The Outer Limits

Season 1 Episode 1

The Sandkings (1)

Aired Friday 9:00 PM Mar 26, 1995 on Showtime

Episode Fan Reviews (3)

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out of 10
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  • Captivating first escape in the science-fiction realm (Spoiler-free)

    The distant voiceover, the immersive title sequence with its rotating tunnel and red DNA Welcome to the pilot of The Outer Limits ! 1995 can only feels like yesterday considering the many occasions a sci-fi fan has to remember The Sandkings. I have to admit that I haven't read George R. R. Martin's novella yet but this first episode proves that TV shows can be as hardcore and fascinating as their dusty old paper counterparts.

    The very first seconds thanks to the narrator you understand that it's going to be about the eternal battle between science and religion. What is a human capable of in order to be recognized by its peers ? How far can you drift when your emotions have taken over your reason ? The extraordinary story of Doctor Simon Kress (Beau Bridges) serves to cover these fascinating questions and restrain our desire to become gods. Playing Populous is way safer in my humble opinion ! His introduction as a brilliant scientist is everything but original because the entrance in a military guarded base and identity recognition systems were already dj vu elements back then. Things really become exciting when Simon's project, studying ground samples with eggs from Mars, takes a major turn. Then what was told in the opening is finally expressed by a pivotal sequence featuring Simon in his pyjamas ! Using the barn and his outfit as a metaphora for a church and a monk was brilliant even if now I find it a little too literal.

    From there Simon's transformation accelerates and his passion becomes an obsession. His relationships with his lovely wife, played by the gorgeous Helen Shaver, his son and his father magnifies the changes within that inevitably overflow and finally alter his physical appearance. Of course it's nothing like Jeff Goldblum's cult metamorphosis in The Fly but the bathroom sequence is definitely disturbing. In general there're also plenty of horrific elements, from the nightmare to some frightening scenes featuring the sand creatures. In fact their unpredictable and agressive behavior reminded me of Screamers (1995). At some point there was also something yin-yangish about them so it proves the deepness of the writing and that all viewers should find something to satisfy their needs.

    As for the production it's nothing stellar but the special effects are good enough. In the visual department we have some believable creatures that quickly move and the animatronics even allowed for some close-ups. Only the CG versions jarred with the rest at times even if the traditional approach wouldn't have been appropriate for some scenes. You have to understand that back then the studios were operating a transition from the old school to the new one when these days the digital has become the norm. Just check out Primeval to better understand the benefits ! As for the sounds they also have to be praised. They definitely contributed to make us believe that the Sandkings could actually exist, a bit like in Arachnophobia (1990) but with a more serious approach. In fact they're similar to the scorpions, spiders and other friends of the dark cellar but with a twist I let you appreciate. Last but not least if there was one thing to remember it's definitely the sand castles. These structures are so bizarre and well designed that they should teleport you on a planet far, far away ! Their evolution is actually linked to Simon's one so it makes their connection even more controversial and captivating.

    Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.
  • Best episode of the series.

    I was a big fan of the original outer limits, and I have to admit that after seeing the sand kings, I had great hopes for the new version. Sand Kings episodes 1 and 2 were the best of the series, hands down. Left me feeling that the new version of the outer limits was going to be something really special. Very well written and with a suitably creepy ending, it satisfied my expectations based upon my viewing experience concerning the original series. Even though the following episodes could be pretty good at times and the special effects were light years ahead of the original outer limits, It was a slow march down hill for the series after the pilot.
  • Great kick-off to a wonderous series. The creatures from whom the episode takes its title were in a science fiction story ages ago.

    This episode is part one of a two-part episode.

    In this episode, the sandkings are little creatures brought back from a Mars probe. The one who ultimately winds up as their owner is a scientist who has been studying them.

    This is different than their origin in the book. In the book, they are bought by the main character from a mysterious stranger.

    In the original book, the moral was a warning against greed and vanity. In this one, it was more about the dangers of scientific curiousity and pursuit of professional glory. Not just in typical measures, but when they become an obsession - they pose a danger to the scientist, and maybe ultimately... everybody.

    Repeatedly, in this two part episode, the dangers to the environment that the scientist is exposing the whole earth two are touched upon in the course of the story. His reckless attitude stands in stark relief to that of his superiors who are taking no risks at all with the risky little prodigies they are the temporary stewards of.

    I think the message the TV episode version of the story was pushing was not to let the reckless pursuit of some goal in the field of biology put the earth's environment at risk. Just what such a risk might be in real life, the viewer would have to decide for themselves.

    The sandking creatures in this show are quite amazing, visually. It must have been done with some kind of CGI. The castles they build are very reminiscent of those described in the book.

    This episode - both parts of it - are highly worth watching.