From Serling With Love: A Spy Series That Never Was

Imagine James Bond in The Twilight Zone. Hard to do, isn’t it? Even if you enjoy both, spy thrillers and sci-fi/fantasy stories blend about as well as tuxedos and tennis shoes.

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Yet with a new Mission: Impossible movie hitting movie theaters, it’s worth highlighting the one episode of The Twilight Zone that inhabits the cloak-and-dagger world: “The Jeopardy Room” — and pointing out the surprising fact that it developed from a premise that Rod Serling had for a whole new series about spies.

His proposal to CBS in 1963 (in the wake of the hit James Bond movie “From Russia With Love”) described a show simply titled The Chase. Serling wanted it to focus on a secret government agency, directed by a Bondian spy named McGough, that would handle sensitive “international involvements”.

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McGough would be a “quiet, taciturn, unheroic kind of man — calculating, predatory, and deadly efficient because the nature of his job requires these traits and nothing more,” Serling wrote. He continued:

Each individual episode of The Chase is a case history of trouble. It’s the story of a Soviet defectee or the American turncoat or any one of twenty-five dozen other stories of intrigue, of suspense, and of jeopardy … the key to The Chase is implicit in the title. The last 10 minutes of every show are devoted precisely to that — a stomach-clutching, ice-cold, walloping several moments of picture taking in which McGough gets out of it.

jeopardyroom3And this is the key to our series. The fact that in almost all cases we would be able to take our camera and our principal character all around the globe … the trademark of this program is the absolutely novel and unique approach that no matter the show’s beginning, an audience knows that three-quarters of the way through they’re going to be taken for an incredibly adventurous ride perched on top of a camera lens and vicariously experiencing the classic thrill of the chase along with the very special quality of where it occurs.

Sounds exciting. Also expensive, which is probably why CBS passed on it. Besides, this was pre-Avengers, pre-Mission: Impossible, so even with James Bond a success on the silver screen, it might have seemed a bit too untested for the network.

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But judging from how enjoyably the non-supernatural, non-TZ-ish “The Jeopardy Room” plays out, I think it’s a shame they declined. I have a feeling The Chase would have taken us all for a very satisfying ride.

***

The quote above is taken from “As Timeless as Infinity: The Complete Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling.” For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or PinterestYou 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 members can also hit “follow” at the top of this page.

Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

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About Paul

Hard-working, hard-playing fan of all pop culture, especially the Twilight Zone. Which led to a Twitter page. And then to a blog. And then to ... stay tuned. Yes, that's a picture of Rod Serling, not me. You can find the real me under the "Your Host" tab on my blog, along with biographical details that, while 100 percent accurate, sound kind of boastful and braggy. Sorry.

Posted on 07/31/2015, in Rod Serling and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I loved the original Mission Impossible and I think a series like that, developed by Serling would have been amazing. “The Jeopardy Room” is one of my favorite episodes. It was such a good use of the time, everything mattered in that episode. And so simple, there were no “special effects” but it was an amazing story.

    • Same here — I enjoyed M:I as a kid, and it’s been fun rewatching it over the last couple of years on Netflix. You’re so right about the JR — it’s just a good, solid little story, and (this is key) it has a great, satisfying ending. So yes, I lament the fact that we never got “The Chase.”

  2. As mentioned above, I also loved the original Mission: Impossible! It’s funny you write this up, because I’d always felt something was “different” or “off” with “The Jeopardy Room,” and I could never put my finger on it! This is it, exactly! The fact that Serling did a spy thriller versus his usual stuff! Great post! Would have been neat to see what Mr. Serling would have done with that genre….

    • Thanks, Frank! I should do a post that lists the TZs that have no supernatural element — a small number, to be sure, but it might be interesting. And yes, Serling’s plans for “The Chase” remain quite the “what if?” scenario. Imagine being shaken AND stirred by the Master …

  3. That would be good to have, the list! :-] The supernatural AND a spy thriller! One does not come to mind just now….

  4. Reblogged this on Televixen: When 140 characters just isn't enough and commented:
    As a fan of Bond and Man From U.N.C.L.E., I would have loved to see what he could have done with this type of genre. Thanks for sharing! I had no ideas he pitched this.

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