A Sixth Dimension?
The Twilight Zone without Rod Serling’s voice? Unimaginable. Yet it almost happened.
It was only at the last minute that Serling stepped in and recorded the narration that would introduce millions of viewers to that elusive fifth dimension. Up until then, it was going to be Westbrook Van Voorhis, a very well-known announcer at the time. Oh, and there was an extra dimension:
A sixth dimension? Producer William Self explains:
I said, “Rod, what is the fifth one?” He said, “I don’t know. Aren’t there five?” I said, “I can only think of four.” So we rewrote and rerecorded it and said, “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man…”
That settled, the question of whether Van Voorhis was right for the series came up. They reportedly found him “too pompous-sounding,” which I think just about any Zone fan can echo. Second choice? Orson Welles. He might have been a better fit, but his asking price was too high. Then, according to Self:
Finally, Rod himself made the suggestion that maybe he should do it. It was received with skepticism. None of us knew Rod except as a writer. But he did a terrific job.
In retrospective, of course, it seems like such an obvious choice. Serling’s voice carried an authoritative ring, but it had a warmth that Van Voorhis lacked, and a much-needed human touch — the very qualities that marked his writing.
The opening theme would change repeatedly over the course of the show’s run (though I’m partial to this original opening). But it was clear from the first minute of “Where is Everybody?” that we were in the hands of a master storyteller — and a legendary voice.
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!