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Recap / The Outer Limits (1963) S 1 E 27 "Fun and Games"

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The cover for the VHS release, showing Laura, Mike and the male Calco alien together.

The Control Voice: There was a moment in time when those who were brilliant and powerful also were playful, and when they took recess from their exhausting and magnificent strides toward glory, they replenished their darker passions with fun and games. On the planet Earth, such games have been civilized, and drained of all but their last few drops of blood...

Mike Benson (Nick Adams), a former boxer reduced to a petty crook, attends a Poker game that goes badly when one of the players tries to cheat and is gunned down by another player. Everyone scatters as the police arrive to investigate, and Mike tries to take shelter in the apartment of divorcee Laura Hanley (Nancy Malone). Suddenly, they are teleported into a strange chamber. An alien Senator (played by Theo Marcuse, voiced by Robert Johnson) explains that they are on the planet Andera. To entertain the masses, they will be forced to fight to the death against a male and female of the primitive Calco race, who have also been abducted from their home planet. The losers will have their home planet destroyed in a process that will take five years, and trying to refuse means their planet will be destroyed anyway.

The jaded Mike says he doesn't care about saving the Earth nor dying and refuses to fight, despite Laura's pleas. The Senator decides to give him one day to decide and teleports the humans back to Earth. Laura tries to convince him to fight, but he says that back when he was a boxer, he was almost killed in the ring and no longer feels his life has value. However, a policeman approaches him and reveals the other poker players accused him of killing that man. Realizing he doesn't want to rot for five years in prison and then die, Mike gives in and calls out that he will fight. He and Laura are immediately teleported back to Andera.

The two teams are teleported to a jungle environment, and Mike and Laura quickly realize the match is unfair. Both teams are provided with a three-day supply of food per person, but Mike's gun is disabled and the humans are provided no alternative weapons, while the Calco aliens are armed with bladed boomerangs, plus they resemble apes and are naturally stronger and tougher than humans. After a brief run-in, the two teams play a cat-and-mouse game, and Mike and Laura slowly start to bond.

The male Calco kills the female to take her food supply, and is now confident that he can outlast the humans or force them to come to him. Upon learning this, Laura offers to sacrifice herself so Mike can have her food, but he cannot bring himself to kill her. Laura runs off and finds the Calco, offering him a clean shot at her. However, the Senator freezes the Calco in place, saying that her sacrificing herself would be anti-climactic and not entertaining. He mocks and riles her up by reading her memories about her failed relationship with her ex-husband, then releases the Calco.

Mike finds them, and a scuffle ends up with Mike dangling from a log bridge over a pool of boiling water. The Calco starts stomping on his hands trying to force him to fall, but Laura picks up his discarded boomerang and throws it, nailing the Calco in the head and killing him. A few seconds later, Mike loses his grip and falls.

Laura is teleported back to the chamber and mourns Mike, but the Senator reveals that since Laura was able to kill the Calco before Mike fell, Mike was teleported away and is safe and sound. The Senator tells them that the police will realize that Mike is innocent of the murder charge and release him, then returns them to Earth. Unfortunately, their memories of their experience have been erased, though Laura seems to have a flash of recognition as Mike walks away.

This episode has no closing Control Voice narration.

Fun and Tropes:

  • Aliens Are Bastards: The Anderans delight in watching sadistic bloodsports, while the Calco aliens delight in playing them.
  • And the Adventure Continues/Here We Go Again!: At the very end of the episode, we hear the whooshing sound of the Anderans' teleporter, implying that they've already started another game.
  • Battle Boomerang: The Calco aliens are armed with razor sharp boomerangs.
  • Blood Sport: Parallels are drawn between ancient gladiator games, modern boxing, and the Anderan "fun and games". Both the Control Voice and the Senator claim that advanced civilizations still need to indulge their darker passions, and seem to scoff at humanity's attempts to "clean up" bloodsports.
  • Cold Equation: The Calco male kills the female so their food will last longer. Laura actually asks Mike to follow suit, and when he doesn't she runs off intending to kill herself.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Benson's schoolmates once pretended to lock him in an empty cage at the zoo, causing him a lifelong morbid Claustrophobia. He actually once recovered from life-threatening injuries because he was terrified of the possibility that he might still be self-aware when they put his body in the grave.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Mike and Laura risk their lives (and Mike actually dies, albeit temporarily) to save humanity.
  • Evil Laugh: The Anderan senator does this a lot.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Anderan senator's basso profundo voice.
  • Gladiator Games: The Senator forces abducted beings to fight to the death, with the fates of their worlds at stake, for his people's amusement.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Laura attempts this, but neither Mike nor the Senator will let her go through with it. At the climax, Mike does sacrifice himself, although the Senator saves him (more or less).
    Anderan Senator: Survivors need survive only a split moment to be considered survivors — rule of the game.
  • Large Ham: The Senator is clearly having fun watching the fight — and tormenting Mike and Laura every step of the way.
  • Round Table Shot: During the opening poker game, there's a continuous shot in which the camera moves from one player to the next, providing a closeup of each of them.
  • Obscured Special Effects: The Senator's face is always in shadow, with only his Femme Fatalons hands shown clearly as he manipulates dials on his control panel.
  • Sadistic Choice: Fight these aliens to the death for our amusement, and we'll blow up your planet if you lose. Nobody's forcing you, of course, but your planet still gets blown up if you refuse.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Despite claiming that "advantages have to be evenly distributed" between the two teams, the Senator delights in stacking the rules against the humans. Let's see:
    • He claims the team's main advantages are savagery (for the Calcos) and an environment resembling Earth's (for the humans). Oh, except he meant Earth from hundreds of thousands of years ago.note 
    • He suggests Benson fire his last bullet off, promising it won't be wasted. Then it turns out he just wanted both teams to be on even footing, with only whatever tools they can manufacture. So yeah, bullet wasted. He then muses that it wasn't very fair of him to trick them into giving away their position... so he suggests they run for it.
    • To his credit, he saves Benson from death because the remaining Calco alien died a split second earlier. Winners are winners.
  • Shipper on Deck: In a rather weird, twisted variation, the Senator is intent on bringing Laura and her ex-husband back together.
    Anderan Senator: Your husband didn't want you to mother him, Miss Hanley, he wanted you to help him!
  • Teleportation: The Senator uses an "electroporter" to send the combatants from place to place.
  • Victory-Guided Amnesia: Mike and Laura are left with no memory of saving the Earth or of each other. Lampshaded at the end:
    Laura: Will I have to remember all this?
    Anderan Senator: Only those memories which might be helpful to you, and perhaps to your marriage.