A woman in silhouette runs through a forest on a TV screen, black and white

The Outer Limits: S1E27 “Fun and Games”

The Outer Limits is streaming for free on the Roku channel.

Two humans are electroplated millions of light years away from Earth. They have to fight to the death against an alien species for another planet’s entertainment. The winners keep their lives. The losers cause their entire planet to go extinct.

“Fun and Games” is chaos. There are two different alien species as the monsters of the week. One is a monkey suit with large fangs glued in and a boomerang knife. The other is The Senator, a smoking shadow staring at a wall of screens and a control panel. He is a representative of the planet Andera who forces members of different interplanetary species into a deadly combat arena; losers cause their species to become extinct.

The episode is a commentary on the dangers of any kind of high stakes competition. “Games” should be “fun.” Revolutionary. Other themes are touched on, but this is what the script circles back to again and again.

Sarcasm aside, “Fun and Games” offers a unique, action-driven experience in The Outer Limits. Many episodes feature chase sequences. This is the first episode driven by them. Watching Mike and Laura fight their way out of increasingly dangerous situations is exciting. It’s just not as message-driven or thematically complex as the other episodes of the series.

Deadly game stories are well-established in sci-fi and horror now. When this episode premiered, it was still an emerging sub-genre. “The Most Dangerous Game” and “The Lottery” set up the template. The genre comes down to lifting gladiatorial combat and other murderous public spectacle into a more modern setting to shock the audience. Other forms of deadly game stories have emerged since, but the idea of a complicit audience tends to be the main focus. Even films like the Saw series that start outside of the public eye inevitably rely on every possible victim knowing the games exist.

“Fun and Games” features a strong looping narrative structure. Mike and Laura, strangers before the game begins, are given a choice to participate. Refusing to participate dooms Earth to extinction, but gives everyone five more years to survive. Mike chooses to go back to earth, sending both of them back. They keep crossing paths again and again as they argue over whether or not to participate. The Senator forces the interactions, as the other species and the citizens of Andera demand combat.

There is an interesting concept here. I’m not convinced The Outer Limits was the right platform for it. This is another episode that came up short on the runtime after being heavily rewritten to reduce the number of alien species involved in the game. It was saved in the editing room by reusing footage in the chase and teleportation scenes multiple times. “Fun and Games” simultaneously has too much and not enough going on for this style of anthology series. Technically, it does work, and the action scenes are good. The episode just didn’t quite sit right with me.

***

content warning: gun violence, smoking, violence against women


Up next: S1E28 “The Special One.”