The Outer Limits: S1E07 “O.B.I.T.”

O.B.I.T. is a wireless electronic surveillance system used to constantly monitor the lives of scientists at the Defense Department. Someone watches the feeds 24/7 to look for any minor infraction or security risk. One unfortunate security guard witnesses an inhuman species on the O.B.I.T., resulting in his death. Now an investigation is underway to find out how someone was murdered in one of the most secure locations on earth.

“O.B.I.T.” is a suspenseful story told mostly in one location. The first half takes place in the room housing the O.B.I.T. computer and the hallway next to it. It’s an effective decision to keep the story concealed in secrecy. We’re not meant to fully understand what is happening as a team of government employees host a trial to determine how any information ever left that room.

O.B.I.T. is a secret. Only the people who need to know about it know about it. It is the lynchpin holding the Cypress Hills facility together. Its reach is 500 miles around the device. Information may come in, but it may not leave.

“O.B.I.T.” is one of those surveillance state dystopian stories that becomes more disturbing as the episode goes on. The idea of a centralized computer tracking everything a community of scientists does is scary. What happens at the facility beyond that is only suggested.

We learn through the testimony at the investigation that they do not allow certain scientists contact with the outside world. A senator leading the investigation notes that the approved gatherings for the workers at Cypress Hills do not have high attendance. The people who work there know they were hired to work for the Defense Department, but are unwilling or unable to identity who they get their specific orders from.

One of my favorite kind of dystopian narrative styles is the early transition into a dystopia. “O.B.I.T.” is the kind of story that you could imagine leads to a full on dystopia like “The Obsolete Man” in The Twilight Zone. Someone has some kind of plan for the future, but the people forced to act it out are oblivious to what that plan is. They act on orders, protecting their secrets from each other while building a system that could strip all privacy from the world.

The Outer Limits tends to have a big moment of travel in their episodes. It’s as common as the monster at this point. A long shot of an airplane leads to an off-the-record interview in a rest home. It’s almost like the production of the show was specifically instructed to use multiple sets in each episode. It’s not a bad thing, but in this case, it cuts into a very tense bottle episode for some unneeded outside perspective. One segment of the episode happens outside of the original setting and it doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the story.

The investigation into the O.B.I.T. and the murder is fascinating. This is concept science fiction, not story-driven science fiction, and there is a difference. I quite like this form in sci-fi, but I know it’s not for everyone.

Up next: S1E08 “The Human Factor.” The Outer Limits is streaming on The Roku Channel.