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Greetings, and welcome to CLASSICS ON THE TUBE. Here you'll find capsule reviews of vintage TV series episodes from the early days of television through the 1970s, with a special emphasis on sci-fi, horror, and mystery series. Be sure to check out the Pages links, where you can find an index of episodes reviewed for each television series.

I also cover vintage movies at my sister site, VIEWING THE CLASSICS, so please feel free to check that out as well.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, October 16, 2017

STAR TREK: Charlie X

Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Guest Stars:  Robert Walker Jr., DeForest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney, Nichelle Nichols, Charles Stewart
Directed by Lawrence Dobkin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A 17 year old human boy who grew up alone on an alien world is taken aboard the Enterprise to transport to an Earth colony, but Captain Kirk discovers he has dangerous powers.

Although probably not one of the more popular episodes of the series, the story by Gene Roddenberry is really a rather clever way of illustrating contemporary teenage desires and confusion in a sci-fi setting, and D.C. Fontana's teleplay is excellent.  Walker, the son of Hollywood stars Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones, gives a very good performance as the boy who uses his abilities to take what he wants and destroy what he can't have.  This episode also offers one of Nichelle Nichols' rare opportunities to sing on the series, and features some atypical smiling from Leonard Nimoy, perhaps due to refinements to the Spock character that hadn't been made yet.  I wouldn't call it a favorite episode, but it's certainly a quality one.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Zanti Misfits

Guest Stars:  Michael Tolan, Olive Deering, Robert F. Simon, Claude Woolman, Bruce Dern
Directed by Leonard Horn
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A military outpost hidden in a ghost town in California prepares for the arrival of an alien prison ship, which intends to maroon their criminals on Earth.

Although Joseph Stefano's script may be aiming for some deeper meaning, with existential speeches by the narrator and Deering's character in particular, they're hard to recall compared to the special effects rendering of the alien creatures, who are an absolute hoot.  The Zanti are diminutive ant-like creatures with evil faces and a deadly bite, impressively animated in stop-motion by Jim Danforth and his Project Unlimited team, and a siege of the military headquarters by the creatures is extremely well done, and the highlight of the episode.  However, their appearance definitely overwhelms whatever moral points about human society Stefano was trying to make, but in this case I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.  A very young Bruce Dern appears in a featured but comparatively small guest appearance.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

STAR TREK: The Naked Time

Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Guest Stars:  Stewart Moss, Majel Barrett, Bruce Hyde, DeForest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney
Directed by Marc Daniels
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The Enterprise becomes trapped in orbit around a dying planet when a disease that acts like alcohol on the brain spreads among the crew. 

Another classic early episode of Trek features many highlights, including Spock's first emotional breakdown, Sulu's bare-chested fencing, and Nurse Chapel's first appearance, wearing a rather bizarre platinum blonde hairstyle she would not wear again.  The highlight is probably Nimoy's excellent portrayal of the conflict between Spock's human emotions and his Vulcan control of them, but there's many entertaining moments, including Bruce Hyde's caterwauling while taking over the ship, and Shatner's "no beach to walk on" monologue regretting forgoing love for the Enterprise.  Alexander Courage delivers one of his best episode scores, with many memorable cues that would be used in later episodes, and an effective sound effect easily conveys the transfer of the disease from crew member to crew member.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: Tourist Attraction

Guest Stars:  Janet Blair, Henry Silva, Ralph Meeker, Jay Novello, Noel De Souza
Directed by Laslo Benedek
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A wealthy industrialist visiting a Pan American nation captures an undersea creature resembling an ancient god, but the nation's dictator has plans to exhibit the creature for his own prestige.

There's a lot of human drama going on in this episode, from Meeker's callous industrialist to Blair as his long-suffering secretary who's in love with him, to Silva's attempts to mask his own desires for wealth and power under humanitarian plans for his people.  I can't say any of that really interested me that much, but the creature is a lot of fun.  Its blockish design with huge eyes and sharp teeth is obviously a puppet that someone is manipulating, but it's so visually striking, and effectively filmed both underwater and above it, that for me, it's one of the series' most memorable monsters.  I think the  story would have been more entertaining if it had delved more into the creatures' origins and their motivations, and the teleplay's ending seems to be an exercise in presenting the opposite of what the audience expects instead of providing a natural coda that flows.  Still, I found it worth watching and enjoyed the creature.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Borderland

Guest Stars:  Philip Abbott, Gladys Cooper, Nina Foch, Barry Jones, Mark Richman
Directed by Leslie Stevens
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An electronics executive agrees to fund a team of scientists' attempt to open a gateway to another dimension, in hopes it will allow him to contact the spirit of his deceased son.

Series creator Leslie Stevens both wrote and directed this installment, and the setup is very intriguing,  contrasting the earnest experiment of Richman's scientist against Cooper's seance which unmasks her as a phony mystic.  A number of other interesting wrinkles are added to the plot including the injury Richman suffers in an initial experiment, and the greed of an executive trying to manipulate a company takeover.  However, the payoff in the episode's closing moments is somewhat disappointing, preferring to keep things shrouded in mystery rather than introduce us to the new world we've been anticipating.  Still, this is a tightly edited and suspenseful drama, and Foch in particular gives a performance to remember as Richman's dedicated wife and collaborator.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: It Crawled Out Of The Woodwork

Guest Stars:  Scott Marlowe, Kent Smith, Barbara Luna, Michael Forest, Joan Camden
Directed by Gerd Oswald
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A scientist and his brother visit the top-secret lab where he's preparing to start a new job, not realizing that a terrible energy monster is housed within.

The special effects in this episode are top-notch, terrifically bringing the energy monster to life and its stalking of its victims makes for a number of taut highly suspenseful scenes.  There's also plenty of familiar faces in the guest cast including Cat People's Kent Smith, affecting a foreign accent, Barbara Luna of the classic Star Trek episode, "Mirror, Mirror," Michael Forest of Beast From Haunted Cave, and Ed Asner, with hair!, as the police detective who finally exposes the lab's secrets.  All that being said, I found the teleplay disappointing, focusing too much on Marlowe's character and his idiosyncrasies, and not nearly enough on the monster's origins, or the motives behind unleashing the creature.  While Camden is strong as a scientist tormented by the evil in the lab, Luna's character is strangely underdeveloped, and only seems to be there to service the plot.

Friday, April 28, 2017

STAR TREK: The Man Trap

Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Guest Stars:  Jeanne Bal, Alfred Ryder, DeForest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney, George Takei
Directed by Marc Daniels
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The Enterprise visits a barren planet to give a geologist and his wife, an old flame of McCoy's, medical checkups, but the lady is actually a murdering monster in disguise. 

The first episode of the series to be aired on TV (although the sixth filmed), I've always enjoyed this one, with Daniels and crew employing some clever stylistic touches to track the monster aboard ship as it assumes many disguises, including having the actors impersonating the salt-hungry creature by sucking on their knuckle, and accompanying its transformations with a musical flourish.  The creature makeup is quite memorable, and the screenplay bats around some worthy ideas, comparing the creature as the last of its kind with endangered species on our contemporary Earth.