If one good thing has come from a time of mass-binging old TV shows, it’s learning how to watch shows to catch their quirks and appreciate what those quirks add to the art form of the show. I’ve been working my way through the Outer Limits for a couple of reasons. First, it’s been a while. Second, there’s only so many times a human can reasonably watch Murder, She Wrote.

The Outer Limits, for the uninitiated, was a science fiction anthology show similar to the Twilight Zone, or, because I’m watching the nineties Outer Limits, like the Outer Limits from the sixties. There are roughly twenty episodes per season, and plenty of seasons to lose my time to. After a couple of seasons, I noticed (and plenty of first run viewers noticed) that each season was ended by an episode made up of flashbacks to other episodes, cut from context, and twisted to support the character viewpoints made in the current episode.

These clip shows make wonderful use of the copious amounts of material that have come before. They run like the popular montage technique – usually when a bad guy is talking about how his evil plan came to be, or the hero talks about how he thwarted the evil plan at each step.

In writing, we aren’t supposed to delete. I was told to open a new file and just dump my lesser babies there until I could use them again. Well.

The Outer Limits clip episodes ably demonstrate how to manipulate those lost bits and pieces into new works, separated from their original destiny. They also demonstrate the recycling of old work without quite plagiarizing themselves. By giving the clips new meaning, they are adding rather than taking up space with what we’ve already seen.

There are certain themes I fall back to – community, power, corrupted bureaucracy, among others. I have written about memory in my nonfiction works, over and over. I write about food as a mode of communication. I believe that we are never finished with an idea, and there is nothing stopping us from turning it on its head to look at it from another angle.

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