Serling Edit: The Outro to “To Serve Man”
Rod Serling’s scripts were nearly always so smooth, even poetic, that it’s easy to assume they just came out of his head that way. But no. Like any good writer, he edited himself — sometimes quite extensively.
I don’t mean he simply cut lines. He would also reword certain passages, often more than once. That way, he wound up with a polished product he could be proud of — one that, we can see with the benefit of hindsight, has a timeless appeal.
Consider his closing introduction to one of the most iconic episodes, “To Serve Man”. The final product goes like this:
The recollections of one Michael Chambers with appropriate flashbacks and soliloquy. Or more simply stated, the evolution of man, the cycle of going from dust to dessert, the metamorphosis from being the ruler of a planet to an ingredient in someone’s soup. It’s tonight’s bill of fare … on the Twilight Zone.
But Serling’s original “outro” went like this:
The very explicit and very specific differences in points of view. To the wee ones … the little folk called man … it’s a marvelous adventure, a voyage to another planet. An exciting sojourn in another section of the galaxy. But to the very large, granite-faced inhabitants known as Kanamits … it’s nothing more than a cattle car, a very comfortable provisions ship bringing food from the other end of the universe. Like I say, it’s all in the point of view.
Not bad, but it isn’t nearly as tight and smooth as the final draft. It’s longer, for one thing (and Serling always had to work hard to shoehorn his words into the allotted 25 minutes). But more importantly, it lacks his usual flourishes — the alliteration of “from dust to dessert”, and that marvelous reference about going “from being the ruler of a planet to an ingredient in someone’s soup”.
And that “bill of fare” pun? Perfect. Much better than the clunky last line of his original outro.
Do you agree? Let me know in the comments. After all, as Serling said, “it’s all in the point of view”.
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!