Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Outer Limits and a dire warning

People with nothing to hide have nothing to fear from O.B.I.T.

Yesterday Christopher Knowles posted a link to this amazing Outer Limits episode on the Secret Sun facebook page. I had watched this pretty much exactly a year ago, and I rewatched it again last night. Blown away is an understatement. This is a dire, haunting, dramatic condemnation of the horrors of secret technology. Even if you choose to see the alien meddling in our secret government as a metaphor (or literal) this episode plays out as an ominous warning. Without exaggerating, this is happening right now.

November of 1963 just screams secret government harshness

Spoiler alert, be forewarned. The plot revolves around a top secret research defense department facility known as Cypress Hill. This is an eerie stand in for the NSA's mega creepy data center in Bluffdale Utah (more on this below). The tele-play is basically a courtroom drama. An idealistic Senator arrives at the site to investigate a murder. The episode is played out with a precision that is mind numbing.

O.B.I.T. stands for Outer Band Individuated Teletracer, a computer technology that can track and monitor any individual, anywhere on earth. When the Defense Departments representative for the project takes the stand he is forced to admit that nobody knows where the technology came from, who invented it and how it works. Later the Colonel breaks down and admits he is addicted to the power of O.B.I.T. I can't help but see this as an exact depiction of our own present day government's enslavement to spying technology. The O.B.I.T. device is a product of an alien race. These invaders are methodically breaking the will of humanity in order to eventually enslave us.

Aliens and the National Security State
The UFO literature is swimming in reports of aliens working with the secret military in underground bases and within the halls of the pentagon. Take this as you may.

O.B.I.T. was written by Meyer Dolinsky (1923–1984), who wrote a very similar story for an episode of The Invaders titled The Watchers (1967). The term The Watchers is straight out of the Bible (and The Andreasson Affair) and it implies a manipulating race of alien overlords. He also wrote Plato's Stepchildren (1968), the Star Trek episode where Kirk plants the first interracial kiss on Uhura. Also in this same episode, Kirk is forced to imitate a horse while a dwarf rides on his back. The very tiny actor Michael Dunn (who rides the good Captain) also played Dr. Loveless, a character that Bruce Rux points out is a stand in for a gray alien.

Conrad Hall was the director of photography for this, and 14 more, Outer Limits episodes. His genius is all over the visual look of this show. I grew up on the television of the 1960's and this kind of eerie black and white story telling is forever stamped on my psyche. There is simply nothing creepier than this sparse, claustrophobic low-budget shadow-box narrative style. (a good essay here)

O.B.I.T. was directed by Gerald Oswald, who also directed 13 more Outer Limits episodes. He was also the director for two Star Trek episodes, The Conscience of the King (1966) and The Alternative Factor (1967). I watched The Alternative Factor two nights ago. Christopher Knowles has been exploring the tightly knit connections between The Outer Limits and the Star Trek franchise, more to this at The Secret Sun.
Lomax comes clean in the mega-theatrical finale

Jeff Corey steals the show in the role of Mr. Byron Lomax, quite possibly the finest portrayal of a villain in the history of television (I am quite serious). A few years later he went on to play Plasus in Star Trek's The Cloud Minders (1969).
Dream sequence from Shock Corridor
Handsome actor Peter Breck plays the investigating senator Orville. Sadly, there seems to be no such animal as this principled and incorruptible Senator. Breck is the son of Barbara Stanwyck and was the lead in Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor (1962).

Big Brother.
The fictional Cypress Hill in the episode is just weeks away from it's ribbon cutting in Utah. The National Security Agency’s Utah Data Center is expected to open its doors this fall. This Orwellian nightmare is located in Bluffdale Utah, just over 20 miles from Salt Lake City.

This NSA site is estimated at 1.5 million square feet. The technical and administrative support staff is expected to be less than 200 employees. This site in the bleary hot desert will use an estimated 17 million gallons of water per day to cool the computer electronics.

Senator Orrin Hatch and then governor Jon Huntsman Jr. (both Mormons) take the credit for bringing this gigantic data syphon to Utah. The LDS church has a cozy (and well documented) relationship with the CIA and NSA.

a lost form of film-making

How to watch this episode:
Watch O.B.I.T. on Hulu (HERE). Or rent it from Netflix, alas it's not avialable to stream. Also avalable online thru the somewhat complicated VeeHD (HERE).


Red Pill Junkie said...

Michael Dunn, the actor who played Alexander in that Star Trek episode, was a huge inspiration for Dan Madsen, who later went out to create the 1st official Star Trek fan club.

I met Dan last year on Paradigm symposium. Hell of a guy, his life is a testament that following your true passion can literally open the doors of the Universe to you :)

Lucretia Heart said...

A very interesting post, Mike!

Its fascinating how many writers/directors/producers honed in on many of the very topics that are so relevant today.

Kind of makes you think secrets DO leak out... one way or another. Little bits of warnings (whether intentioned or synchronous) seep up into our notice and give us a glimpse of what is coming (or HERE.)

I had a young friend say what I'm sure many Americans do to justify not caring that they're being spied on all the time, "Well, if I never do anything wrong, why should I care?" I pointed out that what is legal could easily change, and that if the spy tech is already there, then its too late to change it back because suddenly, you have become a criminal. Funny how people don't think about that these days, but I suspect we're too far away in our culture from Gestapo-like secret police coming after us as so many worried about in other countries such as around WW2.

Sativarg said...

Man, I so very much agree about
I also posted about this as it relates to my concerns.

I believe you would like Doctor "The Rings of Akhaten"
the subject of the opening scene resembles synchronicity and to me is a fictional exploration of very real phenomena. I watch TV episodes on
the larger arch of the story may also please you.