Monday, October 12, 2015

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Boxes

A box is a receptacle or container used for storage or transport.  Boxes can be made of any substance, and carry a certain air of mystery about them. If a box is sealed (and unlabeled), it is impossible to tell what object may be inside it.

The box has featured prominently as a story device in many episodes of cult-TV.

Perhaps the most famous example of a dangerous or mysterious box comes from The Outer Limits (1963-1965) and the episode titled “Don’t Open Till Doomsday.” In this creepy tale, a bride and groom-to-be of the year 1929 receive a wedding present: a strange box labeled with the titular warning. 

The groom opens the box, however, and seems to de-materialize. A generation later, in 1964, the would-be-bride is an old woman, and wants to threaten another couple with the box, hoping to trade the man for her long-missing partner. What’s inside this box? A creepy alien from another dimension, one bound and determined to destroy our universe.

The Star Trek (1966-1969) third season episode “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” also features a box with an alien inside.  

In this case, that alien is Amabassador Kollos, a Medusan whose appearance is so hideous that if any humanoid gazes upon his face, that human will be rendered permanently insane.  When the Enterprise is sabotaged by one of its designers and hurled into a weird dimension, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) must mind-meld with the Medusan, who is a brilliant navigator, to get the Enterprise home.

A second season story of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981) called “The Guardians” involves a strange jade box.  An old man tells Buck he must take it to the edge of the galaxy, but the box begins to cause strange hallucinations among the crew of the Searcher. Admiral Asimov (Jay Garner) imagines his crew lost in space, starving to death.  And Wilma pictures herself as a blind, pitiable creature forever wandering the ship’s corridors.

In the Alias (2001 – 2005) episode “The Box,” guest-star Quentin Tarantino plays a villain Cole, who engineers a heist inside SD-6 headquarters. In particular, he wants to liberate a mysterious object known as “The Box” from a vault.

A brilliant episode of Futurama (1999 – 2013) called “The Farnsworth Parabox” involves a box that houses a parallel universe, and therefore parallel versions of the Planet Express employees.  The problem is that neither universe is evil and that spillover between universes and counterparts become inescapable, and dangerous.

A 2012 episode of Doctor Who (2005 – present) called “The Power of Three” involves a “slow” invasion of the Earth by tiny black cubes…or boxes.  Deemed harmless, these boxes are used as paper weights and decorations by the people of Earth.  The cubes activate at some point, and open up to reveal…nothing (except the fact that they are, actually, boxes).  Soon, however, people start to die from heart attacks, and the Doctor realizes the boxes are to blame. They are the tools of the Shakri, alien beings known to the Time Lord, who would strip a planet free of pests.


  1. Anonymous11:03 AM

    What, no Hellraiser?

    1. No sir! Hellraiser is a movie. This post is clearly labeled "cult-tv." The subject is television, not film.