Peering down the time tunnel, Showtime revives ABC’s old “Outer Limits” series with a two-hour vidpic that will be followed by 43 new, weekly one-hour entries. Polished opener is a well-produced come-on for viewers to keep tuning in; hey, they’ve even added color.
First out of the box is Melinda M. Snodgrass’ niftily crafted adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s 1979 “Sandkings,” a variation on the Frankenstein tale in which a scientist nurtures a new life form over which he loses control. Stuart Gillard’s astute direction gives the drama several hair-raising twists, and a solid cast handily nails down the meller.
Beau Bridges plays Simon, a scientist fired from his high-tech job who secretly begins to bring his work home from the office — in this case, it’s a collection of Martian eggs that hatch into scorpionlike monsters who’ll dine on just about anything.
Simon, married to Cathy (Helen Shaver) and father of Josh (Dylan Bridges, the actor’s actual son), uses their rickety barn to work on his charges, which he keeps in a glass-enclosed sandbox. Though his son is in on it, Cathy knows nothing about the cultivation.
A little wobbly at first, Simon develops that traditional mad-scientist syndrome after one of the creatures nips him. There are chilling moments along the way, such as Simon tantalizing his charges with a mouse, Cathy falling into the sand pit, and Simon’s ex-boss (Kim Coates) suspended over the critters.
They’re all effective, but the telefilm pushes its limits when a Hitchcockian moving-car seg disrupts the flow, and a dream sequence is quite literally a scare cheat.
Beau Bridges shows commendable restraint in the potentially overblown role. Shaver gives her part distinction and a pleasing style. Young Dylan Bridges does a commendable job, and, as his grandfather, the real McCoy, Lloyd Bridges, plays Simon’s complex and puzzled dad with dignity.
“Outer Limits” looks sharp. Much credit for “Sandkings” goes to Philip Linzey’s intelligent lensing and to Brent Thomas’ resourceful production design.
Walter Klassen and Greg Nicotero deserve a nod for the real-looking Sandking puppets, and Bill Orr was responsible for special effects. Michael Robison’s editing is a plus, while the score and theme by Michael Mancina and John Van Tongeren are pleasurably threatening.