The Outer Limits, the television series that first aired in 1995, broke new ground in terms of themes and storytelling in the science fiction genre. Whereas older sci-fi classics like The War of the Worlds and even more recent films like Independence Day (which was released about the same time that T.O.L. began) tended to depict alien races as two-dimensional and single-minded, The Outer Limits gave them soul and depth.
Though various producers and directors were responsible for bringing different episodes to life, they all shared a common vision: to present stories that were rooted in humanity, that used science fiction as a metaphor to reflect what is going on within ourselves and our own cultures. Great science fiction, like fantasy, utilizes highly imagined exotic worlds or alternate histories to make statements about the everyday world that we know. What comes across in many of the Aliens Among Us episodes is the shortcomings of the human race: the limitations inherent in our belief systems, whether in regards to religion, politics, or our own nature, and the shortsighted methods that we use to solve our problems (typically, violence).
One of the implications made by many of the stories is that mankind has made contact – or is otherwise interacting – with alien species before it is truly ready to. This statement is aptly made in one of the show’s strongest episodes, “Afterlife”. When the apparently doomed central character is rescued by extra-terrestrials and taken through a ripple in the fabric of reality, it becomes clear that these beings left some of their remains behind (to be discovered by our government) not through carelessness but rather as a deliberate test. They apparently wanted to gauge the maturity of our race, to ascertain how ready we might be for profitable communion with another sentient species – though it may be foreign to us.
The government’s hostile response to the aliens’ test destroys such a possibility; but this is but a symptom of the greater malaise that afflicts humanity in general. For we are still a young race with much to learn. Though we seem to have made astounding progress – when judged by our civilization and our technological achievements – we retain in many ways the psychology of the primitive that sees anything unknown, anything that lies beyond our well-charted borders, as threatening and in need of “neutralizing”. Those human beings who are in power, in many of The Outer Limits‘ episodes, take aggressive action before they even have a chance to learn the error behind their assumptions. So long as we humans remain unable to overcome this infantile fear and exist as free beings, the series seems to say, the doorway to communication with more highly-evolved beings will remain closed to us.