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by Don Harden
first published in Stardate 7, December 1980

In the fall of 1963, ABC-TV began airing what was then a new science-fiction anthology series called The Outer Limits. This program was heavily influenced by the famous monster movies of the 1950's as well as another science-fiction anthology series that ran on another competing network, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone on CBS-TV.

Many of the Outer Limits writers, directors, guest stars and production crew later found themselves working on Star Trek. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan and Grace Lee Whitney all appeared in various episodes. (A listing of the major Outer Limits/Star Trek stars and staff appear at the end of this article.)

Aside from Human individuals, a great many of the props and creatures used on The Outer Limits gained a new life on Star Trek. Some of the re-use of the old Outer Limits props were blatant rip-offs, but other uses were imaginatively and creatively applied.

The re-use of these and other props by the Star Trek production team was really necessitated by budgetary considerations. Page 296 of The Making of Star Trek contains a memo by Gene Roddenberry discussing "creative use of what can be doubled over, stolen or borrowed" to try to insure that each episode was brought within budget.

You have to realize that Star Trek was not a large-budgeted show. Leonard Nimoy once stated in a PBS-TV interview with Bill Varney that Star Trek was being made with a smaller budget than Mission: Impossible at the same studio at the same time.

Also, contrast Star Trek's average budget of $185,000 (adjusted for inflation, an episode would cost $1,078,550 today) per show to Battlestar Galactica's average of $1,000,000 (again, adjusted for inflation, an episode of 1979's Battlestar Galactica would cost $2,602,000 today) per show. The average episode of Enterprise cost nearly $4,000,000 to produce. As you can see, a high budget does not automatically mean high quality or even high ratings.

The Star Trek budget was apparently low enough to cause the production team to borrow from other sets. Page 67 of The Making of Star Trek states that "from time to time, an item will be resurrected, given a new coat of paint, made to look presentable, and used once more in yet another motion picture or television series episode." One can see an example as the exterior set from The Andy Griffith Show was used in "Miri" and "The City on the Edge of Forever." (Visit the website for details.)

To illustrate further the problems with Star Trek props, an article in Star Trek Poster Book #9 quotes Set Decorator John Dwyer as saying, "We do a great deal of our wall decorations from trash bins around the lot. We look in every one we go by; and in maybe every fifth container, we find something that has an appealing shape. We take it, repaint it or add things to it."

Perhaps the best known Star Trek use of an Outer Limits prop was the Horta. Star Trek Poster Book #5 revealed that "the Horta was designed by Janos Prohaska for the Outer Limits episode, "The Probe." This episode involved Pacific plane crash survivors finding themselves suddenly on the floor inside of a huge spaceship only to encounter a creature known as a "mikey" (short for microbe), created and portrayed by Janos Prohaska. The mikey, however, was slightly different in appearance than the Horta in that it had six legs and a head-like region. The Horta, as it appeared in "The Devil in the Dark," was really a simplified version (if not an actual prototype) of the mikey. Apparently, Prohaska went back to the old Outer Limits soundstage during the production of Star Trek, found this costume, and crawled into Gene L. Coon's office as one big practical joke (see p. 75 of The World of Star Trek). The Horta thereby became one of the most popular of all Star Trek aliens, and ironically, it was simply a retread from The Outer Limits.

Remember the rapidly multiplying pod plants of "This Side of Paradise" and those pesky spores they emitted? Well, those planets actually made their debit in the Outer Limits episode, "Specimen: Unknown," only they were somewhat shorter in height and threw out its spores from the base of the planet, as opposed to the "mouth" of the flower itself. The spores manufactured by the Outer Limits plants not only destroyed one's work ethic, but were also quite lethal because of the strange gas they produced. These plants, however, were destroyed not by fighting their influence with negative emotions, but with simple rainwater. An ironic ending, similar to the way in which the destructive Martians were overwhelmed by the common cold in H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.

A brief sequence in "The Menagerie" shows a strange creature in one of the cages near Captain Pike. One gets a much better view of it in "The Cage." It is best described as a large, hawk-nosed bird man. However, you may be surprised to learn that this alien being made its first appearance in the Outer Limits episode "Second Chance," with a variation of the same type of creature appearing in "The Duplicate Man." The other captive alien seen in "The Cage," a furred humanoid with huge fangs, appeared in the Outer Limits episode, "Fun and Games" and "The Duplicate Man." Incidentally, "Counterweight," another Outer Limits episode, had a strange alien lifeform which manifested itself as a blob of light, a concept later employed by Star Trek in "Day of the Dove" and "The Lights of Zetar."

The Outer Limits episode "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" sported several items which were resurrected later on Star Trek. Not only did it have William Shatner, Malachi Throne and Lawrence Montaigne as guest stars, but it also contained a "smoke ring" effect for the atmosphere of Venus which later was used as the Romulan plasma torpedo effect in "Balance of Terror." In addition, "Cold Hands" had a starfield sequence that looked remarkably like the starfield of the Star Trek opening credits. Moreover, the Venus mission was referred as "Project: Vulcan." Amusingly enough, Shatner even says "I promise" in the middle of the show, which is an instant reminder of his Promise Margarine commercials of the early 1970's.

The Monster Times Special Collectors Issue #1 of 1973 reported that "Mister Spock's pointed ears were first developed for David McCallum in the Outer Limits episode "The Sixth Finger." It should also be pointed out that Fred Phillips worked as makeup artist for both Star Trek and Outer Limits, as did Wah Chang.

Other such examples abound. In the Outer Limits episode, "Wolf 359," there is a weird space creature which actually were two hands with what appears to be white opaque pantyhose covering them. A slight variation of this was used in "The Man Trap" in which one of Sulu's plants ("Gertrude") was a hand with pantyhose-like and flowering material over it.

The Outer Limits episode, "The Duplicate Man," and the Star Trek episode, "The Conscience of the King," have two things in common. As described in Star Trek Poster Book #15, "In earlier drafts, Doctor Leighton was described as crippled. Director Gerd Oswald probably suggested the final appearance of Leighton. In addition to directing many episodes of The Outer Limits (including "Fun and Games," that series' equivalent of "Arena" based on the same story by Frederic Brown), Oswald had directed the Outer Limits episode "The Duplicate Man," featuring a big-game expert [author's note: actually, he was a spaceship captain of a questionable reputation] disfigured by an alien beast. One side of the character's face was covered in black as was Leighton's." The makeup for both characters was done by Fred Phillips.

Star Trek Poster Book #9 questioned Fred Phillips about the re-use of makeup appliances on Star Trek: "I recall that in 'The Empath,' the director (John Erman) had asked for custom-built head pieces, and I was able to substitute with appliances left over from The Outer Limit's pilot, 'The Galaxy Being.'" It should be pointed out that John Erman was also a production associate on The Outer Limits.

Finally (although there are many other items worthy of note), The Outer Limits "control voice" which opened each episode was that of Vic Perrin, who many Star Trek fans will recognize as Tharn of "Mirror, Mirror," Nomad's voice in "The Changeling," the voice of Balok as dubbed over Clint Howard's in "The Corbomite Maneuver," and the voice of the Metrons in "Arena." In fact, the Metron voice said to the Enterprise bridge crew, "We will control," which may have been added to the final rewrite when it was learned that Perrin would do the voice since it is part of the "control voice" opening.

Interesting stuff, you say? You bet is is! Especially if you have seen the original Outer Limits and noticed these things but weren't quite sure. Trivial? That is somewhat debatable; triviality is in the eye of the beholder, after all. Still, this kind of material also makes for some good trivia contests. This article, however, only scratches the surface. Star Trek borrowed heavily from several other science-fiction productions, especially Forbidden Planet. And almost all of the Star Trek sound effects came from Paramount's earlier movies, War of the Worlds and Robinson Crusoe on Mars. But as reporter-critic Gary Gerani has said, 'All of this is really water under the Enterprise bridge."

A Listing of the Major Star Trek/Outer Limits Connections


  The Outer Limits Star Trek
Robert Justman Production Manager & Assistant Director Star Trek Co-Producer
Claude Binyon, Jr. Production Manager Assistant Director
Gerd Oswald Director Director
James Goldstone Director Director
John Erman Production Associate Director
Fred Phillips Makeup Supervisor Makeup Supervisor
Wah Chang Makeup Artist Makeup Artist
Frank Van der Veer Photographic Effects Photographic Effects


William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, Grace Lee Whitney, Janos Prohaska, Barry Atwater, Malachi Throne, Sally Kellerman, John Hoyt, Steve Inhat, Michael Forrest, Michael Ansara, Abraham Sofaer, Lawrence Montaigne, Arlene Martel and many others...


Harlan Ellison (who won 2 Hugo Awards for Outer Limits scripts, and 1 Hugo Award for his Star Trek script, all in the category of Best Dramatic Presentation), Meyer Dolinski, and Jerry Sohl.

Other Information:

  The Outer Limits Star Trek
Studios United Artists / Daystar Desilu / Norway / Paramount
Episodes 49 79
Original Air Dates 1963-1965 1966-1969

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