Television Reviews

The Twilight Zone: Volume 5 – Humanity’s Relationships in Four Character-Driven Pieces

The Twilight Zone is a show that can easily be described as a timeless classic. Created by the late Rod Serling back in the 1950s, it had its roots in what he wasn’t allowed to do on television at the time, rather than what he was allowed to do. Serling’s vision holds up well even today as this has become a show my own children look forward to viewing. Every New Year’s Eve we settle down and watch the marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel. It provides some great discussion as well as a lot of fun.

Each episode of The Twilight Zone is a stand-alone story. There are actors who might have appeared in a few episodes, but they are portraying different characters each time. This is nice since it doesn’t matter what order the shows are viewed or if you miss one.

For the DVD volumes, they seem to have been put together with an intention of a sort of themeing. The episodes included in each volume span various seasons of the show and are not shown in any particular order. Volume 5 seems to deal with relationships and companionship. The first two episodes, I Sing the Body Electric and Long Distance Call have to do with the relationship between children and their parents and grandparents. The Lonely and Probe 7 – Over and Out deal with the relationship between men and women, and more directly the need for companionship.

All of these shows typically have a twist at the end, frequently associated with the supernatural. The first time I viewed them, I would sometimes see the twist coming while at other times it would take me by surprise. It makes it fun to view with the kids because I get to see them try to figure out what’s going to happen just as I used to do.

The episodes have been cleaned up fairly well for the DVD release. There’s no snow or other interference in the picture. It’s not very fuzzy but seems to be crisp with distinctive lines. At times the focus does seem to go off, but it snaps back into focus very quickly and doesn’t last long enough o really notice unless you are looking for it.

My biggest complaint is the same one I have had all along: the lack of any real extras. Surely Billy Mumy and other surviving actors could have been brought together for some of the episodes to give commentary. Surely there are some among the crew who would do the same, either for individual episodes or for the series as a whole. But instead, the material on these discs is sorely lacking. Unless you have a real interest in these particular episodes and want to see them uncut and as originally presented, there’s no reason to purchase these instead of watching them when they are broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel or renting the DVDs. It would be nice to see collections released for each season along with some nice extras.

Overall, though, The Twilight Zone is a quality television show worthy of attention even after all these years.

I Sing the Body Electric

Written by Ray Bradbury, this Mary-Poppins-like tale, has a widower who is trying to raise his three children – Tom, Karen, and Anne – after their mother died a year earlier. His son stumbles upon an advertisement for a robotic woman who can “give loving supervision to your family”.

They visit the location and find that they can build the robot to look like anything they want. The daughter Anne is resistant to the whole idea. When the robot Tom and Karen christen “Grandma” arrives, Anne is just as troubled. She tells her she doesn’t want her there because she will leave like her mother did. “Grandma” saves Anne from being hit by a car. When she realizes that despite being hit by a car, “Grandma” is fine, Anne lets her guard down and responds to the robot’s love.

This was a troubled production that went through many rewrites and re-shoots before arriving at its finished form. The role of evil Aunt Nedra was recast. It also marked the only script of Bradbury’s ever produced for the series, despite the fact that Serling said he was influenced by him and had two other scripts of Bradbury’s to possibly develop.

Long Distance Call

A boy by the name of Billy has a beloved Grandma. She arrives to celebrate his birthday. She gives him a toy telephone as a present so he can talk to her anytime. During the party, she doesn’t feel well. When the doctor visits, he tells them she is very sick. She is in and out of consciousness and says things that don’t make sense, calling Billy her son.

After her death, his mother catches Billy on the toy phone Grandma gave him. Later on, he runs out into the street and nearly gets hit by a neighbor. After his mother catches him on the phone late at night, he runs out and tries to drown himself. In desperation, his father gets on the phone and begs his mother to let Billy live.

This marked the first appearance Bill Mumy made in the series. He was featured in three total.

The Lonely

A man by the name of James Cory lives on an asteroid nine million miles from Earth. A re-supply ship arrives and his loneliness boils over as he desperately begs them to stay longer than 15 minutes.

The Captain, after years of doing this and staring into the face of a man wracked by loneliness every three months, has brought a surprise in a crate. When the ship leaves and Cory opens it, he finds a robot built as a woman. She calls herself Alicia. After initial resistance, Cory bonds with her.

When the Captain returns off-schedule and unannounced, Cory learns his sentence has been commuted. There’s only room for him and 15 pounds of gear. This means he would have to leave Alicia behind.

Ted Knight and Jack Warden guest star in this episode.. The outside shots were done in California’s Death Valley where temperatures reached 140 degrees.

Probe 7 – Over and Out

Colonel Cook is an astronaut in a probe that has crash-landed on a planet. In communication with his home world, he begs for rescue. Political conflicts and impending war prevent them from sending help. A short time later, he learns his home world has been destroyed.

He sees signs that he is not alone on this world and begins following the tracks until he comes upon a woman. She speaks a different language than he does. The two soon break through the barriers and learn each other’s names. His is Adam, hers is Eve.

It was pretty progressive for the early 1960s to challenge the biblical account of the creation story, but it had also been done before. Still, it’s a sweet episode.


• Rod Serling Bio
• History of Twilight Zone
• Season by Season
• Reviews & Credits
• Trivia

5 replies »

  1. I loved this show – or at least the episodes they showed on tv here in the 1980s. Wasn’t there a re-boot in the late 90s? I seem to recall that was not as good. I suppose Black Mirror is the natural heir to this show these days?

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