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Recap / The Outer Limits (1963) S 2 E 15 "The Brain of Colonel Barham"

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Barham's brain turns its Hypno Ray on Dr. Rahm (Wesley Addy).

The Control Voice: With the world growing more crowded, the great powers strive to conquer other planets. The race is on. The interplanetary sea has been charted; the first caravelle of space is being constructed. Who will get there first? Who will be the new Columbus?

Dying astronaut Colonel Alec Barham (Anthony Eisley) volunteers to become a Brain in a Jar in preparation for having his brain transferred into a robot that will explore Mars. At first, all seems well, but soon Barham's brain begins to go mad and gains mental powers.

The Control Voice: Progress goes on. One experiment fails, but even out of failure valuable lessons are learned. A way will be found, someday, somehow. It always is.

The Tropes of Colonel Barham:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Invoked when the mind-controlled Dr. Rahm walks past Jennifer and Major Locke with a "frozen, glassy stare", ignoring Jennifer when she tries to speak with him.
    Jennifer: What's the matter with him?
    Locke: He's a scientist, Mrs. Barham. They walk around in a daze most of the time.
  • Asshole Victim: The bad-tempered, self-pitying Colonel Barham. Yes, he's terminally ill, but the episode makes it clear that he was a Jerkass even when he was healthy.
  • Brain in a Jar: Barham is kept alive as a brain in a vat.
  • Deadpan Snarker: One way that Barham deals with his situation.
    • Snark-to-Snark Combat: When General Pettit is talking the terminally ill, wheelchair-bound Barham into letting himself be disembodied.
      Barham: Tell me something, General. How would I do with pretty girls?
      Pettit: How you doin' now?
  • A God Am I: Barham's brain becomes Drunk with Power as it develops dangerous new abilities.
  • Herr Doktor/Mad Scientist: Dr. Hausner (played by Martin Kosleck, who fled 1930s Germany to play Nazi villains in several World War II films) definitely gives off this vibe. Even after everyone else realizes that Barham's brain has to be destroyed, he still wants it kept alive for the sake of the project.
  • Hypocrite: Barham admits that he's cheated on Jennifer, who stayed with him only because of her "old-fashioned ideas about divorce"; as he confesses to her, "You took your marriage vows more seriously than I ever took mine." Still, Barham's brain doesn't react well when it realizes that Jennifer and Major McKinnon are becoming attracted to each other.
  • Ironic Echo: Early in the episode, Major McKinnon analyzes Barham in an attempt to help him. Later, Barham's brain sarcastically offers to analyze McKinnon ("Problems, Major? They’re only for mortals. Would you like to discuss yours?"), which leads the psychologist to have a My God, What Have I Done? moment for his participation in the project.
  • Last-Name Basis: Dr. Rahm's first name is never revealed.
  • Mind Control: Barham's brain gains this power, which is Handwaved by the explanation that it's growing and becoming more powerful because it's free of its failing body. It shoots Hypno Rays at Colonel Nichols and Dr. Rahm, temporarily turning them into Brainwashed and Crazy mental slaves who attempt to do its bidding.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Barham reveals himself to be one while brooding over his impending demise.
    Barham: Why me? Why do I have to die, with the world full of useless slobs?
  • Only Sane Man/Reasonable Authority Figure: Major McKinnon, the project's psychologist, isn't sure that the experiment is a good idea — and even if it was, he's the only one who realizes that a Jerkass like Barham may not be the ideal test subject. Also, he's the first to figure out that Barham's brain is behind Nichols and Rahm's attacks.
    • Ignored Expert: The other characters are so desperate for the experiment to succeed that they disregard McKinnon's warnings until it's almost too late.
  • Reveal Shot: In the prologue, Barham's wheelchair is hidden from the audience for the first few minutes.
  • Sniper Rifle: General Pettit uses one to destroy Barham's brain.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Invoked in the Opening Narration.
  • The X of Y: The episode title.