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Recap / The Outer Limits 1995 S 1 E 15 The New Breed

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The Control Voice: Man has long worked to stave off the disease that can ravage us. But what can happen when the cure grows more fearsome than the disease?

When a scientist creates nanobots engineered to cure diseases and injuries, his friend injects them into himself before they're tested.

The Control Voice: Over millions of years, man has become the very paragon of animals, but we must take care not to alter what nature has taken so long to forge — or risk being burned by the very fires of creation.
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The New Tropes:

  • Adaptive Ability: Dr. Andy Groenig gets infested with Nanomachines programmed to heal and protect his body, which they do mindlessly and efficiently — he nearly drowns and grows gills, he gets beaten up and grows extra layers of bone, and his skin develops poison glands like a jellyfish so no one can touch him, and eyes in the back of his head so no-one can sneak up on him (the nanomachines having apparently decided he was under attack).
  • And I Must Scream: Andy turns into this as a result of nano-bots that reshape his body (giving him eyes on the back of his head, an extra ribcage, gills, and nematocysts) all of which leaves him in constant pain. He is eventually killed, but it's revealed he passed the nanobots to his fiance, dooming her to the same fate.
  • Apparently Human Merfolk: Andy is injected with nano-bots who "correct" his cancer and myopia. When he and his friend test the limits of the robots abilities, one of the tests is to see how long the man can stay underwater. The nano-bots misinterpret this by giving the man gills so he can breathe, seriously squicking him out.
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  • As You Know: The opening provides an infodump on nano technology that also contains several basic biological principles that the audience in the room (all scientists) should already be perfectly aware of.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Dr. Stephen Ledbetter, the inventor of nanomachines that can heal any damaged or diseased cells in the body, is accused of playing God. His response: "Let's just say God created a flawed man. I think I can do better." Let's just say his attempt to do better doesn't quite go according to plan.
  • Blessed with Suck: Dr. Andy is dying from cancer. When he learns that his soon-to-be brother-in-law Dr. Stephen Ledbetter has designed medical nanomachines which aren't yet ready for human testing, Andy injects them into his body to save himself. At first, his cancer disappears, his senses improve, and he becomes stronger and faster than the average man. The Suck comes when the nanomachines decide to make him invulnerable and make his body grow two more eyes, gills, and poisonous skin, turning him into a freak who is in constant pain from all the changes.
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  • Body Horror: The nanobots give Andy gills, eyes at the back of his head, and jellyfish-like stinging tentacles on his chest.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Andy succeeds in killing the nano-bots by sacrificing his life by allowing Dr. Stephen Ledbetter to kill him and destroy the lab containing the remaining nano-bots in a fire. However, earlier on Andy had made love to his fiance Judy (Stephen's sister) infecting her with the robots as implied by her cutting herself on some glass after his death which is instantly healed meaning all of his sacrifice was for naught.
  • Cure for Cancer: This episode involves the use of nanites to monitor and repair cells. However, their "repair" feature doesn't appear to have a limit, and they start improving what they see as flaws of the human body. Andy tests his ability to hold his breath underwater... and the nanites end up giving him gills. Eventually, he also gets eyes on the back of his head to improve his vision. In the end, Dr. Stephen Ledbetter, ends up having to kill him. It should be noted that the nanites are still in the testing phase, and the guy only takes them because he has terminal cancer.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Andy finds that the source of the sudden pain on the back of his head is a new pair of eyes.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Andy discovers to his horror that the nanobots involuntarily mutate the rest of his body to repair "imperfections" (e.g. a lack of gills). He tries to stab himself to death, but the machines simply repair the damage and restart his heart.
  • Genre Blindness: The episode starts with with Dr. Ledbetter holding a press conference to announce that his new nanotechnological discoveries would allow him to "improve upon God's design." What series did he think that he was on!?! In his defense, he was kidding and only saying it as a way to attract publicity. Despite his ambitions he doesn't actually break protocol; his friend is the one to actually tamper with the nanobots.
  • Harmful Healing: The Nanobots cure Andy's inoperable cancer, return him to his physical prime, and give him a Healing Factor, but further testing prompts them to take a proactive approach and start adding various disfiguring mutations in order to pre-emptively protect him from any harm. These include eyes on the back of his head, gills, and an external ribcage that shocks anyone who touches it.
  • Healing Factor: Nanodevices injected into the body provide Andy with this ability. He demonstrates it by burning his hand, which is repaired within seconds.
  • Here We Go Again!: In the final scene, the cut on Judy Ledbetter's finger is healed within seconds, indicating that her fiancée Dr. Andy Groenig passed the nanobots onto her while they were having sex and that she will experience the same transformation that he went through.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Andy tinkered with nanotechnology and made himself nearly invincible. Unfortunately, the techniques his body used to protect him gave him a monstrous appearance, and proved potentially harmful to those around him. When he tries to commit suicide, it fails spectacularly.
  • Ideal Illness Immunity: This episode involves prototype nanites developed to make this a reality. Basically, the nanites are designed to move through the body and look for any cellular abnormalities. The damaged or mutated cells would then be restored to their original state. And yes, someone even accused Dr. Ledbetter who developed them of playing God. Unfortunately, Andy decides to inject himself with the nanites before they're fully tested. Given the nature of the series, things go horribly wrong.
  • Nanomachines: This episode is about nanobots created to heal human infirmities; the nanobots spontaneously develop an artificial intelligence and begin "repairing" what they perceived as "design flaws" of those human bodies - creating some rather weird things like an armored ribcage and even eyes in the back of the head! According to opening titles, the main plot was also based on Blood Music, mentioned under Literature.
  • Painful Transformation: The substantial modifications made to his body by the nanobots causes Dr. Andy Groenig severe and near constant pain.
  • Panacea: Dr. Stephen Ledbetter describes the Nanomachines that he has invented as having the potential to cure any and all diseases. However, they prove to be too efficient in altering the body. Having injecting himself with them to cure his osteosarcoma, Dr. Andy Groenig develops gills, eyes on the back of his head, nematocysts and a significantly strengthened ribcage. The transformation is extremely painful.
  • Transformation Horror: Dr. Andy Groenig injects himself with experimental nanotechnology to cure his pelvic cancer. The problem is that they don't stop there, or even at healing old scars and adjusting his eyesight so that he doesn't need glasses anymore. For instance, they interpret his inability to breathe underwater as a physical weakness, and he develops gills. It only gets worse from there.
  • Ultimate Life Form: Nanomachines involuntarily mutate Andy into something like this, as they try to fix all types of 'limitations'. He soon develops gills so he can breathe underwater, a second pair of eyes in the back of his head to see in a 360 degree radius, and poisonous skin and more ribs to fight off attacks. As he turns into a nigh-invulnerable mutant, he realizes that it's truly a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Withholding the Cure: Inverted. Dr. Ledbetter is perfectly willing to release his new nanite-based cure that would make cancer (or any other cell-related problem) a thing of the past, only to meet opposition from people claiming that he's playing God. On the other hand, he's only at the testing phase, and the "cure" isn't even close to being ready for distribution yet. Andy ends up injecting himself with nanites in order to cure his terminal-stage cancer, which works at first (even fixing his poor eyesight), but the untested nanites then start making "modifications" to his body, reacting to what they perceive are flaws (e.g. inability to breathe underwater, limited vision, and need for additional defense mechanisms). In the end, Dr. Ledbetter is forced to kill the poor sap (at his own request) and burns down his lab in the process, forever destroying the potential cure.
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