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

Everything in Planet of the Apes (1968) Came from These 6 Twilight Zone Episodes

Paul:

I have yet to do a post on “Planet of the Apes,” but I couldn’t help sharing this look at how its plot points can be traced back to six specific Twilight Zone episodes. Spoilers abound, of course, but if you’ve seen them all, it’s an intriguing theory. Enjoy!

Originally posted on Deja Reviewer:

It’s no secret that Rod Serling co-wrote the screenplay to the original Planet of the Apes in 1968. That was four years after his signature TV series, The Twilight Zone, had left the air.

I’ve heard people talk about the social commentary, twist ending, and other general similarities between Serling’s TV series and this feature film. But I’d like to get into the details and show how six episodes of The Twilight Zone seem to have directly inspired just about every aspect of Planet of the Apes.

Let’s get right to it!

View original 931 more words

Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “And When The Sky Was Opened”

Improve on Richard Matheson? Yeah — right, pal. Who do you think you are, Rod Serling?

You are? Well. Carry on, then.

Kidding aside, that’s what Serling did when he bought the rights to Matheson’s short story “Disappearing Act” and adapted it into The Twilight Zone episode “And When The Sky Was Opened.”

And When the Sky Was Opened10

Perhaps “improve” isn’t exactly the right word. The short story works fine as a short story (duh, it’s Richard Freaking Matheson), but as a TV episode, well … something else was needed. And few writers were ever better equipped to supply that “something else” than Rod Serling.

As you may have seen in my previous “Re-Zoning Efforts” post (on “The Four of Us Are Dying“), Serling wasn’t one to simply take a story “as is” and put it on screen. It wasn’t unusual for him to start with the basic idea and completely recast it. Read the rest of this entry

Spock Meets Serling: Remembering Leonard Nimoy

When the sad news of Leonard Nimoy’s death broke last week, images of Spock were everywhere. And why not? Everybody’s favorite Vulcan is one of the most beloved characters in television history.

Spock

But as the custodian of “Shadow & Substance,” I couldn’t help but think of Nimoy’s work in the Serling-verse.

There wasn’t much, alas. The Twilight Zone preceded his break-out role in Star Trek by a few years. But if you’ve ever seen the Season 3 war-themed episode “A Quality of Mercy,” you may have recognized the actor playing Hansen, one of the American soldiers.

“I was only in that briefly, but my memory of it is [working with] Dean Stockwell and Albert Salmi,” Nimoy later recalled. “We were in a war-time situation, and it was a kind of fantasy story, which isn’t a common combination. It was a good episode.” Read the rest of this entry

Moving Away From “The Midnight Sun”

If you’re reading this from anywhere in North America, I don’t have to tell you it’s beyond cold right now.

We’re talking ARCTIC. Record low temperatures are being broken all over. It makes me think of The Twilight Zone‘s “The Midnight Sun.”

The Midnight Sun Title Card

Oh, no — not the main story. That’s something to quote in July or August. I’m talking about the ending — one of the most legendary twists in TZ history.

Well, no point just sitting here being cold. Why pass up an ideal moment to quote the perfect scene for an insanely chilly day?

Try this link if you’ve never seen the episode, but otherwise join me as we look in on Norma, Mrs. Bronson (her landlady), and a doctor on a very cold and snowy night … Read the rest of this entry

Exploring “Morality’s Shady Side of the Street”

Sixty years ago today, the Kraft Television Theatre aired a repeat of Rod Serling’s teleplay “Patterns.” As a Twilight Zone fan, why should you care?

Patterns5

Everett Sloane, who would later star in TZ’s “The Fever,” plays no-nonsense boss Walter Ramsey.

After all, this was four and a half years before TZ hit the air. And the program in question had nothing to do with aliens, time travel, or any of the other fantasy elements that made that classic series so famous. It was a straight drama. Yawn, right?

Not so fast. A few important factors make “Patterns” worth a second look, especially for Twilight Zone fans.

One is that it turned Serling into the proverbial “overnight success.” Without it, it’s fair to question if he’d have gained the clout to launch a certain foray into the fifth dimension. Read the rest of this entry

After the Zone-a-thon III

Ring in the new year without The Twilight Zone? Most fans of the fifth dimension would sooner think a bad thought around Anthony Fremont.

It's a Good Life8

No, we were all there, and fortunately, the Syfy channel didn’t disappoint. They ran a terrific slate of episodes this time. Sure, Season 4 was largely neglected, but the 87 episodes that DID make it were well-chosen. (Of course, it helps that TZ has so few duds.)

But even so, there were some solid episodes that didn’t make this year’s marathon. I’ve highlighted a few of them below. You can click on any of the titles to watch the episode in question on free Hulu.

ELEGY

Season 1, Episode 20 – February 19, 1960

3 (12)

If you were an astronaut who discovered people frozen like statues on some far-flung planet, how would you explain it? The trio of explorers who star in Charles Beaumont’s “Elegy” come up with quite a few theories, but it takes the only person who does move around — a 200-year-old robot caretaker, to be precise — to reveal the startling truth. Read the rest of this entry

Serling’s “Patterns”: A Television “High Point”

Sixty years ago today, a live teleplay by a writer named Rod Serling aired on the Kraft Television Theatre. It was called, simply, “Patterns.”

Patterns4

There was no reason to assume it would be special. But by the time it went off the air an hour later, Serling’s reputation as a writer par excellence had been born. As New York Times critic Jack Gould put it:

Nothing in months has excited the television industry as much as the Kraft Television Theatre’s production of Patterns, an original play by Rod Serling. The enthusiasm is justified. In writing, acting and direction, Patterns will stand as one of the high points in the TV medium’s evolution.

Patterns3

That’s pretty high praise. But as Gould said, it was indeed justified. He went on to call for a repeat performance — an unusual suggestion in that era. After all, it would mean reassembling the cast and basically staging it all over again. But on February 9, 1955, that’s exactly what they did. Read the rest of this entry

Little Girl Lost, Story Idea Found

People sometimes joke that Rod Serling and the other Twilight Zone writers must have been very strange people. Surely nobody sober and “normal” like the rest of us could come up with such wild story ideas, right?

33 (2)

The reality is reassuringly mundane. The show wasn’t written by eccentrics who consumed hallucinogenics by the handful. They were disciplined, talented writers who had sharp, quick, vivid imaginations.

8 (7)

Take the fan-favorite “Little Girl Lost,” a standout episode in Twilight Zone‘s third season. According to Richard Matheson: Read the rest of this entry

Time Enough at Last: “The One That Haunts People”

Of all the episodes of The Twilight Zone, perhaps none has left more of a mark on viewers than “Time Enough at Last.” The episode that struck fear in the hearts of book-lovers everywhere — and inspired horrified glasses-wearers to opt for a back-up pair — turns 55 today.

18 (4)

In a 1984 article for Twilight Zone magazine, star Burgess Meredith recalled how the episode excited writer Rod Serling himself:

He had just seen some rushes of the show, which made him very enthusiastic. He said, ‘Hey, you’re wonderful. Let’s do more shows with you.’ After that, Rod wrote a Twilight Zone for me each season. Our relationship wound up lasting a long time. And of course, later in our careers, we both did a lot of voice-over work.

Not quite EACH season, as it turns out. Meredith did “Time Enough at Last” in the first season, “Mr. Dingle, The Strong” and “The Obsolete Man” in the second, and “Printer’s Devil” in the fourth. But the fact remains that Serling clearly enjoyed writing for this talented man. Read the rest of this entry

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,339 other followers