Boy I bet that the NSA wishes they could have an Outer Band Individuated Teletracer
OBIT (I'll dispense with the periods) is another excellent episode of the original Outer Limits that gets high marks for suspense and good all-around SF story telling.
The basic plot is as follows: strange things have been going on at super secret government research facilities. A senate investigation has been kicked off due to the apparent murder of a soldier and the senator in charge of the investigation has gotten wind that some super-secret technology might be to blame.
Of course, what concerns the Senator the most is the fact that the installation of the super-secret technology (OBIT) has been kept a super secret.
And, this being The Outer Limits, it should come as no surprise that there is more to OBIT than meets the eye.
The machine is, in fact, the vanguard of an alien invasion.
Two things about this episode particularly caught my eye. The first is the manner in which the aliens are depicted: they have limps, too much hair and interesting scars. As you can see from the image capture, when revealed in their non-human guise, the aliens are anything but symmetrical.
I found it to be a nice touch that the aliens in human guise might not be able to pull off the deception completely. Their walking gait is not a human one and this translates into a limp. (If only it would be that easy to spot aliens masquerading as humans.)
The second item of note is how appropriate this episode is to our current "there is no such thing as privacy anymore" era. OBIT can zoom in on anyone, anywhere, at any time. Make a casual disparaging remark about your boss to your wife and the next thing you know, no more job.
Considering that this episode was filmed in the early 60's, it was amazingly prescient about the future of data mining, spyware and the effects that such technologies can have on a society. So much so in fact that a case of misuse of the technology (spying on babes in bikinis) is mentioned! - as well as certain people having the privilege of exempting themselves from observation.
The nature of the machine and the presence of aliens in our midst are revealed in the final act. Mr. Lomax (the, ahem, private contractor hired by the government to install OBIT machines) stands up and delivers a soliloquy:
"The machines are everywhere!...for every one you destroy, hundreds of others will be built! They'll demoralize you. Break your spirits! Create rips and tensions in your society that no one will be able to repair!...you're all the same...you demand, incensed on knowing every private thought of everyone, your family, your neighbors, everyone!...but yourselves."
As the episode ends, the control voice says that "agents of the justice department are rounding up the machines...but in the last analysis, whether OBIT lives up to its name or not will depend on you"
Excellent episode and one that leaves me with this final thought: OBIT was based on 1960s technology. The stuff the NSA (and other 'intelligence gatherers') are using today are vastly superior....
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