Thursday, January 20, 2011


Production Order #14
Broadcast Order #07
Original Airdate: 11/4/63
Starring Peter Breck, Jeff Corey, Joanne Gilbert.
Written by Meyer Dolinsky.
Directed by Gerd Oswald.

O.B.I.T. (Outer Band Individuated Teletracer) is a new toy developed by the defense department to spy on anyone they want to. Just now limited to an area of 500 miles, many O.B.I.T.s would spell total annihilation of privacy for the world. That's the aim of the menacing creature who's behind the proliferation of the spy camera. Senator Orville (Breck) just wants to get to the bottom of a murder at the base but stumbles onto the O.B.I.T. plot while investigating. Mayhem ensues.

PE: It's Big Brother! Meyer Dolinsky's flat version of 1984 should have been called "ZZZZZ", but I see Dolinsky used that later on in the season. To think this is the same guy who wrote "The Architects of Fear."

JS: I was excited during the prologue when I thought we had reached the Robert DeNiro episode of The Outer Limits.

PE: Preachy and badly acted, but O.B.I.T.'s major sin is that it's deadly dull and boring. The standout "wooden Indian" in the crowd is stiff-as-a-board Peter Breck (separated at birth from Roger Moore) as the meddling Senator. Breck would shine as Barbara Stanwyck's son, Nick Barkley, on The Big Valley just a few years later but here he's out of his element as a Perry Mason-like Senator. He's on a quest to get to the bottom of the mystery, but at times, comes off as nothing more than a spoiled child who's not getting the toy he wants (as when he slams papers into a file and shuts the file violently). In his laughable expository scene at O.B.I.T.'s climax, Jeff Corey (as the bear's alias, Mr. Lomax) gesticulates wildly, tosses papers in the air and generally comes across intoxicated. Whether he had just come back from a liquid lunch or director Oswald thought menacing would be the wrong approach, I have no idea. And here's my vote for John Turturro as Lomax in a remake.

JS: I didn't find as many problems with the performances as you, but I was equally underwhelmed by the story. I'm all for an interesting courtroom drama. Operative word being interesting. Did anyone really think what was going on over at Cypress Hills was worth all of this attention?

PE: The usual photographic nuances (the noir lighting, the curious camera angles, etc.) here seem annoying. One shot of Byron Lomax's evil eyes (and his penis-like nose) peering at a witness on the stand from behind his coke-bottle glasses would be enough. Might be very effective. But several of these close-ups within one episode is too much.

JS: Here's where you and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum. When you're shooting what could easily be performed on a stage, why not take advantage of every opportunity to get creative with lighting and camera angles. Take that away and there's very little left to appreciate in the episode.

PE: Similarly, when we cut to the three observers, they seem to serve no purpose other than to look at each other in shock and mumble. I did like that when the O.B.I.T. screen displayed a subject, inanimate objects such as telephones or filing cabinets wouldn't appear (although you have to wonder why clothes would make the cut) which led to several scenes of pantomiming.

JS: Oh look, someone's speaking ill of their supervisor. Wasted use of O.B.I.T. technology. Watching someone by the pool in their bikini potentially cheating on their husband—now we're straying into believability.

PE: Thank goodness when we finally meet the elusive Doctor Scott, held up in a "rest home," he's played by our old friend, Harry Townes. He's got a very small role with limited screen time but Harry steals any scene he appears in. Our readers will remember Townes from his standout  Thriller performances in "The Cheaters" and "Final Legacy" (the latter of which won Harry my Golden Karloff as Best Actor of season one).

JS: I can't believe you didn't bump your Zantis by one just because Townes showed up. Or by the sound of it, perhaps you did.

PE: The episode's final scene, after Lomax comes out of his alien closet, is theatrical but absurd. The ten people leave the room single file as if they're exiting a movie theater, no awe, shocked discourse, no "Holy shit, what was that??!!" Only a passed look between Mr. and Mrs. Scott that hints they'll be getting together for coffee later. I know it's all done for effect but to me it only comes off as silly. But that may be the perfect capper to a silly episode.

JS: I was thinking all along that our bear could have passed as the cousin of Andy from "The Galaxy Being." And just like Andy, he's got a natural crowd-dispersing disposition. The one question that remains unanswered for me—why in God's name would you create a human doppelganger and give him the hands of Darwin the ape?



David J. Schow on "O.B.I.T.":

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 Larry Rapchak's Spotlight on "O.B.I.T."

Next Up...


  1. Where is WikiLeaks when you need them?

    I remember this courtroom style episode bored me silly as a kid, but every time I’ve revisited it since I appreciate its righteous paranoia a bit more. A device that tracks your movements, correspondences, monitors your choices, invades your privacy, exposes you to unseen forces with an agenda, and can threaten to broadcast your innermost secrets to the world? Could there be anything more insidious. Oh, right. We’re staring at it.

    This episode features the over-the-top Perry Mason moment where the culprit basically blurts out, “Okay, I did it! You got me!” And thank goodness it’s an actor of the quality of Jeff Corey, who is great in just about everything (but did we really need that up-the-nostril close up? “Penis-nose.” LOL). But the ending would have been so much more sinister if he takes the fall for being behind the murders, but not for creating O.B.I.T., and the device is successfully distributed everywhere. Oh, right. That happened.

    Actresses must have loved Conrad Hall, because he wouldn’t hesitate to go all gauzy hazy diffusion filter on them if they had bad skin or a hint of crow’s feet such as Joanne Gilbert here. Today, with HD, you’re only hope is to actually be photo-shopped or blemish-corrected with special effects in post.

    It’s not in the DJS notes, but I suspect Jeff Corey borrowed those spectacular spectacles from Manny of the Pep Boys.

  2. I'm glad to see Harry Townes still has his "cheater" glasses from THRILLER, otherwise he would not have seen the monster. I agree the courtroom scenes were boring. Just shows you how talented an actor Raymond Burr was; wish he was playing the part of the Roger Moore look-alike.

    I think they were going to call this episode "Peeping Tom" but someone remembered the disaster that ruined British director Michael Powell's career in 1960.

  3. Each of the great episodes of TOL has a character of it's own; 'The Architects of Fear' has a dazzling audacity, 'The Sixth Finger' is so closed in on it's central character, that like the extra digit he grows, the professor, the girl and the town outside the old gothic house are just appendages to the throtling journey into the brave new worlds of evolution, 'The Man Who Was Never Born' is expressionistic, dreamily poetic with a A.E. Van Vogt surreal turn of plot.

    And that's what I love about anthologies. Though the basic mood of this show is set by Stefano, Hall, Frontiere in it's gothic, noir, tipping into expressionism camera-work and uncanny musical majesty, there is a lot of room for movement and variety.

    This is one of those shows that I caught, not as a child, but as an adult. It's questioning of sinister spying equipment had never dated; J. Edgar 'I'm wearing a dress to day' Hoover's use in the '50s, Nixon's in the '70s and the Bush ones in the '00s.

    Questioning, quietly claustrophobic and then magnificently grand and theatrical; the script is sharp and concise, the direction intelligently probing, Hall's photography full-bodied with every shot given a marvellous texture and the music deliciously evokes and accentuates the sinister ambiance.

    The cast is a treat, Jeff Breck has the hardest role, playing the straight man (RFK is his mafia hunting days?) to a variety of larger than life characters with issues. He pulls it off to terrific effect and Townes and Corey have a grizzled enough tone to play off him (or anyone else, for that matter).

    Genre fans should check out Corey's two other performances in great classics of the silver screen; 'All That Money Can Buy' (1941) and 'Seconds' (1966). The latter could have been OL 2 parter.

    This is an episode I've seen numerous, numerous times

    Oh, and four bulging Zantis, too.

    1. 1000% agree. Surprised at some of the mediocre responses. Is it perfect? No. E.g. I still can't stand the cheery background music during the plane takeoff/landing. But the exposition and finale is the best in the series. ESPECIALLY the eerie single file exodus from the courtroom, leaving the single guard. The camera work given the limitations of the time is exceptional - especially the menace afforded Jeff Corey. Not unlike the Monsters of Maple Street on the Twilight Zone - but so much better

  4. Wow. I'm stunned. I'm stymied. I'm perplexed. And no Spotlight On? Yikes.

    Well, possibly a lone voice, but I love me my "O.B.I.T.". Even as a kid I was mesmerized by this one (a courtroom drama no less!). I knew it was important somehow, but just wasn't sure why. What was the coolest to me was the bear in all that snowy reception, and that the machine showed the bear as he really was, and that seemed cool and exciting and clever.

    Now I see it as something remarkably prescient. Surely we have to frame this somehow in the time it was made--just a little. As a subject for a science fiction anthology in the early 60s it's pretty stunning, and for me, even today, it has power. And don't these very damn screens we're staring at corroborate that?

    And yes, let's be thankful Hall and Oswald chose to present this as they did, and not like a flatly lit, front-and-center episode of PERRY MASON which reused the same camera positions and blocking week after week.

    I find the cast extremely effective; Jeff Corey, Harry Townes, Peter Breck, Alan Baxter all doing fine work. Honestly, Breck seems realistic as the senator (have you seen/heard clips from politicians back then?). And Corey is fun to watch throughout. And his final speech, what I see is a brilliant collaboration between him and Oswald and Hall, still gives me chills and is utterly captivating. The sheer strangeness, the quirkiness of it, makes him additionally alien, of course all mirrored by the "monster" in the screen. Love it.

    Four Pigeons for this one, he said proudly.

    Peter: I've seen this episode many many times over the years and never once seen or noticed a penis nose. And here I thought I'd caught all the subtext!

    Random cast notes: just caught Peter Breck in an episode of the series he starred in prior to BIG VALLEY, called THE BLACK SADDLE (with a kickass theme by Jerry Goldsmith), called "The Killer", a nicely atmospheric half hour of horror-western. Alan Baxter played one of my favorite movie psychos, Mr. Freeman in Hitchcock's great SABOTEUR.

    1. Yous is NOT a lone voice. O.B.I.T. is one of my favourite episodes of the series.

  5. When I started typing, your comment wasn't there, Bobby. Nice to see I'm not the only fan of this one.

  6. Count me in as an "O.B.I.T." fan.

    Peter Breck amazes me here, as I've always found his Jarrod Barkley more than a little one-note. He brings just the right mix of showy bombast and slow-burning conscience to Orville. And Corey is just amazing; the way he whispers/mumbles his lines is both in keeping with his technocrat-flunky ruse and smugly menacing. Watch how he gesticulates with his hands throughout the episode, too, before finally letting them fly in Lomax's climactic rant.

    I also find the Scotts' stumbling marriage (a Dolinsky staple, apparently) touching, espically at the end when they move toward each other as everyone files out of the hearing room. It's a subtle stab of hope in an otherwise bleak episode.

    As for its timeliness, DJS aptly pinpoints the HUAC connection, which is mined for grim humor when Orville cracks that "a senator must learn not to be impulsive" to knowing chuckles all around. But as Larry notes, "O.B.I.T." also foreshadows not just the habitual surveillance of the Nixon administration (and, later, the Bush II one), but the Internet's capacity to chip away at our privacy. One-eyed monsters never seem to go out of style; hell, the sequel could be called "S.K.Y.P.E."

    All this makes for rich subtext, but mostly what I love is the way Oswald and Hall make what could've been a deadly dull budget-saver (like "Moonstone" and the next entry, "Nightmare," there are zero exterior shots) tense and threatening. Oh, and the Helosian kicks ass, diaphanous gown and all.

  7. This one might have started out a little slow at first, however, the classic ending more then makes up for it. I was initially unimpressed by Jeff Corey's character, which reminded me of a malnourished Henry Kissinger, but his remarkable evil speech during the climax makes this one a 4 zanti winner. The Cyclops/bear was also pretty neat.

    I'd seriously like to download the ending monologue and burn it onto a CD. Something about it makes me feel it would be perfect to listen to, sandwiched between songs by AC/DC and Metallica.

    Penis nose or not, on tough talk alone, Mr. Lomax's ending tirade ranks him right up there with other classic villains such as Dr. Doom, Darth Vader, Khan, The Incredible Mr. Limpet, and Darkseid.

  8. It's VERY tempting to step into the political fray here and continue the list of our government's OBIT-like intrusions into our private lives...BELIEVE ME, among the most serious and troubling examples are very recent...within the last year and 1/2. Not at all surprising that very few people are aware of them, since they went essentially UNreported by our pals in the media.

    But, once again, I prefer to stay out of these things here on WACT; I spend enough of my daily life dealing with them.

    IN ANY CASE----to all admirers of this great episode, HELP IS ON THE WAY in today's "Spotlight"!


  9. I have appreciation for some of the OL episodes that have changed my opinions over the years, and this is one. I'm like Hollywoodaholic. I disliked this as a kid--it wasn't made for children, and it just seemed like a bunch of people talking with nothing much going on. Boring! I'm not a fan of courtroom dramas, either, when all the "plot" comes just from talking heads. But as an adult I see this through different eyes. As several have pointed out, the theme is more than still relevant today. You could easily imagine the OBIT machines being spread around in the name of "national security." Some things never change. I think the acting is okay, too, especially Corey and Towne. And Breck does seem right--sometimes petulant, sometimes self-inflated, sometimes the seriously interested crusader-- a lot of politicians exhibit all of these traits, and he melds them believably.

    It's the technical stuff that grabs me as much as anything. How many thousands of hours of TV scenes have you watched over the years that take place in single-room, box sets that are ususally shot just from the front or one side or the other side? Now see this absolute symposium of inventiveness from Oswald and Hall--it's never dull. The one shot that made me back up and watch again is when Mrs. Scott leaves the room. The camera begins pointed at the senator's face and then does a RAPID nearly 180-degree pan right around his head in time to catch her walking out of the room in the background as he watches. Great! Other good shots are the one shooting up the edge of the table, the varying close-ups of Lomax (as described in DJS's chapter), and the overhead shot at the end. The lighting is interesting too. At one point, one of the circles on the wall looks like a halo over Lomax. I don't think there was any religious implication intended, it just draws attention to him even though he's in the background in that shot. This is a textbook example of what can be done with creativity and imagination, even (or especially) in the face of a low budget and tight schedule.

    I agree with DJS that the script has nice moments, especially with Towne in his room in hiding. And it builds slowly to that sudden flurry of action at the end, which is startling, given the slow pace that leads to it. Corey's movements reflected in the disoriented OBIT screen are jarring, too (although they don't always quite align, oops). At least three Zantis from me, maybe even four.

  10. Two other great Jeff Corey performances in features are as Wild Bill Hickok in "Little Big Man," and as the villainous Chaney (who killed Mattie Ross' father) in the original "True Grit."

  11. Mark: good catch on the Scotts' subtle move at the end, which reminds me; I'm so glad there WAS no buzz and murmur and "Holy shit, an alien!" after Corey vanishes, right up through the exit. That stunned silence speaks far louder.

    David: excellent examples of the brilliance of vision that opens up this single room into so so much more than it is. As for the mismatched Corey/Helosian on the screen, I figured it was in part the slight delay, which at least helps masks and inconsistency.

    Well, I see I spoke too soon--plenty of fans of this one. But I swear there was no Spotlight On listed at first (John...I'm looking at you, John...).

  12. It's true that the "courtroom drama" aspect of O.B.I.T. is a problem for some fans, especially if they're not prepared for it. It's fascinating to watch how Oswald and Hall try every trick in the filmmaker's book to make a bunch of people sitting around in a room for almost an hour visually interesting. The subtle camera moves, the compositional set-ups, the lighting accents... and, best of all, those wide angle shots of Mr. Lomax, which become increasingly more grotesque and "up front" as Orville's investigation closes in. Yeah, I'd say Breck's doing an RFK variation ("Morality makes its own decisions" is a line I'll never forget.) The partially symbolic climax is an amazingly filmed tour de force set-piece, over-the-top in exactly the right way. And the Helosian himself (itself) is a memorably weird humanoid monster, a fine addition to OL's alien gallery. Kid memory: This was a show I joined half-way through the first time I saw it. Convinced it was simply a Perry Mason-like melodrama, I was utterly stunned to see a monster's face eventually staring back at me as the tale unfolded. That's when I began to fully realize that LIMITS was a creature-happy series, almost to the point of being a little too much so. The constant appearance of monsters may have been nirvana for us kids, but it did threaten to dilute their impact week after week after week. Like Chill Charlie, was an ugly alien monster really even required for this storyline about peeping tom machines? Indeed, wouldn't the scenario have been stronger if this 1984-like "hellishness" was instigated solely by human beings, as horrors of this sort invariably are, rather than bringing an external, nonhuman enemy into the thematic mix? Then again, the whole damn thing is a metaphor anyway, with the Helosian standing in for the Devil who tempts us vain, insecure, imperfect humans to give in to our more blasphemous tendencies. That's probably why Townes is presented so sympathetically; humans aren't evil, just weak often enough. Even the corrupted military figure is given a pass by Senator Orville, who ultimately commends him for acknowledging his "addiction." Bleak as this show may be, it's still a sci-fi version of THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER, which means that, in spite of everything, we reckless humans have hope because of our inherent goodness. NIGHTMARE would soon be challenging that assertion, with the devilish-looking Ebonites being morally straight, and the humans in charge depicted as semi-bad guys ("I'm sorry, Colonel, but I don't apologize"). But hey, that's a chat for another day...

  13. Larry Blamire, you aren't the only fan of this one: this is my #1 favorite episode of the series. I normally don't find courtroom dramas particularly interesting, but here, because the subject matter is so bizarre and true-to-life (and cool), I think it's fabulous.

  14. Another defender, another big fan of this episode. Add Corey's work in the jarringly sleazy Lady in a Cage (1964) as among his best, Hollywoodaholic. I found his Tom Chaney a lot more fearsome than Josh Brolin's in the recent True Grit re-do - something really unpredictable about his version, and maybe about Corey himself.

    Anyway, "O.B.I.T." remains in my top five OLs, and it's one of the most adult episodes thus far.

    And Mark, yes indeed: The machines are EVERYWHERE....

  15. "This square bugs me ... he really BUGS ME ...!" (Peter Breck in possibly his most immortal role, as "Moon" in THE BEATNIKS.)

    Debating the thespic skills of Mr. Breck in regard to "O.B.I.T." is a mug's game. Breck was a square-jawed utility player, sort of a second-tier Jack Lord with a good, imposing physical presence (well over six feet tall), but not a lot on the ball in the drama department -- kind of like Robert Conrad in WILD WILD WEST. The actor fills the space adequately, but you'll notice all the vaunting speeches are given to other actors -- Corey, Townes, Balter.

    And alien speechifying is one of the things that gives THE OUTER LIMITS a distinctive flavor, even in ill-served episodes. Joe Stefano was particularly sensitized to the rhythm and cadence of language (with a knack for pointed alliteration) and appreciated it in other writers, so it's clear why he favored Mike Dolinsky.

    This is one of those episodes that is as much a joy to LISTEN to as it is to watch. Yes, it is stagey and sometimes preachy, but the dialogue is so full-bodied I really don't care that there isn't a car chase or explosion every five minutes. As drama, it is almost a chamber-room model of growing tension. (In fact, "O.B.I.T." was produced as a stage play at Harvard.)

    I particularly love the shot where the courtroom MP slaps leather during Lomax's climactic speech and is cautioned to stand by, a delirious sort of "let him finish" moment one rarely sees in sci-fi; I mean, even Klaatu got shot before he could say anything to follow up his "peace and goodwill" line.

    And what do many of the people you know spend most of their time doing on the internet? (Besides downloading porn, of course.) Watching moronic videos of people doing stupid things, slipping the tongue on camera; blooping, flubs, mistakes, accidents, "epic fails," embarrassing celebutard photos, sharing the grotesqueries of "People of Wal-Mart", engaging in a kind of haw-haw frat-boy bringdown of anyone perceived as a cultural Other ... and then FORWARDING the shit to each other in a kind of virtual stoning straight out of "The Lottery." The transparency of "social media" (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one) automatically condemns anyone concerned about their own privacy, or: "People who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear from OBIT."

    And total strangers can judge you, sentence you, and even execute you or your career, ruin your credibility or credit, and otherwise freely engage in slander (libel, actually, since it DOES count as "written," if not "published") without fear of any kind of recompense or reprisal, faux-safe behind assumed names and strings of code.

    So "O.B.I.T." is hardly irrelevant. It's too bad Gerd Oswald's film career never quite measured up to the things he achieved in even an average episode of THE OUTER LIMITS. Just look at the difference between this episode and "Specimen: Unknown," filmed four weeks earlier.

    The episode SEEMS to take place entirely at night -- even the hearing -- and the courtroom-style chamber is a haunt of shadowed menace. This was extremely contrary to the cut-and-dried rules of TV courtroom drama and the flat, gray, repetitive sameness of the big, popular hit shows of the 1960s. I can't imagine the episode transfixing a child eager to get-to-the-monster, and indeed the popular denunciations of sci-fi in general about this time evidenced the same willful misunderstanding and petulant impatience (just wait until Cleveland Amory reviews "Don't Open Till Doomsday for TV Guide!).

  16. You know Breck and Conrad near came to backlot blows around WILD WILD WEST/BIG VALLEY time.

    Not sure about "well over six feet", David, but Breck did/does have presence and this ep needs at least a heroic image, even if it is a politician. He's fine.

    As for to-bear-or-not-to-bear, Gary, you may be right but I think this would be a pretty dry ride without that walking cyclopean metaphor.

    Hey, this child was absolutely enthralled by this courtroom. Course...I'm weird.

    Troy: Number One--good on ya! We want Byron Lomax T-shirts: "THE MACHINES ARE EVERYWHERE!" John and Peter, can you get on that?

  17. I'm happy this blog brought me to watching "O.B.I.T." was never on my favorites list, not even close. However, I'm a believer now. It's a terrific episode, still incredibly relevant, great performances (esp. Townes and Corey) and completely adult in theme and tone. Quite touching, sensitive and vulnerable assessment by Townes of his wife's personality and how he misjudged their relationship. What gentle strength he displayed.

    The ep is also a complete indictment of modern audience's preference for TV that's nothing but prying and peeping and gleeful invasions of privacy -- most reality shows. Who honestly could have guessed that TV could have fallen so far? Doesn't make you feel too good that an alien knew that we'd lap this stuff up and that it could destroy us.

    This is a talky masterpiece, all right.

    I would have said "Bleh!" when this one was mentioned before this blog started, though I always thought it had a good reputation among aficionados (that I didn't share). I have seen the light.

  18. Big Brother isn't just watching. He's putting his hairy hands on your stuff. (That's what happens when you keep touching other people's private...lives.) Suffice it to say that this film's themes are as timely today as ever. (In fact, John and Peter are watching us all right now via blog-cam.)

    Like Larry Blamire, I find the cast convincing, led by Harry Townes, the buttoned-down Alan Baxter, and ominous egghead Jeff Corey, in a mannered performance that makes me mindful of a less impulsive Dr. Strangelove. Peter Breck (young James Remar?) fills his role with the proper officious entitlement.

    Lots of quotable dialogue here. The "machines are everywhere" speech tingled my spine as a kid, my first insight into the terrorism of surveillance. I wondered if "they" could really watch us like that. Mark Holcomb's sharp comment resonates here: "one-eyed monsters never go out of style."

    I admire Dolinsky's script, for the most part. The claustrophobia serves the story well.(Reason for the notably long plane flight stock footage?) The concept of paranoid distrust is well established---it doesn't matter, by the end, if the "machines are everywhere" or not. Their work is done. Reflecting on the grim conclusion inevitably leads to parallels in my favorite TZ episode: "The Monsters Are [You] on Maple Street."

    If I had any story quibble, I might question Col. Grover's abrupt change of heart and anguished confessional mien in his final testimony; or why the Helosians don't simply zap everyone with their pulverizer (only brought one shot?) and take over; or why the hearing panel somberly files out at the end. It's dramatic, but it might have been more emotionally realistic to have them slump back in their seats over what they'd just witnessed.

    And my inner voyeur ambivalently wanted to know more about this relationship between Scott's wife and---ugh!---Lomax. These things happen, but if she was already cavorting with young, handsome officers---?

    As for the hairy hand and the pronounced limp (on both Lomax and his co-conspirator), I take it these were simply shorthand shared quirks that hairy-handedly link the Helosians.

    Gerd Oswald is, I believe, TOL's finest director. His visual flair---gloomy compositions crawling with dread, pulsating darkness like living nightmare, contortedly sinister camera angles---is the signature style of the show's unique look. It serves this static episode well. The hearing chamber lighting is weird and expressionistic, as if the room were lit by holes in the ceiling for unseen observers.

    DJS cited the "monster-eye motif" Oswald maintains: globular lights on the walls; the cyclopean Helosians; the eye of the OBIT screen; Corey's thick glasses, repeatedly photographed to emphasize one lens only. This is thematic consistency, form and function working together, a principle too often ignored, both in film and TV. It's composition that consciously tries to further the story's needs. That's how film ideally works, how filmmakers are supposed to be taught. But of course, as with any other discipline, the norm naturally takes the path of least resistance and sinks to comfortable mediocrity.

    The "head-tilt" inside the cyclops mask is yet another example of TOL fashioning a Helosian's eye out of sow's ear. Necessity is the mother of clever monsters.

    The departure point for this episode is thematically similar to that of the openings of "The Galaxy Being" and the yet-to-be-covered "The Bellero Shield." Namely, the impassioned image of humankind as "probers" into the unknown, impelled by their unquenchable thirst to KNOW things, whether for better or worse. The result often poses the earnest scientist as a precocious tinkerer whose instrumentation has outgrown his capacity for its mature use.

    Ozymandias might have appreciated this film:
    "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

  19. I see PBS' second season premiere of "Pioneers of Television" focuses on Science Fiction TV tonight at 9 p.m. Does anyone know if they cover TOL?

    I get the feeling several of the experts on this post (I'm just a fan) could have (or should have) written or produced it. We'll see how it stacks up.

  20. Hollywoodaholic-

    The 60 minute show primarily focuses on Trek, Zone, and Lost in Space/the TV works of Irwin Allen. Alas, no OL and no bears (unless I blinked and missed them).

  21. That PBS show was on in my area a couple of nights ago. Very disappointing--no OL, too much Irwin Allen, and mostly superficial discussion of stuff you've heard a million times. Interesting to hear some of the interviewees, such as Billy Mumy, the now alarmingly elderly Martin Landau, and Rod Serling on tape, but it's NOTHING like what's going on here. Kudos to Larry R. for the great spotlight today, to DJS for the excellent Internet commentary, and to everyone else for the enlightened observations. I've watched OL over and over all my life, and yet I'm seeing everything through new eyes with this blogsite. Each day is a revelation . . . and we're only just getting to the REALLY good stuff right now!

  22. Peter Breck was memorable in Sam Fuller's SHOCK CORRIDOR, which was released in 1963, the same year as O.B.I.T. As a reporter undercover in an insane asylum, Breck is strident and over the top, but his performance fits the funhouse atmosphere of the film. CORRIDOR just came out as a Criterion blu-ray and would make a nice double feature with O.B.I.T. It has sumptious black and white cinematography by Stanley Cortez, with inventive staging and camerawork by Fuller.

  23. Inetersting how OBIT reveals itself to you after getting to know it; it's as if the initial disappontment in its lack of gratuitous thrills & chills gradually gives way to a more mature (for lack of a better word) evaluation and appreciation of its tremendous strengths. It's one of the few OL's that I come back to again and again; easily in the top THREE best for me.


  24. Well, I come to this party late (as far as this classic episode goes) but have enjoyed the post and great comments immensely. This is one of the show's Top Ten episodes, and perhaps it's most INTENSE. Another classic figure too in TVLand's action figure series! Ha!

  25. There is something very special about this episode. It stands out in my mind more than many "better" ones, and has always been one of my favourites. Thanks Larry, for a very thoughtful spotlight, although I have to strongly disagree with you about the scene with Konstantin Shayne as Dr. Philip Fletcher, when he sadly talks about the letters he wrote to his son when he was afraid he was going to die. I think it is beautifully touching, and it almost without fail brings tears to my eyes. It is a perfect example of how OL could so unexpectedly bring to the fore powerful emotions at unexpected moments. The music in this scene ("Soames Theme", thank you, I didn't know what it was called) which as you say, comes back in "The Guests" to, amazingly, even greater effect, to me will always be Wade and Tess's love theme, is one of the pieces that would be fabulous to have on another (we hope!) Dominic Frontiere CD. Actually, a lot of music in this episode is magnificent, and very defining for OL; for example the strong few notes that appears often in this episode (I don't know what it's called; it is used for example when Lomax is telling Joanne Gilbert as Mrs. Scott, that she owes her husband nothing, showing his creepy hand hair). The Helosian is one of the best aliens in OL. His one eye, barely moving mouth, slow limping walk and sparing appearances are extemely effective. It is filmed and directed with amazing skill, all in shadow, with lots of tension-like when the camera pans back from Captain Harrison to reveal the entrance of Lomax before the murder. Oh, and who could forget the classic sound effect of the machine itself, which returns a number of times in the series. Despite the darkness of the situation, "O.B.I.T." is a very hopeful episode. The resolution of the end control voice (I love the phrase "dear friends"), the second chance for the Scotts, the Senator's determination to find the truth are very moving. Four Zantis for me.

  26. Jimbar--

    I should clarify--- the scene itself, especially Mr. Shayne's delivery, is VERY moving. It's only that the music undercuts the scene's effectiveness for me, for the reasons stated.

    Another barely mentioned amazing touch in the final scene...the upended OBIT screen in the foreground (through which we see Lomax's alien image and thus know FOR SURE he's the guy), with the humanoid Lomax in the background delivering his grandiose monologue. Coordination issues between the two images aside, it's a stunningly novel way to present the big climax of the show, a mind-bending visual device that uses our tv screen as the first in a series of mirrors-within-a-mirror. The fantastic inventive touches in OBIT never cease. It is a treasure trove of cinematic/dramatic brilliance...and yous' guys who don't respond well to it....check out the comments here from folks like Lisa who gave it another viewing or two and allowed OBIT to work its magic.

    ALSO--re: the cast filing out the door at the end--why not? A superb piece of stylized theater deserves a "curtain call" --- even if it's done in reverse.


  27. Peter and I have already discussed revisiting O.B.I.T. when we're adults.

    Of course I have a hunch that we may be busy watching Pigeons from Hell that day...

  28. Larry Rapchak---you would remember "Jimbar," if you saw him. You met him at my old house at those 16mm film parties we used to have. We no doubt ran some of his stuff. Maybe even an OL episode or two as a warm-up for---I dunno---FORBIDDEN PLANET and 2001---? A coupla Harryhausens? THE WILD BUNCH and SEVEN SAMURAI?

    We ran all that good stuff on film in the days when it was still an event, when you could easily get 25 enthusiastic people to a film showing on a big basement screen, before it was all trivialized by easy access.

  29. Ted--

    I distinctly remember a double bill of Bob Clampett's "TIN PAN ALLEY CATS" and "Architects of Fear!"

    That was SOME afternoon....


  30. I can't believe these guys didn't give this episode a higher rating. It's one of my favorites. It has a good theme about the invasion of privacy- which is very timely in the 21st Century. Jeff Corey delivers an outstanding performance.

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  32. Can't believe I only just discovered this fantastic blog !! Lifelong OL fan from Quebec who used to watch the show in French in the 70s as a kid (show in French was called AU-DELA DU RÉEL). OBIT is one of my favourite episodes. See link below to my French blog on Cult TV and Movies and to see a FRENCH excerpt of OBIT !!

  33. A BIT OF MUSICAL TRIVIA : O.B.I.T features a bit of incidental music that is heard only once in the whole series and it's in this episode ! (Why ?? You tell me ). It's the piece that follows the bit of dialogue between Senator Orville and Colonel Grover just before they meet the reclusive Dr Clifford Scott ("Not interrogating, Colonel, just a few questions !"). As they climb the stairs leading to Dr Scott's room, the piece is quickly heard ... Nothing special, but still ... Why was it never used again ?

  34. Great episode! Imagine spying around and then following a monster for a while and then watch it sneak up on yourself! Once the O.B.I.T. machines are introduced life changes completely as we know it. That sound of the machine itself, unique. Does anyone know how they produced that sound effect? It is some great sound design especially for 1963!

  35. Sad news: R.I.P. "O.B.I.T." star Peter Breck, who died February 6th, 2012.

  36. Peter and John are right. I hated this. No Zantis. Both this and 100 Days of the Dragon are really poor. Either the political themes are dated or the show wasn't good at them. Terrible dialog, the show is just an obvious right-to-privacy diatribe or a statement against government oppression, something like that. The governement investigation isn't very believable, the courtroom scenes go on and on with the senator asking pointless questions about the center's "moral situation" whatever the hell that means. I guess if someone has hairy knuckles he's an alien. Kind of like anyone who bends his pinkie in The Invaders is an alien. Conrad Hall really outdoes himself with low angles, overhead shots, and extreme closeups (the frequent shots of the weird-looking JOhn Turturo like guy with the glasses meant to be oppressive eventually become tiresome)- maybe because he knew the material was crappy. Badly written and directed and acted (other than Thriller alum Harry Townes), crummy denouncement. Zero Zantis, I'd like to five it fewer.

  37. To DSJ--No, PETER BRECK, gONE!!??? i LOve the Big Valley, and of course Barbara Stanwyck and Richard Long have left us. With respects to Mr Cmac, I have to admit to loving this OBIT hour--utterly fascinating. Have fond memories of it while at a big appliance store as a kid, perched in front of a big new TV with a bag of Dubble Bubble while the folks were shopping for Tubes. Must have been TNT's Monstervision. Fond, fond memories.....I understand Mr Cmac's complaint, but found the Monster's revealing to be the payoff...The OBIT control -- rumored to have gone over to The Man From UNCLE?.............

  38. Another blow to the prosecution ... C. Lindsay Workman ("Dr. Anderson") died on April 24th, 2012, at age 88. No more derogatory remarks against his superiors.

    "He wouldn't know a periodic table from a TIME-table!"

  39. Nobody appreciates good acting anymore. You have to judge O.B.I.T. from a 1963 perspective. Jeff Corey was fine as the alien and Peter Breck was good as the Senator. And the person that said Jeff Corey had a penis- like nose, probably is jealous that he can't satisfy any woman with his own penis!! Hence, he was conscientious about it!! O.B.I.T. was just fine. So long,Mate!

  40. Must stand up to defend OBIT -- not just my long-time OL favorite but my favorite hour of episode TV, period. Such a tense, dark mood and dark look at human frailty. And now in the final analysis it also has the honor of being OL's most prescient script: In 2013 the cameras see all, the databases know all, and our beloved devices, as Vic Perrin intones, are "cunningly conceived" to be turned against us and "prey on our most mortal weakness."

    PS, while y'all are considering the OL award for Best Actor (Culp, Landau etc.), I submit Harry Towne for consideration as Best Supporting Actor.

  41. I agree about the senator sometimes coming across as "a spoiled child not getting the toy he wants" (especially in the early scenes), but I just don't think that has much to do with Peter Breck himself, mainly just some of those lines he has. One moment like that that stands out is when the medical examiner (or whatever exactly he is) tells Orville that he was too busy DOING that job to notice something like the contentment or discontentment at the place, and Orville treats that as some incredibly uncooperative answer! But I do think there are plenty of moments that show him in a different light, like when Scott tells him "As long as I'm insane, I'm safe" and Orville says very quietly "Lousy way to live." And I think Breck makes the most of moments like that.

  42. It would seem the two guys reviewing this episode were completely lost on the implications of the frightenly disturbing O.B.I.T. When I was a kid watching O.B.I.T I was not really into it because the "bear" was not that scary to me, but as an adult watching this episode brought chills down my spine. How profitic was it that this machine could unknowingly view and track anybody almost anywhere and see all that you say and do. Jump to 2014 where this scenario has virtually come true as big brother tracks and reads literally anything/everything about you including email, texts, phone calls and can track you anywhere you go by tracing your cell phone signature! We are literally one step away from an O.B.I.T. controlled Earth! And the fact that aliens were behind this technology in an effort to spiral the Earths population in to a paranoid self implosion so they could come and conquer our planet? With the speed at which technology is propelling mankind into the future does everybody think it was ALL created by man alone?? Think about it! Now O.B.I.T. is one of my favorite epidodes! What is your wavelength?

  43. And now we have an Alexa "mistakenly" recording its owners' private conversation and broadcasting it out. If anyone who's seen OBIT still buys one of these, better watch it again

  44. This episode is visually static, slow-moving, and talky---but nevertheless I found it absolutely fascinating.

    It’s amazing how very relevant this story is to the present-day world, 55 years after the initial broadcast. The use of the OBIT machine, and addiction to that use, is more representative of present-day society than it would have been back in 1963. Today we have all sorts of methods and devices to spy on people, even as our obsession with social media erodes our real-world interactions. Yes, it really does seem as if we’re willingly destroying our society, though we’re doing it to ourselves willingly, without the influence of an alien race. I have to wonder if any other episode of The Outer Limits speaks quite as plainly to today’s world as this one does.

    (Oh, a note to outer-space aliens in disguise, hoping to escape detection---don’t forget the personal grooming! Those furry hands are kind of a turn-off, and very noticeable.)

  45. Mobile phones, the internet and CCTV everywhere. We are tracked, watched, and many stream their entire lives for the world to see. Crazy accurate view of the future of humanity.

  46. Now we know specifically why we were forced to go digital for our now "controlled televisions", that have the capability of O.B.I.T. Even our computer screens are spies, via the camera at the top of the screen, for which I put electrical tape over it, and never use it.
    When I saw the first commercial for "Alexa", I knew immediately it is a spy device--we are not alone--the truth is out there. I do recall something about a surveillance taking place at a residence, for which a murder took place... probably the only time such a surveillance took place and yielded the murderer immediately. Mind you, this happened long before mandated digital communications.

  47. Sony OLED and other "smart" (spy) TVs also have on board cameras trained on you. My fix for that is to keep my router connected only my HTPC, and only that for web browsing. Thanks for stopping by.

  48. It might not be one of the famous episodes, but Senator Orville should be a pretty heroic character to people who believe in what's called "the surveillance state."

  49. Yes I was too hard on it as were Peter and John. It's a very flawed episode but the idea of the surveillance state is so relevant today that it really deserves points for such an early concept. The court room scenes are kind of dull but it's thought provoking. If you could do easily spy on your partner would you? I wouldn't. I had forgotten the alien was an avatar for the killer, in the last scene when the creature mirrored his movements it reminded me of Anne Hathaway in Colossus.

  50. Just watched it yet again, it remains the best hour of TV I've ever seen, a miracle that some people even got together and thought this would make a TV show. And how many new headlines about government surveilance and individual obsession must you see to understand how dead-on this was?


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