Monthly Archives: May 2012

“There Was Time Now …”

Even if your favorite Twilight Zone isn’t “Time Enough at Last,” there’s no denying that it often serves as the iconic tale of the fifth dimension. The image of Henry Bemis facing a future with thousands of books — and no glasses — is a searing one. No list of all-time TZ episodes, it seems, is complete without it.

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And yet.

It may be heresy to admit it, but I’ve never felt the ending to it was just. Yes, it’s an all-time classic, and I’m second to none in my admiration for its other aspects: writing, acting, etc. It’s beautifully done — which is one of the reasons it’s so heart-breaking.

But we have two general types of TZ endings: happy ones for good people, unhappy ones for bad people. And I’m not convinced that Henry Bemis got the right one. Read the rest of this entry

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TZ: The Best of Season 4

“Ours is the perfect half-hour show. If we went to an hour, we’d have to fleshen our stories, soap opera style. Viewers could watch fifteen minutes without knowing whether they were in a Twilight Zone or Desilu Playhouse.”

That was Rod Serling speaking, a couple years before The Twilight Zone spent one season as, yes, an hour-long show.

Why? Typical network short-sightedness. The show was a hit at 30 minutes, so why not expand it to 60 and give the audience twice as much show?

It soon became clear why: Fantasy stories, especially ones that depended on a twist ending, were more ideally suited to the half-hour format. In 30 minutes, they could get in, set up an intriguing premise, and then deliver the payoff. But when you double that length, the effect is ruined. The longer the expected payoff was delayed, the more the suspense and tension was dissipated.

Take “The Thirty-Fathom Grave,” for example. It’s a story about a modern Navy ship discovering a sunken World War II submarine — and hearing a mysterious tapping sound coming from inside. For the sake of those who haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the ending, but suffice it to say that the story, despite the usual quality touches you’d expect on a TZ, is simply too padded. Several other Season 4 episodes were also stretched out a bit too long. Read the rest of this entry