RIP, Robert Culp: A great actor — and don’t forget ‘The Outer Limits’

All the obits on the late Robert Culp rightly focus on his groundbreaking work on TV’s I Spy as the first network series to co-star an African American (Bill Cosby) in the ’60s. But let’s not overlook Culp’s extraordinary work on another ’60s series before that: The Outer Limits.

The anthology series had different stories and different casts each week, but some actors appeared in more than one show. Culp was one of them, starring in three: Season One’s The Architects of Fear, a haunting love story set against Cold War paranoia and a desperate scheme; that season’s Corpus Earthling, another moving love story also involving alien invaders, zombie like humans and the series’ most gut-wrenching finale; and Season Two’s Demon With a Glass Hand, a superb sci-fi tale written by Harlan Ellison which inspired The Terminator films and even wound up getting Ellison a credit on the first one. (Its setting, BTW, is the Bradbury Building, on the edge of downtown L.A., where parts of Blade Runner also were shot.)

In each, Culp was a strong leading man/hero/protagonist, grounded in dignity and compassion, evincing vulnerability and humanity, but also compelled by a sense of duty and expedience. (The exception would be his Corpus Earthling character’s panicky fears about losing his mind, due to a head injury.) Culp acted with impressive naturalness and grounding in reality, and he connected with his co-stars. He also wore a mean looking monster outfit in The Architects of Fear, the most tragic of all Outer Limits episodes.

Thanks, Robert, for those memories, among many more. You were a credit to your profession.

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