Shatner vs. Shatner
A man walks into a small-town diner with his wife to have lunch while they wait for their car to be repaired. The napkin-holder features a small devil’s head and a pack of fortune-telling cards. For one penny, you can get an answer to a yes-or-no question. He puts in a coin …
A man boards an airplane with his wife. He’s on his way home after recovering from a mental breakdown. The plane takes off into a bad storm. While she tries to get some sleep, he looks out the window and sees … a man on the wing?
Two iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone. One actor. Fellow TZ fans, whether you were first introduced to him as Don Carter or as Bob Wilson, you know him better as: William Shatner.
I’m here, though, not merely to praise the then-future captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. No, I’m here to ask the impossible. I want you to select your favorite Shatner TZ. That’s tough when you have not one, but two appealing performances to judge.
In one corner, we have Don Carter. He’s a superstitious man, to say the least. Four-leaf clovers, rabbit’s feet — the whole nine yards. So despite the fact that he’s a man on the rise at his company, he easily falls prey to the fortune-teller’s seemingly “specific” answers.
This flaw is straining his relationship with his patient and persistent wife, so we’re eager for him to see reason (even as we wonder if he’s not right about the thing).
Shatner doesn’t chew any scenery here. We see every moment of the struggle he’s in etched into his expressions. He lends a truly human face to Richard Matheson’s absorbingly eerie tale.
In the other corner, we have Bob Wilson. He, by contrast, is a nervous man. All he wants to do is put his breakdown behind him and prove that he’s cured. But … damn it all, there’s a man out there! Right?
He’s torn: Should he shut up and avoid saying anything that would make him sound like he’s already had a relapse? Or speak up, alert everyone to the danger they seem to be in, and risk being put back into a straitjacket?
Great drama is born of exquisitely torturous dilemmas like this, and Shatner (acting in another Matheson masterpiece) makes us feel every twist that poor Bob is going through.
And now it’s you who face the dilemma:
UPDATE (April 24, 11:00 a.m.) It was a tough fight, but in the end “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” was left standing over the prostrate form of “Nick of Time.” Thanks to all who voted!
Photos courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. You can also sign up for email notifications of future blog posts by clicking “follow” in the upper left-hand corner of this page. Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!