Devil in the Dark”; the latter’s Horta creature was actually Janos Prohaska’s goofy Mikie the Giant Microbe costume from season two’s “The Probe”).


Rudy Solari (Griffin) will return in season two for “The Invisible Enemy” (in which he’ll steal the show right out from under headliner Adam West), and he too showed up on Stoney Burke (“Point of Entry,” which also guest-starred Ben Wright, last week’s Luminoid Elder). Solari can also be spotted in “The Paradise Syndrome” on Star Trek.


The Civil Authority Official, only seen on a two-way video communication system, is played by Paul Lukather, who will return for season two’s “The Brain of Colonel Barham"; he too scored a role on The Invaders (“Moonshot”). Check out that popped collar.... that's one smooth motherfucker right there. Hey ladies---!


Joseph Ruskin plays Collins, the first plant worker to become a Lightning Zombie (a dubious honor, but alas). Ruskin crossed over into The Twilight Zone twice (he played the Genie in “The Man in the Bottle” and provided the voice of the various Kanamits in “To Serve Man”); he also played the vaguely Kanamit-ish Galt in “The Gamesters of Triskelion” over on Star Trek.


Leonard Nimoy plays Konig, the second Lightning Zombie, and he’ll be back for season two’s “I, Robot” (he also headlined the 90’s remake on Showtime’s Outer Limits revival series). Like many TOL actors, he can also be found on Stoney Burke (“Fight Night”) and The Twilight Zone (“A Quality of Mercy”: he’d cross paths with Rod Serling again for Night Gallery’s loopy evil cat opus “She’ll Be Company for You”). Nimoy is also quite famous for another role, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it is.*


And finally, Coulter (the only plant worker to die from radiation burns instead of being Lightning-Zombified) is played by Willard Sage in his third and final Outer Limits appearance (he was the Chief of Staff in “Nightmare” and an unnamed reporter in “Tourist Attraction”). He also popped up on The Invaders (“The Experiment,” which also guest-starred TOL alum Dabbs Greer) and Star Trek (“The Empath”).


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HOME VIDEO RELEASES


“Production and Decay” inexplicably gained a “The” in its title for its initial home video release. Both the subsequent mail-order exclusive VHS edition from Columbia House (which also featured “Cold Hands, Warm Heart”) and the UK VHS release (which also featured “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork”; now there’s a pairing with some thought behind it!) featured the altered title as well.





The title was corrected for the DVD release of season one, which hit stores in 2002. I don’t have the subsequent DVD reissues (2007 and 2008), but I have to assume they’re correct as well.


If you don’t own any of the DVD releases, I’d recommend enjoying all 49 episodes by streaming them on Hulu. It won’t cost you a dime, and their copy of “Production and Decay” has the correct title.

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TRADING CARD CORNER

Topps and Rittenhouse turned up their collective noses at “Production and Decay” for their trading card series. DuoCards, however, granted equal time to all 32 episodes of season one in their 1997 effort, so the Lightning Zombie did in fact get his own trading card (#44 in the series); unfortunately, they added that pesky erroneous "The" to the title.


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MERCHANDISE SPOTLIGHT


The episode has spawned no merchandise whatsoever, not even a Lightning Zombie model kit from Dimensional Designs (which is a bit surprising, actually). Your only real option here is to customize your own action figure, which is an easy task if you obtain The Simpsons Nuclear Power Planet Interactive Playset from 2000. Plop the protective head piece onto good ol’ Homer, paint some lightning on the face plate, and there you go. Just know that the figure contains a voice-activated sound chip, so he may emit his signature “D’oh!” now and then (come to think of it, that’s pretty appropriate for a Dr. Marshall toy). 


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THE WRAP-UP



Despite the sheer delight of discovering a heretofore unseen Outer Limits episode, “Production and Decay of Strange Particles” proved itself all sparkle and no substance as I trudged through it. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly one of the lesser offerings of the show’s spectacular first season… in other words, it’s more fizzle than fusion.





* I’m kidding, of course. I’m fully aware of Nimoy’s work as master of disguise Paris on Mission: Impossible (1969-1971).