The Outer Limits: The Original Series Vol. 1

Few television shows from one’s childhood actually hold up when viewed again later as an adult: For example, the ‘60s Disney series The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. What once seemed creative and exciting, say, to a 9-year-old, only comes off as somewhat silly now, even given that it starred such a respected television actor as Patrick McGoohan (Secret Agent, The Prisoner).

Fortunately, MGM’s latest DVD set, The Outer Limits: The Original Series Volume 1, proves that not every TV show that one liked as a child appears as dire twaddle to now-adult eyes. In fact, in spite of the somewhat primitive special effects and sometimes borderline ridiculous costumes, the anthology’s ideas still stand up quite well.

Self-annihilation fears ("Don’t Open Till Doomsday, “The Architects of Fear"), genetic experimentation ("The Sixth Finger"), dubious nuclear research ("Production and Decay of Strange Particles,” “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork") and first contact with aliens ("The Galaxy Being,” “The Bellero Shield") are just a few of the still relevant themes touched upon in this landmark series.

The B&W program’s production values are still top-notch, the writing generally good, and the guest stars surprising—everyone from such TV regulars as Ed Asner, Robert Culp, David McCallum, Leonard Nimoy and Simon Oakland to such film stars as Martin Landau, Vera Miles, Cliff Robertson, Sally Kellerman, Warren Oates, Neil Hamilton, Donald Pleasence and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Today, that would be the equivalent of getting Liam Neeson, Benicio Del Toro, Parker Posey and, say, Jack Nicholson to be in a TV sci-fi anthology. Series creator Joseph Stefano handles about a third of the first season’s writing chores, accounting for the consistency of vision throughout.

One can only hope that this double-sided 4-DVD set proves successful enough to warrant the release of the show’s second season, most notable for author Harlan Ellison’s two contributions: "Soldier" and the 1965 Screen Writers Guild Award-winning "Demon with a Glass Hand."