The Outer Limits is a Canadian-American television series that originally aired on Showtime, Syfy and in syndication between 1995 and 2002. The series is a revival of the original The Outer Limits series that aired from 1963–65.
Distinct from The Twilight Zone in that the stories were more science fiction based, and less dark fantasy/science fiction as was the case with The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits is an anthology of distinct story episodes, sometimes with a plot twist at the end. The revival series maintained an anthology format, but occasionally featured recurring story elements that were often tied together during season-finale clip shows. Over the course of the series, 154 episodes were aired.
After an attempt to bring back The Outer Limits during the early 1980s, it was finally relaunched in 1995. The success of television speculative fiction such as Star Trek, The X-Files, and anthology shows such as Tales from the Crypt convinced rights holder Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to revive The Outer Limits. A deal was made with Trilogy Productions, the company behind such cinema hits as Backdraft and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The show would run on the pay-TV channel Showtime (Trilogy, a Los Angeles- and Canada-based company, is credited with creating the 1995 series).
The episodes appeared in syndication the following season (the same arrangement as MGM/Showtime series Stargate SG-1 and Poltergeist: The Legacy). It continued on Showtime until 2001, when Sci Fi quietly took over production for the seventh and final series. As a result that series, unlike the previous ones, was completely free of any swearing or nudity. It was canceled in 2002, after a total of 154 episodes—far more than the original incarnation of the show. In the revived show, the Control Voice was supplied by Kevin Conway. The new series distanced itself from the "monster of the week" mandate that had characterized the original series from its inception; while there were plenty of aliens and monsters, they dramatize a specific scientific concept and its effect on humanity. Examples of this include "Dark Rain" (biochemical warfare causing worldwide sterility), "Final Exam" (discovery of practical cold fusion power), "Stitch in Time" (a time traveler tinkers with history), as well as two episodes revolving around a human mutation known as Genetic Rejection Syndrome (humans mutating into violent creatures) as a result of an outlawed eugenics attempt to create superior children.
The series was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia. Stories by Harlan Ellison, A. E. van Vogt, Eando Binder, Larry Niven, Richard Matheson, George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, and James Patrick Kelly were adapted with varying degrees of success, including Sci-Fi airings. The series contained an underlying story arc about mysterious or extraterrestrial forces, including open-ended storylines that were related to each other in the clip shows at the end of the season.
Leslie Stevens was a program consultant for the first four seasons (until his death), while Joseph Stefano served as an executive consultant and later senior advisor throughout the whole series. Stefano also remade his episode "A Feasibility Study", retitling it "Feasibility Study" for the third season. Mark Mancina and John Van Tongeren composed new music different from that of Dominic Frontiere and Harry Lubin. They scored ten episodes for the first season. The musical theme for the modern Outer Limits series is credited to Mark Mancina and John VanTongeren. However, the same music is used in The Ambush, a theme in the soundtrack of Dune 2000.
In most seasons there was a clip show that intertwines the plots of several of the show's episodes (see "The Voice of Reason" for an example). At each commercial interval, the Control Voice can be heard saying "The Outer Limits...please stand by". The voice repeats this phrase upon return from the television ads. The surreal images from the opening are mostly the work of Jerry Uelsmann.
A number of episodes from seasons 1–6 feature nudity and adult content; though originally broadcast uncensored, those episodes have been edited for commercial syndication.
Six themed DVD anthologies of The Outer Limits, with six episodes each, were released by MGM in the US: Aliens Among Us, Death & Beyond, Fantastic Androids & Robots, Mutation & Transformation, Sex & Science Fiction and Time Travel & Infinity. These DVDs all contain the original uncut episodes, as originally aired. The Aliens and Sex titles were also released by MGM in the UK.
Season 1 was released uncut and with extra features on DVD in the US (MGM, 2005), UK (MGM, 2007) and Germany (Fox/MGM, 2008). Because sales of the set did not meet expectations no further seasons were released.
In 2010 Canada's Alliance Home Entertainment released all seven seasons on DVD. Season 1 mirrored the content of the earlier MGM set, while season 2 was also uncensored, with the exception of one episode, "Paradise". Seasons 3–6 all contain numerous censored episodes and are of noticeably poorer visual quality than the first two. Season 7 contains the original unedited episodes, as unlike the previous seasons, it was produced with no nudity or swearing.
In 2013 TGG Direct released the seventh season in the US, again unedited but of marginally inferior visual quality than the Alliance season 7 DVDs. The 5-disc set is titled The Outer Limits: The Complete Final Season, and in 2014 it was split and re-released as 3-disc Volume One and 2-disc Volume Two sets.
In 2014, it was reported that a feature film directed by Scott Derrickson based on the series was to be underway. However, no additional information has been released as of 2017.