- Posted by Alyse Wax
- On November 5, 2015
- 0 Comments
- CONtv 101, The Twilight Zone
Here at CONtv we know that there are so many areas of fandom and so few hours in the day. In order to help you decide if a specific genre, sub-genre, artist, or hobby is worth the investment of your time, we present CONtv 101. A series of “introductory level courses”, CONtv 101 is NOT your typical “best of” list. The purpose of each course is to provide you with a strong, basic understanding of each topic through a carefully selected syllabus.
The Twilight Zone is one of the most influential TV series in history. Even if you have never seen an episode, you have probably seen references to Talky Tina, “To Serve Man,” and a reader who has all the time in the world…. Many well-known actors appeared on The Twilight Zone before they were household names, including William Shatner, Cloris Leachman, Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, and Leonard Nimoy. The series has been spoofed by everything from The Simpsons to Sharknado, generated multiple spin-off and revival series; inspired dozens of films; and has entered the common lexicon.
Rod Serling created, hosted, and wrote most episodes of The Twilight Zone. Already well regarded as a television writer with episodes of Kraft Television Theatre and Playhouse 90 under his belt, Serling soon became jaded after his teleplays were constantly being changed and edited to bend to the will of sponsors. He wanted to do shows with more social commentary, and decided that science-fiction was a way to discuss issues like racism and politics in a setting that was less realistic, and therefore cause less outrage. His pilot episode, “The Time Element” was rejected and shelved for a year until a producer found it and made it into an episode of Desilu Playhouse. The episode was such a success that CBS approved the series.
“To Serve Man” – One of the most frequently spoofed episodes, “To Serve Man” opens with a race of aliens descending to Earth. Many are fearful of the visitors, even after they set about solving all of Earth’s woes. One of their books is found, and the title is translated to “To Serve Man.” The American public relaxes, believing this to be a handbook for taking care of mankind. Humans begin traveling to the alien planet, thinking that it will be heaven. Too late is it discovered that “To Serve Man” is a cookbook.
“Time Enough At Last” – Ironic consequences are one of the trademarks of The Twilight Zone. In “Time Enough At Last,” a Henry Bemis reads every chance he gets. It often distracts him from his job at a bank, and leads to scoldings from his wife, his boss, from people on the street. One day at lunch he escapes into the bank vault for an hour of quiet reading. When he emerges, he discovers a nuclear attack has wiped out life on earth, leaving Bemis the last person on the planet. He is ready to commit suicide when he discovers a trove of books, thousands of books, all relatively unscathed. He goes from suicidal to ecstatic – “Time enough at last to read them all.” Unfortunately, Bemis breaks his very thick glasses, rendering him virtually blind.
“Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” – The double-whammy of this episode always sticks in my mind. A group of bus passengers are stranded at an all-night diner while waiting on word that the bridge is safe to cross. A spaceship crashed nearby and state troopers followed footprints back to the diner. The bus passenger insists that there were only six passengers, but Mr. Ross, a skeptical businessman, sees seven passengers in the diner. This leads to sniping and distrust among the patrons. Despite strange occurrences (lights flickering, sugar bowls exploding), notification comes that the bridge is now safe to pass, and all seven passengers depart. In fact, the bridge wasn’t safe to pass, and it collapses, killing everyone on the bus and in the police car. Mr. Ross survives, and he goes back to the diner, where he reveals to the cook that he is the Martian, there to colonize the Earth in the name of Mars. The cook has his own secret to reveal: He is a Venusian, his people have already colonized Earth, and they have intercepted the Martians.
“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” – William Shatner stars as Bob Wilson, a man on his first flight since his emotional breakdown six months ago. Soon after they are in the air, Bob believes he sees a gremlin on the wing, tinkering with the plane mechanics. No one else sees the gremlin, to causes Bob to act more and more erratic. He finally steals an officer’s gun, cracks open the door, and starts shooting wildly at the gremlin. The plane makes an emergency landing and Bob is whisked away in a straightjacket, presumably back to the sanitarium. The camera pans past the plane, and we see that Bob was telling the truth: the side of the airplane has been shredded, and surely would have crashed had it not been for Bob’s breakdown.
“The Eye of the Beholder” – A woman goes through her eleventh medical procedure in an attempt to fix a hideous deformity. We don’t get to see her deformity until halfway through the episode, when her facial bandages are removed. She is a beautiful young woman, seemingly flawless, until we see her doctors and nurses: all with droopy skin and piggish snouts. In this dystopia, those who can’t conform to society’s view of perfection are exiled to a village where they won’t offend others with their “hideous” visage.
The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree – The Twilight Zone Companion was the first thorough examination of the series. Zicree spent five years researching the show, interviewing people, researching the show, and gathering behind the scenes photos. It is the definitive volume on the series.