Monday, January 17, 2011

The Sixth Finger

Production Order #11
Broadcast Order #05
Original Airdate: 10/14/63
Starring David McCallum, Edward Mulhare, Jill Haworth.
Written by Ellis St. Jospeh.
Directed by James Goldstone.

Professor Mathers (Mulhare) has developed a machine that allows him to advance man's evolutionary state by way of a two-direction lever. He finds a willing subject in a local miner, Gwyllm (McCallum), and quickly finds that the man of the future is not quite the benevolent soul he had anticipated.

JS: What we have here is a classic beauty and the beast tale; and what a beauty we've got in the lovely 18 year-old Jill Haworth as the uneducated peasant girl Cathy. Sadly, as  one of our readers noted in the comments to "Specimen: Unknown" last week, Haworth died on January 3rd. Her other genre appearances included playing opposite Donald Pleasence in The Mutations (1974) and Roddy McDowell in It (1966). Yowza!

PE: I see you've discovered the IMDB. (I'll have you know I already own both of those. But yes, thanks to IMDB my copy of Tower of Evil is on the way. -JS)

JS: I love how the gothic mansion exterior gives way to the classic OL laboratory set. Of course, all bets are off as soon as Mathers starts gnawing on the entire loaf of bread Cathy delivers—without first paying for it. Poor girl, all she wants out of life is correct payment for bread and to be halfway smart, and it turns out she doesn't have the right blood to meet her lofty goals.

PE: Hmmm. I must have missed the above scene of the fair maiden resting after a weary day of bread-peddling.

JS: Gwyllm's transformation is nothing short of miraculous. The artistic talent on display is unparalleled, as these two screenshots can attest. It's almost as if he morphs into a young Klaus Kinski.

JS: Okay, the multi-stage make-up is very effective, too. And McCallum really sells it. I always liked him in The Great Escape, although I have never seen him in his most famous role as Nikita Kruschev, or Yuri Gagarin, or whoever it was that he played in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. One of my favorite lines is when Cathy asks, "If you could teach that monkey, couldn't you teach Gwyllm as well?" Ah, young love.

PE: McCallum's performance almost accelerates with each new head piece. As the dirty miner, I thought he was mildly interesting. As the super-intellect, he's mesmerizing. It's going to be real tough deciding who gets Best Actor Award come trophy time. Will it be Robert Culp, Martin Landau, David McCallum or Astronaut Steve? Stay tuned! And Edward Mulhare is no slouch here either, giving a wonderfully understated performance as the scientist who realizes too late that man was not meant to meddle ... and all that other stuff. My generation remembers Mulhare as spirit half of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir while John's would probably recognize the actor as Devon Miles in Knight Rider (that is, if John's generation ever took its collective eyes off its video games). Clearly second banana (or third, if you count the monkey), Mulhare still shines when his character's screen time gives way to Gwyllym's and the scientist is relegated to the background.

JS: One particularly sad thing to look forward to for men in the future is the receding hairlines. All the other enhanced abilities and they couldn't get a handle on that. While I kept waiting for the 'Sixth Finger' to come into play, it never quite did. But I do appreciate that it makes for a better title than "The More Heightened Forehead."

PE: I may get argument here but this final-makeup on McCallum represents the iconic Outer Limits image. Some will say the Zanti, but I'd argue it's this creature.

JS: It's a fair assessment. Zanti is clearly a (if not the) fan-favorite bear, but I think the marketing folks took a liking to Gwyllm early on (of course in today's world, they would have forced him to change his name to something more marketable).

PE: Again, what's astounding about McCallum's screen time in that fish-tank head is that most actors would feel confined by the extra greasepaint and paper mache. McCallum seems to absorb it almost organically and use it to great effect.

JS: If you followed A Thriller A Day, you know I give bonus points for funeral scenes, even when shot in an abandoned warehouse. And did anyone else find it odd that Mathers kept a loaded gun in his top dresser drawer... in the foyer?

PE: While you can certainly mock several of the past effects and creature make-ups (and believe me, we'll keep it up), you really can't find fault in this episode. Well, I guess you could ask why the Professor needs  "Backward" and "Forward"  labeling on his time transference gizmo. Is it for guests?  Did he craft the labels himself or farm the work out to the little village he lives in? And who built the machine itself? The prof or one of the time machine architects down the lane?

JS: Sure, if I were building an evolution lever, I think I might make it with a little finer measurement than FORWARD/BACKWARD. It seems reasonable it might need as much sophistication as say, driving a car. I'm willing to accept that 10,000 years of evolution per minute, but why go to all that trouble and then just wing it.

PE: Why weren't any of the three thousand dials and knobs labeled? And how about that stock warped sound that emanates from the chamber. I believe they tweaked that years later for the Ironside theme.

JS: When Gwyllm asks Cathy to fast-forward him to the future, wouldn't he hear bells and whistles going off in her head as soon as he reminds her not to send him backwards by mistake, because that would be in the past? Perhaps this is where Cathy's not even being halfway-smart pays off.

JS: Ladies and gentlemen—the unsung hero of the episode—Darwin the monkey! An evolutionary leap from the standard ape suit of Universal pictures, Republic serials and poverty row chillers; anticipating the more sophisticated apes of 2001 and Planet of the Apes. To be perfectly honest, I was disappointed that we never found out what the heck Darwin was up to when reading papers or working on machines. The last we see of him is when he runs upstairs after being dissed by Gwyllm. I welcome your speculation on the fate of Darwin. I'd personally like to think he hooked up with Moloch and Styx from Thriller's "Well of Doom"...

PE: He went on to star in the Mad Max series and direct Passion of the Christ. He's had quite a career.


David J. Schow on "The Sixth Finger":

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

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  1. Now here we have an embarrassment of riches. While doing the OUTER LIMITS book, I occasionally got cornered into making the most of minimal resources. When it came to “The Sixth Finger,” the floodgates of sheer STUFF just opened up a huge power dump right on my head. Photos, frames, interviews, stills, more.

    (Whereas in the original edition of the book, more than once I was doomed to the futile last-straw gesture of SHOOTING PICTURES OFF THE TV SCREEN AS THE EPISODE AIRED. Yes, surely as ridiculous as it sounds. One had to sacrifice entire rolls of film attempting to avoid the dreaded “scan bar,” then wait days until processing proved you out. No frame grabs. No Photoshop. Just a mook with a camera and no videotapes, no DVDs, and very few brain cells left. As a charming nod back to this maladroit practice, I actually left one of my ancient, wheezing, shot-off-TV photos in the revised edition of the book [you know, as an in-joke], and I leave to our panel to protest, “Why should I bother guessing which one?” Digression ends.)

    I leave it to Gary Gerani to tell the story of how I handed his John Chambers “Sixth Finger” sketchboards back to him … 20 years after they’d been borrowed.

    Think the well runs dry? Just the past month or two have turned up “Sixth Finger” pix I had never seen before: One of McCallum in full makeup with Bing Crosby on THE HOLLYWOOD PALACE, and another shot from the Denny & David Dillon “recreation” done by John Chambers a year or so after the original — with Verne Langdon in the shot.

    Verne died on January 1st at age 69. Jill Haworth died on January 4th at age 65. But here we have her in 18-year-old absolute mint condition. Small bit of illumination: The book suggests John Erman cast Jill in OUTER LIMITS when he cherry-picked the Brits from the cast of THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. Except Jill is NOT in that biblical mishmash. However, she WAS the then-girlfriend of Sal Mineo, who was in GREATEST STORY. Jill and Sal got together on her first film — EXODUS — made when Jill was (gasp!) 15 years old. I wish I’d gotten to speak to her about “Sixth Finger.” Tom Weaver expressed similar regret; we all foolishly assumed she’d be with us longer.

    And McCallum. Migod. I got to interview David frakkin’ McCALLUM. OUTER LIMITS worship doesn’t get any better.

    Next: Meeting James Goldstone.

  2. This episode is the best one yet and one I've seen many times. The only possible flaw might be the ending. I see the OUTER LIMITS COMPANION discusses possible endings including a monkey scampering out of the machine. I would have liked the pool of liquid instead of David McCallum being returned to his original state. Anyway, this is a big success and three and a half Zanties.

  3. A truly excellent OUTER LIMITS. I've also always seen Future Man as a true OL icon. When I was a kid, between comic books and this episode, I fully expected that people in the future would have huge bald heads. It was a given.

    Speaking of being a kid; had a huge crush on lovely Jill Haworth, RIP.

    McCallum is brilliant and subtle, literate script, well-directed. And let's give it for Nickolaus--there's some inventive shooting her--whether by Goldstone's coaxing or not--like that sweet mirror shot.

    Looked like Mulhare himself yanked by a jerk harness. Cool.

    I think we're about at the point DJS indicated for the end of Season One's unofficial first phase/beginning of the second (and very hot) period. If so, taking stock, for me there are three absolutely top-of-the-line shows so far: "Galaxy Being", "Architects of Fear" and "Feasibility Study" (four if we include this one).

    And, David, thank you for the "embarrassment of riches", we're eating it up.

  4. Considering the literacy level of this and many TOL episodes compared to much of television today, and the fact that this episode would probably be banned by the Texas Board of Education today, it's sad to say we are definitely de-evolving.

    I like to point out that anyone who doesn't believe in evolution obviously hasn't had the benefit of it.

  5. Intelligently written and efficiently shot episode. I would definitely rank this among the four best thus far, as does Larry Blamire.
    It's a casually paced but---dare I say it?---cerebral contemplation, with an escalating sense of dread, as Gwyllm evolves, both plot-wise and in interpretive performance.

    The colliery makeup convincingly sketches coaltown squalor without a need for much other visual support. The one scene in those familiar woods helps to open up the episode just enough to break the claustrophobia and suggest a larger landscape.

    Edward Mulhare, as the staid Brit scientist with the burden of guilt, reminds one of a proto-Michael Caine, ca. EDUCATING RITA. McCallum is sturdy as the smudged, discontented dreamer, whose edgy outbursts anticipate his unforgettable quirkiness in "Forms of Things Unknown." We do lose touch with his altering perspectives once he begins to regard Jill Haworth's Cathy as just another simian: Like Larry Blamire, I also had a lasting crush on the very young starlet.

    Nora Marlowe (Mrs. Ives) seemed to leave her mark in an endless succession of housekeepers, chambermaids and landladies (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Twilight Zone, NORTH BY NORTHWEST).

    I find this to be another show that clearly indicates the divide between Stefano and Stevens, with respect to their attitudes toward technological elements vs. dramatic expediency. Stevens was clearly fascinated with the scientific details, while Stefano seemed to find them an impediment to the human drama. Thus, this isn't the first time you might find yourself remarking about simplistic representation of technology.

    Gwyllm belabors the coming "FORWARD-BACKWARD" tipping point at the climax with an early dialogue that borders on foreshadowing with a total eclipse. Satirists might pounce on his "Be sure to push it only THIS way, not THAT way" enjoinder at the end as a drop-dead spoiler, though it actually spoils nothing(except the "primeval blob" original ending).

    Cathy's earnest and uncluttered desire to have her Gwyllm back is as satisfying, if predictable, as the operational parameters of a FORWARD-BACKWARD lever. (Which always reminds me of the similar practical quaintness of the one in THE TIME MACHINE.) My only quibble is the fact that she seems to have been hypnotized to begin the procedure and then abruptly snaps herself out of it. Wouldn't Homo Bigdomus have factored in human emotional energy before entrusting her---and with a seemingly trivial physical act that his telekinesis should have been able to manage with ease?

    I always found the submergence of Gwyllm's emotion into pragmatic intellect in Mrs. Ives' death scene to be quietly chilling. The "She's dead...would it bring her back?" shrugging disregard for a "primitive" life tersely takes Gwyllm from impatient to malevolent. The final evolution to "indifferent" is a mild surprise that nonetheless rings true.

    Early on there are lots of close-ups---that's right...CLOSE-ups. Oddly vapid ones that seem dramtically unwarranted. Were they inserted to aid with the necessary time-fill that DJS chronicles?

    The mirror shot is clever and sinister, when Gwyllm tells Mathers, "I can read your mind."

    The music and sound effects help to sell the rather static FORWARD-BACKWARD climax. No show used this important element as memorably as TOL. Get used to the "warping" sound; it won't be the last time you'll hear it.

    I would concede that Cranial Guy IS arguably THE icon of the show, if a humanoid must be.

    DJS fascinatingly recounts---and Hollywoodaholic highlights---the true lingering terror of this episode: the continuing specter of taboo hanging over the subject of evolution. How little it seems much of society has evolved over a half-century.

    And Dave Schow---man, still more fresh discovery! You are truly the Indiana Jones of TOL lore and will NEVER stop excavating more intriguing artifacts!

  6. Indeed, aside from the unfortunate "forward-backward" lever, a solid entry all around. One of the things that always impressed me about this episode was the pacing of it. Some OL episodes are too hurried or too herky-jerky, and there are a number with lengthy, tedious scenes, but this one just flows right from beginning to end, sign of a good script, good directing, and good editing. And McCallum is remarkable. In the final makeup, it looks like he really only has control of his eyes and his lips, yet he makes you believe the enlightenment all the same. I found him excellent even in his miner phase, where he exudes brashness in one scene and then humility and the slightest bit of intimidation upon meeting the clearly superior scientist. Remarkable stuff, to capture all those aspects in one performance. I have to thank DJS for telling us in his book that the final head was known by the techs as "Dr. Sylvania"--how cool is that? (And I can't believe, as you state above, that you shot some of those images directly from the screen--that admission makes an awesome book even more awesome!) The one complaint I have, I guess, is that we didn't get to see Gwyllm advance all the way--that would have been interesting. He was ready to go, talking about the sheer joy of melding with the universe and all that, but she yanked him back, basically for her own needs. You have to wonder about the future of that relationship--I bet she won't let him watch football on Sundays, either. (By the way, I agree that Dr. Sylvania [for so he has to be!] is one of the iconic OL images, but it's hard to settle on just one--seems to me that, along with the Zantis, the Thetan and the alien from "Purple Twilight" got a lot of press exposure over the years, too.)

  7. Interesting points, guys. The future of that relationship is a good question; this is a guy who, right from the get go, wanted to destroy the village.

    I'm wondering if Dr. Sylvania at that point considered "human emotional energy" so insignificant he merely overlooked it.

    Might we equate science to Stefano with Hitchcock's "macguffin"; merely the means to an end?

    Ted, I thought Michael Caine too--and those horn-rims certainly helped.

  8. Yeah, Michael Caine has done his share of Prof. Mathers impressions.

    I think you're right, Larry, that Gwyllm was so beyond connecting with "irrational" human emotion, and the capricious actions it might incite, that he let his guard down and Beauty chilled the Beast.

    The difference I see between Hitchcock's macguffin (are we spelling this right? does anybody care?) and Stefano's impatience with techo-detail is probably in perception. I've read Hitch describing the macguffin as an object the audience doesn't care about, just the players. In sf/fantasy such details that impact the plot will always be important to a significant portion of a naturally science-geeky audience.

    Otherwise, it's a valid comparison. Both of them are thumbing their nose at details and saying, "Never mind that---check out how richly imagined human beings respond to its effect. That's what's important." They're both more interested in how flesh-and-blood, psychologically vulnerable living people are affected by the devices than in the nuts-and-bolts themselves.

    That's why I always chuckle to see these simplistic dismissals of intrumentality on TOL. (FORWARD-BACKWARD---transformational telephone booths---amusement-park rides tinkered into interstellar spacecraft, et al.) No one on this sophisticated show was creating set-ups out of lazy or ignorant adherence to the naivete of the B-movie tradition. (Sure, they'd have LIKED to, with bigger budgets, but it's superfluous.) But so many of them seem to have come from the theatrical tradition, with its stylized stage trappings and conventions designed to steer the audience's intelligent suspension of disbelief (as DJS argues so eloquently elsewhere---and nowhere in the canon is it better illustrated, I think, than in "Nightmare").

    They don't pretend to present an accurate depiction of some extrapolated future technology (impossible, and not the mission of the show, in any event). But, as with all good drama, they do want to explore humanity's potential actions in the face of intense extrapolated situations, with their specifically unique pressures.

    What would I do if a UFO crashed through my roof and down into my basement? I dunno. It would be interesting (for my survivors, probably) to find out. But I wouldn't think first to examine it for power source and metallurgy.

  9. A terrific episode for all the reasons mentioned. Yes, the ending suffers a tad from "we couldn't quite figure out where to go with this," quite literally. So OL opted for a relatively happy resolution and the poetry of Cathy's tear. Fair enough. BTW, that wonderful John Chambers headpiece has turned up in some unexpected places, most amusingly in Tony Richardson's THE LOVED ONE. A Hollywood studio commissary scene with actors playing actors having lunch gives us at least two good glimpses of OL's futureman (a "sci-fi movie" is obviously being filmed at the studio, along with other genre films, so this big-brained appliance was ideally suited as an icon). If memory serves, an out-of-focus "Gwyllm" appears in the same frame with a c.u. of supporting star John Gielgud.

    1. some screengrabs from THE LOVE ONE:

    2. Another 6th Finger replica shows up during Geena Davis' fever dream sequence in the 1988 film "Earth Girls Are Easy".

  10. Urk!--- Let's emend "(Sure, they'd have LIKED to, with bigger budgets...)" above to: (Sure, they'd have LIKED to present more fully realized technological details, in some cases, had the budgets been larger, but it's superfluous.)

    Didn't mean to imply that such bigger budgets would have enabled them to carry on a tradition of '50s scientific howlers!


    St. Joseph's ending, submitted in early June, 1963, had Gwyllm devolving into a puddle of protoplasm; as stated, "the very origins of life." This got changed to the current ending sometime in mid-July, and the episode didn't film until nearly a month later (20-27 August). Every other proposed ending was a matter of on-set discussion, not drafted alternatives.

    It would have been so simple to justify Cathy's complicity in this "happy ending" scenario, but somehow, the detail got overlooked: Cathy does what Gwyllm tells her because she is essentially hypnotized. Once Gwyllm is in the chamber -- and in the thrall of fast-forward evolution -- his mental grip is not concentrated on Cathy, who comes to her senses and reverses the lever ... all the way, not knowing that it will turn Gwyllm into Cleanup on Aisle Two -- because her conception of "back" and "into the past" stops at the original Gwyllm. It would have remained for Mathers to arrive at the opportune moment to stop the regression.

    It is a credit to McCallum's ability that he next sells a feeling with no dialogue whatsoever -- the feeling that Gwyllm has retained not intellect, but insight, from his experience. He'll never go back to mining after this. It really is the FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON paradigm, but with the happiest possible ending.

  12. I wholeheartedly agree that this was the way to go with the ending---no disrespect intended to protoplasmic goo. We are left with a tender, life-affirming moment, graceful in its visual poetry.

    And back-to-back doses of ill-starred love might have created an uncomfortable precedent.

  13. Remember, too, that while "Sixth Finger" was revised to make it more upbeat, the very next episode (you know the one) was similarly changed to make it more DOWNBEAT.

  14. I wanted to make a quick post to ensure our regular readers don't miss out on both related Spotlight entries this afternoon.

    David J. Schow provides a nice piece on "Sixth Finger" director James Goldstone, and David Holcomb provides his analysis of the episode.

  15. Sorry, but at the risk of being attacked and destroyed by my fellow apes, I'm going to have say this one kind of sucked. Maybe I'm being hard on it because of its famous status as one of the better known episodes. So far, after viewing it for the first time, imho it's very overrated.

    We'll all agree with what a fine job was done with the special effects to create the mutant, but in the end what did he really do? Not much except act like a creepy college professor.

    Just when I thought the episode was going to pick up with a little gratuitous violence, with the lollipop-headed pompous ass about to seek death and destruction on the town, my hopes came crashing down when he punked out. Gwyllm might have used the excuse that he no longer cared to cause any havoc, but I think deep down he was smart enough to know that he would have gotten the tar beaten out of him once the military got involved.

    The ep. also could have done without the guy jumping around in the monkey suit, which resembled a waiter I had as a kid, serving me Pepsi's at 'Showbiz Pizza.'

    Not a bad show by any means, but compared to 'Architects of Fear," it couldn't carry a Thetan's jock strap.

    1. Your absoulty right,I believe the episode suffered from budget restraints from earlier episode as TOUREST ACTACTION. They had good script a great actor as David Mcallum and all the others..and great alian. The problem was they didnt make him deliver as alien in CHILDREN OF SPIDER COUNTY.I allways felt there was more to this story. And when I read the dalies. There were hell lot violence that made alien show his aggreshion toward the town folks. When gwenlyn says "a example has to be made the town utterly needs to be destroyed."What show it would been if they left it in script.He goes down to the miners and burns his fat ignorant boss and blows two miners in the wall. This episode would been fantastic.its why we see ignorence threw the people cause it would builded up to climax. I wish they would refilm those parts back in script . Make it look like black and white..get david mcallium back in make up..he still would look same in make up and add those scenes. It would be fabulous episode. But till for now the other episodes came off more strong.

  16. Heretic!

    John and I want to thank you, UTW, for removing that 600-pound Pigeon from around our necks. Expect burning fresh loaves of bread on your lawn for the next four months.

    Here come the Griffith Park Marauders!

  17. This is one of my favorites. McCallum is just beyond amazing..."You're ignorance makes me ill and angry"...perfect!

    There is just so much here. I just watched this again yesterday and noticed something new. A shot, a camera movement, that for some reason gave me a glee-filled shiver. It's at around the 39:30 mark of the episode. Right after Mulhare hastily pulls the gun from the drawer, the camera focuses on the "more heightened forehead" man and then swings every so slightly to the right, putting him in an ominous I'm-gonna-kick-your-ass posture. It's just so subtle, but it really worked for me. It was proof positive that he could easily mess you up.

    @Larry Blamire...It's not Mulhare in the jerk harness. It's some stunt double. I carefully paused and took a couple of screen shots that clearly show that it's not Mulhare. In fact, the double doesn't look anything like him.

    @Hollywoodaholic...'Believe' in evolution? You mean like believing in a religion? I thought evolution was supposed to be fact.

  18. I doubt that the Texas Board of Education would have a problem with the "Take a Number and Be Seated" approach to Darwinism as featured in the final scene; they'd probably find it amusing.

    Call me simplistic, but the "Forward/Backward" lever is just the sort of distraction that tends to deflate an otherwise strong show like this one--at PRECISELY the worst possible time in the drama! I agree that the device should have been designed in a more technically sophisticated way; how about the addition of indications like "Man, Monkey, Neanderthal, Jelly Man..." etc; these would have been only slightly sillier than the device as we see it onscreen. And the final make-up montage as Gwyllym is catapulted back and forth in time is WAY too much for me to handle. It's as if, after a thoughtful, eloquent 45 minute ADULT-level drama, it was decided that the kiddies at home needed to be rewarded for their patience. Really blows it for me.

    McCallum--superb job. Love the piano scene, and Gwyllym's musings on Bach (also McCallum's great keyboard miming). But--and I realize they threw this scene together've got Chamber's superb makeup throughout, and then this horribly shoddy spirit gum Sixth Finger stub, seen in full light; I just wish that these glaring flaws, insignificant as they seem compared to the total product, could have been avoided.

    An impressive show overall.


  19. That we got a Neanderthal Gwyllm in the chamber wasn't so bad. But why they decided to go with the unjustified zoom-in, zoom-out, as opposed to just cutting between the matched make-up variations, is a mystery to me. I thought that choice, more than the make-up itself, breaks the suspension of disbelief.

  20. ZOOMS, yes, a total mood-breaker. They look to me like optical zooms done in post, but it's impossible to know who thought they were a good idea. Maybe Byron Haskin, who shot them? Or Tony DiMarco, who edited them? Or ABC, who might have said, "Yeah, zoom in and out on the monster head 'cos it's rilly scary!"

  21. Holy Moley! Wait a second -- are we thinking that Gwyllm survived his trip back into the 20th Century??? I always assumed -- no doubt in my mind -- that the process of bringing him back and forward, when Cathy was making a mess of things fiddling with the lever, was simply too much for him. He barely can make it out of the chamber, then his tentative touching of her tear, then the final collapse. That's a "Mr. Spock falling lifeless against the see-thru engine room wall in 'The Wrath of Khan' moment" if I ever saw one!

    Gwyllm stares lifeless after he's at the ground, and Cathy is crying, not from relief (well, a little -- he didn't come out as a scary ape man) but from grief. Her line "I brought him back...I think he's glad" doesn't necessarily mean he's alive NOW at that instant. "He touched me..." she says with a sniffle, meaning she had some small contact again with her Gwyllm before he expired.

    He is an ex-bulb head by that point. I think the way Cathy was stroking his face and his lifeless and staring face shows that it wasn't a happy ending. The scientist looks a little blase, but he was a scientist and wouldn't have known what to do as his whole experiment blew up in front of him and killed a man, so he returns to his machine and flips off the switches.

    I NEVER, EVER thought that Gwyllm survived. In the first edition of David's book, the photo with Cathy and Gwyllm doesn't say "Happy Ending" like in the 2nd edition. I think Gwyllm barely made it back, was able to reconnect for a moment with his girl via the tear, collapsed, and died. He HAD to die. He couldn't survive that last trip in the chamber.

    There could be no future for these characters -- Gwyllm could not have lived after such a transformation, the doctor had to be suitably chastised and shaken for daring to do the experiment, and Cathy had to at least be there to help Gwyllm make his way back.

    I can't think of this ending any other way. Anybody else think that Gwyllm is utterly dead at the end? I doubt that any women would think that Gwyllm survived that -- maybe guys interpret non-breathing, lifeless open-eye stares differently, but that is one dead fellow on the ground, and Cathy knows it.

    Am I crazy here? I've seen this like hundreds of times and I have never for a second thought that he survived.

    Help! :-)

  22. One more evidence that Gwyllm is dead -- she refers to him as "He" like he's no longer there with them. She is remembering him at that point. She's talking about a dead man, I've always thought. She's musing about the late Gwyllm, telling the doctor about his last moments, which he missed.

  23. Re: Mulhare's double: Too bad--I thought Mulhare was digging some rough-and-tumble Robert Conrad style acting. It was pretty effective at speed though.

  24. My experience has always been the reverse of Lisa's. I never thought he WASN'T alive.

    First draft of script: Gwyllm dies, having been protoplasmed. (But wait! The machine's not broken. Couldn't they just reverse the switch and accelerate him back to human form?)

    All subsequent drafts: Cathy says "he's glad," present tense, which would seem to indicate Mr. G. still has a heartbeat.

    Nowhere in the script does it say definitively that G is dead, and I think if the intention had been to emphasize his demise, someone would have thought to say, "too late -- he's dead. He has ceased to be. Expired. Shuffled off the mortal coil. HE IS AN EX-GWYLLM!"

    But -- perhaps in deference to the linkages perceived here with "The Man with the Power," they decided NOT to kill Gwyllm, as the ending would then be too similar to the earlier show. (The devolution-into-ape-form was subsequently dropped from a later script, "Fun and Games," for exactly this reason.)

  25. Lisa-

    I don't know you but I don''re nuts. I, too, thought that Gollum never made it back mentally. At the very least he'd need a good dermatologist. I'm not sure though that it helps your argument if I agree with you! The rest of them disagree with me just to spite me.

  26. As Ted pointed out earlier in this increasingly epic threads of awesome, Gwyllm's glib "She's dead!" after mentally unplugging Ms. Ives' heart is one of my favorite moments in the whole series. Dare I say MaCullum was born to play this part? Gwyllm shredding on the piano is another to moment to raise a glass to, and maybe I'm finding subtext where there isn't any to be found, but I've always wondered if the chimp's reaction to Cathy's blood test suggested our good geneticist might have been if not a little mad, then at least a bit least until he met his match in The Head of Doom.

    I remember Sixth Finger as my "gateway" episode when marathoning Season One about 10 years ago (with my kidnapped copy of DJS's companion: Thanks, Dad!). Granted 100 Days and Architects of Fear are top tier shows, but nothing seemed as righteously creepy as Future Man. Sure, there's plenty of chuckles to be had, but the premise and execution here seemed to capture that intangible Outer Limits thing that I think pushes all our buttons.

    I feel like I'm in graduate school on this blog. It's frickin' great.

  27. Hah! DJS, you're killin' me! I also never even had a fleeting thought that Gwyllm might not have survived his vertiginous evolution-warp. I'm convinced he lived, became Gert's baker, and convinced Cathy to help him obliterate the town one by one with strychnine scones.

    But I believe it would have been the professor himself, in the little-known alternate version essayed by John Cleese, who would have declared the poor gumby "bleeding demised. Bereft of brain. Pushing up the synapses. Levered out of consciousness, and joined the choir cerebral."

  28. Nobody said the homework load was going to be light or easy, here at Camp Outer Limits.

    Your next assignment: Now watch THE LAWNMOWER MAN, and tell me it didn't take a lot of its cues from this very episode.

  29. You lost me at "watch THE LAWNMOWER MAN."

  30. At least some of our readers are taking this seriously—and focused on getting to the bottom of the Gwyllm debate.

  31. I'll have to watch the ending again, but i have to say it never even occurred to me that Gwyllum was anything but alive, although his collapse is a little odd when he comes out of the chamber. Maybe we all just WANT him to be alive so much, to be with Cathy. What's odd is that this debate doesn't seem to have ever come up before! However, when I saw "The Duplicate Man" for the first time I had no doubt whatsoever that it was the dupicate Henderson James that died at the end when the clock struck twelve; leaving Laura James without "either" of her husbands. What a shocker if we have to reevaluate something about OL we are so certain of for (in this case it sounds like) years.

  32. Crikey. I finally unearth my OL box from under a pile of Hawaii 5-0 and jump in on the trancendental Sixth Finger and ... it's been deluged by brainwave upon brainwave of great commentary! There's nothing left to be said, as I agree with virtually everything in some way. But I digress - now to waste some more bandwidth with some flimsy means of exhaling in the OL atmosphere, with the completely fraud comments of a Forward Peter and Backward John:

    FPE- A tragedy of telekinetic proportions, why does our first future man remind me of a Gerry Anderson puppet?
    BJS- Hair Club for Men stock just rose 1100% in the future. Me think monkey was the real scientist...

    FPE- The aura of a welsh town in repose is shattered somewhat by the appearance of two patrolmen from Highway Patrol. If this is Wales, where did the cool early-60s CHIPs choppers come from? And why am I surprised Broderick Crawford doesn't surface, yammering into his car radio about "No omlette-headed egghead gonna stop me from getting to Toody's Saloon!"
    BJS- me like Cathy much more than monkey. Much more than bread in a basket.

    FPE- ...and what is it when she's operating the controls that makes her take such a, well, an excited pleasure of seeing her Gwyllm go from jiffy-pop top to Ilya Kadidlehopper? Perhaps it is that moment where the brainiac Gwyllm finally discovers telepathically what the sixth finger was intended for?
    BJS- Gee, yes, spot on!

    FPE- Finally, the acting was terrific, considering how this story must have transcended its competition -- The Sixth Finger goes up against Bachelor Father or the Bonanza episode where Hoss chases Hop Sing around the kitchen table... But McCallum in his smartest advancement suddenly made me think of Mrs. Doubtfire with a doozy of a migraine.
    BJS- Me think monkey wanted to pull lever backward and get busy...

  33. Geez! What the hell's going on here tonight? Make that last night. Does the Gwyll-Man die at the end of "Sixth Finger," become a mental vegetable, etc.? I think the word is "ambiguous," and quite deliberately so, because as far as I can tell, Stefano and company never truly settled on a satisfying ending, for viewers or for themselves. Given the alternatives, they went for teardrop poetry and serene vagueness regarding G's fate. Given the result, it was probably the right move.

  34. Joseph St. Ellis' magnificent script puts the whole spiralling run of cosmic life, growing and ebbing, into a darkly-lit gothic country house, making it almost a chamber piece with a few excursions to he outside macroscopic world of comparative corruption and suspicion and restlessness anxiety. Whilst inside the house, free from commotion or disturbance, mighty growth occurs - contemplative and almost tranqual. There is a zen calmness, serenity and composure that is rare in any era and all without a mat or mediative mantra being chanted (rendered even more so by a delicate score, with a harp). It may be the most serene show till the advent of Kwi-chang Kane journey's in 'Kung Fu'.

    The directorial flair is keenly felt with delightful compositions that burn themselves into the mind's eye on first viewing; the reflection of the concerned professor in the background of the hand mirror as Gwyllm smiles slyly, bemusedly, sinisterly – echoing the deep focus compositions of William Wyler and Greg Toland in 'The Best Years of Our Lives' and even more so in the celebrated breakfast scene from 'The Little Foxes' or the visual/aural/balletic poetry of the ending, or the shocking reveals of transitional growth anf mutation.

    It's beautifully rich photographic texture is lensed without the showy, high contrast, sharp edges of Connie Hall's jaw-dropping style; here, it's so subtly rendered, so soft, that's it's like trying to capture stream. It can only be felt.

    The abstract impressionism of the “Foreward-Backward” lever or the funeral in which a darkened interior and a small, huddled mass suggests more without having to go the whole route and painting in every morsal.

    As for the make up, it may remind some of Dan Dare's supervillian - the Mekon from the comic book, but it's probably due more to the idea of the “egg head” intellectual and numerous other manifestations of high intellect from SF covers; A key influence on the 'Star Trek' pilot's Talosians, though I'm sure that Rottenberry – the Great Dodo of the Universe – would claim that he had dreamt of the idea in a wet, mini-skirted- dream.

    At least, when he stole, he stole from the best... choosing Goldstone to helm a variant mutation in the classic 'Where No Man Has Gone Before' (of the six best of that show).

    For genre fans, Joseph St. Ellis also scripted the first segment, a mightily charming piece, of the anthology film 'Flesh and Fantasy', unfortunately, overshadowed by the towering magnificence of the same film's adaption of 'Lord Arthur Saville's Crime'.

    All of the three principals are the worth the price of admission, so to get it on the box, free of charge and on the BBC as a child, without adverts, it was nirvana.

    Unfortunately for genre fans, David McCallum's is usually cited for his stint on 'The Man from UNCLE' or 'The Invisble Man', completely overlooking the classic fantasy series 'Sapphire and Steel'!

    One of the curious things that I've always pondered is about the implications of his prediciment at the end, often cited as a happy ending, but is it really? I'm with Lisa, in thinking years ago, that he was dead, then the opposite and varying between the two. Perhaps, it's like the confused ending of Lean's 'The Bridge on the River Kwai', though here, the ambiguity adds to the provocative richness of speculation. My take now, is that his return to normal might not only foul up their relationship but will be such a big a quantum shock, as much as Charlie Gordon's return to moronic status after having attained genius level thinking in the Daniel Keyes' classic 'Flowers for Algernon'? Maybe he took to the bottle and became the town drunk. Or he may listlessly be cut off from the rest of humanity. Or he may become a highly regarded professor and have Haworth in the kitchen!

    bobby j.

  35. I guess I have to break this up -- got a character-limit message -- here goes: Pt. 1:

    I can go with the concept of an ambiguous ending...but if Gwyllm lived, he wouldn't probably have lived long or contentedly. But I don't think he lived, of course.

    BTW, I called up my sister -- time zones be damned! -- and we discussed this last night. She definitely thought he died. I told her to come on the blog and defend the "dead" camp here; hopefully she'll follow through.

    Plus, am I the only person who has to look up how to spell "Gwyllm" every time I write it?

    I was so hung up on the death thing that I didn't get to say how much I love this episode and how many lines have been canonized in my family throughout the years. Of course "The whole town must be utterly destroyed...", anytime McCallum says "Cathy..." in that soothing/menacing way, and you can try out your own Welsh accent on any of the scenes with Gert -- "You're holding back one and nine!". I would bet that a lot of us had not seen "How Green Was My Valley" or "The Corn is Green" at that point and this might have been our first encounter with the interesting Welsh accent which is fun to imitate (MPython used it to hilarious effect several times). I'm sure it was mine and it always cracked me up and I loved it.

    It's such a hardscrabble life for these folks, pretty fecking miserable, all you've got to look forward to is fresh bread and a little concertina music. Oh, and if you're a gal maybe you can get almost raped by one of the local boys...

    McCallum is so incredible as Gwyllm, defensive and then voracious once he evolves, with all his pent-up anger informing his changeover. His various future looks are all convincing and some way more creepy than others...for some reason I find the second to the last one more disturbing than the final transformation. Just that big smooth bald head, not close enough to human and yet not close enough to alien, either. Yikes!


  36. Part 2:

    It's amazing how quickly Gwyllm becomes scary and sinister, so contemptuous of Mathers, but then turns nicely philosophical once he starts into his piano playing. I love that sequence so much. I wouldn't doubt that it might have also fostered an appreciation for classical music in some of us, too.

    The professor is sort of a classic out-of-touch scientist, not a monster I don't think at all (though he no doubt jabbed that monkey a few too many times). He surely wasn't ready to have his protege go all superior on him so quickly, it must have been a scary development and how do you put the genie back in the bottle? He's got the mannerisms of a Mr. Chips but that's just the absent-minded prof image coming through. Gwyllm would have called him the "simple-minded professor" probably, in his nasty mood.

    I know the zoom effect during the final chamber trip is corny, but it's still rather scary, somehow. I think that ape man stage is horrifying, and that little sniffing twitch the devolved Gwyllm gives is terrifying. The idea that the primitive Gwyllm might come out was very creepy to me. The whole drama of that sequence is definitely what made me think that Gwyllm would NOT survive it. He had been scrambled up in that machine in a way that Mathers would never have imagined. Gwyllm's a goner.

    This is such a perfect tale! Also neat is the juxtaposition of complete backwardness with the infinite -- the house is an old country dwelling, but contains the key to the future. It does play like a great classic movie, the cinematography, the score...everything.

    (Have they ever referenced this on "CSI" with McCallum? I know they've had a little giggle with U.N.C.L.E.). I was an ultra-U.N.C.L.E. fan when that show was on; McCallum's never been less than wonderful in everything he's ever done.

    "The Sixth Finger" is unforgettable! It's "Forbidden Planet" meets "How Green Was My Valley"! With a little dash of Exeter's forehead from "This Island Earth", too.

    What a show! What an episode! What a fun group of fans here! :-)

  37. Lisa, if you love McCullan, forget UNCLE, but try to get your hands on the fantasy TV show 'Sapphire and Steel'; it's some of his most brilliant work this side of his OL roles.

  38. This episode introduced me to my favorite "Outer Limits Babe:" Jill Haworth. *Sigh* Rest in peace, ma'am.

  39. Oh yeah, and the episode was good too. *sigh*

  40. Good picture of a later-day Ellis St. Joseph here:

  41. There's a terrific little anecdote by Ellis St. Joseph here....

  42. Lisa: When I saw the episode in 1963 as an 8-year-old, I also thought Gwyllm was dead, but couldn't be 100% sure. And I kept thinking that way for several decades. But I recently watched it on a 92" front projection screen, and at that size you can see David McCallum blink ever so slightly right before the fadeout. That settled the ambiguity for me.

    It's still my favorite Outer Limits episode, but to be honest I liked it better when I was unsure of the ending. The ambiguous ending of "The Birds" is one of my favorite things in all of Hitchcock. And your interpretation is quite a moving way to end the episode.

  43. im ok with the ending but never liked the way the opening teaser reveals Gwyllms full evolvement to us right away. This should have been kept secret to the final future reveal in the show. We already know what he's gonna become before the show even starts. OL was often guilty of this. Still one of the best tho.

  44. 3 1/2 Zantis. Terrific- shows you can make a great scifi show without fancy effects or sets, just imagination. Its similar in theme to Man with the Power, but a much better episode, its a smart, mind-blowing episode, the best of the series so far for me. I've always thought James Goldstone was a terrific TV director- he did good episodes of Star Trek, The Senator, etc. The blonde girl, Jill Haworth, is sexy, she gives a touching performance. When McCallum opens up a window to look at the town, it couldn't be more obviously a painting- couldn't they have even picked a better painting? Good giant-brain mask. Since future McCallum has the power to move everything with his mind, why doesn't he just move the lever forward himself? He doesn't need Kathy to do it. The ending narration doesn't make a lot of sense- 'evolution' has a goal?

  45. I'd love to go back to 1963 and hook up with Jill Haworth. She's one smokin British hottie! RIP babe!

  46. I really like that photo of her and Janos Prohaska. He's supposed to have gotten a little harmlessly "naughty" with actresses while wearing those ape and monster suits (he must have had a field day while making "Bikini Beach"), so you almost have to wonder what's causing her to give that comical "Watch it" kind of look.

  47. To those who don't like this episode, all I can say is, "...your ignorance makes me ill, and angry"....

  48. Gwylim's memorable final speech:

    GWYLIM (appearing in Mathers' lab, to Cathy): Don't be afraid!

    CATHY: What have you done?

    GWYLIM: I was going to destroy everyone. But suddenly...

    (cue Dominic Frontiere's gentle theme with harp and vibraphone) no longer mattered. I evolved beyond hatred or revenge or even the desire for power. I could feel myself reaching that stage in the dim future of mankind when the mind will cast off the hamperings of the flesh and become all thought and no matter. A vortex of pure intelligence in space. It is the goal of evolution: Man's final destiny is to become what he imagined in the beginning, when he first learned the idea of the angels.

    (and a moment later, when he's seated in the target chamber of Mathers' machine:)

    GWYLIM: Now must I break the last barrier between the flesh and the spirit!

    . . . is lifted practically verbatim from Lilith's final speech in G. B. Shaw's _Back To Methuselah_:

    "[A]fter passing a million goals they press on to the goal of redemption from the flesh, to the vortex freed from matter, to the whirlpool in pure intelligence that, when the world began, was a whirlpool in pure force. And though all that they have done seems but the first hour of the infinite work of creation, yet I will not supersede them until they have forded this last stream that lies between flesh and spirit, and disentangled their life from the matter that has always mocked it. . .

    I am Lilith: I brought life into the whirlpool of force, and compelled my enemy, Matter, to obey a living soul. But in enslaving Life's enemy I made him Life's master; for that is the end of all slavery; and now I shall see the slave set free and the enemy reconciled, the whirlpool become all life and no matter. And because these infants that call themselves ancients are reaching out towards that, I will have patience with them still; though I know well that when they attain it they shall become one with me and supersede me, and Lilith will be only a legend and a lay that has lost its meaning. Of Life only is there no end; and though of its million starry mansions many are empty and many still unbuilt, and though its vast domain is as yet unbearably desert, my seed shall one day fill it and master its matter to its uttermost confines. And for what may be beyond, the eyesight of Lilith is too short. It is enough that there is a beyond."

  49. Ah, the episode colloquially known as "The One Where Kuriakin Turns Into a Bumhead"...

  50. An interesting premise---a sort of sci-fi spin on the old Pygmalion/My Fair Lady story. It’s a first-rate episode---I’ll give it a 9---but the storytelling does have just a couple of hiccups.

    I love the futuristic alien make-up that David McCallum sports as his fully-evolved self, but I have to wonder… Don’t species evolve in reaction to their environment? I don’t know how evolution could take place in a vacuum, as it were, like there’s just one inevitable direction a species would change over the course of time. So, the basic premise itself didn’t quite make sense to me. Plus, I really doubt humanity would ever evolve to a serene state, past all negative emotions---certainly doesn’t seem like we’re headed that way as a race.

    The final climactic scene was touching, with Cathy wanting her old friend back, but… Her help was of course quite unnecessary; Gwyllim could have easily worked the machine with his telekinesis; after all, what are super mind powers for? And he would have been able to read her mind, and know that she planned to stop him…. Yeah, the whole sequence doesn’t make any sense….

  51. Wow. It's still my favorite episode. The performances are spot on. I would like to see more performances by Jill. The mask is very effective. The coal miners life is pretty vivid. It's definitely the best written episode of the series.


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