The Architects of Fear

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"The Architects of Fear"
The Outer Limits episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 3
Directed by Byron Haskin
Written by Meyer Dolinsky
Cinematography by Conrad Hall
Production code 5
Original air date September 30, 1963
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"The Hundred Days of the Dragon"
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List of The Outer Limits episodes

"The Architects of Fear" is an episode of the original The Outer Limits television show. It first aired on 30 September 1963, during the first season.

Introduction[edit]

Certain that the Cold War will lead to mankind's destruction, a cabal of scientists decide that they must act to save the world. A film of a nuclear missile attack is shown as people run for shelter is seen before the plot.

Opening narration[edit]

Is this the day? Is this the beginning of the end? There is no time to wonder. No time to ask why is it happening, why is it finally happening. There is time only for fear, for the piercing pain of panic. Do we pray? Or do we merely run now and pray later? Will there be a later? Or is this the day?

Plot[edit]

The world has entered a Cold War-esque setting in which nuclear holocaust appears imminent. In the hope of staving off an apocalyptic military confrontation between nations, an idealistic group of scientists working at United Labs plans to stage a fake alien invasion of Earth in an effort to unite all humanity against a perceived, common enemy. The scientists have managed to study the planetary conditions on the planet Theta. They draw lots, and physicist Dr. Allen Leighton is chosen to undergo radical surgical procedures that will transform him into a projected figure from a planet with a different atmosphere. Leighton's death is faked, and the bizarre series of transplants and modifications to his body proceed. His wife, Yvette, persists in not believing he is dead; she feels sympathetic pain as Allen suffers on the operating table. Complications arise when the effects of Leighton's transformation extend beyond his physical appearance and begin to affect his mind, a situation compounded by the scientist's strong psychic link to his pregnant wife.

The scientists' plan is for Dr. Leighton, as the Thetan creature equipped with an energy weapon and spaceship, to land at the United Nations in an effort to create initial panic. This panic, in theory, will be resolved as the world unites to fight the invader. Leighton, now a perfect simulation of an inhabitant of the planet Theta, is launched into orbit as a weather satellite but the mission goes awry when the spaceship comes down off course and lands in a wooded area near the United Labs facility. After disintegrating their station wagon with his laser pistol, Allen is severely wounded by three duck hunters armed with shotguns as he emerges from the underbrush. In a futile attempt to possibly heal his wounds, Allen stumbles back to the lab. Yvette again feels his pain and hurries to the lab looking for her husband. She arrives as the Thetan enters and collapses to the floor. Before dying of mortal wounds, the creature demonstrates "the mark against evil", a personal gesture - touching a finger to the lips, and then to the forehead - which they once shared, and Yvette then realizes the horrifying truth that the alien is, in fact, her husband.

Closing narration[edit]

Scarecrows and magic and other fatal fears do not bring people closer together. There is no magic substitute for soft caring and hard work, for self-respect and mutual love. If we can learn this from the mistake these frightened men made, then their mistake will not have been merely grotesque, it would at least have been a lesson. A lesson, at last, to be learned.

Censorship[edit]

The "bear" in this episode, the monstrously-altered Allen Leighton, was judged by some of ABC's local affiliate stations to be so frightening that they broadcast a black screen during the Thetan's appearances, effectively censoring most of the show's last act. In other parts of the United States, the Thetan footage was tape delayed until after the 11 o'clock evening news. In others, it was not shown at all. It should be noted that unlike today where film series are transferred to video tape for transmission, up until the mid-1980s film series were broadcast live from the film print via telecine.[1]

The sequence involving the Thetan's encounter with the duck hunters was shot at M.G.M.'s Backlot #3.[2]

Precursors[edit]

  • Theodore Sturgeon's story "Unite and Conquer," published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1948, turns on a similar gag, humans uniting against a fake alien threat. Sturgeon used the idea again in "Occam's Scalpel," published in If (magazine) in 1971.
  • The Jan/Feb 1951 issue of Weird Science (#5), features the story, "The Last War on Earth," wherein a scientist creates a fake threat from another world - in this instance a "Martian" bomb is dropped on an American suburb, eventually uniting Earth against Mars. The story has a twist ending typical of many Weird Science stories.
  • In Kurt Vonnegut's 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan, a fake invasion is carried out to unite Earth and eventually leads to world peace.

Legacy[edit]

  • The Showtime series The Outer Limits revisited this episode with "Afterlife", using a more alien approach to the main character, played this time by Clancy Brown. The ending in this case saw the aliens coming to retrieve their new "brother".
  • This episode is similar to the ending of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' comic book mini-series, Watchmen. According to Moore, while he was writing issue ten, he came across a guide to cult television that featured this episode and was surprised by its similarity to his already planned ending. However, editor Len Wein said that "it simply stole the ending to an episode of 'The Outer Limits,' which Alan fully admitted!"[3] Wein found reusing the episode's ending to be unacceptable, and quit the series when Moore refused to change it.[3] A promotional spot for "The Architects of Fear" is overheard on a television in the novel's penultimate scene.[4] When writing the prequel series Before Watchmen: Ozymandias, Wein specifically referred to this episode as the in-universe source of the idea, as yet another jab at Moore. While the 2009 film adaptation omits the "space squid", the opening titles of The Outer Limits are shown on a television screen towards the end of the film.
  • In 2011, Paul Krugman mentioned the episode when he said that building a defense against a fictional alien invasion could speed recovery from the late-2000s recession; however, he mistakenly attributed the episode to The Twilight Zone instead of The Outer Limits.[5]
  • Filmmaker Kevin Smith has stated that, before offering him the chance to write Superman Lives, Warner Brothers offered him two projects: A remake of 'The Architects of Fear' and Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian.[6]

Cast[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Outer Limits: The Official Companion, pp. 84–85
  2. ^ The Outer Limits: The Official Companion, p. 82
  3. ^ a b Ho, Richard (November 2004). "Who's Your Daddy??". Wizard (Wizard Entertainment) (140): 68–74. 
  4. ^ Jensen, Jeff "Watchmen: An Oral History" Entertainment Weekly October 21, 2005
  5. ^ Mirkinson, Jack (August 15, 2011). "Paul Krugman: Fake Alien Invasion Would End Economic Slump (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 16, 2011. 
  6. ^ An Evening With Kevin Smith (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 2002. 

External links[edit]