When the first and only complete season of ABC's The Outer Limits came to a conclusion in May of 1964, producer and head writer Joseph Stefano could look back upon a year of hard work and glorious results. With twelve of the thirty-two episodes bearing his teleplay or story credit, no one else could claim a greater hand in establishing the show's distinctive sci-horror feel. Stefano, who had written the screenplay based on Robert Bloch's novel Psycho, turned down offers from Hitchcock to do likewise for The Birds and Marnie so that he could work with good friend and Executive Producer Leslie Stevens on the hour-long series. Though it was sold ostensibly as Science Fiction, Stefano made no secret of his desire to give the show the gothic feel of German
Stephano's episodes were among the more horrific of that year: the cloud creature of "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork," that got sucked inside of a vacuum cleaner, only to grow and grow and grow; the nightmarish "A Feasibility Study," in which six city blocks are transported to the festering planet Luminos, to see if humanity may be impressed into slavery; "Don't Open Until Doomsday," about an abandoned honeymoon suite, a mysterious box, and the misshaped monstrosity that lives within it; and "The Invisibles," with its howling, wriggling crustaceans that affixed themselves to the spine and controlled their human puppets (with apologies to Heinlein and Finney). Horror was where Stefano's true passion lurked (it was his idea to give the series its vaunted "bears" - monsters - all the better to scare the viewers silly with), and the ones that bore his name were the most successful at causing sleepless nights.
The show's first-year ratings were high enough to warrant a renewal, but relations with the network were contentious, and Stefano was growing weary. Still, he had one ace up the sleeve. He envisioned the finale of the first season - "The Form of Things Unknown" - as a pilot for another weekly hour-long anthology, but one dedicated purely to Horror and Thrillers. This was the story of two murderesses (Psycho's Vera Miles and Barbara Rush) looking to dispose of the body of a blackmailer, when, seeking refuge from a storm, they come to the brooding manse of inventor Tone Hobart (David McCallum), who has invented a device that is able to "tilt time" and bring the dead back to life. The episode also exists with its science fiction element excised (for example, Hobart only thinks that his machine can resurrect the dead), but both versions - directed by series stalwart Gerd Oswald - set the benchmark for the series' unique, otherworldly look. (The episode owes more than a subtle debt to the French arthouse success Les Diaboliques.) Now, there is some chicken vs. egg debate as to which version came first, but I prefer to credit Stefano as being savvy enough to recognize that the teleplay could simultaneously serve a dual purpose, acting as a pivot point between one series and its spin-off.
The network did not bite. Adding insult to injury, ABC announced that the series would be bumped from its Monday night perch (to make way for Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea), and do battle with the Great One,
But we still have a clue of what we might have seen in 1964, had ABC indulged Stefano's great passion. Below is the opening sequence and closing credits for the unaccepted pilot The Unknown. (The theme music might sound familiar - it was recycled years later for ABC's The Invaders, which, when you stop and think about it, was a pretty gauche thing to do on the network's part.) I love the way the credits come "ripping" through the previous card, and that great, pregnant silence before the first "tear" at the end of the hour. Imagine that it's the 9:00PM hour, and you've just dimmed the lights and settled down for an hour's worth of