"The Production and Decay of Strange Particles" is one of the more interesting failures in the two-season output of The Outer Limits. Written and directed by the series' creator, Leslie Stevens, it did some of the things that The Outer Limits achieved better than almost any other science fiction series of its era, while failing seriously in other very important areas. On the positive side, the notion of a rip in the universe, caused by the interaction of heavy elements with particles from deep space, was novel for television science fiction at the time. In subsequent years, series such as Star Trek would utilize similar concepts (though even they would stumble over their first attempt to exploit this concept, in "The Alternative Factor"), but this script was on the cutting edge of the genre in 1964. And, indeed, this may well have been the first place on network television to mention the newly discovered celestial phenomenon known as quasars. In purely visual terms, some of the images here are also striking. The dark halls of the Broadridge nuclear facility, lit only by the flickering lights of its overwhelmed and failing systems, are the high-tech equivalent of the mad scientist's lair in any number of '30s and '40s horror films. The mix of shadowy lighting and high-tech decor also recalls the designs of any number of '20s and '30s German expressionist films. The episode's principal failure lies with its treatment of the characters, which was usually a strong point in an Outer Limits script. Except for Dr. Marshall (George Macready) and Laurel (Signe Hasso), there are hardly any characters at all in the script, despite the presence of a large cast. All but four of the radiation-suited scientists and technicians, including Robert Fortier's Paul Pollard, are on hand so that they can march dutifully into the nuclear furnace and undergo incineration and replacement by the particle creatures. The presence of the exceptions -- Willard Sage's dying Coulter, Leonard Nimoy's Konig, Joseph Ruskin's Collins, and Rudy Solari's Griffin, who sacrifices himself -- is more than welcome, but none of them except Solari's character is onscreen anywhere near long enough. The result is a strangely unbalanced episode, with lots of unexplored potential amid some scary and harrowing images and moments. The Frankenstein-like figure of the first particle creature, lumbering forth ominously to crush the scientists under the lead shield intended to protect them; and Solari's ever-weakening struggles to act against the crisis at the center, despite the radiation exposure that is killing him. Otherwise, the episode is decently put together and paced, though the producers left one glaring error near the end of the show, in which the particle creatures move the fusion bomb to the furnace -- either out of haste or insufficient budget to bring off the effect en masse, it is easy for a moment, in one wide shot, to see the faces of the actors (as opposed to the glowing, illuminated face-plates that are supposed to be there representing the particle creatures) wearing the anti-radiation suits.
cast-crew for The Outer Limits: The Production and Decay of Strange Particles on AllMovie
The Outer Limits: The Production and Decay of Strange Particles (1964)