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

SyFy’s New Year’s Twilight Zone Marathon Schedule

We really got spoiled last time around, didn’t we?

Fans of the Syfy Channel’s New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon were used to getting a solid two and a half days of the classic show — a random mix of about 87 episodes. But we got to ring in 2016 with all 156 of them, shown in high-definition and in their original broadcast order.

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Alas, Syfy won’t be doing that again for 2017. But it’s still a longer marathon than we’ve come to expect: 120 episodes. And no more breaks for wrestling or other “paid programming” to interrupt the fifth-dimensional flow.

Sure, I have some misgivings about the marathon, as I explain here. I don’t like the ads, and I *really* don’t like the way they’ve edited many of the episodes to accommodate those ads. For the best TZ experience, I strongly recommend watching it on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or iTunes. Better yet, buy or borrow it on DVD or Blu-ray. 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

“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

Take “Two”: TZ’s Powerful Season 3 Opener

As someone who runs a Twitter page that quotes The Twilight Zone daily, I shouldn’t be a fan of “Two”, should I? The Season 3 opener, after all, is largely silent.

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On the contrary. I may not place it in my top 25, but I actually rate it quite highly. For an episode that doesn’t have much to say, “Two” says a lot.

It’s anti-war, but not in a preachy, haranguing way. It’s a quiet look at the futility of engaging in an all-out nuclear holocaust with people who, in the end, are a lot like us. And by not shouting, it conveys that idea more powerfully. Writer-director Montgomery Pittman, who also did “The Grave” and “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”, deserves a lot of credit.

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“Two” is a marvel of set design. True, TZ crew members had the good fortune to film it at the Hal Roach Studio (home of the Little Rascals), which was already abandoned and decaying. But they still needed to create the illusion of years of neglect, and they did it perfectly. Read the rest of this entry

How to Keep The Howling Man From Escaping

If the Devil were trapped and asked you to set him free, would you do it? Of course not, you reply.

But what if he were disguised as a man, and a very sympathetic man at that? Doesn’t matter, you answer. You’d see right through him.HowlingMan

We all like to think we would. But if you’re a Twilight Zone fan, and you’ve watched the classic episode “The Howling Man,” you may not be so sure. Get too cocky, and you could wind up sprawled on the floor, watching him escape through the nearest window.

That was Mr. Ellington’s fate. He didn’t believe Brother Jerome, who insisted that the prisoner was a liar. He probably thought, like any of us would, that he was too smart to be deceived.

So what did he do wrong? Having watched the episode more than a dozen times once or twice, I think I know. And I have Marc Scott Zicree to thank for it. Read the rest of this entry

In “The New Exhibit”, Who Was the Killer? A Poll Post

What would The Twilight Zone be without its twist endings? Still one of the most well-written, thoughtful series that ever aired, of course! But Rod Serling and company obviously made their points more effectively by using irony and surprise.

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So I always try to give spoiler warnings when I write about the endings to certain episodes. I know — it’s a legendary series that debuted over 50 years ago, so who doesn’t know how they end?

Actually, a lot of people. Think about it — new fans are born all the time. I came along well after “Psycho” was a new movie, but I would have enjoyed seeing it without the ending spoiled. It must have been fun to see it when you didn’t know.

All of which is a slightly long-winded way of saying “spoiler alert”! Especially because I want to discuss, briefly, the ending to “The New Exhibit”, which aired during TZ’s lesser-known 4th season (the one with the hour-long episodes) — and ask you to vote on it. 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