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The Outer Limits: The Inheritors

The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) is generally considered the most influential science fiction anthology series of all time. This is the series that is in syndication, and which generally has marathons run for it on every major holiday. If you want to see The Outer Limits, you've got to buy the DVDs or individual episodes (at Amazon Unbox) or watch the episodes at Hulu.com.

The Outer Limits made its debut in 1963, and ran for a total of 49 episodes over two seasons, with the last episode broadcast in 1965.

The first season of The Outer Limits is generally considered by fans to be the best in the series' two year existence, with a lot of "bears" as the crewpeople called them - aliens to the audience at home.

Harlan Ellison contributed a couple of scripts to this series in the second season -- "Demon With a Glass Hand," which starred Robert Culp, and "Soldier," which starred Michael Ansara.

Future Star Trek actors William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan and Grace Lee Whitney appeared in episodes of this series.

"The Inheritors" had no alien monsters, but was rather an exercise in suspense. Who has taken over the minds of four men, and what is their sinister plan? Will they be able to be stopped in time?

The episide was written by Seeleg Lester and Samuel Neuman. It was directed by James Goldstone.

Indeed, Goldstone directed several episodes of this series, and perhaps it was he who suggested to the casting director that Steve Ihnat test for the role of Lietenant Minns, as he'd just worked with him on VTTBOTS.

Robert Duvall is the star of this two-parter, and received top billing. Indeed, in the opening credits, Ihnat's name isn't even mentioned.

Summary
Lieutenant Minns, somewhere in Korea, is conducting a solo recce, is shot in the head. Cut to an operating room, where doctors battle to save his life while an intense Ballard (Robert Duvall) looks on.

Ballard reveals to his superior than four men have now been shot with bullets made from a meteorite fragment. Each of them has developed genius-level IQs. Three of them have disappeared. Only Minns remains.

Ballard interviews Minns in his hospital room, but Minns simply smiles and answer obliquely. Ballard travels to Korea to track down the story behind the four bullets. He is joined, briefly, by actor James Shigeta.

Ballard discusses the meteor fragments with scientists, while Minns decides its time to leave the hospital. A nurse comes in to stop him, and we see for the first time that he can control people's minds. He goes to a commodity broker's office, and in the space of a week earns more than $400,000. Which he divides and sends to his three fellow soldiers, who are in far flung corners of the world working on projects of their own.

Dee Pollock played Francis Hadley, P.F.C, who was actually located in Wichita, and purchases a building where he is conducting certain experiments. Ivan Dixon plays Sgt. James Conover, who is about to return to a German lab where he's been working, only to realize that Ballard is within. Ballard also visits Tokyo, where James Frawley as Robert Renaldo is working on an anti-gravity device. Renaldo tells Ballard that "Charlie" is in head, and he can't resist. Ballard wants Renaldo to come with him.

Ballard comes back to his senses a couple of days later. He'd been at a racetrack...with no memory of how he got there. Meantime, Minns walks past a house when a young boy runs out of it and up to him. "Lieutenant, you're going to take me with you, aren't you? "Yes," says Minns.

Minns returns to his apartment. Ballard, Harris, and a few private detectives have the place staked out. Minns senses this, but walks into the building anyway.

"The Inheritors", Part 2
Ballard and Harris and a group of detectives have Minn's apartment building staked out. Ballard and Harris enter the apartment, and instruct two detectives to wait outside. If Minns tries to leave, they are to shoot him wtihout compunction. Ballard finds a pad with some cryptic notes on it, and he copies them down. Then Minns returns.

Minns confirms that he knew the men were in the apartment. Ballard tells him to fight the beings controlling him, but Minns says he can't, "anymore than you can fight me."

He goes to the desk to get the notes from the pad.

Ballard tells him not to move. Not to turn and look at them, or they'll shoot. Not to go out the door. "I don't want anyone hurt," says Minns. "That's fine," says Ballard. "Then just come with us." Minns opens the door. Harris shoots, to no avail. The two guards outside shoot at point blank range, to no avail. Minns spares one look back into the room, then walks away.

Conover and Renaldo arrive at the building in Wichita where they are constructing the spaceship. Lots of discussion about how smart they find themeslves, what each one of them is doing to construct the spaceship (Conover had the parts made in Germany, Renaldo did anti-gravity device, and so on.) They don't know why they're doing what they're doing, and they're scared. Meantime, Harris has deciphered the meaning of the cryptic notes, and Ballard goes investigating, to find that Minns is recruiting handicapped children.

Hanley arrives, with his contribution to the project. The police let him enter. Ballard and Harris and the guards follow him into the building and see the space ship.

A force field is turned on. The officials try a variety of weapons, but nothing will penetrate it. Meanwhile, Minns goes about collecting the children. Then he heads for Wichita. Roadblocks can't stop them, a forcefield protects the car.

Ballard knows that there's nothing he can do. He begs the three men to fight against their controllers, to turn off the forcefield. Then Minns arrives with the children. Ballard demands to know why the children are being taken. Are they going to be used for some experiment. Again he begs the three men to fight against their control and turn off the forcefield.

Minns helps the children into the spaceship. Ballard, more and more desperate, begs the rest of the men to turn off the forcefield. And they are beginning to agree. They pepper Minns with questions, angrily.

Minns suddenly begins receiving words in his mind. He tells what the aliens have in mind. The children will not be experimented on, they will be taken to a planet where the atmosphere will cure their ills. Indeed, the atmosphere in the spaceship has already done so. Minns has Renaldo turn off the forcefield, and allows Ballard and Harris to enter the ship.

Ballard and Harris exit the rocketship, stunned and impressed. Next, Minns asks the other three men if they want to accompany the children on the journey. They all say yes. Camera pulls back and... fade out.

If you've never seen Ihnat's work, here's a suggested viewing order for his episodes at his IMDB page. (If you can't see them, you need to upgrade your browser.)

1. Start with It Takes a Thief, "Turnabout."
2. Go on to The Big Valley, "Teacher of Outlaws."
3. View Steve's one and only sit-com appearance, on I Dream of Jeannie
4. Then watch Star Trek's "Whom Gods Destroy".

You can download "The Inheritors" from Amazon Inbox, as well as his episode of Daniel Boone. His VTTBOTS and Ironside episode, "The Fourteenth Runner" can be watched for free on Lulu.com.

If you watch much of Ihnat's work -- and five of his episodes are available to view free at his IMDB page, and there are a few clips on YouTube, or you can purchase the appropriate DVD sets of Mannix and Mission Impossible -- you will see him play a lot of psychotic killers, and a lot of villains, but you'll never see him play a character quite like this. It's a tribute to his talent that he pulls it off so masterfully.

As for Garth of Izar, why did his madness assume the form it took? All is explained in this story: The Madness of Garth of Izar.

Steve never played another science fiction role. Indeed, he was making the transition to screenwriter and director (having just finished The Honkers, starring his friend James Coburn), when he died of a heart attack at the tragically early age of 37.

Three decades later, his performances are still remembered.

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