The Outer Limits - Original

Season 1 Episode 32

The Forms of Things Unknown

Aired Monday 8:00 PM May 04, 1964 on ABC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

A crazy man invents a machine that can tilt time and bring the dead back to life.

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  • My rating: 3 - Fair

    "The Forms of Things Unknown" is actually one of the stranger entries of The Outer Limits series. It was actually developed as a pilot for a new show but was reworked to fit into the Outer Limits format. This episode is gothic horror as opposed to the usual sci-fi style of the series. David McCallum stars in the episode as Tone, a young man brought back from death, who is consumed with his efforts to control time. McCallum does some good work here, giving Tone an almost juvenile wonder about "tilting" the past into the present. Vera Miles and Barbara Rush play two women, Kassia and Leonora, who are trying to hide the fact that they've just murdered Andre, a manipulative villian with a plan to blackmail Leonora's rich father. Vera Miles is, as always, stunning here where Barbara Rush adequately plays the part of the naive, but guilty victim. Sir Cedric Hardwicke is Colas, the blind owner of the mansion where the entire story takes place. Hardwicke is practically awful and it's pretty funny to watch just how poorly he performs this role. The story is entertaining enough, but the characters aren't really very interesting. Tone's time machine is a neat creation of clocks and wire but all of the other sets and props are uninspiring. One of the most disjointed moments is the crash of Andre's Rolls Royce. The slow speed of the car hardly leaves the impression that it could have caused such an incredible crash. As a closing episode of the first season of the greatest sci-fi series ever, it is a misplaced disappointment.

    My rating: 3 - Fair

  • Two young women kill the man who is tormenting them, only to have him resurrected by a young man experimenting with a "time-tilter" device.

    First thing to realize here is that this was meant to be a pilot for another, differently themed series called "The Unknown," which was to be more along the lines of "Thriller" than "Outer Limits." Even with the time-travel angle, it fits more into a gothic horror vein than that of sci-fi.

    Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable episode. David McCallum is perfect as the brilliant-but-naive experimenter, who himself was brought back from the dead by the time tilter. Vera Miles turns in an outstanding performance as the more resolute of the two would-be femme fatales. The rest of the cast is fair. As the blind servant, Cedric Hardwicke has been both better and worse. The murder victim/blackmailer is played well but is more caricature than character. Ditto for Barbara Rush's character, who becomes so annoying that her hypnosis scene is a relief--she's not screaming or passing out while she's in her trance.

    The story, crafted by one of the series' best writers in Joseph Stefano, ultimately carries the day, but don't expect to "get" everything right away. It intentionally begins somewhat ambiguously, but the pieces come together midway through. All in all, not the best episode, but worthy of a spot in the upper 12 or 15.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Control Voice: (opening narration) There is a fear that is unlike all other fears. It has a special, clammy chill, a deadly gift for inspiring deeper, darker dread. It is the fear of unentered rooms, of bends in lonely roads. It is the fear of the phone call in the middle of the night, of the stranger you recognize, perhaps from a nightmare. It is the fear of the unexpected, the unfamiliar. It is the fear of the unknown.

    • Control Voice: (closing narration) Murder, madness, and other lurking horrors are the raw certainties that await you in the depths of the unknown. And no switch of time, no twist of plan can cancel your meeting with it. For some night, in some blind panic, you will venture into the world of dark reality. And on that night, you will keep your rendezvous with the unknown.

  • NOTES (1)

    • This episode was actually produced by Joseph Stefano as a pilot for a possible television series to be known as The Unknown. This series would have been an anthology show which focused on gothic horror. Two slightly different versions of this episode exist. This first is this episode. The other is the pilot to The Unknown.

      In the alternate version, we discover that Andre had never died to begin with: the poisonous Thanatos tree does not in fact exist, but had been created by him as a laugh. Thus he was not brought back by the 'time-tilting' machine, but had been faking his death all along. He still dies at the end the same way, but Kassia takes his gun. The character of Tone Hobart is then shot by Kassia when she mistakes him for attacking Leonora. He dies in front of his 'time-tilter' machine: it turns out he was really just a madman all along, though he still gets what he longs for in the end: a return to the past of his "death" (which, in this version, had been a coma, not death).

      These changes were made to accommodate the fact that the proposed show The Unknown was not to contain any science fiction elements. ABC ended up rejecting the pilot, and an opening titles sequence designed by Wayne Fitzgerald along with an opening theme written by Dominic Frontiere for The Unknown would later be used by ABC for the science fiction series The Invaders.


    • Episode Title: The title of this episode is taken from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream: "The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen / Turns them all to shapes, and gives to airy nothing / A local habitation and a name."

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