Monday, April 21, 2008

Your Earliest, Scariest TV Moment?

I haven't started a meme yet, but I'm going to... right now! Many times I have pondered on some of the scariest things I encountered in the early days of television, and how they changed my perception of my little world and my own place in the universe. The Baby Boomer Generation is unique in the regard that it grew up with television--a new communication medium in the 1950s and 1960s, for better or worse.

My scariest early moment was watching the first epidsode of The Outer Limits, and what a first episode it was! The Galaxy Being, written and directed by Leslie Stevens, was filmed in black and white and aired in 1963. The story highlighted a creature far beyond anything I could have imagined at the age of ten: a nitrogen-based being from the Andromeda Galaxy which glowed and surged like electricity. The background sound even included lots of awe inspiring snapping and crackling from static electricity. Many subsequent episodes of The Outer Limits seemed to have a not-so-believable alien written in just for the sake of it, but the Galaxy Being was compelling, understandable, ominpotent, and well... horrifying, all at the same time.

Admonishing the military who come to the "defense" of the townspeople, the Galaxy Being warns them to rescind their violent ways: “Do not use force... There are powers in the universe beyond anything you know.”

Even though the Galaxy Being had me diving under the covers that night as I lay in bed, I was hopelessly fascinated. It was at that moment I became a science-fiction fan and began to read anything I could get my hands on that foretold the future. The funny thing is, I was never a horror fan; the only acceptable horror had to do with science and the future, and it had to have purpose. None of that bug-eyed, gobbling, drooling alien stuff for me!

The opening narration for The Outer Limits, 1963-1965:

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat, there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits.

What was your earliest, scariest TV moment? How did you react? How did it change your perception of yourself, of your family, of the world? Did you develop any new interests as a result... or any revulsions? How do you think early television was different from the television shows being broadcast today, and do the modern shows have as much social impact? Were your family's routines altered by television? If so, how?

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