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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!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: Controlled Experiment

Guest Stars:  Barry Morse, Carroll O'Connor, Grace Lee Whitney, Robert Fortier, Bob Kelljan
Directed by Leslie Stevens
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A Martian inspector is sent to Earth to study why humans murder each other, and with the help of a colleague, uses a time displacement machine to observe a murder again and again.

Definitely the most light-hearted episode of the series yet, despite the grim subject matter, this was fun to watch with Morse's character making many amusing observations about human behavior.  Both he and O'Connor are perfect in their portrayals, and audiences familiar with them as The Fugitive's Lt. Gerard and All In The Family's Archie Bunker, should enjoy seeing them play very different but charming roles.  Star Trek's Grace Lee Whitney also has a pivotal part, minus her familiar hairstyle from that series.  Although the special effects are largely confined to speeding up the film and playing it in reverse, and the episode is missing the creature makeup ubiquitous in other installments, I didn't mind and found this an enjoyable outing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

THE OUTER LIMITS: The Mice

Guest Stars:  Henry Silva, Diana Sands, Michael Higgins, Ronald Foster, Dabney Coleman
Directed by Alan Crosland Jr.
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A prison convict is recruited for a scientific experiment that would transport him to an alien planet, but he tries to escape when he sees the grotesque alien that is brought to Earth first.

I enjoyed this episode, with Silva making his second and last appearance on the series, this time as the loquacious prisoner in a well-written role that shows him to be a noble man despite his crimes.  The plant-like alien "Chromomite" is another unique creature among the series' monsters with an amorphous face and snapping claws, and it's frightening when chasing Sands in a suspenseful sequence.  The weakest part of the episode however is the hasty explanation for the motivations of the creature at episode's end, which left me scratching my head somewhat.  I also had to chuckle a little bit when I recognized the outdoor background as being the same memorable locale later used in Star Trek's classic "Shore Leave" episode.

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.