Television Reviews

DVD Review – The Twilight Zone: Volume 16 – Reality Bites

The Twilight Zone was a classic television series that had its roots in the sponsor-driven censored shows of the 1950s. Creator Rod Serling was tired of changing scripts to suit both the sponsors and the network censors and figured he could get around a lot of what they were challenging if he couched it in a science-fiction setting. Fortunately, he was right. The result was one of the best series that came out of that era. It still holds up well today.

You would think such a ground-breaking television show would get great treatment when it was finally released on DVD, but that’s just not the case. Instead of packaging the series in a season-long boxed set, the studio instead cobbled together three or four episodes in each disc, centered around a common theme. Sometimes what links the episodes together is tenuous, while at other times it works very well.

This volume seems to embrace a theme of people shaping their own reality. Three astronauts return from a successful mission only to begin disappearing, leaving behind no trace of their existence, not even in the memory of their relatives and friends. A seemingly successful man returns to his hometown with his fiancee but nothing is as he remembers it. A failing jockey wishes his physical appearance allowed him to do something else in his life.

Each of these episodes is well-acted and well-written. They have a life lesson in them along with a twist at the end. They are not necessarily what I traditionally think of as science fiction but go into the line of the paranormal. The stories hold up as well in our time as they did nearly fifty years ago. My kids have always enjoyed watching the show and these episodes are timeless. There’s nothing here that really dates it other than the setting.

The restoration of the original footage is excellent. The picture is clear and crisp with little interference or snow appearing in the picture. In our modern color era, it might surprise some of the younger folk to view a black-and-white television show, but it also shows just how good the medium was.

Another issue I have with these discs is the lack of any real special features. What is present on each disc is virtually the same, with a little bit changed for that particular content. The series really deserves better treatment and it would have been smart of the studio to gather members of the cast and crew for commentaries and featurettes while they are still with us.

While watching the series uncut and uninterrupted is a treat, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase this collection. The series itself is stellar; it’s just the way it was packaged that I have issues with. If you can rent it and watch them, it’s well worth the time to do that.

And When the Sky Was Opened

Three astronauts are on a mission to test-pilot a new interceptor model 900 miles into space. For 24 of those hours, the ship disappeared from radar before crashing to Earth in the Mojave Desert.

However, after returning, strange things begin happening. When visiting Major William Gart in the hospital with a broken leg, Colonel Clegg Forbes insists there were three men on the mission rather than the two that the headlines say returned from the mission and that Major Gart remembers.

Flashback to earlier that day. Forbes and Colonel Ed Harrington say goodbye to their friend laid up in the hospital. The newspaper headline reads “Three Astronauts Return”. The two buddies head out to a bar where Ed is shocked not to see his reflection in the mirror. Later on, he calls his parents who say they don’t have a son named Ed Harrington.

Harrington begins believing they shouldn’t have returned from the mission. As Forbes turns around to get him a drink, the newspaper headline changes to “Two Astronauts Return” and Harrington disappears. No one in the bar remembers him – it’s as if he never existed.

I love the name of the interceptor: DynaSoar.

In His Image

A man by the name of Alan Talbot is wandering around a subway station when he’s confronted by an old woman. He’s feeling a bit odd to begin with, and when she starts preaching to him, Alan loses it and ends up throwing her in front of an oncoming train.

He continues on to the apartment of his fiancee, Jessica. The two of them take a trip to his hometown, but nothing is as he remembers. Jessica begins to believe he needs mental help.

The Last Night of a Jockey

Mickey Rooney stars as Michael Grady, a jockey who has been banned from racing after an investigation into the drugging of horses. His alter-ego appears in the mirror and chides him over what he’s done in his life. Desperate, Grady wishes he was big.

The next morning, he wakes up and is ten feet tall. He’s giddy with happiness. A little while later, he receives a phone call that he’s been given a second chance to ride again. Unfortunately, his new height prevents this.


• Rod Serling Bio
• Season by Season
• History of The Twilight Zone
• Reviews and Credits

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