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Serling Edit: Cutting a Scene of Larceny in Twilight Zone’s “Where is Everybody?”

October means Halloween to a lot of people — myself included — but it also makes me think of The Twilight Zone. I know, I know. I hardly need any encouragement, do I? And yet October is special because it’s the month that TZ premiered in 1959.

It was on October 2 of that year — at 10:00pm EST, if you want to be precise — that anyone turning to CBS saw the first episode, “Where is Everybody?” The story of an Air Force pilot who hallucinates himself into an empty town during isolation training was Stop #1 for those curious enough to explore Rod Serling’s “middle ground between light and shadow”.

So I thought I would share something fun today. It’s something Serling included in an early draft of the episode, but which was apparently never filmed: a scene in which pilot Mike Ferris steals from the town bank.

That’s right. Our fine, upstanding astronaut-to-be — a common thief!

According to the draft in volume one of “As Timeless as Infinity: The Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling”, this scene occurs after the one in the movie theater. So, at least in the final episode, it’s close to the moment when Ferris is pulled from the isolation booth.

Not in this early version of the script, though.

Read the rest of this entry

Now You Can See Rod Serling’s Version of “Planet of the Apes”

Finding out that Rod Serling was a screenwriter on the 1968 sci-fi classic “Planet of the Apes” often surprises his fans. And yet, as soon as they think of that legendary shock ending, it makes perfect sense.

Note, however, that I said “a” screenwriter. Although he was the first to begin the hard work of adapting Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel to the big screen, he would not be the only one.

That’s certainly not because the producers were unhappy with his work. Far from it. Serling worked on several drafts in the mid-1960s before bowing out of the project.

And even though the final product bears numerous changes, the basic story — including, yes, the ending — is the same. And we can thank Serling for that.

The history of how “Planet of the Apes” went from page to screen is a long and complicated one. It’s not my intention to delve into that here. It could fill a book all its own, frankly.

My focus is simply what would interest just about any fan of Serling and this famous film franchise: What if they had filmed Serling’s version with none of the changes made by screenwriter Michael Wilson? Read the rest of this entry

The Perils and Pitfalls of Social Distancing … in the Twilight Zone

“Social distancing” is a new skill for most of us. Even many introverts are finding the new norms to be a bit much.

But in the fifth dimension, it’s a different story. Keeping your neighbors at arm’s length isn’t all that unusual.

Just ask astronaut Mike Ferris. He spent most of the Twilight Zone pilot, “Where is Everybody?”, wandering around an empty town. The closest thing he found to another human being was a store mannequin.

Or how about the prisoner in “The Lonely”? Poor Corry was not only in solitary confinement, he wasn’t even on Earth. Weeks would go by before anyone showed up to bring him supplies.

Then there was Henry Bemis in “Time Enough at Last”. Nothing like a little nuclear blast to ensure you get some major “me time”. Read the rest of this entry

After the Zone-a-thon IV: More Missing Episodes

We had quite a treat last New Year’s, didn’t we, Twilight Zone fans? Syfy surprised us with an extended marathon of every episode, in order and in high-def. Talk about “what you need.”

What You Need

It did, however, put the kibosh on one of my favorite post-marathon activities: writing a blog post to highlight a few episodes that didn’t make the schedule. But I figured I’d have another chance when the July 4 marathon rolled around … and here we are.

Syfy aired 57 episodes this time out. That’s about a third of the 156 that aired during the show’s run, leaving me 99 to pick from. That’s a daunting task. Many worthy episodes didn’t make the cut. But here are five that I think merit a watch — or rewatch. (Note: I didn’t repeat any picks from my previous “Zone-a-thon” posts.) U.S.-based fans, click on any title to watch the episode on Hulu.

MR. DENTON ON DOOMSDAY

Season 1, Episode 3 – October 16, 1959

denton-on-doomsday2

You don’t have to be a Twilight Zone fanatic to know the fifth dimension is a place where bad things sometimes happen to good people. But it’s also a place where the down and out can catch a much-needed break. Case in point: this early episode, in which a mysterious peddler helps a former gunslinger find a better way to ease his guilty conscience than by drowning it in booze. Is another kill-or-be-killed situation in his future? Not if Rod Serling can help it. Read the rest of this entry