ROW80 7/6 and Downers

A replica of Sputnik 1, the first artificial s...
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Does anyone out there remember The Outer Limits?

When it ran, in the early ’60s, TV sets hadn’t yet reached peak efficiency. Things went wrong: static, snow, vertical hold not holding, antenna blown cattywampus by a strong breeze.

Periodically someone would have to jump up and turn knobs on the front or jiggle wires in the back. The worst was the dreaded horizontal hold. When that got loose, the repairman was a phone call away. (Back then we didn’t just chuck electronic equipment.)

That was during the Cold War and the Space Race. Satellites and flying saucers and who-knew-what-else were up there. When the picture suddenly blurred and the order sounded—”Do not attempt to adjust your set”—viewers knew an alien force was in control. It stayed in control for the next sixty minutes, minus time out for commercials and station identification.

(During commercials, Earth reasserted control. But viewers helped continue the illusion by leaving the room or talking amongst themselves.)

David gave me a set of Outer Limits DVDs for our anniversary. (Please do not sneer at his choice. I gave him a towel shelf. Romance is not measured in bonbons and champagne. Anyway, we’d gone through Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Twilight Zone and were ready to move on.)

To date, we’ve watched four episodes.

First there was the story of the radio broadcaster who makes contact with an alien civilization. “I’m not supposed to be doing this,” says the human. “Neither am I,” says the alien. “Because your race is dangerous.”

Yeah, I thought, we are.

Then there was the one about the scientist who, for the sake of greed and glory, creates a microbe that destroys all but a remnant of the human race and turns survivors into freaks.

Yeah, I thought. Biological warfare. Drug-resistant bacteria.

Then there was the one about Orbit, a top-secret program designed to spy, eventually, on everyone on earth. The military supports research and development until the general who okayed the program becomes frightened of it.

Yeah, I thought. Drones, CC-TV, web-cams, little cameras in ladies’ dressing rooms.

The only part that seemed unreal about that show was the general saying he was frightened. I don’t know of any generals who’ve complained about drones.

To be candid, Outer Limits plays today like a documentary with bad lighting. What began as movie night has become depressing.

Tonight’s episode, however, afforded hope. Harry Guardino’s brain takes over Gary Merrill’s body and sets out to destroy everyone at a polar scientific installation. Sally Kellerman recognizes that Merrill’s brain is in Guardino’s body and helps Merrill subdue Guardino, and it’s all due to the power of love.

A vision of an Abominable Snowman makes a couple of appearances. I didn’t catch its significance, but David said it represented Guardino’s guilt for not going into a crevasse to save a fellow soldier.

Now is the time to confess that I wasn’t paying attention during the crevasse scene. I was writing this post.

And therein lies a solution: when fifty-year-old sci-fi makes me feel like Winston Smith, I’ll grab the laptop and type myself into my own literary reality.


P. S. Now is the time to confess that the Merrill-Guardino-Kellerman show wasn’t nearly so good as the others. Sappy and insignificant. Like 1984 would have been without all the…Never mind.


ROW80: Doing okay. Sent two short-short stories to my beta reader. Started revising first part of novel draft. To see how other ROW80 participants are getting along, click here.


Image of satellite by NSSDC, NASA[1][see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons. This file is in the public domain because it was created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted“.

12 thoughts on “ROW80 7/6 and Downers

  1. Do you know, I watch so much less television since I started blogging….it goes on in the background but I’m becoming very good at shutting it out 🙂 Great post- I come here for the wit…


    1. I spent most of my life mentally tuning the TV in and out, depending on what I was doing otherwise. Then came Netflix. Very hard to tune out Maggie Smith, Peter Ustinov, Audrey Hepburn…Very hard not to turn them on in the first place. I’m glad you liked the post. Hope you don’t find too many half-wit days.


  2. My parents just gave up the “rabbit ears” they had on top of their TV for the last 50 years! I remember when the old TV blew a fuse right in the middle of my favorite show and Dad had to go out to the store to buy a new fuse. Actually it probably wasn’t a fuse but some kind of tube thing.
    Never was a sci-fi fan but loved your post!


    1. My family was so far from the transmission tower that rabbit ears weren’t effective. We had an aerial on top of the house. It was most exciting when my father climb up there and turn it while my mother stayed inside monitoring the picture. I was sometimes drafted to stand in the yard and yell, “Turn it a little more, no, that’s too much!” I’m not a great sci-fi fan either; mystery is more my thing. I’m glad you liked the post.


    1. It’s scary, all right. They’ve gone from science fiction to science fact to science horror. Thanks for commenting.


  3. I’d forgotten all about Outer Limits! Yes, I loved it! Our TV would lose the horizontal hold AND the vertical hold. We would have to adjust the knob with utmost delicacy to get it to stop flipping. I remember thinking how grown up it was to stay up late enough to watch the test pattern come on. Good stuff!


    1. When I was very young, I woke before the TV was awake. Sat there and watched static until the test pattern came on, and the test pattern until “The Little Rascals” came on. Groused the entire time as only a four-year-old can. Impatience is my one weakness.


    1. I didn’t watch Outer Limits back when, but I did watch Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock while holding a pillow I could duck behind, just in case.


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