Tag Archives: television

[Sep. 20, 1962] Out of this World (the British Summer SF hit!)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


By Ashley R. Pollard

The end of summer has come, and autumn is upon us.  The result of the Earth’s journey around the sun, and as my esteemed colleague Mr. Mark Yon said, the weather here has been wet.  Sometimes we get good summers, but this year was not one of those, the icing on the cake being a miserable August Bank Holiday weekend after the weekend before’s promising sunny day.  But, Whether the weather be fine, Or whether the weather be not, here on Galactic Journey we will weather the weather to bring you the latest Sci-Fi news from soggy Britain.

This coming Saturday will see the last episode of Out of this World, which has made staying in on a Saturday night something to look forward to, rather than something that indicates one has no friends or better things to do.  Though to be fair, I’ve been babysitting for my friend, which I enjoy doing.

As I mentioned before, this series was launched with Dumb Martian shown as part of the Armchair Theatre series.  The new series has a very spooky theme tune called The Concerto to the Stars, composed by Eric Siday, which plays against a background of moving microscopic tentacles that sets the tone for the show.  For those who are interested, Tony Hatch has expanded the theme tune into very catchy 45 record, available from all good record stores.

The format of the show has each episode introduced by Boris Karloff, who is disarmingly charming with his bon mots about the story to come.  There are two breaks for adverts, which is annoying, but this is commercial TV, so it is to be expected.  Then Mr. Karloff signs off the story with an announcement of the cast.

The first actual episode shown under the banner Out of this World was the Yellow Pill by Rog Phillips, which was a story that explored the nature of reality and delusions.  As someone who works in the field of mental health, this was of particular interest to me, and it was interesting to see an author’s take on the subject.  The paradoxical ending pulled the rug from underneath the viewers’ feet.  It launched the series, pulling in eleven million viewers, which placed it as the eleventh highest rated show of the week.

Remarkable for any first episode of a series, let alone one advertising itself as science fiction.

The second story was an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Little Lost Robot, whose robot stories featuring Dr. Susan Calvin are some of my favourite SF reads.  While the adaptation is very good, it is a trifle over-cooked, and the ending of the story has been changed so that the robot kills the person who told it to get lost when it is found out.  This goes against Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and is a failure of Leo Lehman to understand the story.  Still, a compelling piece, despite this egregious ending.

The third episode is a much truer adaptation, based on the Cold Equations by Tom Godwin.  There’s not much I can tell you that you all don’t already know about this story of a spaceship with a stowaway.  The play has the rather suave Peter Wyngarde, who was seen earlier this year in the film Night of the Eagle aka Burn Witch Burn, acting alongside a very young actress called Jane Asher.  Her biography mentions that when she was a child she appeared in The Quatermass Xperiment. This was the Hammer Films adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s story that I have mentioned on several previous occasions.

Episode four’s story was Imposter by Philip K. Dick.  A famous piece that, again, should not need an introduction by me.  It’s a classic tale of paranoia adapted for television by Terry Nation, who I mention in passing because he contributes one of the two original stories for this series.  Judging by his story Botany Bay, which was transmitted the following week, he is someone to keep an eye on.

Botany Bay was a story with twists that were disturbing in their implication, set in a psychiatric institution.  The setting alone grabbed me from the start, and the central conceit of alien criminals transferring their minds into the minds of the patients in the asylum set the tone, making the sinister story feel like something from Philip K. Dick.  The denouement that this wasn’t Earth, and the intruders were from Earth, was shocking.

Medicine Show by Robert Moore Williams is a story about two doctors who are alien miracle workers who take payment from their patients in the form of seeds.  Again, this adaptation veers a little off course as it tonally makes it all rather more mystical than the original story, but it feels fresh, and I suspect it will appeal to younger people’s sensibilities.

Episode seven is an adaptation of Katherine Maclean’s, Pictures Don’t Lie.  I loved this story of aliens spaceship travelling here, peacefully announcing their intentions and talking to the people on Earth, which then goes all horribly wrong, because of scale.  They’re really, really tiny, and are lost after they land in what they describe as a marsh.  The humans who go out to search for them fail to see the microscopic alien ship and tragically destroy the visitors from another world when they step on them by accident.

Vanishing Act by Richard Waring, is an original play for Out of this World.  It turns down intensity of the previous week’s tragedy by presenting a comedy (if one may call it that?) The protagonist, a conjuror in search of the late magician Great Vorg’s lost vanishing-cabinet, finds himself getting far more than he bargained for.

The next episode goes back to the more paranoid-conspiracy tone with an adaptation of Raymond F. Jones’s Divided We Fall.  I remember him as the author of This Island Earth — only from the film because I’ve not read any of his stories.  This play presents the intriguing problem of how to tell synthetic humans that are indistinguishable from everyone else.  It features the charming Ann Bell, an actress unknown to me, who I suspect will go far in her career.  Also, this story reminds me of the film The Creation of the Humanoids, reviewed here by fellow columnist Miss Rosemary Benton.

Episode ten, The Dark Star, by Frank Crisp was based on his novel Ape of London.  He’s better known for his children’s adventure books, but this is a credible story about what happens when people get superhuman strength from a disease that chooses its victims according to their standing in society.  I’ve not read the novel, so I can’t comment on how close to the original story this adaptation is.

Clifford D. Simak has not one, but two of his short stories adapted for Out of this World.  The first, Immigrant, is about the planet Kimon, a paradise where people go — never to return again.  A nice story that builds up the tension, ladles on despair, and finishes with an uplifting ending.

However, the second Simak story, Target Generation, based on his story Spacebred Generations, was my personal favourite.  It’s a generation-ship story where the descendants of the crew are ignorant of the fact that they are on a starship.  The hero has to figure what to do with a key that was handed down to him by father with the instructions “only to be used in an emergency.”  With the help of a forbidden dictionary he has to learn how to land the ship.  Gripping stuff, even if it’s a well-worn story; seeing it televised just made it better than it had any right to be.

The final story of the series is on this coming Saturday and titled, The Tycoons by Arthur Sellings.  This is a pseudonym of Arthur Gordon Ley, who is a former scientist turned author, and also known as a bookseller.  I’ve only read this weeks Radio Times blurb, so all I can tell you is that it’s a story of three aliens coming here to make a weapon to take over the Earth, billed as a comedy.

Well, this was an excellent summer-time show, but as you know Irene Shubik and Sydney Newman have gone to the BBC, so I fear we will not see a sequel, which is a shame because every Saturday night it managed to knock me Out of this World for the hour it was on.  Perhaps the American audience will be lucky to see it imported, as I understand Supercar was this Summer, and Danger Man the Summer before.




[Sep. 8, 1962] Navigating the Wasteland (1961-62 in (good) television)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

The Fall season of television is nearly upon us, so it is appropriate that we pause to reflect on what the Idiot Box has brought us recently.  May of last year, Newton Minow, our (relatively) new FCC chief, described television as “The Vast Wasteland.”  While it may have its moments of education, quality, and even sublimity, he argued, the majority of the stuff you see, network or syndicated, will turn your brain to mush.

I imagine anyone exposing themselves 24 hours a day to every game show, every variety act, every soap opera would make a similar assessment.  But what about the selective viewer?  The one who rewards only quality with her/his eyeballs?  And has there been improvement since Minow made his judgment?

Now, I normally restrict my reviews to things SFnal (science fictional for the non-fan), but over the last year, I’ve found myself in front of the small screen more hours than I’d normally care to admit.  And since a subsection of my followers are, perversely, as interested in my humdrum 1962 life as they are in my analysis, I thought I’d give you insight as to what shows keep the Traveller’s tube aglow.

So here are the Galactic Stars, 1961-62 TV edition, covering the television season that ended back in June and has since been in summer reruns.  Many of these programs will continue into the Fall season, so consider this a Galactic TV Guide:

Route 66 1960-

Ever since Eisenhower paved the nation with the Interstate Highway system, Route 66, “America’s Main Street” has declined in importance.  Nevertheless, this national artery will likely always hold a nostalgic hold on our consciousness.  It represents a path to anywheresville, an open road with no limits.  Where the destination isn’t the state of Arizona or Iowa, but rather a state of mind, arrived at only after a long, contemplative journey.

On that road is a Corvette; in that Corvette are Todd Stiles, an erudite Yale ex-pat, and Buzz Murdock, a hard-knocked but soulful kid from New York.  Handsome wanderers (especially the latter!) trying to find themselves, in a myriad towns, a plethora of menial jobs.  They are Kerouac’s Beat Generation set to celluloid, their dialogue filled with poetry and meaning.

There is a formula to the show, albeit one that has lent itself to infinite variation.  Each episode features a new town, a new occupation.  Usually, a local is in some kind of trouble.  Maybe it’s physical danger.  Sometimes they just need to find where their head is at.  There are romances, comedies, hard-hitting dramas…the show runs the gamut.  But ever constant is the chemistry of the two leads, their individual charisma (again, particularly Murdock), the lyricism of the scripts, and the backdrop of our vast country. 

It can be maudlin, it can even sometimes be dull, but it’s usually beautiful.  Always worth a watch.

The Twilight Zone 1960-62

Speaking of literary, Rod Serling pinned the quality bar to the ceiling with this sci-fi/fantasy/horror anthology, blowing the doors off inferior (but still appreciated) precursors like Karloff’s Thriller and Dahl’s Way Out.  Of course, this is a show we’ve covered extensively here at the Journey, but it’s still worth noting what an impact Serling’s creation had on television.  It represents an intersection of innovation, a showcase for writing, acting, cinematography, and scoring.  Even at its worst, it was still decent; at its best, there was no equal.

And now it’s gone.  At the end of the third seaon, Rod decided he was “storied out,” and left to take a professorship at Antioch College; producer Buck Houghton went off to work with television production company, Four Stars.  There’s no sponsor in sight for Season Four. 

However, with nearly a hundred episodes in the can, there’s no doubt that The Twilight Zone will find its way into syndication, where it can continue to inspire.  Perhaps there will be a revival someday.  If not, we can at least hope that future shows will strive to top Serling’s bar, and television will be the better for it. 

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends 1959-

The Traveler watches cartoons?  Don’t scoff.  Ever since the days of Warner Brothers, there has been animation aimed simultaneously at the young as well as the old.  Stuff that combines the rapid slapstick that kids like with witty repartee and sly entendres designed to entertain their parents.

Rocky is a variety show, filled with wacky characters, surprisingly funny puns, and a breakneck pace that will leave you winded.  Indifferently animated, it’s superbly voice-acted.  Whether you’re watching the serial antics of the title’s flying squirrel and moronic moose, or the Silent Era-inspired tales of Mountie Dudley DooRight, or the often painfully punful Fractured Fairy Tales and Aesop and Son, you will definitely laugh out loud at least once per segment — probably more.  It may well be the cleverest thing currently on television.

The Andy Griffith Show 1960-

Now here’s one I honestly didn’t expect to have on my favorites list.  It sounds pretty awful on the face of it: a comedy set in a backwoods town that never quite got out of the 1930s, featuring a drawly sheriff and his bumpkin deputy. 

And yet…

There’s something gentle and honest about this show.  It doesn’t rush, it doesn’t try too hard to make you laugh, and under Sheriff Andy Taylor’s rustic aw-shucks exterior is surprising wisdom and intelligence.  Moreover, the interpersonal relationships are mature, healthy ones — even a bit subversively so.

Take, for instance, this (paraphrased) interchange between Andy and his precocious little boy, Opie:

Opie: Pa, I have something to tell you.  You promise not to be mad?
Andy: I can’t promise that.  What is it?
Opie: Well, I put a ball through our neighbor’s window the other day.  Are you mad?
Andy: No, I’m not mad.  Now I have something to tell you, and you promise not to be mad?
Opie: No, pa.
Andy: Well there won’t be an allowance until the window’s all paid up, do you understand?
Opie: Yes, pa.

No moralizing.  No mawkish father-knows-best.  Certainly no spankings.  Just a discussion between reasonable people.  And if you saw my review of the episode where Andy’s girlfriend, the town pharmacist, runs for mayor, you know the show can be decidedly pro-feminist, too.  Now if they’d only tell where they keep the non-White people…

Other stand-outs include:

Mr. Ed 1960-: despite being overly rooted in conventional gender roles, one can’t ignore Alan Young’s charm, the fun of the barbed banter between Young’s married neighbors, or the impressive way they make a horse appear to talk.

Supercar 1961-62: this British import is definitely kiddie fare, but it’s still fun to watch Mike Mercury and his two scientist associates defeat criminals and triumph over natural disaster.  Of course, the acting’s a bit wooden…

Then there’s the rest…some watchable like Perry Mason (a lawyer/mystery show), The Real McCoys (Okies in Los Angeles), Ozzie and Harriet (dig that Ricky Nelson’s singing), and Leave it to Beaver.  Others wretched like My Three Sons and the endless cavalcade of Westerns (Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, etc.) Not to mention the Game Shows like Password, To Tell the Truth, and What’s My Line.

Hmmm.  Maybe Minow’s got something there.  Still, there’s at least ten hours a week of good TV (including the news and occasional Public Television specials like Jazz Casual and last year’s documentary on homosexuality, The Rejected).

And if you’re watching more than ten hours a week instead of reading that stack of sf books and magazines I’ve recommended, well…

…you deserve what you get!

[August 20, 1962] A Galaxy of Choices (British TV: The Andromeda Breakthrough)


By Ashley R. Pollard

Science fiction on British television used to be one of those once-in-a-blue-moon events.  When it happened, what we got could often be very good.  Certainly Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series was compelling viewing, which drew in a large audience from the general population with millions tuning in each week to find out the fate of the infected astronauts.

The impact of Quatermass cannot be over stated, the name having taken root in the British public’s imagination.  And, now we have a sequel to A for Andromeda, which I reported on last year, to carry the torch for science fiction on British TV, which also looks like it will enter public’s lexicon.  With the additional transmission of the anthology show, Out of this World, we seem to be entering a golden age of science fiction on television.

For those unfamiliar with A for Andromeda, let me do a recap.  The first series, a story set in the future circa 1972, was about a group of scientists building a super computer for the military made from plans decoded from a signal sent from the Andromeda galaxy.  This signal is a Trojan horse designed to take over our planet by creating an artificial human called Andromeda that the computer can control.  It’s all very clever how this is revealed, and when the hero, Dr. Fleming, discovers that Andromeda is a slave of the computer he saves her by destroying the computer with an axe.  Andromeda then burns the plans for the computer, and together they try to make their escape.  Unfortunately, she falls into a pool and apparently dies, while Dr. Fleming is captured by Army personnel.

The Andromeda Breakthrough therefore has to square the circle of how to carry on the story without undermining the climax of the first series.

It should be noted that Andromeda was played by Julie Christie in the first series.  This was a breakout role for her, and as a result she was cast in the film Billy Liar, and was too busy to reprise her role.  So the role was recast, with Susan Hampshire playing Andromeda for the sequel, who is generally referred to as Andre during the story.

The opening episode, Cold Front, starts with a shot of Dr. Fleming being unceremoniously brought back to the base in the back of a British Army Land Rover.  From there we are given a précis of what happened before.  The reveal that Andromeda had not drowned in the pool comes after the Army reports that they dragged the pool and didn’t find a body.  This is quite an effective way of introducing Susan Hampshire playing a traumatized Andromeda.  From there the plot proceeds apace as Fleming absconds with Andromeda to a remote Scottish isle.  But, after some dramatic shenanigans with lots of to-ing and fro-ing, they are captured by the British government.

The second episode, Gale Warning, ramps up the tension with the shadowy Intel Consortium, a multi-national corporation with lots of fingers in many pots.  It is revealed they have copies of everything that our heroes assumed they destroyed, and their own version of the computer.  They now want Fleming and Andromeda to complete their package.

Amongst all the action, the main plot is revealed: the weather of the world is changing, and not for the better, with storms increasing in both number and intensity.  Skullduggery proceeds as the agents of the Intel Consortium, led by Mr. Kauffman from Dusseldorf, eliminates loose ends and brings Fleming and Andromeda to Intel’s facility based in the newly independent middle-eastern country of Azaran.

Episode three, Azaran Forecast, now has Andromeda talking to the new computer, and the plot thickens as Fleming and her are reunited with Dr. Madeleine Dawnay, the biochemist who helped create Andromeda.  The Intel Consortium want the three of them to work for them as part of a plan to feed the world. The strangeness of what is happening to the world’s weather comes to the fore, and we discover that Andromeda’s health is failing.  Fleming and Dawney race to develop a formula to restore Andromeda, who is deciphering the signals from the computer, to health — but can the Earth be saved from what is happening?

The fourth episode, Storm Centres, has the Intel Consortium backing a military coup in Azaran because they are evil, which we know because only an evil corporation would murder people to further its agenda.  We are also shown the world being ravaged by storms, as the weather creates chaos through starvation and droughts.  Conflicts over food become wars as governments try maintain order

Episode five, Hurricane, piles on the effects of the changing weather, and the destruction of the world as we know it.  The scientists realize that an alien enzyme released by accident, flushed down the sink by Fleming in the first series, is behind the Earth’s atmosphere becoming thinner, which is what is driving the climate change.  Intel use this to get our heroes to develop a solution, which can be marketed to make the consortium money.  However, these plans are hanging in the balance as a counter-revolution occurs that overthrows the Intel Consortium.

The final episode is called Roman Peace.  The episode title is a reference to the peace that comes after war.  The series denouement is that mankind must be free to make its own mistakes, if it wants to save itself, and not rely on the hidden message within the message from Andromeda, which turns out to be a cunning alien plan to socially engineer mankind’s survival.  I have to say that I was swept along by the story, and having to wait each week for the next episode kept me fully engaged with the plot.  However, on reflection, mostly from writing this piece in fact, I have to say it all feels a bit melodramatic.  But, still a lot of fun to watch.

Nevertheless, mustn’t grumble because there are still five more episodes of Out of this World to come, and I can say that so far, the standalone stories have been well worth viewing.  Next month I will write up my thoughts for you all to read.  Until then, keep watching the skies.




[June 28, 1962] A is for Armchair Theatre (Out of this World – UK’s new sff anthology)


By Ashley R. Pollard

It seems that television science fiction serials on British TV are like waiting at the bus stop for a London bus to arrive.  You don’t see one for ages, and when you do, three turn up at once. 

Therefore I am quite excited by the announcement of a new SF anthology series called Out of this World.  So excited in fact that when I heard the news, I had to sit down, and then have a nice cup of tea to calm down.  While it’s always good to see SF stories on television, the announcement of a series is also a portent of more to come.

As I understand it, Dumb Martian, which I saw this week, was going to be the story used to launch the new Out of this World series.  But, it was decided that instead it would be shown as part of the very popular Armchair Theatre series, as a way of advertising the new show.  The plan being to entice viewers who may not otherwise have switched on their television sets to watch science fiction to do so.

A sign that we still have a way to go before SF is seen as a genre that can stand on its own merits.

For those who don’t know, the Armchair Theatre is ITV’s prestigious long running series, which has been on air since 1956.  Part of this show’s remit has always been to bring quality “live drama” to the small screen.  Live drama is a euphemism for transmitting and recording a performance while it is being performed, rather than it being recorded and edited for transmission later on.  Currently Armchair Theatre is produced by Sydney Newman, a Canadian, who has taken the show into the top ten shows during his tenure.

The show has aired the occasional SF inspired story over the years like for example, The Omega Mystery, and The Ship That Couldn’t Stop.  Last December Armchair Theatre aired the Murder Club, which was an adaptation of Robert Sheckley’s short story The Seventh Victim.  It starred Richard Briers, an affable young actor, who first came to the public’s attention for starring in the sitcom Marriage Line.  I understand that the success of this adaptation led to the idea for an SF version of Armchair Theatre, which is good news indeed.

Also, as an aside, I have it on good authority that Sydney Newman has been head hunted by the BBC, which is also startling news.

To give some context for my American readers, the BBC is the state owned channel, while ITV is a commercial enterprise.  Usually ITV has more money to lure people away from our state run TV, so this is a coup for the BBC.  And for those avid followers of these reports, you may remember my article in April of last year where I mentioned a show called The Avengers, which Mr. Newman also produced.  With a second series of The Avengers coming in September his credentials for producing successful stories for television are solid.

So, please excuse my digression, but as I said I’m quite excited to be seeing SF on the small screen, having read so much about The Twilight Zone in this ‘zine.  Besides, it’s not everyday that a new SF TV series has a woman at the helm.  Irene Shubik is Out of this World’s story editor, who I know has approached John Carnell of New Worlds for ideas of stories to adapt.

Anyway, coming back to the Dumb Martian, this is a story about what happens when a spaceman purchases a Martian bride to accompany him on a five year tour of duty on a “wayload” station on the moon Callisto in Jupiter space.  He mistreats her, and we find out what happens when she turns out not to be so dumb as he had assumed.  The play ended with Boris Karloff introducing himself as the new host for Out of the World and setting the scene for Armchair Theatre’s spin-off series.

Also, what a coup to get Boris Karloff to act as the host.  His presence brings a certain quality to show, hinting that horror may be a theme, which should draw in his fans and open the show’s appeal to a wider audience.

Next week, we now have not one but two new SF series gracing the small screen.  The other being the much anticipated sequel to A for Andromeda called The Andromeda Breakthrough, I shall be reviewing them both next month.  Also, I will be giving my reaction to watching the film adaptation of the Day of the Triffids, which brings John Wyndham’s popular novel to the big screen too.

[June 5, 1962] Into the Sunset (the End of The Twilight Zone, Season 3)


by Lorelei Marcus

You hear that? That’s the last school bell ringing, signifying the end of the school year. That means the beginning of summer break, and with it the end of another season of The Twilight Zone. However, unlike the previous seasons of The Twilight Zone, I hear this may be the last. I am both sad, and a bit relieved. I have very much enjoyed reviewing this series with my father, and I am very sad to see it go. However, I believe its also time for it to go. It had a very good first season, and progressively got worse over time as Serling strained for more ideas. It was obvious that by the end, Serling was out of inspiration. Still, rather than focus on all the many mediocre episodes, I’d like to go back and appreciate the really stand-out episodes of The Twilight Zone.

The first ones I would like to honor, of course, were the two recent five star rated episodes, Little Girl Lost and The Fugitive. Truly spectacular works that were the perfect balance of peculiar, creepy, and heartwarming. Next I would like to honor The Mirror in its complete awfulness. It was really terrible, in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. Finally, I would like to say something about Time Enough at Last and It’s a Good Life, because I know people are going to be asking about them. Time Enough had an interesting setup and conflict, however I didn’t like the ending at all. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for happy endings, but just having his glasses break seemed like a cheap cop-out rather than an actual twist. It’s a Good Life also had an interesting setup, however from there it just went downhill for me. There wasn’t really a message I got out of it other than “don’t spoil your kids,” which I assume was not the intended theme. At least I don’t have to babysit the kid. If you’d like to see full reviews of all the episodes I just mentioned, and more, just peruse past articles of Galactic Journey with The Twilight Zone in the title.

Alright, enough talk about episodes I’ve already reviewed; let’s talk about the last four episodes. Which just so happen to be the literal last four episodes of The Twilight Zone:

Young Man’s Fancy, by Richard Matheson

We start off with a more Season One style episode. A newlywed couple goes to the husband’s dead mother’s house to pack and get ready to sell it. It becomes clear fairly quickly that the husband is still clinging to the house and the memory of his mother. The wife, on the other hand, is the polar opposite, relieved she can finally have her husband all to herself. Throughout the episode, certain strange things keep happening around the wife, such as a broken clock starting to work again, and a modern vacuum magically changing into a much older one. It seems as if the ghost of the husband’s mother is malicious and trying to scare the wife off. The episode ends with a twist that neither me nor my father predicted for once, so that was a nice surprise. However I am still a little confused by the ending as well, and haven’t really been able to decide what it means. I’d love to hear some feedback of what you think. I give this 3 stars.

I sing the Body Electric, by Ray Bradbury

This second episode was a bit of a contrast to the first one. It was very touching and I found it very enjoyable to watch. It’s about a single father struggling to raise three unhappy children. Everyone misses the mother of the family very much. Luckily, they’re just so happens to be a company that makes robotic caretakers that are perfect for a lonely household! Of course the family heads over to check them out. From this point until near the end of the episode, I was convinced the twist would be that something terrible was going to happen. This idea was only reinforced by the infinitely creepy salesman and his “create your own person” type product. Still, the episode proved me wrong and ended very sweetly. I would highly recommend that you would watch this episode on a bad day, it has a very happy ending and theme, that I think will cheer you up. I give this episode a whopping 4.5 stars!

[Gwyn, our fashion columnist felt similarly (ED)]

Cavender is Coming, by Rod Serling

The third episode was about a clumsy but charming woman who couldn’t keep a job if her life depended on it, and her 24-hour guardian angel, who isn’t so great himself. The Angel tries to make the woman happy by giving her lots of money, but in the end, of course she wants to go back to her old, silly life. Hmmm, this plot sounds awfully familiar doesn’t it? That’s probably because it’s the exact same plot as Mr. Bevis except done worse. I won’t bother to go into detail about my opinions on this episode, since it would be the same as my father’s review of Mr. Bevis. I give it 2.5 stars.

Changing of the Guard, by Rod Serling

Unfortunately, this final episode is not the big awesome finale I think some of us were hoping for. In fact, I was actually having trouble remembering the episode when sitting down to write this review! The entire plot can be summarized to about two sentences. Teacher gets fired and is depressed. Gets told he’s done a lot for the world, and becomes no longer depressed. Now imagine that, but drawn out into 22, very slow minutes. However, I did realize while writing this article, that this final episode had a deeper meaning. The teacher realizes at the end that, it is his time to retire and let a new teacher in. He has left a great mark on the world and will not be forgotten, however he is also done and it is his time to step out of the light. In a way, this is a metaphor for The Twilight Zone. It has had a long, good run, and I imagine it will not be forgotten anytime soon. However, it is time for it to end, as all things must do, and give room for new amazing shows to come. I will still only give this episode 2 stars, because it was incredibly boring, but it did give this for me to think about.

I have the final average of 3 stars. A nice middle to end on. Not particularly good, but at least not too bad either. I will miss you Twilight Zone, but I’m also glad it’s over. Besides, I need to make room for all the fantastic summer blockbusters yet to come. Until then,

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.


by Gideon Marcus

And here’s the Old Traveler..er..the Just Plain Traveler signing in.  My two-and-a-half cents:

Young Man’s Fancy was tedious, though the final twist was somewhat interesting.  Two stars.

I liked I sing the Body Electric less that my youthful counterpart.  It’s a fantasy, not science fiction, and perhaps would been better framed in that context.  But David White (the father) is quite an excellent actor, and young Veronica Cartwright (the eldest sibling) did a fine job.  Josephine Hutchinson, in the Mary Poppins role, somehow left me cold.  Three stars.

Cavender is Coming fell incredibly flat, some of the blame I must lay at Jesse White’s (Cavender) feet.  Two stars.

Changing of the Guard features an excellent performance by British actor, Donald Pleasence, but the soliloquies are all 20% too long, and the “twist” broadly telegraphed.  2.5 stars.

Thus, for me, The Twilight Zone ends with a whimper, and I suspect there is truth to the rumor that the show has failed to get a sponsor for next season.  Nevertheless, however spotty this final run has been, we must still give Serling his due for creating a revolutionary anthology show, one which will rightly be remembered (and hopefully imitated) for years to come.

[May 19, 1962] I Sing the Future Electric (Fashion for the Future)


by Gwyn Conaway

I have noticed trends swinging wildly these past few months. Shapes, colors, and patterns that we’ve rarely seen in the past are appearing in advertisements and our favorite magazines. We are in a transition phase, ladies and gentlemen.

Behind us, the Golden Age of the fifties is rosy and romantic, a time of economic surplus and increasing leisure. I see this past decade as the slow climb of a roller coaster. With John Glenn’s successful Mercury-Atlas 6 spaceflight just months behind us, I realize now that his success marks the top of the roller coaster’s first hill. We’re now looking down at a twisting, speeding track. It’s the sixties, and I can tell it’s going to be a wild ride.

A recent episode of The Twilight Zone entitled ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ sparked my clarity on the subject of fashions heading our way these next several years.  It was the show’s one-hundredth episode, written by Ray Bradbury. A widowed father fears that his children don’t have the motherly guidance they need, and so purchases a made-to-order robot grandmother to care for them. Although his eldest daughter, Anne, is angry that her real mother died, she eventually sees Grandmother as a part of the family. Once the children have grown up, Grandmother returns to her manufacturer to be disassembled and await the next family.

This particular episode struck me in a way others have not. The costume design, which complements the script beautifully, communicates a future in fashion and popular mindset that is both exciting and chilling. It speaks of our scientific euphoria, but also our fears in embracing such an utopia.

Our optimism toward science and the future is evident in the costumes. The entire main cast wears grid-like stripes, plaids, and other formulaic patterns rather than organic motifs such as florals. Only when the children grow up and truly see Grandmother as a family member, do these regimented patterns disappear.


(From left to right) Karen, Anne, and Tom discuss purchasing a robot grandmother.

Note the siblings in the photograph above. Karen and Tom wear windowpane and plaid, respectively. Anne, the most hesitant of the three to adopt the ideas in their Modern Science magazine, wears bows on her dress, but even these organic motifs are arranged in a grid.

I opened my copies of Montgomery Ward from 1959 and this year’s most recent issue of Lana Lobell for comparison. Just two and a half years ago, young women wore romantically arranged florals that took up the entire cloth. This year, however, we see the same motifs separated into sparse patterns and parallel lines.


The Montgomery Ward versus the Lana Lobell fashions of the past few years. This subtle change in pattern arrangement marks the beginning of a new era.

One could say this is simply an evolution of aesthetic; reinventing established symbols for the next era. However, I postulate that this shift is indicative of a larger change coming our way. Younger generations have begun to protect themselves against a larger, more dangerous world. Where before our florals were a ‘garden’ upon the cloth, now they’re sparsely placed single blooms. We’re stepping away from such romanticism in favor of arming ourselves with both excitement and fear of the future.

Let us return to the episode to explore this more technologically-driven aesthetic. The company Fascimile offers the children many physical options for creating their perfect caregiver. Unquestionably the most provocative scene of the story, I was struck by the realization that we no longer romanticize a balance of leisure, work, and home in the way of the fifties. Rather, we view our lives and bodies as the canvas of modernism. We are beginning to package ourselves as a certain model of person.


These ensembles are decorated in this year’s latest floral motifs and stripes. The Fascimile salesman offers a wide selection of parts to build your perfect caregiver. From eye color to hair style, fashion to height, voice to sturdiness, the choice is yours!

In fact, the renewed popularity of square patterns, such as windowpane and plaid, can be definitively linked to the way in which our workplaces and homes are changing. As computing systems become more pervasive, the rooms in which we work become more ‘square’ as well. Offices and homes are becoming sleek, plastic, metallic, rubberized.

In ‘I Sing the Body Electric,’ we can see this relationship emerging. Perhaps the most interesting ensemble of the episode is the dress Grandmother wears during the climax of the story. It’s vertical lines trapped in neat horizontal rows reminded me immediately of the first integrated circuit created by Jack Kilby in 1958. These circuits, I’m told, are now being used in large computing machines, such as the IBM 7030. The IBM 7030 also arranges its various compartments in rows of vertical towers.


Grandmother’s dress compared to the IBM 7030 (top) and Kilby’s circuit (bottom). Note that even Grandmother’s belt maintains the horizontal rows of vertical lines.

But couldn’t this be a pattern only within this episode of The Twilight Zone? I asked myself the same question. I perused my fashion magazines and became excited. Women’s accessories, coats, purses, and clothing are all following this same pattern of evolution when we compare the fashions of just a few years ago to our current season:

While this hat from 1960 (left) is sweeping and sweet, the current fashion of 1962 (right) feels more like a helmet to protect the wearer from the outside world. This is another symbol that both showcases our fear of nuclear war, and our excitement for the future.

Christian Dior swings from a return to the Watteau back, the most romantic of all French Rococo 18th century women’s silhouettes in 1959 (left) to experimenting with the human body as geometric shape in one of his most recent designs of this year (right).

Christian Dior’s 1962 collection continues to push the boundaries of shape. This ensemble mirrors the silhouette of the Mercury-Atlas 6 right down to the flat-top hat. The luscious shine of the coat suggests sleek and minimalist will reign supreme in the coming years.

Ray Bradbury’s one-hundredth episode of The Twilight Zone did not disappoint. ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ took me on a whirlwind of a ride. His masterful screenplay helped me see the mouthwatering potential for change in the latter half of our decade. What will more scientific advancement do to our fashion? Will we wear flight suits instead of dresses? Helmets instead of hats? Will we integrate with computing machines in the far future so that we too can be made-to-order?

Young men and women may think they’re buying simple clothes, but in reality, they’re arming themselves for an unpredictable yet invigorating future. They’re setting aside romance in favor of progress.

But who’s to say modeling themselves after computing machines and space capsules isn’t a sort of romance of its own?

[May 7, 1962] Escape (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 30-33)


by Gideon Marcus

It’s a scary world outside, between Berlin, Cuba, and Laos (not to mention prejudice and hunger right here at home).  That’s why we turn to fantasy – to distract ourselves.  Of course, sometimes the stories we turn to are scarier than our real-world problems.  The truly macabre, the horrifying, take some of the edge off our everyday woes.

Since its inception almost three years ago, anthology show The Twilight Zone has been a stunner.  Filled with literary merit and some whiz-bang ideas, one could always count on CBS to deliver far out chills every Friday evening.  This Third Season of the show hasn’t been as good, overall, as the prior two seasons; its creator, Rod Serling, seems to be written out.  Nevertheless, even at its worst, The Twilight Zone generally has something to recommend itself.  Perhaps after this season is done, Serling will take a well-deserved rejuvenating sabbatical.  But then, who will take us from our woes?

Hocus-Pocus and Frisby, by Rod Serling, based on a story by Frederic Louis Fox

Right off the streets of Mayberry (even to the sharing of at least one of the bit characters), Hocus is the tale of a teller of tall-tales, a shopkeep who cannot refrain from telling the biggest whoppers about himself.  Unfortunately for him, a flock of aliens take his claims seriously and make to abscond with him to their home planet, where he can entertain the folks at home with his unparalleled prowess. 

It runs a bit long, and there’s only so much one can take, but Hocus isn’t bad.  It’s at least fun to watch.  Three stars.

The Trade-ins, by Rod Serling

The time is the future.  The gimmick is a process that allows the aged to turn in their worn physical vessels in exchange for perfect androids.  But when only one member of a devoted old couple can afford the operation, can their relationship survive?

Told like that, I think this story could have been a real winner.  An exposé of an utterly changed partnership.  Instead, too much time is spent on the prelude; a lot of exposition is blown (though not without an effective piece of acting on the part of the expositioners) in the first act.

The gem of this piece comes at the two-thirds mark, when the husband attempts to double his money in a card game.  This 5-minute detour, alone, is worth the price of admission. 

All told, a missed opportunity, but not a wasted half hours.  Three stars.

The Gift, by Rod Serling

Just over the border, a spaceman crashlanded on Earth, despite his peaceful intentions, receives a chilly reception from the peasant yokels of Mexico.  If the Third Season has unexpectedly given us the best episodes of the series, it has now undoubtedly given us the worst.  Not only is The Gift an incredibly insensitive portrayal of our neighbors to the South, but the acting is almost universally horrid.  Yes, I know that Americans are also skewered on Sterling’s show (witness The Monsters are Due on Maple Street and The Shelter, but the brush used to paint the Mexicans in The Gift is broad enough to service a superhighway.  Bad script, bad portrayal, one star.

The Dummy, by Rod Serling, based on a story by Lee Polk

Last up is this fascinating, if opaque, piece on a ventriloquist haunted by the dummy of whom he is supposed to be the master.  Cliff Robertson, who we’ve seen before, does a fine job, as do his cast-mates.  But the ending, which seems to imply that the wooden and the living have switched places, is so ambiguous and untelegraphed that it is either a brilliantly subtle twist, or the sign of a writer who doesn’t know how to end the story.  I give it three stars; you might award more or fewer depending on if you get it better than I do.

***

And now for a look from the younger perspective… The Young Traveler:


by Lorelei Marcus

I can’t believe it.  We’re almost done with Season 3 of Twilight Zone! Only four more episodes to go. Still, that’s four weeks from now, so I should probably focus on the episodes we’ve already watched.

Hocus-Pocus and Frisby, by Rod Serling, based on a story by Frederic Louis Fox

This first episode was fairly predictable from the beginning. It stars this old farmer man named Frisbee, who is either the most talented person in the world…or just the most talented liar in the world. He gets captured by aliens who believe that all of his grand tales are true. He finally escapes by playing his harmonica and running home.

Of course his friends don’t believe him when he tells them about the aliens. It was the classic “boy who cried wolf” story, and I think its a good example of how Serling is running out of ideas. I did like the main character Frisbee and his old fashioned general store, as well as his tall tales, but that’s really all the episode had going for it. I give it 2.5 stars – the story was unoriginal, but the setting and characters were fun.

The Trade-ins, by Rod Serling

Episode 2 was more original, and bitter sweet. It begins with a sweet old couple going to a company to buy new bodies! The process allows one to transplant one’s consciousnesses into the body of a young adult in its prime, letting one live the best of life over again. The couple is very excited and dream about all the things they could do together once they’re young again. Unfortunately, the procedure is very expensive, and they can only afford it to be done to one of the two of them.

I don’t want to say any more, because I do want you to watch the episode yourself. It’s not one of the best Twilight Zone episodes ever, but it is very sweet. I was very worried the episode was going to end tragically, but it also created some suspense, figuring out which path the story was going to take. I give this episode 3 stars; sweet and not too drawn out.

The Gift, by Rod Serling

Episode 3 felt very weird to me. It was about an alien(in the form of a white man) who came to a small Mexican town. He was injured and looked at by the town doctor. Along the way he befriends a little Mexican boy. They connect because they both seemed to be outcasts to different degrees. Meanwhile, the town grows increasingly uneasy as one of their officers seemed to have been killed by the strange man/alien. At the climax the man is shot and killed as he tries to give the towns people a gift.  Out of fear the townspeople burn part of the gift, which turns out to be the formula for a cure for cancer.

I don’t quite know how to explain why this episode was so weird to me, but I’ll try to convey it best I can.The pacing was clunky and off, the story confusing, and the acting… Well, let’s just say the child actor they chose to play one of the most crucial characters in the story, couldn’t act all. I believe this was Serling’s attempt at turning the idea of racism and white supremacy on its head, but it didn’t turn out that way at all. Instead we got a, “not all strangers are bad” story. I give it 1.5 stars.

The Dummy, by Rod Serling, based on a story by Lee Polk

Ah the final episode. This one was suitably weird, but also very confusing. It opens with a ventriloquist’s act at a nightclub. My first thought was, “Oh I bet the dummy’s going to come to life.” Well, I was right, but as my father pointed out, the dummy being alive was not the twist but the problem. The rest of the episode is the man slowly coming to terms with the fact that the dummy is alive. It haunts him and he becomes more and more distressed until he finally accepts that he put so much of himself in the dummy, that it’s now alive. The twist at the end, is the dummy and the ventriloquist have switched places.

I found this incredibly confusing. We kept expecting the story to go somewhere, but it never really did. It was just this man’s spiral into the Twilight Zone with a confusing ending. I, personally, believe the dummy being alive was actually all in the man’s head, and he’d made himself believe that it wasn’t.  I would like to know what you think this episode means – we’ll attach your ideas to this column. Maybe together we can figure it out. This episode gets 2 stars.

***

Well it was a less than exciting lineup today, but at least there’s only four more episodes. Unless it gets renewed for a 4th season, which I’m not so sure it will considering how bad its been. Still, we won’t know for a while yet, so I’ll see you in 4 weeks!

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[Note: It appears that we completely forgot about the…well…forgettable 29th episode of this season.  We’ll cover it next time.  Stay tuned!]

[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.