Weirdly, right after giving us The Borderland, a strangely Lovecraftian glimpse into a land of “non-Euclidean geometry”, The Outer Limits surprises us with what might have been one of Cthulhu’s cousins with Tourist Attraction. The thing is, there is a really strong difference between concept and execution. Conceptually, I love this episode. We have a mysterious discovery of an underwater race and those creatures are not evil or even really monsters at all. In execution, however, we are introduced to a main character, Dexter, who is just not even a little likable. His main rival is the tyrannical General Mercurio played with sneering contempt by Henry Silva. Neither is a character worth liking so I had no reason to want either man to succeed. Maybe the point was that nature is kinder than man, huh?
The issues are compounded by Dexter’s partner, who understandably chickens out when they encounter the sea creature, but he totally fails to do anything about his moment of weakness. Upon arriving safely on the boat, having left his employer to face the creature on his own, he doesn’t do anything to help. Rather, he stares into the water almost wiling his employer to float to the surface. Dexter’s “love interest”, if you can call it that, is only too happy to be massaged by other men and in general not be very affectionate, only deciding to show that side to tell Dexter that he’s not lovable!
So is this a good episode? Well it has a very important life lesson given to us by Paco. Do you know Paco? Paco is the guy who is asked to guard a room housing the “dead” creature captured by Dexter. He is given specific instructions: no one is to go in or out of the room and the temperature has to stay at freezing. His friend arrives to play checkers and drink wine, as one does while guarding anything at all. Said friend adjusts the temperature and all hell breaks loose. The important life lesson? You get what you pay for! If only businesses would learn from this. Yes, the scientists were probably saving money by bringing Paco in; Paco probably came for free, or maybe a Big Mac, but they certainly were not paying him an hourly wage. But Paco is not attentive to his friend’s antics, drinks on the job, and when he throws a stool at the menacing creature, he misses the hulking giant by a mile. You get what you pay for!
The success lies in the concept and the visuals for the creature. The creature is a really impressive costume, considering the time this series was made. Yes, that mouth is terrifying and it should have been able to eat a person whole, but as friend Paco points out, “it could have killed me, but it stopped”. In other words, this creature is not a monster. When it later destroys a dam, killing dozens, it’s because of the humans who had captured one of its kind. I love when the “monster” ends up being friendly (at least to an extent). And I realized what Paco had not: Dexter made a comment about having harpooned the frozen creature and the scientist says there was no sign of an injury; it should have been evident then that the creature was still alive. But no one caught that and it put Paco’s life in danger and broke at least one table and a few doors in the process.
This “old god” may not have been one of Lovecraft’s pantheon, but it was a creature that I appreciated. I thought the underwater filming was a nice touch, even if I was reminded of The Creature from the Black Lagoon or half a dozen other 50s and 60s horror movies. The episode is also a bit drawn out and suffers from a lot of unnecessary narration which turns up at very strange moments. But we do get a solid story with a thought-provoking creature. It never ends up becoming a tourist attraction, but it did attract my imagination. There are better episodes, but there are also far worse! ML
The view from across the pond:
“There is nothing wrong with your television set.”
But something doesn’t seem quite right with the television on that boat. They’ve tried to tune in to an episode of Blue Planet, and instead they’ve found the Kraken’s little brother. I wasn’t quite sure whether to laugh at the thing or not. On the one hand it’s pretty obvious that there’s an actor inside sticking his arms out of the front. On the the other hand it’s actually quite an impressive costume, and if you are going to create a sea monster that is capable of some degree of interaction and movement without the ability to use CGI, then it’s hard to see how you could do much better than this. It certainly puts the Myrka to shame.
This must have been an expensive episode to make, with all that underwater filming, and they had to make a few of those monster costumes for the scene at the end where loads of them show up to rescue their friend. The underwater scenes are probably the most exciting part of the episode, but I wonder if the people making this were worried about them: by their very nature those scenes can’t have dialogue, so perhaps that’s why some extra narration was stuck in this week instead. It seemed a bit odd for the narrator to start talking over those scenes, mid-episode.
The episode is titled Tourist Attraction, and that is because local dictator General Mercurio sees the creature as an opportunity to revive the struggling local tourism. On the other hand, Dexter wants to take ownership of his find himself. Luckily Paco and his mate are on hand to mess things up for both of them. I found that a very amusing moment. Despite being in possession of one of the most important discoveries of all time, Dexter places the responsibility for guarding the creature in the hands of somebody who appears to be just any old drunkard somebody dragged in off the streets. I had a feeling that might not end well, and then predictably his old pal turns up with a bottle of booze.
Before we get to the fun stuff, though, we have to sit through an examination of the character of Dexter, which made me very impatient for the writer to get on with things. I think the problem was that the story was never really going to stretch to the full running time without quite a bit of padding, but the finer details of Dexter’s love life, or lack thereof, really didn’t interest me. On the other hand I thought Mercurio was a great character. Henry Silva really captured that arrogance, power and danger of a dictator. The way he posed next to the creature for photographs with hands on hips said it all.
I suppose the episode deserves credit for being ahead of its time with a strong ecological message. Depressingly, as soon as Dexter realised he had potentially discovered a new species he was quick to grab his spear gun. My heart sank at that moment. Is man’s first reaction to something new to kill it? Probably. It is “something horrible” after all. Sigh. In the end, I found most of the episode hard to stomach, with lots of chatter to pad out the running time while an innocent creature was basically being tortured. Not very fun to watch. At least the poor thing got rescued in the end. As the narrator said, “the forces of nature will not submit to injustice”. That was the theme this week, and yet I’m not sure it’s quite right. Sadly, I think the forces of nature submit to injustice all too often. There are too many people like Dexter in the world, who see something beautiful and amazing, label it as “something horrible” and reach for a spear gun.
We now return control of your computer, until the next time we visit the outer limits of the Junkyard… RP
Read next in the Junkyard… The Outer Limits: The Zanti Misfits