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The Outer Limits: The Borderland

"Polarity, reverse!"

A scientist tries to open a door into another dimension, and things do not go well.

Maybe not the most memorable episode, but it had its moments. Like the hand thing. Early in the episode, Professor Ian Fraser (Peter Mark Richmond) got his hand stuck in his experimental magnetic machine thingy and it was reversed. I thought they did a good job with the inherent creepiness, especially at the dinner party when Ian was holding and caressing his cold, unnatural hand with the other.

Plus I thought the extended sequence at the power plant was cool at times, even though it kept descending into incomprehensible technobabble. I really liked that Ian's wife Eva was a distinguished mathematician and his research partner; I thought Nina Foch did a believable job flipping switches and turning knobs as she authoritatively called out numbers and instructions: "Full power! Polarity, four degrees! Pull one through nine! Hold on to ten! Power full!" Ian yelling instructions while trapped in the magnetic field thingy also worked. I liked the field effect with the conflicting patterns in the air, and the objects reversing into their mirror images. Although again, it was the hand thing, Eva holding on to Ian and eventually pulling him out of the field with her hand, that worked the best.

(Eva was also right that they should have done more tests on the second rat before Ian stepped into the thing. After all, the first rat actually reversed itself and blew up. I'm thinking Eva should have been running that experiment.)

Ian Fraser was sincere about his desire to explore another dimension, but the way he got funding was outright underhanded, pun intended Рby letting a zillionaire named Hartley think that he might be able to find his dead son on the other side of the dimensional door. I don't think science fiction and mysticism ever go together (correct me if I'm wrong). Even having the great Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Palmer, the charlatan medium, didn't make the s̩ance stuff work.

Mrs. Palmer and her assistant, Mr. Price, were plot devices inserted into the story to (1) give Hartley a false motivation for providing financing for the experiment that included shutting down power to an entire city for an hour (that would never happen), and (2) so that the two could show up during the experiment and almost literally throw a spanner into the works. At least Price, who seemed to be a lot worse than Palmer, got his karmic reward in the form of electrocution.

But the ending insisted that this episode was really all about the power of love. Eva's devotion to her foolhardy husband and her determination not to let him go brought him back from wherever he was – a frightening landscape where he had no sense of time and his teeth began to revolve. And Hartley's love for his son ended in suicide as he jumped into the magnetic field and dissolved. There was no happy ending for Hartley.

I think this episode didn't work because as I said earlier, it wanted to be about two conflicting things: mysticism and science fiction. An episode focused on the pure science of opening the door to another dimension might have worked better. Or an episode about opening a door to the afterlife. Not both. There also seemed to be two villains: Palmer and Price on the one hand (again, pun intended) and Sawyer, the Arrex Electronics executive who kept pressuring Ian to find a commercial payoff for his experiment. Nothing came out of Sawyer's plotline, but him ruining the experiment in pursuit of monetary gain probably would have been more appropriately villainous.

Bits and pieces:

— The action took place in Midland, about as innocuous a name for a city they could possibly come up with. And that was one funky looking power station, with towers embedded in the side of a mountain.

— The teaser was a total spoiler, since it showed Hartley's death at the end. And what was that thing during the opening monologue? Magnetic filings? It looked like an invisible person stroking a shag rug.

— Ian kept his hand in his pocket, but it was obvious from the outline in his lab coat that his hand was not really reversed. This could have been an easy effect.

— Hartley's son's name was Dion. Unusual name.

— This episode's requisite sixties sexism: Linc told Eva he would take care of her if something happened to Ian. Later, Ian asked Linc to take care of Eva. Even though she was a brilliant mathematician who saved Ian in the end, she couldn't take care of herself?

— Peter Mark Richmond was also in The Outer Limits episode, "The Probe," and Philip Abbott (Linc) was also in "ZZZZZ."

— Alfred Ryder (Price) was in the very first (terrible) episode of original Star Trek, "The Man Trap."

— My favorite of the great Gladys Cooper's roles was as Bette Davis' cruel, suffocating mother in Now, Voyager. Cooper was wasted in this episode.


Hartley: (re: the hand) "Is it painful?"
Ian: "It just feels cold, as though it's immersed in ice water. And there's a tingling sensation, like fine currents of electricity."

Ian: "Nobody knows what happens to people after they die. I certainly can't say that they cross over into another dimension."
Hartley: "But they might."
Ian: "Mr. Hartley, I'm a scientist, not a mystic. And I can only tell you that the realm beyond life is unknown."
And yet, you took his money. Didn't you?

Ian: "Dr. Sung has a saying: it's better to live two weeks as a tiger than a whole lifetime as a lamb."
Eva: "Ian, I'm sorry. I guess I'm just suffering from intuition."

What do you think? Two out of four exploding rats?

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


  1. Thank you for your reviews! I loved this old series.

  2. Greg, you're very welcome! They're on hiatus right now because it's fall season time, but I'm definitely getting back to them at some point.


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