Friday, January 10, 2020

"The Twilight Zone," Season 2


You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.  A journey into a wondrous land of imagination.  Next stop: the Twilight Zone...
  
  
The first episode of the second season introduced not only a revamped saga-sell narration by Serling, but also an entirely new opening-credit sequence.  The first-season theme music (by Bernard Herrmann) was gone, too, replaced by the iconic Marius Constant theme that begins with the repeated four-note phrase revered even to this day by lovers of the mysterious and terrifying.  
  
And also happening for the first time: Rod Serling appeared on-screen as the host, introducing the episode.
  
In other words, The Twilight Zone kind of became what we think of as The Twilight Zone at the outset of its sophomore season. 
  
  
"King Nine Will Not Return"
  
  
(season 2, episode 1)
  
airdate:  September 30, 1960
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Buzz Kulik
  
Odd how the real consorts with the shadows, how the present fuses with the past. How does it happen? The question is on file in the silent desert, and the answer? The answer is waiting for us - in the Twilight Zone.
  
A WWII pilot wakes up in the desert, having been thrown from his plane during a crash landing.  Then he wanders around and yells a lot.
  
  
  
  
Boy, I did NOT like this episode.  I didn't like much of anything about it, to be honest with you, except for the new theme music.  The episode hinges almost entirely upon the performance of Bob Cummings as the pilot, and he's kind of awful.  It wouldn't have made much difference if he hadn't been; if this had had a performance as good as, say, Jack Warden's in "The Mighty Casey," it might have helped, but it would only have helped so much.
  
The episode seems to have a good reputation among fans of the series, however.  Hey, what do I know?

The Blu-ray has a commentary track by writer Martin Grams, Jr. (who can't be bothered to make it all the way to end of the episode despite the fact that HE seems to actually like the damned thing), two different audio tracks (the original audio and the "remastered" audio, whatever that is [I watched only the original]), a Marc Scott Zicree interview with Buzz Kulik, and an isolated-score track featuring the music of Fred Steiner.
  
Bryant's rating:  * / *****


"The Man in the Bottle"
  
  
(season 2, episode 2)
  
airdate:   October 7, 1960
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Don Medford
  
Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, gentle and infinitely patient people whose lives have been a hope chest with a rusty lock and a lost set of keys.

A nearly bankrupt pawn-shop owner receives a bottle that contains a genie, who grants him four wishes.  Well, pal, be careful what you wish for.




I was made a wee bit grumpy by this episode, mainly due to the fact that every time I see a story in which a genie grants wishes, the person to whom the wishes are granted completely bollocks it up.  So the shopkeep who gets four of 'em in this story?  Awful at making wishes.

Here are the four wishes I'd make:

(1)  Perfect health for the remainder of my life.
(2)  Perfect health for all of my family and friends for the remainder of their lives.
(3)  A 50% increase in intelligence.
(4)  The ability to achieve desired results in three out of every five attempts using merely the materials available to me among my own possessions at that point in time.  For example, with this final wish granted, I would then put on paper five different outlines for novels that would be worldwide bestsellers.  Two of them would not succeed; three of them would, which would then permit me to earn an astonishing amount of money.

And so forth.  Given the random nature of not knowing which two of my five various ideas would be failures, I assume I would not become too bored by my success.  I could then also use my increased intelligence to pioneer several different methods for longer life, which would in turn give me the ability to pioneer space travel, the colonization of other worlds, the elimination of disease and hunger for the world populace, etc.  (The money from my many bestselling novels would be the springboard for these philanthropic efforts, naturally.)

So what I'm saying is, if there are any genies out there, come at me, bro.

Anyways, that doesn't happen in this episode.  Arthur, the shopkeep, shows a complete lack of imagination; and also, quite frankly, a complete lack of patience.  He doesn't need to use those wishes all at once!  Why not hang onto them and put them to use when he really needs them.

Pointless to ask such questions, of course, but how can you not?  I suppose that speaks somewhat to the effectiveness of the concept.  And indeed, this is not a bad episode.  The performances are good: Joseph Ruskin is fantastic as the genie, Luther Adler is fantastic as Arthur (particularly toward the end of the episode where the third wish takes things into a truly frightening place), and Vivi Janiss (who was also in the horrid TZ episode "The Fever") is fantastic as Edna.

My main problem is that I never have a handle on whether I'm supposed to hold Arthur in contempt, or sympathize with him, or what.  I suppose maybe it's a bit of both: he's a nice enough fellow until the genie shows up, and once the genie is gone again he's a nice fellow.  So maybe the idea is that as long as one simply lives one's life without making fool wishes, one stands a decent chance of being an alright guy.

The Blu-ray contains a video interview from 2004 with Joseph Ruskin, plus an isolated-score audio track and the radio-series adaptation.  It stars Ed Begley Jr. and is not good.

Bryant's rating:  *** / *****


"Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room"
  
  
(season 2, episode 3)
  
airdate:  October 14, 1960
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Douglas Heyes

This is Mr. Jackie Rhoades, age thirty-four, and where some men leave a mark of their lives as a record of their fragmentary existence on Earth, this man leaves a blot, a dirty, discolored blemish to document a cheap and undistinguished sojourn amongst his betters.

A low-level criminal frets over whether to carry out a killing his boss has put him in charge of.  You might say he's of two minds about it.




Featuring a dynamite lead performance by Joe Mantell, this episode is perhaps not what I'd personally call a classic; but it's fine, and I've got no beef with anyone who loves it more than I do.

Despite the fact that this came out well over fifty years ago, I had no idea what happened as it progressed, and therefore when the big twist happened, it surprised me.  I love that.

The Blu-ray has two commentary tracks, an isolated-score track highlighting the excellent music of Jerry Goldsmith, an interview with Douglas Heyes, and an okay radio adaptation starring Adam Baldwin.

Bryant's rating:  *** 1/2 / *****


"A Thing About Machines"
  
  
(season 2, episode 4) 
  
airdate: October 28, 1960
written by: Rod Serling
directed by: David Orrick McDearmon

He's a bachelor and a recluse with few friends, only devotees and adherents to the cause of tart sophistry. He has no interests save whatever current annoyances he can put his mind to. He has no purpose to his life except the formulation of day-to-day opportunities to vent his wrath on mechanical contrivances of an age he abhors.

A food critic is tormented by living machines.




An aggravating episode which is, I suppose, intended to make us reflect on how we ought not to criticize things.  Or something.  I don't know, the episode seemed almost entirely pointless to me apart from a few moments of effectively creepy imagery.

I will say, however, that one can watch this and imagine a young Stephen King appreciating it.  A driverless car terrorizing its owner ... an electric razor slinking down the stairs like a snake ... a typewriter writing all on its own.  Images of technology run amok very like this would show up in King works like The Tommyknockers, Maximum Overdrive, and, of course, Christine.  No telling whether "A Thing About Machines" inspired any of that, directly or indirectly; if it did, then that's a decent reason for its existence.  In and of itself, however, the episode amounts to little.

The Blu-ray has a commentary track, to which I have not yet listened.  I suspect it won't change my opinion much.

Bryant's rating:  * 1/2 / *****


"The Howling Man"
  
  
(season 2, episode 5)
  
airdate: November 4, 1960
written by: Charles Beaumont, based on his own short story
directed by: Douglas Heyes
  
The prostrate form of Mr. David Ellington, scholar, seeker of truth and, regrettably, finder of truth. A man who will shortly arise from his exhaustion to confront a problem that has tormented mankind since the beginning of time.

An American traveling in Europe during the '20s becomes lost, and seeks refuge during a stormy night at a castle, which turns out to be a monastery of sorts.  While there he meets a man who is being kept imprisoned.




Spoiler alert: that ain't no man, baby.

This is a solid, creepy episode marked by good visuals and effective performances.  But the episode is ground nearly to a halt by a coda in which the protagonist does something so incredibly stupid that you just want to shake him.

But maybe that's the point.

The Blu-ray contents:

  • an interview with director Douglas Heyes
  • an interview with star H.M. Wynant
  • a commentary track by Gary Gerani
  • a radio drama adaptation starring Fred Willard

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****

Oh, and by the way, I just started rereading Gerald's Game wherein I found the following TZ reference (p. 21 of the original hardback):

"She seemed to be in a long, cold hall filled with white fog, a hall that was canted severely to one side like the halls people were always walking down in movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street and TV shows like The Twilight Zone."

That made me think of this:




And also of this:




The latter is from the episode itself, but the former is actually from the next-week-on preview from the end of "A Thing About Machines."  There's no reason to think King was thinking of this specific episode (especially since there is no white fog in "The Howling Man"), but I thought of it, and it has now been so noted.


"Eye of the Beholder"
  
  
(season 2, episode 6)
  
airdate:  November 11, 1960
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Douglas Heyes
  
Now the questions that come to mind...

In some sort of totalitarian state of the (?) future, a woman has undergone multiple surgeries to correct her hideous appearance.  If this one has not been successful, she will have no choice to go live among her own kind: other freaks with similarly deformed facial features.




This is perhaps the best-known episode of the entire series.  It's got an anti-conformity message, and I'll honor it by saying that I was a little underwhelmed by it.

But only a little.  On the whole, I think it's haunting and effective.  It's probably the most effective (in my opinion) during the early scenes, when actress Maxine Stuart excels at using her hands and body language to express the main character's plight.  This stuff is creepy as hell, and part of me is glad I didn't see it when I was a kid; it would have fucked me right up.

Once the bandages come off, the main character is played by Donna Douglas (Ellie Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies).  This gave me a bit of pause once I found it out.  Does it seem as if it undercuts the central message of the episode a bit?  I think maybe it does.  But the use of Maxine Stuart -- particularly her voice (which is mostly looped, which furthers the effect by giving the dialogue a disembodied quality) -- helps things seem off-kilter and nightmarish; so it is by no means a complete loss, if it is one at all.

We've avoided the central plot element, you may have noticed.  I'll happily discuss it in the comments, though, so if you want to talk about it, hit 'em up.

Before we go, check this out:




Uh...

Am I seeing things, or are there eyes in the wall behind the lamp?




That is freaky-deaky, boy.

The Blu-ray is well-stocked on this episode, containing the following:

  • a commentary by Donna Douglas, who is charming and talkative
  • a commentary by Marc Scott Zicree and a writer named Joseph Dougherty
  • a commentary by Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven C. Smith and film-music expert Jon Burlingame
  • a commentary by TZ expert Gary Gerani
  • excellent audio interviews by Zicree with Maxine Stuart and director Douglas Heyes; combined, these run the length of the episode, and may as well count as a fifth audio commentary
  • an isolated-score track featuring the excellent music by Herrmann
  • an alternate version of the end credits featuring the title "The Private World of Darkness" (which, thanks to legal issues, is what the episode was called during some reruns and some syndicated airings)
  • a trio of ultra-rare color photos of some of the actors in makeup

Bryant's rating:  **** 1/2 / *****


"Nick of Time"
  
  
(season 2, episode 7)
  
airdate:  November 18, 1960
written by:  Richard Matheson
directed by:   Richard L. Bare
  
In one moment, they will be subjected to a gift most humans never receive in a lifetime. For one penny, they will be able to look into the future.

A pair of honeymooners on a cross-country trip find themselves stuck in a small town when their car breaks down.  They while away the time while their car is being fixed by visiting a diner, where a tabletop fortune-telling machine begins to exert a strange power over the husband.




As you can tell by looking at the above screencap, this episode stars William Shatner, about six years before his career-changing role on Star Trek.  He's impossibly young and handsome here, and -- unsurprisingly -- holds the screen every second he is on it.  His co-star, Patricia Breslin, is awfully good, too.

Great stuff, subtle and ambiguous and haunting.

The Blu-ray has a lousy radio adaptation (in which it sounds as if the couple despise each other) and an excellent commentary track by Marc Scott Zicree, who is joined by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner.

Bryant's rating:  **** 1/2 / *****


"The Lateness of the Hour"


(season 2, episode 8)

airdate:  December 2, 1960
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Jack Smight

We're about to discover that sometimes the product of man's talent and genius can walk amongst us untouched by the normal ravages of time.

An inventor and his wife have to deal with their daughter becoming upset by the fact that their lives are just the same thing, day in and day out.




This episode is notable for several reasons:

  • It was one of half a dozen second-season episodes that were filmed on video as a cost-cutting maneuver.  This gives the episode the feel of live television, which is disappointing in some ways, but kind of cool in others.  I don't think it's as unsuccessful a gambit as many reviewers seem to think.  It does, on the other hand, mean that this episode looks considerably less good on Blu-ray than most others look.
  • Rod Serling has several opportunities to speak the word "robot," and I love the way he pronounces it ("ROW-but").
  • The star is the lovely Inger Stevens, last seen in the episode "The Hitch-Hiker."
  • Co-starring: John Hoyt, best known to me as Dr. Boyce on the original Star Trek pilot, "The Cage."

The Blu-ray has a radio adaptation which stars Jane Seymour in the Inger Stevens role.  She's good; the episode on the whole is above-average as far as these radio versions go, although it probably tips its hand a bit too early regarding the plot twist.

Bryant's rating:  *** / *****


"The Trouble With Templeton"
  
  
(season 2, episode 9)
  
airdate:  December 9, 1960
written by:  E. Jack Neuman
directed by:  Buzz Kulick
  
Pleased to present for your consideration, Mr. Booth Templeton; serious and successful star of over thirty Broadway plays, who is not quite all right today.

An aging Broadway star attends a contentious rehearsal and suddenly finds himself catapulted thirty years into the past.




The Twilight Zone is by no means averse to dealing in melancholy, and this episode definitely swims in those waters.  I'm not sure it does so as well as similarly-themed first-season episodes like "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine" and (especially) "Walking Distance," but this is solid stuff.

There's a shot toward the end -- spoiler alert!

Still here?

Okay.

There's a shot toward the end where the residents of the past all freeze in place, gazing into the distance into which Templeton has retreated.  His former wife, Laura, has a haunted look on her face.  And if you don't have one on yours while you're watching this incredible moment play out, you may need to check your pulse.

The episode as a whole is good; that scene is great.

The Blu-ray is disappointingly free of a commentary track for this episode, but it does have an isolated-score track featuring the exceptional music of Jeff Alexander, as well as a decent radio-drama adaptation starring Michael York.

Bryant's rating:  *** 1/2 / *****


"A Most Unusual Camera"
  
  
(season 2, episode 10)
  
airdate:  December 16, 1960
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  John Rich
  
A hotel suite that, in this instance, serves as a den of crime, the aftermath of a rather minor event to be noted on a police blotter, an insurance claim, perhaps a three-inch box on page twelve of the evening paper.

A trio of small-time thieves find themselves with a camera which can take a peek into the future.




A crime-doesn't-pay episode that, gored up a wee bit, could have slotted right in to an issue of some EC horror title.  It's a mildly aggravating episode, and about all I have to say about it is this: that is some spectacular cleavage co-star Jean Carson is sporting, and I'm a little surprised you could show that much of it in 1960.

Carson (along with her fellow co-stars Fred Clark and Adam Williams) do manage to wring a few laughs out of the proceedings; without their relative expertise, this might qualify as one of the very worst episodes of the series.

The Blu-ray has only an isolated-score track; and the score is by no means a standout.

I guess the King fan in me might as well speculate that Uncle Steve might've seen this episode and eventually repurposed the idea of "supernatural camera" for "The Sun Dog."

Bryant's rating:  ** / *****


"The Night of the Meek"
  
  
(season 2, episode 11)
  
airdate:  December 23, 1960
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Jack Smight
  
There's a wondrous magic to Christmas and there's a special power reserved for little people.  In short, there's nothing mightier than the meek. 

A down-on-his luck department store Santa makes a big tall wish: why can't there really be a Santa Claus?  Why can't the meek inherit the Earth, just once?




Starring Art Carney as the shabbiest, drunkest Santa you've ever seen in your life (pre-Bad Santa, at least), this is a Christmas episode that delivers pretty capably.  The best bits are in the first half, when the focus is on Carney's despair and hopelessness.

I should probably have more to say about it than that, but it's seemingly not in the cards.

The Blu-ray had a good commentary by Marc Scott Zicree and Len Wein (who remarks several time -- with just cause -- on how scary Carney's Santa beard is).  From that commentary, I learned at least one interesting fact: the woman who is singing at the church service for the various drunks and other poor people was played by Meg Wylie.  Now, you may or may not have heard that name.

Here's a look at her in this episode:




Odds are pretty good that if you're a fan of sci-fi television, you've seen her on at least one other occasion.

Here's the likely place that happened:




Yep, she plays the Talosian Keeper in the very first episode of Star Trek to be produced, "The Cage."  (If you're interested, here's a long review of that episode from one of my other blogs.)

Anyways, the Blu-ray for "The Night of the Meek" also contains a commentary track by Gary Gerani, plus a radio-drama adaptation.

Bryant's rating:  *** 1/2 / *****


"Dust"
  
  
(season 2, episode 12)
  
airdate:  January 6, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Douglas Heyes
  
This village had a virus, shared by its people. 

On the day a convicted criminal is due to be hanged for the accidental death of a little girl, a peddler wanders through town selling "magic dust" that may not be what it appears to be.




It won't be evident to you as you read this, perhaps, but it's been months since last I watched an episode of The Twilight Zone.  Why the delay?  I'm asking YOU, Bryant ... why the delay?!?

Ahem, well I, er ... I've got no satisfactory explanation for that, I'm afraid.  I just be gettin' distracted sometimes.

So maybe it's being away for a while that's speaking here, but damn, I loved this episode.  It's not entirely your typical Twilight Zone episode, which is to say that it is in some ways precisely your typical Twilight Zone episode.  It veers from incredible meanness to incredible sweetness effortlessly; give screenwriter Rod Serling a great deal of credit for that, but the cast is top-notch here, too.

The villain, Sykes (as despicable a sack of shit as was ever shit into a sack), is played with boisterous filth by Thomas Gomez, who'd previously played Cadwallader in "Escape Clause" during season 1.  He's great, and so is John Larch as the reluctant sheriff who doesn't much want to hang the "murderer" but has no recourse not to.

The convicted man, Gallegos, is played by John Alonzo, who brings a quiet resignation to bear.  I thought I'd seen him in something; it was, I suppose, The Magnificent Seven.  But Alonzo is better known for his work as a cinematographer, which includes movies such as Chinatown, Scarface, and Star Trek Generations.  Pretty good resume dude's got.

Also excellent here: Vladimir Sokoloff as Gallegos's father.  He gets taken in by Sykes, who sells him the magical dust of the title; Sokoloff brings cast amount of emotion to his role, and makes it all work.  Without what he does, the episode would have fallen flat at the end.

It does not.

The Blu-ray doesn't have a huge amount on this one, but there is a great interview with director Douglas Heyes, as well as an isolated-score track featuring the music of Jerry Goldsmith.

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"Back There" 
  
  
(season 2, episode 13)
  
airdate:  January 13, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  David Orrick McDearmon
  
A friendly debate revolving around a simple issue: could a human being change what has happened before?

After having a theoretical conversation about time travel, a man inexplicably travels back in time to the day President Lincoln was assassinated.  He'll try to prevent it; he won't have much luck.




If you could go back in time and prevent the assassination of President Lincoln, would you do it?  A better question: if you went back in time to prevent the assassination of President Lincoln, could you?  Odds are, probably not.  You certainly couldn't if you went about it as ham-handedly as Peter Corrigan does in this episode; if this was Assassination Prevention 101, he received an incomplete.

Corrigan is played by Russell Johnson, who is quite good.  Via him, the -- and here's an understatement -- strangeness of the situation Corrigan is in comes through nicely.  It's a solid and fairly tense episode.

But really, it's the denouement where "Back There" really comes together.  It's not the first Twilight Zone episode that's been true of, nor will it be the last.

The Blu-ray contains an isolated-score track of the marvelous Jerry Goldsmith music, plus a not-good radio adaptation starring Jim Caviezel, who seems to be reading all of his lines off a sheet of paper.

Oh, and I guess the Stephen King fan in me should point out a very slender connection to 11/22/63 in the theme of someone going back in time to prevent the assassination of a President.  Not much similarity beyond that, but it seemed worth mentioning.
 
Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"The Whole Truth"
  
  
(season 2, episode 14)
  
airdate:  January 20, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  James Sheldon
  
Exactly where they come from is conjecture, but as to where they're heading for, this we know, because all of them - and you - are on the threshold of the Twilight Zone.

A dishonest used-car salesman buys an old car from an old man one day, only to discover that the vehicle is haunted.  Not by a typical ghost, but by a need: a compulsion the owner feels to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  The only solution?  To sell the car to a new owner.




Another of the shot-on-video episodes, but the format fits this episode -- which could easily be staged as a one-act play -- quite nicely, even though the look doesn't transfer well to hi-def.

It's anchored by a terrific sleazy performance by Jack Carson, who plays Harvey Hunnicut, who'll give you a Hunny of a deal if you just come on down to the lot.  Carson is so oily that the Blu-ray emits an odor of cigar smoke and pastrami every time he's on the screen.  He's great, and when he begins telling the truth -- much to Hunnicut's surprise and dismay -- he's even better.

The episode comes to a satisfying and unexpected conclusion, too; a bit topical, but hey, I don't mind that once in a while.

The Blu-ray's sole bonus feature for this one is the episode of the radio series that adapts this episode.  It stars Henry Rollins as Hunnicut; he gives it his all, and while he's no Jack Carson, he does fine.  It's refreshing to actually like one of the radio episodes again!  A weird note: everyone pronounces Hunnicut as "Hennicut."  What's with that?

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"The Invaders"
  
  
(season 2, episode 15)
  
airdate:  January 27, 1961
written by:  Richard Matheson
directed by:  Douglas Heyes
  
This is one of the out-of-the-way places, the unvisited places; bleak, wasted, dying.

In an isolated farmhouse, a terrified old woman combats an invasion of toy-sized aliens.




This is unquestionably one of the all-time classic episodes of The Twilight Zone, and in order to discuss it much beyond the simple plot setup I gave above, I'll have to spoil some things.  Guys, it's a 58-year-old episode.  That's just how it's gotta be.

Before we get there, though, I'll spoil my own opinion (and possibly your opinion of me) by saying that I don't like this episode much.  I'm not sure I like it at all.  It's a classic; no sniffing at it nor turning-up of the nose on my part is going to change that.  And yet, I just don't care for it.

The story, as you likely know, involves a miserable old lady fighting off space invaders.  She does so ferociously, sustaining some brutal injuries in the process but ultimately prevailing by bashing one of them to bits and then smashing the other while it is still in its flying saucer.  As she does so, we hear a voiceover from one of the aliens, who is sending a directive to his leaders: do not attempt retaliation against this race of giants.  We see the words on the ship's shattered hull: U.S. Air Force Space Probe No. 1.  Those were humans, baby!

It's a great twist, but here's my problem with the episode: it doesn't stand up to repeat viewings.  (I say that from only my own standpoint, of course; and yes, I'd seen this episode before, unlike most Twilight Zone stories.)  Once you know the twist, the episode itself is fairly pointless.

Much of this is down to the performance by Agnes Moorehead.  I find her to be thoroughly off-putting here, and the performance is clearly designed mostly with the thought of keeping the plot twist intact until it can be delivered.  To that end, we never hear her speak; she wouldn't be speaking English -- she'd be speaking whatever they speak on Planet Giant, I guess -- so we might wonder what was up with that.  But is it natural to be wordless during a siege by murderous space aliens?  I'm saying no.  So instead we get a bunch of weird vocalizations from Moorehead such as grunts and shrieks and gasps.  And she drools a lot.  Like, a lot.  It's gross and weird and I just don't like it.

There are things that work pretty well, though, such as a handful of exquisite moments of horror like these:

  • One of the aliens approaches Moorehead from behind and, using her own kitchen knife, attacks her leg.  At first it appears as if she might have had her Achilles tendon cut, but no, it's just a slash at her leg.  Nevertheless, it's not hard to think of Pet Sematary here.  (And the general setup makes one think of King's "Battleground," which was similarly almost-entirely-dialogue-free when adapted for television.  The screenplay for that was written by Richard Christian Matheson, who was almost certainly paying homage to his father.)
  • Moorehead reaches for a doorhandle only for the knife to come through a hole in the door and slash her palm.  Would it be too much to think Kubrick pinched this for the bathroom scene in The Shining?  Maybe.  Maybe not!
  • Moorehead captures one of the aliens and wraps it up in a blanket, which she then bashes onto the floor over and over again.  Every bone in that guy's body must have been broken, man.  Rough stuff.

Also worth mentioning: the flying saucer was the model used for the C-57D starship from Forbidden Planet.  It looks great, and no, Agnes Moorehead did not actually bust it to smithereens.

Apologies for my negativity on this one, guys; I suspect I'm very much in the minority in disliking this one, which is why I'll generously award this a *** / *****.  I can't go higher, though; I'm just not feeling it.

You know who does feel it?  The various people who provide the three commentary tracks on the Blu-ray.  They love it to death, and I'm glad for it.  One of the tracks focuses on Jerry Goldsmith's (admittedly [and unsurprisingly] excellent) musical score, which is also represented via an isolated-score track.  You also get a great Marc Scott Zicree audio interview with director Douglas Heyes.


"A Penny for Your Thoughts"
  
  
(season 2, episode 16)
  
airdate:  February 3, 1961
written by:  George Clayton Johnson
directed by:  James Sheldon
  
Flip a coin and keep flipping it.  What are the odds?

A banker one day finds himself with the strange ability to read people's thoughts.  He uses it to foil a robbery, get himself fired, get himself promoted, and find love.


That's a quarter.  Just sayin'.


Starring Dick York, this lighthearted episode is perhaps nothing special, but it's effective and sweet.  It likely doesn't bear much scrutiny beyond that, so rather than scrutinize it, let's move on.

But not before noting that the Blu-ray special features are these: a good commentary with George Clayton Johnson and Marc Scott Zicree; an older interview with Johnson and Zicree (in which Johnson sounds half a lifetime spryer); and an isolated-score track.

Bryant's rating:  *** / *****


"Twenty Two"
  
  
(season 2, episode 17)
  
airdate:  February 10, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling (based on a story by E.F. Benson)
directed by:  Jack Smight
  
Miss Elizabeth Powell, professional dancer. Hospital diagnosis: acute anxiety brought on by overwork and fatigue. Prognosis: with rest and care, she'll probably recover. But the cure to some nightmares is not to be found in known medical journals.

An overworked dancer named Liz experiences a recurring nightmare while she is recuperating in the hospital.  It's all in her head.  Right?




We're spoiling this one, so if you don't want to know how "Twenty Two" ends, you've got time to bail out.

5...

4...

3...

2...

1...

This is another of the episodes shot on video.  That's not a spoiler.  Well, I guess technically it's a spoiler, but if you're upset to find out the medium of filming for an episode, you need to just stay off the internet altogether, methinks.  Anyways, it is a video-shot episode, and the ugly immediacy of the episode's look actually enhances its impact somewhat, I think.

I was mostly unengaged by this one initially, but it slowly won me over.  The lead character is interesting.  We're obviously meant to think that she's a somewhat low-class individual; I mean, she's a stripper, of all things (and is verbally identified as such in explicit fashion)!  Gasp!  Between that and her accent, I do believe that most audience members were being encouraged to look down upon her reflexively.  This, I think, is a gambit designed to lull viewers in and make them assume that she's crazy.  I mean, of course she's crazy, right?  She's a stripper (ick), after all; how could she be anything but?

As the episode proceeds, however, the signs become clearer that this is someone we should pay attention to.  The episode begins encouraging us to question the way she's being treated.  This results in an astonishing moment when, as she is leaving the hospital, her doctor tells her that the next time he sees her, it will be in a "ringside seat" at one of her shows; he says he expects for her to give him a subtle wink.  Maybe it's the 2019 in me talking, but I was utterly shocked by this; and I feel certain Serling wanted me to have precisely that reaction.  Liz does; she looks at the doctor with complete contempt, and he backs down sheepishly.  Later, she castigates a man in an airport, asking him if he knows he's got eyes like a tarantula.  He, too, backs down.

Speaking of the airport, this is where the episode takes its big turn.  We've seen Liz have her recurring nightmare twice; it's been the same thing both times.  It ends in her going to a room -- #22 -- in the morgue, and being told by a nurse that there's "room for one more."  She screams and wakes.  Now, in the airport, she finds that she's been booked on Flight #22.  Hallmarks of her nightmare begin occurring, such as a broken glass; and as she begins to board the plane, the very familiar stewardess says a very familiar thing to her.

Liz runs screaming back down the ramp and away from the plane, and soon after -- in a rather effective in-camera effects moment -- she witnesses the plane explode during takeoff.

Now, maybe it's because I knew nothing about the episode and consequently had no idea where it was going, but I found all of the airport finale to be terrifically effective.  And combined with what had come before it, what I take to be this episode's real message is one of cautioning us not to judge a book by its cover.  That person you assume is of no worth?  Might want to listen to what they have to say every once in a while.

It's a good message; I approve.  And if you don't, you can probably still enjoy this episode by taking is as a simple nightmare.

The Blu-ray has only an isolated-score track for this one, sadly.

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****

I'm moved to briefly mention something: the (as of this writing) recently-ended first season of the CBS All Access relaunch series.  It was an up and down season, and by the end I think I'd have to say that I only genuinely liked two episodes ("The Comedian" and "Six Degrees of Freedom").  Most of the others worked for me pretty well at times only to fall apart in the end; but overall, I'd say they were better than not.  Arguably a bit too on-the-nose politically; this did not help.  But even so, I did like them.

There was only one episode that I actively disliked: the season finale, which is called "Blurryman" and involves Zazie Beetz being creeped out (and possibly stalked) by a blurry figure that appears in footage on a television show she is filming.  That show?  The relaunched Twilight Zone.  There's some fun stuff involving Jordan Peele playing what I assume is a vastly douchier version of himself, and the setup is promising enough.

I'm reluctant to spoil the whole episode, but suffice it to say that the screenplay is an attempt to do a self-aware type of story of the type Darin Morgan might have tried.  He'd likely have succeeded.  Alex Rubens does not.  When you find out who Blurryman is, you may be tempted to heave your phone at the television; don't, because those are expensive items and you don't want to replace them.  Put your phone down, so as to remove the temptation; divest your hands of everything, because if you don't, when you see how shoddy the effects use to bring this individual to life are, whatever you're holding is going on a flight.  Or I dunno, maybe you'll be into it.  If so, lucky you; I was not, and the distaste I felt for what happened OKAY IT'S A GODDAMN CGI ROD SERLING ARE YOU HAPPY NOW was so intense that it turned my mild thumbs up to the first season of the series to a rather enthusiastic thumbs down.

And watching "Twenty Two" tonight, I feel even more negative.  This is such a seemingly simple tale, but it comes to a memorably upsetting conclusion despite being hampered by looking as though it cost $17.  At no point during the first season of the relaunch did it come close to airing an episode this good, with a premise this clean and effective.  I spent much of the season feeling that even when the storytelling quality wasn't quite up to snuff, the series did possess a Serlingesque feel to it; coming out of the finale, though, I wondered if any of the people responsible for what I'd just seen actually gave a fuck about who Rod Serling was.  It was as amazed a bit of disappointment as any I'd felt for a television show since ... well, since the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones a few weeks previously, actually.  And since any number of episodes of either season of Star Trek: Discovery.  Okay, fine; it's a feeling I've had a lot lately.

This topped all of them, I think.  Shame on the Serling family for allowing it to happen; shame on CBS, Jordan Peele, and everyone involved.

Let's move on, and get back to what the Twilight Zone actually is.


"The Odyssey of Flight 33"
  
  
(season 2, episode 18)
  
airdate:  February 24, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Justus Addiss
  
You're at 35,000 feet atop an overcast and roughly fifty-five minutes from Idlewild Airport.

A seemingly routine international flight goes awry when the airliner slips from a jetstream into a timestream.




Remade today, this would likely cost a gajillion dollars and would cram in Lord knows how many action scenes.  It wouldn't be a bit better than this original episode, which consists almost entirely of several dudes sitting in a set the size of a bathroom and talking into headsets.  Granted, there's one big effects sequence dropped into the middle; and it works quite nicely, assuming you can project yourself back in time to 1961 or so.  But mostly, it's just actors doing what actors do combined with a great concept and solid filmmaking.

King fans will perhaps feel there are mild similarities to The Langoliers.  I'm not sure how extensive they are; really, it's that both stories involve flights that strange things happen to, and that's about it.

The Blu-ray for this one has a commentary track by Gary Gerani as well as an audio interview with Robert Serling.  No, that wasn't a typo; Robert was Rod's brother, an aviation expert who served as a consultant on the episode.  There's also a radio drama version, if that's your thing.  You're better served just putting on the original episode and closing your eyes, if you ask me.

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"Mr. Dingle, the Strong"
  
  
(season 2, episode 19)
  
airdate:  March 3, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  John Brahm
  
In just a moment, a sad-faced perennial punching bag, who missed even the caboose of life's gravy train, will take a short constitutional into that most unpredictable region that we refer to as The Twilight Zone.

A two-headed Martian makes an invisible appearance in an Earthbound bar, where they bestow abnormal physical strength upon a weakling.




Not much of an episode, is it?  I've got no particular urge to defend it, but I didn't think it was that bad.  Granted, the two-headed Martian -- not to mention the Venusians who show up at the end -- is one of the worst things ever; but still, it's okay apart from that stuff, if only for the fun Burgess Meredith performance.

The Blu-ray has an alleged commentary track by co-star Don Rickles, but it only lasts for a few minutes, so really it's just a brief interview.  There's a full-length commentary by historian Martin Grams, who gives us trivia and whatnot.  It's a good listen.  There's also an isolated-score track, but I didn't listen to it because I thought the score was pretty cheesy; still, I'm glad it's here.

Bryant's rating:  ** / *****


"Static"
  
  
(season 2, episode 20)
  
airdate:  March 10, 1961
written by: Charles Beaumont (based on a story by OCee Rich)
directed by:  Buzz Kulick
  
Around and around she goes, and where she stops nobody knows.
  
A grumpy old man in a boarding house begins receiving signals from the past on an old radio. 




This is an effective -- and affecting -- episode that is hampered somewhat by having been shot on video.  I don't think the filming method hurts enough to really matter, but it's always worth mentioning.

Dean Jagger plays a rather unpleasant old man who has been living in the same boarding house for over twenty years.  Is that a thing people actually do?  Or, maybe, used to do?  I never thought of boarding houses in that way, but what do I know?  Not much.  That's true generally, but it's especially true on the subject of boarding houses.

Anyways, not only has Dean Jagger been living there for two decades plus, but so has Carmen Matthews, playing a former fiance of his.  The two of them never ended up getting married; their relationship just sort of fizzled out, apparently, despite the fact that they both loved one another.  These things happen, you know.  (I'm reminded of Bobbi and Gard in The Tommyknockers, who had a somewhat similar non-relationship.)  Either as a result of this or vice versa, Jagger's character -- Ed Lindsay -- has seemingly grown more and more irritable over the years.  Lately, he seems to be teed off by people sitting around being "hypnotized" by the inanities on the television.

There's a decidedly anti-modernist bent to Ed's attitudes and behavior, and he comes off as being an extremely unpleasant fellow for much of the episode's runtime.  We've all known an old cuss or two like this in our time, and some of us -- ahem -- might well be on the road to becoming just such an old cuss our own selves.  I certainly have been feeling a touch of that lately.  And I wonder: is there really much of a difference between Ed using old radio signals to try to will himself (emotionally, if not physically [although physically is perhaps not AS off the table as it seems]) twenty years into the past and, oh, say ... me sitting around watching old episodes of Babylon 5?  Probably not.

Nope, probably not.  And maybe that explains my strong reaction to this episode.  If so, fair enough; I'll cop to it.  No shame in it, so far as I can tell.

The Blu-ray has an interview with director Buzz Kulick, who has never actually seen the episode and doesn't remember much about it.  There's also a radio adaptation, which, as is the case with most of them, is mediocre.  Oh, and an isolated-score track.

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"The Prime Mover"
  
  
(season 2, episode 21)
  
airdate:  March 24, 1961
written by:  Charles Beaumont
directed by:  Richard L. Bare
  
Some people possess talent, others are possessed by it.
  
A guy who operates a small diner discovers that his partner has telekinetic abilities, and convinces him to put them to work on a gambling spree.




As soon as I realized that this was another episode about the perils of being a degenerate gambler, I began having flashbacks to the first-season episode "The Fever," which is just terrible.  And for much of this one, I was sitting there po-faced and grumpy, a mental thumbs-down stuck into the air.

It kind of won me over in the end, though, thanks in no small part to the charming and sweet performance of Buddy Ebsen as the telekinetic.

The Blu-ray has two commentaries: one (excellent) by Marc Scott Zicree and uncredited co-writer George Clayton Johnson; another by historian Martin Grams, Jr. (full of great info, although Grams has a bad case of mushmouth).

Bryant's rating:  ** / *****


"Long Distance Call"
  
  
(season 2, episode 22)
  
airdate:  March 31, 1961
written by:  Charles Beaumont and William Idelson
directed by:  James Sheldon
  
It's been said, and probably rightfully so, that what follows this life is one of the unfathomable mysteries, an area of darkness which we, the living, reserve for the dead.
  
A young boy maintains a close connection with his grandmother even after her death. 




This one has a very strong screenplay, one that results in a thoroughly creepy episode even though it's yet another (the final one!) which was filmed on video.  When the ideas are strong enough, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference how polished the look is, and here, a very simple idea -- a toy telephone upon which a little boy can hear (and be influenced by) the voice of his dead grandmother -- pays off big-time.  And it does so despite us never hearing the grandmother's disembodied voice; that's maybe the biggest wonder of all, and is a testament to the performances, which allow us to believe in something we don't hear.

The Blu-ray has a good commentary track by co-writer William Idelson and co-star Bill Mumy.

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****


"A Hundred Yards Over the Rim"
  
  
(season 2, episode 23)
  
airdate:  April 7, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Buzz Kulik
  
Someone told them about a place called California, about a warm sun and a blue sky, about rich land and fresh air, and at this moment, almost a year later, they've seen nothing but cold, heat, exhaustion, hunger, and sickness. This man's name is Christian Horn. He has a dying eight-year-old son and a heartsick wife, and he's the only one remaining who has even a fragment of the dream left.
  
A small wagon train of settlers headed for California stops so their leader can go on a scouting mission for water and food.  He somehow walks over a century into the future. 
 
  


I'd never even heard of this episode, but it's handily one of my favorites from the second season.  It's a very simple story: a man walks over a ridge in the desert in 1847, and once he's on the other side he finds himself in 1961.  There's no explanation.  (He must have gone through a thinny!, says the Dark Tower fan in me; but no.)  But because this man is a hearty explorer by nature, he presses forward, baffled by what he finds but determined to get what he needs.

Cliff Robertson plays the settler (Horn), and he's great.  He was less than a decade away from winning an Oscar for Charly, so this is a guy with chops.  Here, he excels at playing Horn's weary bemusement, as well as his determination.  There's something moving, and maybe even a bit profound, in the notion of this man being shaken by his experience but ultimately undeterred; to some extent, that's the pioneer spirit in a nutshell, which means that what we get here is a summation of the American spirit.

What's not to love about that?  Answer: I guess one might reasonably object to the mention of "Indians," but I don't find the episode to be particularly negative on the subject, certainly not compared to other things from the era.

That's the only potentially false note for me here, though, and even that one doesn't bother me personally.  By the way, look for John Astin in a small role; he was three years away from The Addams Family here.
  
The Blu-ray has two commentary tracks (one with Cliff Robertson, who has little to say; the other with Night Gallery historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson, who do better), a Marc Scott Zicree interview with Buzz Kulik, an isolated-score track featuring Fred Steiner's music, and a radio version starring Jim Caviezel.

Bryant's rating:  **** 1/2 / *****


"The Rip Van Winkle Caper"
  
  
(season 2, episode 24)
  
airdate:  April 21, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Justus Addiss
  
The time is now, and the place is a mountain cave in Death Valley, U.S.A.

Four criminals who have robbed a batch of gold from a train that is bound for Fort Knox hole up inside a cave in the desert until the heat is off of them.  One of them has (rather implausibly) invented cryogenic storage units which will preserve them for, oh, say ... a hundred years.  When they awake from their lengthy slumber, they can buy the new world in which they live.

Thing is, it's hard to shake the heat off one's self in the desert...




This is not a bad episode, but it fell utterly apart for me in a couple of ways.  Firstly, the cryogenics angle is weak at best.  This isn't even pseudo-science; this is bullshit science.

Secondly, and actually much more grievous (in my opinion), is the issue of why De Cruz destroys the truck.  I get why he kills Brooks; that's a party foul for sure, but I do get the motivations there.  However, if one is in the desert weighted down with literal bars of gold that one took a hundred-year-nap in order to be able to turn into currency of some sort, I simply don't see any logical sense in destroying one's only means of physical conveyance out of that desert.  Why walk when you can ride, De Cruz, baby?  That don't make no sense, friend. 

As a result, neither does this episode, which is a solid ending in search of a decent middle.

By the way, Marc Scott Zicree's book asserts that the destruction of the truck is an accident which happens when De Cruz loses control of it, and I confess that if that's the intent, it makes sense.  The scene didn't play that way for me, though; so if that was the intent, Addiss's direction muddied the point.

The Blu-ray has a commentary by the Night Gallery historians mentioned somewhere above.  It's okay.

Bryant's rating:  ** 1/2 / *****


"The Silence"
  
  
(season 2, episode 25)
  
airdate:  April 28, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Boris Sagal
  
The note that this man is carrying across a club room is in the form of a proposed wager, but it's the kind of wager that comes without precedent
  
A grumpy old man at a gentleman's club strikes back against a boorish loudmouth by making him a bet: that he can't remain silent for an entire year.  If he does?  $500,000 is all his.  But he must spend the year in a glass room inside the club, with microphones listening to his every move. 


That's not a boom mic, FYI; it's one of the listening devices which ensure the fairness of the wager.


Another second-season winner, this one stars Franchot Tone as the grumpy old man.  He's kind of sympathetic at the beginning of the episode, in which you kind of feel his aggravation at having to listen to this loudmouth younger man all night every night.  Who hasn't known someone like young Tennyson, who simply will not zip his lip?  Who hasn't wished he could stand up to such a motormouth and give them a good telling off?

As the episode progresses, though, I think we find ourselves very much on the side of Tennyson.  As the year's end got closer and closer, I became more and more nervous that something awful was going to prevent Tennyson from winning.

Does it?

My lips are sealed.

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****, which might be a bit low.  Part of me wants to add an extra half-star onto the tally, but for whatever reason, I'm opting not to.

The Blu-ray has a commentary track by Marv Wolfman (!) and Marc Scott Zicree, as well as a radio adaptation starring Chris McDonald.  Listen to the former; skip the latter.


"Shadow Play"
  
  
(season 2, episode 26)
  
airdate:  May 5, 1961
written by:  Charles Beaumont
directed by:  John Brahm
  
Like every other criminal caught in the wheels of justice, he's scared, right down to the marrow of his bones.
  
A death-row inmate feels that life is just a dream; and not a pleasant one. 




This one isn't bad, but it didn't land for me at all.  It struck me as well-made but essentially pointless.  It wants to be terrifyingly suggestive of the fragility of the veil between reality and delusion (or, if not suggestive of that, suggestive of something like it), but struck me as being rather shallow.

It might be that I'm distanced by the death-row angle.  I don't necessarily think this is something to proud of, but there's a part of me which feels as if murderers ought to suffer in their final days.  And if those final days stretch, dreamlike, into infinity...?  Insert an image of me shrugging here.  The character Weaver is playing is a bit too urbane, a bit too intellectual, to feel to me like the kind of person whom I would -- if only by gut instinct, and not conscious thought -- wish to see in that sort of predicament; and so I have a hard time approving of what's happening here.  And yet, because there is zero indication that this man didn't committed the murder of which he has been (frequently) convicted, I have just as hard a time drumming up any real sympathy for him.

In short, I'm not sure this episode is making me actually feel anything, other than indifferent.  And I don't need no episode for that!

The Blu-ray has a commentary track by Dennis Weaver, who sounds like a nice guy.

Bryant's rating:  ** 1/2 / *****


"The Mind and the Matter"
  
  
(season 2, episode 27)
  
airdate:  May 12, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Buzz Kulick
  
A brief if frenetic introduction to Mr. Archibald Beechcroft: a child of the 20th century, a product of the population explosion, and one of the inheritors of the legacy of progress.
  
A mild-mannered misanthrope manages to muck up his miserable life more with The Mind and the Matter




This one is about an insurance-agency worker who has grown really vexed by the hustle and the bustle of modern living, such as cramped subway trains and cramped elevators and loud workspaces.  Bro, I can relate.  Not really, but in theory; I've never been on a crowded-beyond-capacity subway train, but they seem like they'd be ass.

So is this episode.  Its sole saving grace is the lead performance of Shelley Berman.  He's a bit on the annoying side at times, but he's also quite funny in a specific sort of droll way.  I especially chuckled at an early scene in which he is eating lunch and someone is telling him something ludicrously unexpected; there's something about the way in which Berman continues to hoick the forkful of food up and into his mouth, as though the conversation has mortally wounded his appetite, but not so badly that it's died immediately.  He's also got a funny, albeit brief, scene in drag late in the episode.

During that scene (the one where Berman is in drag), there's an elevator full of people wearing, I kid you not, Shelley Berman rubber masks.  They look absolutely nothing like Shelley Berman, but this was a gambit designed to convince the audience that everyone on the elevator was a version of his character, Archibald Beechcroft.  I suppose it's possible that in the sixties, people's tv sets were so small and grainy that the scene might have worked, but on Blu-ray, on my television (which is no high-end model but which gets the job done), it looks downright horrifying.  Nightmarish, even.

Hey, I forgot to say what the episode is actually about, didn't I?  Beechcroft is given a book called The Mind and the Matter, which gives him the ability to make anything happen just by concentrating.  So he wishes he was the only person in the world, and so, for a while, he is.

The Blu-ray has a commentary track by Berman.

Bryant's rating:  * 1/2 / *****


"Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"
  
  
(season 2, episode 28)
  
airdate:  May 26, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Montgomery Pittman
  
You've heard of trying to find a needle in a haystack? Well, stay with us now, and you'll be part of an investigating team whose mission is not to find that proverbial needle; no, their task is even harder.
  
Two state troopers investigate the possibility that one of the patrons inside a diner might be the pilot of a crashed U.F.O. 




This episode is kind of like a comedic riff on the first-season classic "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street," in which a bunch of people who've offloaded from a bus inside a diner contend with the question of whether one of them might be a space alien.  Is it the loudmouthed businessman?  The crazy old man?  The bosomy dancer?  The busdriver himself?  Heck, has one of the husbands been replaced?  Their wives don't seem entirely sure of them anymore.

I was prepared to dislike this one (levity isn't necessarily this show's strong suit), but ended up enjoying it quite a bit.  Part of this is because the cast is excellent.  It's led by John "Dr. Boyce from Star Trek" Hoyt, who is terrific.  But everyone else is good, too, and then by-damn Jack Elam shows up, with his crazy eyes.  He's on another plane of existence in this episode.  Spoiler alert: he's not playing the Martian.  But the real twist is that Jack Elam himself was a Martian, as far as I can tell.  His character looks as if he likely reeks of spit, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Vienna sausages.

The Blu-ray has two commentary tracks (one by Marc Scott Zicree, one by Gary Gerani, both covering much of the same information, and me glad to get it all), an isolated-score track, and a decent radio version starring Richard Kind.

Bryant's rating:  **** / *****
 
 
"The Obsolete Man"
  
  
(season 2, episode 29)
  
airdate:  June 2, 1961
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Elliot Silverstein
  
This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one.  It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time.  It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom.  But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace.  This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth.  He's a citizen of the State but will soon have to be eliminated, because he's built out of flesh and because he has a mind.
  
In a dystopia which could surely never happen in reality (ahem), a librarian is declared to be obsolete and chooses the manner and time of his liquidation.
 
 

 
 
Burgess Meredith and Fritz Weaver...?  Sign me up!
 
Especially if it's as good an episode as this one.  I'm very pleased by the fact that while there are a few episodes of The Twilight Zone which I've had spoiled for me over the years, the vast majority are still unknown to me.  This episode, for example, I knew absolutely nothing about.
 
And that's how I'll leave it for anyone who happens to be reading this.  I'll only add that if this episode were to make its debut on American television in the year 2020, it would almost certainly make Twitter implode.  Shame that can't happen.
 
The Blu-ray has an excellent commentary track by Marc Scott Zicree and Mad Men creator Matt Weiner, who points out how thoroughly incredible it is that this half-hour teleplay made it onto freaking network television IN THE EARLY SIXTIES.  He's not wrong.  There's also a radio adaptation starring Jason Alexander in the Burgess Meredith role.  Jason Alexander is a brutal step down from Burgess Meredith, boy.  He's okay, though.  He's kind of playing the role in the same mode he used in the Voyager episode "Think Tank," except benevolent.
 
Well, I guess "benevolent" is subjective, isn't it?
 
Bryant's rating:  ***** / *****
 
Oh, and by the way, the second-season Blu-ray set also contains a Serling-penned episode of Suspense from 1953, "Nightmare at Ground Zero."  It's kind of interesting; it's almost like Serling writing Creepshow, albeit with a heavily pulled punch.  But hey, 1953.  Pulled punches weren't surprising; what's surprising is that a punch was thrown at all!  This one is about a mannequin maker who has been charged with populating a house at Yucca Flats where an a-bomb is scheduled to be detonated.  Might this also be an opportunity for him to rid himself of an aggravating wife?  Well, may be; may be.
 
And now, a Worst to Best of Season 2:
  

"King Nine Will Not Return"  (*)
"A Thing About Machines"  (* 1/2)
"The Mind and the Matter"  (* 1/2)
"A Most Unusual Camera"  (**)
"Mr. Dingle, the Strong"  (**)
"The Prime Mover"  (**)
"The Rip Van Winkle Caper"  (** 1/2)
"Shadow Play"  (** 1/2)
"The Invaders"  (***)
"A Penny for Your Thoughts"  (***)
"The Lateness of the Hour"  (***)
"The Man in the Bottle"  (***)
"The Trouble With Templeton"  (*** 1/2)
"The Night of the Meek"  (*** 1/2)
"Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room"  (*** 1/2)
"The Whole Truth"  (****)
"Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"  (****)
"Static"  (****)
"Back There"  (****)
"The Odyssey of Flight 33"  (****)
"Twenty Two"  (****)
"Long Distance Call"  (****)
"The Silence"  (****)
"The Howling Man"  (****)
"Dust"  (****)
"A Hundred Yards Over the Rim"  (**** 1/2)
"Eye of the Beholder"  (**** 1/2)
"Nick of Time"  (**** 1/2)
"The Obsolete Man"  (*****)
 
See you all back here for season three at some indefinable point in the future.

25 comments:

  1. Great to see your comments on season two of Twilight Zone, which has been probably my favorite classic TV show since I discovered TZ Magazine back around 1981, and soon after finally got to watch the show thanks to PBS in Philly (the local UHF stations never (as far as I remember) aired TZ for some reason when I was growing up).

    I don't remember seeing posts from you about TZ before, but I'll do a search later.

    I agree pretty closely with many of your rankings for this season. I would have ranked "Shadow Play" and "A Penny For Your Thoughts" higher though, the latter episode always puts a smile on my face. Also, I would never give 4 stars to "The Whole Truth" which I think is pretty much a 1-star stinker.

    I'd think it must be pretty cool for you to see some of these episodes for the first time now after nearly 60 years, and be able to catch the twist endings for the first time. I'm sure some of the episodes cannot work as well now as they did back then, but the ideas of some might really be "as timeless as infinity."

    That shot with the eyes in the shadows in "Eye of the Beholder" is pretty cool and eerie. It's been years since I've read any of my TZ books, so I can't remember now if there's any knowledge about if that was an accident or done on purpose. Hard to believe it could have been accidental though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure why I didn't think to link to it, but here is my review of the first season:

      https://thetruthinsidethelie.blogspot.com/2018/03/a-look-at-twilight-zone-season-1.html

      "A Penny For Your Thoughts" probably is better than the mere three stars I gave it. Maybe I was grumpy that day.

      "Shadow Play" just fell flat for me, and I'm not entirely sure why. I tried to pin it on a lack of emotional engagement, and maybe that's it; but I'm just not sure.

      It's definitely cool to see most of these for the first time. Part of me wishes I'd worked my way through it all years ago, but mostly I'm glad to still have such a cornerstone series that is still mostly unknown to me.

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  2. (1) I've always been willing to go to bat for "The Invaders". Even after the twist is known, I have to admit it still draws me in. I think this is down to two things. The first is the simplicity of the setup, it's like a stalker film, only done right, and with the harsh black and white photography, it could almost be a cleaned up midnight movie.

    The other reason comes from watching it in hindsight and knowing you have a strange sense of divided loyalty. On the one hand, you should be rooting for the astronauts. On the other hand, they are all filmed like villains. It's easy to imagine Joe Dante and/or Chris Columbus up late watching this episode and thinking, "You know what, I'll bet you could do something with this scenario." If it helps, think of "Invaders" as "Gremlins" in miniature, the Dante/Columbus film is more "Invaders, the Movie".

    (2) Shadow Play is another episode I was able to "get" for some reason. Mainly I think this is due to the fact that it's the more cerebral concepts that are able to draw me in.

    (3) As regards "Static" and "Templeton", I think the way things are working out in real life is that a lot of the past (in particular the struggles of the 60s) seem to be re-occurring now, in the present. If so, then it could be one of those deals where a lot of folks will have to deal with the past before moving forward.

    ...I'll go take my meds now.

    To be concluded.

    ChrisC

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    1. (4) It's good to see that someone else likes "Over the Rim". This is just one of those episodes that really stuck with me. I think it's because of the type of story you're dealing with. Like for instance, if this episode were directed by Frank Capra, then there's really not much that would need to be changed. Granted, if Capra had directed this episode, it would waaayy higher up on the top 10 lists.

      (5) What can one say, it's Serling and Shatner working together. There's most likely a reason why both are still talked about today. The episode is also, I think, an interesting commentary on addiction.

      (6) I think the reason "22" works is because it has the simplicity of a folktale. That's because I think it is an old folktale that's been re-fitted to the era in which it was filmed. As far as I can tell, the only additions Serling has made are in regard to the nature of the main protagonist, and the reactions she gets from others.

      I agree that you're probably on to something with the message between the lines of the folktale. However, my own observations of the current social scene leads me to conclude that Serling would get flamed on social media for trying this sort of thing. The trouble is that the conversation around sex and gender has sort of broken down for the moment. There may be some who can grasp the finer points the artist is trying to make, however my concern is that a great majority will just use it as a talking point for whatever agenda is hot for the day and fleeting hour. It's pathetic, yet perhaps the best thing to do in such cases is to keep one's head down until it all blows over.

      To be concluded for REAL this time (okay, so I goofed).

      ChrisC

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    2. Speaking of nostalgia, I ran into a very interesting YouTube channel. It's called FredFlix, and whoever runs it specializes in a lot of media from the 50s to the 80s.

      I first came across this cat when I saw a vid on "The Decline and Fall of Nostalgic Networks":

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld3Js6ptM8Q

      Ever since then, I've been looking at more of the stuff on the channel, and it just seemed too good not to share.

      Here is a blooper and outtake reel that is pure gold:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp1q1HZvHts&t=476s

      Another good one is a compilation of inappropriate soundtracks (warning: you will never hear the Slinky song the same way ever again):

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe1zYVgHbBc

      He even shows an awareness of Stephen King:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljlGsLcdMp0

      I'll just leave things off with one more clip that gives a good overview of what the channel is as a whole:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmPvjL0D29k

      ChrisC

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    3. (1) It's an accepted classic, and no complaints from lil' ol' me will change that. I'm definitely in the minority on this one. But that's okay with me. Sometimes I find myself fretting over ideas like this: "Do I like __________ because I *actually* like it, or because I'm *supposed* to like it?" And when something like this comes along and I find myself feeling opposite to the way most people feel, it kind of reaffirms for me that my responses (not just to it but in general) probably ARE genuine.

      Good point on the home-invasion aspect.

      (2) I mean ... I like cerebral things, too. Not for nothing is "2001: A Space Odyssey" one of my favorite movies. It ain't all "Moonraker" and "Maximum Overdrive" over here! I just didn't feel like this episode ever came together. But I might feel differently whenever I watch it a second time.

      (3) I suspect we're all, individually and collectively, in a perpetual act of working out the past. And probably the future as well. This is certainly true of me; I'll fess up to it, and won't even bother to feel the need to apologize! I've been almost entirely consumed the past few weeks with trying to wrestle to the ground some old impulses of mine that I never quite got the better of. And I'm never going to. I *thought* I'd accepted that years ago and made my peace with it, but just lately, that shit has come roaring unexpectedly back. Caught flat-footed by it? Yessir, sure was.

      I've got no reason to think that I'm even slightly special in this regard. I'm sure most of us have things like this from time to time. And now that you mention it, "The Twilight Zone" seems to deal with such issues in both a head-on manner and at something of a remove in many of its episodes. "Static" is a great example, and I'm going to now move on lest thinking about that episodes make me weepy.

      (4) Yep, I loved that one. Capra directing Serling, now there's a thing that could have been fried gold.

      (5) I'm honestly not sure why I didn't give "Nick of Time" a full five stars. An absolute classic, and Shatner is a big part of the reason why.

      (6) "the conversation around sex and gender has sort of broken down for the moment" -- There's an understatement. I'm probably ill-advised to comment much about it, so I mostly won't, except to note that these are important conversations to have, and many of them seem to have been way overdue. If the people who've been wanting to have them forever but have found little ability to actually do so until now are maybe reacting a bit more stridently than some might wish, well, you know what? I kind of get why that would be the case. I'm lucky in that I've mostly lived my life in such a manner as to be able to kind of just bow out of the conversation with an assurance that I myself have to a large extent not been the thorn in anyone's side. I'm therefore able to mostly leave all these conversations to others without feeling as if I'm having to either sacrifice my own wants/needs or abandon those of anyone else.

      To your point about the episode, you might be right. It wouldn't be written the same way today, of course. Either the main character would have to be a more blatantly "bad" person or those reacting to her would have to be more blatantly loathsome. Some of the subtlety would be removed, for sure; but that's okay, art should reflect the times in which it is made. This episode does that pretty well, I think.

      Thanks for the FredFlix recommendation!

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    4. I watched the bloopers -- those are great. So weird to hear people swearing on a show from the fifties!

      Delete
  3. "the real twist is that Jack Elam himself was a Martian, as far as I can tell. His character looks as if he likely reeks of spit, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Vienna sausages."

    I loved this. I'll comment more extensively as soon as possible but this was a genuine LOL.

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    1. To be clear, I like Vienna sausages. There is no trashier food on Earth (unless it is devilled ham, which I also like), but I do, God help me, like it.

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  4. (1) It took me a few to figure out why you were leaving out spoilerrific bits of the Rod Serling narration, such as you did in "Eye of the Beholder." Sometimes I'm not so bright.

    (2) We're mostly in agreement on these s2 episodes. I thought it'd be fun to just kinda go through them one-by-one, here, hope you don't mind.

    "King Nine Will Not Return" - agreed. A "classic" whose appeal has never quite communicated itself to me.
    "Man in the Bottle" - agreed. It's one of those stories that is engineered to get to the fuhrerbunker, and not very well/ sacrifices some believability and relevant character-making along the way. It's not bad or anything, just yeah, I agree with your write-up here. It made an impression on me when I was 13 or 14, for sure, but not one that ever re-impressed me as an adult. The genie-story trope gets its best (?) TV treatment in that one "X-Files" episode.
    "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room" - I don't recall this one too well, I should watch it again.
    "Thing About Machines" - yep.
    "Howling Man" - here's one I didn't much like as a teen but it's grown on me, mainly for the reasons you cite: it's effectively creepy.
    "Eye of the Beholder" - one of the best. Great stuff. I think the eyes there on the wall are indeed creepy and effectively underscore the totalitarian element of this society.
    "Nick of Time" - oh yeah! I always wonder: how long has that couple at the end been in this town? Is there anyone else in the town that is essentially trapped there by their own superstition? And what does that say about many a small town in the real world? Hmmm.
    "Lateness of the Hour" - I hate - wait, all-caps HATE - when people pronounce robot "row-butt." Like, unreasonably hate: I was listening to "Dimension X" and eventually stopped and wrote a scathing review of it simply for this reason. (To make matters worse, every other episode seemed to be about a robot, so it drove me steadily insane-r.) Apparently, too, this was the correct way to pronounce it (unfathomably) but convention led to its more-commonly/less-aggravating pronunciation. As a kid, I had no idea why the hell some episodes looked like they were shot through a lens smeared with vaseline or looked so weird. Then, still later in life, once blu-rays became a thing, I flashed back to that "Twilight Zone video-shot look" everytime I saw an old movie on blu-ray and "ghosting" became a thing.
    "Trouble with Templeton" - one of the beating-heart-of-the-series episodes. Very good, and quietly very powerful. (I say quiet even if the dialogue is somewhat on-the-nose.)

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    1. (1) Join the club!

      "Lateness of the Hour" -- I myself am quite charmed by that pronunciation of robot, but I can absolutely see how it would enrage a fellow.

      "Trouble With Templeton" -- I liked this one, but it didn't get its hooks into me the way certain other episodes did. I should watch it again.

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  5. "A Most Unusual Camera" - I too wondered about how much of impact this episode had on "Sun Dog." I think there are many times where I want to know the Twilight Zone or EC or Outer Limits analog to the stories King wrote. Seems like there's a fairly traceable line of inspiration from one to the other. Buuuuut, like most of my projects, I took a couple of notes, realized the massive undertaking it would be, and let it fade. I'd love to read such a thing, though, or listen to an interview with the man himself where a knowledgeable TZ/EC/OL fan asked the pertinent questions.

    "Night of the Meek" - meh. Nice Talosian catch, though! "Santa's presence here and in the sleigh was merely an illusion..."

    "Dust" - Here, alas, we part ways mein freund. This episode has always aggravated the living hell out of me. There are two episodes that end with a character saying some phrase hysterically over and over again, and this is one of them. You may be right that without such a thing at the end the episode falls flat, but I only know that for me that WITH such a thing, they lose me.

    "Back There" - had the same question re: 11/22/63! Nice. I love this one. Great twist. There's a similar sort of episode in the 2003 remake starring an out-of-her-depth Katherein Heigl that has a pretty cool little twist as well. Manages to homage this one but be its own thing.

    "The Whole Truth" - not a big fan of this one. "Carson is so oily that the Blu-ray emits an odor of cigar smoke and pastrami every time he's on the screen." Nice.

    "The Invaders" - Here's another one we part ways on. I can only speak for myself, but for me it's held up under multiple viewings quite well. To answer your question, who says there IS speech on Planet Giant? Or maybe she's a mute? Either way this does not trouble me in the slightest. I love her performance, I love this episode, and I love watching it again and again.

    "Penny for Your Thoughts" - Yeah this is a sweet one. Not a fave but nothing bad to say about it.

    "Twenty Two" - this one grew on me too over the years. It gets dumped on a lot out there in TZ-forum land, but I think it's a good one and Barbara Nichols is very effective in the role. Regarding your thoughts on the revival, I've actually been catching some of that recently. It's about what I figured it would be. More thoughts coming your way soon on that, but my impression is that you are correct: no one involved seems really to care about what they're doing. Worse, they don't seem to have any inkling they SHOULD care about the legacy of the show, etc. I'd be surprised if JP is still interested in doing it within a year's time. We'll see.

    "Odyssey of Flight 22" - Yep, love this one.

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    1. "Dust" -- Interesting! Well, they can't all work for everyone. I wonder if I'm in a big minority with that episode. I'd be cool with that.

      "Back There" -- Is there any other kind of Katherine Heigl than an out-of-her-depth one?

      "The Whole Truth" -- Readers of this blog definitely seem unimpressed by this episode. Ah, well.

      "The Invaders" -- I kind of like the thought of being literally THE only TZ viewer in the world who thinks this episode is a bit shite.

      "Twenty Two" -- I'm more or less ignorant -- and blissfully so, I'd add -- of what they think about things in the land of TZ forums. As with most subjects, I think I'll steer clear of any sort of passionate conversation; it'd likely only aggravate me. Weird that this episode is dumped on, though. I loved it.

      As for your thoughts on the CBSAA remake ... it was renewed for a second season, but as far as I know there's been zero news about it since then. I wonder if CBS has quietly rescinded the greenlight and is going to just sort of pretend the whole thing never happened.

      I enjoyed Peele himself as the host; he had an appealing mixture of gravitas and merriment, and seemed to be enjoying himself. The episodes themselves were unmemorable.

      I'd love to see what Matthew Weiner would do with the show. I think he's in (metaphorical) Hollywood jail at the moment, though, so that's unlikely.

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    2. For me, I started out not knowing what to make of "Dust". I seem to have found my way toward warming to it in some degree.

      The way I look at it now, my thinking goes something as follows. If "Beyond the Rim" is a story in a Capra mode (see quotes above), then "Dust" is sort of Serling's Spielberg entry. Either that or it might be described as Bradbury-esque.

      The Spielberg link is a bit more stronger when it comes to this episode, if only due to the fact that it was Serling, with a little help from, I believe it was Joan Crawford, who gave Stevie S. his first major professional gig on the former's "Night Gallery" series. While that episode was very much in a more macabre vein, "Dust" just seems more in line with the kind of work most viewers have come to expect from the guy who made "E.T.".

      ChrisC

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    3. Wasn't it Sidney Sheinberg who was responsible for giving Speilberg all his early work? I think he ran the studio that was putting out "Night Gallery." Not to discount Serling/Crawford from Spielberg's origin story, but that's my understanding of it all.

      I should watch it again. I remember once it was on in another room and for an agonized eternity I heard someone hysterically insisting he "got the magic dust! Looooooook! LOOOOK! I GOT THE MAGIC DUST!" and I had to get up, go in there, see what the hell was going on, then take the axe from the wall and destroy my television. Same thing happened with "rowbutt radio," years later... I'm terrible with my equipment.

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    4. "The Invaders" - I'm enough of a contrarian/ secret-fellowship-sanctuary sort of guy to understand how it'd be cool to be the only TZ fan to not like "The Invaders." I can't agree, like I say, but I get that.

      Regarding the remake, I'll save my remarks for the inevitable blog (or, failing that, the long email to you or comment on your blog with the reviews of it) but nothing against JP's hosting. Although I don't know how hands-on a showrunner he is. That's been a problem with trying to recreate the whole Rod Serling aspect of not just this revival but the other two. Rod's presence worked because he WAS the Twilight Zone. You never got that sense from Forest Whitaker, and I don't from Jordan Peele, even if they're doing a fairly fine RodSerling impersonation. But like so many of the "New" versions of franchises these days, that's what it feels like to me: cosplay, not embodying the role/ doing anything real with it. But! Nothing against JP, for that anyway. (For "Us" he deserves nothing but tomatoes.)

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    5. I'm pretty sure Jordan Peele wasn't even the showrunner for this. I think it was either Greg Yaitaines or Simon Kinberg. So really it's CBS slapping his face and name on their product to drum up interest. So your dead on right in that Rod Serling was the twilight zone, while the other two are not.

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    6. Thanks for the correction, sincerely. I didn't realize that was the case. Yeah that's wack - although I'm kinda glad to hear this in a way.

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    7. Those are good points about the relation between Serling the host and Serling the writer/producer lending the original a legitimacy the reboots all lack. And in a sense, no reboot ever can have that legitimacy; the show simply WAS Serling, and vice versa.

      The best a reboot can do is try to summon an approximation of the same energy, and none of the ones I've seen have done it very well or for very long. The movie gets closest for me, although I haven't yet seen enough of the others (the newest excepted) to feel like I've got any right to speaking definitively.

      As for the Spielberg situation, I too feel like it was Sid Sheinberg who got young Steve in the door. I wouldn't be surprised if both Serling and Crawford had to sign off on it, though. Whoever was responsible, I am deeply glad for them.

      And I'm looking forward to getting into "Night Gallery" at some point in the future. I've only seen a handful of those.

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  6. "Mr. Dingle" - meh.

    "Static" - creepy in spots, I can see where you're coming from. it's never been a favorite, and I'd have handled it all much differently. I think that's what hangs me up on it; my brain goes in a different direction with the material.

    "Prime Mover" - I don't remember this one too well, actually.

    "Long Distance Call" - I like certain aspects of it, but I can do without this one. It doesn't really pay off for me in the end. This is a theme the show played around with on a few different occasions, Mute, Body Electric, The Pool one at the end of the series, etc.

    "Hundred Yards Over the Rim" - This is a great episode I agree.

    "Rip Van Winkle Caper" - 'a solid ending in search of a decent middle' Yep.

    "The Silence" - oh boy, this one. This is one of those scripts that feels like everyone is reading from a book. The dialogue does not sound natural to me at all. I like the twist/ set-up just fine, but that aspect of it has always alienated me. The guy says "Tennyson" something like 50 times in 2 minutes in one scene.
    p.s. Marv Wolfman? What's up with that?

    "Shadow Play" - I actually prefer the 80s show remake of this one with Peter Coyote.

    "The MInd, The Matter" - meh, yeah this one not so much. Good point on the lead performance, though, it could've been much worse.

    "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" - one of my favorites. One of a handful I've forced on my kids!

    "The Obsolete Man" - yep. Very scary how we're trying so hard to replicate nightmare scenarios from so many TZ episodes. (Eye of the Beholder, Number Twelve Looks Just Like You, this one, too many.)

    (3) You've got some great stuff coming your way in season 3. Us, too, actually! Looking fwd to it.

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    1. "The Silence" -- There's definitely an archness to it that could easily alienate one. It worked on me, but I'm learning that these episodes are quite variable in impact. I mean, that's true of any series; but it seems especially true of this one.

      "Shadow Play" -- Oh, that sounds interesting! I dig Peter Coyote.

      (3) Me as well! I hope the third season won't take quite so long.

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  7. "A Thing About Machines"
    I enjoyed this episode. It’s not because it’s great, because it’s really not. But it is fun. I really liked the way the technology of the day taunted this asshole. He deserved every second of it. If he had even just a smidge of goodness in him then I might be inclined to feel somewhat sorry for him. But he doesn’t, and I don’t. I especially loved the razor taunting him in it’s snake-like slithering down the stairs. So much fun! For me, it’s sort of a black comedy version of a Python skit.

    "The Howling Man"
    One of my favorite episodes. I don’t know if it’s considered a “classic” episode. But, it always aired on the SyFy Channel’s New Years TZ countdown. So, maybe it is considered classic.

    "Eye of the Beholder"
    Such a fantastic episode. I’ve seen it a billion times probably. But in all the billon times that I’ve seen it, I never noticed those damn eyes. What a shitty detective I would make.

    "Nick of Time"
    Oh Billy boy. Why do people make so much fun of Shatner? I mean, I guess he has hammed a performance or two…. KAAAAHHHHNNN…. but overall he’s not the worst actor on the planet. And in this episode, you really feel for his wife. She sees his sanity slipping, but has no way to help him. Not many people play crazy as well as Shatner.

    "The Night of the Meek"
    Meg Wylie… never heard of her before this. But how the hell I didn’t know that Talosian Keeper in the very first episode of Star Trek was female is beyond me. (Hanging my head in dismay.)

    "The Invaders"
    This one was on the line up every year on SyFy’s NYE countdown too. And I always gave it a skip. So, there is at least one other person on the planet who agrees with your ranking of this episode. In fact, I think you were being a bit generous in your star assignment. I liked Agnes Morehead. I always thought she was a decent actress. But I remember listening to her in an episode of the CBS radio mystery theater and hating the episode. When I first listened to it, I didn’t realize it was her till I looked up the credits. But, she was just as awful in that radio drama as she was in this episode of TZ. And all she did in that one was talk. So…. I don’t know. Maybe she was just really good as Endora because that character was supposed to be annoying?

    "A Penny for Your Thoughts"
    This was a fantastic episode. I especially loved Dick York in it. But yeah, that was totally a quarter.

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    1. "A Thing About Machines" -- As is probably the case with a lot of the ones I ranked lowly, I should probably this a second chance someday.

      "The Howling Man" -- It'd make my list of classics, I think, except maybe for the ending.

      "Eye of the Beholder" -- I don't typically notice background details like that, either. Or even foreground details; half the time, if there were a leprechaun sitting in my car's passenger seat while I was driving, I probably wouldn't notice him. Which is kind of a disturbing thought, actually.

      "Nick of Time" -- Well, Shatner did it to himself, I think. But he did so freely and without apparent compunction, and he got nothing to apologize for, unless a half a century's (and then some) worth of excellent work is a sin. And yeah, he's great in this one.

      "The Night of the Meek" -- Well, I think it was kind of a secret for many years. Not sure when/where I found out about it, but it blew my mind when I did. Still kind of does, to tell you the truth.

      "The Invaders" -- You and me versus the world!

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  8. "Twenty Two"
    Creepy, creepy and more creepy. But so much fun to watch. And…. her survival was so satisfying at the end. By the way, that was Jonathan Harris in the doctor role. Pre-Dr. Smith in Lost in Space? Another classic actor from my childhood that I love to watch.

    "Long Distance Call"
    Bill Mumy was just “the go-to creepy kid” of that day wasn’t he?

    "The Rip Van Winkle Caper"
    You know, Rod Serling had a hand in writing the screenplay for The Planet of the Apes. You can see echoes of that in this story with the cryogenic storage units. In this episode, one of the gang has died before the units are reactivated because a rock falls on his case, cracks the glass and makes the gas escape. In The Planet of the Apes movie, one of the astronauts dies before they crash land on the “alien planet” because of a malfunction in the cryogenic unit. The spaceship they used sinks and therefore they can’t use it, obviously, to escape much as the gang of robbers can’t use the truck. There may be other similarities, but those are the two I can remember at the moment. Anyway, in my mind, this episode has links enough to Planet of the Apes so that I enjoyed it more than I probably would have otherwise.

    "The Silence"
    Sad stuff all around. This is an episode Stephen King would have written if he was on the writing staff of TZ.

    "Shadow Play"
    There are episodes from old tv series that pop into my head now and then at random times. This is one of those episodes. I think I first saw it in my teens and I liked it and was bothered by it at the same time. It’s one of those stories that you wish for a happy ending for, but it just doesn’t happen. Dennis Weaver gave a solid performance in this one.


    "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"
    A classic and rightfully so. There’s just not much to complain about with this one. One of my favs.

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    1. "Twenty Two" -- To this day, I've still never seen an episode of "Lost in Space." I keep saying I'm going to buy it on Blu-ray and plow my way through it. Maybe I'll make that my goal for once I'm done with TZ. Which will probably be a while, unfortunately.

      "Long Distance Call" -- I know he's in a notable TZ episode coming up at some point. Never seen that one, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

      "The Rip Van Winkle Caper" -- Oh, now that's a fascinating connection, right there! I knew Serling wrote the PotA adaptation (one of my favorite movies, or at least on the tentative list), so I probably should have thought of it when the subject of cryogenics came up. But I didn't. Fascinating!

      "The Silence" -- Hmm. Stephen-Kingiest episodes might be a decent post once I'm done with the series...

      "Shadow Play" -- I feel like I almost certainly didn't give this one its fair due. Maybe next time! I'll definitely rewatch this whole series someday, and it wouldn't surprise me if I liked a lot of the episodes more. (Probably not "The Fever," though...)

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