Here, There be a Writer

Monday, May 13, 2013

Twlight Zone (Now you have the Theme Song stuck in in your Head)

There are few TV shows that leave me feeling truly entertained after having watch them, Doctor Who is one of them, but another show that I have grown up with and feel a special kinship with is "The Twilight Zone." Even after having watched the entire series via Netflix, or DVD (in the case of of season 4, which is NOT on Netflix. How irritating!). I still get this sense of joy and the creepy jibblies from this little show. My parents and I would watch, ever year, the New Year's Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi channel. There stories were just very well done, even believable. Granted my Dad used to tell me that people were scared more easlier in the 50's and 60's, but I still got the jibblies after watching, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" or "Mirror Image". I feel that Rod Serling gave me my first sense of storytelling.

Twilight Zone is one of the most unique shows out there...with The Outer Limits (TZ younger brother) a close second, (I watch the Outer Limits less). Twilight Zone aired first in 1959 and had one of the best creative minds at the helm, Rod Serling, a screenwriter, play write, radio/television producer. Here are a few neat facts about Mr. Serling:

1. He was born in Syracuse, lived in Binghamton,  and died in Rochester, NY (it's kinda of funny to note that there are a number of episodes that mention someplace in New York state: Buffalo, Ithaca, Cortland, Syracuse (I live in Corning, which is only about 90 minutes from Binghamton, so I feel a kinship because of this). Rod even taught at Ithaca College briefly.
2. Out of 156 episodes made for the Twilight Zone, Rod wrote 92 of them, that's over half. All of the stories are really good, but his were especially well done. He definitely knew how to tell a story.
3. Rod Serling had been stationed in the Phillipines during WWII and there are a number of episodes that feature the Phillipines as the setting, that and death.
4. He was a boxer in the army, another subject that he used with some degree of frequency.
5. Rod loved to perform and his father had built a stage in the basement of their house where he and other children would put on plays. He also was into radio while in college. Hmm, I see  pattern here.

Today, I would like to present my top 10 favourite Twilight Zone episodes (with minimal spoilers, darling!)

Honourable Mentions (because there really are too many episodes too mention):
~Two (September 15, 1961)
 Starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Charles Bronson...The survivors of a major war and there are only two left. Very little dialogue, but that's the best part. I think it's also my favourite thing that Charles Bronson was in.


~Death’s Head Revisited (November 10, 1961)
A Nazi Captain in the SS returns to a concentration camp and meets the ghosts who are still live there.

10. The Monsters are Due on Maple Street (March 4, 1960)
I remember this from high school. I believe it was in one of my English books as a short story. I have recently discovered a PDF file of a play adaptation. We may have even watched this in class. I seemed to remember really enjoying class that day because of this episode.

9. The Changing of the Guard (June 1, 1962)
Starring the Indomitable Donald Pleasance (I shot him SIX times!)
A touching story about learning the value of your own worth.  

8. Time Enough at Last (November 20, 1959)
Starring Burgess Meredith
What happens when you get what you want, and then Irony comes to visit.

7. 22
Probably the creepiest thing, outside of "Mirror Image". The waking nightmare of an overworked dancer and her nightly 'trips' to the morgue.

"Room for one more, Honey."
6. Will the Real Martian Please Stand up? (May 26, 1961)
In the vein of a Whodoneit, but more like a Whoisit, trying to figure out who the REAL Martian is. It is very similar to Monsters on Maple Street, with people trying to place blame on others who are different.

5. Mirror Image (February 26, 1960)
What would happen if you met yourself, or your twin from a parallel universe? This is definitely the creepiest of episodes, with a Vera Miles playing Millicent Barnes who encounters the strangest events in a bus depot in Ithaca, NY. This is one of those episodes that reminds me of where I live. I sounds silly, but I like when I encounter show or movies that mention places I lived in, or live near and frequent.

4. The Midnight Sun (November 17, 1961)
This episode reminds me of a one act that his husband once performed (well twice now) that is based on the world of Firefly/Serenity. That post apocalyptic world with people living in a dying world. How would life really be like in this world? 

3. Five Characters in Search of an Exit (December 22, 1961)
This is the type of show/play that I would love to write, because you don't know anything more than the characters knows at the start of the episode. There is a play called "Six Actors in Search of the Author" by Luigi Pirandello about 6 discarded characters that are looking for a way to live in the play that is being rehearsed. I think that Rod used that as inspiration for this episode.

2. Eye of the Beholder (November 11, 1960)
Starring Donna Douglas (Ellie Mae Clampett) and Maxine Stuart.
What do we consider beautiful? It's a nice reminder that beauty is what we perceive it to be. Little did I know that the spoken lines were all performed by Maxine Stuart while under bandages, and when she was revealed at the end of the episode, there was Donna Douglas. I had thought it was Douglas the whole time. Originally, Maxine Stuart was gonna voice the one line of dialogue after the bandages came off and dubbed over Douglas, but in the end, Douglas had perfected Stuart's voice to say the line herself.

 1. Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (February 28, 1964)
Ambrose Bierce
This is my Favourite short story ever! Written by Ambrose Bierce, I read it in  high school and later college. It's just such a twist. I was even more thrilled when I discovered the there was a Twilight Zone episode of "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". I didn't know that it was originally a French short film that Rod Serling included in his show, because it was so awesome, that and it's was cheaper to pay for the right than show another episode (as he usually went over budget).

After the "Something Different" Spaghetti Dinner Theatre this past weekend, which featured one of my one acts, "Out For a Walk", I feel a closer kinship to Rod Serling, as the script has that thriller feeling and a  twist ending. While I am still perfecting the art of the twist ending, I am really proud of the cast for "Out For a Walk". I think Rod would have been proud of it too. I might even put it on the internet when the DVD is done.

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