"The Sixth Finger" is the fifth episode of the original The Outer Limits television show. It aired on October 14, 1963, during the first season.
A scientist develops the means to advance the evolution of a man by 20,000 years. The process then continues beyond his control. The man who is evolving encounters police officers and says to them: "Your ignorance makes me ill and angry."
“Where are we going? Life, the timeless, mysterious gift, is still evolving. What wonders, or terrors, does evolution hold in store for us in the next ten thousand years? In a million? In six million? Perhaps the answer lies in this old house in this old and misty valley ...”
In a remote Welsh mining town, a scientist discovers how to speed up evolutionary mutation. Gwyllim Griffiths (David McCallum), a disgruntled local miner, volunteers for the experiment, enabling the scientist to give him enhanced mental capabilities and, incidentally, a sixth finger on each hand. But when the mutation process continues while outside of the scientist's control, the mutant miner takes over the experiment. Now equipped with superior intelligence and telekinetic powers capable of great destruction, Griffiths decides to take revenge on the mining town he loathes.
“An experiment too soon, too swift. And yet may we not still hope to discover a method by which within one generation, the whole human race could be rendered intelligent, beyond hatred, or revenge, or the desire for power? Is that not, after all, the ultimate goal of evolution?”
Regarding Ellis St. Joseph's original script, a number of scenes and characters were removed or condensed to save money, including five speaking parts — Bryn Evans, Gert the Bread's legless, Bible-thumping husband (Cathy Evans' father); Wilks, the local police constable; Robbart and Emlyn, two coal miners, and the fat Mr. Caradoc, the pit owner. The dialogue between Gwyllm and Prof. Mathers at the end of Act Three, when Gwyllm declares his intentions to obliterate the village, was originally slightly longer. This shortened version of the script was only 40 pages long (one page roughly equaling one minute of screentime). To fill the gap, the sequence of Gwyllm discovering music was quickly written as a five-minute insert by Joseph Stefano. For this, the then-new Glenn Gould recordings of the Bach preludes were used, which were performed faster than anyone had done them before. The scene used three different preludes. As it opens, Gwyllm plays the Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor. Most of the conversation with Mathers uses Prelude and Fugue No. 5 in D Major. When he says "I shall stop soon anyway," he begins Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C Major. The start of Act Four, showing Gwyllm's vengeful rampage against the mine, was removed. Originally, Gwyllm kills Wilks and his deputies, then proceeds on to the mine. The gatekeeper sees him coming, enveloped in a bituminous aura. Mr. Caradoc sets off the disaster whistle just as Gwyllm reduces him to smoldering ashes. Gwyllm then places a box of dynamite at the pit entrance, igniting the fuse with a burning glance. Emlyn, one of the trapped terrified miners, attacks him with a pickaxe and is flattened by a burst of kinetic force. Gwyllm then becomes translucent, evolving beyond the need for vengeance and abandons the burning fuse to walk back to Mathers' Lab. Robbart, another miner, stamps out the fuse. Gwyllm later tells Cathy his ghostly translucence is evidence of his further evolution: "I can now live by photosynthesis of pure light."
The ABC censor, Dorothy Brown, objected to the Darwinism and promotion of evolution inherent in "The Sixth Finger". One of the earliest deletions from the script was a speech by Prof. Mathers on the subject: "In the short span of nine months, every human embryo passes through a million years of its previous evolution, from protoplasm to fish, to amphibian, to furry ape with a tail, to man. I'm experimenting with a means of continuing this process in the same lifetime.", the dialogue foreshadowing the fate Ellis St. Joseph had in store for Gwyllm once Cathy pulls the lever on Mathers' machine, reversing his evolution. As originally scripted, Gwyllm devolves into the protoplasmic form of a jellyfish. However, ABC executives would only allow him to regress to the stages of early man, due to concerns that religious viewers who did not accept the theory of evolution would be offended. The Welsh village was shot on English Towne Street on Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's backlot. Mrs. Ives' boarding house, where the experiments take place, was a Victorian mansion known as The Vinegar Tree house on backlot #2. The stock footage establishing the Welsh village was from How Green Was My Valley (1941).
- David McCallum — Gwyllm Griffiths
- Edward Mulhare — Prof. Mathers
- Jill Haworth — Cathy Evans
- Nora Marlowe — Mrs. Ives
- Janos Prohaska — Darwin, Prof. Mathers' trained chimpanzee
- Constance Cavendish — Gert "the Bread" Evans
- Robert Doyle — Wilt Morgan
Cinematographer - John M. Nicklaus