Every Saturday, The Savvy Screener’s Boomer Box is counting down “The 50 Greatest Television Episodes of the 1960s,” in reverse chronological order, as researched and written by Todd M. Pence.
The mid-1960s saw the advent of the most ambitious pure science-fiction anthology series television had seen to date: Leslie Stephens and Joseph Stefano’s The Outer Limits.
Ostensibly a “monster of the week show,” the memorably iconic alien costumes, constructions, and special effects the program featured week after week belied sophisticated themes examining the nature and evolution of humankind.
Perhaps no other series in television history so well combined high-brow sci-fi with primal psychological horror. The prototypical “ahead-of-its-time” TV series, The Outer Limits sacrificed its own longevity during its original run for a posthumous immortality.
The episode usually cited as the series’ crowning achievement aired early in its final, abbreviated ABC season, on October 17, 1964:
“Demon with a Glass Hand” stars Robert Culp as a man known only as Trent, with no memory of his past life. In place of his left hand is a sophisticated computer shaped like a human appendage but with three missing fingers. The computer tells Trent that when he finds and replaces the digits he will be informed as to his identity and purpose.
Trent learns that he has actually been sent back in time from the far future, a period when Earth has been conquered by aliens called Kybens. The Kybens are themselves dying because of a plague unleashed by the earthmen as a last-recourse defensive effort. He meets a woman named Conseulo (Arlene Martel).
Trent must undergo the quest for his missing fingers and his missing identity while being pursued by Kybens from the future, who believe that the information he carries holds a cure for the plague, all the while unaware of an existential nightmare that will be revealed by learning the answers to his questions.
Harlan Ellison’s screenplay won a Writer’s Guild of America award for anthology drama. Ellison would later also win a WGA for his script for another legendary science fiction series: Star Trek’s “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
You can buy “Demon with a Glass Hand” for $1.99 from Amazon.
(Top photo: Arlene Martel, Robert Culp and the glass hand. Source: IMDb)
- ‘Mr. Novak’: 1960s’ #28 - July 17, 2021
- James Drury’s ‘Virginian’ - July 10, 2021
- Peter Fonda’s 1964 ’High’ - July 3, 2021
- #31: ‘The Outer Limits’ - June 26, 2021
- The Fugitive’s ‘Survivors’ - June 19, 2021
- Slattery’s People ‘Unborn’ - June 12, 2021
- Rod Serling’s ‘The Loner’ - June 5, 2021
- 1960s’ #36: ‘Combat!’ - May 22, 2021
- ‘60s #37: ‘The Time Tunnel’ - May 15, 2021
- #38: ‘Mission: Impossible’ - May 8, 2021