Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Outer Limits: "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" - a toupological analysis.

"Cold Hands, Warm Heart" is a 1964 second season episode of the anthology series The Outer Limits.

The episode stars Bill Shatner (in his one and only ever appearance in this series) as an astronaut who has returned to Earth following a pioneering trip (ironically entitled "Project Vulcan") to the planet Venus.

Once home, Bill Shatner's character, Brig. Gen. Jefferson Barton, begins to have horrifying nightmares and flashbacks of his visit to Venus... well as undergoing a physical transformation, manifesting itself in webbed hands.

The astronaut also begins to feel permanently cold, inexplicably craving the searing heat of the inhospitable Venusian atmosphere...

All of this represents a serious problem as Barton is soon expected to give crucial Congressional testimony about his trip, which will hopefully help secure government financing for a proposed trip to Mars; but this strange transformation threatens not only Barton, but potentially the future of the entire US space program.

A race against time ensues, with the astronaut's wife, along with top scientists and doctors eagerly trying to cure Barton (whose blood no longer even registers as human) via the application of heat.

What to make of all this? Another classic along the lines of Bill Shatner's two appearances in fellow anthology series The Twilight Zone? Sadly, not quite. We found "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" to be entertaining and engaging but also felt that it fell far short of being a classic.

The episode (running at 51 minutes - longer than The Twilight Zone) lacked a necessary thoughtful punch. The entire story is crafted around a rather predictable hook related to whether the central character will recover from his unusual ailment. The far more compelling implications of what the alien contact and human metamorphosis may mean are overlooked in favor of simpler and baser melodrama and thrills and spills - a shame.

Nonetheless, the transformation of Bill Shatner's character and the psychological horrors associated with it are undeniably compelling to watch, and the actor gives a typically energetic (though not particularly nuanced) performance as those around him try to literally cook the alien infestation out of his body.

Indeed, the actor, portraying a disquieting and unnerving metamorphosis, is challenged in unusual ways in this installment.

And when is it not fun to watch Bill Shatner going insane on-screen?

Now, to the hair...

The episode features a typical-for-the-time "Jim Kirk Lace" and contains plenty of unusual ruffling of the toupee:

As the character craves heat, we have a rare chance to see how Bill Shatner's toup reacts to steam (in actuality stage smoke):

We should note that many of these scenarios are frequently replicated by our toupologists at the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies, albeit with dummies and stand-ins.

Star Trek's Malachi Throne (right) is a guest-star in the episode.

So, in short: plenty of ruffling.

The episode also features an unusual moment that is strikingly similar to the famous (not yet written by this point) opening monologue of Star Trek - in 1964, Bill Shatner was only months away from receiving a phone call that would change his life. Did his very human performance in The Outer Limits as an astronaut seeking out "new worlds, new life..." impress and even subconsciously inspire Gene Roddenberry? Listen below:

"Cold Hands, Warm Heart" is available as part of The Outer Limits season 2 DVD. The episode is also, at present, up on YouTube. Fun, but falls far short of classic.


  1. I thought he did a good job acting like he was chilled. Maybe the actor Shatner imagined himself without the warmth and security of his favorite lace toupee and the rest of the acting job was easy.

  2. Fine rundown (or "splitting hairs", real from artificial) on this Outer Limits episode.

    As it was his only work on the show, I'd grade it on a curve, myself. Then, I think of "Demon with a Glass Hand", and I feel your assessment has weight to it!

    Here's hoping you get around to analyzing his appearances on Cade's County and The Six Million Dollar Man sometime in the future!

  3. Oh yes, The Six Million Dollar Man is fun. His hair becomes electro-statically charged when he climbes a power pole. He plays an astronaut with issues. And he speaks with dolphins.

    In Cade's County he just looks terrible ;)

  4. ShatToupBlog said...
    >> Dear readers, we have a dedicated "Shatner does NOT wear..." troller (a person who, through willful action, attempts to disrupt a community or garner attention and controversy through provocative messages). Thanks for simply ignoring and not being drawn in. Considering the number of readers we get and the world we live in, we've actually been very fortunate in this regards. -ST

    You know, it seems like you're the only one complaining over my difference of opinion, which I never meant to be malicious in any way. Now that I have been labeled a troll, however, by the very creator of this blog, I will no longer post here. You will no longer see any 'Shatner does not wear a toupee' posts from me again. My apologies.

  5. Toupee or not toupee!September 10, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    The Shat was sure looking good here. I can remember seeing this many moons ago here in the UK.

    Dare I be so bold (or so bald)as to go slightly off topic. The Shat was obviously vain and put enormous emphasis on having a full head of hair but why did he overlook the balooning weight? Surely someone so self abosrbed would have keep their figure in trim, especially if he had aspirations towards leading man status. Anyone able to enlighten me?

  6. About your wish to have anonymous posters sign in with someting other than "anonymous", I suggest you should ask them to sign in the "James Blish" way!

    I'm taking my cue from the first ST novel Spock Must Die!, where Kirk labels the two Mr. Spocks (resulting from a transporter malfunction) "Spock One" and "Spock Two". Each anonymous poster should be encouraged to take a number...a "Spock Number"!

    I think a real, long time ST fan would love to grab up that "Spock One" designation!

  7. If he had been cast in a big film role back then, I'm sure he would've gotten himself in shape like he did for the first Star Trek film. But Star Trek ratings were low in the last year and after that it must have seemed that no one was really interested in him for leading man roles, more character-type roles if anyone was interesteed at all, so there wasn't a big incentive to be in top shape. Plus, he probably enjoyed eating more than exercising and he always looked to marlon brando as a role model.

  8. regarding Shats weight and his leading man image etc

    Shatner exercised like crazy and was in great shape for Star Trek TOS season 1 and 2 but when season 3 came about the ratings were low, they were given the Friday night death slot and they knew they wernt coming back - shatner mustve thought all the effort and hard work was in vain and probably didnt bother exercising much which is why he was a few pounds heavier in season his toup wasnt that great in comparrison to S1/2 - its almost getting on for 'The Lost Years' style (but alot better)

    then in the lost years he was apparently living out of a van, had a costly divorce, just had to take bit parts in Coloumbo, Six Million $ Man, MI, TVMs of the week etc etc - nothing long term - just guest star roles - plus a load of quiz shows and game shows...mustve been a big come down from having been the lead actor in what mustve been one of the most expensive TV shows ever...hardly an incentive to get in tip top shape..(or an incentive to shell out a load of $ for a great toup)

    then of course the first Trek movie happened and anyone whos read Star Trek Movie Memories will know Shats exercised like crazy again (like he mustve done on the original series) - got in the best shape of his life...he was the lead actor in the most expensive movie ever made directed by an oscar winning director (how many actors does that happen to who are just doing bit parts and TVMs and quiz shows?)

    then Trek II and hes in great shape again...pretty much in the same as III hes doing TJ hooker and the trek movies back to back so is pretty much working flat out - hardly great for hitting the in III in some (early shot) scenes he looks in great shape (i.e on Vulcan which was filmed first) yet in later shot stuff hes looking alittle chunky (the opening scene, the big fight) IV hes looking like he did in the chunky bits in III for the whole film...V hes abit 'cuddley' and VI about the same...and in VII a little bit more.

    its almost like with each Trek film he got abit more complacent with his weight (plus as we age it gets harder to shift any excess weight - plus with V he was directing too so will have been no doubt eating like crazy to keep his enegry up)

    and now of course i just dont think hes that bothered - hes old, hes Captain what if hes overweight abit

    i think Shatners one of those guys thats always struggled abit with his weight (unlike say Nimoy), like he puts on weight abit easier than some and has had to work extra hard to get in great hes always been very enegetic and that must require alot of calorific foods

  9. Toupee or not toupee!September 11, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    Thanks for all the info. Guess he probably inherited weight gaining genes which dont help either. Still the man's a legend, and rightly so!

  10. It might be interesting if someone were to start a sister blog devoted to Shatner's man-boobs, his girdle or his interests in sinewy bodies and teeny toes.

  11. It has taken most of my entire adult life to come to terms with what I am about to admit to myself: My hero, the Great William Shatner, does indeed wear prosthetic hair.

    I have been in denial for years, often deluding myself with excuses (He was having a bad hair day, He's just wearing it differently, etc ...), but all the irrefutable evidence provided by this site has given me much inner turmoil. A few of you have been kind enough to "extend the hand of friendship and acceptance", showing me the kindness and understanding needed to come to grips with the realization that Shatner is indeed human much like the rest of us. He is mortal, with human feelings and human charactersitcs.

    For this, I kindly thank you. I have joined you.

  12. @Anonymous weight stuff -- Ya I totally agree the Shat is just one of those people who puts on weight easily. Also his body type is such that even when he is very thin, for him, he will never have that slender look that De Forest Kelly and Leonard Nimoy had. I heard he went on a near starvation diet for ST:TMP, and by ST II, he was a bit chunkier.

    Also, even in season 2 of star trek -- at the beginning of the season he was slim, but he was starting to pack on the pounds by the later eps that season.

  13. oh yah in II he was alittle chunkier than in TMP. He mustve not wanted to go on that near starvation diet again (in his book he mentions how during preperation for TMP he went on 10 mile runs at the drop of a hat (or toup) and as a result of the diet he dreamt of steaming cheese pizzas 'calling for me and me alone...')

  14. plus those red military style uniforms for II onwards were a helluva lot more forgiving when it came to hiding the excess poundage than the tv shows tight shirt/pants (Shatner even split his pants during one fight scene in season 3) and TMPs drab PJs<

    actually i think alot of fans wouldve probably warmed to TMP more had the uniforms been more like the tv show (like the new 2009 movie) or even if theyd come up with TWOKs red uniforms for TMP

  15. "Shatner even split his pants during one fight scene in season 3"

    That would in The Savage Curtain.

  16. The "New worlds, new life" speech is very, very like the Star Trek opening monologue. Enjoyed the review very much. Bill looks and sounds very good in this.

    I like Bill's voice very much. It's a big part of his appeal. It sounds like a voice highly skilled in voiceover/radio play technique. Notice how much range he has inside a very tight dynamic- soft speech is always clear, slightly nasal; his shouts bark well but aren't long or piercing; very soft plosive sounds too- Bill's 'B' and 'P' sounds would never 'pop' on one of the ribbon microphones he would have used in studios right up until the late 60s.

    Like many actors in his era, the transition from stage to screen work presented Bill with an unusual problem- how to tone down a classical stage technique so it would work under the microscope eye of a film or TV camera. That's when Bill and many others in his position, I believe, used their radio techniques as the first step into building strong screen abilities. Successfully compressing the dynamic range of the voice, so necessary in close micing a voice, opens the door to compressing physical gestures, especially the face and hands.

    This sense of controlling and containing the emotions is perhaps one of the motors that drives the great impression of 'energy' that Bill almost always brings to his work.

    For a fun voiceologial experiment, shut your eyes and listen to his voice- you'd swear he's very nearly smiling underneath his every word. That hidden smile is propelling Shatner characters of every stripe- heroic, charming, evil, totally bonkers, they are all the stronger for that odd glint of amusement.