Controlled Experiment

The Outer Limits (1963)

Controlled Experiment, written and directed by Leslie Stevens (uncredited).

Two martians investigate "murder", a phenomenon that occurs only on planet Earth. They have a time control device and are not afraid to use it.

As the only comedy episode of the series, it has problems. Comedy is hard; maybe it should be left to the specialists. And the story is excessively, terribly, terrifically padded. With the time control they rerun a jealous women shooting her philandering boyfriend many times: forwards, backwards, slow motion and speeded up, with variations. It is a cute concept but could have been covered in a 25 minute skit rather than a 51 minute program.

And yet: I like this one more than I should. Carroll O'Connor and Barry Morse are a hoot as the hyper-intelligent martians at first befuddled by the primitive human race, then amused and finally charmed by their coffee and cigarettes and love rituals.

A running gag whenever they see the couple kissing-- Phobos: "Ah, every chance they get". Deimos: "Yes, it's harmless".

It is worth noting the emergency message they get from martian HQ after preventing the murder in one of their experiments:


Male and female are now together. They marry and produce male child. Father tells child of miraculous escape. Child grows up, believes it's immortal. Child enters politics, becomes dictator. Starts atomic war in belief it cannot be killed. Atomic chain reactions explode atmosphere, blow up planet earth. Radiation affects entire solar system. Destroys ecologic balance of galaxy. Galaxy collides with Andromeda.

Computers unable to predict beyond this point due to overheating.

They are directed to put things back the way they were, but our martians have gone native.

Our featured lovers are Grace Lee Whitney who would shortly be Yeoman Janice Rand in Star Trek, and Robert Fortier who was in Star Trek By Any Other Name as the alien who Scotty drinks under the table. Scotty: "What is it? Well, it's... it's green".

It is said this was meant to be a pilot episode for a new series. I hope they intended to keep the dingy little pawn shop as the martian observation outpost.

Photographed by John M. Nickolaus with striking imagery. I don't often like a film more because of the Blu-ray presentation, but it happened here.

The Blu-ray commentary is another by Reba Wissner emphasizing the music. As always she points out where Dominic Frontiere borrows cues from his work on the Stoney Burke series, another Leslie Stevens project.