Category Archives: Twilight Zone
Can You Recall Which Twilight Zone Episodes Had a Mid-Point Narration?
For many Twilight Zone fans, Rod Serling’s narrations are the highlight of every episode. He’ll step in, usually after a short introductory scene, to enlighten us about the characters and hint at what lies ahead. Then he’ll return at the end and deliver a wry commentary on what we’ve just seen.
But on four occasions — three times in Season 1, and one time in Season 3 — he talks to us briefly before the episode concludes. Let’s take a quick look at these narrations and see what they tell us.
Season 1, Episode 5
October 30, 1959
“Everyone thinks [The Twilight Zone] is a scary show, but it’s actually a beautiful show,” filmmaker J.J. Abrams once said. Although this quote covers the series as a whole, it clearly applies to “Walking Distance,” which Abrams singled out for praise on other occasions.
Serling’s penchant for nostalgia is on full display in this moving story about Martin Sloane, a corporate man run ragged by his high-pressure job. Badly in need of rest and a change of perspective, he makes an impulse visit to his hometown, only to find that everything is just as it was when he was growing up.Read the rest of this entry
Syfy’s 2022-2023 New Year’s Twilight Zone Marathon Schedule
Sure, it’s loaded with commercials. Yes, the episodes are edited, sometimes rather ham-handedly. And no one can deny they look better either streaming or on disc.
But for all of its obvious drawbacks, Syfy’s New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon is an annual fixture for a lot of fans — and tradition must be honored! (Besides, there still are some pros to watching TZ this way, as I list in this post.)
So without further ado, here’s the full schedule for you to bookmark and share, with a short list of pros and cons at the end. If you can’t get Syfy, or you’d rather watch some or all of it via streaming or disc on your own, you can use this to follow along as I live-tweet this soirée. So let’s see what we’ll be watching as we say goodbye to 2022 and hello to 2023:
December 31, 2022
5:00am – A Nice Place to Visit
5:30am – The Chaser
6:00am – The Bard
7:00am – The Long Morrow
7:30am – Mr. Garrity and the Graves
8:00am – The Trade-Ins
8:30am – Hocus-Pocus and Frisby
9:00am – Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
9:30am – A Kind of Stopwatch
10:00am – I Am the Night – Color Me Black
10:30am – The Changing of the Guard
11:00am – The Odyssey of Flight 33
11:30am – The ShelterRead the rest of this entry
Twilight Zone’s “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”: Debating the Ending of a Season 5 Classic
You’d expect Twilight Zone fans to disagree over which episodes are best. Tastes can vary widely in the fifth dimension. But sometimes we can’t even agree on what happened in the stories themselves.
For example, in Season 4’s “The New Exhibit,” who committed the murders, Martin or the wax figures? In Season 1’s “A World of Difference,” what’s the true identity of the character played by Howard Duff, Arthur Curtis or Gerald Raigan?
Those are just two instances I’ve written about. There are others. In each case, I was sure I knew the answer — indeed, I didn’t even think there was another option! — until I ran into some fellow fans who felt differently. It’s been a bit disconcerting to ponder other possibilities, but also rather intriguing, frankly.
So let’s queue up another debate. This one’s about Season 5’s “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” by Charles Beaumont and John Tomerlin. (For those who haven’t seen it or forget what happens, consider watching first and then coming back before wading into the spoiler-filled details ahead.)
I’ve written about this excellent, thought-provoking episode before (you’ll find a link below). My question today, though, is this: Did Marilyn finally just give up at the end and decide to embrace her new identity? Or do we see her gushing over her new appearance because the Transformation alters not only your body, but also your mind?Read the rest of this entry
The Imaginative World of Charles Beaumont: Vote for His Best Twilight Zone Story
The most famous writer of The Twilight Zone? Rod Serling, obviously. Besides creating, producing, and hosting the series, he penned no fewer than 92 scripts for it. But after him?
Most fans, I think, would pick Richard Matheson. And who could blame them? The legendary author’s contributions to the Zone include some truly iconic episodes, such as “Little Girl Lost,” “The Invaders,” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”
Few fans would name Charles Beaumont. And that’s a shame. Not only was he the most prolific Zone writer after Serling — logging 22 scripts to Matheson’s 14 — but his fertile imagination created some of the most mind-bending tales in the fifth dimension.
So I thought it might be fun to give fans a chance to select their favorite Beaumont episode, the same way I did with Matheson back in 2013. In fact, I was thinking about doing a new Matheson poll post when it occurred to me to finally do one for Beaumont. I’ll circle back to Matheson soon enough, but let’s give Beaumont some much-deserved attention.Read the rest of this entry
The Secret Behind Nehemiah Persoff’s Vivid Portrayal of a Twilight Zone Villain
So few of the original Twilight Zone stars are still with us. Just a handful, really, if you don’t count ones who were children when they appeared on the show. So when one of them dies, it can feel like we’ve lost a close friend or family member.
Such was the case when the news broke that Nehemiah Persoff had passed away at 102. A gifted and prolific performer, he played a memorable villain early in the Zone‘s first season.
An amnesiac who spends most of “Judgment Night” trying to figure out who he is and why he has a premonition of doom, U-boat Capt. Carl Lanser may not be as hateful as SS Capt. Gunther Lutze in Season 3’s “Deaths-Head Revisited,” but his eternal “reward” is no less harsh. It turns out (spoiler alert!) that he is constantly reliving the night he ordered the destruction of a WW2-era ship loaded with civilians — this time as a passenger on the ill-fated vessel himself.
I have yet to do a deep dive on “Judgment Night.” That will come, but my goal today is more modest: to share a tribute to Persoff published in The Washington Post. Most of the Post‘s content is behind a pay wall, but it’s my understanding that this article is free to all. Even if you can’t read it all, though, I just want to spotlight a couple of points in it, which I’ll quote here.Read the rest of this entry
The Right Length for a Twilight Zone: Half an Hour or an Hour? How Serling’s Answer Changed
Opinions about Twilight Zone‘s fourth season, when Rod Serling’s landmark anthology series expanded to an hour, vary widely. Some fans really enjoy it. Others? Not so much.
But even the biggest cheerleaders for Season 4 will admit that Serling and his fellow scribes were much more in the Zone, shall we say, when their stories clocked in at 25 minutes, not 50.
“Ours is the perfect half-hour show,” Serling said at one of several points when talk of an hour-long version came up. “If we went to an hour, we’d have to fleshen our stories, soap-opera style. Viewers could watch 15 minutes without knowing whether they were in a Twilight Zone or Desilu Playhouse.”
There’s a little Zone-like foreshadowing. Serling’s foray into the fifth dimension soon became an hour-long jaunt, and his warning about “fleshening” would prove prophetic. You’ve heard of doing more with less; this was a case of doing less with more.
That’s not to say Season 4 didn’t have some good episodes. We got, for example, “He’s Alive” (with Dennis Hopper as a neo-Nazi being coached by Adolf Hitler’s ghost), “The New Exhibit” (Martin Balsam as the curator of some homicidal wax figures), “Printer’s Devil” (Burgess Meredith as a diabolically talented journalist), and “On Thursday We Leave for Home” (James Whitmore as the power-hungry leader of a barren space colony).
I could name others, and perhaps you could too. As Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, wrote: “The series had not disgraced itself.”
Far from it, in fact. Still, it was wise to go back to the half-hour slot for Season 5. As Buck Houghton, TZ’s producer through its first three seasons, later pointed out, the extra length made it very tough to do the kind of surprise endings that Serling and the other Zone writers specialized in throughout most of the show’s run.Read the rest of this entry
Syfy’s 2021-2022 New Year’s Twilight Zone Marathon Schedule
Ah, the Twilight Zone marathon. It’s become such a fixture of each New Year’s Eve. Can you think of a better way to ring out the old and ring in the new than with Rod Serling?
Sure, there are drawbacks to watching the Zone this way. The ads and the edits sometimes seem as if they’ve been engineered by Talky Tina. It’s best to watch the show on disc, frankly. But there’s something comforting about the tradition of the NYE marathon. Plus, it’s great to all be watching at the same time and interacting over social media.
So let’s get to the big question: What will they be showing this year? I know some fans like to be surprised, but most fans appreciate a heads up. So, courtesy of the friendly folks at Syfy (who were nice enough to share the lineup with me ahead of time), here’s the schedule for the 2021-2022 marathon: 104 episodes out of TZ’s 156. Times shown are EST, btw:Read the rest of this entry
“The Fugitive”: A Sweet Tale That Makes Some Twilight Zone Fans Uneasy. Should It?
When you’ve been fanning publicly over The Twilight Zone as long as I have, you start expecting certain reactions.
For example, when I tweet about “To Serve Man,” I know some people will make cookbook jokes. When I post a quote from “Time Enough at Last,” I’ll hear, “It’s not fair!” If the topic is “It’s a Good Life,” then “You’re a bad man!” is coming. And that’s fine! It’s part of the fun.
But not all predictable reactions are so benign. One that I don’t enjoy at all occurs when I tweet about “The Fugitive,” a story by Charles Beaumont that centers on the friendship between an old man named Ben and a young girl named Jenny.
This being the fifth dimension, Ben isn’t just an ordinary old man. In fact, we learn near the end (spoiler alert; click here to see where you can watch it first) that he’s neither old nor a man. Not an earth man, anyway. Ben is actually a rather young king from another planet.
So why was he here, disguised as actor J. Pat O’Malley? Because he got fed up with his royal responsibilities and ran away. The two men who have been hunting him down during the first half of the episode mean him no harm; they’re a duo from his planet, here to bring their popular monarch back home, where he can continue his benevolent rule.Read the rest of this entry
A Harsh “Encounter”: What a Long-Hidden Twilight Zone Can Teach Us About Hate
“It was a very harsh show. I’m sure it was considered too hot to handle.”
The speaker: Robert Butler, director of Twilight Zone’s “The Encounter.”
Few fans would disagree. The episode’s unflinching depiction of “raw conflict,” as Butler also described it, has been making audiences squirm since it first aired on May 1, 1964.
The racial antagonisms we see on-screen kept it off the air for the next couple days of decades. It was one of four Zone episodes that weren’t included in the original syndication package, and the only one excluded because it was controversial.
That’s a shame. Not because it’s a great episode — it’s not, despite earnest performances from Neville Brand and George Takei. No, it’s a shame because this episode, for all its faults, strikes me as one that’s eerily relevant today. In fact, I think we can learn something from it.
If you’ve never seen it, or it’s been a while, feel free to watch it before perusing my spoiler-filled musings. To briefly recap: This is the one about a World War II vet and a Japanese-American who find themselves locked in an attic, arguing about a mysterious samurai sword and lobbing some racially-charged barbs.Read the rest of this entry
Only the “Best” Coffin for the Star of TZ’s “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”
You don’t have to be the most eagle-eyed Twilight Zone fan to notice that the coffin in “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” has holes in the side.
If you assumed they were there for star James Best’s peace of mind, you’d be correct. And who could blame him? Even if you knew that your “resurrection” was imminent, it would be hard not to feel anxious with that lid closed.
And you know what? It turns out it wasn’t closed — at least not all the way. As Best relates in Martin Grams Jr.’s The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic:Read the rest of this entry