This television series first appeared in 1963 on the ABC network. Each episode of this anthology series was introduced by a control voice every week and the stories would feature elements of science fiction and sometimes fantasy.
The series was originally created by Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano and had the working title of "Please Stand By" - this was changed to The Outer Limits after it was felt that the original title might be confused for a news report or newsflash.
As executive producer, Leslie Stevens intended for the series to present tales wherein man would be seen to strive ahead and push the boundaries of science. As producer, Joseph Stefano would be the main writer for the first season and he would bring a dark, gothic touch to the episodes. Stefano is possibly best remembered as the writer of the screenplay of the Hitchcock directed movie Psycho (based on a story by Robert Bloch).
The series was enhanced by the atmospheric theme and scores for the first season by composer Dominic Frontiere, composer for such movies as Meet Me in Las Vegas and The Young Lions. Adding to the dark and gothic atmosphere present in the first season is the camerawork of Conrad Hall, a technician who would later go on to win an Oscar for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The first season lasted for an impressive 32 episodes between 1963 and 1964 - it also featured such well known actors today such as Cliff Robertson, Martin Landau, Donald Pleasance, Robert Culp, David McCallum. The tone of the first season was that of the threat of alien abductions, or sinister plots to overthrow governments. One of the restrictions imposed by the network was that each episode would have to feature a 'bear' - a monster of some sort to get audience attention. To assist with the 'bear' for each week a team known as 'Project Unlimited' was created. This team of professional make up artists and technicians would strive every week to produce a different creature or effect that would entice the viewer to keep watching the episode.
Although the first series is today recognised as having some of the most excellent stories of any science fiction television series and it did achieve respectable (if not fantastic) ratings, the network were not so keen to bring it back unless there were changes.
So, in the second half of 1964 the second series started production. Stefano had been replaced by Ben Brady (who had produced the successful Perry Mason television series), and composer Frontiere had been replaced by Harry Lubin (who had done scores for the television series One Step Beyond) in an effort to reduce costs.
The second series did continue to bring some excellent episodes and performances from actors such as Robert Culp, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy - but it also had a couple of clunkers in there as well. After just 17 episodes the second season, and the series was cancelled.
Through the decades after The Outer Limits was first screened the series gained new viewers and more popularity in reruns. With the success of the Star Trek franchise being relaunched with The Next Generation series it would only be a matter of time before a new version of The Outer Limits would appear...
I have a page on one of my favourite first season episodes of the series, Architects of Fear.
The Outer Limits at the Inner Mind - Several pages with episode guides and news on the original and new series.
The Outer Limtis: The Original Series - The Entire First Season - DVD - some comprehensive reviews on an episode by episode basis by Walter Chaw. There is also a review of The Outer Limits: The Original Series - The Entire Second Season - DVD.
SCIFI.com have a mini site on the original series.
An excellent book looking at the history of the show is this title by David J. Schow
You can now purchase the original Outer Limits soundtrack on CD:
And you can now buy both seasons of The Outer Limits on dvd!
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