Blog Archives

Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “Third From The Sun”

No wonder The Twilight Zone is such a classic. Most of the time, you were getting scripts written by the master himself, Rod Serling. And when it wasn’t him, it was often someone like Richard Matheson.

So I hardly think it’s a coincidence that “Third From The Sun” is such a highly rated episode. After all, you have the talents of both men at work here.

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That’s not to say they collaborated in the conventional sense. I mean that, as he did with “And When The Sky Was Opened“, Serling adapted one of Matheson’s short stories.

He took the title and the basic idea — and added all the usual Serling touches to turn it into a Zone classic. As Stephen King later said of what was only the 14th episode of the first season, “It marks the point at which many occasional tuners-in became addicts.”

(Spoilers ahead, naturally. The episode can be watched on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. It’s also on DVD and Blu-ray.)

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Matheson’s story, which had first appeared in the October 1950 issue of Galaxy, is a marvel of economy. Virtually no extraneous details decorate this taut tale of a man and wife (and neighbors) determined to make their getaway from a world on the brink of all-out war.

Read the rest of this entry

Fritz Weaver: “We Had Such Great Times In Those Days”

The Grim Reaper’s been busier than usual in 2016, alas. And recently, he caught up to someone that every Twilight Zone fan knows well: Fritz Weaver.

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Weaver, of course, had many notable roles throughout his career. But no list of his best work is complete without the villainous Chancellor in “The Obsolete Man” and sympathetic Will Sturka in “Third From The Sun”. The fact that he could so credibly portray a good guy in one episode, and a bad guy in the next, certainly shows his range.

So I thoughtobsolete-man that fans mourning his passing might enjoy some excerpts from an interview that appears in Stewart Stanyard’s “Dimensions Behind the Twilight Zone“:

Q: What was your first experience with The Twilight Zone?

A: I was in New York, and my agent called me and said, “They want you to do a Twilight Zone,” and I said, “Do a what?” Because I hadn’t heard of it – I had been on the stage for about nine years. So I went out to do this “Third From the Sun” program, and it was my first film, in fact. And I had to learn the hard way; I had assumed it was all the same. I mean, acting is acting, right? It didn’t turn out that way. Read the rest of this entry

Fan of Black Mirror? Try These Twilight Zone Episodes

Have you watched Black Mirror? Heard it described as a modern-day Twilight Zone?

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For reasons I explained in a previous blog post, I can’t quite agree. Yes, they’re both trippy anthology series that take a hard look at the human condition. But there are some basic differences that — for me, at least — make the comparison ring hollow.

But I’ve said my piece. I’m bringing up Black Mirror today for a different reason. I’m writing this not so much for my fellow Serling fans as I am for anyone who’s watched Black Mirror, but not The Twilight Zone (or perhaps watched it a long time ago) and who’s wondering if some black-and-white series from the 1960s is worth checking out.

So my purpose here is simple: to recommend a few episodes that I think you, as a fan of Black Mirror, will enjoy — or at least find interesting. So without further ado … Read the rest of this entry

Give Peace a Chance: TZ’s “The Passersby” Presents Us with a War-Time Dilemma

Twist endings, of course, are a Twilight Zone staple, but not every episode concluded with a bang. Sometimes we experienced a slow-burn reveal — more of a dawning realization than a sudden shock.

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That’s certainly the case with “The Passersby”, the first of two Civil War-themed episodes that aired in TZ’s third season (prompted, no doubt, by the war’s centennial that year). Well before the final scene, we know that the hundreds of soldiers shuffling past Lavinia Godwin’s dilapidated house are no longer among the living.

But far from detracting from our enjoyment of this episode, the lack of a final-curtain surprise actually adds to it. It enhances the tone of Rod Serling’s story perfectly. (Spoilers ahead; if you haven’t seen this episode, or it’s been a while, you can watch it on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, as well as DVD and Blu-ray.)

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I realize that my love of history probably causes me to rate this episode more highly than others might. But I’m convinced that much of my admiration for it flows from the elegiac beauty of Serling’s reminder that, when the guns fall silent, acceptance and healing must follow — or true peace is impossible. Read the rest of this entry

“In Praise of Pip”: TZ’s Bittersweet Season 5 Opener

To millions of Twilight Zone fans, Billy Mumy will forever be Anthony Fremont, the freckle-faced, pint-sized monster sending people to – gulp – the cornfield.


Many also recall him as the little boy whose grandmother phones from beyond the grave in “Long Distance Call”, or as “that kid from Lost in Space”. And I don’t blame them. Mumy certainly left his mark on some legendary roles.

It’s a shame, though, that they tend to overshadow his work on Serling’s “In Praise of Pip”, which first aired on September 27, 1963. The Season 5 opener is a sad but quietly beautiful portrait of love, regret, and second chances. Read the rest of this entry

“The Arrival”: A Twilight Zone Episode on Auto-Pilot

An airplane taxis down the runway, pulls up to its marker, and stops. Perfect landing.

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Well, it would have been perfect if anyone, including a pilot, had been on board. The plane is completely empty. You see, this is The Twilight Zone, and you’re watching Rod Serling’s “The Arrival”.

Things look very odd. And they’re about to get a whole lot odder.

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Opinions vary widely on Serling’s first episode of Season 3. Some people like it a lot. Others find it a mish-mash of strangeness, more mystified than mystifying. Read the rest of this entry

A Cherished Inscription for a Grateful Rod Serling Fan

Ever been asked to name a famous individual from history that you’d want to have dinner with? I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that Rod Serling tops my list.

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You can imagine the questions I’d have for him. I doubt one meal would give us enough time to cover everything I want to know.

Somewhere on the list of topics would be his opinion of what I do on social media to spotlight his work. Does he like it? Am I presenting it well? What can I do to improve it?

Sadly, of course, I can’t know what he thinks. He’s been gone for over 40 years. But I have something that’s almost as good — a special book with an inscription that always makes me smile. Read the rest of this entry

Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “Time Enough at Last”

How could I not have started my series of posts reviewing Serling’s Twilight Zone adaptations with “Time Enough at Last”?

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We’re talking about a huge fan favorite — one that is arguably the most well-known episode. It’s also the first non-Serling tale that aired, after seven originals opened the series in the fall of 1959.

I guess I was too intrigued to chronicle what Serling had done to stories by such legendary TZ scribes as Richard Matheson and George Clayton Johnson. His changes there amounted to a complete overhaul. And it was fun to examine the remarkable work he did to bring Damon Knight’s “To Serve Man” to the screen.

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But before he turned to those scripts, he choose to adapt Lynn Venable’s short story about a poor man who … well, as she put it: Read the rest of this entry

“Do You Know Why There’s Night All Around Us?”

No sides. Just shock and sadness. It’s time to stop and reflect.

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This quote from Rev. Anderson in Rod Serling’s sobering Season 5 episode, “I Am The Night — Color Me Black”, keeps echoing in my mind: 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.”

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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

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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