The Twilight Zone was an anthology series that aired on network television beginning in 1959 and ending in 1964. Each episode had an introduction and summary from series creator Rod Serling, who also authored or co-authored many of the episodes. This creative control that he exerted on the show helped keep the quality from being degraded by input from the network and sponsors and is probably what also helps the show to work so well among audiences today as it did back then. Within my own family, we look forward to viewing the various marathons of the show on the Sci-Fi Channel, and each New Year’s Eve it’s something we look forward to from young to old.
In the DVD releases, the studio has attempted to take several episodes at a time and group them together around a theme. Sometimes the theme is a little more loosely interpreted than others. This tenth volume centers around the concept of time travel and how people use it in their lives for good, or manage to misuse it.
The Last Flight shows how a decision we make can affect the lives of others as a man is shown what will happen in the future if he gives up his life today. The Trouble with Templeton takes an aging actor into the past to help him let go of it and enjoy the life he has left. A Hundred Yards Over the Rim lets a pioneer see a future he cannot imagine and gives him a glimpse of his son’s life and accomplishments.
Once Upon a Time was probably the most fun of the episodes on this disc, and one I couldn’t remember seeing before. Buster Keaton stars in an episode that gives him a chance to shine as a physical actor in a silent role, the way he used to in films before they had sound. The events in 1890 are told in silent movie format with piano music and reader-cards. Rod Serling looked really amused as he was giving his voice-over introduction. I really enjoyed it quite a bit.
In addition to Keaton, this volume features such guest stars as Cliff Robertson, John Astin, Martin Balsam, and Syndey Pollack. Many actors and actresses who went on to become household names in Hollywood appeared in episodes of the series due to the nature of it being a different story each week, thereby preventing them from any of the long-term commitments series television usually had.
Episodes of The Twilight Zone consist of a short introduction to the episode along with a narrative from Serling. Generally, the subject has something to do with the supernatural or paranormal, and there is a twist at the end that makes the viewer stop and think. Rarely is the story wrapped up nice and neat, but rather it’s designed to leave you wondering.
Filmed in black and white, the restoration for the DVD transfer is pretty good. The snow and interference I remember from watching it over the years in re-runs is gone. Having the episodes whole and not chopped up or with skips which seemed to be present over time is another plus as well.
The problem with the way this series was released is twofold. One is that as the volumes go on, I can’t imagine how they will manage to keep the theme going. Instead, it’s going to get the feel of episodes shoved together on a DVD. The other is that the extras that are here are present on every volume, so there’s not much new to look at. It would have been nice to have commentary or a short featurette from surviving cast members reminiscing about the episodes they appeared in.
Still, getting the episode in uncut condition is a plus, and it’s fun to watch. I would wait for full-season boxed sets that will hopefully be released with more extras if I were interested in purchasing the episodes for my home collection.
The Last Flight
Lieutenant Decker is on a mission during World War I over France. He flies through a cloud and lands at a base. The problem is that the base is an American one in France circa 1959. Initially, he is thought to be a prankster. Soon he, and one of the commanders at the base, realize he has traveled exactly 42 years into the future.
The problem is there is about to be an inspection of the base, by the buddy he left behind during the mission and whom he believes to be dead. He learns Alexander Mackaye went on to be a hero in the Second World War. Decker is convinced Mackaye died up there and can’t figure out how he is still alive. His guilt over leaving him behind gets the better of him and he escapes detention, takes off in his plane, and disappears.
When Mackaye arrives, he is questioned about Decker and tells the story of how he saved his life, just before losing his own.
The Trouble with Templeton
Booth Templeton is an accomplished stage actor who is feeling the effects of his advancing age. He pines for his late wife, Laura. After being talked down to by the new, young director of his latest play, he finds himself outside the theater. The only problem is that it is now back in the year 1927.
When he goes to meet his still-alive wife at a local speakeasy, he finds himself confronted with how she really was, rather than how he remembers her in death. The friends he remembers from that time are acting much differently than he remembers as well, leaving him mystified as to what’s going on.
A Hundred Yards Over the Rim
In the mid-1800’s a group of settlers is traveling by wagon to resettle from Ohio to California. As they go through New Mexico, they are worn out, thirsty, sick, and hungry. One of the travelers, Christian Horn, scouts the next rim in front of them to look for help. As he looks over the rim, he sees electrical wires, telephone poles, and paved roads. When he goes to investigate, he is nearly killed by a truck and accidentally discharges his rifle into his arm. He follows the direction the truck was headed and finds a diner.
A woman inside is a former nurse’s aide. She takes care of his wound and gives him penicillin. When Christian sees a calendar, he realizes it’s the year 1961. When they summon a doctor, the man reasons that it’s likely Christian is telling the truth, mainly due to the fillings in his teeth.
Meanwhile, Christian picks up an encyclopedia and finds his son’s name amongst the entries as a respected physician and pioneer in childhood diseases and vaccinations. He realizes he must return to his son with the medication so history can proceed as it should.
Once Upon a Time
Woodrow Mulligan is a janitor in a small New York Town in 1890. He works for Professor Gilbert, who shows Woodrow his newest invention, the Time Helmet. While he is out celebrating his invention, Woodrow decides to put it to the test and ends up in the year 1962.
Anticipating peace and quiet, he’s shocked to find a noisy town with jack-hammers, car horns, motorized vehicles honking their horns, loud music blaring from speakers, etc. Unfortunately, the helmet has been damaged.
Woodrow meets a man named Rollo who helps him get the helmet fixed. Rollo’s intentions are less than noble as he wants to use the helmet himself. Woodrow jumps on Rollo as the helmet is activated and the two go back to 1890. However, Rollo is just as unhappy there as Woodrow was in 1962.
INSIDE THE TWILIGHT ZONE BONUS FEATURES:
• Rod Serling Bio
• History of Twilight Zone
• Season by Season
• Reviews & Credits