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In “Moonstone,” a team of US researchers living on the moon make contact with an alien species. A large, impenetrable orb can float through the air and interact when it chooses to. The scientists believe it may be evidence that the USSR beat them to the moon, but nothing they do brings them any closer to understanding what it’s even made of.
“Moonstone” is one of the most beautiful episodes of The Outer Limits. All of the backdrops, set pieces, and creatures are gorgeous. The orb is animated when in motion and a physical prop when the actors interact with it. The creatures are puppets, floating eyes on sticks with soft fabric tentacles to create a constant state of movement. It looks like they were filmed in water to create the flying effect. Their panicked eyes are haunting, so realistic and detailed that they actually become quite scary. What is causing their panic? What are they afraid of? And why can we so easily relate to them and fear them at the same time?
The human drama on the ship feels like a precursor to series like Star Trek or Lost in Space. The ensemble cast work well together, sliding in and out of different combinations as we learn more about their own mission and roles on the ship. One researcher is about to be sent back to earth for his inability to get along with his coworkers. Another scientist tasked with studying the orb will do anything to make sure she finds out exactly what the mysterious moonstone is. There’s a great sense of motion inside the research station as the characters go about their daily tasks while the orb remains impenetrable under their testing.
“Moonstone” is science fiction as metaphor for politics. The scientists on the ship are critical of the power structures that brought them to this dream project but forced to follow all the rules anyway. Those who stand up to the system are sent back to earth, and those who fall in line are rewarded. The fight to be first in discovery is a battle against an enemy they have no way of truly understanding. Sure, the scientists fear the Russians while an even greater threat they’ve never heard of wants their escaped citizens back.
The episode takes off when the creatures reveal themselves to the researchers. They give the scientists all the motivation they need to betray orders and fight for freedom of knowledge. Any differences they had are meaningless when presented with the opportunity to work with an alien species to save millennia of knowledge about how the universe works. If they fail and these creatures are taken, we may never advance enough as a species to learn it all on our own.
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Up next: S1E25 “The Mutant.”