I have a confession to make; one that will surprise and possibly upset you: I have seen more episodes of 2002's Twilight Zone revival starring Forest Whitaker than I have the original Rod Serling-led series that ran from 1959 to 1964. Over the years I've seen a few on late night TV, and usually not paying much attention to boot - I've probably "seen" more episodes via Simpsons parodies (or 1983 feature film remakes) than the right way. It's depressing, really.
But a recent acquisition of the series boxed set (a newly packaged version from RLJ that is hitting stores on November 19th) has given me the opportunity to fix that. This post is part of a new limited series column, where I will go through a disc at a time and offer some highlights on each as I make my way down the path of being a much more educated genre fan (not to mention someone who will understand 7-8% more "Treehouse of Horror" gags). Join me, won't you?
Season 1, Disc 2
Time Enough At Last
Perchance To Dream
And When The Sky Was Opened
What You Need
The Four Of Us Are Dying
Third From The Sun
I Shot An Arrow Into The Air
Favorite Episode: And When The Sky Was Opened
This was a tough one, as all of these were pretty great (I even liked my "Not a Classic" pick!). "Time Enough At Last" seems to be the most famous of this lot (meaning, it's the one I've seen parodied the most), but Burgess Meredith's wife's cartoonish villany towards reading kind of deflates it a bit (honestly, it was probably my second least favorite of the eight). But "Sky" I knew nothing about, and unlike the other space-centric episodes on this disc, it didn't have a big twist that I was able to see coming due to having been ripped off by 900 other genre stories. Nope, just a straight up mystery about the crew of a flight being wiped from existence, with Rod Taylor as the only man alive who remembers that he had TWO crewmates, not one.
And* I particularly liked the structure, where we learn that someone's missing before a flashback reveals how it actually played out - it allows the episode to be a bit more of a puzzle than most, and helps make it a bit sadder in retrospect, as once we realize that Taylor isn't crazy (as he seems at first), we realize that it'll happen to him as well, just as he's completely earned our sympathies. This wouldn't have worked as well (if at all) if it was told completely in order, so kudos to Serling (working off a Richard Matheson story) for pulling that off. But really, on the whole this disc is loaded with A-episodes, though I was a bit surprised to see that not a single one of them focused on a female character.
Not A Classic: Perchance To Dream
I almost gave this to "I Shot An Arrow...", because it had the exact same twist (albeit inverted), as the previous episode and thus it felt a bit repetitive. But modern audiences are most likely watching out of order via syndication and thus I can give it a pass. So the "honor" goes to "Perchance", which isn't a total dud but is a bit aimless at times, and the hero's plight wasn't as interesting to me as the other episodes (though I did like the visual style of the carnival scenes). I didn't even notice it when I watched, but when going back to double check episode names and such, I discovered that it was the first episode of the series that wasn't written by Serling himself (Charles Beaumont was the writer), making my minor indifference toward it a bit amusing in hindsight. But really, if this is the disc's "low" point then it's a damn fine collection.
None really; a pre-Birds Rod Taylor was the closest match I saw, but that was the era of his biggest popularity and thus there's no "look how young he looks!" appeal. However, "The Four Of Us Are Dying" was composed by a young Jerry Goldsmith, so that was a nice little surprise.
*I also like that the episode title began with "And". The "rule" is you're not supposed to start off a sentence with "and", but my hero Jim Steinman quite cleverly used it as the first word on the first song of Bat out of Hell II ("And I would do anything for love..."), which sort of bridges it with the first album. So as a result I almost always use it to start off a paragraph in many of my reviews as a sort of tribute.