Serling’s Lost Intros to “Walking Distance” and “A Stop at Willoughby”
The best part of any Twilight Zone episode? Easy: Rod Serling’s introductions. They made even the so-so episodes better, and added an extra shine to the classics.
So I thought I would share with you a couple of intros that were, for all intents and purposes, lost: ones that Serling wrote and filmed to share “Walking Distance” and “A Stop at Willoughby” with British TV viewers.
They were part of a package that Serling and the rest of the TZ production crew assembled in early 1963 to get the series on the air in Britain. “A total of 14 [hour-long] episodes were planned, with the half-hours combined to form a similar theme for each week’s presentation,” writes Martin Grams in “The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic“. They included:
- “Third From The Sun”/”People Are Alike All Over”
- “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air”/”And When the Sky Was Opened”
- “Time Enough at Last”/”Eye of the Beholder”
- “100 Yards Over the Rim”/”The Trouble with Templeton”
- “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”/”The Invaders”
- “The Odyssey of Flight 33″/”The Arrival”
Sounds like a great way to promote the series. Alas: “Despite all [the] preparation that went into the proposed series, the BBC telecasts never aired,” Grams notes. Why, I don’t know.
But I do know that we can at least enjoy Serling’s intros for “Walking Distance” and “A Stop at Willoughby”, which are reprinted in “As Timeless as Infinity: The Complete Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling” (volume 5):
The name is Serling. The point of my presence: to conduct you on a guided tour into a shadowland of the improbable, but the strangely possible. A journey into outer space and outer mind, on an itinerary of imaginative storytelling.
Tonight you’ll watch two tales. Their theme is hunger. The hunger of men to return to the past. They’re called “Walking Distance” and “A Stop at Willoughby”. In “Walking Distance”, we’ll be at the elbow of a man named Martin Sloan, an ad agency executive who dreams of another moment in time. A time of youth, of parks and merry-go-rounds and cotton candy, and the gentle serenity of the small town with its shaded streets. And in some inexplicable way, he returns to those streets and to that time of youth.
So relax now, if you please, as we take you on a one-hour ride into time, space, and mind … on The Twilight Zone.
After “Walking Distance” is over, Serling comes back:
Our first tale: that of a man who tried to go home again. And on the next stop, an even more bizarre story. A rather close and clinical study of a gentleman whose hungers are not nearly so well defined.
This man’s name is Gart Williams. He’s a man, like many of us, who’s built a life on sand. A life that sways in the wind. A life that is cracked at the seams. His hunger is for serenity. For peace of mind. A 20th century animal in a cage, he looks for freedom in another time.
This is the sense of our next stop in this imaginative itinerary. In a moment: “A Stop at Willoughby.”
I wish I had the actual filmed introductions to share with you. But if you’re like me, you don’t need it. You can hear Serling’s voice in your head as you read the words. You can see that familiar face as he speaks, putting in those perfect pauses as he waves a cigarette … and welcomes us to that “shadowland of the improbable, but the strangely possible”.
And for a moment, we’re back in time ourselves.
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!