Television Reviews

The Twilight Zone: Volume 8 – Nuclear War and Aliens Among Us

The television show The Twilight Zone still holds up well today. It originally aired from 1959 through 1964 and the stories are as compelling today as they were back then. Some of them might seem a bit dated, but the ideas can still apply today, even if today’s children can’t necessarily understand all of the details.

In particular, the episodes Third from the Sun and The Shelter included on this volume deal with nuclear armageddon. Children of this current day and age don’t understand all of the nuances of the Cold War era, but after 9/11 I suspect some of them have a better idea of the background the writers of those shows were drawing from. These shows aired at a time when there was an undercurrent of fear in this country surrounding the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, and yet few shows outside of the science fiction realm drew on that issue. Most of the “family’ shows presented an idyllic existence, free from fear.

Science fiction shows were given some latitude in that department, and The Twilight Zone, in particular, made the most of that, doing what it could to put a twist on our reality. Rod Serling, who created the show, hid a lot behind the science fiction theme, but at times it was more grounded in reality than many of those other shows. I believe this is one of the reasons it holds up well today. I know my children look forward to The Twilight Zone marathons on the Sci-Fi Channel every New Year’s Eve.

The other two episodes on this volume, To Serve Man and The Fugitive deal with aliens. In one episode, aliens live among us without our knowledge. In the other, the initial fear of an alien invasion is mitigated by their promise of bringing us a perfect world. Both are more than they seem once you get past the initial story.

All four episodes are well-written and well-executed. The restoration of the shows for the DVD technology was excellent. There’s no interference or snow in the picture at all. While I think the overall clarity of the black and white print could be a bit better, overall it’s very good for something almost seventy years old.

The main problem has to do with how they have been packaged. These are not DVDs of sequential episodes, but rather four episodes put together from various seasons. It seemed for a while that the studio was putting them together around a bit of a theme, but the theme is getting a bit lost here as two episodes at a time seem to go together. There’s also precious little bonus material on these DVDs, and what is there is repeated from one disc to another. It would have been nice to have some commentary or reminiscing of what the episodes were like from any surviving cast and crew.

While the four episodes on this volume of the DVD series are well worth watching, I would rather have seen a season-long boxed set complete with DVD extras. You can’t go wrong watching The Twilight Zone as it’s still a better show than much of what’s on television now.

Third from the Sun

Something is “in the air” where the Riden and Sturka families live. Scientist William Sturka and pilot Jerry Riden make plans to take a risk and escape before that “something” happens.

11,000,000 miles away is another planet with people on it, similar to them. The question is, can they make it there? Their plans are in jeopardy when a government agent catches on to what they are doing.

The Shelter

A dinner party to celebrate Dr. Stockton’s birthday is interrupted by news of an impending nuclear attack. The neighbors in this suburban community vie to be included among those who are admitted to the doctor’s bomb shelter. The doctor states there is room, supplies, and air only for his family.

As the neighbors descend into survival mode and turn on one another, can they ever get back to the people who they were before it happened?

To Serve Man

told in flashback, a man by the name of Chambers (portrayed by Lloyd Bochner). An alien race known as the Kanamits arrives on Earth. They promise they arrive in peace and wish only to help the people of Earth. People are skeptical until the title of a book they have brought with them is deciphered as To Serve Man. With many of Earth’s problems seemingly solved, people are soon volunteering for trips to the Kanamits home planet, which allegedly is a paradise.

Just as Chambers is boarding the Kanamit ship to visit their planet, a codebreaker tells him the true purpose of the book they brought with them to Earth.

The Fugitive

Children are playing baseball in the park. An old man by the name of Ben, who is a familiar presence to the kids, is with them. He promptly hits the ball out of sight, ending their game for that was the only ball. They shift to a game of “spaceman” where Ben plays the spaceman. He comes out from behind a tree looking like a scaly, bipedal creature with antennae.

He returns to his home which is in a series of rowhouses. One of the children, a girl by the name of Jenny, lives there as well with an aunt who mistreats her. They are observed by two men dressed in suits who find it quite interesting when Ben makes his skates disappear.

The two men visit Jenny’s aunt. While they are there, she sneaks out and warns him. He hides until they leave, then tells her he is actually from another planet and the men are after him. It will be time for him to leave again, but before he does, he heals her injured leg. In order to get Ben to return, the two men pursuing him cause Jenny to fall gravely ill as bait.

Inside the Twilight Zone Special Features:

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