This series is the epitome of classic science fiction and the only time it has ever appeared on regular television. It’s never happened again. While the mid-90s update for The Outer Limits, via Showtime a long time ago, was okay, and it did have some damn fine episodes, there really hasn’t been another series that depicted very classic forms of science fiction. Damn shame, really.
Now, there was The Ray Bradbury Theater, which ran in the mid-to-late 80s and early 90s, but it really wasn’t fit for the author’s name, IMO, even if he did host the thing. Bradbury wrote wonder scifi, although he’d argue the point. From Wiki:
First of all, I don’t write science fiction. I’ve only done one science fiction book and that’s Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it’s fantasy. It couldn’t happen, you see? That’s the reason it’s going to be around a long time – because it’s a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.
You may be familiar with Fahrenheit 451, as well as his short story “I Sing the Body Electric”, which was turned into an episode of the original Twilight Zone series. That was classic sci-fi, and arguably, “real”, though perhaps a futuristic vision of it.
As for The Outer Limits, in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll give you a refresher of a few wonderful episodes.
I, Robot: A story about a robot named Adam who goes on trial for supposedly killing his creator. The story had an unfortunate name, given that the creator of the name, Otto Binder, wrote a story that had nothing to do with this Outer Limits version. The name also has nothing to do with the erroneously-named Isaac Asimov book series, “I, Robot”. Erroneous in that it was a classic example of a publisher doing something an author detests: renaming a series. This episode was also duplicated in the 90s’ Showtime series. Leonard Nimoy appears in both, first as a reporter covering the trial, then in the 2nd version as the robot’s attorney.
Zzzzzz: Arguably the next famous episode. It’s about a queen bee who transforms into a human female in order to mate with a human male in order to evolve her bee species. It doesn’t go according to plan. This episode, if you go by Ray Bradbury’s view of science fiction, in that it depicts reality, not fantasy, would then be considered fantasy and not sci-fi. However, I consider it classic sci-fi because it’s a theory about a species trying to control its evolution.
A Feasibility Study: Also duplicated in the revival. It’s about what theoretically happens when humans are enslaved. A neighborhood is abducted to serve as slaves for an alien species that borders Earth in parallel realities. The aliens conduct “a feasibility study” to discover if they can use these humans as their slaves. They discover they can’t.
Wolf 359: A scientist creates a miniature world that evolves at an accelerated rate, modeled after a nearby star named Wolf 359. It develops a being that becomes intent on destroying the scientist and his world, unaware that it would destroy itself in the process. In the end, the being and its planet are destroyed. The scientist wonders if he can continue, to duplicate his experiment successfully with another chosen star. This episode’s name, and the star’s name (based in reality) also appears in Star Trek: The Next Generation as the location where the Federation battles the Borg.
O.B.I.T.: Big Brother via an alien device that monitors actions and thoughts and can duplicate itself in order to keep monitoring everyone, everywhere. The Justice Department learns of it and seeks to destroy all of the machines. The only question is whether or not all of them have been destroyed.
These and other episodes always seek to ask questions with opening and closing voice-over dialogue. The revival series did the same thing. It was rather evocative. The Twilight Zone sort of did the the same thing. These episodes are, in a way, morality tales, and the unmentioned episodes play this out via true science fiction, which in itself is always a version of a morality tale.
If you want to see the episodes and are willing to pay to do so, the only place that streams them is at Hulu.com. You’d need a subscription, of course. I think they’re worth it, though I can’t vouch for the video quality. The DVDs are much better.
In the end, it’s worth it just to see the opening and ending sequences where you’re “theoretically” losing and regaining control of your television set.