Sunday, March 27, 2016
We're happy to be participating in the 2nd Favorite TV Episode Blogathon, sponsored by the terrific A Shroud of Thoughts blog. Be sure to visit the blog -- click here -- for a listing of all the sites taking part in this event!
We are chiming in with a short shout-out to one of our favorites, the superb first season episode "The Architects of Fear" which first aired on network TV on September 30, 1963. Fifty-three years old and still works like a charm, though there is little charming about the episode. Harrowing? Yes, and frightening and unthinkable and ultimately touching would be more like it. Unforgettable certainly.
There are quite a few other write-ups on this episode around the net and I'll link to them at the end of this post and borrow a few screengrabs from them, too. I don't even think I'll go step-by-step through this brilliant hour of TV. If you've never seen it, you need to watch it, that's all. If you've never watched any of The Outer Limits -- but really how could avoid it, it's been in constant syndication for the past half-century -- we of course recommend settling in and catching up with some of the most intriguing science fiction ever presented on TV. (Not as easy as it used to be -- it's behind Hulu's subscription wall now but I did find one link for "The Architects of Fear" -- click here).
In a nightmarish nutshell, the plot of "The Architects of Fear" is fairly simple -- a secret group of scientists gathers together to execute their plan to scare Earth's political leaders into peace through the use of an extraterrestrial threat which will force them to cooperate together to ensure the safety of all mankind. Their idea is very specific -- they are going to medically change one of their group into an alien who will land a spacecraft in front of the United Nations. They draw names, and the winner -- loser -- is young physicist Allen Leighton, played by actor Robert Culp is a true tour-de-force performance. His wife is played by the great actress Geraldine Brooks who was always an intelligent presence in every role.
Leighton is willing to go through with the transformation but in a cruel twist of fate -- actually something that would have been a joyous moment had he not been involved in the plan -- he learns that he will be leaving more than just his beloved wife behind. But still he goes forward.
Key things making "The Architects of Fear" so incredibly good are the amazing performances by the entire cast. Culp is nuanced, intelligent, heartbreaking and in one scene completely mesmerizing as the medical process induces a psychotic episode which is terrifying, almost hilarious in its flights of fancy, but ultimately bleak and tragic. Geraldine Brooks as Yvette Leighton is one of the many interesting female portrayals on The Outer Limits over its 49 episode run. She's smart, skeptical, and unique, thanks to Meyer Dolinsky's script and Brooks' talent. Veteran character actor Leonard Stone plays the main brain behind the scientific cadre, and he's both ruthless and compassionate as he leads one of his best friends down the road into inhumanity.
I watched the episode again last night -- though I've seen it probably a hundred times over the years -- but my husband had never seen it. I asked him "Do you think this looks dated and stupid?" but he said it was the story that kept him interested. And so it is. It's part Frankenstein-part The Day the Earth Stood Still-part Incredible Melting Man or Swamp Thing; we don't want to forget the basic premise of changing a human via hideous surgery into a creature and re-engineering his entire body into an alien physiology. We get to see some of the process and it is grueling, not in terms of bloody operating room scenes but in glimpses of the intimate horrors they are perpetrating on their unlucky friend.
Just watch it. Forget about the lack of million-dollar special effects and revel instead in the sheer excellence of the entire team who made The Outer Limits such a wonderful show and "The Architects of Fear" an especially great example of that genius.
As I mentioned above, a few other great blogs on this episode are: My Life in the Glow of The Outer Limits -- click here -- We Are Controlling Transmission -- click here and here - The Daily P.O.P -- click here -- Casual Debris -- click here -- The Last Drive-In -- click here -- Living in The Outer Limits - click here -- Home Videos.com -- click here -- and a few others I might have missed.
Just you don't miss "The Architects of Fear".