Television Reviews

The Twilight Zone: Volume 7 – Once Again Four Episodes about Death and Dying

The television series The Twilight Zone is amazing in that it’s a show filmed in black and white that aired from 1959 through 1964 and still holds up quite well today. My own children enjoy watching it and trying to figure out what’s going to happen. It has become a special time for my family to watch the New Year’s Eve marathon of the show on the Sci-Fi Channel.

In releasing the series on DVD, Image Entertainment (the studio which released the series on DVD) would take four episodes with a similar theme and put them together on the DVD. They would do this without regard for what season or order they had originally been broadcast in. This might work fine early on in the volumes released, but as the series goes on, it will be interesting to see how well these “themes” hold together.

The seventh volume once again deals with the idea of death and dying. Many episodes of the series dealt with the concept of death and dying. Since there’s so much not known about what happens to us after we die, there’s plenty of room for speculation there and series creator Rod Serling capitalized on that and had this as a frequent subject of the series.

Each of the episodes of the series stands on its own. The cast and story change from one show to the next, although some of the same actors appear in different episodes portraying different characters. Watching closely, I often come across people who I am surprised to see on a show like this. Many actors and actresses who would go on to fame either in television or in film had roles on at least one episode of The Twilight Zone. Watch for Dennis Weaver, who would go on to star in the television series McCloud in the final episode on this DVD.

Perchance to Dream is a well-acted and well-paced exploration of what our brain and imagination can accomplish. The Hitch-Hiker is an adaptation of a radio play Serling heard which stuck with him and he later bought the rights to. Inger Stevens portrays the lead character who evolves slowly through the episode from a self-confident and self-assured independent young woman to someone cowering in fear and running from an image that seems to be a constant presence on a cross-country trip.

In King Nine Will Not Return, the story seems to be headed in a predictable direction, but takes quite a different turn at the end. The concept was based on the real story of an American B-24 bomber that disappeared on April 4, 1943, and was discovered by British geologists in May of 1959 in the Libyan desert. Finally, Shadow Play has a theme that is slowly introduced and would be built on in later years with many films. I won’t spoil it, but it does a terrific job of blurring the lines between our dreams, subconscious, and reality.

The main disappointment I have with this and every DVD I’ve seen in these releases is the lack of bonus material. Everything that’s in this volume has been included in previous volumes, so there’s nothing new. Something could have been done with the cast and crew that was still alive at the time these were released. I’d also like to see them in the order that they aired, rather than the way these are released. Sometimes seeing the same theme over and over again gets tiring and when the episodes are broken up with other ideas in between, there’s a greater appreciation for them.

Overall these are four good episodes. They are not episodes I immediately think of when I think of this series, but they are lesser-known episodes that are worth watching. The restoration is good with no interference or snow in the picture. I think it’s well worth seeing them uncut and uninterrupted to get a great appreciation for just how good this series was almost fifty years ago.

Perchance to Dream

Edward Hall is a seemingly normal man who visits a psychiatrist. He has one problem – he won’t go to sleep for fear that he will die. As he’s talking to the psychiatrist, it appears that he has a very active imagination and exists in a perpetual state of fright. He’s imagined people in the car with him and it’s made him crash.

After the crash, he was told that his heart had been stressed and couldn’t take too much stress anymore. Hall believes his dreams are trying to kill him by stressing him.

This is a great episode with some great pacing for revealing what is going on as events occur.

The Hitch-Hiker

Nan Adams is a New York City department store buyer traveling cross-country to Los Angeles. After a bad blowout, the mechanic tells her she should have been calling a hearse instead of a tow-truck and how lucky she was to have survived.

She starts seeing the same hitchhiker along the road after that. First at the blow-out site, then near the mechanic’s shop. As she travels on she sees him constantly and gets more and more frightened, almost getting killed at a railroad crossing in the process. She picks up a sailor headed home from leave, thinking his presence will reassure her. However, when she spots the man again, the sailor states he didn’t see him.

King Nine Will Not Return

James Embry, the pilot of a World War II bomber finds himself alone in the desert after the crash of his plane. All of his fellow crew seem to have disappeared. He talks to the crew like they are there, but he seems to be alone in the desert.

Suddenly, one of the crew appears in the pilot’s seat. Embry races to the plane, but the man disappears as he approaches. He hears a noise from a nearby dune and races up it, only to find a gravemarker for one of the crew with his helmet tapping against the makeshift cross. Two jets fly overhead – but there shouldn’t be jets in 1943…

Shadow Play

Adam Grant is a man convicted of murder. He believes everything that is happening is just a recurring nightmare, with the people who are his fellow inmates, jailers, and even the judge coming from people he knew in his life.

Everything happens as he predicts it will, down to the time when the D.A. has misgivings and visits him in his cell.

Inside the Twilight Zone Special Features:

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