Monthly Archives: January 2012

“Doomsday” Denied

The Twilight Zone can be an unforgiving place. Think of Henry Bemis clutching his broken eyeglasses in “Time Enough at Last.” Or Samuel Conrad trapped in a human zoo on Mars in “People are Alike All Over.” Or the mayhem that erupts in “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.”

But it can also be a place of redemption.

Denton on Doomsday5

Ask Al Denton (Dan Duryea) — a resident of the Old West who, we learn in “Mr. Denton on Doomsday,” has “begun his dying early.” He’s also a man destined to take a special place in Rod Serling’s pantheon of broken heroes.

A former fast gun, Denton has devolved into the town drunk. He’s so pathetic that he lets the local bully (played with relish by Martin Landau in the first of two Zone roles) regularly push him into singing “How Dry I Am” just to get a free shot of whiskey.

Denton on Doomsday3

But all that changes one day. A travelling salesman named Henry Fate rides into town and ensures that a special gun falls into Denton’s hands. Now he can shoot straight again. The bully is humiliated. The townspeople respect him. Read the rest of this entry

A “Wish” Becomes Reality

Say you’re a scriptwriter, and you’re asking yourself: What’s the best way to improve race relations?

However important the question is now, it was even more crucial in 1960, when The Twilight Zone was still new to the airwaves and Jim Crow laws, discrimination and segregation were, shamefully, still the order of the day in much of the U.S.

One obvious answer: Write about the problem. Illustrate the ugly face of racism. Nervous producers didn’t like it one bit, but Rod Serling took this route when he based the pre-Zone teleplay “A Town Has Turned to Dust” on the Emmett Till case. The results, in the right hands, make quite a mark.

But there’s another way to improve race relations, one that Serling also tried when he wrote “The Big Tall Wish” for TZ’s first season.

A Wish Becomes Reality5

The story concerns a down-and-out boxer named Bolie Jackson, and a little boy who idolizes him — and who’s willing to conjure up a little magic to help Bolie win his next bout. Read the rest of this entry