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The Outer Limits
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that a major theme throughout this sci-fi anthology series is questioning -- and subverting -- authority. Though there's little violence, many episodes deal with both characters in power who are trying to manipulate others in order to retain control and those who are trying to convince others to reject the status quo. Though there's wisdom in teaching kids to ask critical questions about big issues, it's also important to help them realize that this is best done carefully and thoughtfully.
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What's the story?
Any given episode of THE OUTER LIMITS might take place just about anywhere, from the old West to a far-off alien planet to the modern world -- and the main characters might be humans, aliens, robots, or something else altogether. But the situations and conflicts are always something that any viewer can understand, because the plots of this thoughtful sci-fi anthology series always center on classic human themes like greed, love, power, and fear. Much like the venerable classic The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits usually starts with an easily believable situation, then adds just a touch of advanced technology, alien power, or mystical influence to create a sci-fi story that seems like something that could almost happen to anyone. Now-well-known actors often appear as guest stars, including Kim Cattrall, Adam Goldberg, Antonio Sabato Jr., and Lou Diamond Phillips.
Is it any good?
The modern incarnation (which originally ran from 1995 to 2002 and still airs in syndication and is available on DVD) has dramatically improved special effects and production values over the original black and white version (which ran from 1963 to 1965). But like the original, today's version builds through each episode to a surprising plot twist. Though some episodes are better than others (and some of the twists are easier to spot than others), the show is generally quite satisfying to watch, especially when watching ordinary people who are thrust into extraordinary situations struggle to make impossible decisions.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their basic assumptions of reality. Many episodes of this series have plots that build to a huge, surprising twist at the end and are designed to make viewers question their beliefs. What would you do if a stranger tried to convince you that the government was run by evil aliens? What if he said the fate of the world depended on your willingness to believe him? What if you felt his evidence was convincing but still had a nagging doubt about his sanity? How would you react if you realized that some of your most basic beliefs about society, about the world, about your close friends, turned out to be terribly wrong? Is it the media's job to make you think about things like this?