The Outer Limits (1963)

O.B.I.T., directed by Gerd Oswald.

A secret base uses an eerie surveillance monitor -- something like the interocitor in This Island Earth (1955) -- to spy on anyone, anywhere, at any time. Sometimes you get glimpses of aliens, and sometimes you see yourself just before clawed hands reach in to throttle you.

It's a great premise. Unfortunately a lot of time is taken up in a sort of courtroom drama when a Senator -- why him? -- arrives to grill everyone on a murder. He wants to know more about the Outer Band Individuated Teletracer and is astounded to find everyone vague on where they come from, how they work or how many there are.

It's not much of a spoiler to reveal the truth: aliens. Early on we see they are disguised as humans with heavy glasses, hairy hands, and walk with a curious limp. Their plan is just to provide the O.B.I.T. machines and let the human race ruin itself by using them as intended.

The machines are addictive. The base commander says: "I can't not watch it! It's like a drug!" As the commentary track points out, it's as if writer Meyer Dolinsky had visited the 21st century and come back with a cautionary, prophetic tale of constant mass surveillance and the destruction of privacy.

The "watching as addiction" metaphor applies to TV itself, as well as to the internet and pornography.

Much of the story takes place in one room; maybe that helps present the claustrophobic paranoia of the staff at the base, knowing they are always watched. Like a "ghost town" they say. No one talks, no one trusts.

The O.B.I.T. screen is nice and eerie, a wavering inter-dimensional look. Keyed to a living organism it shows only the human being (and their clothes!) but not any other object.

Photographed by Conrad Hall. First of 14 episodes directed by Gerd Oswald.

Commentary by Craig Beam. He wants more Outer Limits collectibles and resents Twilight Zone fans for getting all the good swag.

He also says Gerd Oswald deserves credit along with the cinematographers for the look of the series.