Unless you’re watching the rather dull Men Into Space, the putatively “realistic” tales of astronaut Colonel MacCauley and his lunar mission crew, there isn’t a lot of science fiction or fantasy on television. Thank goodness we have Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone to tune into every Friday night. This is a mature show for adults, and while the scripts have not been as cutting edge conceptually as the stories you can read in the digests, they evince a sophistication you won’t find much of…well, anywhere, on television.
It has been a month since the last Twilight Zone round-up, so here’s a summary of the last four episodes so you’re ready come rerun time:
I’d had high hopes for The Hitch-Hiker after seeing its star, Inger Stevens in The World, The Flesh, and the Devil. Ms. Stevens drives cross-country with a spectral hitcher constantly on her tail. The story is let down by a couple of points. The story is largely told in narration—Ms. Stevens mostly tells rather than shows her plight. This strikes me as lazy storytelling. I also find the section where she picks up a sailor to keep her company (and maintain her sanity) particulary off-putting; the fellow who accompanies her is far creepier than any shabby hitching bum. I can’t figure out if this was intentional or not. I suspect not.
The Fever is more of a public service warning against the dangers of gambling in which a normally sober husband is seduced by a demonic slot machine who calls the man’s name with an eerie tinkling, silver dollar-laden voice. It is highly overwrought, and the ending is ridiculous. Moreover, one can’t help feeling glad that the domineering wretch gets his comeuppance; he really is inexcusably rude to his wife, and his initial sanctimony, rather than pointing up the tragedy, is just annoying.
That puts us at two for two episodes involving someone going raving mad by the second act!
But then you get The Last Flight, which makes up for a lot of prior sins. Yet another Richard Matheson teleplay (and far better than Third from the Sun), it’s the story of a Royal Air Corps aviator who takes off from a French airfield in 1917 and lands at a French airfield in 1959. There is some delightful paradox looping and a very pretty Nieuport plane, and it’s all a lot of fun. My daughter, who is just old enough to appreciate such things, noted that the pilot’s British accent was “so cute!”
Finally, we have The Purple Testament, another war-themed episode, involving a young Lieutenant in the Pacific Theater who can see death in his soldiers’ faces several hours before their last breaths. Unremarkable, unambitious, at every turn predictable.
The show started so promisingly that it’s frustrating when one gets several mediocre turns in a batch. Still, even the worst episodes generally have something to recommend them, there’s no slighting the production values, and the stand-outs keep my daughter and I watching every Friday night.
As you all know, my editor loves to publish reader commentary in this column, so please feel free to tell me your thoughts on this show. Do you agree with my rather curmudgeonly appraisals? Do you wish to set me straight? Sharpen those quills!
Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you’re waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!
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