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"THE ARCHITECTS OF FEAR" from THE OUTER LIMITS
Directed by Byron Haskin
Written by Meyer Dolinsky
Starring Robert Culp, Leonard Stone, Martin Wolfson, and Geraldine Brooks
A group of quiet men are gathered at a table, their moods seemingly calm, their manners apparently professional. They are here on business, but it is a dark mission they have on their minds. Their brows are wrinkled and beaded with sweat. It is because they must pass a death sentence to one of their own. Some may be praying for themselves, and some may be praying for the chosen one.
These diplomats have become increasingly worried by the global tensions of the world. It seems every country is at the throat of another, ready to cut it at any moment. Instead of banding together as brothers and sisters, the people of the world have insisted on casting suspicion and anger upon their neighbors. So these men have met today to solve the problem. They will create an enemy. A common foe that will force the people of Earth to join forces, to finally become a brotherhood. One man at the table will be that enemy.
A drawing from a jar determines that Allen Leighton will be that man. Through scientific operations and procedures, Allen will be completely transformed into an alien species, ridding himself of every last shred of humanity that he has left. The young man takes the news lightly at first, not showing any worries over his planned operation. But soon Allen is forced to think of someone else: Yvette, his beloved wife. With a heavy heart he leaves her behind to serve humankind� by becoming something disturbingly inhuman.
"The Architects of Fear" is one of the many noteworthy and excellent episodes to have invaded our television screens from the far reaches of the outer limits. Similar to other stories from the series, "The Architects of Fear" revolves around a timeless theme that serves as its potent dramatic core, but it's accentuated by all the fantastic trappings of science fiction.
Screenwriter Meyer Dolinsky has crafted a powerful moral tale that can be relevant to all creeds of people at any point in history. One of the greatest flaws of the human race is the curse of misconceived notions, actions that we take that we think are for the greater good but, in the end, rear their ugly heads at us in the worst of ways. This metaphor takes on a literal form as the mistake made by the delegates from this episode are met with the twisted countenance of their experiment. And like any other tragic fable, the terrible message of the story is only comprehended once the deed is done and there's no way of going of back.
"The Architects of Fear" might not have succeeded if there wasn't a capable actor to handle the character of Allen and his complex moral dilemma. Thankfully, Robert Culp is more than qualified to elicit sympathy and display a full range of emotions as the doomed Leighton. When he's first elected to be the subject of the experiment, Allen is shockingly jovial and optimistic about his transformation.
The audience begins to see that this is only a front that Allen is putting on when his wife Yvette appears. We see him struggling with the task of deceiving the woman he loves; this is made all the more painful when Yvette begins talking about having children and raising a family. The culmination of his pent-up feelings takes place during the laboratory scene where Allen, already halfway through the transmutation process, lashes out in a drug-fueled rage at his scientist-captors. Culp manages to be both devastated and terrifying as he fights for his right to be a human being.
Geraldine Brooks as Yvette comes out full-force herself during the conclusion when she comes to realize that the horrifying "alien" is in fact her husband. Her pain and anger become our own when she can only look down at the dead figure that was once Allen. And even though Yvette wraps the episode up by espousing the lesson to be learned from the story, it could very well have ended without her saying anything at all. Her eyes say everything that we need to know. They show us what fear can really do.