Matheson: Why I Named It “Spur of the Moment”

The title of a particular TV episode means almost nothing to the average TV viewer. An entertaining story is all we ask. Yet some writers do take care with their titles … and it can even affect how good the episode is.

spur-of-the-moment4

Case in point: “Spur of the Moment,” from Twilight Zone‘s fifth season. The highly imaginative Richard Matheson explains:

I love that title! She married on the “spur of the moment,” really. She married for emotion. And there was also the spurs of the person riding the horse … there were multiple and hidden meanings in that title, which is something I like to do. Titles are very important, and it’s really nice if you can get a good one. As a writer, I prefer to have the title occur to me instantly — even sometimes before I do the story. It colors how I approach the story, and I feel much more comfortable.

Having a catchy title must have helped. There’s a good reason I included “Spur of the Moment” on my list of the best Twilight Zone episodes to watch on Halloween.

Would it have been as good with its working title, “Pale Rider”? Maybe. But I have a feeling that Matheson’s flash of inspiration left us all with a better episode.

***

Photo courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook 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!

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About Paul

Fanning about the work of Rod Serling all over social media. If you enjoy pics, quotes, facts and blog posts about The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Serling's other projects, you've come to the right place.

Posted on 03/07/2014, in Twilight Zone and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. It is so great to be reading and learning more about these episodes after so much time. Thanks for doing the research and presenting it so well. Keep it up, I have a lot to learn.

  2. I love layered meaning, but this ranks as my all time least favorite TZ episode, as I think I’m mentioned in the past. The one thing I did like, however, was the time travel mechanism….

    Like Dan says, thanks for all the cool “backstory info”! :-]

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Frank! I’ve always liked behind-the-scenes stories, so I really enjoy sharing them on the blog.

      I’m surprised this episode is at the bottom of your list, though! I know it’s not as distinguished as many other TZ classics, but I can’t imagine ranking it below “What’s in the Box”, “Mr. Bevis” and “Cavender is Coming,” to name three lamentable clunkers. But to each his own. At least you can come here for cool “backstory info”! :)

      • Well, true, about “What’s in the Box,” but another I don’t really like is “A Most Unusual Camera.” So, for now, those are a handful of the least favorite episodes of mine. Maybe…with all the time travel I’ve done (am doing? will be doing? have yet to do?!), it just hits a nerve…. ;-]

      • Yes, “A Most Unusual Camera” is one that leaves me pretty cold. It’s not TERRIBLE, but … meh. You know, I’m getting the urge again to do a “bottom 10” list. That could be a lot of fun, I think! Stay tuned …

  3. Hi Paul! I think titles are very important not only to stories, but even to works of art. They can arouse the interest of the viewer and sometimes hint at a meaning. “Spur of the Moment”, “To Serve Man”, and “Eye of the Beholder” are particularly good.

    I appreciate when writers and artists take the time to do this.

    • Me too. I like it when you have talented people at the top of their game, each one willing to go the extra mile. And that’s what you got with TZ, episode after episode. Quite an achievement!

  4. This is one of the rather underappreciated episodes of TZ, but I think it’s a true delight. Visually, it’s stunning. Just that image of the woman on her horse, black cape flapping in the wind, eyes wide and ablaze with a hint of madness in them… I wonder if being an artist is what drew me to this episode!

    I’m sure that was part of it, but of course, the first thing you notice about an episode of TZ is the title. And what a perfect title this is. As we talked about just before you published this, I do like the original “Pale Rider”, but it’s a tad boring and static. It just lays there. “Spur of the Moment”, on the other hand, has movement. It has soul.

    If you don’t mind an art comparison: Ancient Greek sculptures are akin to the title “Pale Rider”. Simple, yet expertly executed. Lovely to look at, but they just stand there. Very little is happening in the scene and they’re not very evocative of anything.

    But in the 17th century came the Baroque period. And art changed. Suddenly there was movement in the sculptures; life, if you will. Gone were the days of simply admiring cold, lifeless art. Now you could feel like you were there and part of it. The Baroque style introduced an entirely new dynamic to art — in the same way Matheson’s revised title took this episode to a new level. It’s like a breath of fresh, not stale, air.

    A good title truly can make or break your piece.

    And as someone who almost always has a title picked out before she ever starts writing, I can certainly appreciate Matheson’s preferred approach to this!

    Sorry for the art lesson, my friend. But you know how hard it is for me to stop once I get going. :) Great post, as always.

    • Thanks! I remember reading Matheson’s quote again recently, and realizing what a good short post it would make. :)

      You’re right, “Spur of the Moment” is one of TZ’s underrated episodes. And the striking black-and-white photography (a TZ trademark, of course) contributes so much to the look of it. I can see why your artist’s eye would be drawn to its dramatic images. It was directed by Elliot Silverstein, who had three other TZs to his credit, including “The Obsolete Man”, “The Passersby” and “The Trade-Ins.” It doesn’t take an artist to see the man knew how to “paint” with his camera.

      And yes, the title of a TZ does grab our attention. Interestingly, they didn’t add the titles at the beginning until Season 3. For the first two seasons, the title was the first credit shown at the end. Considering how many catchy titles they had on TZ, from short, catchy ones like “Nick of Time” to more baroque entries such as “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”, it’s a shame they didn’t have them front and center from the start!

      And I certainly don’t mind the art lesson. Much appreciated, in fact! :)

  5. Great blog here!

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