The Outer Limits: S2E04 “Expanding Human”

A man rummages through a darkened laboratory at the university. He is loading up a box with various chemicals. A security guard tries to stop him, but is literally left breathless without a touch by the man. He carries the guard, stiff as a board, back to the shelf to gather all of his ingredients. The guard is lowered to the ground, dead, without a mark on him.

“Expanding Human” is a play on mad scientist tropes. The mysterious man is experimenting with dangerous mind-altering drugs. The university is doing research into the untapped potential of the human mind and he insists on continuing with the specific chemicals the university has forbidden. The episode is a play on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that starts right when the chaos of monster is released upon the world.

“Expanding Human” is another noir-styled episode of The Outer Limits. The camerawork is almost entirely handheld, including establishing shots of the various locations of the university. The sets are filled with inky black shadows to hide the true nature of the experiments in plain sight. All of the action with the experiment is told on an angle, a literal skewed view into the expansion of the mind and perception.

This is an interesting approach to this story. The monster is revealed in the opening scene, but is still clearly a man. There are pointed prosthetic cheeks attached to the face, but they do little to distract from his features. The research, the victims, and the characters instincts all point to the exact identity of the monster. Some characters even say they someone who looks like him but not him wandering the university halls. The monster can hide in plain sight because of the experimentation that every major player in the story is complicit in.

The greater mystery of “Expanding Human” is the research itself. These researchers are exploring a cutting edge science that doesn’t even entirely make sense to themselves yet. They do experiment with these drugs to achieve expanded consciousness, but mostly stop when the university forbids them. As one researcher explains, instead of seeing a single leaf falling from a tree, someone in expanded consciousness can see all leaves falling how they will at the same time. It fills him with an immense sense of joy and wonder but does nothing to help explain how the monster’s victims are being stopped in an instant with no marks or drugs in their system.

“Expanding Human” is an exploration of the mind externalized through noir style and mad scientist tropes. It’s a successful experiment in visualizing psychological sci-fi and horror elements onscreen. The characters are aware and unaware of what is happening, trapped in a space between their experiments and the reality they can actually understand.

Up next: S2E05 “Demon with a Glass Hand.”