A The Twilight Zone Community
CBS (ended 1964)
As I'm sure someone, somewhere, once said, time to give 'em "The Finger".

"The Sixth Finger" is another episode on my bucket list of Outer Limits that I've read about and is one I wanted to watch. I don't recall ever seeing it, which seems to be the case with most of the OL episodes. Damn, you, The Outer Limits Companion!

Let's recap. Professor Mathers, who we'll find out helped develop the atomic bomb, has moved to a manor in a small Welsh community. Which is not so convincingly portrayed by Universal backlots and footage from How Green Was My Valley. On the other hand, there's not a lot of external filming. The one bit we do get looks like it was filmed in the traditional OL California countryside.

A local bread girl, Cathy Evans, delivers bread to Mathers' manor and sees his experiments with genetic evolution. The visible result is a chimpanzee named Darwin, played by veteran "monster actor" Janos Prohaska. Darwin is almost human in his actions and knowledge. Cathy wants to be smarter and volunteers to be Mathers' guinea pig, but it turns out she has the wrong blood type.

Cathy is in love with a local miner, Gwyllm Griffiths. Gwyllm considers himself the smartest man in the village and doesn’t pay much attention to Cathy. Undeterred, Cathy sets him up with Mathers despite what Mathers points out is Gwyllm's total lack of knowledge in genetics, lab techniques, or basic filling. However, Gwyllm does have the right blood type. So Mathers cheerfully explains how he's created a lab that bombards the subject with wavelengths that cause their superior genetics to advance, "evolving" them.

Gwyllm gets "evolved" and gets a receding hairline as his head grows bigger. He also gets the stub of a sixth finger, supposedly for dexterity although it looks rather awkward. Tossed into the bargain, Gwyllm gets telepathy and exposits about Mathers' background developing the nuclear bomb and how a guilty Mathers wants to evolve mankind so that it isn't interested in war anymore.

The ex-miner also starts reading a lot of books because intellect without knowledge is useless, doncha know? He is briefly intrigued by music and plays a lot of music, and talks to Mathers about how mankind has ceased to develop or become creative because it's so savage and warlike. Meanwhile, the evolutionary process continues without the machine, and Gwyllm's head gets even bigger and his sixth finger grows in. He soon gains telekinetic powers, pointy ears, a weird alien appearance, knocks out Mathers when the professor realizes that his creation has gotten out of his control, stops the housekeeper's heart when she sees him and prepares to bring the villagers, and goes out and TKs a cop. Gwyllm has always hated the village and plans to use his powers to destroy it, but then evolves beyond his anger and need for vengeance.

Gwyllm returns to the manor and asks Cathy, who isn't afraid of him, to help him reach a state of pure mind by pushing the "Forward" lever on the evolutionary machine all the way forward while he's in the machine. Yes, Mathers' machine is simply labeled "Forward" and "Backward" on one really big lever. Apparently they didn't teach Mathers precision in scientist school. Gwyllm even helpfully tells Cathy not to push the lever backward.

Cathy has second thoughts about turning "her Gwyllm" into pure mind. Gwyllm doesn't telepathically pick up those thoughts, and Cathy puts the lever into Backward mode. He turns normal and then becomes a Neanderthal, since the network was worried it might offend the anti-evolutionists in the audience if he turned into protoplasm as was originally scripted. Cathy realizes that she's screwed up, shoves the lever back to neutral, and a now-human Gwyllm staggers out. He touches Cathy's cheek where she's been crying, just as Mathers comes in, and then collapses to the floor. Dead? Dying? Sleeping? Who knows?

"The Sixth Finger" has what is probably the series' most iconic image of the evolved Gwyllm. It's probably the best known "bear" in the anthology series, and it's an excellent mask job. The episode is written by Ellis St. Joseph, a guy who wrote a lot of TV back in the 50s and 60s. Looking at his credentials, which include Batman and The Time Tunnel, it's probably safe to say that "Finger" is St. Joseph's best writing. It's competently directed by James Goldstone, who would later do "The Inheritors". There are little flashes of directorial genius, like the funeral for Mrs. Ives. But it's mostly set in Mathers' lab and old manor, with pretty straightforward lighting and camera angles.

The acting is probably the best part: it's arguably the best part that David McCallum (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., NCIS) ever had. One thing is interesting is the prosthetics that he wears two-thirds or so of the episode. You don't see William Shatner or Adam West putting on prosthetics. Heck, even Leonard Nimoy just had a set of pointed ears and some greenish pancake makeup for Star Trek. Maybe it's McCallum's distinctive voice. But he seems to view acting under heavy makeup as a challenge, and manages to both act alien while making sure you never forget that it's David McCallum, or Gwyllm, under all the makeup.

Jill Haworth isn't what I'd call a "great" actress, but she does well enough with what she has. She basically plays a simple village girl who is in love with the (sorta) hero. Sadly, she passed away in 2011 after pretty much retiring from the screen in 1981.

Edward Mulhare, of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Knight Rider fame, has a pretty thankless role as the scientist who is forced to utter a lot of exposition. Goldstone saddles him with a pair of buggy glasses that make him look a little like Dr. Cyclops. By the time he loses them in the latter half of the episode, Gwyllm has taken center stage.

And Gwyllm does take center stage. Particularly in bit where Mathers finds him playing the piano, and then Gwyllm lectures him on creativity and mankind's savage nature.

The downside is that the special effects don't quite match the lofty goals that Leslie Stevens, Joseph Stefano, and St. Joseph are shooting for. The sixth finger never looks convincing and seems to be there just to hang a title on the episode. Gwyllm "de-evolving" at the end is rendered through goofy music stings and locked-off camera switching. And like most original OL episodes, the science is pretty wonky. Mathers' controls are like something out of early Doctor Who, and human evolution doesn't work the way he describes.

But overall, "The Sixth Finger" is one of the best of the original OL episodes. The faults that it has are the one that many OL episodes had, while McCallum's performance, the prosthetics, and pretty much all of the "evolved" Gwyllm's dialogue are among the best the series ever did.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?
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