MGM // 2001 // 1620 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 17th, 2005
There is nothing wrong with your computer monitor.
MGM has released a big-ass boxed set of episodes from The Outer Limits: The New Series. For all your cable-quality alien/ android/ time travel/ mutation/ death/ sex needs threaded with science fiction, you'd be hard pressed to find a more fulfilling offering.
In 1995, Showtime resuscitated the early '60s science fiction anthology series The Outer Limits. This new vision preserves the encapsulated storytelling format -- each 45-minute episode brings a different story, starring barely recognizable celebrities. And, of course, this being pay-channel produced, you'll be getting edgier material: nudity, blood and guts, profanity...they can all be found in the shows in trace amounts. What binds all these episodes together -- indeed, the entire series -- is its alliance to science fiction. From fantasy science fiction (aliens and such) to hard science fiction (nanomachines and genetic mutation), The Outer Limits: The New Series covers the spectrum.
This anthology contains six discs, each of which is also available solo: Aliens Among Us, Mutation and Transformation, Time Travel and Infinity, Death and Beyond, Fantastic Androids and Robots, and Sex and Science Fiction.
Aliens Among Us
* "Quality of Mercy"
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) stars as a military officer captured by aliens. In prison he meets a fellow human who is slowly turning into one of the aliens. And just as he was getting to know her. But there is an even bigger surprise in store for him...
When a felon is given the choice between capital punishment and being a guinea pig for a military experiment, he chooses the latter -- only to discover that said experiment involves shooting him up with alien DNA. Alas, he doesn't become as hot an extraterrestrial as Natasha Henstridge.
* "The Grell"
The Grell is a race of dying aliens that came to Earth to seek solace but instead found themselves being used as slaves. After a government rep lands neck-deep in Grell he realizes it's not all that peachy being an alien doormat.
* "Relativity Theory"
Sent to an alien planet, a survey team from Earth runs across a batch of feisty interstellar life forms. Despite protests from the team leader (Melissa Gilbert, Little House on the Prairie), the humans snuff the hostiles. But their itchy trigger fingers may have opened up a big can of space worms.
* "Alien Shop"
After a two-bit criminal eludes the police in an odd curio shop, he comes away with a crazy wallet that endows him with money-grubbing powers. But this awesome find may be tainted by the shop's owner, an alien out to right the wrongs of Earth's scumbags.
* "Beyond the Veil"
Michael O'Keefe (Caddyshack) plays Eddie, a paranoid man who lands himself in a mental hospital, driven wacky by relentless visions of alien abduction. The solace offered by the hospital may be a façade when Eddie realizes that there are some suspicious goings-on there, and maybe those visions aren't as crazy as he once thought.
This is a pretty good compilation, though the stories suffer from the restrained special effects budget. That being said, there are some remarkable makeup effects on display; the alien props and costumes were impressive. Story-wise, it's a strong cross section, with the most entertaining installments boasting solid twists (as is the hallmark of the show). My favorites were "Alien Shop" (a morality play more than an alien saga) and "Relativity Theory" (a fun straight-up shoot 'em up romp with a sweet ending).
Disc Grade: B+
Mutation and Transformation
* "The New Breed"
What would you do to survive? Maybe inject some highly unstable nanobots into your body? That's what one man does to combat his cancer, and the results, while at first successful, quickly become nightmarish when the mini-machines force their host to evolve -- painfully and with much slime and body hair.
Desperate to be more cool and assertive, a nerdy scientist injects himself with a genetics-altering serum. It works pretty well at first, but the serum taps into something primal, and he's soon running around as a crazed caveman, minus the club.
* "The Joining"
Fresh off an interplanetary mission, Captain Davidow (C. Thomas Howell, The Outsiders) is horrified to discover that he brought something back with him: creatures that copy themselves when exposed to radiation. Can he find a way to defeat the creatures, or will he have to adapt to hanging around clones of himself forever?
* "Double Helix"
Martin Nodel (Ron Rifkin, L.A. Confidential) is a world-class geneticist who has made the discovery of his life: a hidden code imprinted on the human genome. His investigation into the origins of the code will lead him to the answers to all of humanity's most penetrating questions.
* "The Gun"
Matthew Logan is a violent bastard who scores himself a unique firearm. The weapon turns out be an alien gun, though, and every time the user opens fire, it binds itself to him with tentacles. Now Logan -- and his gross-looking arm -- is after his family for one final round of vengeance.
* "The Inheritors"
A strange meteor shower sends pieces of space matter into the skulls of three strangers who are then prompted to corral the sick and the elderly for a bizarre experiment. But the truth is actually stranger than anyone is prepared for.
Another decent gathering of episodes. This disc represents more of the "science" portion of "science fiction," what with the nanotechnology and the super-serums and the genetic codes. But aliens do make plenty of appearances, lest we get too sidetracked.
My favorites are "The Joining" because of some great, gross makeup
effects and "The Inheritors," as it's just a nice, feel-good little
tale. On the bottom rung, "Double Helix" leaves much to be desired
because of an overwrought climax that you can see coming a mile away. And
"Descent" is just silly.
Disc Grade: B
Time Travel and Infinity
* "A Stitch in Time"
A murder investigation gets weird when a time-traveling woman (Amanda Plummer, Pulp Fiction) begins to appear in multiple crime scenes throughout different time periods.
An attorney is convinced he's tracked down the Nazi guard who murdered his father decades ago, yet he is without evidence to prosecute. But when a mysterious man shows up with the damning evidence he needs, the attorney finds himself faced with a sweet opportunity for comeuppance.
A couple of racist idiots are transported back in time to the actual Battle of Gettysburg, where they will learn some valuable life lessons.
* "Time to Time"
Much to her surprise, a graduate student is recruited by a futuristic squad of time cops. Her first foray into trans-temporal travel lands her in the 1960s to prevent a terrorist act by her unshaven hippie dad.
* "Déjà vu"
Kevin Nealon (Saturday Night Live) is a brilliant scientist hired by the military to develop teleportation technology. But a glitch in the experiment thrusts him into an unending time loop. It is now up to him to unravel the mystery of the failed experiment before all of existence is sucked into oblivion.
* "Patient Zero"
It's the future, and mankind has been wiped out by a deadly plague. Beckett (Michael Rooker, Cliffhanger) is sent back in time to stop the plague before it is unleashed.
Another solid set, highlighted by a rare straight role from Kevin Nealon in a very Star Trek–ish episode and a great story with the inimitable Michael Rooker. Alex Diakun pops up in a nifty recurring role as the time traveler Nicholas Prentice, but two of the three episodes he appears in kind of suck -- "Gettysburg" and "Time to Time."
Disc Grade: B+
Death and Beyond
* "The Second Soul"
Earth is thrilled to finally make contact with extraterrestrial life. However, these aliens are dying and have an unusual request for humankind: allow human corpses to be used as vessels. Mykelti Williamson (Con Air) stars.
* "The Other Side"
Ralph Maccio (The Karate Kid) plays Dr. Eberhardt, a man who has created a revolutionary way to communicate with comatose patients. Manufacturing a computer-simulated world allows the patients' subconscious to interact with others who hook up to the machine. Things get nutty when the good doctor decides to check out this digital landscape himself.
* "New Lease"
Two brilliant doctors are perfecting ways of bringing the dead back to life. After one of the doctors is gunned down by a mugger (Jason Priestley of Beverly Hills, 90210, who also directs), he is subjected to his own procedure. But the process is imperfect, and time is running out for him to make nice with his family -- and settle the score with his attacker.
* "Essence of Life"
It's the future, so, of course, humanity has been decimated by a virus. To control the grief-stricken survivors, antimourning laws are put into place. When an agent enforcing these laws (Daniel Baldwin, Vampires) tracks down a doctor who has developed an illegal drug that induces mourning, he will find out he still has plenty of unresolved personal issues. Self-healing that would make Dr. Phil proud ensues.
* "Human Trials"
A soldier volunteering for a top-secret alien combat mission finds himself put through rigorous mental and physical tests to see if he's worthy. But worthy for what, exactly?
* "Black Box"
Ravaged by violent dreams and visions, a former soldier (Ron Perlman, Hellboy) struggles to put together the solution to a hazy mystery.
Eh, probably my least favorite set. Two shows are good ("The Second Soul," a suspenseful yarn with a syrupy ending, and "Black Box," which is supported by great work from Ron Perlman), one is okay ("New Lease," thanks to a fun twist ending), but the others I can do without. My least favorite, "Human Trials," is essentially a clip show, recycling excerpts from past episodes and finishing with an ending that should be no surprise to anyone.
Disc Grade: C
Fantastic Androids and Robots
* "I, Robot"
Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) stars as a civil rights attorney charged with a most unusual case: defending a robot for the murder of its creator. A courtroom procedural above everything else, this Big Willie–style free adaptation of Isaac Asimov's work focuses more on the humanity of synthetic life and the helpfulness of a judge buying into that "living Constitution" claptrap.
* "The Hunt"
Yo, where's Ice T at? Androids are now the chosen prey for hunters around the world. In illegal hunts, heavily armed humans pursue their mechanical quarry. In this round, though, the hunters will discover that the androids they track are far more resourceful than they anticipated.
Androids run things now, and humanity is extinct. When some enterprising androids decide to grow a human man from DNA, the android authorities get pissed. Now the newly birthed man must run for his life, aided by his hot android creator (Heather Graham, Boogie Nights).
* "The Camp"
Humans have been relegated to work camps under the auspices of some brutal guards working for an alien race. But these guards have a secret, and one brave woman seeks to reveal it -- and maybe free her fellow inmates.
What if you were actually an android, and not a man? That's what this guy finds out one day. More shocking is the realization that he's supposed to be a high-tech weapon for the military (the default bad guys in scifi).
* "Small Friends"
An imprisoned scientist has developed some amazing machines: tiny robots that fly through the air, obey commands, and can fix anything. However, a vicious prisoner (Roddy Piper, They Live) is intent on using the machines to break out, whatever the cost.
This disc is my favorite of the six. Each episode is entertaining, and some of the best makeup and visual effects of the set are on display. There's a great variety of tales here, with two positing a similar premise with different endings ("Glitch" and "Resurrection"). My favorite is "Small Friends." Tiny kick-ass robots and Roddy Piper?! You can't go wrong there!
Disc Grade: A
Sex and Science Fiction
* "Caught in the Act"
A hot girl (Alyssa Milano, Charmed) is possessed and embarks on a killing spree. She uses her seductive wiles to lure men in and then suck the life force form their bodies. Sounds like a fair trade.
* "Bits of Love"
A man has created some holograms of gorgeous women for company. One such creation (Natasha Henstridge, Species) feels her faux biological clock ticking. Whoa, that's weird. But it is Natasha Henstridge, so I'd do whatever the hologram wants.
* "Valerie 23"
William Sadler (Die Hard 2: Die Harder) stars as a wheelchair-bound scientist chosen to live with a prototype female android companion. Soon the line between reality and fiction is blurred, as Valerie 23 turns to jealousy-fueled violence.
* "The Human Operators"
It's the future and, once again, we've got an existence devoid of all but a few human beings. The survivors are now slaves to the will of evolved starships that rely on people to perform tasks. One survivor (Jack Noseworthy) is surprised one day to meet up with another -- a beautiful woman. Turns out the ships want them to procreate and make some slave offspring, but the carbon-based life forms have other plans...
* "Skin Deep"
Hey, remember Antonio Sabato, Jr.? No? Well, here he is anyway, starring in a tale about a frumpy kid who is given an amazing device that allows him to assume the appearance of anyone he wants to. So he picks his studly coworker (Sabato, Jr.) to emulate, unprepared for the misery his selfishness will cause.
* "Flower Child"
An alien plant being lands on Earth and immediately searches for the right man to fertilize her. It helps that this plant looks like a gorgeous blonde, and it's not long before a gullible, horny guy (Jeremy London) is ensnared in her plot.
So here we have it, the confluence of two of geekdom's most valued interests: hot girls and scifi. Well, don't go in expecting a marathon of flesh. The sex and nudity level is fairly low; the title of the disc refers to the subject of sex and love. A few episodes stand out: "The Human Operators" tells a good story of human perseverance, and "Valerie 23" is a lot of fun. The remaining shows...eh, it seems like the producers were motivated to find anything with a bare breast to validate entry into the set. That being said, Samantha Micelli has aged quite well. Yowsers!
Disc Grade: C+
Taken as a whole, I think this is a great set for (a) fans of the series and (b) fans of science fiction. The majority of the stories are well written and well acted, and boast some great twist endings. Yeah, there are some duds here as well, but overall, a very good boxed set.
Each disc comes with a documentary unique to the specific subject matter and a general documentary about the show itself. These bonuses are about 10 minutes long and feature interviews with the show's makers. The "Sex and Science Fiction" and "Time Travel and Infinity" discs feature shorter, individualized documentaries for each included episode. Cast members and crew are interviewed on these bonuses.
The episodes are shown in their original aspect ratio, fullscreen. The video quality is fairly disappointing, with multiple episodes suffering from grit and grain. Even with some of the poorer transfers, the budget CGI is still laughable in some moments (specifically, any scene featuring a spaceship). The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix is serviceable.
True fans of the show may want to wait instead for the one-would-think inevitable releases of the complete seasons. As yet I haven't found any news about these releases. Until then, this set is your best bet for your Outer Limits fix.
There's an awful lot of science fiction to be had here. Sure, not all episodes are classics, but there is enough good stuff to satiate fans of the series and fans of creative storytelling.
Case dismissed, human.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 1620 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Documentaries
* Series Documentary