DVD Review: Science Fiction Theatre (The Complete Series)

Sure The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone attempted to give viewers a glimpse of the future, but both of them came up short in forward thinking when compared to Science Fiction Theatre. What did this series from 1955 have over those two iconic shows? It dared to give viewers a future in color instead of black and white. Of course nobody actually saw the show broadcast in color at the time since people were just getting used to the concept of television. This syndicated TV series was beyond Bonanza with it’s use of hues to illustrate the life we’ll be living in the future. Sadly being ready for the future didn’t quite make a syndication sensation like Twilight Zone. The show did get a little exposure in Back to the Future. Thankfully Science Fiction Theatre: The Complete Series brings all 78 episodes to those craving a view of the future as envisioned 60 years ago.

The series seems more apt to be a cool educational film series. Episodes open with host Truman Bradley demonstrating a scientific experiment to explain a concept that might not have been covered in high school. It’s a little Mr. Wizard spot. But this isn’t just a techno-trick to startle the audience. The demo leads into the dramatic action. Most of the episodes play out as ethical questions of the future. The show is laid out to be an educational film so that after the credits, a teacher can lead a discussion about the topic. Nowadays the teacher could discuss how close to predicting reality the episode became.

The episodes featured a few familiar faces that would become stars of tomorrow. “Time Is Just a Place” brings sophisticated folks to the neighborhood. Turns out they moved from more than just a different zip code. Don DeFore (Hazel) is part of the household gadget fun. “Y.O.R.D.” brings a strange message to a polar weather station that has DeForest Kelley (Star Trek) on the crew. “Conversation With an Ape” predicts the Planet of the Ape movies. A telepathic chimp connects with Hugh Beaumont. Soon after, this man would spawn a Beaver. His wife, Barbara Hale, would become Perry Mason‘s secretary. “The Stones Began to Move” is a pyramid mystery starring Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes). It’s not ’50s science fiction until Beverly Garland arrives in “The Negative Man.” A man gets a shock from a computer and becomes a genius. My Apple G-5 turned into a brick which is why I can’t remember where I left the remote control. “The Long Day” has DeForest Kelley and crew screw up and create a second sun for the Earth. “Operation Flypaper” stars Vincent Price in a tale of industrial espionage that involves stealing time.

The second season had the show resort to black and white. Guess the producers realized they were too far on the cutting edge. The show maintained it’s format and outlook on futuristic developments. “Signals From the Heart” predicts doctors working on patients with remote control. “The Flicker” predicts a student might turn into a killer because of the flicker rate of a movie. The episode stars Michael Fox which is the reason Back to the Future stars Michael J. Fox. Coincidence? “One Thousand Eyes” stares into both of Vincent Price’s eyeballs. “Death at My Fingertips” questions if fingerprints can be faked. June Lockhart visits before being launched into Lost In Space.

Overall Science Fiction Theatre is a fine predictor of the shape of things to come and how we should feel about the technology. The episodes do try harder than to merely be exploitative action shows with rayguns and jet packs. This is the kind of ethical analysis that rarely gets explored in modern TV shows about tomorrow.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The color transfers seem to be from the 2-strip Technicolor process so they’re rather brown tinted. The prints look fine. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The mix is fine since the shows are rather dialogue heavy.

No bonus features.

Science Fiction Theatre: The Complete Series revives the obscure anthology series that pondered the ethics of tomorrow.

Timeless Media Group presents Science Fiction Theatre: The Complete Series. Starring: Truman Bradley. Boxset contents: 78 episodes on 8 DVDs. Released: May 12, 2015.

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