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This IS your father's TWILIGHT ZONE: Your favorite Episode

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#1 of 69 OFFLINE   Rex Bachmann

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Posted June 29 2003 - 09:42 AM

The (real) Twilight Zone: Your Favorite Episode. Which and Why?

"It's summertime, summertime,
Sum-, sum-, summertime
Summertime, summertime,
Sum-, sum-, summertime
Summertime, summertime,
Sum-, sum-, summertime
. . . . .

[And you knooooow I'm bored.]

Yes, it's summertime. Time for nasty hot weather, loud (and stupid) movies, and lots and lots (and lots) of repeats on television. How 'bout reliving some good tv for a change?

As far as I can tell from a search, it hasn't been discussed in depth in its own right here, so what about The Twilight Zone (1959-'64)? It's NOT "science fiction". (Rod Serling always went out of his way to say so.) It's not pure fantasy. It's not "horror". It's not "camp" (Well, for the most part. Let's try to forget about episode #101,"Cavender is Coming", with Carol Burnett.) However, it worked then and still works now.

What is your favorite episode of the real (i.e., original) Twilight Zone? What makes that episode your favorite?

If, for you, the episode you name typifies what appeals to you about the series in general, tell us in what way. (This involves stating your viewer premises and expectations, I would think.)

If you think it atypical of the series; tell us why. (This involves describing what you believe the series was all about.)

There are 156 episodes, I believe, so there's plenty to go around for everyone.

[Hint a good place to refresh one's memory about episodes of this series is tv.com's episode guide. I believe there is---or once was---an ultimate TZ Website run by a lady whose name I can't remember. In any event, I don't find it with a quick Google search. Someone else know of it?]

It's hard to choose, but my all-time favorite (I think) would have to be episode #21, "Mirror Image", starring Vera Miles (pre-Psycho?) and Martin Milner (pre-Route 66).

Plot gist: A young woman, Millicent Barnes, is haunted by bouts of "experiencing" herself. Everyone around her thinks she's crazy. (I should not need to say more. The connoisseur-participants in this thread will without a doubt recall further plot details for themselves.)

TZ helped set the tone for this kind of program, and the fact that it was a sort of "grab bag" of genres and did it so well for so long means that the audience probably didn't get much in the way of a totally predictable list of plug-in features from week to week set in stone. We have come to expect a good dramatic tale, first and foremost, accompanied by enough weirdness to shake up the ol' "couch-potato" complacency.

"Mirror Image" does this strikingly well. A sense of alienation and isolation pervades this episode like no other. This is "horror" at its most intense and genuine. The themes of loss of identity---literal "identity theft"---and control over one's life ("Without your 'self', you're nothing"?) inform the plot. And, as always, the shadowy darkness of the photography makes this episode unreproducible by today's jaded and epigonal entertainment industry, in my not so humble opinion.

The best moment of the story: As in any good horror or science-fiction narrative, this occurs when someone---in this case the protagonist---offers a rationale for the events unfolding on screen. Millie wakes up in the darkened bus station after she has left the bus, screaming at the sight of her doppelgänger. The quiet, orderly creepy music---is that a flute accompanied by a cello or a bass?---goes on over the soundtrack while she speculates about "parallel universes" that sometimes intersect, with "duplicates of each of us", who must then fight for survival, all to the eye-rolling of the station attendant and the pity and sympathy of the helpful, but skeptical young executive type, Paul Grinstead (Marty Milner). A beautiful scene that even elsewhere in the Twilight Zone is never so well achieved.

The whole episode, like many another in this series, bears a dreaminess---a dreamlike quality---that not only allows, but almost compels, the viewer to forgive the "logical" flaws: Millicent, the heroine of the piece, could point out her double to skeptical observers at least twice in the episode, but runs away from the waiting bus or closes the women's restroom door, respectively, instead.

And, it's too coïncidental that two different duplicates of two separate people would show up in a short time frame in the same place, unless . . . . .

The ending: The dénouement is quite Zone-ish, characterized, as it is, by ambiguity ("What happens next?"), exciting ambivalence in the viewer ("Would I replace a 'double' to survive?"/"What would I do to survive being replaced?"), and loaded with a myriad of unanswered questions (Is there an invasion of the "pod-people" going on? If so, how are they "crossing over"? Does the lightening have anything to do with it? Why or how do the invaders from another reality know about their own "duplicity", whereas their counterparts in this world do not? etc.)

It comes off a lot more effective than the typical ending in its namesake copycat series, late and unlamented, where every episode has to eventuate in a shallow shock. Week after week, once you see that kind of thing, you sit through the episodes waiting only for the shock endings, which grow ever more predictable. That's not the "real Twilight Zone", where subtlety, as well as shadow, reigns.

"Delenda est . . . . "


#2 of 69 OFFLINE   Dan Rudolph

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Posted June 29 2003 - 12:22 PM

My favorite would be episode 2x15, The Invaders. Agnes Moorehead plays a woman whose house is invaded by tiny spacemen. I'm afraid I can't say why it's great without giving away the ending though.
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#3 of 69 OFFLINE   Blu



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Posted June 29 2003 - 05:15 PM

The Invaders is a great episode and I believe really inspired the Hush episode of Buffy.
I enjoy the "simple life" episodes best of TZ I think.
There are so many that it is hard to pick a favorite!

#4 of 69 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted June 30 2003 - 04:06 AM

Where to begin? Don't have much time for now, but I'll toss in "Little Girl Lost," "To Serve Man," "It's a Good Life," "The Midnight Sun" (goofy "science," but well done), "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (actually, an original short based on the Bierce short story, which later ran as an episode), "The Howling Man," "In Praise of Pip," and so many, many more. More to come.

#5 of 69 OFFLINE   Mike Broadman

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Posted June 30 2003 - 04:18 AM

There was one episode that not only worked really well as a "traditional" Twilight Zone episode (horror, high concept, etc), but also hit me on an emotional level. It was about a guy who was serving a prison sentence on the moon all alone. Every few months a ship would come with supplies and one time he brought a female android for companion. At first, the guy felt contempt for her/it, but he grew to love her.

The ending, though very predictable, was heartbreaking and wonderful.

#6 of 69 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted June 30 2003 - 05:32 AM

Not the Moon, but an "asteroid" (again, Rod Serling wasn't much on science and it showed). Damn, but what is the title of that episode? I looked at it not quite four or five weeks ago. (I wish the DVDs were issued in chronological order.)

#7 of 69 OFFLINE   Walter Kittel

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Posted June 30 2003 - 05:57 AM

Google sez... The Lonely. I was bored and searched for the episode. Posted Image

I haven't spent as much time on this set as I should, but off the top of my head, my favorite story might be Steel with Lee Marvin. While arguably not one of the strongest episodes, I have fond memories of the original story by Richard Matheson, who I believe adapted the story for the telecast.

- Walter.

Fidelity to the source should always be the goal for Blu-ray releases.

#8 of 69 OFFLINE   Jeremiah



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Posted June 30 2003 - 06:27 AM

I like The Bookworm one quite a bit mainly b/c of the tragic ending. The guy had everything he wanted at the end and than bam!
I have seen Larry David in action, and that man is an animal, and he has to be stopped.

#9 of 69 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted June 30 2003 - 06:45 AM

"The Obsolete Man," also featuring Burgess Meredith.

Serling made overt moralizing palatable! Posted Image

"Last Stop Willoughby," "I Sing the Body Electric," "I Shot an Arrow into the Sky" (I may be mangling some of these titles and spellings), "The Telephone," and more.

Look, even with the subpar episodes, these things have become so ingrained in the popular culture that one just loves them. With the scientific gaffes in the so-called "SF" episodes, I employ a personal amnesty on the rigorous-science dictate. Who cares? The stories resonate so well.

"Death Ship" (one of the hourlong episodes in the penultimate season) is wonderful, despite Mr. Serling's having set it in the year 1997.

I also enjoy Rod Serling's many lapses into overwriting. Go back to the "Willoughby" episode. Note our protagonist's pushy wife and the way she talks. People don't talk like that; only writers do. Again, who cares?

(I can just picture Rod Serling pulling out the sheet from his typewriter, poring over his words, making revisions, etc., etc. He always viewed himself as a writer first and foremost. And it certainly shows in those scripts.*)

*What a stupid statement on my part. Who else would produce a script but a writer?

#10 of 69 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted June 30 2003 - 06:46 AM

"The Piano." Love it.

#11 of 69 OFFLINE   Paul McElligott

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Posted June 30 2003 - 06:54 AM

So many:

"The Obsolete Man" - Man to be put to death by futuristic society for believing in God and books. Typical "comeuppance" episode of TZ.

"Time Enough at Last" - Bookworm survives nuclear war. Great TZ-style twist ending.

"To Serve Man" - probably the ultimate TZ "twist" ending.

"In His Image" - Man suffering from fits of sudden violence returns to his hometown to find it nothing like he remembers.

"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" - Like I need to tell anyone what this one is about.

"Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" - Power failures cause paranoia.

"Eye of the Beholder" - Disfigured young woman is about to have her bandages removed after reconstructive surgery.

"The Odyssey of Flight 33" - TZ had good luck with stories about planes, didn't it?
R.I.P. DVDSpot

#12 of 69 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted June 30 2003 - 07:08 AM

Ah yes, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." Good choice.

#13 of 69 OFFLINE   Hunter P

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Posted June 30 2003 - 08:06 AM

The choice is easy for me: Eye of the Beholder. This episode was very clever in its use of light, shadows, and camera angles. I remember being riveted when I first saw it, not knowing what to expect. They drew out the first act for what seemed an eternity. Being TTZ, I knew a twist was coming but I didn't know how.

Then BAM! That is how hard it hit me when the twist finally came. I have taken many trips to the dimension of sight, sound and mind. I am still stirred by the images of this episode today.
"I am the Doctor of Death, and I have come to cure you of your life." --Endless Mike, The Adventures of Pete and Pete

#14 of 69 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted June 30 2003 - 08:45 AM

And it most certainly was superior television to that dreadful remake of "Beholder" on the thankfully cancelled-, ill-advised UPN thing that called itself The Twilight Zone.

#15 of 69 OFFLINE   RobertR


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Posted June 30 2003 - 09:10 AM

Two episodes seem to be indelibly imprinted in my memory from the original airings: The Invaders (interesting how often Serling used the spaceship from Forbidden Planet), and In His Image. The latter show gave me intense nightmares for some reason, such that I could hardly sleep that night.

#16 of 69 OFFLINE   Steve Clark

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Posted June 30 2003 - 02:09 PM

Do not know episode #s or actual titles, but the episodes with the Dummy that took over its master; the Talking Tina doll with Telly Savalas; the one with the female mannequin; To Serve Man were the episodes that I always remembered for decades.

#17 of 69 OFFLINE   Rex Bachmann

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Posted June 30 2003 - 02:28 PM

Steve Clark wrote (post #16):

Do not know episode #s or actual titles, but the episodes with the Dummy that took over its master. . . .

That would be "The Dummy".

. . .the Talking Tina doll with Telly Savalas . . . .

"Living Doll".

. . . the one with the female mannequin . . . .

"The After Hours". Why, not by coïncidence, they were all released (along with "The Fever") on the same DVD (marketing theme: inanimate things that come to life).

Gee, I'm glad for the responses, but I'd sure like to see more detail from some of you about why you like specific episodes. Great "twist endings" are okay, but what makes for a great episode is how one gets to that ending. Some twists follow what has come before. Some don't.
"Delenda est . . . . "


#18 of 69 OFFLINE   Henry Gale

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Posted June 30 2003 - 03:06 PM

Time Enough At Last w/Burgess Meredith. I read some years ago that it was the most popular show of the early years.
Sorry to be so predictable but it was certainly my favorite.
I was just about to turn 13 when that was broadcast. In Nov. 1959, while we hadn't gotten around the Cuber missile crisis yet, things were pretty tense "nuculer" wise. Then if you were already lost in science fiction and fantasy...and being alone to ramble the Earth on your own seemed like a swell idea.....Posted Image .....and you wore glasses.Posted Image

"I was born to ramble, born to rove
Some men are searchin for the Holy Grail
But there ain't nothin sweeter 
Than riden' the rails."
-Tom Waits-

#19 of 69 OFFLINE   Rex Bachmann

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Posted June 30 2003 - 03:38 PM

Jack Briggs wrote (post #9):

"Death Ship" (one of the hourlong episodes in the penultimate season) is wonderful, despite Mr. Serling's having set it in the year 1997.

I like the concept and much of the execution of this episode, however, like most of the hour-longs, it comes off as at least a bit padded. By the way, Richard Matheson wrote the script, adapting his own story. I assume he set the story in that time frame.

As much as I love most of Richard Matheson's short stories, I find that too many of his TZ efforts tried to be "light-hearted" or "normal":

"Mute" (#107, hour-long) , "Steel" (#122), "The Last Flight" (#18), "A World of Difference" (#23), and "Once Upon a Time" (#78)(a comedic "misfire", if ever there were one).

Some ("Young Man's Fancy" (#99), "Spur of the Moment" (#141)) came off as just being "ho-hum"-inspiring, despite being based on good ideas. (Mr. Matheson doesn't seem to like these either.)

"Little Girl Lost" (#91) (merely "okay", in my book).

Very good-to-great Matheson:

"Nick of Time" (#43)
"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (#123)
"Night Call" (#139) (based on his own story "Sorry, Right Number"; unfortunately he changed the ending from book to screen)

Much better, adapted by Mr. Serling from Matheson short stories, were "Third from the Sun" (#14) and "And When the Sky Was Opened" (#11) (a much improved version of Matheson's short story "Disappearing Act").

Mr. Matheson in recent years has spent too much time publicly bad-mouthing his own early work for merely "being about scaring people". Well, he was damned good at it. Why be ashamed of it?

"The Telephone"

Uh, there's no such title. Did you mean "Night Call" (lonely old lady haunted by phone calls) or "Long Distance Call" (#58) (little boy gets calls from the dead over toy telephone)?

Like so many others, I used to really like "The Invaders" (#51), but I now have to agree with what Mr. Matheson himself has said about it. And, I might add, that it, like "Eye of the Beholder" (#42),---which had not just a shock ending, but a wonderful racial subtext to it, unlike the stupid remake that was, literally, almost a word-for-word copy of the original script except that it left out the very dialog that hinted at the racial subtext ("'Congregated'?!? You mean 'SEGregated', don't you, Doctor?")---these have very powerful "twist endings", and here, in my opinion, the endings are so powerful as to be detriments to repeated viewing. But, maybe that's just me.
"Delenda est . . . . "


#20 of 69 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted June 30 2003 - 05:34 PM

I mangled my titles! "Night Call," that's correct.

"The Jungle." "Five Characters in Search of an Exit." "Black Leather Jackets."

Damn, I even agree with what Stephen King said about this series in his Dance Macabre. But the thing is, I love the stories, even to the point of tolerating the lesser episodes. It's not a case of being less than critical, though. Just forgiving.


Where does it end? Just so many episodes yet it seems like so many more.

As for explicating, gimme a day or so! Posted Image

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