Best TV Shows of the 1950s and 1960s Part Four: The Outer Limits

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“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits.” (http://www.tv.com/shows/the-outer-limits-1963)

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For this next installment of this series about what I consider to be the best television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, I will discuss The Outer Limits. This show, and I am not referring to its reboot in the 1990s, ran from 1963-1965. It was a series that was science fiction, horror, fantasy, and morality lessons rolled into one.

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One episode was “The Zanti Misfits,” in which a group of aliens from another planet, having difficulty knowing what to do with their criminals, decide that the best option is to send them to the planet with the species most noted for killing: earth and human beings. This society of aliens will not execute their own beings, but they see no moral issue with shipping them to another place to have the terrible work performed. It raises numerous issues with the question of capital punishment and, through the lens of science-fiction, makes the viewers confront the moral questions surrounding this kind of judicial punishment.

The show also parallels the issue of social irresponsibility with that of personal moral negligence in the form or a bank robber and his girlfriend who wander into the battle with the Zanti criminals.  Not only is the larger society examined but also the actions of individuals.  If you watch this episode, you might recognize a very young Bruce Dern.

I was a child when I saw this episode, and it was scared me badly. Today, I see the fairly unsophisticated special effects, but I also recognize the importance of the message of the script. And this is what gave this series such power: it combined the ability to frighten viewers with the capacity to explore and teach important lessons about life and our world.

Please give this series a try if you have not seen it.

Best TV Shows of the 1950s and 1960s—Part Two: Star Trek

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I am continuing the series I began about what I consider to be the best TV shows of the 1950s and 1960s and representative example episodes of those shows. For this post, I am going to talk about Star Trek, the original version, which ran from 1966-1969. I will be dating myself, but this show ran when I had just become a young teenager, and it had huge influence on me.

I remember looking forward all week to the next episode and wondering what that week’s episode would be about.  Star Trek was filled with what were, at the time, wonderful special effects, but much more than that, great stories and deeply developed characters.

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I have many episodes that I think were very good, but one, in particular, stands out as excellent: “City On The Edge Of Forever.” It was written by the noted science-fiction author Harlan Ellison and ran towards the end of the first season. It dealt with time travel and insanity, which were always good themes for science-fiction, but it also dealt with an issue that continues to confront our society: what does someone do when seeing the existence of evil? Do they act at the risk of enormous sacrifice, or ignore it? Other questions also emerge from the show: what matters more—the fate of an individual or of society? How do we judge what is necessary to do in a difficult ethical situation? And where is the place of love in our world? These are very heady issues for a young teenager to struggle with; in fact, they continue to influence my thinking and my writing.  It was also a series that infused hope, optimism, and humanism in its message, the idea that humanity can improve itself but always with struggle.

I am wondering: did you like the original Star Trek series, and if so, what episode was your favorite?

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)