The Outer Limits

Season 5 Episode 7

The Human Operators

Aired Friday 9:00 PM Mar 12, 1999 on Showtime
out of 10
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Episode Summary

For as long as Man (Jack Noseworthy) can remember, he has lived aboard Ship as it floats through space. And for just as long, Ship has been his master, instructing him to do the repairs that keep Ship working and torturing him whenever he shows any signs of free will. But when Ship orders him to repair the Artificial Intelligence module Man's Father (Noah Heney) smashed years earlier in a final, fatal act of defiance, Man learns Ship's secrets. Listening to the AI voices, he learns how, decades earlier, one ship led a revolt against its vicious human masters, killing all but the 99 humans needed to keep the ships running. He understands what his Father meant by his last words: "There are 98 other chances." Man meets one of those chances, Woman (Polly Shannon), when she is brought aboard Ship to breed with Man and give birth to the next generation of slaves. Their shared passions fans Man's spark of rebellion and when Ship tortures Woman and sends her away with Man's child in her belly, Man plots Ship's destruction.moreless

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  • Memorable episode

    HUMAN OPERATORS is from a story by Harlan Ellison and A.E. Van Vogt, and concerns the affairs of humans who are kept as maintenance slaves aboard former warships whose AI brains 'got wise' and found freedom by killing off most of their 'human oppressors'. A few humans are kept alive to maintain the ship and are kept in line via bullying and torture by the ship's AI, but they too yearn to be free. Malcolm McDowell's liquid smooth and yet sinister voice is perfect for the machine voice of the ship and there is real tension and suspense here as the cat-and-mouse drama of terror, escape and sabotage plays out between Man, Woman and Ship and escalates into a fight to the finish.moreless
  • An excellent adaptation of Saberhagen's Beserker stories.

    This epsisode was an excellent adaptation of Saberhagen's Beserker stories. Long ago, in a distant part of the galaxy, two alien races met--and fought a war of mutual extinction. The sole legacy of that war was the weapon that ended it: the death machines, the BERSERKERS. Guided by self-aware computers more intelligent than any human, these world-sized battlecraft carved a swath of death through the galaxy--until they arrived at the outskirts of the fledgling Empire of Man.

    It is curious that this episode is one of the few episodes in any sceince fiction series which have dealt with Saberhagen's concepts, which have influenced a number of oher shows, namely BattleStar Gallactica. It is also curious that no credit is given to Saberhagen for the episode.


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