Thursday, February 10, 2011

Production and Decay of Strange Particles

Production Order #30
Broadcast Order #30
Original Airdate: 4/20/64
Starring George MacReady, Laura Marshall, Leonard Nimoy.
Written and Directed by Leslie Stevens.

An important scientific experiment goes haywire when a radiation-like substance possesses a group of scientists. Only one man can save the world from total annihilation.

JS: It took me longer than you, but I think I've found the bottom of the OL barrel.

PE: Well, very much like yours, my friend, OL's bottom is very big. It can hold several episodes.

JS: While I can't even say the episode started off promising, I will admit to hoping that Leonard Nimoy would bring his unique charisma to the episode. No dice. He's not given much chance to do anything in his brief appearance.

PE: It was worth waiting the 49 minutes to see if this thing could get any stupider. What a missed opportunity. Think what could have been made of this episode if we'd been graced with the presence of The Shat as well. Did you see any similarities in Nimoy's "death" scene here and in Wrath of Khan? Absorbing radiation for the good of mankind. But the spirit of The Shat is alive and well in this episode thanks to George MacReady.

JS: George MacReady carries the weight of the episode on his shoulders, and it's clearly a heavy burden, as seen below.

PE: Good God, did you see all the teeth marks on the scenery? I loved his valiant proclamation when faced with adversity: "I'll stay here with the women. You go on." There's a great scene in the deadly hallway when MacReady picks up a faint Allyson Ames, herniates himself, and basically drops her ten feet along the same deadly corridor!

JS: I know Leslie Stevens deserves props for bringing us The Outer Limits, but this episode pushes the limits of reasonable accommodation. Surely he could have found a better vehicle to showcase his wife, Allyson Ames?

PE: A '65 T-Bird, maybe?
JS: The 'bear' this time out,  a group of  bunny-suits filled with storm clouds (did Steven's have a lightning fetish?), lose any chance at being interesting when we're shown repeated shots of them holding hands (hooks?) in the hall. (Kumbayah! -PE) And how about saving a few bucks on the bunny suit budget by flipping the shot to make it seem like there are even more of them (and then save a few more pennies by using speeded-up out-of-date air raid footage—dig those contemporary cars! -PE)!

PE: We've stated several times over the life of this blog that we're not scientists. I've managed to figure out the remote to turn the damn TV on. I know not one iota of anything past my front door. So when I hear highfalutin' science talk on some of these shows, I should just nod and say "Wow, the 13th Magnitude!" and "Quasi-Stellar Radio Sources!" But instead, I shake my head and mutter "What Bullshit!" Gather 'round the radiation. boys, let's cook up some weiners!

JS: You know that classic moment in a story where the main character 'suits-up' for their big challenge? You'll find that here, too, although it didn't have its intended effect to this viewer. I couldn't even bring myself to give it a half-Zanti for the stock footage of an atomic blast.

PE: When MacReady tells his wife  "We may be in for some reverse polarization," I was hoping for at least that old chestnut of the characters talking backwards while everything else raced backwards, but alas...


David J. Schow on "The Production and Decay of Strange Particles":

From The Outer Limits Companion, Copyright © David J. Schow, 1986, 1998.  All Rights Reserved.  Used by permission and by special arrangement with the author.



Be sure to check back later today for Mark Holcomb's Spotlight on "The Production and Decay of Strange Particles."

And, because we feel this episode is extra .. special, we'll have a second spotlight by David Horne later on today as well.

Next Up...


  1. Please hold your laughter until the end.

    Could there be any show more different from yesterday's "The Guests", and yet so equally strange in its own right as "Creation and Decomposure of Unusual Tiny Bits"? In fact I firmly believe this poor maligned episode (practically disowned by Stevens) has conceptually the scariest monster in the entire series: unidentified subatomic particles that we know next to nothing about. We're not even sure whether they're intelligent or not, or what their purpose might be. That is kinda chilling--and no glorious speeches from this bear.

    The first act is particularly gripping--possibly OL's most bloodthirsty when you think about the high body count--as man after man is burned out (quickly!) and replaced by the encroaching title characters. In a way it reminds me of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN; science struggling desperately in isolation to control a dangerous unknown. And surely the sight of the sideways-shambling things, their glowing face shields, the eerie ever-extending "chain" as they slowly go about what seems mindless and purely instinctive work, reaches a point of High Strangeness.

    I think the show remains fairly compelling throughout, despite lapses here and there (I could have done without the stock footage of people running to fall out shelters--it wasn't needed and took me out of it). And again--AGAIN--Kenneth Peach comes through with the goods; a wonderfully shadowy domain peppered with pools of white hot light, shot from evocative high and low angles.

    MacReady and Hasso seem to struggle with could not have been an easy script to tackle. I thought Allyson (Mrs. Stevens and OL babe) Ames sold her intense scenes rather well--as did Rudy Solari. Front credits are a funny thing, evidence of who has the loudest agent: Joe Ruskin and Leonard Nimoy are front-billed in off-to-craft-services-in-five-minutes parts, while Robert "Controlled Experiment" Fortier has much more screen time, and gets a back end.

    Yeah, I know, Stevens said he didn't think this show was "worth a damn" so why should I? Well, there's something in it that appeals to me--maybe it's Stevens' sheer bottle-show desperation that comes through, and fuels what I do like. Maybe on some level that desperation worked in its favor, making it a more personal show for him than he might have realized. Hell, I even like that dry title, because it is so oddly, deliberately textbook.

    Three Zanties holding hands and shuffling.

    Okay, commence

    1. Allyson Ames was ridiculous,caused great distress to her elders,and IMHO BETTERS!And the zanties look ridiculous,but it's filler.

  2. Oh, dear God, the owner of the team wants to take a snap and run a play ... and he's carrying a Classics Illustrated physics comic book. Grab some caffeine and run for your lives!

    The only possible explanation for this abomination (IMO) is that Stevens was motivated by four simple words ... "getting some Allyson Ames."

    1. Well,Macready was the team manager in college!Wish someone got Allyson Ames from stinking up the set!

  3. I was stunned by the poor quality of this episode. Peter and John should have simply just posted a warning to not watch this one, and then taken the day off. Not only did George MacReady chew the scenery but the two females also overdid the screaming and hollering. The only thing that might have saved the show would have been an ending showing the earth exploding. Then we all would have been in shock, mumbling in disbelief, "Jeez, OUTER LIMITS just blew up the world!"

  4. This is another episode that mostly made me be very careful around electrical things, and though the image of the guys standing around with their hands in the reactor was creepy, it was just too boring. Definitely one of the episodes in reruns where once you saw which one it was, I tended to go "ugh" and maybe even changed the channel.

    This -- at least the radiation suits and the electric sparks -- always reminded me of "The Magnetic Monster" which actually looks pretty good in this trailer:

    Not much spark here, unfortunately -- except in those visors.

  5. I've always maintained that even the weakest OL has something of worth to offer. This show really tests that theory. It's my least favorite episode of Season One, and I'm really not surprised Stevens himself disowned it. I suppose one could charitably describe "Production and Decay" as slightly ahead of its time, being a kind of pseudo-"outbreak" thriller a la ANDROMEDA STRAIN, with techno-babble and monotony fundamental ingredients. There's something eerie and disturbing about those suited-up Force Creatures doggedly doing their thing, and John Nicklaus manages some effective lighting and compositional touches here and there. But basically, this is the bottom of the Season One barrel for me...

  6. PART 1-


    I enjoy this show more with every viewing. Like my blog counterpart says, there is something gripping--and truly terrifiying--about the first half of "Particles"; the action immediately begins with a prologue where we can guess that something very dangerous and (probably--since it's Leslie Stevens' script) inscrutably obscure is about to take place, and no sooner does Act 1 begin than we see that Joseph Ruskin is in big trouble with his hands caught and burned up by this nasty s___; he slumps to the ground--hands still "manacled" in this miniature nuclear inferno, and when he rises it's NOT HIM---it's his SUIT that has been converted into an zombie-like thing. And even though all of this atomic/sub-atomic, fission/fusion, explode/implode gobbledy-gook makes this show tough to follow, there's a neatly-controlled sense of terror and urgency as we watch most all of the cast ritually killed off and converted into an army of malevolent, lumbering atomic drones.

    Actually, I found an evening of Stevens' scientific gobbledygook a refreshing change from Stefano's philosophical version of same.
    Stevens and Peach work WONDERS, in true TOL visual style, within the very mundane, technical facility; every shot has something cool about it, and...lets' face it guys...the first half of this show is VERY well paced. Yes, gripping. I found the scene with the dying scientist with the (very convincing) radiation burns on his face (which I didn't remember from previous viewings) genuinely upsetting. The girls show up in mink 'n heels with sandwiches and coffee and immediately find out that something REALLY BAD is going on down the hall, and within minutes, the guys are all dead, including Allyson Ames' hubby. Pretty intense.

    And I was very impressed by the panic and terror of the scenes with the unhinged Allyson Ames in the extreme foreground, knocking aside Laurel, with Dr. Marshall busting open the emergency alarm with his hands. Yeah, the guy is old and out-of-shape and has trouble carrying the young lassie; so what? it just adds to the sense of panic. Id' be crappin' my drawers, too.

    Time to go change; Part 2 will follow.

    1. The ladies should've scarfed down the sammies and said to heck with the guys.Allyson,the suits with prosthesis-like hooks swaying to the music,the worst was Ames' screaming like a total idiot.Think of your kids,you knew things were going belly-up,seeing as someone thru "strange Particles" in a mix!Think Georege did ok considering script,his age,COPD about to rear its ugly head.

  7. Part 2-

    I LOVE the shot in the opening of Act 3 (after the schlocky stock footage) where the three run outside into the parking lot, their shadows on the right-side wall, the massive bolts of lightning over the building, and the disco-strobe effect flashing in the background. MAYBE IT'S RADIATION-INDUCED INSANITY -- but it's one of my favorite shots in the entire series.

    Then, of course, there's ol' George MacReady, whose every word and gesture carries the unmistakable aroma of radiation-seared HAM. But at least his TOL "problem" is concisely stated, confronted and resolved without going into the sad details of his childhood or some such stuff. And, considering all of the hysterics we have endured recently in the series, I appreciated the strong, steadying influence of Signe Hasso's Laurel, as she sits next to hubby and methodically coaches him through the confusing facts in order to help him devise a solution to the massive threat he has created. It seems to ring true dramatically as George, without any additionl histrionics (could he have gone any further off the scale??), calmly and firmly faces the music "with dignity", as she had advised. CALL ME SIMPLISTIC, but I find all of this infinitely more convincing than a Stefanoesque tortured journey into the human psyche..which would have taken too long anyway. It's the "desparation" MINUS the dogs..which is fine with me.

    Then--Act 4 arrives. What else could Stevens do to wrap this one up? He really painted himself into a corner--with the fate of the world hanging in the balance--and, like MacReady (a parallel that DJS points out), confronted the mini-monstrosity which HE had created with this show, faced the music, and resolved things the best he could.

    CALL ME whatever you want...I'll gladly include "Particles" alongside of Stevens' other TOL trio; at least we only had to sit through the reverse-footage routine ONCE in this one.


  8. Must correct myself--

    In Part 2 above re: Mr. MacReady's performance, I meant to say the "OVERPOWERING aroma of radiation-seared ham.."


  9. I knew it--I just KNEW there was somnething infinitely cool about the name "Larry"!

    Damn, fellow Larry, your excellent delineation of many of the points that impressed me about this show puts my scant summary to shame. Bravo! I am pleased and surprised that someone else gets a similar charge of electricity out of this wild and woolly episode.

    One thing that's so effective about that first part of this show is; anyone who watches 60s TV knows Ruskin, Nimoy, Fortier, from numerous guest spots (not bits, guests). What brashness to go quickly wiping them against viewer expectations.

    Two moments you mention--Allyson Ames' foreground panic in the "hallway to death", and that parking lot lightning show--just sublime.

  10. As a kid, I found this deadly boring. Hopefully, as an adult I would find something good to latch onto. Nope, didn't happen.

    It's like they are trying to control the energies they had released in previous episodes. And it did forewarn of the disasters of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. And for the first 10 minutes, it keeps it's head...but the women appear, the great MacReady disintegrates. And how they could have him carry one of the babes, at his age, belies belief. It just becomes pure, undistilled tedium.

    They might as well have filmed the celebrated tale 'Nerves' by Lester Del Rey, from the '40s that covered the same topic.

    I think John and Peter may be losing mention of the eye candy babe?

  11. I always hate to contravene the irrepressible Larrys---they're a near-impossible act to follow and I respect and treasure them. But I find this episode, coupled with its follow-up, pretty much the pits of the first season.

    "Producton in Decay" is all sleight-of-hand crackling energy and pseudo-scientific gravitas, intended to distract, like a pickpocket stealing your attention rather than earning it. No question, there are some some setups that generate a thrill or two. And the blitzkrieg-in-a-bottle "storm troopers" are eerie to watch as they pursue their weird agenda, all hand-in-hand cooperation. (And don't they look like the dark side of the "Feasibility Study" link-up?)

    But there's not much story here to speak of. I could have done with some additional depth of character, some deeper psychological grounding.

    It's like stumbling onto an accident scene and caring about the fates of a few strangers out of simple human compassion---that's sympathetic engagement, all right, but not exactly the stuff of memorable drama. To know them is to truly empathize with them.

    I can't defend MacReady's public spectacle, except to put my arm around him and lead the poor guy away from the gawkers with as much dignity as I can cover him with. It's hard to be objective when he gets like this---I just happen to enjoy his over-the-top style. He's an acquired taste, maybe. I even like him here in this...incident disguised as a narrative. I apologize to all those with superior taste.

    This episode always reminds me of what Joe Stefano told me about its ongoing production. How every day he'd see the dailies and ask Leslie Stevens what the hell it was all about. And Stevens would reply something like, Just wait 'til the soundtrack's been laid in. Then the next day it would be, Well, you need to see it after the Visual FX are finished.

    This was thirteen years later and Stefano was still trying to figure out what was going on in the show. More than thirty years after that, I still don't know what was Produced, but I'm pretty sure it was the seasonal arc that was Decaying.

    But it sure ends, regrettably soon, with a hell of a rally, and more dazzle than a chorus line of lightning 'bots.

  12. DJS---

    Great call on the KRONOS "reverse-nuke" footnote observation, obviously added for the COMPANION's re-issue. I have only the '86, and that Stevens comment always bothered me: I had definitely scene that A-bomb reversal in an sf film before---but which one?

  13. This episode may have been a scientists wet dream. IMHO it's a decent offering with the two Larrys making all the correct points about why this one isn't a stinker. Despite me having somewhat of a difficult time following it, the ep. wrapped itself up in a satisfying way.

    It was refreshing to see an old timer become the hero at the end. His transformation from helpless victim into gutsy savior was actually kind of realistic. I definitely didn't see that one coming as the only other role I've seen MacReady in was as the creepy father in 'Thriller's' Weird Tailor. Two and a half Zantis.


    Glad to see you commenting again!

  14. Ted, you are forgiven, only because your reads are always so damned entertaining and your points well taken.

    UTW and Larry R., weren't we three designated as the blog's Three Stooges some time back by DJS? Ironically (or not), the only three who will have anything to do with this episode!

  15. I've been holding back because I have a spotlight coming up in a little bit, but you'll see that I'm in with the three Stooges, too. I just wanted now to acknowledge Lisa's great call on The Magnetic Monster--definitely some similarities there! I would add that there also some parallels with the second Quatermass movie, Enemy from Space--check out this clip:

  16. David H--- Ditto your props to Lisa for the great call on MAGNETIC MONSTER's analog to this ep. I'll have to pull that one up from the depths of the collection (on laserdisc!) and check it out again soon.

    Larry B--- DJS suggested me as a possible "Shemp" alternative, so:

    "I'm Halladay."
    "I'm Taraday."
    "I'm New Year's Day!"

    So don't be trying to sell the De Puysters any fountain pens that write under whipped cream while I'm around!

  17. The Outre Limericks keep pouring in from undisclosed locations around the globe:

    The Broadridge reactor is hotter than hell
    And the suits of its zombiefied dead personnel
    Have filled up with force...
    But beyond that, of course,
    There's not really much I can venture to tell.

    1. I wish they did go more into who those guys were.I assume,they were either trying to invade or steal power for some use of their own-mybe to reproduce their own or take ovet our world.

  18. As the default MOE of the group, I shall quote him herewith:

    "OK, you.... (select one):


    ....heads, I'll explain it so even YOU can understand it.."


  19. TED--
    LOVE your paragraph on MacReady.
    Not sure how he got that way---heredity or environment---but he sure seems ready for stoogedom during a few of those speeches.


  20. Indubitably---he rose above the "Hoi Polloi" and did his bit "for duty and humanity!"

    "Calling Dr. Howard---Dr. Fine---Dr. Howard---!"

  21. Or:

    "Calling Dr. Howard--Dr. Marshall---Dr. Howard".

    Maybe his character name should have been
    "Doctor D. Lerious"

  22. "Forgive him, Doctor---the heel has no soul!"

  23. I don't agree with the two commentators John Scoleri and Peter Enfantino because PRODUCTION is a typical season 1 episode taking place in a power plant as WOODWORK. By season 2, the power plant settings are gone. PRODUCTION is a minimalistic type of episode and it reflects the mindset of directors like Ingmar Bergman or Robert Bresson (see "A Man Escaped") combined with Val Guest' cult classic "Quatermass 2: Enemy from Space" (also a power plant episode with gloomy workers). Despite a reduced budget, the episode looks good. PRODUCTION is superior to the cheap mainstream kiddo-oriented THE SPECIAL ONE.

    The conclusion of the end narration gives you a solid idea of Stevens' dedication and belief for the show: "... forces of construction will ultimately depend upon simple but profound human qualities: Inspiration. Integrity. Courage."

    1. I think so,too.It was an attempt to profuce some othereworldly weirf stuff.

  24. The flipside of Ultimate Tactical Warrior's remark is also true - this episode can be a "NON-scientist's wet dream." I always get a huge kick out of "scientific double-talk" because there's almost none of it that I DO understand, and I like being dazzled by it. So this episode is a real field day for that.

  25. 0 Zantis. Right, I even found it to be worse than you did, MacCready is terrible, its just a bunch of scientific babble-talk, thats exactly what I thought when watching it, its too similar to Borderlands- they really started to repeat themselves in several episodes, understandable I guess when there were 32 of them the first season. I'm trying to think of something nice to say about it, I guess the title isn't bad. So it gets my vote as worst episode of the first season.

    1. No-that would be the man who was never born,meat puppett

    2. The Forms of Things unknown would be the worst episode ever.And allot kids thought so the following morning

  26. I think the two guys operatting the blog,miss the point.They more time with snippie,snide remarks than thinking stuff thru.The episode is eros ahead of it's time predicting the wierdness of sup atomic matter ,other realities.Sure, sure of the bear could could've been better handled.The episode was sure something other world different can you dig something from around about this first

    1. Anybody talking about your limits digging the bottom of the bottle this is the episode I'd say a man it was never born. Does subway serve you looking for on here send your world creatures something give me never seen before . If there's any other universes how to realitire are diffetent than are own.

  27. Was Doctor Marshall's first name also Marshall? His wife's script seemed to be 'Marshall! Marshall! Marshall! Marshall! Marshall! Marshall! Marshall! Marshall!' ad nauseam.

  28. The Storm Troopers -- love that phrase -- were really creepy and well photographed, but sadly the humans could not keep this episode going. Maybe if they'd brought back Landau and Kellerman as the leads ...

    Incidentally, while Seconds is the one film I know that best brings a Stefano-ish Outer Limits mood to the big screen, I loved Andromeda Strain as well and it seems like something Leslie Stevens might have done with all the right resources.

  29. You two guys are idiots. This was a great episode.

    1. Agree,the more I see this one,the more I love it.Besides Allyson Ames mindless running scene,and the dumb zombie-like scientists,think this is a classic.Signe Hasso & Macready worked very well in this one,and loved them both.Hate how Macready always gets trashed,he was a fine person (know this from an acquaintance) and good actor.So what if in some shows/movies he looks like he's stifling laughter?I love him in everything I've seen him in,even if he can be a ham.Great human being.

  30. I remember watching this when I was about six years old back in the early 60s. I loved this episode. I hung on every word thinking that I was going to learn something deep and mysterious about nuclear physics. Well clearly I didn't. But the show was absolutely fascinating to me and (along with Star Trek) was a major influence in me choosing a path that led me to become an engineer and college professor. I'm using my iPhone right now otherwise I would write a much longer and more thoughtful review. Long story short I still enjoy the episode and I don't think it's nearly as bad as most other commenters on here.

    1. Love this,and I was never big TOL fan,but am becoming one,esp this episode.The Marshalls I simply love their scenes.The rest is ok,but loved Nimoy & Solari,always liked him & Macready!

  31. bored by this as a kid, love it as an adult. Yes, you have to forgive the dialog but the visuals more than make up for it. The criticisms exaggerated here just to make jokes (Macready herniated himself carrying Allyson, etc) devalues this site, to the point where noone should bother to take you "experts" seriously.

  32. This episode not only looks ahead to THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. The dramatic scene of Allyson Ames opening that door always reminds me of that famous moment in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.

  33. Love this episode for the relationship between Dr & Mrs MARSHALL! Allyson Ames was the stupidest (character i.e.) response to an emergency.Yeah,Georgie can overdo it at times,but I watch this episode repeatedly cuz I love the rapport between he & Signe!

    1. Great to see Macready earning his Daily Bread,even if it comes with radiated ham and cause for difficulty breathing.He carries the girl not just once,and George was about 65 here!We got to see his teeth a few times,not chewing a sandwich either!

    2. Was the Daily Bread deep fried here?Never cared for TOL because of all the aliens,but this one I like,esp the elderly Marshalls.I know the 2 actors worked together in several movies,and I love the tenderness they show each other.Heck,I'd give anything to caress Macready's cheek whatever age he was-LOVE THIS HAM

    3. Have to agree,this grows on me,not like mold.

  34. Marshall may admit to cowardice,but he delivers in the end.Weird locking hands of the scientists.Loved seeing Big Mac in the radiation suit,esp the headphones.Just love his acting,he's my new favorite,and fie on those calling him pompous.I just call him Gorgeous George

  35. MacR looking away from the other actors,if tv like films,probably weren't in same room,as closeups were done separately from other actors.If not for rapport between the Marshalls,don't think this epi would've worked,it was too hokey.And yes,I do love Macready & Hasso!THEY'RE GREAT! as Tony The Tiger would say!

    1. Wearing this episode out-right up there,even with stinky Astrid,with The Day The Earth Stood Still as a cautionary tale.Love Macreadie!


Apologies for having to switch to moderated comments. This joker ( has been spamming our site for weeks, and we're hoping this will finally get him/her/it to crawl back into the hole from whence it came. Sadly the site isn't smart enough to detect that every single comment they make is spam. We'll be sure to review and post legitimate comments quickly. As for you, "Blogger" (trust me, we've got far more imaginative and appropriate names for you) on behalf of all of us at WACT, don't let the door hit you on the way out!