Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It came from outer space...

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A collection by Neal McKenna 

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NASA warns of fresh risk from £468m satellite falling from space 

Nasa's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite. 
Photo: Rex Features

A six tonne Nasa satellite is set to fall uncontrolled out of orbit, potentially raining debris over swathes of the planet including Britain, the US space agency has admitted. 

The $750 million (£468 million) Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite(UARS) satellite, launched 20 years ago to study climate change, is set to breach the atmosphere within weeks.
In a new alert issued this week, officials warned pieces could land in densely populated areas on six continents including parts of Britain, Europe, North and South America and Asia.
Nasa claimed the risk to public safety from the “dead” satellite – which is orbiting just over 155 miles above the earth with an inclination of 57 degrees – was “extremely small”.
But senior space agency officials admitted they were “concerned” about the risk to billions of people when it starts falling uncontrolled out of orbit at any stage from later this month.
Nasa admitted more than half a tonne of metal from the satellite, which ran out of fuel in 2005, will survive as the majority of it will burn up after entering Earth's atmosphere.
Scientists estimate the debris footprint will be about 500 miles long with a 1-in-3,200 chance a part a satellite part could hit someone.
While Nasa did not know the exact areas it will fall, the projected danger zone has been narrowed to areas between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south of the Equator.
These areas cover six continents and billions of people and three oceans.
"Things have been re-entering ever since the dawn of the space age; to date nobody has been injured by anything that's re-entered," said Gene Stansbery, Nasa’s orbital debris chief.
"That doesn't mean we're not concerned."
The UARS satellite, which travels over a large band of Earth, avoiding only areas close to the poles, is being tracked by scientists at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, and the Joint Space Operations Centre of the US Strategic Command at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
Scientists will rely on data from radars and other deep-space telescopes located at nearly three dozens points around the world based on more than 80,000 observations of space every day.
A Nasa spokesman added: “Although the spacecraft will break into pieces during re-entry, not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere. The risk to public safety or property is extremely small, and safety is Nasa’s top priority.
“It is too early to say exactly when UARS will re-enter and what geographic area may be affected, but Nasa is watching the satellite closely.”
It was unlikely that any hazardous material was left in the satellite but officials warned people wanting to cash in on it, not to touch any fallen parts.
"If you find something you think may be a piece of UARS, do not touch it. Contact a local law enforcement official for assistance,” the spokesman added. Nasa will track the satellite on a weekly and later daily basis until it falls.
The satellite, launched by the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1991, is 35 feet long, 15 feet in diameter and weighs nearly six tonnes. It was designed to operate for three years but six of its ten instruments are still working.
Scientists say UARS measures ozone and chemical compounds found in the ozone layer and how they affect the earth's ecosystems, winds and temperatures in the stratosphere and energy input from the Sun.
"Together, these help define the role of the upper atmosphere in climate and climate variability," a spokesman added.
According to the US Space Surveillance Network, which monitors space junk, there are more than 22,000 objects measuring 10cm or more currently above the earth. The International Space Station has to move out of the way of debris occasionally.
Last year, a Pentagon report warned that space was so littered with debris that a collision between satellites could set off an “uncontrolled chain reaction” capable of destroying the communications network on Earth.
The volume of abandoned rockets, shattered satellites and missile shrapnel in the Earth’s orbit is reaching a “tipping point” and is now threatening the $250 billion (£174bn) space services industry, according to the US Defense Department's interim Space Posture Review.
Meanwhile in a report earlier this month, the National Academy of Sciences admitted that scientists had “lost control” of the space environment.
What is space junk and why should we be worried?
Space so full of junk that a satellite collision could destroy communications on Earth
Warning over danger of space junk
A risky game of space invaders
Mystery 'asteroid' to pass earth 
September 24, 2011
Nasa searches for scraps of crashed satellite in Canada and Indian Ocean
Nasa has confirmed that debris from a bus-sized satellite has crashed back to Earth in Canada, the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

NASA posted on its official Twitter site that the aging UARS spacecraft crashed through the atmosphere early Saturday morning. A precise location for re-entry was not immediately known. However, there are other reports on Twitter of debris falling over Okotoks, a town south of Calgary. Most of the satellite is believed to have burned up. The Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California says the satellite penetrated the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

More Via the CBC
Nasa unveils 
Space Launch System Vision
By Jonathan Amos,
Science correspondent, BBC News 
Nasa's top official, General Charles Bolden, hails the start of a new era 

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The design for a huge rocket to take humans to asteroids and Mars has been unveiled by the US space agency Nasa.
The Space Launch System (SLS), as it is currently known, will be the most powerful launcher ever built - more powerful even than the Saturn V rockets that put men on the Moon.
On top of the SLS, Nasa plans to put its Orion astronaut capsule, which is already in development.
The agency says the first launch should occur towards the end of 2017.
This will be an uncrewed test flight, and it is estimated the project will have cost $18bn (£11.4bn) by that stage.
"The next chapter of America's space exploration story is being written today," said Nasa's top official, General Charles Bolden.
"President Obama has challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that's exactly what we do.
"While I was proud to fly in the space shuttle, tomorrow's explorers will dream of one day walking on Mars."
Evolved design

The Space Launch System (SLS)

Shuttle main engines
  • Nasa's intention is to lean on as much space shuttle heritage as possible
  • Its central tank's width is 8.4m - same as the space shuttle's famous orange tank
  • Design calls for two liquid-fuelled (cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen) stages
  • Core stage has three to five RS-25D/E engines - the units used on the orbiter (above)
  • Upper stage will use the J-2X engine that has been in development for some years
  • SLS will incorporate solid-fuelled side boosters, although this may change over time
  • At 2017, the SLS should be able to lift 70 tonnes to LEO. It must evolve to 130 tonnes eventually
The SLS will borrow many technologies developed for the recently retired space shuttle programme. These include the shuttle orbiter's main engines.
But whereas the reusable spaceplane had three such power units on its aft, the SLS main core stage in its full-up configuration will have five.
A further stage on top will provide additional muscle, as will shuttle-like strap-on boosters. Although, again, these will be bigger than those used on the shuttle.
The initial design calls for the SLS to be able to put 70 tonnes in a low-Earth orbit (LEO), the altitude of the space station. Some 130 tonnes is the eventual target.
By comparison, today's biggest commercial launch vehicles, such as the Ariane 5 or the Delta IV Heavy, can put just over 20 tonnes in LEO.
The immense lift capability is necessary to put all the equipment in orbit that is needed to undertake a deep-space mission. This would consist of not only the Orion capsule but perhaps a habitation module and a landing craft to go down to the surface of another planetary body.
In the case of a Mars mission, several SLS launches would probably be needed.
Destination 'roadmap'
Wednesday's announcement is the culmination of months of study on the part of Nasa engineers, and sometimes fractious argument with the US Congress which felt the agency was not moving fast enough on the project it initiated in a piece of legislation called the Nasa Authorisation Act 2010.
"We have been frustrated by the time delays," said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican who serves on a Nasa oversight committee and who joined Charles Bolden on Capitol Hill to make the SLS announcement.
"The numbers are within the authorization levels; we are now moving forward as a team for America," she added. "Sometimes the making of the sausage isn't pretty but we are at the right end, I hope."
Since the retirement of the shuttle in July, America has no means of getting its own astronauts into orbit; it must rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to do that job.
Nasa has invited the private sector to sell it transportation services to the space station, but these commercially operated rockets and capsules will not be ready for flight until the middle of the decade. And, in any case, none of them will have the power or the life-support systems capable of taking astronauts beyond LEO.
In leaving routine LEO operations to the commercial sector, Nasa hopes it will have sufficient funds available to develop the SLS and Orion in time for the 2017 inaugural launch.
There is no "roadmap" yet for where the SLS and Orion might take humans, and when. President Obama has talked only about getting astronauts to an asteroid in the 2025 timeframe, and to Mars at some unspecified future date.
Other targets might include missions to geostationary orbit to fix broken, high-value telecommunications satellites that sit 36,000km (22,370 miles) above the Earth.
"We've talked conceptually about multiple destinations," said Bill Gerstenmaier, Nasa's Human exploration and operations associate administrator. "We need to get some more details on the actual rocket performance, put that together with these concepts and then start talking to people about specifics.
"We can do pretty exciting missions with the capability we've got, even in the 70-metric-tonne range."
MPCVTo send a manned mission to Mars, even just to circle it, would require a lot of support equipment
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Sometimes you get the bear... 
and sometimes the bear gets you.
That old bromide, called up in so many real-world situations from ball parks to boardrooms, could well have been the pitch line that exec producer Leslie Stevens and writer/producer Joseph Stefano used to sell their groundbreaking and still distinctive ABC-TV anthology series,The Outer Limits
We're not talking about the recent Sci Fi Channel "update" that's fine but rarely strives beyond the ordinary. We're talking about THE Outer Limits, that source of many a Boomer childhood memory or nightmare. This series of sci-fi/horror fables enthralled, excited, or scared the Sugar Pops out of Kennedy-Johnson-era audiences from September 1963 to January 1965. When Stefano, who had turned Robert Bloch's routine novel into the screenplay for Hitchcock's Psycho, wanted his weekly "bears" to get you, then you got got.
As he defined it, a Stefano "bear" was any monstrous creature whose purpose was to "induce wonder or tolerable terror or even merely conversation and argument." Before he left the series (a departure that resulted in a generally banal second season), Stefano kept the show and its writers to a clear and reliable formula. Each episode's bear would make an appearance before the half-hour station break. It may be initially benevolent, but by the end of the hour something — frequently it was human fear/greed/prejudice/ignorance — would set it off.
Many bears were nasty things bent on harm or conquest or some other unpleasantness. On the other hand (claw, tentacle, appendage), a well-used twist in The Outer Limits' "monster of the week" formula was the weird alien who brought out the "monster" in humankind by being more humane than the humans around it. Some disturbingly embodied the personal hidden desires or drives of our shadow selves, as Jungian psychology would call it. Several literalized the traumas of war veterans (WWII and Korea in particular dwelled in the series' psyche), as well as the era's Cold War paranoia.
With few exceptions during the first season's 32 hour-long installments preserved in this DVD set (that's 27 hours and 22 minutes, commercial-free), The Outer Limits gave its viewers the benefit of the doubt as being adults looking for more than ordinary fare. Framed by simple (but only occasionally simpleminded) object lessons intoned by Vic Perrin's somber Control Voice ("There is nothing wrong with your television set...."), the best episodes challenge viewers intellectually and emotionally, encouraging us be more than passive non-participants.
What's more, roughly half of Season One's episodes show off the cinema-quality cinematography of Conrad Hall, whose rich and complex compositions soon after earned him acclaim and Academy Awards. 
While you're watching, say, his effective handheld camerawork in "The Man Who Was Never Born," study the early work that led to Hall's photographic eloquence in Marathon ManIn Cold BloodButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and, most recently, American Beauty in 1999 and Road to Perdition in 2002. Many of the series' episodes crystallized when Hall teamed with writer Stefano and director Gerd Oswald. Together they formed a film noir-touched, expressionistic triumvirate.
Anthology series such as The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone have the advantage when it comes to characters who can be realistically and irrevocably changed by the events of a story. In The Outer Limits, each episode, good or bad or middlin', is a self-contained little snow-globe — a story that opens tranquilly, then the bear comes in, shakes things up, and when the debris settles nothing's ever quite the same again.
Take the first episode, for instance. In "The Galaxy Being," a pandimensional creature from Andromeda is accidentally pulled through a sky-scanning radio transceiver manned by Cliff Robertson (Spider-Man's Uncle Ben) and innocent people die before the inherently benign traveler returns home. (That episode established the typical Stefano protagonist — the isolated misfit who receives or achieves the power to either save or destroy the world.) A genuine classic, "The Man Who Was Never Born" turns a Beauty & The Beast fable into a tragic love story in which a horrid mutant from the future (Martin Landau's moving tour de force performance) sacrifices his own existence for a better world and for the 20th-century woman who has fallen in love with the gentle soul beneath his monstrous tissue.
In "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork" — a memorable Atomic Age parable — a cleaning lady unleashes a living power storm that grows into an unstoppable killer. Uneducated Welsh miner David McCallum (The Man from UNCLE) quick-evolves into a far-future bulb-headed supermenace in "The Sixth Finger." The surreal "Don't Open Till Doomsday" embodies decades-long coitus interruptus in a vaguely vaginal alien blob whose universe is contained within a mysterious box.
The demonic Ebonite aliens in "Nightmare" capture and torture a spaceship team of Earth soldiers, including 23-year-old Martin Sheen. A pair of mind-controlling alien rocks are the bears in "Corpus Earthling," with Robert Culp trying to save himself and the world in a drama that gives post-war trauma a bleak metaphorical airing. Henry Silva confronts a drippy blob invading Earth in "The Mice." Cruel and desperate humans (Sally Kellerman and Martin Landau) capture an angelic alien inside "The Bellero Shield" before, as is the way of such things, comeuppance in time for the closing credits.
Oh, how The Outer Limits loved Bug-Eyed Monsters. Robert Culp, one of the series' signature returning players, is a scientist surgically morphed into a horrid alien BEM to frighten Earth's nuclear powers into uniting for peace in "The Architects of Fear," a watershed episode. 
In "The Mutant," radioactive rainfall transforms Warren Oates into a cue-ball-eyed terror whose touch can kill. An insect-like BEM in a business suit is a deadbeat dad to one of "The Children of Spider County."
The show's most famous BEMs are small alien convicts — like ants with unnerving, malicious human faces — who give Bruce Dern reasons to regret messing with "The Zanti Misfits."

Frontiers, final and otherwise

Obviously, at first blush The Outer Limits is a science fiction series. However, it shares closer DNA with the horror genre. More often than not it uses familiar science-fictional tropes — alien invaders, human-ET contact, time travel, science gone Horribly Wrong, etc. — as the means to tell stories, not as ends in themselves. These stories are often stark or poignant excursions into "the human condition." 
They're told with bravado via gothic creepers, Old Dark House mysteries, cautionary tales, taut dramas, and even a comedy. If you were a kid in that pre-Star Trek age, this was the show that you recounted with your friends the following day in the schoolyard, even if you watched it from behind the couch or while clutching Mom's hand.
That is, if you were allowed to watch it at all, because although many episodes play off of childhood fears, The Outer Limits was that rare and precious TV life-form: a fantastical series aimed at grown-ups. Even today the best of these scripts strike us as unusually literate and sophisticated, and while they can be talky by today's flash-cut standards, they display a refreshing tendency to not talk down to the audience. Notice the heightened, almost poetic, dialogue in "The Bellero Shield," a story with more than a few borrowings from Macbeth.
In "A Feasibility Study," an L.A. neighborhood is transported to a distant planet. The aliens (who look what you'd get if you took a blowtorch to a lead mannequin) are testing humans' suitability as slave labor. If the study on this small sample of humanity succeeds, the entire population of Earth will be kidnapped to this desolate world. Eschewing routine TV heroics in this unwinnable situation, to save their fellow humans every member of the stressed-out neighborhood joins hands and chooses a particularly grim form of mass suicide rather than face a life of servitude — a choice that prompted ABC to delay the broadcast for almost a year.
A still-resonant turn toward sober allegory drives "O.B.I.T.", when a senate investigation into a murder at a top-secret defense installation reveals an all-seeing surveillance device, the Outer Band Individuated Teletracer. With privacy rendered obsolete by the very authorities who claim to be protecting us, the surveillance's effect on the watchers is as dire as it is on the demoralized, spiritless populace being watched.
Although it was obviously written as a response to the remembered abuses of the House Un-American Activities Committee, this insightful story knifes into subjects that remain PATRIOT Act fresh to this day, right down to the Ashcroftian line, "People who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear from O.B.I.T."
Years before the Hotel California, "The Guests" presents the series' most dream-like of Old Dark House psychodramas. A drifter stumbles upon a mysterious house and its bizarre ensemble of time-dislocated residents. The house's shifting, maze-like corridors and stairs that go nowhere make escape impossible. 
It's soon apparent that the bickering, maddened, perverse samples of humanity ("Shut up, Randall, or I'll be nice to you!") trapped within its walls exist for the whims of some thing in the attic. Rich with gothic atmosphere, "The Guests" is marred by the now-trite motives (and speaking style) of its "bear," plus a tone-altering sentimental twist. Even so, the existential truth that each prisoner holds makes for an episode that feels lifted from the pages of Kafka or Camus or Borges.
Has any Golden Age science fiction story been adapted for television more often than Fredric Brown's "Arena"? The Outer Limits beat Star Trek to the punch with "Fun and Games." Two Earthlings, two-bit hood Nick Adams and good-girl idealist Nancy Malone, are teleported to the planet Andarra, where they must fight to the death in gladiatorial games. Their opponents: a pair of monstrous aliens. The stakes: the fate of their entire species. One of the highlights here is Robert Johnson's alien games master, known as the Senator, who's a giddily capricious and melodramatic villain.
Occasionally the monster was a malevolence more human and home-grown. In the Cold War political potboiler, "One Hundred Days of the Dragon," the Red Chinese use a technique of remolding human flesh to replace the U.S. President with a double agent. It's the most dated of all the episodes here, and the script's rusty Yellow Peril stereotyping would make any invading BEM cringe, but this one's a revealing window into an era and a way of thinking that (we like to believe) got left behind in the 1960s.
The "invaders taking over government leaders" trope gets another spin in "The Invisibles." This time the paranoia is more suffocating and keeps an under-the-skin style that's still disturbing and claustrophobic. Here "sick, nameless nuclei" from space possess world officials, headed by George MacReady, and a C.I.A.-like agent infiltrates their cabal. Distrust of our elected officials — seeing them as a Secret Society operating for its own agenda — may be conditioned into our social psyche today, but in the pre-Watergate, pre-Neocon America of 1963 this superior suspense thriller presented a nerve-rattling proposition.
Even for The Outer Limits, Season One's closing story, "The Forms of Things Unknown" is a peculiar masterpiece. Its blend of gothic horror and Hitchcockian exhumation of sexual fear comes well crafted with Stefano's lyrical script, taut editing, and Conrad Hall's moody, sophisticated-for-TV cinematography. (In true European art-house style, concepts of light and shadow are heightened both visually and thematically.) Vera Miles and Barbara Rush team up to murder a sadistic philanderer. 
Lost in a forest with the body in the trunk of their car, they hole up in an isolated mansion with its strange owner, David McCallum, who claims to have discovered a technique for "tilting the dead past into the lively present." To say that his technique — visualized like an update of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — impacts what's in the trunk gives away only a little. 
This is one of the weirdest, most effective hours of television you're likely to find. "The Forms of Things Unknown" was intended as a pilot for a new anthology series, The Unknown. A longer, separate version was filmed for Playhouse 90 and for theatrical release in Europe.

Bears on a budget

We can admit without apology that The Outer Limits' monsters, aliens, and other nonhuman bogies quite often betray their economy of cost and materials. Today their relative technical primitiveness can evince "kiddie show" snobbery among those who sniff at anything less than modern CGI techniques. 
The climactic battle scene with the marauding Zantis may elicit more giggles than thrills. Yet here's further proof that when you have strong and intelligent scripts, mindful directing, and your sense of aesthetics in the right place, it doesn't really matter if the monster is obviously a man in a rubber suit or a molded plastic mask or a post-production photographic trick. That energy storm monster menacing Edward Asner "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork" is a transparent optical effect, yet with its sound and fury it's one of the series' finest unearthly terrors and still nightmarishly effective.
One of the more effective budget-saving episodes is a light comedy, "Controlled Experiment." Occurring within a single generic hotel lobby set, it stars Carrol O'Connor and Barry Morse as Martians (with no makeup or facial appliances) studying the peculiar human custom we call murder. They use a handheld time-control device to replay a lovers'-quarrel murder scene again and again in an attempt to understand the alien thinking of Earth's strange inhabitants.
Of course, some outright dogs are bound to end up on the screen. Among the ill-favored episodes in Season One, "Tourist Attraction" was both the series' most budget-busting hour and a woefully misfired opus that's the worst in funny-rubber-suit-monster dullness. "The Borderland" is one hour that feels like three, with no salvation from gobbledygook dialogue about "the fourth dimension" that would make no sense even if the plot were at all engaging. "ZZZZZ," with its Evil Bee Woman, is too similar to Roger Corman's The Wasp Woman and other drive-in fodder. 
Pretty white flowers from space threaten, barely, the human race in the lackluster "Specimen: Unknown." "Second Chance" didn't deserve one, and "The Special One" is as unspecial as they come. While "Moonstone" is simply inept, "Production and Decay of Strange Particles" inhabits the series' nadir hour with its impenetrable ramblings about extra-dimensional neutrino beings shambling about the cheapest of sets and causing Allyson Aimes to faint a lot. It's an episode that's comically, not cosmically, awful.

Six degrees, hold the Kevin Bacon

You can make a drinking game by watching The Outer Limits and playing Name That Famous Actor. Of the familiar faces and voices, some making their TV debuts, you could point out Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Sally Kellerman, Cliff Robertson, Martin Landau, Chita Rivera, Robert Culp, Bruce Dern, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Vera Miles, Henry Silva, Edward Asner, Lloyd Nolan, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Carrol O'Connor, Barry Morse, Nick Adams, Eddie Albert, Dabney Coleman, Richard Dawson, Michael Constantine, James Doohan, David McCallum, Warren Oates, Donald Pleasence, and Adam West.
Further whiskey shooters will put a fraternity under the table upon naming the "I know that face" character actors such as John Hoyt, Harry Townes, and Kent Smith, all those indispensable sharecropping laborers of series television you'll recognize from countless other series fromStar Trek to Perry Mason to Melrose Place.

Mission control

Behind the cameras we find another Who's Who of remarkable talent. We've already mention Conrad Hall. Before writer Robert Towne became known for Polanski's Chinatown, he wrote the Robert Duvall episode "The Chameleon." Other writers who contributed to The Outer Limitsincluded executive producer Leslie Stevens, David Duncan (George Pal's The Time Machine), and Jerry Sohl (Twilight ZoneStar Trek). Famed surly short-story writer Harlan Ellison scripted two notable second season episodes: "Soldier" and "Demon With a Glass Hand," often cited as the series' finest hour and one of TV's all-time best. Ellison successfully sued James Cameron for The Terminator's similarities to those stories.
Veteran cinema director Byron Haskin (The War of the WorldsThe Naked JungleTreasure Island) helmed numerous episodes. Gerd Oswald heads the list of directors, such as Robert Florey and László Benedek, well-known also for their work on TV's ThrillerAlfred Hitchcock Presents, or Star Trek.
On the music front, Dominic Frontiere's outstanding scoring set the perfect tone in memorable fashion.
The team behind the remarkable array of special effects and imaginative monsters included Jim Danforth (John Carpenter's The Thing), Wah Chang (The Time MachineThe Seven Faces of Dr. Lao), and — schlockfilm connoisseurs take note — makeup artist Harry Thomas (Plan 9 from Outer SpaceLittle Shop of Horrors, among many others).

Between the Limits and the Zone

So, which was better, The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone? Tribal wars have broken out over lesser questions. There's no doubt that The Twilight Zone has earned its status as one of the all-time high points of television history. But if The Outer Limits had known Zone's perpetual syndication status and word-of-mouth PR, would the debate be even more heated among genre cognoscenti, or might The Outer Limits edge out its famous competitor on CBS as the more sure-footed of the two series?
It's an apples-and-oranges argument that isn't fairly stacked. ABC's homicidal network broadcast time-shifting and other interference sliced into The Outer Limits' hamstrings. So Stefano left the series after the first season, and the second season was clubbed like a baby seal by a fatal time slot and a production staff that created, with a few worthy exceptions, flat and colorless episodes that didn't carry over Season One's better ingredients. 
The Outer Limits was doomed to a death before its time. No less an aficionado than Stephen King (in his nonfiction book on the horror genre, Danse Macabre) makes a case for The Outer Limits being the purer manifestation of its vision, unburdened byZone's tendency toward "smarmy," "simplistic," or "almost painfully corny" moral tales that were "really sentimental riffs on old supernatural themes."
Not that the question is important in any case. The heyday of anthology fantasy/horror brought us both shows, and television became a better thing because of them. Just repeat after the Control Voice: "There is nothing wrong with your television set...."

The DVDs

My, what a (heh) eye-popping set this is. The entire first season of 32 hour-long episodes is here, squeezed onto four two-sided, double-layered discs (DVD-18). The twin-chambered keep-case is engineered to avoid the cumbersome multi-gatefold digipak awkwardness common to other TV-season boxed sets. No supplementary extras pad out the menus, and that's fine. I suspect that one more minute of material would cause these packed-full discs to magically decompress like Snakes-in-a-Can, spattering the walls with pixels and BEMs.
These digital transfers look terrific. All are in their original black-and-white, full-frame 1.33:1. They're transferred from 35mm masters that occasionally show their age, especially in the darker scenes, through minor grain, washout or fading, plus a speck now and then. Still, they're remarkably clean and undamaged. 
Overall, the definition, contrast, and gradation are far better than we might have hoped for. The digital compression ranges from Okay to Very Good, so viewers with larger monitors should expect, for example, the occasional distraction of a character's pinstriped dress going a bit a-shimmer or a strong diagonal banister suffering "stair-step" jaggies.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural audio is inherently limited, of course, with flat highs and lows compared to modern TV soundtracks. From episode to episode, though, the audio is solid, very clean, and stable with no hiss to speak of. And the DVDs' production team was respectful enough to not "sweeten" the audio with unnecessary add-on stereo separation effects.
The set comes with a handsome twelve-page booklet of episode synopses, original airdates, trivia, and credits, a welcome courtesy and convenience that some other recent TV series full-season releases neglect.
One complaint concerns the "Side A / Side B" labeling on the discs themselves. That tiny tiny text almost requires a jeweler's loupe just to tell which side of the disc you want to play.
Another minor irritant occurs when each disc's main menu spoofs the show's famous Control Voice. When we pop in a disc, we're greeted by a cheesy cartoon-pitched "robot" voice telling us that "There is nothing wrong with your DVD player," etc. It's painfully unclever. What's more, you can't chapter-skip past the opening credits without landing somewhere deep within the story. That's a problem compounded by each episode's pre-credits preview teaser segment, which often gives away surprises still to come.
— Mark Bourne            Via DVD Journal

The Outer Limits:

Season Two
Given that The Outer Limits premiered four years after The Twilight Zone, it'd be easy to refer to the show as nothing more than a carbon copy of that Rod Serling classic. But with writers like Harlan Ellison and Joseph Stefano contributing scripts and such notable names as Robert Duvall and William Shatner making appearances, such comparisons seem somewhat unwarranted.
It does seem clear, though, that the series would've been far more effective had individual episodes been limited to half an hour a piece. At a running time of 60 minutes, virtually all of these episodes feel as though they've been padded with a variety of needless elements (ie unnecessary subplots, extraneous supporting characters, etc). As talented as some of these writers are, the majority of them just aren't able to effectively keep these stories going for a full hour.
Having said that, there's a reason that The Outer Limits has endured over the years. Many of these episodes feature some exceedingly intriguing ideas, focused in the realm of science fiction (ie the dangers of technology, the possibility of alien life, etc). And, as expected, most episodes conclude with a decidedly downbeat ending that the central character will usually have brought upon himself.
MGM Home Entertainment collects all 17 episodes from The Outer Limits' second and final season in this set, including such notable shows as: I, Robot, in which a robot must stand trial for the murder of his creator; Wolf 359, which revolves around a scientist who foolishly recreates an alien atmosphere in his den; and The Inheritors, a two-parter in which a group of Vietnam veterans build a mysterious machine.

In spite of its 4 star rating here, The Outer Limits is not nearly as good as I remembered it. As a teenager, I loved this show. However, a lot of time has passed between 1964 and 2011 and today's audiences are far more sophisticated. To my mind, these stories are preachy and the special effects are more than primitive; they're laughable. Sometimes, you really just can't go home. — Nealbo   
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Spoooky Reading

What lies beneath...
Via Gamma World War
Is he flipping the bird at us???

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