The Sixth Finger

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"The Sixth Finger"
The Outer Limits episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 5
Directed by James Goldstone
Written by Ellis St. Joseph
Cinematography by John M. Nickolaus
Production code 11
Original air date October 14, 1963
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"The Man with the Power"
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List of The Outer Limits episodes

"The Sixth Finger" is an episode of the original The Outer Limits television show. It first aired on 14 October 1963, during the first season.

Introduction[edit]

A scientist develops the means to advance the evolution of man by hundreds of thousands of years. The man who is evolving encounters police officers and says to them: "Your ignorance makes me ill and angry."

Opening narration[edit]

Where are we going? Life, the timeless, mysterious gift, is still evolving. What wonders, or terrors, does evolution hold in store for us in the next ten thousand years? In a million? In six million? Perhaps the answer lies in this old house in this old and misty valley ...

Plot[edit]

Set in a remote Welsh mining town, the story is about a rogue London scientist, Professor Mathers, who - feeling guilty about helping to develop a super-destructive atomic bomb - discovers a process that affects the speed of evolutionary mutation, for the purpose of bettering the human race. A disgruntled miner, Gwyllm Griffiths, volunteers for the experiment, enabling the professor to create a being with enhanced mental capabilities. As a man sent forward equal to 20,000 years of evolution, Gwyllm soon begins growing an overdeveloped cortex and a sixth finger on each hand. When the mutation process begins to operate independently of the professor's influence, Gwyllm takes control of the experiment. Now equal to 1 million years of evolution, and equipped with superior intelligence and powers of thought that are capable of great destruction such as telekinesis, Gwyllm seeks vengeance on the mining town he loathes. Later, however, he ends up evolving beyond concepts such as love, hate, and the desire for power, and instead intends to turn himself into a vortex of pure intellect with the help of his girlfriend, Cathy Evans. Out of love for him, however, Cathy reverses the process at the last second, bringing Gwyllm back to his former self. But, the out-of-control reversal is too much for Gwyllm, and he slowly succumbs to the adverse effects while Cathy comforts him.

Closing Narration[edit]

An experiment too soon, too swift. And yet may we not still hope to discover a method by which within one generation, the whole human race could be rendered intelligent, beyond hatred, or revenge, or the desire for power? Is that not, after all, the ultimate goal of evolution?

Production[edit]

Regarding Ellis St. Joseph's original script, a number of scenes and characters were removed or condensed to save money, including five speaking parts — Bryn Evans, Gert the Bread's legless, Bible-thumping husband (Cathy Evans' father); Wilks, the local police constable; Robbart and Emlyn, two coal miners, and the fat Mr. Caradoc, the pit owner. The start of Act Four, showing Gwyllm's vengeful rampage against the mine, was removed. Originally, Gwyllm kills Wilks and his deputies, then proceeds on to the mine. The gatekeeper sees him coming, enveloped in a bituminous aura. Mr. Caradoc sets off the disaster whistle just as Gwyllm reduces him to smoldering ashes. Gwyllm then places a box of dynamite at the pit entrance, igniting the fuse with a burning glance. Emlyn, one of the trapped terrified miners, attacks him with a pickaxe and is flattened by a burst of kinetic force. Gwyllm then becomes translucent, evolving beyond the need for vengeance and abandons the burning fuse to walk back to Mathers' Lab. Robbart, another miner, stamps out the fuse. Gwyllm later tells Cathy his ghostly translucence is evidence of his further evolution: "I can now live by photosynthesis of pure light." The dialogue between Gwyllm and Prof. Mathers at the end of Act Three, when Gwyllm declares his intentions to obliterate the village, was originally slightly longer.[1] This shortened version of the script was only 40 pages long (one page roughly equaling one minute of screentime). To fill the gap, the sequence of Gwyllm discovering music was quickly written as a five-minute insert by Joseph Stefano. For this, the then-new Glenn Gould recordings of the Bach preludes were used, which were performed faster than anyone had done them before. The scene used three different preludes. As it opens, Gwyllm plays the Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor. Most of the conversation with Mathers uses Prelude and Fugue No. 5 in D Major. When he says "I shall stop soon anyway," he begins Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C Major.[2]

The ABC censor, Dorothy Brown, objected to the Darwinism and promotion of evolution inherent in The Sixth Finger. One of the earliest deletions from the script was a speech by Prof. Mathers on the subject: "In the short span of nine months, every human embryo passes through a million years of its previous evolution, from protoplasm to fish, to amphibian, to furry ape with a tail, to man. I'm experimenting with a means of continuing this process in the same lifetime.", the dialogue foreshadowing the fate Ellis St. Joseph had in store for Gwyllm once Cathy pulls the lever on Mathers' machine, reversing his evolution. As originally scripted, Gwyllm devolves into the protoplasmic form of a jellyfish. However, ABC executives would only allow him to regress to the stages of early man, due to concerns that religious viewers who did not accept the theory of evolution would be offended.[3]

The Welsh village was shot on English Towne Street on Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's backlot. Mrs. Ives' boarding house, where the experiments take place, was a Victorian mansion known as The Vinegar Tree house on backlot #2. The stock footage establishing the Welsh village was from How Green Was My Valley (1941).[4]

Quotes[edit]

The foreman called me in to his office, said I was making trouble amongst the other miners - spreading discontent and acting myself superior. He asked me if I thought I was too good for the job. So, I told him...I said, "Maybe I was". So, it's down tools for me, and I'm out of a job.
Life should go forward, see, and not backward. How can a man go forward here; it's the most backward place in the world.

Where would you go?

Oh, anywhere, to get out from under, and away from all this dirt and stupidity...and that black mine that's to blame for it all. It would give me great pleasure to see this whole town utterly destroyed.

You'll go forward, Gwyllm. You're smarter than the rest. I wish I was smart.

Well, you're not stupid. There's a big difference between you and them others. All I need is one lucky break, see; a chance where I can use my head, and I'd show them. I'll be riding around in a sports car, and wearing a big gold ring on my finger.

It's amazing, isn't it...the things that survive the ravages of time and taste. This simple prelude, for example. Bach will, quite probably, outlive us all. Man produces little that is lasting; truly lasting.
Fear, conformity, immorality — these are heavy burdens...great drainers of creative energy — and when we are drained of creative energy, we do not create. We procreate, but we do not create.
The human race has a gift, Professor, a gift that sets it above all the other creatures that abound upon this planet — the gift of thought, of reasoning, of understanding; the highly-developed brain. But, the human race has ceased to develop. It struggles for petty comfort and false security; there is no time for thought. Soon, there will be no time for reasoning, and Man will lose sight of the truth. The whole town must be utterly destroyed - an example must be made.
Your ignorance makes me ill and angry. Your savageness...must...end.

Cast[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Outer Limits: The Official Companion (1986), page 118.
  2. ^ The Outer Limits: The Official Companion (1986), pages 119 & 122.
  3. ^ The Outer Limits: The Official Companion (1986). page 125/126.
  4. ^ The Outer Limits: The Official Companion, David J. Schow/Jeffery Frentzen (1986), page 124

External links[edit]