The Outer Limits
Season 1 (1995)

Starring: Alyssa Milano, Ryan Reynolds, Beau Bridges, Rebecca De Mornay, and Robert Patrick
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: 39.99
Certificate: 15
Available 30 April 2007

"There is nothing wrong with your television." The first words to the
Outer Limits opening credits monologue have passed into TV legend, and rightly so as they heralded a series that was often thought provoking and sometimes pretty scary too...

Back when they were first heard in 1963 The Outer Limits was something of a ratings failure, although highly critically acclaimed, and it was that acclaim that finally resurrected the show some 30 years later. The new Outer Limits, however, had a lot to live up to.

For anyone unfamiliar with the premise for the series there's really not much to learn. The show was made up of single plays, each with a moral and each flavoured with some science fiction or fantasy twist. Simplicity itself - but to work you need good scripts, plenty of atmosphere and 'ingredient X', the vital additive that makes good fantasy ideas into great fantasy TV. Fortunately, the new Outer Limits picked up on much of what had made the original series so enjoyable and shivery - it often had 'ingredient X' in very large doses.

Season One of the show features a number of highlights amongst its 22 episodes. Valerie 23 features a very human robot driven mad by jealousy, while Blood Brothers gives a very nasty twist to the idea of immortality. The Voyage Home manages to effortlessly create deep paranoia inside a small spacecraft - is there really something else on board? The Conversion, however, proves that the best scripts can be created from the simplest ideas - is revenge really worth the effort and would things be better if we forgave rather than acted emotionally? The choice is available to an escaped convict thanks to some alien intervention.

The episode Quality of Mercy has a pleasantly nasty twist at the end - no, I'm not saying, you'll have to watch it but you'll never trust your cellmate again - and there are plenty of odd children (always a scary idea) in this batch of episodes. Check out The Choice and Under The Bed and you'll think twice about starting a family.

It's also worth noting that these episodes are 'adult' in their content. Yes, the scripts clearly shy away from hackneyed SF/fantasy conventions - this ain't Buck Rogers - but it's the way each morality play is realised that makes the difference. The violence is realistically nasty (but never gratuitous), there's nudity and there are moments of grizzly realism. Combine these with a steady pace, minimal hysterics and a keen eye for the disturbing and the resultant episodes are not suitable for young viewers. But that's hardly a criticism.

The discs themselves are pretty average - minimal extras (all on disc 6) and generic menus. The five featurettes are: Caught In The Act (5 mins), Origin of The Outer Limits (10 mins), The Outer Limits Story (11 mins), Valerie 23 (5 mins) and The Making of Quality of Mercy (9 mins). All interesting enough but not the sort of thing you'll watch more than once. However, the stereo soundtrack is good and clean and the episodes themselves look okay, if a little soft - probably the result of being edited on video.

But don't let that put you off - this is a very entertaining box set, albeit with the potential to be a great one given a better sprinkling of additional content.

Anthony Clark

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