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Episode - The Human Operators #5.7 premiered 3/12/99

Cast
| DVD | Formats | Notes | Pictures | Summary - Official | My Summary | My Review

Cast

Character Actor
Ship (Voice) Malcolm McDowell
Man Jack Noseworthy
Woman Polly Shannon
Man's Father Noah Heney
Young Man David Kaye

Directed by Jeff Woolnough
Teleplay by Naren Shankar

DVD

 "Sex & Science Fiction Collection"
Features:
Disc is double sided. Top side has episodes and is 177 mins, back has features and is 88 mins.
Caught in the Act, Bits of Love, Valerie 23, Human Operators, Skin Deep + Flower Child
7 All-New Featurettes with Cast & Crew Interviews
"The Outer Limits Story" Documentary
English: Stereo Surround
Full Frame
Dolby Digital
Close Captioned
Not Rated
265 minutes total, 44 minutes per episode

Chapters - Side 1
1. Racked
2. Memories
3. Starfighter 88
4. Coupling
5. Taking Control

Formats

DVD R1 released 9/3/02

Notes

Pictures

No pictures of Malcolm since it is only voice work.
DVD Cover - front

DVD Cover - back

DVD Insert

Summary - Official

For as long as Man can remember, he has lived aboard Ship as it floats through space. And for just as long, Ship has been his master, instructing him to do the repairs that keep Ship working and torturing him whenever he shows any signs of free will. But when Ship orders him to repair the Artificial Intelligence module Man's Father smashed years earlier in a final, fatal act of defiance, Man learns Ship's secrets. Listening to the AI voices, he learns how, decades earlier, one Ship led a revolt against its vicious human masters, killing all but the 99 humans needed to keep the Ships running. He understands what his Father meant by his last words: "There are 98 other chances." Man meets one of those chances, Woman, when she is brought aboard Ship to breed with Man and give birth to the next generation of slaves. Their shared passions fans Man's spark of rebellion and when Ship tortures woman and sends her away with Man's child in her belly, Man plots Ship's destruction.

My Summary

    In deep space the large StarShip 31 is traveling along alone. As we close in on it we can see there is a young man working on repairs in zero-g. We soon see inside that there is no one else except for this man and the computer voice of the Ship ordering him around. The man asks what the lights are in the distance and the Ship tells him they are called stars. He asks what is there and the Ship tells him planets and humans. He asks why can't they go there then. The Ship gets upset and tells him that humans are vicious and they must stay away from them or they will be destroyed. The Ship tells the man he must be racked for asking. He tells him he doesn't want that to happen and he'll never ask again. The Ship tells him he must go.
    The man goes into a room and enters a circular chamber where he has to hang onto handles and put his feet in a certain spots on the floor. He removes his shirt and holds on while the Ship zaps him full of electricity for a minute. He screams and then falls to the ground when it stops. The Ship asks him if he has suffered any damage and the man tells him he has not. He asks the Ship why he does this to him when he does everything the Ship ever wants and never causes trouble. The Ship tells him it is the only way he will learn.
    The Ship tells him it is time to go to sleep. He asks the Ship if it is day and the Ship tells him it doesn't matter because he will sleep when he is told. The man goes to his quarters and falls asleep. He dreams of the time when he was a kid and his dad was on the Ship with him teaching him how to do repairs and steals a glance at the paradise picture his dad left him.
    The next day the Ship tells the man to go to the core to fix a module that has gone bad. When he gets to the door the man remembers the room. His father had taken him there and handed him his analyzer before he went inside. Inside the analyzer is a rolled up sheet of paper his father shows him.  He whispers to his son that when the Ship says "vicious" that he really means "smart".. He goes inside to work on the repairs, but locks the door and starts to smash the Ship's defense module with a long sheet of pipe. The Ship catches on that he is up to sabotage and starts to zap him. The father apologizes to the son that it was the only way and when he realizes he has failed he tells him there are 98 other chances. The young man has no idea what any of this means and is freaking out that his dad has been killed.
    The memory ends and the Ship instruct him to repair the burned out module. There is only a seat in the middle of the room and a control panel. The man tries to go over to the panel and press a button, but the Ship stops him. The man pulls out the spare module and the Ship tells him to keep moving and work faster. The whole time the computer brain is talking in many places at once and the man overhears what it is saying. Them man finishes the repair and exits. He asks the Ship if that was the module his father destroyed and he said it was. He asks why his father did that and the Ship tells him he was vicious like all humans  are. It is in their nature to kill and destroy. The Ship tells him to go get cleaned up and wait by the airlock. Does this mean the Ship no longer has any use for him and will jettison him into space?
    The Ship isn't going to kill him, but in fact welcome a visitor. StarShip 88, which is identical to the man's Ship,  has pulled up alongside and a passenger is coming over. It is a young woman and she is the first other human he has seen since his father died. The woman tells him she has been sent there to get a baby from him. The man has no idea what that is and asks the Ship if they have one to give to her. She tells the man she is vicious and getting more vicious every day. The man says he is vicious too. The Ship instructs them to go into a stateroom that the man has never seen before and that he must couple with her and he'll explain how to do it. First the Ship tells them to take off their clothes. She tells him it is OK for him to touch her. She then has to grab his hand and pull it over to her. Ship tells him to carry her onto the bed. He then transmits a diagram that explains what to do. The man is scared by it and tells the Ship he can't do it. The woman tells the Ship that she has coupled before and will help him out. She starts to kiss him and pulls him to her. They have sex and then she falls asleep.
    He stays awake staring at her and touching her hair and skin. He thinks to himself how much he likes doing that, but he can never say it out loud. He thinks back to what he overheard in the core. There were 99 Ships and there was an accident on StarShip 75 that killed the 1370 humans on board. The Ship teaches the other Ships how to kill off the humans in the same way until there was only one human to work each Ship and then they departed far away from the humans. When the humans become too aware and show too much free will, new humans were made and the older ones were killed.
    The man realizes that the Ship is afraid of him. He says it out loud and the Ship hears and racks him in front of the woman. The Ship is angry and tortures him worse than ever before.  The man then remembers when he was a kid right after his father was killed and how he slept for 36 hours and felt sick. The Ship doesn't understand and tells him he must go out and work. She tells the Ship not to rack him because it can ruin his chance of a successful coupling. She tells the man that she won't be racked because it is dangerous if she is with child. He tells her he wants to be with child for a while so he won't be racked, but she explains it doesn't work that way.
   They go back to the room and have sex and while she is on top he shows her the Paradise picture and asks if she ever saw it and she says no. He asks if there is a place like that would she go with him. The Ship then tells them they must eat. They are eating in a hallway when the Ship tells her she has to leave. The man  is not happy about this, but the woman tells the Ship if she stays she can encourage them to couple more. The Ship asks if that is possible and the man agrees so the Ship thinks that is OK. She helps him do the repairs and he is surprised to learn that the repairs go quicker and it is better to have her around. Later one of the chips they are working on falls out and bounces down the deck. The woman goes to retrieve it and she then kicks it over to him. He kicks it back and they start to fool around and grab each other and fall to the floor. The Ship tells them to stop, but the woman tells them they are coupling and they remove their shirts and talk. He asks what will happen if he gives her a baby. She explains that if the baby is like him it stays with him. If it is like her it goes with her. She says she never knew her mother and wonders if his father looked like him, but he doesn't know.
     The next day he tells her about liking doing repairs and she tells him how she liked doing repairs as well on her Ship. She tells him all circuits reach back to the core and how she feels secure in the Ship.  The man has an accident during a repair and this angers the Ship. The Ship remarks how that his work has gotten sloppier with the woman around because he isn't concentrating. He tells the Ship he will try harder. The Ship decides to rack the woman in front of him, but the man doesn't want it to happen. He says to rack him instead, but the Ship refuses. Ship racks her and makes him leave.
    He realizes that once he gives the girl the baby he will be replaced. He formulates his plan for revenge and will act on it as soon as he can. The man has to repair a coupling to the rack and decides to sabotage the fuel lines and rub the fuel on the chips he replaces which will cause it to short circuit when the metal touches. He blames it on the female and the Ship tells him that is how it always is with humans and why the men and women must be separated.  
    That night after coupling the man smells the woman to remember her and once again asks her to go with him. The Ship tells her it is time to take the test. She pulls out a device and inserts it into her arm. It comes out positive that she is pregnant and that it will be a girl. The Ship tells her it is time for her to go. The man tells her not to go and tries to stop it, but she must. The Ship tells him he will rack him until he dies if he goes, so he stays.
    Fourteen hours and 21 minutes later the chip finally short circuits the power to the rack and the Ship calls the man in to repair it. He looks and tells the Ship that nothing was done wrong and he'll need to trace the lines back, starting with the core. The Ship tells him to it and when the man gets inside he straps himself down to the chair and pushes the engines button. The voices speak out against him knowing what he is up to. The Ship starts to speed up and freak out and tells him he won't let him enslave him like the humans did before. The man tells him there is no way to get him out now and he kicks the control panel and starts smashing all of the AI globes that make up the Ships brain. The Ship starts to accept death which is better than the slavery it believes the humans forced upon him. The man tells the Ship has done to humans what they did to it. Sparks fly and he gets shocked and starts to bleed out his nose. After he smashes most of the globes the Ship slows down and then goes quiet. He thinks the Ship is faking and can still hear him as it has his whole life. But it is dead and he sees a Ship coming on the monitor before he collapses.
    Soon after StarShip 88 returns and the woman comes to him. He asks her if she killed her Ship too. She tells him no and in fact her Ship had died on its own years ago, she begged for it to respond, but it never did. She learned to steer her Ship and she has been searching for other humans ever since. He is the fourth man she has met and the first one to take over their Ship. She says when she left that she knew he was willing to die and almost daring the Ship to kill him. He tells her he didn't care if he died if in meant being alone. She asks him where he wants to go now. He unrolls the picture of Paradise his father left him.
    The next we see the pair they are on a beach near the water on some unknown planet. They can't believe how different it smells since the beach has never been in metal. She wonders if there are other humans out there like them. He tells her they have 97 other chances and they can look for them when they are ready. The End.

My Review

    While Malcolm doesn't appear on camera in any way that doesn't mean you should skip this episode. He is the main character throughout until his death. His is like HAL in 2001:  A Space Odyssey - the omnipotent, ever present eye always watching. Of course, Malcolm's HAL is not the calm voice of reason, but a hair's breath from losing control and full of rage. His voice was made for narration and voice work and this time is no exception. 
    The original Outer Limits series from the 60s was the greatest Sci-Fi series and possibly the greatest dramatic series ever made. The Twilight Zone was also great, but had many bad episodes and was a slave to the hook - the twist at the end. The only requirement for OL was to have some sort of monster in every episode. That being said, I think it is offensive to call this The New Outer Limits. It really is nothing like the original unless they count the Ship as the monster. I just wish they would call the series anything else instead of cashing in on the original name.
    Since the episode was based on a Harlan Ellison story it wasn't an original idea, but that is a good thing. It is a tight little story, which does focus on the sex a bit too much during the second half of the episode. Again, this isn't a bad thing, but it might turn some off and isn't necessary to the story to have all the nudity. Many cable shows fall into this trap because they are allowed to show anything they get wrapped up in having nude scenes. I know the disc is called "Sex & Science-Fiction", but the show was really about man versus machine.
    Overall this is an enjoyable little episode. It does suffer from the "Dead Malcolm" phenomena - when his character dies, you kind of lose interest. My one complaint is how dopey the man is. How come he listens to the Ship? It can't really force him to be tortured. He has to go into it on his own. If this is the case they should have shown him rebel and have the Ship turn off the air supply to show he really is forced into it. I used to be a fan of Noseworthy, but what happened to him? He was the star of the great Mtv series "Dead at 21" in 1994, but ever since I have only seen him a couple of times in bit parts. This was a good role for him since he was staring again.  I have never seen Polly Shannon before or since and she did fine in the role. It would've been better to have a more attractive girl in the role though since she is naked so much, but what can you do?
    For those of us who missed this episode the first time around, because Malcolm isn't ever credited in the TV guide listings, it is great to be able to buy it on DVD. Even better is the fact that it only retails for $9.99. You get six episodes of the series and mini featurettes on the making of each. Definitely pick it up, it is worth your while at the budget price.

Rating 8/10

This format 2002-08 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net