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The Outer Limits episode
Episode no. Season 5
Episode 14
Written by Erik Saltzgaber
Directed by Steve Anker
Original airdate 25 June 1999
Guest stars

Leland Orser,
Jenny Levine,
Greg Thirloway,
John Novak,
Frank C. Turner,
Benita Ha,
John "Bear" Curtis,
Robyn Driscoll,
David Neale

Episode chronology
← Previous Next →
"Summit" "The Haven"
List of The Outer Limits episodes

"Descent" is an episode of The Outer Limits television show. It first aired on 25 June 1999, during the fifth season.


Opening narration

What makes us human? Is it our basic instincts or our noble aspirations? Are we slaves to our genetics or masters of our fate?


Shy, unassertive researcher Dr. Arthur Zeller (Leland Orser) routinely admires a Homo erectus display in the Life Sciences department of his university and daydreams about what it would be like if he could only unlock the animal within him. It turns out his real life is that of a pushover, a "doormat" for his co-workers. Even a bum shakes him down regularly for "lunch money". All his brilliance and scientific accomplishments take a backseat to his meek personality and no one seems to take him seriously. He begins to try and make his dreams a reality by developing a kind of gene therapy which involves injecting himself with the genes for dominance extracted from primitive primates. This starts changing his entire personality. Zeller suffers from occasional lapses in which he reverts to the mind of a caveman and attacks his boss (John Novak), and kills and eats a dog.

Unfortunately, the changes may improve his life on many levels but they are doing nothing for his love life. His affection towards his co-worker Dr. Laura White (Jenny Levine) remains unrequited and so he decides to tip the scales. During a routine flu shot session, he surreptitiously injects Laura with the genes for submissiveness. The injection has severe side effects for Laura because her basic personality is not submissive at all, so she starts to pass out. Arthur takes her to his place and attempts to attack her, but regains control of his senses and begs her for help.

He tells her what he has been up to and the shocked Laura decides to help him develop a way of reversing the process. Together they come up with an experimental antidote, but things go really bad when he reveals to Laura that he had injected her with the submissiveness genes.

Seeing that he has blown his chance with her forever, Arthur escapes into the night with a batch of his syringes. Laura has a change of heart and follows him to offer her help, but it's too late for Arthur who had already injected himself with a megadose of the ape genes.

Closing narration

Perhaps we can never fully escape the animals we once were, but with our minds and our hearts, we can always fight to remain human.


  • Leland Orser as Arthur Zeller
  • Jenny Levine as Laura White
  • Greg Thirloway as Dr. Jim Feind
  • John Novak as Professor Martin Standfield
  • Frank C. Turner as Mikulak
  • Benita Ha as the Cute Lab Technician
  • John "Bear" Curtis as a Bum
  • Robyn Driscoll as the Detective
  • David Neale as the Security Guard

External links

See also

Season 5 of The Outer Limits (1995-2002)

Alien RadioDonorSmall FriendsThe GrellThe Other SideJoyrideThe Human OperatorsBlank SlateWhat Will The Neighbors ThinkThe ShroudRipperTribunalSummitDescentThe HavenDeja VuThe InheritorsEssence of LifeStrandedFathers and SonsStar CrossedBetter Luck Next Time

List of The Outer Limits episodes: Original Series (1963-1965)The New Series (1995-2002)



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