A Pilot … About a Pilot
Where did Rod Serling get the idea for the Twilight Zone pilot, “Where Is Everybody?”
Like many good stories, it came from more than one source. In this case, Serling had been reading about real-life isolation experiments being conducted on astronaut trainees in the then-fledgling U.S. space program. Add to that two personal experiences:
I got the idea walking through an empty village set at the back lot of a movie studio. There was all the evidence of a community … but no people. I felt at the time a kind of encroaching loneliness and desolation and a feeling of how nightmarish it would be for a man to wind up in a city without inhabitants.
The second experience occurred when he found himself in an airport phone booth. “I heard the loudspeaker,” he later recalled. “I started to push on the door, and I couldn’t get out, and I got panicky. I started to yell at people, ‘Could you do this?’ Suddenly some guy comes along and kicks it with his foot. I wanted to die.”
Twilight Zone fans will recognize this incident as the inspiration for the scene in which Earl Holliman, playing astronaut Mike Ferris, can’t get out of the phone booth in the empty town square. (Of course, he had no one around to ask for help.)
Leave it to Serling to blend these elements into a memorable opening for The Twilight Zone.
For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. WordPress followers, just hit “follow” at the top of the page.
Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!