Without question, one of the weirdest television shows ever broadcast was the original incarnation of The Outer Limits. The groundbreaking 1963 sci-fi series really lived up to its name by featuring content that was so out there compared to the rest of the television series of its day that it still has yet to be topped in terms of its strangeness. This is the show that featured killer tumbleweeds, a bee that turns into a human so it can find a mate, and a man who becomes so highly-evolved that he… grows a sixth finger. But the weirdest episode of The Outer Limits, or any show for that matter, has to be “The Zanti Misfits.”
The plot of the episode actually doesn’t sound that insane. An alien planet called Zanti seeks to exile their criminals, and so they contact Earth and say that they’ll give humans new technology if we allow their criminals to be housed on our planet. However, there is a stipulation (and this is where things start to get weird): The prisoners’ privacy must not be disturbed. The alien criminals then land in a spaceship, and of course, their privacy is immediately violated by nosy humans, so they flip out and start attacking people. Without spoiling the ending, that’s the basic plot, and while it’s a little strange, it’s not exactly weirdest television episode ever strange. That’s where the aliens themselves come in.
The Zanti Misfits, as the aliens are known, are the most bizarre monster design I’ve ever seen on-screen. They resemble foot-long ants and have human faces. Why anyone would think to put a human face on a giant ant is beyond me, but the result is beyond unnerving. Their faces are also horrifically creepy and angry-looking, and they emit an ungodly buzzing sound every time they open their mouths. The way the aliens move is also unsettling, thanks in part to the stop-motion animation provided by Jim Danforth. And if all of this sounds like it would come across as comical, it actually doesn’t. The result is surprisingly scary, and the episode is renowned as an effective piece of horror even in modern times (TV Guide ranked it as the 98th greatest episode of TV ever in 1997).
I feel like if a television show today were to air an episode featuring giant alien ants with creepy human faces that are super into protecting their privacy, the Internet would have a collective meltdown trying to figure out what they just saw. Yet that’s exactly the plot of a 54-year-old Outer Limits installment, and it’s why “The Zanti Misfits” will likely always remain the weirdest episode of TV ever made.
You can catch the unsettling weirdness of “The Zanti Misfits,” along with nine other classic episodes of ‘The Outer Limits,’ during COMET’s May Day Outer Limits Marathon, on Sunday, May 1, beginning at 10am/9C.