Monday, March 7, 2011

I, Robot

Production Order #11
Broadcast Order #09
Original Airdate: 11/14/64
Starring Howard da Silva, Leonard Nimoy, Marianna Hill.
Written by Robert C. Dennis, story by Otto Binder.
Directed by Leon Benson. 

Adam the robot (Read Morgan) is put on trial for the murder of his creator  (Peter Brocco) after he's found over the dead Doc's body. The doc's lovely niece Nina (Hill) coaxes a defense attorney (da Silva) out of retirement to take the case.

JS: I. AM. NOT. SURE. WHERE. TO. BEGIN. So let's start with the bad robot voice. I mean this was the 60s... weren't we past that? And to add insult to injury, during the flashback to his initial creation, the delivery is like robot baby talk.

PE: Let me start here: Nina Link is one hot babe. Unfortunately, she's not the main focus. That would be the... um, flexibly-suited robot.

JS: Once again, we're teased with the presence of the great Leonard (Invasion of the Body Snatchers '78) Nimoy, who despite having more screen time than in the all-time worst episode of TOL ("Production and Decay of Strange Particles" for those of you not keeping score at home), returns to another low point for what amounts to a glorified cameo. I do love how he leans on the Abraham Lincoln bust. Make yourself at home, Lenny. And he does have a great line with, "You may end up a skillet, tin man, but I'm gonna make you famous." Interestingly enough, the same words that Gene Roddenberry would soon say to him.

PE: It's almost startling to hear Nimoy laugh and deliver a line with some kind of emotion. Equally startling to hear the bad dialogue that flows from his mouth during his brief screen time.

JS: I love Marianna Hill's grand entrance; cavalierly bursting into the sheriff's station lockup that the sheriff himself needs keys to get out of. Of course there are a number of clues that led me to believe there was something going on between Nina and her 'cousin' Adam (She was the niece, right? Not the daughter. That would be weird).

PE: Well, to be fair, I heard sweet sexy Nina call Professor Link her uncle several times.

JS: First off, I don't think Adam initially fell because he didn't know how to walk. I think Nina's legs distracted him.

JS: And just look at the way she looks at him when he's doing his reading lesson—love is in the air, I tell ya.

JS: While there's a revelation that Adam had read Frankenstein, they omitted the fact that he caught the Karloff film at the drive-in (perhaps on a date with Nina?). How else can we explain the coincidence with the little girl at the lake?

PE: Mrs. MacRae (Mary Jackson), the professor's maid, does a great impersonation of the old lady who first encounters the Monster at the wreckage of the windmill in Bride of Frankenstein.

JS: Good catch! The bulk of the episode is the lackluster courtroom drama as the case is made against Adam. The key witness for the prosecution is an annoying brat, but the real damning evidence comes in the form of Andy's (unfortunately unseen) Projects Unlimited toggle switch the prosecution flips from FRIENDLY to VIOLENT. Levity ensues as they struggle to find the off switch, which they manage to get to just before Adam throttles the judge.

PE: Lackluster wasn't really the word I was thinking of. Whose idea was it to try melding The Outer Limits with Perry Mason? If the experiment had been a success, would we have seen crossovers with Petticoat Junction (Uncle Joe whips up an unusually powerful batch of moonshine out behind The Shady Rest that spurs a deadly wave of narcolepsy throughout Hooterville), Mister Ed (Ed finds out that the female he's paired up with on a blind date is actually one of the Four Mares of the Apocalypse), or maybe Gunsmoke (Marshall Dillon finds more time in his day to spend with Miss Kitty —and less on showdowns—when a Thetan ray-gun inexplicably winds up in one of his jail cells)? (Didn't we just watch The Outer Green Acres Limits? - JS). And nice touch casting an actor who will remind one of Spencer Tracy from Inherit the Wind.

JS: As if we need to hear Adam's testimony to prove his innocence, it does give us a chance via flashback to see the circumstances leading to the Doc's death. I hereby bequeath this screenshot to the WACT community to caption as they see fit (looks like you mistakenly grabbed a shot from The Invisibles? -PE).

PE: We did get two legitimate L-OL scenes amidst the drudgery: First, obnoxious little Evie (Christine Matchett), arm in sling, steps down out of the witness stand after being questioned, and points right at Adam Link, spouting "He's the one, the tin man." But for sheer entertainment, it doesn't get any better than Adam's run for freedom from the shotgun-toting villagers. The robot stands on a bridge, gets shot at, and does a double take as if he's not sure he was the target. When he puts up his hand as if to say "Hey guys, hang on a sec, beers are on me," he's the recipient of another wide shot, and does his best imitation of Charlie Sheen heading for his next interview. "Feet don't fail me now!"

JS: I think had it been written by Rod Serling, the outcome of the episode might have been more somber, especially for the Monster Kids who grew up rooting for the misunderstood beastie. But here it's uninspired if not downright laughable. At least Adam gets one last chance to break a few more bones by tossing the little girl offscreen for old time's sake.

PE: Oh, but Nimoy's there to catch her. Great scene.  I think if it had been written by Rod Serling, it would not be remembered as one of his best. This thing was doomed from the start with a dopey concept that probably played well in the 1930s pulps it was taken from but here contains nothing to keep one's interest.

JS: One Zanti for giving us babe of the week Marianna Hill and a Lincoln-leaning Leonard Nimoy.

PE: One-half Zanti for the cutey pie. That's about it. But Mariana Hill moves into first place on my OL Babe of All-Time, knocking Grace Lee Whitney's shapely behind to second place (sorry, Gracey!).

JS: I'll be curious to hear how many of our readers that saw this on its initial release were bummed that they missed the chance of having the perfect Halloween costume idea by just a few weeks.

PE: Who would have wanted to dress up like a grumpy old lawyer?


David J. Schow on "I, Robot" (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.

Next Up...


  1. Is there any truth to the rumors that the next daily series will be PERRY MASON? I expected the robot to stand up in court and confess, "I did it!"

    The only thing that kept me awake was the act of stuffing my mouth with food while watching this snoozer. In fact the show is driving me to drink(not that I wasn't drinking anyway). Instead of drinking my growler with a glass; I'm now gulping beer straight from the jug.

    Actually, I guess that's a good thing...

  2. The story and concept of this episode was strong enough in my initial viewing as a kid to send me to the Eando Binder book, and to follow all the other illustrated adventures of Adam Link in my Creepy Magazine collection (which I still have).

    Sure, I've seen go carts in the neighborhood that look better than this duct tape contraption, but that was never the point. This was the first time we children of the 60s were ever exposed on television to the idea of empathy for a robot. We'd soon be laughing at the robot on "Lost in Space," but this story played the Frankenstein parallel (including the little girl scene) very effectively to our undeveloped emotion base for having feelings for 'monsters.'

    The trial was dull and, forgive me fans, so is every episode of "Perry Mason," including all the episodes in the 50th anniversary DVD that put me to sleep recently. I used to watch the show with my dad, who was a county attorney (and as noble and honest as Atticus Finch), and he got more laughs out of that show than our hosts enjoyed from this one.

    But Leonard Nimoy hasn't been this animated since his green blood boiled over Jill Ireland in "This Side of Paradise." Still, somber suits him better.

    Don't be too harsh on this episode. It spawned a very popular series of books and stories. It enraptured us TV dinner kids to the ideas of benevolent robots. It was in perfect keeping with the more 'kiddie faire' attitude of the second season. And, no matter how well Howard Da Silva played his role as the defending attorney, I know that my dad would've got Adam Link off.

    Not guilty, I say. And for this episode, as well.

  3. Excuse me while I work under this flimsy shelf piled with anvils.

    John and Peter, inspired commentary--robot baby talk indeed--and I completely agree about Ms. Hill. This show means well, but boy is it dull.

    Howard da Silva knew something of injustice having been a victim of the blacklist. Witness for the prosecution Robert Sorrells, known mostly for TV westerns, also played a robot himself in the TWILIGHT ZONE ep "The Mighty Casey". He's currently doing time for murder.

  4. Yikes, you weren't kidding. I thought you meant Sorrells was an accomplice to this episode. But no, apparently he took his TV western gunslinging appearances to heart, walked into a Simi Valley bar and shot two patrons, killing one, while allegedly saying, "Does anybody else want to (expletive) with the cowboy?" He was sentenced to 32 years in prison at the age of 74.

    It will be tough to watch his goofy, innocent robot persona on "The Mighty Casey" ever again without balking.

  5. You know, I probably should have elaborated--it DOES look like me being a wiseass!

    Yeah, it was a real strange deal about Sorrells. He was one of those faces I saw in EVERY TV western as a kid (including the masterful Henry Silva vehicle "Journey to a Hanging" on the short-lived CIMARRON STRIP series). His friends/neighbors knew he was whacked I guess, but not THAT whacked.

  6. Walker- If you look around the blog, you'll know what the next project is. Nope, not Perry Mason. Not on your life.

  7. AYE, WOE-'BOT...

    I could never warm up to this one. Courtroom procedural + synthetic-voiced, baby-bird-faced robot = snooze-fest. Nothing wrong with the ethical questions being raised about technology, artificial intelligence, etc. It's just sadly prosaic in the presentation.

    Some snappy dialogue, a quaint and facile Frankenstein sampling, a pleasant characterization here and there--- We came to expect so much more from TOL and by this time pretty much knew that the covenant was largely broken. The wildly unpredictable stuff that made our heads spin---made us proud to say that we were allied to this brilliant maverick series---had long since become the exception.

    "I, Robot" was too representative of the hard-science tales I was already beginning to abandon by this time in my formative years. I had eschewed Amazing and Astounding for F&SF and Magazine of Horror; drifted from Heinlein and Asimov to dark fantasy and sword & sorcery. Robots, by the mere flash of their metal hides, no longer did it for me, unless they were engaged in something more sinister than being obedient servo-mechanisms. I was less interested in pure science than in what the dark depths of the imagination might do with it.

    The problem wasn't so much that the Brady regime was committed to more conventional sf. They were simply picking the wrong stories. It seemed even to us chill-seeking kids, with our limited experience of sf's richness, that we had read a lot more gripping stories, if they wanted to go the adaptation route. Friendly robots were for mollifying parents who worried about what this junk was doing to their kids---and for the kids those parents hoped we were.

    Fat chance.

    So this episode is, for me, nothing more than a dull curiosity in the realm of film-adapted sf. It was another in a dismayingly lengthening list of shows we shrugged off in anticipation of "next week at this same time."

  8. Peter--Just noticed that BATMAN is the next project. I'm up for it. Oops, I better stop watching Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies. I thought they might be next...

  9. The problem wasn't so much that the Brady regime was committed to more conventional sf. They were simply picking the wrong stories.

    That sounds like a good subject for a weekend breather thread (targeted at those who are familiar with SF literature):

    We are now in a parallel universe. Ben Brady has still taken over TOL beginning in season 2, so he still insists on mining published SF as story material. Except, now you are an adult in the summer of 1964 and have access to pitch meetings w/ Brady (or more likely Seeleg Lester). What stories do you propose they do?

    And, yes, you still have to work within the confines of S2's budget . . . . but, no, they abandoned the timeslot switch, so your episodes won't be Don Quixote titling at Jackie Gleason anymore.

  10. There are some decent SF ideas buried in this, unfortunately they soon get buried under the melodramatic court proceedings of 'Perry Mason' with the pretensions of 'Inherit the Wind'.

    Marianna Hill as the daughter is the first female performer that doesn't seem like she's on prozac ('Cry of Silence') or valium ('Demon') - yet she is eased out of the episode by Nimoy and De Silva. She is one of the few strengths of the segment. There is also a strange but intriguing suggestion that Adam is somehow picking up his creator's psychological phobias, whether by modelling or by a darker, Bester-like 'Fondly Fahrenheit' way.

    I'm ok with the robot, at least we see it dismantled earlier - though his little trotting run from the posses hardly seems credible. They could have speed up the film a mite for that, or even had him go at full pelt and the posses (in the same frame) run after him in slow motion, speed that up and it might have worked.

    I watched the remake at it was a complete mess with ultra lazy performances. At least this wasn't as boring as 'Expanding Human', 'Behold Eck, ect, ect.

    I like hokey's idea of submitting stories that would have been better choices. I remember reading Phil Dick's 'The Golden Man' and visualising it in my mind's eye in BW, with Cris, the golden hued mutant glistening in gold throughout.

  11. PS: Just heard the sad news about the passing of the great Donald Sanford, RIP

  12. Okay, maybe only girls can really *like* Adam Link -- the robot itself is completely cute, with those large sad kitten eyes and if you ever saw the remake of this episode, you know that the robot there was mean-looking and not appealing at all. I always liked this episode, mainly because Adam was benign if not actually charming. Of course he's going to be misunderstood -- in that backwoods setting as badly as if he were in a city, probably -- but it still is disturbing when he is so honest and upfront and the townspeople are small-minded and fearful.

    That horrible bratty little girl didn't merit Adam dying for her, and I always hoped all those rednecks went home and choked on their cornbread that night. We've come so far these days with androids all over pop culture and we love them -- dare I bring up Trek's Data? -- and Adam is a wonderful example of a sympathetic robot.

    (As a side-note, I remember being thrilled when I went to work at KTLA in the late '70s and realized to my delight that the final scene was filmed on Fernwood Blvd. in back of KTLA in front of that school there, near to KTTV. I just looked on Google and Fernwood doesn't even seem to be a through street anymore back there!)

    So, please, a little love for the sweet Adam Link. This would -- except maybe for some of the courtroom talk -- be a great episode to show kids, who could possibly learn some tolerance through Adam's troubles and demise.

    This is a sci-fi take on "Inherit the Wind", and you've got to appreciate Howard Da Silva's out-sized Cutler. Da Silva was an actor who knew about being railroaded and persecuted from his HUAC experience, and I like him here a lot. Nimoy is okay -- naturally Trek fans enjoy seeing him in something different -- but he's nothing brilliant. Marianna Hill is sweet and gorgeous, and the rest of the cast is fine, too.

    For me it's all about Adam Link. I think he's a wonderful character here. Give me that round head and those melancholy eyes and I'm his.

  13. I always liked this episode as a kid. At the time, the cliches that abound here weren't cliches to me because this was the first time I was coming across them--I recognized the nod to Frankenstein in the scene with the little girl, but the rest was new and therefore compelling. Adam was a sympathetic character, Howard Da Silva was entertaining, and it was easy to develop a juvenile crush on Nina Link. The ending seemed somehow profound to my little brain. Perhaps it hasn't worn well, but I remember it with fondness all the same and still can get enjoyment from rewatching.

  14. I agree with everyone about the little girl. After seeing Maria in Frankenstein, or even William Frankenstein in the book (who comes just a little closer to this character, she is hard to take. The funny thing is, that same actress was later in the film version of The Illustrated Man. She played the daughter in The Veldt (and in one other sequence), and since it was The Veldt, she played an even more unsettling little girl (even though she was much more low-key about it).

  15. 'The OL Companion' may have mentioned that the Robot suit was 'off the rack'at a Paramount studio warehouse. Wouldn't it be great to know just WHERE it actually came from...? I share Lisa's admiration for it--its not really all that generic. Has the most expressive look so I really like the creature. Anyone know what's become of it?

  16. I usually agree with you guys, but I actually think this is one of the best episodes in the series. Maybe that's because I am a prosecutor, and I appreciated the subtle differences between the handyman's version of events and Adam's version in the courtroom(e.g., "Doc, you didn't provide me with your John Hancock" vs. "Doc, how do you expect a man to pay for beer if you won't sign his check??").

    I also thought Leonard Nimoy was pretty good. (Much better than he ever was in multiple seasons of 'Mission Impossible!')

  17. I think the flashback scene of the housekeeper being startled by Adam almost has to be modeled just a little on Dorothy and the Scarecrow's first meeting with the Tin Man. Either way, it definitely reminds you of it.

  18. Really enjoyed this Episode and loved to see Nimoys great playing - Just watched it yesterday from the MGM DVD series season 2.

  19. I saw this one on Sci-Fi during their Sunday night at 2 AM run. Not bad.

    YOu forgot to mentino, Marianna Hill was on display as a conceited psychiatrist (vs. James Gregory's ego-maiacal psychiatrist) in "Dagger Of The Mind", and also played the town BITCH in "HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER".

    I thought I'd pass on a handy checklist. Adam Link appeared in AMAZING STORIES in the following issues:

    Jan'39 -- I, Robot
    Jul'39 -- The Trial of Adam Link, Robot
    Jan'40 -- Adam link In Business
    Feb'40 -- Adam Link's Vengeance
    May'40 -- Adam Link, Robot Detective
    Jul'40 -- Adam Link, Champion Athelete
    Dec'40 -- Adam Link Fights A War
    Feb'41 -- Adam Link In The Past
    May'41 -- Adam Link Faces A Revolt
    Apr'42 -- Adam Link Saves The World

    So, see, he DID survive the trial (or so it would appear).

    In addition, the stories were adapted into comics in EC's "WEIRD SCIENCE-FANTASY"

    Jan-Feb'55 / #27 -- I, Robot
    Mar'Apr'55 / #28 -- The Trial Of Adam Link
    May'Jun'55 / #29 -- Adam Link In Business!

    All 3 by Al Feldstein & Joe Orlando

    FANTASY ILLUSTRATED (Edited & published by Bill Spicer)

    Feb'64 / #1 -- Adam Link's Vengeance
    Jun'64 / #2 -- Adam Link's Vengeance part two

    adapted by Bill Spicer & D. Bruce Berry
    (the fanzine picked up where EC left off)
    These 2 episodes were reprinted in the TPB "FANDOM'S FINEST 2" (1998)

    THE OUTER LIMITS version adapted the first 2 stories sometime in late '64 / early '65

    CREEPY (Warren Publication) did new versions...

    '65 / #2 -- I Robot
    '65 / #4 -- The Trial Of Adam Link!
    Dec'65 / #6 -- Adam Link In Business
    Apr'66 / #8 -- Adam Link's Mate
    Jun'66 / #9 -- Adam Link's Vengeance
    Dec'66 / #12 -- Adam Link, Robot Detective
    Feb'67 / #13 -- Adam Link, Gangbuster
    Jun'67 / #15 -- Adam Link, Champion Athelete

    All credited to Joe Orlando

    I'm guessing they didn't do the last couple stories because editor Archie Goodwin left and the magazines became mostly reprints and with inferior artists for the next 2 years or so......

  20. Henry-

    Thanks very much for the checklist. It will come in handy some day, I'm sure. I just wanted to let you know that we're reading all your commentaries on the OL episodes and enjoying your thoughts.

  21. Speaking of L-OL moments, it's hard to see Adam moving toward the judge's bench during that accidental rampage with thinking the line "YOU'RE out of order!!"

  22. Again, this isn't that badly. It's rather flatly directed. I laughed twice. First when the robot tried to jump over the judges desk to attack him. He must have watched some old courtroom dramas. Then when the prosecutor calmly informed Adam that he was close to breaking his arm. Some of Nimoy's lines are funny. I can't believe the prosecutor didn't object to Adam being used as a witness. I always liked da Silva. He was good in David and Lisa and he won an Emmy for Verna USO girl. The theme of has technology gone too far during the summations is timely and not dated. Robot and A.I. stories are interesting to me.Nimoy resembles H.L. Menken and da Silva Clarence Darrow- at least it reminded me of Inherit the Wind. I liked their conversations. Nice writing.I wish the robot's voice was better. Quick thinking by Nimoy to catch the little gurl- that didn't work too well but I still bought the ending. Plus good closing narration. I'm feeling generous. 3 Zantis. I must be nuts. I prefer my top 10 from the abbreviated second season to my top 10 from the full first season.


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