From Serling With Love: A Spy Series That Never Was

Imagine James Bond in The Twilight Zone. Hard to do, isn’t it? Even if you enjoy both, spy thrillers and sci-fi/fantasy stories blend about as well as tuxedos and tennis shoes.

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Yet with a new Mission: Impossible movie hitting movie theaters, it’s worth highlighting the one episode of The Twilight Zone that inhabits the cloak-and-dagger world: “The Jeopardy Room” — and pointing out the surprising fact that it developed from a premise that Rod Serling had for a whole new series about spies.

His proposal to CBS in 1963 (in the wake of the hit James Bond movie “From Russia With Love”) described a show simply titled The Chase. Serling wanted it to focus on a secret government agency, directed by a Bondian spy named McGough, that would handle sensitive “international involvements”.

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McGough would be a “quiet, taciturn, unheroic kind of man — calculating, predatory, and deadly efficient because the nature of his job requires these traits and nothing more,” Serling wrote. He continued: Read the rest of this entry

A Lost Lunar Landscape: Serling’s Missing Moon Story

Space travel, as any Twilight Zone fan can tell you, obviously held keen interest for Rod Serling. Stories about what would happen if we went Up There, or aliens came Down Here, cropped up throughout the entire run of the hit series.

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Tantalizingly enough, Serling’s plans for Season 6 pointedly mentioned his interest in featuring more outer-space tales. Alas, it was never to be. And by the time man landed on the moon in 1969, Serling was focused on bringing a trilogy of horror stories to TV. Only one teleplay in the entire run of “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery” dealt with space travel.

So a nice surprise awaited me several years ago when I bought a used copy of the first “Night Gallery” book (“Night Gallery 2” followed a year later). Then out of print, this paperback boasted prose versions of some of Serling’s screenplays from the first season, so I was naturally eager to see how he transitioned them to the printed page. Read the rest of this entry

Some Fatherly Advice from the Twilight Zone

“The zenith of this film is when he meets his mother and father,” Serling once said of “Walking Distance,” a true Twilight Zone classic. “That’s when everything explodes.”

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Indeed it does. But for me, the nucleus of this bittersweet tale is the all-too-brief discussion Martin Sloan has with his “pop” shortly before his journey back in time concludes. So as a Father’s Day tribute, I’d like to bring you that touching scene:

MR. SLOAN: Yes, I know. I know who you are. I know you’ve come from a long way from here. A long way and a long time. But I don’t understand how or why. Do you?

MARTIN: No.

MR. SLOAN: But you do know other things, don’t you, Martin? Things that will happen.

MARTIN: Yes, I do. Read the rest of this entry

Serling the Serious vs. Serling the Silly

Anyone who’s perused my list of least-favorite Twilight Zone episodes knows I don’t really care for “Cavender is Coming,” in which Carol Burnett stars as a bumbling young lady in need of a guardian angel. But I can’t deny the charm of these behind-the-scenes pictures of her with Rod Serling.

Serling-Burnett pair

I think it’s because they underscore a lesser-known facet of Serling’s personality: his sense of humor. As any TZ fan will tell you, part of the appeal of the series is hearing him, on-screen and off, addressing us in his famous tight-lipped way, grimly confiding the fate of that episode’s protagonist.

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He was so chillingly effective at telling us how stories unfolded “… in the Twilight Zone” that it’s easy to be surprised when we learn how much he enjoyed a good joke. Read the rest of this entry

“More Than A Man Has Died”

Those of us who weren’t alive when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 know what a horrendous and brutal crime it was. But it can be hard for us to grasp just how deeply this tragic event shocked the nation.

John F. Kennedy

Leave it to Rod Serling to put it into perspective for us. As his daughter Anne once noted on her blog:

“After President Kennedy’s assassination, my father wrote something perhaps intended as a letter to a newspaper or magazine editor. It was written on his letterhead and clearly typed by him, not his secretary.” It read:
Read the rest of this entry

Twilight Zone Day: Right Idea, Wrong Date

I know a lot of Twilight Zone fans (big surprise, right?), and many of them are excited about the fact that May 11 is “Twilight Zone Day.”

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I guess you can tell from that opening that I’m not really one of them, right?

Not that I mind it. How could I? This blog, after all, along with the Twitter page that preceded it, is dedicated to the fifth dimension. I’m always happy for an excuse to fan over what I consider the most entertaining and thought-provoking TV series of all time.

And yet … the May 11 thing kind of annoys me. Read the rest of this entry

Is Black Mirror Truly a Modern Twilight Zone?

You’ve surely gotten the memo by now. As a fan of The Twilight Zone, you’re supposed to be head over heels for Black Mirror.

Over the past few months, I’ve read hundreds of tweets like this. I have a column in TweetDeck for mentions of TZ, and for a while there, hardly a day went by without someone exulting over Black Mirror — which, fans assure us, is a modern-day version of Rod Serling’s classic series.

I wish I could join the chorus. Some people enjoy being contrary, but not me. I’d rather be here telling you it’s genius and you should watch it N-O-W. But I’ve watched the first two seasons, and I can’t. Read the rest of this entry

“Nightmare as a Child”

I recently tweeted a quote from TZ’s “Nightmare as a Child” and got this reply from a follower: “Males didn’t like this one as it had women and children in it — that`s my slightly sweeping theory.”

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An interesting thought, but I have to admit, I’m not aware of any gender discrepancies when it comes to the popularity of this episode. And plenty of male viewers are big fans of “The Hitch-Hiker” and “The After-Hours,” both of which have female leads.

Many TZs are greatly admired, of course. A few are actively disliked. But there are others that sort of float in the middle, neither loved nor hated. “Nightmare as a Child” is one of them.

I’ve seen a lot of viewer feedback in the four and a half years I’ve been doing my Twitter page, pro and con, and both men and women hardly say a word about it. It almost doesn’t register. Which is a shame, really. It’s a good episode. The story is fairly intriguing, and it ends on a happy note.

Read the rest of this entry

“All The Dachaus Must Remain Standing”

Joe Wilson is 94 years old. Yet he still has nightmares about what he saw 70 years ago today.

On April 29, 1945, Wilson and other members of the U.S. Army’s 45th Infantry Division — which had already endured over 500 days of savage fighting in Sicily, Italy, France and Germany — liberated Dachau, one of the Nazi’s most infamous concentration camps.

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“Concentration camps.” What a despicable euphemism. They were death factories. They were, simply put, Hell on earth. Just reading about them makes my blood boil. The mind reels to think anyone could willingly inflict such torture and engage in such wholesale slaughter.

Rod Serling had much the same reaction — to put it mildly. And he poured his outrage into one of the most searing episodes of The Twilight Zone ever written: “Deaths-Head Revisited”. It follows the arrival of a former Nazi guard named Lutze (Oscar Beregi) at Dachau in what was then present-day Germany (1961) — only 16 years after the war had ended. Read the rest of this entry

Remembering the “Forgotten” Twilight Zone Writer

Even before The Twilight Zone premiered, Rod Serling said that his new series was one for storytellers. He followed through by recruiting some of the best ones around to contribute their most imaginative work.

Rod Serling - A Piano in the House

Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, of course, lead the list. But several other noteworthy writers helped define that elusive fifth dimension — including Earl Hamner, Jr. That’s right, the man who would later be writing wholesome, gentle dramas on “The Waltons” broke into TV by spinning tales about deceptive witches, homicidal aliens and sentient automobiles.

In all, Hamner penned eight episodes, nearly all of which can stand alongside other fan favorites. earlhamnerYet his name rarely comes up when people mention their favorite TZ storytellers, leading Tony Albarella, editor of “The Twilight Zone Scripts of Earl Hamner,” to call him “the forgotten Twilight Zone writer.”

As you can see from the list below, it’s high time that changed. The purpose of this post is to ask a simple question: Which Hamner-penned episode is your favorite? Here’s a quick refresher. Click any title to watch the episode on Hulu. You can cast your vote at the bottom. Read the rest of this entry

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