Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Brain of Colonel Barham

Production Order #15
Broadcast Order #15
Original Airdate: 1/2/65
Starring Grant Williams, Elizabeth Perry, Anthony Eisley.
Written by Robert C. Dennis, story by Sidney Ellis.
Directed by Charles F. Haas. 

Terminally ill astronaut Barham (Eisley) volunteers to have his brain extracted from his cranium so it can make the long journey to Mars and beyond.

PE: The Donovan's Brain of Colonel Barham From Planet Arous.

JS: After a promising start featuring a rocketship blasting across the sky en route to a lovely  alien landscape painting (albeit one flown by a drunk-PE), we're treated to an episode that plays out in a few similar looking rooms on good old Earth.

PE:That's a pretty pathetic brain in a jar. Are you seriously going to tell me that Projects Limited couldn't whip up a brain that looks like a brain? (ah, technology displays the likes of which we haven't seen since Season One! -JS) .Looks more like the Ham of Colonel Barham (when they let you see it that is). Which segues rather well into my judgment of the acting...

JS: I was surprised Grant (Shrinking Man) Williams was almost unrecognizable to me as Major McKinnon.

PE: Lots of genre vets here: Martin Kosleck, Grant Williams, Douglas Kennedy,  and Anthony Eisley all saw creature battle at one time or another in their careers (I'll let genre expert Tom Weaver fill in the parentheticals for you in this afternoon's spotlight). Wesley Addy (as Dr. Rahm) could have stepped right out of the witness box of The Verdict where he played a smarmy, pretentious doctor just as he does here.

JS: And no amount of vets could help make this a winning episode.

PE: Fake laser beams from the brain alert! And, while I'm on the subject, can someone tell me why exactly a de-bodied brain can spit out electricity? The scientists never seemed to question the phenomena so should I?

JS: The boiled brain has an enlarged pineal gland that acts as both a channeling receptor and laser cannon. Without that, it would just be dead tissue in a mason jar. How boring would that be?

PE: L-OL dialogue: Dr. Rahm (Addy) informs the big brain that it's getting overheated and the stylus is "off the chart."

Rahm: Just quiet down!
Barham's Brain (delivered in a robotic monotone): Don't talk to me like that doctor I gave you an order I expect you to carry it out immediately!
Rahm gets zapped by the brain and in the next scene, when Jennifer and Major Locke pass the possessed Dr. Rahm in the hall, she tries to engage in a conversation with Rahm:
Jennifer: Oh, I'm on my way to your office, doctor, I'm going to... (to Locke) what's the matter with him?
Locke: He's a scientist, Mrs. Barham. They walk around in a daze most of the time.
JS: As did I, following this episode.

PE: Just a few hours after the husband she loves more than life itself is de-brained, Jennifer 's hitting on Major MacKinnon.

JS: Can you blame her? This was one of TOL's few forays into a less than perfect marriage portrayal.

PE: Sounds like Harry Lubin has been raping and pillaging the Universal-International village again. Bum-buuuumm! Much to-do is made of how to dispose of the all-powerful brain at the climax. A well-placed fastball would do the trick. I'm still trying to figure out how the lab caught fire with one rifle bullet (and then put itself out within a matter of seconds).

JS: One more reason why the boiled brain has to have some form of range attack. If you could just walk up to it, pick it up and flush it down the toilet, it wouldn't really matter how powerful said brain was, right?


David J. Schow on "The Brain of Colonel Barham" (Click on pages to enlarge):

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 Tom Weaver's Spotlight on "The Brain of Colonel Barham."

Next Up...


  1. Back to utter-tedium land with this one. It's amazing how many there are. The budget might get the blame, but I think it's the choice of story material - both original and adapted - that is the answer to the direness of this season. Even when they adapt Simak, they mess with the story so much that not much is left. Apart from 'Demon with a Glass Hand' with can stand next to first season classics, there is episode one of 'The Inheritors' and the first half of 'Soldier'. Then it's almost a complete slide in a dull, mundane universe. The lighting is bright, the music blares - mickey-mousing the emotions to be felt. It's a bland TV look. Then the stories a mussed up. Robert Dennis may have been a good Hitchcock scripter but here he is out his depth. The SF of the first season is vastly more provocativey stimulating and the gothic fever dreams of Joe Stefano just added to a personal autuership to the series in it's last third. Here, S2 has a dapple of SF in minor segments and a morass of kiddiefied junk and blandness.

    'Barham' has a touch or two in which Colonel Barham, before the big operation hints at he isn't tempermentally suitable for this type of operation. Just a hard glint in the eyes. It echoes the same type of scene from Leslies Stevens' energy cloud 1st season entry. After the operation, it is one long haul of boredom. alas...

  2. Even Vic Perrin sounds tired and over it at this point. Listen to his voice at the beginning and particularly at the end, where he says ... "A way will be found, someday, somehow. It always is .... so just let me go goddamnit!"

    This really is the brainless bottom of the barrel.

    DJS notes tell us there actually was a real cow brain in that tank. That also explains where they came up with all the manure surrounding it.

  3. Just out of curiosity, has anyone been keeping track of how many episodes, both seasons combined, opened with a scene of some little rocketship chugging through the stars? Seems like a lot of them, including in places where you wouldn't expect it, such as this one.

    Anyway, in keeping with Ted R.'s earlier ambition to find SOMETHING good in each episode, I will agree with DJS that the acting actually is pretty good here. Grant Williams, a favorite from movies like Incredible Shrinking Man and The Monolith Monsters, is convincing and heroic enough for our needs here. Elizabeth Perry was fine as the wife, despite a script that wasn't helping her out too much, and Anthony Eisley captured Barham perfectly (although how the heck the brain was still able to talk with his voice, despite lack of a larynx, was beyond me, along with many other things here). The supporting actors all give it their best, too--nobody seemed to be walking through this one. Not a great episode by any means, but perfectly entertaining for that kid first discovering the cliches that ripple throughout the science fiction world.

    As for bottom of the barrel, I keep telling you all that we still have The Probe to go. We're not ALL the way down yet, geesh!

  4. A dismal episode. Back to the worst formulas of the '50s we go, with a lot of flatly lit, confining interiors and a story that aims to impress you with the "wonders" of science without doing much to convince you of the process. What we get is a bear-in-a-jar and a lot of suspect "scientists" who err on the side of arrogant blindness to make a lumbering point.

    It's one more needless rehash of DONOVAN'S BRAIN, by way of COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK. At least there, Ross Martin's megalomaniacal brain was given motion in the form of a giant Mr. Clean doll. Even the crackling energy bolts seemed better there.

    Earnest Grant Williams and a boorish, egocentric Anthony Eisley, both late cast members of HAWAIIAN EYE, give a decent account of themselves and joust with some engaging dialogue. The cast is rounded out appealingly enough. But it's largely a predictable snoozer. Never found much personally enjoyable about this one.

    On my Facebook page I like to keep an aura of serious meditation with an almost daily citation of "Deep Jack Handey." I can even recall one that dignifies this episode, homing in on the "lesson at last to be learned":

    "For mad scientists who keep brains in jars, here's a tip: why not add a slice of lemon to each jar, for freshness?"

  5. Yeah. What you guys said.

    With the cast and some fairly interesting dynamics among the characters, this coulda been more compelling--at least on a "guilty pleasure" level--had it at least worked up a dollop of tension, a gasp of eeriness, a hint of SOMETHING even vaguely sinister. But the direction is either indifferent or just not up to it--setups, blocking, rhythm--which leaves us with oh-so-dull storytelling.

    Man, that fire escape setup at the end looks like something out of PLAN 9.

    And ohhhhhhhhh...that damned theramin...

  6. Three brain in a bowl stories done far better....

    'William and Mary' - by Roald Dahl - adapted for both 'way Out' and 'tales of the Unexpected'
    'The Brain of Morboius' - a 1976 4 part Tom Baker Dr Who reworking of Frankenstein.
    'Come to Venus Melancholy' - a magnificent and powerful short story by Tom Disch and a Nebula Best Short story nominee (1966) to boot..

  7. Here's something you can try at home, via You-Tube--

    Re: Harry Lubin and his big "Cash Cow" tune-- the "One Step Beyond" theme, slightly re-worked to serve as TOL's S2 theme (and, I admit, it IS a distinctive, arresting tune).

    A few months ago, a friend called to my attention a pop tune from the mid-60's, co-authored by a JOE Lubin with words by Jerome Howard (?) (NO--- we concluded that this could not possibly be THE Jerome (Curly "Woo-woo-victim of soicumstance") Howard, who died in 1952; but he's not the issue here.

    Apparently, Joe Lubin---UNrelated to Harry--- composed a number of the popular Doris Day film soundtracks, High Chaparral episodes, etc. So, as I'm listening to the Joe Lubin song that my friend sent, entitled "Midnight Lace", I noticed something very odd and remarkable: the melody of the song is essentially THE SAME TUNE as HARRY Lubin's "One Step/TOL S2 Theme!!!

    How can this be? Might they be one-and-the-same composer stretching his/their one big tune into YET ANOTHER permutation/iteration, slightly disguising it in the hope that no one would notice the similarity?? Were they two different composers (yes, according to IMDB) that shared a psychic musical connection (which compelled them to rip off themeselves and/or others)? Or did Harry Lubin, possibly the ultimate musical schlock-meister, ALLOW his namesake to use his famous tune--sort of a license deal--and take a percentage of the profits? I can't imagine that the two composers--both sharing the same last name and both active during the same period--would not have been aware of the striking similarity between the theme from "One Step Beyond" and the pop tune "Midnight Lace."

    You can experience the exotic strains of Joe Lubin's "Midnight Lace" for yourself on You Tube. Just enter "MIDNIGHT LACE RAY CONNIFF" and you will see two versions (one image with a murky blue sky, the other with a nude babe with a golden sun in the background---the choice is yours). Both videos use pop choral director Ray Conniff's version of the tune, played by a melodica (sounds like a harmonica), without words. But when the distant, wordless, wailing female voice joins in, you SWEAR you're listening to a slightly altered version of Harry Lubin's big ONE-STEP BEYOND/TOL money-maker.

    It may take a repeat or two for the similarity to really sink in, because technically, the melodic intervals of Joe and Harry's themes are different; but the rhythm, shape and arc of the theme are one and the least for the first few phrases.

    One more example of the awe and mystery which reaches from:

    --Curly Howard's real name Jerome to...

    --The similarly named lyricist who wrote...

    --The pop song "Midnight Lace" with..

    --JOE Lubin, the similarly named composer to..

    --HARRY Lubin, who wrote...

    --The theme for One Step Beyond, which he re-
    used as...

    --The theme for TOL Season 2, of which the Ass. Prod. was...

    --Sam White, whose older brother Jules was...

    --The long-time producer and director at Columbia Studios of...

    --A certain comedy trio...

    And thus we come full circle:

    Stooges/TOL/Stooges--as mysterious and eternal as the Circle of Life itself. So why continue to deny?


    PS---This is the best I could manage as a contribution to today's discussion of The (LAME) Brain of Colonel Barham.

  8. And wasn't there a touch of the Polovtsian Dances by Borodin in there?

    Sorry, but the tangent was a welcome diversion, LR, and I'm glad I'm in no position or don't have the ear to discern musical originations. What a labryinth. One of the contestants on Idol last night (hey, I've got a wife and kid who watch TV, too) thought Michael Jackson wrote "Smile."

  9. Larry Blamire IS Wesley Addy ...

    ... in the $300 million Michael bay remake of "Barham," titled DOING SCIENCE.

  10. Since I get up early every morning, one of the things I do is to come here and leave a comment about the daily episode. This show was so discouraging that I just avoided doing it. But since I've left a comment on every episode and there is only two more to go, I figured I'd better man up, and be tough. So here I am and this show proves that the entire cast and crew were just waiting for the ax.

    RIP OUTER LIMITS(I'm talking about the 1963-1965 version, not the dreaded later series in the 1990's which can go to hell).

  11. LR--shouldn't that be "full soicle"?

    I chose the nude with the golden sun, and definitely hear what you're talking about. If only Ray Coniff had had a theremin!

    Great (and thought-provoking) sidetrack observations--perhaps more entertaining than Barham!

  12. David: I don't know if I could ever play that dry.

    Larry R: I assume "Midnight Lace" is from the Doris Day thriller? That is weird, wild stuff. Must look on a map for a town called Lubinsville.

    I love The Endless Stooge Circle of Life. The visual symbol of which should be Moe slapping Larry slapping Curly slapping Shemp slapping Joe Besser slapping Joe DeRita slapping Moe, in MC Escher fashion.

  13. >>Ted Rypel said...

    Is that a lament, Peter, or a sigh of relief?

    To answer your question properly, Ted...
    2 more days, Sweeeeeet Jeeeeesus, 2 more days!!!

  14. Peter---
    You sound like the exhausted host of the most exasperatingly overstayed-welcome party in history! We'll try not to let the Zanti bite us in the ass when we teleport out. Please!---don't bother---we know our way to the door.

    Larry R---
    Truly bizarre shovelful of research you've unearthed there. I also am wondering whether this wasn't the theme for the Doris Day thriller. And way to keep the Stooges in their proper place at the center of all creation.

    A new Blamire blockbuster? Larry B channeling Wesley A? Book me a block of seats---hell, we'll paper the house for all our bear-mates here. God Grante That It Be in 3-D!

  15. Ted-

    You guys can stay, the bears gotta go.

  16. Ray Conniff's theremin, Lubinsville, "full soicle", MC Escher's symmetrical Stooge slap....

    You guys crack me up! We gotta keep it up so we can make it through these next two episodes....


  17. AWC---

    I'm sure you're right about the Polovtsian Dances. Of course, those of us who survived Peter and John's "Thriller" blog will probably never get that tune (or John William's late-night-TV-pitchman routine) out of our skulls.


  18. Was that reference to the Pineal Gland at the beginning a deliberate reference to The Leech Woman? Grant Williams was in that movie too.

  19. 1 1/2 Zanti. I don´t have a lot to say about this one. It takes about 2 seconds to tell this wasn´t photographed by Hall, he´s sorely missed. I didn´t have high hopes for it based on the title, expecting something along the lines of The Brain that Wouldn´t Die, The Brain from Planet Aros, Donovan´s Brain )that one was pretty good, or Spock´s Brain. the only intesting aspect is the mention of the space race. The performances are pretty poor, especially by the wife, I´m noticing a lot of weak female leads in this series.

  20. I know I often defend the ones at the bottom of the list, but I've always thought it had a lot going for it (though I've never been fond of knowing it was an actual butcher shop brain - completely fakes ones are just fine with me).
    The way Barham picks up on his wife's attraction for McKinnon (the only naysayer in the whole project), and uses that to try to get McKinnon removed, is pretty interesting.
    And it has at least one line that sounds DELIBERATELY funny instead of bad, and that's when Barham demands that the Nichols character do something right away, and Nichols says "Take it easy!"
    Outside of an actual COMEDY, you just don't expect to hear someone say that to a disembodied brain!

  21. I've had the OL series, in one form or another (VHS off-air recordings or the DVD box-sets), for many years. I must have watched the better episodes countless times. 'The Brain of Colonel Barham' is an episode I've only ever re-watched just a few times. It probably rates as my least-favourite OL episode. Other close contenders (for the worst of OL) would include 'The Special One' (season one's only real bore-fest, as far as I'm concerned), 'Cold Hands, Warm Heart', 'Behold, Eck!', Expanding Human' and episode 2 of 'The Inheritors' (after an intriguing 1st episode, the 2nd part's ending is just too sickly sweet for my liking). 'Production and Decay of Strange Particles' almost makes it to my list of worst episodes . . . only I still haven't figured out what it's supposed to be about!

    1. I agree with that last comment, but the more Production and Decay confuses me, the more I like it. I can't help liking that "scientific double-talk."

  22. Man, is it me, or is this episode just not THAT bad?! I find myself having watched it several times in my ongoing 2 year TOL binge, when it comes back into "my" rotation. I certainly don't think it's heinous. I like the concept, the mean dying astronaut, the compassionate shrink, the thought maybe the wife and shrink have the hots for each other. Love how they never show the brain clearly in it's jar. Guess you couldn't get away with that back then. It's not THAT bad, you guys...

    1. I agree. I just saw it again an hour ago, and I think it's a pretty good one.

  23. I've always felt the same way.

  24. Continuity error: Unless I missed it, Dr. Rahm never retrieves the gun from the desk drawer before or after he gets electro-zapped by Barham's* brain. He just exits the room as a zombie and produces the gun from under his coat when he gets to McKinnon's office.

    * His title of Colonel died with the body on the operating table; you can't be in the military unless you have something to salute your CO with.

  25. I remember thinking this episode was really bad years ago and my feelings were confirmed. The dialogue is really bad. This seems ripe for a Mystery Science Theater treatment. Colonel Barham is a jerk too begin with. He and Jennifer make a really weak couple, what a sorry marriage. It's nice to see handsome Grant Williams from The Incredible Shrinking Man but I don't like he and she as a couple either- she's really insufferable. Grant should go back to the dwarf in Shrinking Man. This episode is really lame, I'm rethinking whether it's the worst episode. Why do they keep calling Col. Barham "it"? Isn't he still Colonel Barham even though his brain has been removed? Zero Zantis. Hasn't this story been done enough? Donovan's Brain, Brain from Planet Aros Etc.?


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