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Recap / The Outer Limits (1963) S 1 E 20 "The Bellero Shield"

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A color publicity still of the alien inside its shield.
Mrs. Dame, Judith and Richard behold the alien.

The Control Voice: There is a passion in the human heart which is called aspiration. It flares with the noble flame, and by its light Man has traveled from the caves of darkness to the darkness of outer space. But when this passion becomes lust, when its flame is fanned by greed and private hunger, then aspiration becomes ambition – by which sin the angels fell.

When scientist Richard Bellero Jr. (Martin Landau) accidentally brings an alien (John Hoyt) to Earth, his wife Judith (Sally Kellerman) kills it and passes its shield off as her husband's invention, with disastrous consequences.

The Control Voice: When this passion called aspiration becomes lust, then aspiration degenerates, becomes vulgar ambition, by which sin the angels fell.

The Bellero Tropes:

  • All-Loving Hero: The alien, from his angelic appearance to his trusting, forgiving nature.
  • Ambition Is Evil: The Aesop of the episode. Judith has a life most people would envy, but no amount of power or money will ever satisfy her. Her ruthless pursuit of her goals destroys her and everyone around her.
  • The Bard on Board: The story takes several elements from Macbeth and gives them a Science Fiction twist.
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  • Big Fancy House: The Belleros live in one, but it's not enough for Judith.
  • Buried Alive: Judith's predicament is viewed as essentially this: trapped in her own tomb.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Richard has his breaking point when his father is about to call Judith's situation hopeless. He's heard such words his whole life and here is where he puts his foot down.
  • Character Development: Richard Bellero Jr. He goes from submissively trying to get his father's approval to standing up to his father and calling him out on his treatment all these years.
  • Deflector Shield: The titular shield.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Just as there's a Hope Spot that things might go back to normal, Judith's insanity kicks in. Played with in that Judith doesn't deserve a happy ending, but none of the cast are unscathed by the experience either.
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  • Didn't Think This Through: If Judith hadn't assumed she could deactivate the shield herself, the rest of the story would have played out very differently.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: The perpetually barefoot Mrs. Dame. The episode has several lengthy closeups of her bare feet.
  • Downer Ending: By the end, two characters have been murdered, and the surviving three are all worse off than they were at the beginning. Judith has lost her mind to guilt, Richard's lost a wife to insanity, and Mrs. Dame has lost an employer who she was very close with.
  • Easily Forgiven: Even though Judith is the reason he died/will die, the Alien agrees to Mrs. Dame's plea that he save her from dying within the shield. No hesitation.
    Mrs. Dame: I expected it to kill me, but it looked into my eyes, and I heard myself say, "Can you help?" And it said, "Can I not?"
  • The Empath: The Alien has the ability to sense what someone is thinking and feeling.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Richard's father soberly mentions he's terminally ill and needs her help to earn Richard's forgiveness before he passes, Judith doesn't seem particularly happy or smug at hearing that her hated in-law is dying. Even Mrs. Dame tells Judith that it would be more honorable to give her enemy peace.
  • The Film of the Book: The episode began as an adaptation of "The Lanson Screen", a 1936 short story by Arthur Leo Zagat, in which New York City is covered by an impenetrable protective shield. An accident traps the city behind the shield, and then a fire burns up all the oxygen and kills everyone. In the end, the episode takes a few plot points from Zagat and goes in its own direction.
  • Forgiveness:
    • Judith begs to be freed, either from her prison in the shield or her guilt of killing the Alien. While he can't grant the latter, Richard grants her his forgiveness.
    • Senior is also seeking forgiveness for his distant relationship with Richard.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The alien's shield does its job very well... unfortunately for Judith.
  • Greed: Judith's Fatal Flaw. She describes her idea of Heaven as "Power, far-flung holdings, undiminishable authority", but her attempt to gain those things through murder becomes her undoing.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: With the notable exception of Richard.
  • It Won't Turn Off: A variation; the shield won't turn off for anyone but the alien, which Judith realizes too late.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: With all evidence of her crime gone at the end, what's to stop Judith from resuming her life as if nothing had happened? Her own guilty conscience.
  • Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Richard wears one in several scenes.
  • Lady Macbeth: Played with. Judith would love for Richard to be as ambitious as she is, but since he's a Nice Guy who's not concerned with money, she settles for using him to fulfill her dreams of (more) wealth and power. And it turns out she can do her own killing, too.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Judith's plan to kill the alien and steal its technology backfires spectacularly.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Judith lampshades that like his father, Richard isn't one to easily forgive those who have wronged him.
  • Madness Mantra: "Nothing will ever remove it... nothing will ever remove it... nothing will ever remove it..."
  • Meaningful Echo: While mourning for her doomed employer, Mrs. Dame wonders "Is there a limitless supply of oxygen in that tomb of hers?" Later, Richard asks his father more-or-less the same question: "Do you have a perpetual supply of hopeless words in that tomb of yours?"
  • Meaningful Name: The surname "Bellero" is derived from the Greek myth of Bellerophon, whose story ties in with the Ambition Is Evil theme.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Part of why Richard is distraught when he goes back to his lab to find the alien gone. Aside from lacking proof of his accomplishment to his father, he really did like the alien as someone he had a common interest with.
  • Noodle Implements: The fourth act begins with a pan across Richard's lab, showing various tools he's used in his failed attempts to either free Judith or get some oxygen to her inside the shield.
  • Norse Mythology: Judith refers to Bifrost — "the Trembling Way, a bridge between earth and heaven" — as a prelude to the speech about her life goal of becoming more rich and powerful than she is already. She comes to regard the alien's shield as a literal Bifrost becuse it can help her realize her ambitions.
  • Not Quite Dead: The seemingly dead alien has just enough life left in him to free Judith before he expires.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Judith realises she can't turn off the shield, followed by a blood-curdling scream.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Visually referenced in the last shot of the alien's glowing blood on Judith's palm.
  • Pet the Dog: When Richard's father asks Judith if his son will ever forgive him for estranging him, she says she'll help him to. Although it's only because things are going her way, she agrees to it without any bribes or bargains.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Two of them.
    • First, Senior gives one to Judith, whom he's never gotten along with. It doesn't get through to her.
      Judith: [Richard] wants your love! I want your empire.
      Senior: I spend every hour developing men and means devoted to the prevention of war. That is how much I hate war! Yet I am not as sickened or enraged even by war as I am by a single soul like yours. Your ambition is the most active form of violence I've ever encountered!
      Judith: No more active than your own, just more vibrant.
    • Later, Richard gives one to his father for his pessimism.
      Richard: Don't you tell me "it's hopeless"! That's all you've ever given me, words of hopelessness! Don't you ever run out of them? Do you have a perpetual supply of hopeless words in that tomb of yours?!
  • Rich Bitch: Judith is as pure an example as you could hope to find.
  • Single Tear: Mrs. Dame sheds one when she sees Judith's (deservedly) tragic fate.
  • Undying Loyalty: Mrs. Dame has unyielding loyalty for Judith. When Judith says jump, she will jump.
  • Villain Protagonist: The venal, murderous Judith Bellero.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Judith is terrified when the alien frees her, since she expects him to punish her. When he doesn't, she winds up punishing herself.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Zig Zagged Trope. Richard has spent his life trying to gain his distant father's approval. However, Senior is aware of this, feels guilty about it, and eventually begs Richard to forgive him.
  • Wham Line: Judith gives one to Richard, confessing that she killed the kindly alien in cold blood. While we know what happened (and wouldn't put it past her), Richard is shocked that his own wife would kill his alien friend.
  • World Limited to the Plot: Aside from an Establishing Shot of the mansion and a confrontation between Senior and Mrs. Dame at the doorway, the entire episode takes place inside the Bellero house.


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