The Outer Limits: Tourist Attraction

Gotta love the bloodshot eyes
A rich man on a fishing expedition catches something monstrous, and things do not go well.

"Tourist Attraction" didn't feel much like an Outer Limits episode to me. Except for the fish monster, of course.

I've always found the idea of prehistoric fish-like creatures still alive today to be creepy, like the discovery of the coelacanth back in the 1930s, which was actually discussed in this episode. The "ichthyosaurus mercurius" was supposedly a major step beyond the coelacath, though – it was the size of a stuntman in a big costume, it had hands and pseudo-feet, not to mention that it rose from the dead when defrosted and emitted an incapacitating sound that could knock people down. It could even focus a cutting beam that turned iron into powder. That's one talented critter. Plus, it was really something to see. The fish monster's scenes were definitely the high point.

And I'll admit I enjoyed all of the fish monster's buddies coming out of the water to rescue him during the big finish; I could not stop laughing. It reminded me of the end of the Buffy episode "Go Fish." In fact, I kept thinking of lines from "Go Fish" while I was watching this one, like "We'd better find the rest of the swim team and lock them up before they get in touch with their inner halibut" and "The creature from the Blue Lagoon was Brooke Shields."



It was obvious what they were going for here in a story sense: contrasting what humans used to worship, as in gods and monsters that could possibly eat you, and what humans worship now: money and power. Plus they worked in a simpler subtheme: nature can still thump the heck out of technology.

Our lead character this time was zillionaire John Dexter (Ralph Meeker), an ugly American that used his money and power like a weapon. Dexter was so rich that he actually bought out the business of a marine biologist and used him as an assistant on his fishing expeditions, which begs the question: do you really need a marine biologist on a fishing expedition? Dexter also bought himself a girlfriend, Lynn Arthur (Janet Blair), a journalist that had written an expose about Dexter, and whose publication he then purchased and put out of business. I was unclear about why Lynn agreed to be Dexter's mistress, or as she put it, his "resident secretary; that's sort of a den mother with shorthand." Maybe she just needed a job.

Even more unpleasant than John Dexter was General Juan Mercurio (Henry Silva), the military dictator of the Republic of San Blas, who struggled with Dexter for possession of the fish monster Dexter killed so that Mercurio could display it at his huge, sparsely attended world's fair. It was weird how Dexter's confrontation with General Mercurio seemed to focus on how Latinos are more comfortable touching and kissing other men than Americans. What was going on there?



I did like that Mercurio had a small statue of the fish monster on a table in his office and referred to it as an ancient god. (Honestly, I really did get the theme they were going for here.) I also liked how Mercurio glared at Dexter when he showed up for a formal function wearing fishing clothes and dirty sneakers.

But I'll admit that for the most part, I kept waiting for this episode to be over.

It might have been interesting if the university professor and Evans, the marine biologist, had succeeded in communicating with the fish monster, although that would have completely changed the focus of the episode. I liked that Evans rallied in the end, did the right thing and cut the monster loose. Although not before the fish monsters' sonic growling made the metaphorical and not-metaphorical dam break, destroying all of Mercurio's supposed accomplishments and drowning him in the bargain. It would have made sense theme-wise if the big finish had included Dexter being killed by the fish monsters too, but no. Instead, they tacked on an inexplicable romantic ending, with Dexter showing Evans some kindness and Lynn deciding that she loved Dexter, after all.

Oh, well. I wish "Tourist Attraction" had been a better episode. It certainly had to have been expensive, considering that they jammed in murky underwater photography, actors wrestling with fish monsters, the yacht scenes and the special effects of the dam breaking, not to mention the big tank, the full-body monster suits and all of the extras in multiple scenes.

At least it had a good "bear."

Bits:

The Outer Limits squiggle was on the sonar screen on Dexter's ship.

— The university professor opined that the fish monster was three hundred million years old. Really? Based on what? They hadn't even dissected it yet.

— Dexter put the dead fish monster on ice immediately, but was foiled by a couple of derogatory stereotypes named Paco and Mario, who were drinking wine, playing checkers, and arbitrarily turning down thermostats for no good reason.

— The rear projection car scene made me laugh. They were in a convertible going at top speed, Lynn's hair wasn't moving even the tiniest bit, and Dexter's hat stayed on.

— More guns. Dexter actually shot at the rescuing fish monsters with, was it a machine gun? My knowledge of weapons is elementary.

— Seeing the fish monster imprisoned and suspended in the huge tank did make me go "poor thing!" at least a little. Plus I kept feeling bad for the actor stuck in that costume, swimming underwater, carted around on dollies and then caught up in all of those nets.

— The tight, revealing bathing suits might have been a mistake. Ralph Meeker wasn't exactly Xander in a red Speedo.

I daresay episodes like this one are not what The Outer Limits is all about. One out of four speedos,

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

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