Destruct that ship, General!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Crash.

Hey gang.

So the original plan was to launch the podcast in late September or early October. For a variety of reasons, this was pushed back to early January. My intent was to record lots of content in advance, so I’d never miss deadlines and therefore always get a weekly show out. After many delays (some of them admittedly my fault), my plan was to spend most of December banging out episodes for a three-day multi-episode January 2nd launch. Emphasis on was.

Long-time followers of my blog may remember that my laptop died a couple of years ago, a traumatic loss that threatened my ability to continue the blog. Workflow adjustments and the sprucing up of my old desktop PC resolved those issues. I’ve never replaced the laptop, mostly because I can’t afford to, but also because I haven’t really needed to: my tablet/Bluetooth keyboard combo works well enough for most of my usual laptop tasks, save for three: image editing (Photoshop), video editing (Adobe Premiere) and multi-track recording/editing (Adobe Audition). These processor-intensive applications were relegated to the aforementioned spruced-up desktop PC which handled the tasks (and more) effectively and reliably. Her name was MainBrain. Emphasis on was.

Three nights ago she basically imploded. I don’t know how else to put it. I pretty religiously use antivirus and anti-malware tools, so I don’t think anything nefarious happened… the old girl was just… well, old. I’ve had her for 10 years, and she was heavily used for most of that time (she became the general-purpose family PC when I switched to the laptop). That’s not a bad run for an electronic device in an age in which things aren’t designed to last. I was actually hoping to replace her in the next year or so, but I didn’t think she’d die on me before I got the chance.

It may sound silly, but that computer meant a great deal to me. I got her when we finished building my home office in 2005. I launched my blog with her. I edited hours and hours of videos of my kids with her. I captured countless screenshots and created countless memes with her. When I refurbished her in 2013, it was like being reunited with an old friend. Laugh if you want, but losing her hurts. A lot. I feel like I’ve lost a limb.

But… she’s just a thing, right? A tool. And broken tools can be replaced, right? Of course they can. I’ll have another computer, newer and faster and more powerful, at some point when money isn’t so tight (it’s Christmastime, after all, plus we’ve had some unexpected expenses come up that will affect us for the next several months). So I know this isn’t a permanent setback… but it’s most definitely a setback. I don’t have a computer now, which means I have no way to record and edit the podcast.
Like I said, I can’t afford a new computer, nor can I afford to have MainBrain fixed (and given her age and relatively modest specs by 2015 standards, that money would probably be better spent on a replacement anyway). This means that the early January launch isn’t happening, and right now I have no idea whatsoever when it will.

I tried to figure out a way to pull it off using other equipment in my arsenal. The aforementioned tablet seemed like the best possibility, but I haven’t found an app that does what I need it to do. My MainBrain setup could produce near-studio quality audio, and quality is something that’s really important to me (I refuse to put out a subpar podcast). It’s ironic--- bitterly so--- that I have all this great recording equipment thanks to the Kickstarter campaign… but it’s all useless without a computer at the center.

Ugh. Just ugh. I’m at a loss as I write this. I had such high hopes for this project, and despite the various setbacks I’ve experienced, I was still determined to get this thing launched….but it appears the universe has other ideas.


-CraB

Monday, October 26, 2015

January 2016

We're a bit behind schedule, but.... it's coming, kids. It'll be mostly Twilight Zone, but The Outer Limits will certainly creep in from time to time. And c'mon, if you like The Outer Limits, you gotta like The Twilight Zone too. You know I'm right.




Heh, I just realized that that promo kinda evokes the opening title for The Unknown, the Daystar TV pilot that became TOL's "The Forms of Things Unknown." 



It's completely coincidental... I actually took the pic at Arcadia Beach near Seaside, a favorite spot of Teresa and I.  Here's the original:




It's amazing what a little Photoshop can do. And hey, as long we're discussing Arcadia Beach, here's a really cool shot of Teresa, taken the same day as the above pic:



...anyhoo---- see (well, hear) ya in January, kids. Tune in or else.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Forms of Statistics Unknown...

So you read blogs (since you're reading this one, I can only assume you read others as well). Well, d'ya ever wonder which specific blog entries are the most popular, i.e. the most frequently viewed? I sure do.... but since I'm clearly an internet amateur, I had no idea I could actually track this.

There are multiple different time periods available to me, but I chose two to share: this week (top) and all-time (bottom). Check 'em out: 




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Looks like folks are partial to "I, Robot" this week (I can't imagine why)... but holy shit! "ZZZZZ" is far and away the single most-accessed entry of all time! I'd love to credit my writing, but I'm pretty sure it's the many pictures of the supremely gorgeous Joanna Frank (not to mention that hot Woody Welch painting).

One more: here are the blog's all-time page views:





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Wow, the big 100K isn't far off. It just amazes (and humbles me) that people are still reading this blog. You like me, you really like me!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Final Tally...


The Kickstarter campaign is over. Here's the final tally:



I'm really excited. I'll be back with more in a few days....

The Finish Line....


...is fast approaching. Here's where we are right now:


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Success!

Guys and Dolls (and everything in between):

I woke up this morning to find this in my email:


That's right, kids, the Twilight Zone podcast WILL happen! (cue applause and wild, raucous cheering)

To those of you who pledged: this obviously couldn't have happened without you, and I am eternally grateful. Your donations constitute a faith in me to produce something worthwhile, a faith that I will try very hard to justify.

To those of you who didn't pledge: it's not quite over, so there's no reason why you still can't hop on board. Anything above the minimum goal will go toward hosting costs and, if there's a substantial enough overage, I'll be able to purchase additional equipment for mobile podcasting, which will allow me to work on the 'cast during my lunch hours at work, which will mean five extra hours a week I can devote to the project, which will mean MORE EPISODES (I'm tentatively shooting for a biweekly schedule, but I'd rather be able to release new episodes more frequently). So yeah, fence-straddlers--- if you've read and enjoyed my blog(s), and you're hungry for more content .... well, this is your chance to help augment my arsenal of tools and enhance my output, I mean, it's already gonna be pretty great... but I'd rather put something together that is truly amazing.

Not that the project as currently funded won't be. 'Cuz it will. Promise.

Stay tuned for updates. And again, thanks for making this dream a reality.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

David J. Schow's THE OUTER LIMITS AT 50 nominated for a Rondo Award!




Friend of this blog and Outer Limits scholar David J. Schow has been nominated for a coveted Rondo Award. Two, actually: one for his glorious Outer Limits at 50 book (which you can still get here), and one for his article in Screem Magazine, Issue #29, "Days of Future Past: Remembering The Outer Limits"(the very same issue in which Schow name-dropped this very blog, in the related article "The Outer Limits at 51"; as of this writing you can still get it here), and you should drop whatever you're doing and vote for him. In both categories, dammit.

The ballot is here. Do your civic duty, citizens!



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Twilight Zone podcast campaign update


Well, thanks to a few generous folks, we've definitely made some progress toward our funding goal on Kickstarter (see here for details)... but we're not there yet, bugs and ghouls. I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll at least hit our minimum goal, which means that the podcast will become a reality. 

I've been working on crystallizing my concept for the podcast. I'm definitely moving away from the standard episodic review approach and developing something a bit more free-form. I'll certainly cover specific episodes (particularly my favorites) in some sort of individual or group discussion setting, but I also want to take full advantage of the aural possibilities of the podcast format and explore the music of the series (I have a Bernard Herrmann-heavy episode in mind, for example). I have quite a lot of Twilight Zone (not to mention Outer Limits) music in my collection to share....

If you're on the fence about donating... well, I can only promise that I'll produce something both informative and entertaining. You'll get your money's worth. And did I mention I'll do an occasional drunk show?  I did?  Well, it bears repeating. And hey, generous backers do get rewarded (see here for details).

Thanks for your consideration and support.



--- Craig

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kickstart THIS.

Hey kids. I've already mentioned that my next blogging endeavor will be revisiting The Twilight Zone's brilliant first season over on my TZ blog... but I'm also working on something bigger.  Check it out:

The podcast will obviously be Twilight Zone-centric, but I'll touch on lots of other stuff too, most definitely The Outer Limits. If my work on these blogs have entertained and/or enlightened you, and if you feel compelled to participate in a grand scheme to bring it all to life in a new way.... well, donate freely (and generously). And I have some great reward items to, well, reward my benefactors.

Thanks!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Life in the Glow of The Outer Limits – In Closing


And here we are. The end.

Some of you are aware that this blog was preceded by a similar 50th-anniversary rewatching endeavor for The Twilight Zone, the golden anniversary of which spanned 2009-2014. Somehow that one never felt as important, despite the fact that TZ has historically been a much more important series to me.  It wasn’t as if I had anything especially important to add to the existing critical commentary on the series (I of course refer to David J. Schow’s books, as well as the We Are Controlling Transmission blog), but there was always some strange urgency driving me. The past year-and-a-half has found me forgoing sleep, family time and a social life, and now that I can now look back at this thing as a complete work… well, I’m not convinced the end product completely justifies the effort.

Believe it or not, that’s not me fishing for validation. It’s the self-critical, never-satisfied voice in my head talking. There are other voices in there.

There’s of course an inherent gratification in simply finishing at all, and I do quite like some of the things I’ve written (I may have espoused a select few valuable insights, I dunno). And I have contributed a lot of memes to the bottomless rabbit hole that is the internet, so there’s an achievement (admittedly somewhat dubious; but Christ, if we can’t laugh at things we love, what’s the point?). The single greatest pleasure I’ve experienced, however, has been the interaction with other fans of the show. My regular comment-leavers often provided the extra bit fuel I needed to cross the finish line each week, so thanks, folks (y’all know who you are). There’s an undeniable warm ‘n fuzzy comfort to crossing paths with others who share one’s interests.

And of course I can't wrap this production without a special tip o' the hat to David J. Schow, whose presence and influence informs these pages more than anyone will ever know. He's the veritable Yoda to my clumsy and awkward Luke Skywalker. He's also an imminently cool cat, and I'm proud and tickled as hell to call him a friend. If you'd told me in 1986 (the year his Companion first saw print) that I'd one day be in regular contact with this brilliant and singular scholar of That Which We Hold Dear and Sacred, I probably would've pissed myself (I was seventeen and a virgin, so what else would I have done?).

Jesus, all these teary-eyed finalities and I’m not even quite done here. I still plan to retroactively reformat the first half of season one’s entries to match the later ones (this means bigger pictures, essentially). I may also tweak the content here and there and add additional thoughts or comments as they occur to me. I do, after all, reserve the right to revise this particular history (and fix typos as I find them; goddammit, typos are the bane of my existence). And there’s still the possibility of a high-definition release of the series, so of course I’ll be addressing that if and when MGM makes it happen. And I still want to spotlight a few other curios related to the series (Leslie Stevens’ Incubus, for example; there’s also the rare and costly Andro/Helosian action figure two-pack that continues to haunt me, as it’s the only hole in my otherwise-complete Sideshow Collectibles Outer Limits collection).

This will all happen sporadically, without deadlines or schedules or promises of regular new content. Interested parties may simply wish to check back every so often (you can also follow me on Google Plus, which should alert you when new posts spring forth).

My next blogging endeavor will take place on my Twilight Zone blog in the fall, where I’ll be revisiting the series’ first season as each episode turns 56. And beyond that…. well, who knows? My pal Bill Huelbig really wants me to tackle the original Star Trek (which turns 50 next year), but right now that seems like a huge undertaking. I’m also toying with the idea of a podcast of some sort (whether that would involve The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, or both, or something else altogether remains to be seen). I think in either case, I’d want a co-blogger/co-host… y’now, to take some of the pressure off and whatnot.

And gazing far into the hazy and indistinct future.... if I'm still around for the series' diamond anniversary in 2038, and if we're still blogging on the internet, I might just revisit all 49 episodes again. I'll be 70 at that point, so I can't promise clarity or cohesion (and gawd, the typos will probably be ten times worse; of course, by then we'll probably exist as holo-beings in a vast Matrix-style virtual construct, and the auto-correct will likely be much more sophisticated). Or who knows, I may not even give a shit at that point. In all likelihood I'll be dead, a mere memory in my kids' minds (my oldest will be a bit past my age now at that point). Fuck, I think I'm about to have an out-of-body moment.

Anyway--- it’s been real, bugs and ghouls. And decidedly unreal at the same time. It really couldn’t have been any other way, though... could it?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Episode Spotlight: "The Probe" (1/16/1965)



“The Probe”
Season 2, Episode 17 (49 overall)
Originally aired 1/16/1965


This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

                               --- T.S. Eliot (The Hollow Men)



Fifty years ago tonight, The Outer Limits unspooled its final “great adventure” for the loyal fans that were still tuning in after the Brady regime had scraped away most of the show’s brilliant first-season luster with a crowbar. It opened on a cargo plane, flying through some scary-looking storm clouds, carrying Amanda Frank to her wedding in Tokyo... but that pesky Ma Nature just ain’t having it. Coberly, the pilot, attempts to avoid certain disaster by flying into the eye of the hurricane... and everyone promptly blacks out. They wake up in the plane’s inflatable life raft in a swirl of fog, but quickly discover that they aren’t floating in the ocean: they’re inside a large structure with plastic flooring.


Strange mists and beams of energy are directed toward the raft, one of which nearly freezes Navigator Dexter to death. Coberly, Amanda and Jefferson Rome (the group’s de facto leader), set out to explore while Dexter stays behind to warm up and radio for help. A bulbous, slithering blob appears out of nowhere and appears to swallow him. Rome launches into some serious scattershot and baseless theorize and determines that they’re trapped inside a gigantic microscope of alien origin, an automated interstellar probe roaming the galaxy for research purposes. They too encounter the bloblike creature, which Rome figures is a mutated microbe that’s somehow immune to the probe’s super-hygienic design. The probe’s internal mechanisms douse the trio with a chemical repellent that protects them from the microbe’s advances, at which point it occurs to them to try to communicate with the alien scientists who are likely monitoring the probe from afar.


Amanda pleads with the unseen aliens to set them free before the probe leaves Earth for its next destination (which the group has determined to be Venus, thanks to a convenient map incorporated into the probe’s machinery). All seems lost when suddenly the group finds themselves outside the probe, adrift in their raft, with help on the way to pick them up. Flying back to civilization, they see the probe rise upward into the sky---- and promptly explode. They surmise that the aliens destroyed it to prevent the microbe from infesting Earth, and deduce that, some day, the aliens will return.

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RANDOMONIUM


“The Probe,” which was both the final Outer Limits episode produced and the final to air, was written by Seeleg Lester from a story idea by Sam Neuman. In the director’s chair was Felix Feist (director of 1953’s Donovan’s Brain, which The Outer Limits kinda blatantly ripped off for “The Brain of Colonel Barham” two weeks ago). Feist directed a few film noirs (1947’s The Devil Thumbs a Ride, 1949’s The Threat, and The Man Who Cheated Himself in 1950) and, after his work here, would direct six episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea before passing away in 1965.

The director of photography duties were split between Kenneth Peach and Fred Koenekamp (I’m not sure why; perhaps Peach was already gone when pickups and/or re-shoots were required). Koenekamp served on a whopping 90 episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (a series which starred TOL alum David McCallum), two episodes of Mission: Impossible (a series which starred TOL alum Martin Landau), and the pilot episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey in 1982 (which didn’t feature any TOL vets, but it’s a show that I enjoyed the hell out of). His theatrical cinematography credits include genre releases like The Swarm (1977), the original Amityville Horror (1979), and (deep breath) The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the 8th Dimension (1984).

The show’s cancellation had already been announced when production on this final episode started, so it’s hard to imagine Brady and Company breaking a sweat trying to achieve anything remarkable. And… yeah, it shows. There’s so little here to grab onto in terms of story or character development that the entire affair just feels vacuous and pointless. Every character is flat and indistinct; we aren’t given an ounce of information about any of them. We know that Amanda is about to get married, and that the crew is flying her to Tokyo to meet her fiancĂ©, but that gives us no insight into her connection to them, or who she is, or what she does for a living, or why she’s getting married in Tokyo, or how the crew knows her to begin with, or where they took off from. We do learn about halfway in that she majored in ancient languages in college, but that fact ultimately has no bearing on anything. Now, I’m not the type who necessarily requires three-dimensional lifelike characters to enjoy a good story… if that’s what it is: a good story. This ain’t, primarily due to the lack of focus in the story or, more to the point, the lack of story in general. It’s basically four people inexplicably stuck in a strange location with virtually no help from anyone (unlike the Darcys last week, this group doesn’t even have a Limbo Being to sashay in to drop clues), who eventually figure out their situation and somehow survive/escape it. The episode is somewhat reminiscent of The Twilight Zone’s “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” and not just because the two share similar themes: the giant half-circle set piece donation barrel used in that episode, which reappeared as the space craft’s fuselage in “The Inheritors, Part II,” is on hand here as part of the oversized interior of the probe.


So we’re facing a dearth of believable characters and a lack of story. What’s left? Might there be some other aspect of the production that can provide a least a modicum of relief for the viewer, rendering the experience at least semi-bearable? I’m happy to report that there is: the visuals. The sets and effects are the best thing about the episode, a surprising achievement given the lack of money and time invested. The probe set ---- essentially three connected rooms--- is spacious and enormous, lending an impressive sense of scale (and an automatic boost to the production value). There’s a curious lack of close-ups throughout most of the episode; everything is shot medium or long, which contributes to the illusion that our heroes are in a large environment (this may or may not have been intentional; it’s entirely possible that there wasn’t enough time to get sufficient coverage). There’s a nice surreal quality to the imagery, starting with the (quite effective) reveal that the lift raft is sitting on a hard floor instead of floating in the ocean. It’s just plain eerie to watch the various gasses and mists moving toward the characters slowly and purposefully, as if alive and sentient (remember Finley’s energy cloud in “The Man with the Power” and the Energy Being in “It Crawled out of the Woodwork”?). The glass tubes that envelope the characters to “inoculate” them against the Microbial Menace™ are glorious from a pulp sci-fi standpoint, and hearken back to season one’s “A Feasibility Study.”

Question: is Jeff the captain of the cargo plane’s crew? He assumes the leadership role, despite the fact he's only the radio operator. Coberly is the pilot, but he clearly defers to Jeff in all respects. And Amanda is a passenger, yet she pours coffee for the crew and hands out life vests as if she’s a stewardess. I dunno, maybe she's working off the price of the flight...? The guys refer to her as "babe" and "honey," so she may be doing more than just flight-attendanting.


Mikie, the series’ final alien antagonist, is embarrassingly ridiculous. It’s not as bad as last week’s Limbo Being, but it’s not far off. It’s hysterically awful, but it does work as comedy relief in an otherwise dour and humorless story (I chuckle every time I see it, so it definitely succeeds on that level). It’s an oversized microbe, an organism too simple for facial features, but I swear to god it’s got a goddamned face. There’s one shot where it turns toward the camera and damn it all, it’s got eyes, or little holes that look like eyes. I hate to say it, but the damned thing is kinda cute. It takes on an almost canine demeanor, toothlessly menacing our heroes like a skittish and tentative dog lacking any formal guard training. When the globular critter divides and multiplies, its diminutive offspring (let’s call it Mini-Mikie™) possesses a wiggling phalange of sorts that could easily be interpreted as a wagging tail. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, when it shimmies its way up onto the life raft, it engages in some decidedly doglike behavior… yeah, that’s right, it totally humps that thing.

Woof, baby, woof.


So the mysterious alien race is presumably benevolent, since they safely return our heroes and then destroy their probe to prevent Mikie the Malevolent Microbe™ from infecting Earth… why, then, do they destruct the probe in our atmosphere, where its remnants will fall into our ocean and very possibly lead to the very catastrophe they’re striving to avert? They may not be as intelligent (or as benevolent) as they appear.


I received a rather humorous e-mail from my friend David J. Schow,* author of The Outer Limits Companion (or, if you’re me, The Holy Bible), the other day. He happens to own all 49 Outer Limits episodes on 16mm film, many (if not all) containing the commercials shown during the original broadcasts (!). In honor of “The Probe” turning 50, he dug his print out and---- well, I’ll just hand him the mic and let him tell the tale himself:

I swear I was gonna do you a solid.  Watch "The Probe."  Send images and a list of the commercials that were broadcast thereof, the consumer items The Outer Limits was "brought to you by" on this particular swan-song week.

Threaded it up.  That print probably hasn't projected for 15 years at least.

And the drive wheel inside the projector goes sproooooinggg!

And I dismantle the thing but cannot ascertain the nature of the malfunction (other than by saying, "Projector broke.")

Minutes before I had unreeled a commercial mailed to me by a friend -- supposedly an Outer Limits spot but it turned out to be a trailer for a Sherlock Holmes movie.  All was well.

Yes, "The Probe" was so awful that my projector refused to show it.

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DEJA VIEW


Mikie the Microbial Horndog™ would resurface, in modified form with a splashy paint job, as the tunneling Horta creature in Star Trek’s “The Devil in the Dark” in 1968.  But this isn’t just a case of a reused costume or prop: Janos Prohaska, the man inside the microbe, climbed back in to play the Horta, giving us one last Outer Limits-Star Trek connection before we amble off into the sunset.

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AURAL PLEASURE


“The Probe” affords us one final dip into the deep pool that is Harry Lubin’s library of stock music. Selections swimming their way to the top this week include "Hostile Space," which appears multiple times throughout the episode, along with "Imminent Ambush" and "Dark and Scary." There are others, to be sure, but... yeah, I'm done trying to identify these goddamned cues.


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DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Mark Richman (Jefferson Rome) has a long list of sci-fi/fantasy/horror TV credits, and is a Daystar Productions vet to boot: he starred in season one’s “The Borderland” after a guest appearance on Stoney Burke (“The Journey,” that series’ final episode) the year before. You’ll find him on The Twilight Zone (“The Fear”), The Fugitive (“Ballad for a Ghost” and “The Last Oasis”), The Invaders (“The Leeches” and “Inquisition”), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Man with a Problem” and “The Cure”), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (“The Seven Wonders of the World, Parts I and II”), and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (“the Monster’s Web” and “Secret of the Deep”). In my lifetime (1969 onward), he appeared on Mission: Impossible (“Gitano,” “My Friend, My Enemy” and “Underground”), Galactica 1980 (“The Night the Cylons Landed, Parts I and II”), The Incredible Hulk (“Triangle”), and Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Neutral Zone”). You may also recognize him from the comedy masterpiece Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989).



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Peggy Ann Garner (Amanda Frank) ain’t no slouch in the genre connections department. She popped up on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Victim Four”), Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond (“Tonight at 12:17”) and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (“The Project Strigas Affair," which also guest-starred TOL alum William Shatner). She can also be found in the Fox film noirs Daisy Kenyon (1947) and Black Widow (1954) and, even further back, played Young Jane alongside a young Elizabeth Taylor in the opening scenes of 1943’s Jane Eyre (also from Fox).



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William Boyett (Co-Pilot Beeman, that poor sumbitch) holds the sole Robert Culp connection this week (he appeared in “The Tiger” on I Spy). Boyett’s other genre credits of note include appearances on The Invaders (“Summit Meeting, Part I”), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Silent Witness”), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“The Dividing Wall” and “Beast in View”), Mission: Impossible (“Leona,” which also guest-starred Dewey Martin from last week’s “The Premonition”), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (“The Secret Sceptre Afffair” and “The Man from THRUSH Affair”), The Incredible Hulk (“Veteran”), Circle of Fear (“The Ghost of Potter’s Field”), Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories (“Alamo Jobe”), and Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Big Goodbye” and “Time’s Arrow, Part II”). On the big screen, he played an unnamed crewman in 1956’s Forbidden Planet.


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Wriggling around on the floor under a thick layer of silver latex as Mikie the Microbe is Janos Prohaska, who also inhabited the elaborate Thetan costume in “The Architects of Fear” and played Darwin the chimpanzee in “The Sixth Finger.” As previously mentioned, Prohaska would don the Mikie costume again in Star Trek’s “The Devil in the Dark,” which was one of a total four Treks he’d appear in (he also brought to life the Mugato in “A Private Little War,” Yarnek the Living Boulder in “The Savage Curtain,” and both the Anthropoid Ape and the Humanoid Bird--- which was the Empyrian costume from TOL’s “Second Chance”--- for “The Cage”). He also played Heloise, a female chimp, in 1971’s Escape from the Planet of the Apes.




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Ron Hayes (Pilot “Cobe” Coberly) has a pretty paltry selection of genre credits outside of The Outer Limits: a single stint on The Invaders (“Valley of the Shadow": below left) and two on The Bionic Woman (“The Jailing of Jaime” and “Sister Jaime”). William Stevens (Navigator Dexter), meanwhile, doesn’t have any genre credits outside of The Outer Limits, but he does hold the unique honor of appearing in both the very first--- and very last--- episodes (he played a police officer in “The Galaxy Being”; below right).


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HOME VIDEO RELEASES


“The Probe” was released on VHS in 1991, one of the remaining dozen episodes that hadn’t been released up to that point. But retail wasn’t the only game in town: Columbia House offered the series in a mail-order “Collector’s Edition” subscription series, which offered two episodes per tape (“The Probe” was paired with its predecessor, last week’s “The Premonition”).



MGM released the episodes on VHS in groups of three, ignoring both the original broadcast schedule and production order (they focused on the more iconic episodes early on, which I guess makes sense from a fiscal standpoint). This approached carried over into the LaserDisc releases, which collected eight random episodes in each volume (volumes three and four contain six episodes each, however). How random, you ask? “The Probe,” certainly not one of the show’s better efforts, was included in the second set, ahead of classics like “The Sixth Finger” (volume three) and “O.B.I.T.” (volume four). I know, it boggles the mind.


The arrival of the DVD format, which quickly made both VHS and LaserDisc obsolete, fixed this randomness with full season sets in 2002 (season one) and 2003 (season two). Suddenly it was possible to own the entire series and only sacrifice three inches on one’s video shelf (as opposed to the four feet a complete set of the VHS tapes required; half that if you went the Columbia House route). How could you not love MGM? Here’s how: they subsequently released the exact same discs two more times in different packaging (in 2007 and 2008) without once remastering the episodes or producing a single supplement (documentary, commentary track, etc.); worse, they still haven’t brought the series into the high definition realm.


But this is the Digital Age now, so who wants to hassle with physical media at all? Throw your VHS tapes and DVDs into a landfill, kids, because you can stream the entire series from the Holy and Benevolent Cloud that hovers invisibly overhead, keeping our entertainment heritage safe forever (or until the internet collapses). All 49 episodes are available on Hulu Plus, which costs $7.99 per month (despite this paragraph’s heavy sarcasm, it's actually a really great deal).

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MERCHANDISE SPOTLIGHT

Dimensional Designs has released resin model kits for most of the monsters and aliens that inhabit The Outer Limits, and their website does list a Mikie Microbe Monster (gawd, the three M’s!) kit, sculpted by Danny Soracco in the 1/8 scale (DD/OL/MM-37); however, there’s no price listed and no option for ordering. So maybe it was planned but scrapped….? I dunno.


The closest you can get to owning your own Mikie would be to pick up Diamond Select’s action figure diorama commemorating Star Trek’s “Devil in the Dark,” which includes a Mr. Spock action figure and the Horta. Pick up a can of silver spray paint and you’re all set. Or you can endeavor to make your own… like I did. That’s right, bugs and ghouls, it’s time for one last Project Limited, Ltd.!

So I could’ve taken a couple of different paths with this one. My first impulse was to twist a bunch of silver balloons together, since Mikie is somewhat puffy looking. But I felt compelled to sculpt, to squish my fingers in something cold and sticky and, y'now, create. But I was also mindful that every one of these projects invariably ends up in the garbage, so I wanted something that would, y’now, reduce my carbon footprint or whatever. Teresa was watching one of the endless cooking competitions on the Food Network in the background as I mused, which inspired me to make an edible Mikie, which would minimize waste (other than the time I’d be wasting, but I clearly have a lot of that on my hands). It was decided. I dug a pound of ground beef out of the freezer and went to work.

Turns out Mikie’s quite tasty with a slatherin’ of barbecue sauce.

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THE WRAP-UP

Here we are: the end of the line. Final episodes are rarely satisfying (exceptions include Breaking Bad’s “Felina” and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “All Good Things…,” both of which are excellent; don’t even get me started on that bullshit Lost finale). The Outer Limits certainly deserved a great sendoff, but it just wasn’t meant to be (some will argue that the show actually died with the departure of Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano at the end of the season one, a point of view that I can't argue with, even though I don't really share it). “The Probe” does have its moments (well, maybe one or two)… and lots of cool visuals… and that damned Mikie is almost charming, but… there’s just nothing here to latch onto or care about. Fifty-one years and six months ago, The Outer Limits took control of television sets across America and, fifty years ago tonight, relinquished it one last time with nothing more than a feeble blip.