The Outer Limits: The Man With the Power

"It's like a dark cloud in my subconscious."

A mild-mannered college professor acquires the power to move things with his mind, and things do not go well.

I'm sorry to report that I yawned through this one. While Donald Pleasance gave a decent performance, the way he acquired his powers and the execution of the horror elements of the episode fell completely flat for me.

It's a shame, too, because the plot had possibilities – in fact, while I doubt there was anything like it in 1963, the mind control thing has since become a horror movie staple. It's absolutely true that even nice people have less-than-nice thoughts, that even mild-mannered college professors can have violent fantasies. (Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.)

Harold J. Finley's new power brought out the worst in him, even though he didn't realize it until after he'd taken out a truck, his boss, and nearly his wife with what looked like a literal special effects interpretation of a brainstorm. I suppose it wasn't a surprise that the scar on Finley's forehead looked like a simplified pitchfork, or possibly the mark of Cain.

Where did the link-gate thingy actually come from? This was a weak point in the story. Like, how did Finley come to have this operation in the first place? Who would insert an experimental object into someone's frontal lobe, and why? It might have flowed better if Finley had had some sort of experimental treatment for an illness that accidentally turned him into a telekinetic marvel, but no. It also seemed unreal that no one else would choose to have that sort of power, even though it didn't work out for Finley. You just know that if Steve the nice astronaut doesn't get the operation, someone will.

What could have made this episode work? Along with a better explanation of the link gate, I also wish Finley had been more likeable a character. He was the epitome of forgettable milquetoast. Even his nasty wife Vera didn't like him. Not only did she completely ignore him in favor of an endless number of household chores, she confessed in the end that she never wanted to have his children. Leaving aside the idiocy of telling a man something like that when you're afraid he might kill you, why would she have stayed married to him in the first place? So that she could get her jollies being as emasculating as possible?

I could almost hear the writer saying, how can I visually convey that Vera is emasculating? I know! We could have her violently snipping at hedges!

For me, the most interesting part of this episode was the search for a new type of power by creating a viable alternative to fossil fuels using the human mind, and retrieving natural resources from the asteroid belt. I also liked the reference to hubris, and becoming gods.

Bits:

— When Finley demonstrated his power by lifting that huge rock with his mind, the wires holding the rock were clearly visible.

— Why was Dean Radcliffe, in bed, calling Finley on the phone at 11:30 in the evening? Because the plot required it?

— The shrink's first name was Sigmund. That made me laugh out loud. Plus, a doctor making a house call? I thought this was science fiction, not fantasy. (Yes, I know doctors made house calls in the sixties.)

— There was no monster. I don't think the "brainstorm" counts.

One out of four household tasks,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

2 comments:

percysowner said...

why would she have stayed married to him in the first place? So that she could get her jollies being as emasculating as possible?.

As a note, this episode was shot in 1963. The first state to allow no-fault divorce was California in 1969. In most states you could only get a divorce because of adultery AND you had to have physical proof i.e. pictures or an eye witness. Some states allowed divorce because of abandonment or physical abuse, but the person filing for divorce had to be "innocent' of any bad behavior on their part. You could go to Nevada, which had slightly broader grounds, (impotency, adultery, desertion, conviction of a felony, habitual drunkenness, neglect to provide the common necessities of life, insanity, living apart for three years, and extreme cruelty entirely mental in nature) and a short residency requirement. But back in 1963, if you hated your spouse, but they didn't cheat, or abandon you, you were stuck. Vera had practically zero options for leaving the marriage since the Finley character didn't see like the type to cheat, be abusive or abandon the marriage. Times really have changed.

Billie Doux said...

percysowner, that's a really good point. I didn't think sixties while I was reviewing this one and I should have.

Thankfully, times have changed, as you said. Except in the Republic of Gilead.