Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Outer Limits at 50

A selection of the Outer Limits trading cards.
When I was a young lad, we used to buy sweets from the local newsagents ... and I remember than among the delights to be found were things called 'Lucky Bags' which contained some candy, a strip of gum (I think) a small toy (no recollection of what) and a packet of trading cards. Most of the shops around Tolworth in South London where I grew up didn't have these, but there was one shop over in Hook which did ... and the trading card packets were for some show called The Outer Limits. Now I'd never heard of this show ... but I loved (and still do) things like Lost in Space and Doctor Who, and from the images on these cards, it seemed that The Outer Limits was of a similar ilk.

I never managed to collect a full set of the cards. They were only in the lucky bags, and these were hard to find, so I only ended up with a handful of cards. I have no idea where they are now! Lost somewhere in a room clearance in the distant past ... strange for me as I do have preserved all manner of things from my childhood. But not these.

A few years later, I got into horror magazines. I had a paper round and the local newsagent had one of those carousel magazine racks, and in it were occasional copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Monster Mag, and later House of Hammer ... as well as several other American imported magazines. All of which I devoured. It must have been in one of these that I first came across something called TOLAIR - The Outer Limits: An Illustrated Review. Not knowing much about anything, I ordered it, and when it arrived I was blown away - the photos, the details ... this was a series that I just had to try and see! And this was Volume 2 ... and no way to get Volume 1! But how? It was American, black and white, and there were no videos or DVDs, or even Internet in these backwards days ... I remember seeing that someone was talking in a letter about the music and about how amazing this show was aurally ... and I was just getting more and more frustrated.

And then. BBC2 ... Bless you BBC2 ... they showed the entire series ... late night ... but I was totally hooked. I'm not sure what year it was, but it must have been early 80s as I video recorded every episode (and we got our first video machine in 1979).  I totally fell in love with the series.

As the correspondent had mentioned, aurally it was a delight. The music was unique and creepy and totally drew you in. The sound effects, the monsters every week ... it was far superior to Lost In Space, and the episode 'Demon with a Glass Hand' is one of my favourite things ever!

And last year (2014), The Outer Limits turned 50 years old ... it must have started in 1964, the year after Doctor Who started. And to mark the occasion, David J Schow (a writer for whom I have long held a fond respect for as his name differs from mine in just the spelling of his second name - hey we even rhyme!) released a book celebrating the series. And it's magnificent.

David holds the series in the same kind of regard as I do Doctor Who, and like me, has accumulated a vast archive of Outer Limits ephemera. And this book brings much of it together. There are rare photos from the episodes, remembrances, strange facts, model kits and jigsaws, newspaper cuttings and much more ... this is actually very much like my own book Timeframe for Doctor Who ... a love letter to the show ... And I adore it!

If you have an interest in classic television, and in particular genre television, then this book, and David's earlier work The Outer Limits Companion, are essential for your bookshelf. I can't rave about them enough.

What we need now, is some nice DVD company to release a proper, cleaned up and remastered box set of all the episodes, including all the available extras (there is a great list of some of the things that could be included in this very book!)  The Outer Limits is a series which deserves some love and care and a pristine Blu-Ray release ...

The book The Outer Limits at 50 can be bought here:


Terry Doyle said...

The Outer Limits actually debuted in September 1963, not 1964 as you seem to believe. As such, it pre-dates Doctor Who by a few months. The trading cards were never included in any lucky bags I ever remember buying, but sold in individual packs containing several cards and a piece of chewing-gum!

Stephen Cummings said...

1980 was when BBC-2 started repeating 'Outer Limits'. First one to be shown was 'Demon With A Glass Hand'.