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Series / The Outer Limits (1963)

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The late Charles Thaxton's collage of "bears" (and a handful of humans) from various episodes.

"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: There is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits."
—Complete version of The Control Voice's Opening Narration, used on the first four episodes. Shortened versions were used for the rest of the series.

A well-remembered Science Fiction anthology show, created by Leslie Stevens, although producer Joseph Stefano did more to set the series' avant garde tone. Its original version, which aired on ABC between September 1963 and January 1965, was often a worthy competitor to The Twilight Zone (1959).

The Outer Limits was a misfit among early 60s TV series. Not only was it Darker and Edgier than most shows of its time, it was also unusually arty and thought-provoking, complete with poetic dialogue, unusual camera angles, a lush orchestral soundtrack by Dominic Frontiere, and chiaroscuro cinematography (often provided by future Academy Award winner Conrad Hall). The show featured some truly brilliant writing by the likes of Stefano, Robert Towne, Anthony Lawrence and Meyer Dolinsky. And then there was its main selling point—the Monsters of the Week and other special effects, which were all the more impressive for being created on a weekly TV schedule and budget.


Although ABC commissioned The Outer Limits to cash in on the late 50s/early 60s monster boom, the network never really understood it. When ABC announced that during the series' second season in 1964, it would be moved to a suicidal Saturday night time slot against The Jackie Gleason Show, Stevens, Stefano and much of their production team left in protest. The network replaced them with a new team headed by Perry Mason vet Ben Brady, who tried to save the series by making it (somewhat) less artsy and more commercial. ABC didn't help matters by reducing the series' already low production budget. Despite this, the second season produced several memorable episodes (most notably Harlan Ellison's two scripts, "Soldier" and "Demon With A Glass Hand", and the two-part "The Inheritors"), but it did no good. After a few months of predictably bad ratings, ABC canceled The Outer Limits in the middle of the season, after only 49 episodes.


However, that wasn't quite the end. Despite its status as a short-lived, black and white anthology series, The Outer Limits has remained popular enough to stay in constant syndication ever since its cancellation. This resulted in a made-for-cable revival series helmed by producer Pen Densham, which far outlasted the original, beginning its seven-season run in 1995. A few of the new series' episodes were even remakes of episodes from the original series.

A recap page is in progress. Please put any Tropes specific to the 1995 series onto its own page.

"For the next hour, sit quietly and we will trope all that you see and hear."

  • Absurdly Huge Population: In "Demon with a Glass Hand", Earth has a population of 70 billion in the 30th Century.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Joseph Stefano loved this trope. His scripts are full of phrases such as "this virile, violent inevitability" ("The Invisibles") and "mad mechanical magics" ("Fun and Games").
  • After the End: In "The Man Who Was Never Born", a present day astronaut goes through a "time convulsion" and winds up in 2148, where an accidental Synthetic Plague has devastated humanity, with only a few mutants left. The plot centers around the characters trying to return to the present and prevent this Bad Future.
  • Alien Invasion: One of the series' central tropes.
  • Aliens Speaking English: A frequent trope, understandably enough. Some episodes don't bother explaining how the aliens know Earth languages; otherwise, it's given a variety of handwaves, some of which are more plausible than others. "The Zanti Misfits" is the only episode where the aliens are heard speaking their native language, and even then a translating device lets them communicate with humans.
  • All There in the Script: The name of Aabel, the alien from "The Children of Spider County". His name is never shown or spoken in the episode.
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of the Limbo Being in "The Premonition", who gets trapped in a Void Between the Worlds.
  • Another Dimension: "Production and Decay of Strange Particles" and "Behold, Eck!" feature beings from other dimensions accidentally finding their way into our world.
  • Banana Republic: The Republic of San Blas in "Tourist Attraction".
  • Bat Deduction: "The Probe" is frequently criticized for this, as the characters quickly and easily figure out various aspects of the Ontological Mystery to keep the plot moving.
  • Battle Boomerang: Used by one of the Calco Galaxy aliens in "Fun and Games".
  • Becoming the Mask: "The Chameleon" features world-weary human spy Louis Mace, who is turned into an alien to infiltrate a crashed spaceship. Mace adapts well to his well that he abandons his empty life and goes into space to live on the aliens' world.
  • Bee Afraid: In "ZZZZZ", an entomologist raises a super-intelligent hive who plan to Take Over the World by turning their queen into a Half-Human Hybrid who can mate with humans. Doesn't sound too dangerous? See Murder the Hypotenuse below.
  • Beeping Computers: Commonplace in the series. A Justified Trope since noisy computers were the standard in Real Life when the show was made.
  • Being Watched: In "Second Chance", while the stewardess and pilot of the spaceship ride are being secretly observed by the alien Empyrian, the stewardess tells the pilot that she has the feeling of being watched.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The titular device in "O.B.I.T." is a highly advanced surveillance machine that is used to spy on the scientists at a research station, leading to an atmosphere of pervasive paranoia.
  • Big "NO!": One of the aliens in "The Chameleon" does this when the human spy kills the other alien.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Several episodes end with the protagonists saving the world, but they (and/or their loved ones) pay dearly for it in the process. Examples:"The Man Who Was Never Born", "Corpus Earthling", "ZZZZZ", "The Guests", "A Feasibility Study", "Demon with a Glass Hand" and "'I, Robot'".
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: In "The Duplicate Man", the Megasoid reproduces asexually and hundreds of offspring can result.
  • Bizarre Baby Boom: In "The Children of Spider County", Ethan Wechsler and four other young men are Half-Human Hybrids who were born in the same month in Spider County. All five of them have grown up to become geniuses with telepathic powers.
  • Blob Monster: The box monster from "Don't Open Till Doomsday" and the alien brain from "The Guests" are straight examples. The Chromoite from "The Mice", which combines a faceless, globular upper body with humanoid limbs (and was the basis of the creature from "The Guests"), is a partial example.
  • Bottle Episode: "Controlled Experiment" (from the first season) and "The Probe" (the very last episode, one of two filmed after the show's cancellation) were both written to be filmed cheaply while the producers were trying to control the series' budget.
  • Brain in a Jar: The plot of "The Brain of Colonel Barham", in which a terminally ill astronaut's brain is preserved so it can control a space probe to Mars.
  • By the Eyes of the Blind: The titular creature in "Behold, Eck!" is usually Invisible to Normals, but people wearing glasses whose lenses are made from meteoric quartz can see him.
  • Chromosome Casting: "The Chameleon" and "The Invisible Enemy" have all-male casts.
  • Cloning Blues: A major plot point in "The Duplicate Man". Space anthropologist Henderson James has himself "duplicated" so the clone can hunt an alien monster that James let escape. While the clone accumulates the real James' memories, James' wife discovers that she prefers the clone because her husband has become a cynical Jerkass and the innocent clone reminds her of his younger self.
  • Colonized Solar System:
    • In "Cold Hands, Warm Heart", astronaut Jeff Barton is working on Project Vulcan, the planned colonization of Mars.
    • In "The Invisible Enemy", the M-2 is sent to Mars in 2024 to assess the feasibility of colonizing it in the future.
  • Compelling Voice:
    • Mr. Zeno from "The Special One" has a variation on this power; he controls his victims' bodies, but not their minds.
    • The unseen aliens in "The Inheritors" gain this power over four soldiers who are wounded by bullets made from a meteor. Fortunately, the aliens are benevolent, and the soldiers wind up voluntarily helping with their mission of mercy.
  • Conspiracy Thriller: Several episodes are about plots to subvert the American government, and possibly the rest of the world as well. Examples include "The Hundred Days of the Dragon", "O.B.I.T." and "The Invisibles".
  • Content Warnings: In 1977, an independent station that was rerunning the series gave it this warning.
  • Courtroom Episode:
    • In "O.B.I.T.", a murder at a research station leads to an investigation of the titular surveillance device.
    • "I, Robot" is about a sentient robot on trial for the murder of its creator.
  • Creepy Monotone: The Control Voice.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: In Joseph Stefano's scripts, characters sometimes make fleeting references to their pasts that are never explained.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Ebonites in "Nightmare". Their sinister appearance, including gargoyle-like faces and bat wings, belies that it's the human generals who command them to torture and interrogate their prisoners.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than most shows at the time.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Joseph Reardon in "The Man Who Was Never Born." He's primarily focused on for the first ten minutes, then after he gets Ret Goned Andro serves as the true protagonist of the episode.
  • Deep Cover Agent:
  • Deus ex Machina: The ending rainstorm of "Specimen: Unknown".
  • Diabolus ex Machina:
    • "The Bellero Shield", sort of. Just as it seems that everything will go back to normal, it turns out that Judith Bellero's conscience won't let her off the hook for murdering the Christ-like alien. Like the character she's based on, Lady Macbeth, she has a guilt-induced delusion, believing that she's still trapped inside the alien's defensive shield. Played with in that the character involved doesn't deserve a happy ending, but none of the cast are unscathed.
    • "Soldier" is another example. Just as Qarlo decides to stay with the Kagans for now, his Enemy finds him and they kill each other.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Practically the Trope Namer.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: The perpetually barefoot Mrs. Dame in "The Bellero Shield". The episode has several lengthy closeups of her bare feet.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: The episode "Controlled Experiment" was actually a rejected pilot for an unrelated half hour comedy series, hence why It feels so out of place in the series.
  • Domestic Abuse: In "Demon with a Glass Hand", Consuelo Biros tells Trent that her husband Esteban beat her regularly.
  • Downer Ending: Not nearly as often as in the revival, but "The Architects of Fear", "Nightmare" and "The Bellero Shield" are good examples.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Used ironically in "Specimen: Unknown" and Played Straight at the climax of "Soldier".
  • Dramatis Personae: "Counterweight" does this at the end of the episode.
  • Driven to Suicide: At the climax of "The Man with the Power", Harold Finley, who has gained a deadly new mental power that he can't consciously control, declares that "If I have such power, then I don't want to live" and turns it on himself.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: A few episodes.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The alien from "The Guests", a formless, gelatinous, faceless glowing blob who takes over a Victorian mansion and keeps whoever occupies it prisoner for its studies. It appears to have reality warping abilities—the mansion is so under its influence that it can easily change its features around, including removing the main entrance door and adding doors and abstract, long hallways that weren't originally in it, and it seems to exist outside of space and time, so the people trapped in it don't age inside, but if they do manage to find an exit, their real age will instantly catch up with them if they so much as set foot outside of its boundaries.
  • Eldritch Location: The aforementioned mansion from "The Guests" was turned into this due to the influence of the alien occupying it. The outside of it has the appearance of a giant brain when it's not disguising itself as a mansion, and on the inside, the alien has total control over it—it resides upstairs in a completely pitch black room (save for the light it pulsates) where it conducts its studies. It can arrange the doors and hallways of the place in any way it feels like, precluding escape from it except for those savvy enough to find an exit—but even then, the mansion exists outside of space and time, so if one spends too long in it, they can succumb to Rapid Aging if they set foot outside of it.
  • Enemy Within: "The Man with the Power" has a suspiciously similar concept to Forbidden Planet.
  • Energy Beings: Featured in "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork" and "Counterweight".
  • Episode Title Card: Very distinctive; the episode title, and the names of the episode's stars, come right at the viewer, accompanied by the sine wave and (after the first few episodes) the piercing electronic whine from the Title Sequence.
  • Everybody Owns a Ford: Most of the cars seen in the series are Fords, Mercurys and Lincolns. However, in "The Duplicate Man" Henderson James' futuristic convertible is a heavily customized Buick Riviera, probably because invoked it was created for a movie.
  • Evil Teacher: Mr. Zeno in "The Special One" is actually from planet Xenon, and he influences child prodigies to help his homeworld with their Alien Invasion. (He also murders the father of one pupil for asking too many questions.) However...
    • Fake Defector: Kenny Benjamin, Zeno's latest pupil, was only pretending to cooperate, and he saves the day by turning the alien's own weapon against him.
  • Extra Digits: The episode "The Sixth Finger". When a man experiences accelerated evolution, he develops an enlarged head and a sixth finger on each hand.
  • Fictional United Nations: Unified Earth in "Nightmare".
  • First Contact: Another of the series' central tropes. Often combined with First Contact Faux Pas.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: The main characters of the Time Travel episodes listed below.
  • Food Pills: In "Counterweight", the participants in the simulated space journey are provided unpalatable meat and vegetable concentrates to eat. The stewardess tries to make it more tolerable by spraying the smell of real food from an aerosol canister.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: "The Human Factor" features an accidental one caused by a Phlebotinum Breakdown.
  • Genghis Gambit: The plot of "The Architects of Fear": a group of scientists turn one of their own into a terrifying fake alien so he can threaten an Alien Invasion and thus unite the nations of Earth.
  • Genre Anthology: A well-known example.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: When test pilot Jim Darcy and his wife Linda are trapped in a Time Stands Still situation during "The Premonition", she freaks out and he calms her down with a slap to the face.
  • Gladiator Games: The plot of "Fun and Games"; the Anderans kidnap beings from various planets to fight for survival, with the losers' homeworld being destroyed.
  • A God Am I:
    • In "The Sixth Finger", Welsh miner Gwyllm Griffiths is turned into a futuristic superhuman. He doesn't react well, planning to destroy his hometown because of its "dirt and stupidity".
    • "The Brain of Colonel Barham" is a Brain in a Jar who becomes Drunk with Power when it develops the ability to enslave the people around it with Hypno Rays.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In "The Bellero Shield", Rich Bitch Judith Bellero murders an innocent alien that her scientist husband Richard has accidentally brought to his lab, steals its defensive shield, and tries to pass it off as Richard's invention. She demonstrates the shield on herself—then discovers that she's trapped inside because only the alien can turn it off!
  • Government Agency of Fiction:
    • In "The Invisibles", protagonist Luis Spain is a spy who works for the GIA (General Intelligence Agency).
    • The Federal Bureau of Security in "The Inheritors".
    • The Federal Duplication Bureau in "The Duplicate Man".
  • The Grotesque: Andro in "The Man Who Was Never Born", the fake alien in "The Architects of Fear", the Chromoite alien in "The Mice", etc.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Regina in "ZZZZZ" and the titular characters in "The Children of Spider County".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The fate of scheming, murderous Villain Protagonists Judith Bellero in "The Bellero Shield" (see Gone Horribly Right and the spoiler text in Diabolus ex Machina) and Mr. Zeno in "The Special One" (see Fake Defector above).
  • Humans Are Bastards: The series explored humanity at its worst, though they were also kind enough to show humanity at its best, usually at the same time.
  • Humans Are Smelly: In "Controlled Experiment", the Martian Phobos One comments on humans' smell shortly after his arrival on Earth. Deimos tells him that he has gotten used to it.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: "Controlled Experiment" features two comical humanoid Martians who strive to understand humanity, especially its strange custom of murder.
  • Human Mom Nonhuman Dad: The title characters in "The Children of Spider County".
  • Insect Queen: "ZZZZZ". A giant mutant queen bee takes human form so she can mate with a human male. She can control her fellow bees and make them attack people, such as the wife of the man she wants to seduce.
  • Interrupted Suicide: "Keeper of the Purple Twilight" has a variation of the trope that kickstarts the plot. When high-strung scientist Eric Plummer fails to solve the two equations he needs to complete his matter disintegrator, he's so upset that he gets in his car and starts driving home through the desert at dangerous speeds. Alien invader Ikar suddenly appears in his back seat and says "You gain nothing by suicide." Thanks to Ikar, Eric survives his trip home and the story begins in earnest.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: Referenced in "Counterweight".
    Keith Ellis: We're a simple people. Given a chance, we'll destroy ourselves. Why do it for us?
    Antheon alien: Because you'll destroy us, too, if we let you. You do not know us, we have never hurt you, yet you come to attack, to conquer. We will not allow this.
  • Jacob Marley Warning: The Limbo Being gives one of these to the main characters of "The Premonition"—mostly because they threaten to set him on fire forever if he doesn't tell them how to escape from their Time Stands Still situation, as he was unable to do.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: In "Expanding Human", a consciousness-enhancing drug transforms one of its researchers physically and mentally, turning him back and forth between his normal self and a super-strong, super-intelligent alter ego who wants to Take Over the World and convert or destroy the rest of humanity.
  • Jerkass: The bad-tempered, self-pitying title character in "The Brain of Colonel Barham". Yes, he's terminally ill, but the episode makes it clear that he was a jerk even when he was healthy.
  • Kill and Replace: In "The Hundred Days of the Dragon", U.S. Presidential candidate William Lyons Selby is assassinated and replaced by an Asian government's agent, Ho Chi-Wong.
  • Kill It with Water: This is how the deadly space plants are defeated in "Specimen: Unknown"; they're spreading unbelievably fast, but a sudden rainstorm ends up killing them all, thwarting their invasion as soon as it began.
  • Lighter and Softer: The second season, while not lighthearted, generally lacked the darkness and moral ambiguity found in many season one episodes, and took far fewer risks.
  • Mandatory Twist Ending: A Defied Trope. Unlike its competitors The Twilight Zone (1959) and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits didn't use twist endings on a regular basis. However, there are exceptions that head into The Ending Changes Everything territory when we discover what the aliens were really up to all along ("Nightmare", "The Zanti Misfits", "The Mice"). "Demon with a Glass Hand" is another example.
  • Mechanistic Alien Culture: Many episodes of the classic sci-fi anthology featured aliens with ambiguously robotic characteristics.
  • Mildly Military: "The Invisible Enemy". The officers in the second mission repeatedly disobey orders and get each other killed.
  • Mind Control:
    • "The Brain of Colonel Barham" (from the episode of the same name) somehow gains this power.
    • Also, in "The Special One" Mr. Zeno can control the bodies of his victims, while their minds remain free. A nice power to have when you're an alien invader who sadistically delights in forcing the humans who discover your plot to commit suicide against their will...
  • Monster of the Week: One of the series' central tropes, but there are several episodes that twist or outright eschew the formula:
    • "The Man Who Was Never Born" turns the formula on its head by having the monster (Andro, a deformed mutant from a far-flung Bad Future) be the protagonist, who seeks to undo the very future he was from.
    • "The Hundred Days of the Dragon" is centered around a Chinese government operative who uses a special drug that can shape shift his face, but no monster is present or implied. However, the climactic scene where the villain's face winds up mutilated might just barely enter monster territory.
    • "The Borderland" has no monster to speak of; the episode is about a machine that can reach into another dimension.
    • "Controlled Experiment" likewise has no "monster", with the central characters being two Martians with completely human appearances and a time control device on hand, and they aren't evil.
    • "The Inheritors" has no monster in either part of the episode.
    • "The Forms of Things Unknown" is another episode with no monster, but a science fiction element (namely, a Time Tilter device).
    • "Demon with a Glass Hand" has a twist on the formula; the protagonist, the eponymous "Demon", isn't evil at all, but a very humanoid robot from the future. The aliens chasing after him are evil, but are so humanoid in appearance that they barely even qualify as bears.
    • "Cry of Silence" is another variation. It's about a non-corporeal alien intelligence who tries to communicate with the lifeforms it senses on Earth by controlling various objects and beings, including tumbleweeds, frogs, boulders, and a human corpse.
  • Move in the Frozen Time: In "The Premonition", the X-15 test pilot Jim Darcy and his wife Linda become trapped ten seconds ahead of their own time. They initially believe that time is frozen but they soon come to the conclusion that it is moving very slowly: at a rate of one second for every 30 minutes of their time. Although the Darcys can move about freely in this reality, they can't move objects. This presents a problem when they discover that their daughter Janie is about to be run over by a military truck which does not have its parking brake on. Jim later finds that he can move objects in his crashed X-15 and Linda's crashed car. He ties one end of the car's seatbelts to the back wheel of the truck and the other to the parking brake. When time resumes its normal course, the seatbelt pulls the parking brake and Janie is saved.
  • Multinational Team: The human soldiers in "Nightmare" come from The United States, Britain, West Germany, China, and an unnamed nation in Africa.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: In "ZZZZZ", humanoid queen bee Regina sics her hive on the wife of the entomologist she's fallen in love with.
  • Naming Your Colony World: In "Wolf 359", Dundee's Planet is a miniature recreation of an actual alien world. It's named after the businessman who financed the project.
  • No Immortal Inertia: In "The Guests", people who leave the alien-controlled house where Time Stands Still instantly become their real age—which leads to Rapid Aging and death for anyone who stays too long.
  • No One Left Behind: In "The Invisible Enemy", Captain Buckley refuses to leave Major Merritt behind on Mars.
  • No Party Given: The Presidential candidates in "The Hundred Days of the Dragon".
  • Not Quite Dead: In "The Bellero Shield", the seemingly dead alien revives just long enough to free Judith from the defensive shield she stole from him—but see Diabolus ex Machina above.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: "The Duplicate Man" is an interesting example. The story is about cloning, but the word "clone" is never used because it hadn't been created yet.
  • The Noun Who Verbed: The title of "The Man Who Was Never Born".
  • One-Word Title: "O.B.I.T.", "Nightmare", "ZZZZZ", "Moonstone", "Soldier" and "Counterweight".
  • Opening Narration: Partially quoted above.
  • Orbital Bombardment: In "Demon with a Glass Hand", it is mentioned that the Kyben bombed Earth from space in the 30th Century.
  • Outlaw Couple: Ben Garth and Lisa Lawrence in "The Zanti Misfits", although Ben fits the "outlaw" part much better than Lisa does.
  • Overpopulation Crisis: In "The Mutant", there is mention of "Earth's overflowing population."
  • Pistol-Whipping: In "Demon With a Glass Hand", Trent knocks out one of the Kyben by hitting him on the head with the butt of his pistol.
  • Plant Aliens: The anenome-like Grippians from "Moonstone".
  • Poor Communication Kills: In his Outer Limits Companion, David J. Schow identifies this as a plot flaw in "The Mice" and "Second Chance". He notes that both episodes feature "a lone alien on a mission that is terminated because the aliens do not bother to ask for what they want."
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: There were two versions of "The Forms of Things Unknown"; one was intended as a pilot for The Unknown, a straight suspense anthology that wasn't picked up. The Point of Divergence: In "Forms", the "Time Tilter" actually works, while in The Unknown it doesn't.
  • Power Incontinence: In "The Man With the Power", Milquetoast scientist Harold Finley invents a "link-gate" that gives him mild mental powers. However, the device causes his subconscious resentments to manifest as an energy cloud that zaps his enemies without his knowledge.
  • Psychic Static: Used by a man to protect his thoughts from the title character in "The Mutant".
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The alien villains of "Corpus Earthing" and "The Invisibles".
  • Really Was Born Yesterday: In "Demon with a Glass Hand", Trent initially thinks he's "A full grown man, born ten days ago." He's wrong on both counts.
  • Recycled Soundtrack:
    • Some of Dominic Frontiere's music came from Stoney Burke, an earlier Leslie Stevens series. Later, some of his Outer Limits scores were used in The Fugitive (especially the fourth season), The Rat Patrol, The Invaders (1967) (including the theme music, which was originally composed for The Unknown), and Leslie Stevens' Esperanto film Incubus.
    • Harry Lubin's second season theme had already been used twice. It was adapted from a piece he'd originally composed for The Loretta Young Show, then used as the theme for another ABC anthology, One Step Beyond. Later, some of Lubin's music for the series wound up in the B-Movie thriller Nurse Sherri.
  • Reluctant Monster: The titular alien in "Behold, Eck!" Also the episode's working title.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: Composer Dominic Frontiere was one of the series creators who left after the first season. Harry Lubin provided new theme and background music for the second season.
  • Reverse Polarity: In "The Borderland", during the experiments to reach the other dimension, the scientists reverse the polarity of a magnetic field in order to send objects to the other side and reverse them.
  • Robotic Reveal: The ending of "Demon with a Glass Hand".
  • Sand Is Water: "The Invisible Enemy" had a sand ocean complete with tides and several giant monsters swimming in it.
  • Science Is Bad: A recurrent theme and the basis for the plots of many (though not all) of its episodes. Notably averted in the episode "Behold, Eck" where not only is the scientist character the hero, but his invention ultimately saves the day (and the alien, who just wants to go home).
  • Secret Test: In "Nightmare" a group of soldiers invading the planet Ebon are captured and tortured for information by the Ebonites. They eventually learn that the situation is a set-up by their own superiors to test their ability to resist interrogation, with the cooperation of the Ebonites (who eventually protest the unethical nature of the test).
  • Send in the Search Team: The plot of "The Invisible Enemy". The protagonists are sent to Mars to learn why the astronauts from the first expedition disappeared.
  • The Short War: In "Demon with a Glass Hand", Arch boasts to Trent that "One thousand years in the future, we conquered your planet in nineteen days!"
  • Sleeping Single: In "The Man With the Power", Dean Radcliffe and his wife Emily sleep in separate beds.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 0 (Non-Linear Installments).
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Tends to fall on the cynical side, but there are exceptions.
  • Spoiler Title: "The Probe", considering that the story is about a group of plane crash survivors who wind up on an alien space probe—without either the characters or the audience initially realizing it— and spend about half the episode trying to figure out where they are.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers:
    • Andro and Noelle in "The Man Who Was Never Born". Their time tampering saves the world, but Andro's existence is erased in the process.
    • Wade and Tess from "The Guests". Since Tess has been in the house where Time Stands Still for decades, if she leaves Rapid Aging will kill her. She eventually does this as a Heroic Sacrifice to prevent Wade from spending eternity in the house with her.
  • Sterility Plague: In "The Inheritors", the aliens were infected with a blight which rendered them sterile.
  • Stock Footage: Used from time to time in the original series. Some spaceship shots come from earlier science fiction films and series. "The Premonition" starts with footage of an actual X-15 flight; it also includes scenes of a coyote chasing a rabbit through the desert and a hawk attacking its prey, which were taken from Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.
  • Stock Sound Effects:
    • An electronic whirring noise, originally the sound of the titular machine in "O.B.I.T.", was reused throughout the series for various other devices (or just to create a spooky sci-fi atmosphere). It became a kind of Signature Sound Effect.
    • "Wolf 359" uses stock effects for the sounds of desert animals.
  • Stop Motion: Used to animate the aliens in "The Zanti Misfits" and "Counterweight".
  • Super Soldier: Quarlo from "Soldier" has superhuman strength and hearing.
  • Survivorship Bias: Averted in a number of stories.
  • Teleportation:
    • "The Galaxy Being" is accidentally brought to Earth through a Television Portal.
    • In "The Mice", the Chromoites have invented a "Teleportation Agency" that they use to send one of their people to Earth—and vice versa.
    • In "Fun and Games", the Anderan senator "electroports" the combatants between their homeworlds, his control room, and the site of the Gladiator Games.
    • In "The Special One", Mr. Zeno travels between Earth and Xenon via a "lightning bolt" effect that is one of the series' most striking visuals.
  • Theme Naming: In "Controlled Experiment", the Martians are named Phobos and Deimos after the moons of Mars.
  • Theremin: Harry Lubin's scores for the second season use the instrument extensively.
  • Tickertape Parade: In "Cold Hands, Warm Heart", Jeff Barton, the first man to orbit Venus, receives one after he returns to Earth.
  • Time Is Dangerous: The aforementioned And I Must Scream situation in "The Premonition".
  • Time Stands Still:
    • In "Controlled Experiment", the Martians have a "temporal condenser" that can stop time, then reverse or fast forward it like a cosmic VCR.
    • In "The Guests", the alien suspends time within the house where it's studying its human subjects.
    • In "The Premonition", this seemingly happens to the Darcys, but what's actually happening is closer to Just One Second Out of Sync.
    • Also see Year Inside, Hour Outside.
  • Time Travel:
    • "The Man Who Was Never Born" starts with a 1963 astronaut going through a "time convulsion" and ending up in the Bad Future of 2148. Andro makes the trip in the opposite direction.
    • "Soldier" begins with another accidental example, as Qarlo and The Enemy are somehow sent from the distant future to 1964 via "a crossfire of death beams".
    • Finally, an intentional example! In "Demon with a Glass Hand", both Trent and his enemies the Kyben use a "Time Mirror" to travel from the future to the present. However, they'll die if they try to return to their own time.
  • Title Sequence Replacement: The French dub apparently uses the second season theme music for the entire series.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The result of the Robotic Reveal at the climax of "Demon with a Glass Hand".
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The setting of "Moonstone", "The Mutant" and "The Duplicate Man".
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: "Second Chance". The alien tells a retired physicist that an asteroid is going to hit his home planet of Empyria. When the physicist asks him when the collision will occur, the alien says "In your time scale, 82 years".
  • Two Rights Make a Wrong: Several episodes have this as the twist.
  • Video Phone: "The Duplicate Man" has video phones with rotary dials.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Two of the series' aliens, Aabel in "The Children of Spider County" and Ikar in "Keeper of the Purple Twilight", are able to switch between their true forms and human disguises. In "The Man Who Was Never Born", Andro uses hypnotic suggestion to appear normal to the people around him, although it's not quite the same thing.
  • Wait Here: "Demon with a Glass Hand". Trent has Consuelo climb out onto a window ledge outside the building so she'll be safe from the Kyben.
  • Waking Up at the Morgue: Happens to a college professor who's been experimenting with a mind-enhancing drug in "Expanding Human".
  • Walk Through The Camera:
    • Trent does this twice during "Demon with a Glass Hand".
    • Wade Norton does it in "The Guests".
  • Warrior Poet: Major Jong in "Nightmare", who recites Haiku while the aliens are torturing him.
  • "What Now?" Ending:
    • "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork". The deadly energy monster is confined again, but as a policeman notes, "It's under control—for the moment". No one knows how (or if) it can be destroyed, or how else to deal with it.
    • "Expanding Human." The Villain Protagonist is dead and his Jekyll & Hyde formula has been destroyed. However, he's forced someone else to use it, and that character ends the episode by warning "You'd better get me to a hospital. This drug is starting to take effect."
  • Whole Plot Reference: "The Man Who Was Never Born" is based on Beauty and the Beast, and "The Bellero Shield" is based on Macbeth (which also makes it an example of The Bard on Board). Coincidentally, both episodes star Martin Landau.
  • Word Salad Title: "Keeper of the Purple Twilight". It doesn't relate to anything in the episode, and even the people who worked on the show couldn't remember what it meant!
  • X-Ray Sparks: Seen at the climax of "The Borderland" when a character jumps into the dimensional travel machine. His skeleton shows through his body as he's obliterated.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: A plot element in "Don't Open Till Doomsday" and "The Guests". Both episodes feature human characters trapped in an alien-controlled environment where they don't age because time doesn't pass.
  • Yellow Peril: An unnamed Asian government (implied to be China) is the villain of "The Hundred Days of the Dragon".
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Happens in "Keeper of the Purple Twilight" when Janet Lane discovers her scientist boyfriend is palling around with an alien and tries to warn his boss. She even uses the exact phrase.
  • You Wake Up in a Room:
    • Trent, in "Demon With a Glass Hand," who also has Laser-Guided Amnesia.
    • In "The Duplicate Man", the clone of Henderson James has a similar awakening.
    • Used yet again in "The Probe".
  • Zeerust: "The Duplicate Man", an episode from 1964, is set in 2025, a future in which humanity has been exploring outer space (and bringing aliens to Earth to exhibit in a zoo) at least since The '80s.

"We now return control of your television set to you, until next week at this same time, when the Control Voice will take you to... The Outer Limits."


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