Will the Real Ending Please Stand Up?
Think of your favorite Twilight Zone episode. Can you imagine a different approach to the story? Alternate dialogue? How about a new ending? Probably not. The best TZ scripts are so perfect, it seems as if they were conceived exactly as they were filmed.
And yet, even some of our favorite episodes went through some changes along the way. Some are fairly cosmetic, but others … well, consider how Serling originally planned to end “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”
Oh, it was still the same who-is-it, everybody-perishes-but-the-two-aliens story we have now. But as I read the version of the script printed in Volume 9 of “As Timeless As Infinity: The Complete Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling”, I noticed a very interesting change: Serling had planned to show us that the two aliens were actually working together.
The lead-in to that final scene is familiar: the bridge is declared safe, everyone leaves, then Ross (the impatient man late for an alleged meeting in Boston) comes back, and tells Haley, the counterman at the diner, that everyone went into the water.
So far, so good, and it seems as if he’s about to astonish Haley with the secret of his identity. But then a strange thing happens. Haley says, “All right, let’s cut out the cheap tricks. There’s a lot to be done.” And Ross replies, “Yes, but the worst is over with. Getting them out of here — that was our major problem.”
And so on. The two of them are now just waiting for their comrades to land and begin the takeover of Earth in earnest. The real counterman? Why, Haley “disintegrated him”! As he would have done with the others, if it hadn’t been for Ross and his penchant for “cheap tricks.”
And that’s it. They sip coffee, play some music, and … fade. There’s no mention of Martians versus Venusians. We see Ross has a third arm, but only at the end of the scene. And there’s no third-eye reveal from Haley (who also has a third arm).
It’s not a bad ending, of course. Everything that came before it is still there, more or less intact. And sure, having it end with the revelation that Ross and Haley were the aliens is pretty cool.
But let’s face it. Serling really kicked it up a notch when he gave it the double-twist ending we have now. Finding out it was Ross all along, and then, bang, having him floored by the realization that other aliens have landed? Brilliant.
I like the fact that Serling took what was already a terrific script and did that. His fertile mind never stopped working.
As actor Bill Erwin, who played “Peter Kramer” in the episode, later remarked: “That series just really left its mark on people.” It certainly did. And Serling-polished episodes like “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” are a major reason why.
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!