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[Apr. 7, 1962] Half and Half (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 25-28)

[Apr. 7, 1962] Half and Half (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 25-28)


by Gideon Marcus

I have criticized the show that Rod built over the course of this, the third season.  Serling has seemed tired, borrowing cliches from himself.  Thus, I was delightedly surprised to find some of the best quality of the series appearing more than half-way through this latest stretch.  Read all the way through because, in keeping with the show, there’s a bit of a twist around the mid-article mark.  You won’t want to miss it:

The Fugitive, by Charles Beaumont

A 12-year old girl with a bum leg has befriended a sweet old man with magical powers.  But he’s on the lam from another world.  Can the plucky child save him?

There’s a lot going on for this episode: genuinely likable characters, several plot twists, fast pacing.  It’s a charming piece with a strong young woman in the lead role.  We need more like this one.  Five stars.

Little Girl Lost, by Richard Matheson

Mom and Dad are wakened by the cries of their young daughter, but when they rush to her aid, she is nowhere to be seen.  Where could she be trapped such that she could be so close yet so far away?

This one packs a punch to any parent.  Richard Matheson has a knack for turning in compelling screenplays, and Lost was apparently inspired by a personal experience.  You’ll be on the edge of your seat all the way to the exciting resolution.  Five stars.

Person or Persons Unknown, by Charles Beaumont

Unfortunately, the winning streak doesn’t last.  With Persons, we’re back to vintage 3rd Season.  A fellow wakes up to find all evidence of his existence had disappeared.  His wife and co-workers don’t remember him.  His wallet is empty of identification.  He slowly goes mad, in typical Twilight Zone fashion and ends up in an institution.  There’s a twist at the end, but it’s not much of a surprise.

What kills this episode is that there is five minutes of content stretched out into a twenty-two minute show.  A far more interesting piece might have been made of him finding out that he was slipping across universes.  There would have been time to throw him into a few different situations and still leave space for an interesting resolution.  Instead, we get this dull story.  Two stars.

The Little People, by Rod Serling

Here’s an episode that starts poorly and doesn’t travel far from there.  Two humans crash land on an alien world (an “asteroid,” per Mr. Sterling’s preview last week…but clearly a planet, even though it’s only “millions of miles” away).  The junior of the crew has delusions of godhood, which are nicely fulfilled when he finds an entire city of tiny humanoids, over which he cruelly lords.  His fun is put to a quick end when another pair of spacemen, these hundreds of times larger, land and squash him like a bug.

It’s a dumb tale, and Serling has apparently never heard of surface tension or the square cube law.  I did, however, appreciate the implied critique of our religions.  After all, does not the Judaeo-Christian-Moslem tradition feature an almighty and oft-times menacing God?  One who would deluge a planet or decimate a people out of spite?  Maybe that’s the semi-precious stone at the heart of a drab pebble of a piece.  Two stars.

***

Now, where’s the Young Traveler, you ask?  Here she is, taking on the month’s episodes in reverse order, so that unlike the viewing audience, you can end on a positive note.

***

by Lorelei Marcus

“I’m hoping we’ll have a more reliable batch of good episodes in the future, but you never know. I’m counting on you Serling!” (me, last article)

Well, I think I can safely say that Serling did come through, for the first two episodes at least. This is a special day, because something that has never happened before, has happened. However I’m not going to tell you what it is until later. This review will be a little bit odd, in that I’m going to review the episodes in reverse order of how we actually watched them. My father reviewed them in the right order of their airing, so you shouldn’t get confused. So without further ado, I bring you “The Little People”

The Little People, by Rod Serling

The episode stays true to its title well, being about a whole city of microscopic alien people. Unfortunately, that’s all the episode is. Two spacemen crash onto a rocky planet (of course the planet has the same atmosphere and gravity as Earth) and are stranded until they can fix their ship. One of the two men happens to stumble on a tiny city, almost too small to see. The man becomes power hungry and stays on the planet, even after his fellow spaceman repairs the spaceship and flies away, so he can rule the tiny people as their “god.” It ends with two real giants coming and accidentally killing the spaceman, saving the tiny people.

I think my biggest peeve with this episode is the fact that the whole focus is on these tiny people and their town, and yet we only get about three shots of it. I understand these effects are difficult to create, but it felt so lazy having almost all the shots be composed of just one of the two men’s faces. I would have loved to have seen some small people or maybe even a model home or two rather than the boring cinematography we actually got. I give this episode 1.5 stars. The story was bland and predictable, the camera-work was boring, and the set was boring. The only thing I liked was the acting! Definitely not one of Serling’s best.

Person or Persons Unknown, by Charles Beaumont

Sadly, Serling did not come through for us in this next episode either. This episode can be summarized in one sentence: Man loses identity. It’s as interesting and ground breaking as it sounds. Normally I would summarize the episode here, but there is literally nothing else to summarize: that one sentence was the episode.

However, despite being the utter mediocre piece of work it was, it did give me something worth while. In the beginning of the episode a man – the one who loses his identity – wakes up next to his lovely wife. He is a total jerk to her as he gets up and changes, commanding her for breakfast. It was then that I realized how much I really wanted to see an episode about a husband and wife switching places.

Just imagine, there could be humor, for example, the man being unable to cook eggs, and the woman unable to tie a tie. However, there could be so many deeper messages in the episode too – who’s “in charge” of the house anymore? Who will actually go to work? Not only that, but I think it would be the perfect kind of confusing, interesting, thought-provoking episode that Serling wants to make.

Unfortunately we didn’t get that episode, we got this one, and I give it 2 stars. It really felt like a bad season one episode, being entirely mediocre and dragged out. Could there still be hope for The Twilight Zone at this rate?

Little Girl Lost, by Richard Matheson

The episode started with a mother and father waking up to their child crying. The way it was acted out felt very real to both my father and me, since we’d both experienced the event from opposite perspectives. Anyway, when the man goes to his daughter’s room he can hear her crying, but he can’t see her! He wakes his wife in a panic as their dog frantically barks outside. Now, I’m going to stop the summary right there, because I want to force you to watch the episode yourself. It’s just that good. Great special effects, superb acting, amazing story telling, and overall a perfect episode. 5 stars, in fact, the first 5 star rating I’ve given anything we’ve watched since my dad started this column!

The Fugitive, by Charles Beaumont

This last episode starts out with a group of kids playing with an old man. Out of these kids, one of them in particular stands out. A feisty little girl in boy’s clothes and a leg brace. She connects most with the man, and its clear that they are close in a cute, grandpa-grandchild sort of way. I’m sorry to do this to you again, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut the summary short again to avoid spoiling anything else about the episode.

This episode is my favorite episode of Twilight Zone, and really my favorite thing we’ve watched since the beginning of the Journey, by far. Now I can hear you confusedly saying to yourself, “wait wasn’t that last episode five stars?” I reply with yes, and so is this one. It would get more than the last, excellent episode, but the meter stops at 5. The only flaw with this story was there wasn’t enough of it. It has everything I like in The Twilight Zone and nothing I don’t. No people going crazy, no padding, no lackluster twists, nothing creepy – just a fantastic situation and characters you care about.  I want you to go watch it right now, well maybe after you finish reading this article, that is.

***

In sum, that truly was a legendary combo with two 5 star episodes in a row. I did the reviews in reverse so I could save the best for last. I hope you will go watch those two episodes and enjoy them as much as I did. And now, I think all that’s left to say is:

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[March 12, 1962] Must come down… (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 21-24)


by Gideon Marcus

and


by Lorelei Marcus

[I’ll let the Young Traveler lead this time.  She’s put her finger on what we enjoy and don’t about The Twilight Zone]

Guess who’s back with another The Twilight Zone review! Well, I personally prefer Rocky and Bullwinkle, but I’m afraid you came here for a The Twilight Zone review, so I suppose I’ll have to comply. As usual, me and my father watched four episodes of Sterling’s show over these past four weeks.

Kick the Can, by George Clayton Johnson

We seem to have found a common theme in all of the very highly rated episodes. Specifically, that we hate them! For example, we have the classic gem, Eye of the Beholder, where the episode can be summed up with: “Oh they’re taking off the bandages… Oh, they’re still taking off the bandages….. Oh, they’re STILL taking off the bandages…… snore.”

This episode was no exception. It was about a group of old people at a retirement home who, through playing a children’s game, are able to become young again.  I wouldn’t say we hated this episode, like we did many other popular ones, but it certainly wasn’t groundbreaking like many make it out to be. There was no real twist, and the only mystery aspect was if they were actually going to turn into kids by the end of the episode. I’m sure it probably didn’t help that I’m not very familiar with kick the can either. I prefer skipping rope, or, of course, watching television. All joking aside, I believe this episode wasn’t exactly bad, but also didn’t go anywhere. It sort of just dragged on without resolving itself. In my opinion, it certainly doesn’t deserve the popularity it got. 1.5 stars.


by Gideon Marcus

Where some see sentimental genius, I see mawkishness.  The setup could have been done in half the time, leaving plenty of room for some sort of poignant decision the part of the protagonist.  I would have enjoyed the crusty old fellow making the deliberate choice to finish his years naturally.  This would address fundamental questions of existence: Is it worth reliving the past when it is the sum of one’s experiences that make a life?  Is there, perhaps, more value in the arc of an existence fully enjoyed?  2 stars.

A Piano in the House, by Earl Hammer


by Lorelei Marcus

I would say this second episode was a great example of a simple concept done right. A bitter art critic gets a self-playing piano for his wife’s birthday, but the peculiar thing is it causes the people hearing its music to reveal their true emotions, brought forth in the flavor of the particular song that is playing. The man, being a sadist, decides to cruelly use it on the house guests attending his wife’s birthday party. In the end, the wife plays a specific song that causes the sadist to spill his darkest fears, humiliating himself. This episode really left a feeling of a mixture of bitterness and awe the way only The Twilight Zone can do. It was very simple, and yet entertaining all the same. I also very much liked the theme of, “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to yourself,” that was clearly displayed throughout the episode.  3.5 stars.


by Gideon Marcus

This piece might not have been nearly as interesting without the entertaining portrayal of the critic by skillful Barry Morse.  His lines are genuinely funny, and he turns a mediocre script into a compelling performance.  Three stars.

The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank, by Montogomery Pittman


by Lorelei Marcus

For once me and my father’s opinions on an episode differed, if only by a little bit. This third show was about a young man rising from the dead, and how the people around him react and adjust. The mystery of the episode is whether he’s a demon, actually alive again, or something else. I won’t tell you which one it is, because I don’t entirely know myself! This episode left on a bit of a cliffhanger, though it is fairly easy to extrapolate and theorize from what they give you. I personally wasn’t very fond of all the people hating and being suspicious, but I know my father enjoyed it, so I’m happy about that. 2 stars.


by Gideon Marcus

It’s all right to disagree.  Two travelers separated by thirty years shouldn’t have altogether identical opinions, should we?  It’s the performances that sell this episode (as is often the case in this show), and there’s no denying that the opening scene is an indisputable gotcha.  That said, this episode tries to have it both ways – lambasting ignorance and prejudice while undermining said condemnation by showing the townspeople likely had the right to be suspicious of the erstwhile corpse.  Three stars.

(fun fact: Ed Buchanan, who played the doctor who pronounces Myrtlebank dead, and then alive, showed up two weeks later on an episode of Thriller as…you guessed it – a doctor!)

To Serve Man, by Rod Serling (based on a story by Damon Kinght)


by Lorelei Marcus

Lastly, we have last week’s episode! In the short time its been out, this episode has also gotten a high rating by many. I won’t say much about the episode to avoid spoiling it, but I will say that I didn’t catch the twist until the end. I have mixed feelings about this episode. It was light and dark at times, but seemed to just drag on throughout. I suppose you could say that this episode was thoroughly mediocre, and I probably will forget it in the future. 1.5 stars.


by Gideon Marcus

I didn’t like this story when it was a jokey throwaway in the November 1950 Galaxy, and I like it even less played straight.  Moreover, could they get someone dopier looking than Richard Kiel (who “played” the alien)?  Lots of telling, not a lot of showing, and a punchline only Benedict Breadfruit could love.  One star.


by Lorelei Marcus

Overall, we had a mix of really good, really bad, and just in between episodes this time around. They total up to an average of 2.125 out of 5 stars. Despite the below average score, I’m still somewhat excited to review the next batch of episodes. I’m hoping we’ll have a more reliable batch of good episodes in the future, but you never know. I’m counting on you Serling! Until next time!

This is the Young Traveler, Signing off.


by Gideon Marcus

What she said…

[February 12, 1962] Out of the Wasteland (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 17-20)


by Gideon Marcus

and


by Lorelei Marcus

Reading a recent Radio Television Daily, I see that Rod Serling is once again up for an award.  I’m not surprised.  While his latest achievement, The Twilight Zone has flagged a bit in quality this season, it has still been (for the most part) worthy TV.  In fact, the last four episodes do a lot toward watering the “vast wasteland” that has chagrined our new FCC Chairman of late.  Check these out:

ONE MORE PALLBEARER, by Rod Serling


by Gideon Marcus

This tale of a ne’er-do-well turned millionaire out to humiliate the elders who once impugned him should be a fairly straightforward story.  Said tycoon invites his former schoolteacher, priest, and senior army officer to a shelter with the intent of convincing them a nuclear attack is imminent.  He wants to hear them recant their criticisms and beg for mercy.  Instead, they stick to their guns, abandon the scoundrel as simulated sirens blare, and the poor fellow has a mental breakdown.

What makes this story interesting is how it’s played.  We only hear of the tycoon’s indiscretions from the sanctimonious authority figures.  The millionaire, in fact, comports himself with dignity and charisma.  One is left with the impression of a story turned on its head.  Was this man really as bad as all that?  If the do-gooders had spared him an ounce of compassion, might he not have been salvaged?  Did he even need salvation?  He certainly seems a better sort that the so-called “good guys.” 

I’ll never know if this depth was intentional, but it did make memorable an episode that, on the face of it, should not have been noteworthy.  Three stars.


by Lorelei Marcus

Ah it’s that time again — I smell another round of Twilight Zone episode reviews! This time I think it’s safe to say the old show has finally gotten its charm back.  Well, let’s dive right in then! Our first episode was more faithful to the old Twilight Zone episodes, carrying that eerie charm it does so well.  This episode was about a man who believed he needed to get revenge on those who humiliated him in the past.  These people were a school teacher, an army officer, and a reverend. It was certainly a very interesting story, given an entire new layer by the acting that I don’t think was intentional.  The story hinges on the fact that he was really a terrible person and deserved all their humiliations, but the character we see never seems like the same person, adding to the whole episode.

DEAD MAN’S SHOES, by Charles Beaumont


by Gideon Marcus

Now here’s one that really sizzled.  An underworld type is rubbed out and left in the alley to rot, but when his shoes are pilfered by a Skid Row resident, the rogue gets a new lease on life as he possesses the bum’s body to take revenge on those that murdered him.  The sparkle all comes from the excellent performance of Warren Stevens, who deftly manages the transition from broken-down hobo to dashing gunslinger.  Four stars.


by Lorelei Marcus

This second episode is fittingly named seeing how it was about a dead man and his shoes.  It was about an old alley bum who happens to come across a dead body with a rather nice pair of shoes.  He puts them on and well, I won’t say anymore to avoid spoiling you.  I will say, however, that this episode was very well done.  The effects were nice and subtle, and the acting was certainly spectacular.  I highly recommend you watch this episode yourself; it was masterfully done and really stays true to that classic Twilight Zone feel.

THE HUNT, by Earl Hamner


by Gideon Marcus

Where do you go when you die, and how will you know you’ve got the right place?  That’s the fundamental question behind this episode, which stars a old man and his dog, two old pals who go off to hunt ‘coon and never come back.  It’s a touching tearjerker of a backwoods tale, the likes of which I’ve not seen on this otherwise urban show, and I found it authentic – very reminiscent of my mother-in-law’s home in Washington County, Maryland, in fact.  I also greatly appreciated the warm relationship between the fellow and his wife; it’s not often that happy married couples are portrayed on TV, especially elderly ones.  Five stars.


by Lorelei Marcus

I would have to say this third episode was my favorite out of this bunch. However, this is to be expected considering it stars not only a dog, but a raccoon too! This charming story starts out with an old fashioned couple eating supper out in their old farmhouse.  The “Old Woman” is worried about her husband going ‘coon hunting that night, but he insists and goes anyway.  Sure enough he gets bested by the animal and drowns with his dog.  He soon passes into the Twilight Zone, taking the rest of the episode to realize he’s a ghost.  There is a twist at the end, but I’d rather you find out what it is yourself.
This was a sweet episode that wasn’t too drawn out or overdone.  It was what it was, and I liked it.  I think you will too if you watch it.

SHOWDOWN WITH RANCE MCGREW, by Rod Serling (based on an idea by Frederic L. Fox)


by Gideon Marcus

You ever wonder how historical figures feel about how they’re portrayed on TV?  Showdown involves a posse of Wild West outlaws sending representative Jesse James to put a certain marshmallowy actor in his place.  McGrew, an insufferable high-rent oater star, has put the black hats in a bad light, James says, and he wants the record set straight.

It’s an episode with some genuinely funny bits, though the joke can only run so far without getting tired – about 18 minutes of the episode’s 22 minute running time.  Like Pallbearer, however, this is another episode with hidden depths.  Jesse James and his gang are not interested in the truth.  Their aim is not to promote historical accuracy for the education of our television audience.  They want to be cast as the heroes.  In effect, they are bushwhacking our entertainment industry to advance their own agenda.  You know, exactly what you’d expect a bunch of last-century criminals to do.

Again, I don’t know if this subtext was intentional, but it is intriguing.  Three stars.

And now I’ll let the Young Traveler finish things off:


by Lorelei Marcus

This final episode was interesting.  It started off in the classic old Western town, which made us do a double take to make sure we were on the right channel!  Soon, the main cowboy drove on screen, telling us that this was indeed, a Twilight Zone episode.  The main cowboy was really an actor playing a cowboy for, you guessed it, a Western.  The only problem is, he was a completely terrible person in every way!  Worst of all, he was giving bad names to the honest men who were chosen to be the villain cowboys in the show.  So, naturally, these tough vigilantes of the past decided to choose someone to go talk to him face to face, in the Twilight Zone of course.  To be honest, I found this episode to be my least favorite out of these four.  This is by no means an insult considering that all the episodes this time around were fine.  This episode had a nice, satisfying, unpredictable ending and certainly got a few chuckles out of me; it just wasn’t as good as the others.  I still recommend you watch it though.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed these episodes. They all had charming qualities and great, satisfying stories. Each were unique in their own way, and really give me hope that we’ll see more of the same in the future. My scores, in order, are 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 3, with an average of 3.75 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend you watch these episodes for yourself, and I hope you have just as good experiences as I did.

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[January 16, 1962] Accidents (un)happen (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 13-16)


by Gideon Marcus

It is common practice in statistics to average out data over time in a rolling fashion.  This gives you smoother lines, free of the jagged spikes of noisy data.  For the last several months, The Twilight Zone has shown a definite tendency toward the lower end of the quality scale, at least in comparison with its brilliant earlier seasons. 

But, I’m happy to report that the last month (ending January 5, anyway) showed a distinct and sustained improvement.  I’ll let the Young Traveler do most of the talking this time around since I find I don’t have much to improve upon her insights!

(Once upon a time, written by Richard Matheson and featuring the great Buster Keaton as a janitor who is propelled from the late 19th Century into the world of today…)


by Lorelei Marcus

Going into these four weeks, I was really dreading what was to come. Prior experience had given me doubts about the quality of these most recent Twilight Zone episodes. Thankfully, this time around, you will not have to hear me rant about how awful these past few episodes were!

To start us off, we had a charming little episode about a man from 1892. He goes to the present (1962) and finds a large scientist who just so happens to be obsessed with that earlier time period. I won’t say much more about the plot since I highly recommend you see the episode yourself. It did give us a lot of laughs, and was partly shot in the old, silent movie style. This was definitely a breath of fresh air from the usual grim twilight zone themes.

(Five Characters in Search of an Exit, adapted by Rod Serling from a story by Marvin Petal, whose title is literally descriptive…)

This second episode did return to a darker feel, but this time it was done fairly well. The episode started out with a small group of oddly specific but different people. A soldier, clown, ballerina, hobo and piper stuck in a completely metal prison, but with an open top. Despite guessing the answer at pretty much the beginning of the episode, it still managed to reveal just little enough information to keep it interesting.  At one point I wondered if this was a metaphor for depression, that feeling of being trapped with no exit, accepting the hopelessness of escape, and eventually giving up entirely.  Just to keep you on your toes, I won’t tell you the ending. I do recommend you watch this episode yourself. Even though me and my father predicted many things that happened, it never felt like the episode went on for too long, which frankly, is a real treat these days.

(A Quality of Mercy, adapted by Rod Serling from an idea by Sam Rolfe, in which an American platoon Lieutenant must weigh the virtues of assaulting a beleaguered Japanese position on the eve of V-J day…)

Unfortunately, this batch was not quite four for four. At least this episode was forgettable enough that I could pretend it didn’t happen at all! Alas no, I must do a review on it for you readers, so here I go. As I said before, the episode itself was entirely mediocre, but I did like the message and the effects. “Everyone is human, even if they are the enemy” is a great lesson that I think to be very true. The makeup was fairly impressive at making one of the actors look asian, and the Japanese accents weren’t completely atrocious. I would recommend spending your 20 minutes in a more productive manner, but I will not stop you from watching this episode.


by Gideon Marcus

My problem with this episode was absence of crisis.  Rather than allowing the Lieutenant to learn from his jaunt through the Twilight Zone, and then let the audience judge the wisdom of his actions, instead decisions are made for the protagonist, and the whole plot sort of meanders along without influence by the show’s participants.  More tightly written, and with actual consequences, this could have been a great one.  C’est la TV.

(Intermission, in which the Traveler family detours away from The Twilight Zone by way of The Twilight Zone…)


by Lorelei Marcus

Before we watched this fourth episode, my dad got caught up in the game show, The Price Is Right, where people were bidding on this cool looking soda fountain! When it ended we changed the channel and started watching. The episode had a much different feel this time, being more of a comedy sitcom rather than the usual Twilight Zone format. The twist seemed to be that one of the cast members was a talking horse! Oh wait a minute, we weren’t watching Twilight Zone, we were watching Mr. Ed! Oops.

So Mr. Ed finishes and we go to watch Twilight Zone. Perhaps, we thought, we would be able to catch the end of it, enough to make a review on. We were pretty sure we’d found the right show; it certainly was more true to Twilight Zone in that it had a lot of scientific themes. Still, it was very different, mainly in the fact that it was entirely cast with puppets!  Oops, again! Turns out we were watching Supercar, not Twilight Zone

That’s when we realized were still on the wrong network. So we turn to CBS, and find…The Andy Griffith show. Good enough. I like this show. 

Still, what happened to Twilight Zone? We start getting ready for bed, only then remembering that this was Monday, and Twilight Zone airs on Friday. OOPS. Darned winter break. Made us forget entirely what day of the week it was!

(Nothing in the Dark, by George Clayton Johnson, featuring a return of Mr. Death and the woman whose profound fear of him has kept her alive – so far…)

Well, the Friday after that wild goose chase, we did end up watching the last Twilight Zone episode. This episode was a lot more reminiscent of older Twilight Zone shows, which was really nice to see after all the lousy newer ones. Like the second episode, it had a good theme (“Things in darkness are the same as they are in the light, and should not be feared”) which I really appreciated. The episode was just long enough to tell a full satisfying story, and it was never too predictable. The acting was slightly off, but it was intentionally so, hinting at certain hidden truths, but not all out saying them. Over all it was a well rounded episode that I thoroughly enjoyed.

My episode scores, in order, are 4, 3, 2, and 3.5. This comes out to an average of 3 stars out of 5. I very much enjoyed most of these episodes and recommend you watch the first, third, and fourth ones. With such a good lineup, it’s starting to look a little more promising in terms of episode quality. Hopefully it will continue to be this way for the next few weeks!

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[December 8, 1961] Fore!  (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 9-12)


by Gideon Marcus

I feel badly, I really do.  Earlier this year, I was given an award by Rod Serling’s people.  It’s an honor I treasure tremendously.  After all, Mr. Serling has given us some of the greatest television since the medium was invented.

But now the wheels are coming off The Twilight Zone, and I can’t help but be candid about it.  This half hour show that used to be the highlight of Fridays is now something of a chore, an event I might well skip if I hadn’t committed to covering it in its entirety. 

Serling himself confessed last Spring, “I’ve never felt quite so drained of ideas as I do at this moment.  Stories used to bubble out of me so fast I couldn’t set them down on paper quick enough – but in the last two years I’ve written forty-seven of the sixty-eight Twilight Zone scripts, and I’ve done thirteen of the first twenty-six for the next season.  I’ve written so much I’m woozy.  It’s just more than you really should do.  You can’t retain quality.  You start borrowing from yourself, making your own cliches.  I notice that more and more.”

The fact is, of this latest batch of four episodes, none of them are particularly worth watching.  There’s Death’s Head Revisited, about a sadistic Nazi concentration camp commander who goes back to Dachau to relive happy memories.  He is haunted and tortured by the spirits of those he tormented.  Great subject matter, but tediously treated.  It’s heavy handed and a bore.

Then you’ve got The Midnight Sun, where the Earth is knocked out of its orbit, spiraling inevitably toward a fiery death.  A woman and her landlady struggle against the rising heat futilely until the both succumb…only for us to find out that the woman was actually in a fevered dream, and the Earth is spiraling away from the sun toward a frozen doom.  I like Lois Nettleton, the star (I also enjoyed her the following week in Route 66), but there just wasn’t much to the episode.  Still, it may well have been the best of the four.

Still Valley, in which a Confederate sergeant gains the power to stop the Civil War, but only by enlisting the aid of the Devil, has its moments.  In the end, though, it’s too static a piece to recommend.  Moreover, we’ve seen the gimmick of actors frozen in their tracks for long periods in the first season episode, Elegy.

Finally, there’s Jungle.  It starts promisingly enough, with a stuffy corporate board deciding to approve a dam-building project in Africa, despite the threat of curse from local witch doctors.  But the second act, where John Dehner flees the drums of the Dark Continent overlaying a quiet New York night scene, never leads to a third.  It simply goes on and on before reaching an utterly predictable climax.  It’s well shot and acted, but there’s no there there. 

None of these episodes merit more than two, maybe two-and-a-half stars.  If not for the production quality, I’d think I was watching one of the lesser anthologies like the one Roald Dahl hosts.  If things don’t get better, I fear this may be the last season for this Hugo-winning has-been.


by Lorelei Marcus

After another four weeks, I have yet to be impressed by Twilight Zone‘s newest episodes. Four out of four episodes were mediocre and forgettable.

To start off we have an episode about another man that goes insane. The victim is a sadistic Nazi soldier, who revisits an old concentration camp he used to run. He gets haunted by the ghosts of his tortured victims, and they subject him to the same, unspeakably terrible things he did to them. The visuals were alright, and I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of the episode, which seems to be getting rarer and rarer for Twilight Zone, but never the less it was pretty mediocre.

The next episode was a sci-fi apocalypse “what if” situation. The Earth had gotten knocked out of its orbit and was moving closer and closer to the sun. It stars two women, and tells the story of how they’re trying to survive. I did like some of the effects in the episode, especially when they got creative and made a painting out of wax so they could make it appear as if it was melting. However, even the effects really didn’t make up for the stereotypical plot. The ending was alright, even if the twist was fairly predictable. I suppose I should be grateful that there even was a twist considering that’s starting to become a rarity in Twilight Zone episodes too. After having just read Fritz Leiber’s A Pail of Air, which is a short story with a similar concept, I think this episode could’ve been written much better. Still, it proved to be my favorite out of the bunch.

The third episode was another take on a Civil War scenario. There has been a lot of Civil War themed content due to its recent 100th anniversary! The episode starts off with a confederate soldier coming across a town of “Yankees.” The only catch is they’re all frozen! Not dead, but frozen in place, unable to move. We soon find out that the cause of this was an old man who practiced witchcraft. Eventually the old man gives the soldier the book, and leaves. The episode ends with the soldier throwing away the book, because even if he could use this book to win the war, the guilt of going against God would be strong. So he burns the book instead. Seeing all the people frozen in place was interesting, but otherwise it was another bland episode.

Finally, the last episode was all about superstitions. The entire episode was predictable and much longer than it needed to be. I did like how there was a real lion in the show, but that was about the only part I liked. I was very bored for basically the entire episode. The plot was extremely simple, and there wasn’t even a twist! I was thoroughly unimpressed.

Overall, the episodes all had decent effects, but lacked plots and pacing. The twists were dull or non-existent, the pacing was much too slow, and the endings were entirely too predictable. I give these episodes an average of 1.75 stars, with the first being 1, second being 2.5, third being 2, and fourth 1.5.

This bunch was thoroughly unsatisfying, and I hope to see better from Mr. Serling in the future.

This is the Young Traveler, Signing Off.

[Nov. 5, 1961] Settling in (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 5-8)


by Gideon Marcus

and


by Lorelei Marcus

The house that Rod built was showing signs of decay, but, as happened last season, The Twilight Zone has gotten a little better a few episodes in.  It’s not perfect, mind you, but I’m still tuning in on Friday.  In fact, Serling’s show, Andy Griffith, and Route 66 are my strongest bulwark against the “vast wasteland” lying behind the screen of the one-eyed monster (sadly, Route 66 wasn’t on this week, more’s the pity).

Anyway, submitted for your approval are the next four episodes of the Third Season (descriptions followed by commentary by the Traveler and then the Young Traveler):

Jack Klugman returns for a amazing turn in A Game of Pool as a aspiring billiards shark who wants nothing more than to beat the best – a deceased legend called “Fats” (played by comedian, Jonathan Winters in a surprisingly humorless performance).  Well, he gets his chance…since this is The Twilight Zone. 

The writing is some of the pithiest I’ve seen on this show, and Klugman is an absolute scene-stealer. If there’s any kind of downer, it’s the ending.  While logical, it also feels “safest” for the show (I understand no one was really happy with Pool‘s conclusion, and it was shot several ways).  Four stars.

For the past four weeks I’ve watched another four episodes of Twilight Zone with my father!  The first episode we watched was about a wannabe legendary pool player, who had a pool game with the legend of that time.  I won’t spoil the ending or anything, but it was very suspenseful and had great pacing.  I enjoyed it very much, there was just enough mystery to keep it interesting.  It was refreshing after a lot of badly paced and bland episodes.  Three and a half stars.

Up next is The Mirror, featuring a Castro stand-in (played by the decidedly non-Latin Peter Falk) as the paranoid dictator of a Cuba stand-in.  After Falk is notified by the captured Bautista stand-in that he has inherited a mirror that shows him his would-be assassins, the island dictator quickly dispatches his compatriots. 

Did I say quickly?  I meant over the course of twenty minutes of swaggering, tedious, brown-faced, fake-bearded monologues.  Falk may have been nominated for the Oscar last year, but this performance wouldn’t let you on to that info.  On the other hand, while bad, the episode has the virtue of being memorable, at least.  My daughter and I have taken to doing faux-Castro/Falk impressions whenever we see each other in the bathroom looking glass…  Two stars.

Speaking of “badly paced and bland episodes,” the next episode we watched was bad.  It was about a new Cuban leader who ends up murdering all his friends due to mistrust.  It’s as boring as my father makes it sound.  The worst part, is this drags on for 20 minutes!  It’s like they thought of one semi-interesting idea, and decided to stretch it so thin across the run time, that there was practically nothing there.  Please, save yourself some time and don’t watch this episode.  One and a half stars.

The Grave is a Halloweeny piece set in the Old West.  Lee Marvin plays a bounty hunter who has been on the trail of an outlaw for months, never quite summoning the courage to face the criminal down.  The bandit’s demise comes at the hands of his own kin, the people of his town resolving to finish the job themselves.  But with his last gasp, the outlaw threatens to strangle Marvin from beyond the grave.  After a good amount of whiskey-fueled goading, and after a little more whiskey-fueled loin-girding, Marvin visits the outlaw’s burial site…and is found dead the next day.  Was it a heart attack?  Or the satisfaction of a death curse? 

A plodding episode, but with some decent acting.  Two and a half stars.

This third episode was fairly forgettable.  So forgettable that I actually had to get up, halfway through writing this, and ask my father what it was about again.  I found the ending to be the most interesting part, so I won’t spoil it, however getting to there was painfully slow.  There wasn’t a setting change until the very end, and the middle was just people sitting and talking.  I must admit that I almost fell asleep at times; still you may watch this if you like.  As I said before, it has a decent ending, but its a matter of if you want to waste your time getting there.  Two stars.

Last up is the thoroughly unpleasant It’s a Good Life, starring Bill Mumy, a tyke who starred in one of last season’s episodes.  The boy has the psychic ability to do, well, anything.  And, like most 6-year old kids with untempered power, he is a terror.  His fellow rural villagers live in constant fear of being brutally murdered and then “wished into the cornfield.”  One brave soul decides he can’t take anymore and attempts to distract Mumy with an angry outburst, entreating the adults to take the opportunity bash the kid’s head in.  Alas, the townspeople, while they clearly are miserable, can’t overcome their fears.  The rebel is slaughtered, and life, such as it is, goes on. 

As horror, Life is effective if overwrought.  I take it as allegory, however.  Life depicts the discomfort humans will endure to avoid a worse fate, even when these same humans have the power to eliminate the source of their discomfort.  As such, I found it effective.  Three stars.

Finally, today’s episode.  I really don’t have much to say about it honestly.  The story was very straightforward, and there was no real message or conflict.  I kept waiting for something to happen that would change the course of the story, but no, it was just a boy with mind powers who didn’t feel empathy.  I felt it went on a little too long, like most Twilight Zone episodes do, and could’ve used another element to help keep the story interesting.  Two and a half stars.

In total I give all these episodes a mean of 2.5 stars.  They were fairly average, and I really only recommend the first one to watch.  The fourth one might be good to see as well, just to be literate (as I imagine “wishing people into the cornfield” is going to become a popular phrase); however I wouldn’t recommend it otherwise.

This is the Young Traveler, signing off….

…and the less-Young Traveler, also signing off.  Next stop…Japan!  Stay tuned for pictures and articles from the Land of the Rising Sun.

[Oct. 15, 1961] Top of the Third (The Twilight Zone, Season 3)


by Gideon Marcus

and


by Lorelei Marcus

Two years ago, CBS aired the first episode of a new television anthology, one destined for the history books.  It was called The Twilight Zone, and it featured science fiction and fantasy themed stories in a most sophisticated fashion.  Twilight Zone garnered its creator, Rod Serling, a much deserved Emmy, and if Serling be remembered for nothing else, it’s certain he will leave a lasting legacy.

The new season began last month, and though I had high hopes, Serling’s creation is starting to feel a little tired.  Word through the grapevine is he’s a bit storied out, and the episodes that used to flow like water from his pen come a lot more sluggishly.  That said, a half hour of Twilight Zone is still better than most hours of other television — and two hours have already been aired this year.  Let’s take a look, shall we?  (Synopsis first, then my commentary followed by the Young Traveler’s)

First up is Two, and it’s easily my favorite of the new crop.  This may well be attributable to it having been written by someone other than Serling – in this case, writer/director Montgomery Pittman.  Two features an abandoned urban setting some years after the start of World War Three.  A ragged young invader (Elizabeth Montgomery) in a threadbare uniform is scavenging for scraps when she runs across a similarly bedraggled native soldier (Charles Bronson).  Though the latter would be quite happy to forget the horrors of war, the Russian woman continues the conflict, repeatedly attacking the American.  Ultimately, through kindness and appeal to reason, Bronson convinces Montgomery to give up the fight, her gun, her uniform, and the two head off into the sunset as friends. 

There is little dialogue in this episode and no twist.  It’s just a little post-apocalyptic meet cute.  What makes Two work is the sublime cinematography, the deft acting.  Bronson has already proven to be a charismatic leading man (q.v. Master of the Air), and Montgomery delivered her virtually wordless role convincingly.  Four stars.

Over the past couple of weeks, me and my father have been watching the first few episodes of the new season!  The first episode was fairly standard.  It was, once again, about life after a nuclear dust-up.  There were only two characters, a male and female soldier from opposite sides of the war.  The episode was basically just them interacting, and almost no words were spoken.  It was exactly what it was trying to be, and I don’t really have much else to say about it.  You may watch it if you like, but honestly, I would recommend skipping this episode.  Two stars.

Serling-penned The Arrival begins compellingly enough: a DC-3 lands at a busy airport with not a single soul or piece of luggage on board.  Grant Sheckly, an FAA investigator, is brought in to crack the case.  A little past halfway, realizing that none of the pieces are adding up to a coherent whole, Sheckly concludes that the plane is an illusion, the result of some kind of hypnosis.  In a tense scene, Sheckly places his hand in the path of the plane’s spinning propeller, and the aircraft disappears…along with the rest of the airport crew in the hangar with him! 

Sadly, this is the peak of the episode.  It turns out that the DC-3 is not some kind of ghost ship, nor is there some sinister purpose behind the apparition.  Rather, the plane is a personal demon of Sheckly’s; 17 years ago, the plane had disappeared without a trace, and Sheckly’s inability to solve the case has haunted him ever since.  It’s entirely too prosaic an explanation for The Twilight Zone, quite possibly the least satisfying resolution to what started as a most promising episode.  Two stars.

The second episode was interesting, at least until the end.  It was about a ghost plane with no one on it, and the man who was trying to figure out how it landed by itself.  His eventual conclusion was that the plane simply didn’t exist, and that turned out to be true.  In the end, the man was just crazy, end of story.  In my opinion there were a lot of stupid moments that could’ve easily been avoided that really damaged the story.  It was an interesting concept, but not very well carried out.  Despite the bad ending, I would recommend watching this one, as there were some interesting parts.  Two and a half stars.

The lackluster run continues through The Shelter, another Serling story.  A convivial birthday party for a neighborhood doctor is broken up by a bulletin from CONELRAD: unidentified flying objects, believed to be missiles, have been detected, and there is but a matter of minutes to reach safety.  The forward-thinking sawbones had built a shelter in his basement, and he quickly repairs there with his family.  Then the doctor’s friends arrive, each pleading to be let in, but the doctor refuses.  Whipped into a panicked frenzy, the neighbors bickeringly debate breaking into the shelter, then fight amongst themselves for the privilege of displacing the doctor’s family.  Racial slurs are cast against the one Jewish neighbor.  Just as the friends batter down the door to the shelter, CONELRAD announces that the UFOs were harmless space debris.  The neighbors, shamefaced, attempt to apologize to the doctor, but it is clear that the trappings of civilization cling loosely to them – and to the physician, as well, who refused to share his refuge. 

It’s not horrible, but this message was done more satisfyingly (and in a less over-the-top fashion) in the first season episode, The Monsters are due on Maple Street.  Two stars.

Episode three was fairly straight-forward.  It re-explored a common Twilight Zone topic of testing human nature under immense stress and danger.  I didn’t enjoy it very much, simply because people going crazy and yelling at eachother is not my cup of tea.  However, it is still an interesting episode and I recommend you watch it.  Three stars.

Last up for now is yet another Serling episode, the Civil War piece, The Passerby.  In the wake of Appomattox, a train of bedraggled soldiers trudges past a burned out home toward a final destination.  The inhabitant of the house is a fever-ridden widow whose husband died at Gettysburg.  She is joined by a maimed Confederate sergeant, who keeps her company as they are visited by several spectral forms in uniform.  One is the husband of one of the widow’s friends, a man the widow believed had been killed.  Then a Union lieutenant whose death the sergeant personally witnessed arrives, asking for water. 

The next morning, the sergeant confesses to a deep desire to continue down the road.  As the widow pleads for him not to leave, she hears the rich baritone of her husband.  He arrives, embracing her, and it is clear now that he, the sergeant, and even the widow are all ghosts of the war dead.  Last up the road is Honest Abe, himself, the last casualty of the “Great Unpleasantness.”

The first half is a talky muddle, the widow giving an overwrought performance of the kind I might expect in a high school play.  Yet, even though it was clear where the story was going (and I have, in fact made fun of shows employing this exact gimmick), I found its resolution somewhat moving.  It’s nicely scored, too.  It deserves two stars, but I’ll give it three anyway.

Last week’s episode was probably my favorite.  It was about a civil war fighter on the long road home who stops, seeking hospitality from a nice young woman.  I won’t spoil too much (though it looks like my dad may have), but despite the predictable ending, I still enjoyed the episode.  The acting was good, the sets, though simple, were attractive, and just overall it had a moody feel.  Of course, I highly recommend you watch this one on your own.  Three and a half stars.

So ends the first batch of the third season.  A mediocre batch, to be sure, though I have to remember that Season Two started badly, too. 

Next week, Galactic Journey will return to the written word.  It’s a little book called The Planet Strappers, and I think you’ll enjoy it (the review, if not the book).  In the meantime, as you know, I went to a small convention in Seattle last week.  While there, I met a lovely young lady who has since become a fan of this column.  She is a fashion model as well as the owner of a clothing store, and she sent me a photo to be included in the column as a kind of advertisement.  Please meet Sarah, the Journey’s latest Fellow Traveler.

[June 11, 1961] Until we meet again… (Twilight Zone Second Season wrap up)

When Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone debuted in October 1959, it was a fresh breeze across “the vast wasteland” of television.  Superior writing, brilliant cinematography, fine scoring, and, of course, consistently good acting earned its creator a deserved Emmy last year.

The show’s sophomore season had a high expectation to meet, and it didn’t quite.  That said, it was still head and shoulders above its competitors (Roald Dahl’s Way Out, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, etc.) The last two episodes of this year’s batch were par for the course: decent, but not outstanding:

Take Will the Real Martian please stand up.  A pair of policemen track the survivor of a flying saucer crash into a remote coffee house.  None of the folks inside will confess to being an alien, but it is certain one of them, all seemingly human, is no Terran.  Paranoia ensues, heightened by some electrical hijinks.  The show keeps you guessing to the end, and then there’s a bit of a twist. 

I think I’d have liked this piece more if it hadn’t been done better in first season’s The Monsters are due on Maple Street.  The episode was also a bit padded, with some unnecessary expository exposition.  I guess I’ll call it three stars, if only for getting to see John Hoyt again.  Jack Elam, who trades on looking weird, was also fun to watch.

I liked this episode a lot, even if it was slow.  It was similar to a previous episode of Twilight Zone, but the difference was this one almost turned the idea of people going crazy out of mistrust on its head (resolving the problem rather than going insane). 

The whole plot of the episode hinges on the fact that “There were only six passengers on the bus, and now there’s seven at the diner!”  At first I thought the twist was that there were only six passengers and the driver, a total of seven, until I did a headcount about halfway through the episode.

Something funny: earlier today I’d been watching the sit-com Angel, which had James Garner as a guest star!  Towards the end they had an in-show commercial for cereal.  In this Twilight Zone episode, one of the men was talking about how good his cigarettes tasted, and I thought for a moment he was going to break into an advertisement.  Of course that didn’t come until the end — when Rod Serling recommended Oasis cigarettes “for the freshest of tastes”.

I would give this episode a solid four.  It wasn’t perfect, and the pacing was a little slow, but I still loved the kooky special effects and funny story.  Even though it was simple, the story had me wondering the whole time.  I was hoping for a little more of a twist out of the end, but over all it was a good episode, and I highly recommend you watch it yourself.

The last episode of the second season, Obsolete, was a morality play.  A meek librarian endures a show trial under a regime clearly informed by Nazi Germany.  In it, he is declared “obsolete” and sentenced to execution.  The defiant man’s sole remaining right is to choose the method of his execution.  The librarian’s choice ultimately places the sentencing chancellor’s life in jeopardy as well.  Let us just say that one faces death more nobly than the other. 

It’s a beautifully shot piece, and the first half genuinely engages.  But the latter portion drags and is so monochromatic in its allegory that there is no room for pondering.  The God-loving, book-toting little man is right.  The Hitler-analogue is wrong.  Aren’t we glad that’s not us?  I give it three stars, but that comes from averaging the two halves.

I thought this episode was only okay.  The concept wasn’t that interesting and it was a pretty predictable episode overall.  The episode starred Burgess Meredith, who has already starred in two other Twilight Zone episodes.  The acting was alright, but the concept was so simple that the episode was almost bland.

The episode was about a society built on the idea that, if you were obsolete, you were killed.  There really wasn’t much else to the episode.  The man was tried, declared obsolete, and killed.  It felt even more drawn out than Martian.

I would give this episode a two and a half.  It was entirely mediocre and predictable the whole way through.  I would recommend skipping this one, because, to put it bluntly, it’s just not good.

And that’s that!  Next week’s episode is a summer rerun of the first of the first season, Where is Everybody.  Go check it out if you want to see where it all began.  Until next time,

This is the Traveler…

And, this is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[April 22, 1961] Out of time (Twilight Zone, Season 2, Eps. 22-24)

I’ve mentioned in previous articles that Rod Serling’s horror/science fiction anthology show, The Twilight Zone, has been lackluster this second season.  But things have been looking up recently, and I’m happy to announce that the latest run has been quite solid.  The show did not air on the 14th, owing to some stop-press coverage of Gagarin’s flight, so I just have three episodes for you this time around.  They are all worthy watching, should you catch them in the summer reruns.

First up is yet another of the awful run of video-tape experiments.  This is #6 for the season, and I hope they’ll give up the effort soon.  Twilight Zone is superlative in so many ways; it’s a shame when it has to settle for, at best, mediocre cinematography.  Long-Distance Call makes do rather admirably, however.  A 5-year old boy loses his doting grandmother but finds he can still reach her on the toy telephone she gave him just before she died.  Tragically for the boy’s parents, the grandma exhorts the tyke to join her – and there’s only one way that is possible.  It’s a strong episode, another episode that telegraphs its twist a mile away but has stand-out character development.  Three stars.

100 Yards over the Rim not only gives the gimmick away early, it’s a theme we’ve seen several times before on this show: namely, a fish out of water time travel story.  Chris Horne, a homesteader working his way West in a truncated wagon train, heads over a rise to secure game and water for his desperate party.  He finds, instead, a 1961 trucker’s diner, and a very puzzled man-and-wife pair of owners. 

Despite the hackneyed premise, it’s actually quite an excellent watch thanks to the efforts of the writer and the actors.  Cliff Robertson goes out of his way to recreate a pioneer from 1847.  Eschewing the cowboy duds that would have been used in a lesser show, Horne is inappropriately dressed for the desert in his Easterner’s clothes, complete with stovepipe hat.  Not only is he out of place in the future, but in desolate New Mexico.  Also effectively conveyed is the idea that folks are pretty much the same, regardless of era.  I liked it.  Four stars.

It’s pretty clear that the following episode, The Rip Van Winkle Caper, was shot at the same time so as to save costs – the backdrop is the same desert.  Interestingly enough, this episode is another time travel story, though of an entirely different sort.  It starts where Rim leaves off: in modern day.  Four men, one a scientist, hijack a million dollars in Fort Knox gold.  Their plan is to hide away in side a hill, put themselves in suspended animation for a century, and then stroll back into civilization with their ill-gotten, but now forgotten, gains.  It would be the perfect plan, if there were any honor among thieves…

Caper is a good watch, and it does a fine job of keeping you in suspense as to the outcome until the end.  It’s a bit padded for the first half, however, and the characters are not quite so engaging as in Rim.  Three stars.

That’s that for April.  There can’t be too much left to the season, so I’ll probably break up the remaining episodes into a couple of parts, with the latter summarizing the season as a whole.  Next up: the May 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction!

[April 2, 1961] Uprooting itself (The Twilight Zone, Season 2, Episodes 17, 19, 20, 21)

Twenty years ago, even ten (and zero in some places), science fiction was all about the twist ending.  Aliens would seed a dead planet with life only for it to turn out…that planet was EARTH!  Or folks might spend a story in a struggle to stay alive, only to find out THEY WERE ALREADY DEAD!  And so on.  Stories would usually end with a shock sentence, often with copious slammers (!!!)

But the genre matured.  Characters, writing, and fully explored concepts appeared.  These days, the “gimmick” often takes the back seat, facilitating rather than dominating the story.

The Twilight Zone, the science fiction/fantasy/horror anthology created by Rod Serling, is generally a cut above anything else on TV.  This includes its pale competitors like One Step Beyond and Way Out.  Unfortunately, several times in the first season, and more frequently in this, the second season, the show has aped the gimmick stories of print sf.  The result is a run of predictable, sub-par episodes.  There is light at the end of this tunnel, however – the most recent episodes have returned the focus to interesting characters and genuine drama. 

First, we have to get there:

The episode preceding the lackluster The Odyssey of Flight 33 was the lackluster 22.  In it, a young dancer has been committed to hospital for an apparent case of nerves.  She repeats a chilling dream: she awakens, a glass crashes to the floor, she follows a nurse to the hospital basement, and there she finds the nurse waiting behind a door marked “22” – the morgue.  It is a clear case of precognition, though no one believes her, including herself.  At the episode’s end, the dancer, wide awake, is about to board a plane.  Just before she does, something crashes to the terminal floor, and she notes the plane is number 22, its stewardess the nurse of her dreams.  She falls in hysterics and watches wide-eyed as the plane takes off without her…and explodes over the runway.

It sounds a lot better when I type it than when you watch it, which is the problem.  It’s yet another of the episodes captured on videotape rather than film, an unsuccessful experiment I hope is ended soon.  The acting is a notch too broad, particularly the sardonic, uncaring doctor (though perhaps this is intended to make us think that even the dancer’s waking scenes are dreams).  In short, good concept, mediocre presentation.  Two stars.

Burgess Meredith is back for the silly Mr. Dingle, the Strong.  Take the most nebbishy of folks and give him the strength of Superman; then sit back and watch the fun unfold.  Of course, you can’t leave it there, so rob him of his powers at a critical juncture to ensure maximum humiliation. 

It’s somehow not awful.  In particular, the strength effects are nicely done.  Lots of scenes with a scrawny fellow lifting heavy objects, punching holes in walls, etc.  Also, the aliens that bestow strength are genuinely hilarious.  Bad concept…but good presentation.  Three stars.

The dreary Static, in which a regretful old man tunes into the past on a magic radio, could have been good.  Like any bad gimmick story, it draws out far too long without developing the characters beyond bare pencil sketches.  Videotape doesn’t help this one either.  One star.

Things end on a high note, though.  The Prime Mover is an excellent character study that starts right – with the focus on the players, not the twist.  Ace Larsen is a fellow who feels down on his luck, despite co-ownership of a little coffee shop, the love of a lovely co-worker, Kitty, and the unflagging friendship of the other owner, Jimbo Cobb.  It’s Ace’s desire for more, what he considers his due, that promises to be his undoing, especially when it turns out Cobb has the power of psychokinesis, able to manipulate items with his mind.

They end up in Vegas, with Ace raking in the dough at the craps and roulette tables.  With winnings totaling $200,000, both Kitty and Cobb urge Ace to pack it in, but Ace wants one more game, even if it means losing Kitty, and perhaps, sight of what’s really important.  At a high-stakes craps bout with a notorious gangster, Cobb “blows a fuse” right as Ace lets his fortune ride.  Ace is left with nothing.

Or is he?  The event proves a watershed for the basically good-hearted Ace.  He laughs off the loss, returns back to the restaurant and proposes to Kitty, who accepts.  As a coda, we see that the seemingly simple Cobb hadn’t lost his power at all.  It was all orchestrated for Ace’s maximum benefit.  Now there’s a friend. 

The episode works because the gimmick, Cobb’s psionic ability, is almost incidental.  It isn’t even revealed until almost a quarter-way through.  While I was pretty sure Ace was going to lose his winnings in the end, I was delighted to see that it wasn’t the point.  Excellent acting and cinematography help, too.  Five stars.

More good news: the succeeding episode was also good…but you’ll just have to wait until the next round-up to read about it!

Coming up, Part 2 of my article on the Women of Science Fiction.  Expect it day-after-day-after-tomorrow.