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Ah, sweet sweet Outer Limits. I can always count on you at least for now. That's after immersing myself in the general garbage of Swamp Thing and late-first-season nu-Mission: Impossible.

Admittedly, I'm running out of "good" OL to watch. But I've still got "The Sixth Finger", "The Man Who Was Never Born", and "The Inheritors" (both parts) to watch. And a few others as well.

"A Feasibility Study" was written by series creator Joseph Stefano. And after seeing his "work" in the premiere episode of Swamp Thing, I'm relieved to know that he wasn't a total flop. Not that I thought he was. But seeing an episode of Swamp Thing--almost any episode of Swamp Thing--can shatter your faith in humanity. At least, humanity's TV writing ability.

Still got it!

That brings us to "A Feasibility Study". The original, not the 1997 remake. Maybe I'll dig the latter up and watch it sometime. The original starts with an opening tag, which features HITG David Opatoshu driving through thick fog as a weird noise sounds around him. He pulls over, cracks the window, starts coughing, and falls on the ground. It's rock instead of tarmac, and weird figures covered in metallic growths move through the fog toward him.

Then onto the episode proper. Unfortunately, Stefano kind of gives away the "mystery" early when a badminton cock... umm, I mean, a spaceship, hovers above six square blocks of suburbia. It fires a beam and the neighborhood disappears, leaving a big crater.

Cut to husband and wife Ralph and Rhea Cashman on Sunday morning. Ralph is going into work because he's a workaholic, and he and Rhea have an "old married couple" banter going. She gives him a pretzel for breakfast, he complains that her "Really, Ralph" sounds like "mealy-mouthed", and off he goes.

Next-door neighbor Dr. Simon Holm (Sam Wanamaker) is preparing to leave, and discovers that his car won't start. He's going to church, but it's not clear why. Yes, it's a Sunday morning, but nobody else is out and about and we never see Simon actually go into the church on his first outing. Ralph offers Simon a lift, and Simon and his wife Andrea exchange a few irritable words. Andrea says that she's leaving, and as Ralph drives Simon away, he comments that it looks like Simon is "breaking up" and Simon immediately assumes that he's talking about his marriage. He blurts out about how Andrea is leaving him, and there's a bit of conversation where Ralph tries to be sympathetic but admits that they're not really that close.

Also, before they go Ralph calls Rhea over to look at Simon's car. In a bit that's never explained, she opens the hood and discovers that the engine is missing. She glances away for a moment and it reappears. We never find out who the engine-napper is, or why it was napped. Or why he waited until Rhea opened the hood and then looked away to put the engine back. If it's the Luminoids, why did they steal Simon's engine but not Ralph's?

After Ralph drops Simon off at the church, he drives into the fog and the opening tag repeats itself. Meanwhile, Simon returns from his mysterious errand at the church. Andrea can't reach the taxi company on the phone, which is filled with static. The Holms argue about Andrea leaving. She's a reporter or photojournalist or something that feels stifled because Simon wants her to be a housewife. Simon doesn't "get it" so she's leaving him.

Ralph stumbles back and he's covered with silver metallic nodules. He collapses on the front walk and then disappears in a flash of light. Andrea spots a freaky humanoid figure in a nearby garden shed, and Simon goes over to talk to the figure. We find out that the figure is a teenager who doesn't want to be seen, and he considers "humans" inferior except for their physicality. When the teenager finally comes out, he turns out to be covered in the same silver nodules. He gets into a car with Andrea and forces her to drive off into the fog.

It's all very mysterious at this point, and like I said, it would have worked better if we hadn't known from the opening minutes that the neighborhood was abducted by a spaceship. Simon follows Andrea into the fog, gets captured by more of the humanoids, and taken to the "Contemplative Energy Plant". It's filled with the humanoids, and the elders are seated immobile.

The spokesman, the Authority (voiced by Ben Wright, yet another HITG and only recognizable by his British accent), informs Simon that they're Luminoids of Luminos. They have a "hot contagion" that renders them immobile after adolescence. They've abducted a neighborhood from Earth to test it for "feasibility": they want humans as slaves. If the humans get the contagion then they're "infeasible". The Authority lauds the virtues of immobility and how they can concentrate all of their brainpower on thinking important thoughts. If humans are feasible then they'll abduct the whole human race, give them lives of comfort and love (in slave camps), and have people to do the physical stuff for them.

This is all rendered in a lot of dialogue, but it's good dialogue. I like how the Authority uses English, but... not quite. There's bits like him talking about how the planet Luminos "sweats" in space that make it seem like you're listening to a translator that isn't quite translating everything 100%. The Authority is also awfully cheerful about enslaving another race. His little chuckling bit about how morality is the first thing to go is amusing.

Simon goes back, and finds Andrea in their house surrounded by sterilization gas. It clears and she explains that the Luminoids thought the teenager might have infected her just by being in a car with her even though he never touched her. They agree to mobilize the as-yet-unseen neighbors and as Simon goes, Andrea discovers that the nodules are growing on her. Ruh-roh!

Everyone gets together at the church, which we've seen from time to time up against the fog. Simon explains the situation: serve or be infected, and there's no escape. Andrea reveals that she's infected, Ralph stumbles in and he's in an advanced stage of infection. Simon basically suggests that they enter a suicide pact: they all get the contagion from Andrea and render themselves "infeasible". He takes Andrea's hands, and after a moment the priest takes Simon's hands and everyone else takes each other's hands and infects themselves. They're not dead, but they'll soon be as immobile as the Luminoids. And judging from Ralph's constant moaning, in a great deal of pain.

One missed opportunity here is that Rhea never takes Ralph's hand. I guess everyone would rather touch human beings than proto-Luminoids.

Cut to the end, where we see the big crater where the neighborhood (an earlier street sign says that it's Midgard Drive – symbolism ahoy!) used to be.

As I've mentioned a few times in previous reviews, OL tends to be a downer show. "A Feasibility Study" both is and isn't a downer. On the one hand, we see a few dozen people basically isolate themselves from humanity to save it. On the other hand, the "suicide" is portrayed as a positive act. The people don’t die per se, but it's sure written as if it is death. And it's a lot more subtle than one of Captain Kirk's "humanity must live free or die" speeches on Trek.

The Luminoids in their full contagion are suitably creepy.

The teenager isn't particularly well made-up, but the makeup on Ralph (in the later stages of contagion) looks all right to me. The director, Byron Haskin, was an OL regular. Besides "Feasibility", he did "Demon With a Glass Hand", "The Architects of Fear", and "The Invisible Enemy". He also associated produced "The Cage"/"The Menagerie for Trek, basically the show's pilot. He also directed the '53 War of the Worlds movie, Robinson Crusoe on Mars (with "The Invisible Enemy"'s Adam West), Captain Sindbad, and a host of others.

The director of photography isn't Conrad L. Hall, who cut his teeth on a lot of the OL episodes. But John M. Nickolaus Jr., who does just as well. The Contemplative Energy Pit is nicely done, giving the sense that you're looking at a vast pit when actually they used forced perspective and cardboard cutouts to make it look as big as it is. There's also some effective shots like the church against the fog.

Overall, "A Feasibility Study" is probably the best thing Stefano ever did. Although "Nightmare" comes close. There are a few minor flaws: even for a Sunday we never really get to see anyone in the neighborhood other than the Cashmans and the Holms. And there's a little more time spent on the Holms' marriage issues than is probably needed.

But overall, "Feasibility" is a good study in human sacrifice, freedom, and slavery, without the histrionics of a Trek episode. It features a memorable "bear" (the Luminoids), and it hits all of the horror buttons.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?
Comments (2)
Jan 16, 2018
This is probably my favorite Outer Limits episode. The first time I saw it, I cried over the ending in the church, where everyone decides to sacrifice themselves. To be fair though, the summary in my TV guide (in the days when TV guides came with the Sunday paper and actually summarized TV episodes) said that a neighborhood was transported to another planet. And isn't the third or fourth line the Control Voice says "The Solenoids need slaves"? So I'd argue it's not so much a case of a mystery being spoiled as a case of discrepant awareness on the part of the viewer. The last time I watched this, I also thought this episode could almost be a blueprint for a low-budget '80s sci-fi movie, where there are a few characters trying to figure out what's happened in their small area while they slept.

As for Joseph Stefano's post-OL work, I like the Star Trek: Next Generation episode "Skin of Evil." The Arvin, a race's shed bad qualities animated, screams "Outer Limits" to me.

Jan 16, 2018
"Luminoids", at least in the original. They're apparently called "Triunes" in the 90s remake.

Yeah, the intro voiceover kinda spoils it to. But since it spoils it as the onscreen shots spoil it, I figure that's it's... redundant at best.
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