Monday, July 11, 2011


The SyFy Channel ran a Twilight Zone marathon over the July 4th weekend.  Despite the fact that I own all the episodes on DVD, I ended up watching one after another after another, filled with the same wonder, terror and delight that I felt when I was a kid, seeing those imagination-exploding shows for the first time.  Inspired by the marathon, I decided it was long past time to put together a list of my ten favorite Zone episodes.  By the time I was done, I’d included sixteen episodes, but let’s all pretend it’s a top ten list.  It sounds better that way.

“Time Enough At Last” which is first on the list, is probably my all-time favorite, perhaps because it’s the first one I remember seeing; but, really, the numbering doesn't matter:  they all hold an equal place in my heart, continuing—even after all these years—to echo on in the deeps of my psyche and soul.

1)  “Time Enough At Last”
Written by Rod Serling.  As noted, the first episode I remember seeing—I think I was five or six—and one that’s never let me go.  Burgess Meredith is brilliant as the bookish Henry Bemis:  a man, abused by the world, who’s never happy unless he’s reading.  The ending is the most tragic, and unfair, in all the Zone; but what touched me as a child, and still does to this day, is Bemis’s love of literature and the strange charms of being the only person left alone in the world.  By becoming a professional writer—someone who spends a good part of his life alone with his own imagination—you could say I became a Henry Bemis myself. 

2)  “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”/”Nick of Time”
Written by Richard Matheson.  Two classic episodes starring the incomparable William Shatner.  In “Nightmare...”, Shatner gives a career-defining performance as a passenger fighting for both his life and his sanity on an airplane.  It’s a tribute to Shatner, Matheson and director Richard Donner that the first time I ever got on a plane, the first thing I did was look out the window to check and see if there was anything...strange out there on the wing.  In “Nick of Time,” Shatner is equally terrific in another Matheson story, this one delicately, and brilliantly, walking a fine line between the supernatural and the psychological.  And who could forget that bobbing devil-head?

3)  “Walking Distance”
Written by Rod Serling.  “Walking Distance” owes something to the work of Ray Bradbury—filled as it is with a longing for a simpler age of childhood innocence and merry-go-rounds—but the bittersweet soul of the story is pure Serling.  Gig Young gives a heartfelt—and heartbreaking—performance as a desperate man seeking solace in his own fragile past.  As perfect a TZ as was ever filmed, this is Serling at the very top of his game, using the show’s format to explore the human condition with a power and eloquence rarely seen on television, then or now.

4)  “A Stop At Willoughby”
Written by Rod Serling.  A companion piece to “Walking Distance,” this wonderful episode features James Daley—who went on to appear in one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, “Requiem for Methuselah”—giving a superb performance as a businessman longing for escape from the pressures of his life.  He finds it in a place called Willoughby—which may very well be Heaven itself.  Despite hints of misogyny—there are one too many harpy wives in Serling’s work—this is a deeply moving, and deeply magical story, that manages to transform tragic death into eternal triumph.  Many a time I’ve been on an Amtrak train wondering if the conductor would shout out, “Willoughby!  This stop is Willoughby!”  If he did, would I get off?  Would you?

5)  “A World of Difference”
Written by Richard Matheson.  Another Matheson gem, one of the very best of the Zones that question both personal identity and the nature of reality.  
Howard Duff is perfectly cast as a man trying desperately to escape an existence he believes is a lie and return to a life that everyone else claims is a madman’s delusion.   The moment when Duff is sitting in his office at work and an offscreen voice yells, "Cut!"—revealing the world we've been watching to be a movie set—is one of the most thrilling and disturbing in the series.    

6)  “The After Hours”
Written by Rod Serling.  Another challenge to personal identity, perhaps to our humanity itself.  “The After Hours” terrified and fascinated me as a kid.  It also had me wondering, every time I passed a department store mannequin, if there was more to them, and to the universe, than met the eye.  That, to me, was the greatest gift of The Twilight Zone:  it exploded safe assumptions and challenged you to look, really look, and discover the miracles hidden just beneath the skin of the world. 

7)  “The Purple Testament”/”A Quality of Mercy”
Written by Rod Serling.  This pair of superb episodes, both inspired by Serling’s experiences fighting in the Pacific during World War II, always seemed of a piece to me.  Both are resonant with sorrow, outrage and compassion—and could only have been created by a man who’d witnessed the horrors of war first hand.  “Mercy’s” ability to shift perspective, to let us see war from the enemy’s POV, was a real eye opener to me as a kid.  It broke apart the simplistic good guy/bad guy paradigm that mass media, and our political culture, had been feeding my young, impressionable mind and helped me to understand that all of us—so-called heroes and so-called villains alike—are united by our humanity.

8)  “King Nine Will Not Return”
Written by Rod Serling.  Only Twilight Zone could give you thirty minutes of Robert Cummings staggering around in the desert alone, speaking primarily through interior monologue, and make it a classic.  Cummings, who learned his craft in movies but became a household name as the star of amiable, unchallenging sitcoms, proved that his dramatic chops were still intact with this wonderful portrayal of a man caught between past and future, guilt and madness.  The sand in the shoe at the end was the icing on the cake.

9)  “The Eye of the Beholder”
Written by Rod Serling.  Okay, go to the mirror, pull down your bottom eyelids, push up your nose and scare the hell out of yourself the same way those doctors and nurses scared the hell of you the first time you saw this episode.  A perfect mix of the aural and the visual, “The Eye of the Beholder” is skillfully directed by Douglas Heyes and beautifully acted by Maxine Stewart, who, hidden as she is beneath bandages, gives what is essentially the greatest radio performance in the history of television.  (When the bandages come off at the end, it’s a little disconcerting to find Elly May Clampett underneath.)  Serling loved to rail against conformity and totalitarianism (among other things)—and sometimes the railing overwhelmed the writing.  Here everything is in perfect balance.  Yes, there’s a point to be made, but it’s the humanity of the story that stays with you. 

10) “The Odyssey of Flight 33”
Written by Rod Serling.  A simple, brilliant premise:  a passenger jet lost in time.  What’s amazing about the show is that—despite a few briefly-seen effects shots, some equally brief stock footage and a handful of passenger reactions—the bulk of the story takes place in the cockpit of the plane.  It’s all talk.  And yet Serling manages to make us believe that we’re trapped on that plane along with the crew and passengers, adrift in the timestream—and that we may never return.  That’s called great writing, folks.

11) “Night of the Meek”
Written by Rod Serling.  The great Art Carney as a down-on-his-luck boozer who, on a snowy December night, finds himself transformed into Santa Claus.  Be forewarned:  this is no Tim Allen Disney comedy.  It’s a genuinely moving tale of redemption:  Serling at his sweetest, but not losing his edge, either.  A show that demands re-watching every 25th of December.

12)  “It’s a Good Life”

Written by Rod Serling.  Billy Mumy wishing people into the cornfield.  What more needs to be said?  Just this:  the moment when Mumy’s six year old terror Anthony Fremont turns Don Keefer’s character, Dan Hollis, into a human jack-in-the-box is one of the most chilling moments ever broadcast on television.  And what makes it work is how little we actually see.  Most of what we get is shadow and suggestion, letting our imaginations fill in the horrifying details.

13) “To Serve Man”
Written by Rod Serling.  Three little words:  “It’s a cookbook!”  Yes, it’s all a little goofy, and there are some obvious plot holes, but, c’mon, “It’s a cookbook!”

14) “Death Ship”
Written by Richard Matheson.  The best of the hour long episodes, “Death Ship” is another Matheson gem that—as Marc Scott Zicree points out in his wonderful book, The Twilight Zone Companion (still the best TZ book out there, if you ask me)—skillfully straddles the line between science fiction and horror.  The performances by Ross Martin, Fred Beir and Zone repeat offender Jack Klugman are uniformly excellent.  This one sends a chill down your spine and pierces your heart at the same time:  an uncommon feat.  But, then, Matheson is an uncommon writer.

There are so many other episodes I could write about—”A World of His Own, “ “Nothing in the Dark,” “The Midnight Sun, “ “The Trade Ins” and “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You” spring immediately to mind—but I’ve got to stop somewhere.  And, since the entire series is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, you should have no trouble tracking any of them down and losing yourself in the wonders and terrors of The Twilight Zone

All that said, I’m compelled to mention one more extraordinary episode that was part of the 1980’s reboot of the series.  (I sold my first television script to the 80’s Zone and I’ll be blogging about that memorable experience one of these days.  Soon I hope.)  The episode, “Her Pilgrim Soul,” written by the brilliant Alan Brennert, isn’t just one of the finest episodes of any incarnation of the Zone—right up there with the best of Serling, Matheson and Charles Beaumont—it’s one of the finest pieces I’ve ever seen on television.  In fact, it’s so good, you’ve got to click on this link and watch it right now.

©copyright 2011 J.M. DeMatteis


  1. Watched "A Stop at Willoughby" the other day. Great episode.

    I'd add "A Nice Place to Vist" as well as the trumpet episode where the jazz musician tries to committ suicide but finds a second chance at life. --David

  2. That's a great one, David. Serling's jazz version of "It's A Wonderful Life." And I believe it was actually called "A Passage for Trumpet."

  3. Ah, yes, that's the one! It's got some nice twists, like the musician with the goatee being the angel Gabriel. Because, you know, goatee is often shorthand for Satan! (The twist in "A Nice Place to Visit" is the inverse).

    It's worth noting that every episode of TZ is now available for streaming via Instant Netflix. STAR TREK is, too.

  4. I didn't know that about TZ and Netflix, David. Thanks for the info!

    "A Nice Place to Visit" is a very interesting episode and another one that is eye-opening when you're a kid. "You mean having everything you want isn't always a good thing?"

  5. I'm glad you included "Her Pilgrim Soul," I agree about its beauty and power. I was also deeply affected by the William Friedkin-directed 80s episode "Nightcrawlers." My personal favorite from the original series -because I'm a sucker for stories about fatherhood -is the Serling-penned "In Praise of Pip." That's the one where Klugman is a bookie who has been a failure as a father who learns that his son is dying in Vietnam, and pleads with God to let him die in his son's place. That one really gets me.

    By the way, I've been a fan of yours since that early 80s run on DEFENDERS- I was especially hooked by that multi-part supernatural storyline that had Dracula, Ghost Rider, Daimon Hellstrom, and introduced the Gargoyle. Those stories remain lodged in my mind as much as those great TZ episodes.

  6. Another TERRIFIC episode of the 1980s Twilight Zone is "A Message From Charity." I saw it once as a teenager and it stuck with me for a long, long time. When I saw it again a year or two ago, I found that it held up remarkably well.

  7. I'm also a sucker for fatherhood stories, Troy, and "In Praise of Pip" is another favorite. (You see now how long that list could have been.) I remember seeing it again when I was in my twenties and being reduced to tears.

    Thanks for the kind words, and high praise, re: DEFENDERS. VERY much appreciated!

  8. That's another Alan Brennert story, Glenn, so I'm sure it's terrific. I haven't seen it in a long time: guess I'll watch it today when I'm done working!

  9. Oh, don't even get me started on listing favorite episodes! :)

    "Walking Distance" was moving evne when I was a boy. Now that I'm approaching 58 at the end of the year, it's unbelievably poignant. Gig Young gave a heartbreakingly real performance, all the more powerful for being understated. And what man wouldn't want a chance to speak with his father like that, with both of you in the prime of life, man to man? I'll admit, as much as I love nearly every episode of TZ, this one really tears my heart out.

    My own choice for an hour episode would be "Miniature," with Robert Duvall knocking it out of the park -- again, an understated performance that's just full of power & emotion. Such a tender, fragile story! I suppose some might quibble with the ending, calling it escapism ... but as Tolkien once said, what sort of people are most concerned about people escaping? Guards & wardens. Sometimes there's good cause to escape! :)

    That whole era of TV was incredible, wasn't it? I've been watching the available episodes of both "Route 66" & "Naked City," and I'm astounded by the consistently high quality of the acting, the writing, and the overall look of both series.

    Let me also recommend the American Masters DVD "Submitted For Your Approval," a fine introduction to & overview of Rod Serling's life & career, warts & all. Just picked up a used copy & loved it.

  10. Doesn't surprise me, Tim, that we're in such heartfelt agreement on "Walking Distance."

    Yes, "Minature" was an excellent show, one of the very best of the hourlongs. (There were some truly excellent sixty minute Zones, but there were also some undeniable stinkers.) I think "Miniature" isn't as branded into my consciousness as other episodes because it was out of circulation for decades, not part of the syndicated Zone package that we all watched over and over again.

    I'm pretty sure "Submitted For You Approval" is included in the TZ DVD set. In any case, I know I've seen it a couple of times. It's great.

    Thanks for checking in, Tim: always a pleasure!

  11. This has nothing to do with TZ, but I thought you might get a kick out of the way pokes fun at Green Lantern:


  12. Oh Dematteis... you've opened a can of worms here. Now I have to list some of my favorites.

    "Mr. Denton on Dooms Day"- In a way it's hard to believe that this was so early in the show. I love it, a tale of a man who's been defeated; by the world, by booze, and finally by himself. And best of all when he finally gets what he needs to fix himself up, he knows it's only leading to his destruction. Truly this is the tale of a man's worth, and not told through the affect of him gone or through the lives he touched, as the oh so cliched way goes, but rather just through the man himself. classic.

    "third from the Sun"- Serling's reworking of a Matheson classic. It's funny, we all look back at this episode and say, "saw it coming." But come on the first time you saw it whether it was in 1959 or last week you were totally surprised. And the atmosphere hung as thick as late night dock fog. Constantly you are on edge with an odd sense of foreboding, I can only imagine what it was like watching this when it first came out when this all seemed so possible on our sun's third planet.

    "The monsters are due on Maple Street"- This is my all time favorite episode. In many ways it is the ultimate TZ episode. Everything the show was could be, and is remembered for is right here. The lesson and imagery are BOTH HAUNTING, It still pops into my head every time I loose power.

    "People are alike all over."- I don't know why I love this episode so much, I just do. It is hardly among the most impressive, or thought provoking, but it sticks with me.

    "Passage of a Trumpet"- I don't care what anyone says, Jack Klugman is amazingly talented. And unlike most writers who feel a need to rush a tale of suicide into a story of it being wrong and sacrifices too much of how one gets there, this doesn't. You can absolutely feel that this man, for all his talent, is beaten down and full of despair. This is not a causality of "gee ain't life grand" story telling, but rather a dance partner. Truly a tale of a city's dark side, and in the end a love letter... Eisner must have been proud.

    "The howling Man"- You know where the walk way ends when good intentions are your mortar. Well this as literal a view of it as possible, and the terror that stalks all honorable men's nightmares and leaves them too chilled to sleep.

    "Night of the meek"- Great. Where as Mr. Denton's odyssey is about a man's worth, this is a man's value shining through (A man's worth being him as he is and his value being his potential to others, in my m ind any way) ANd how can someone not love a story about a man who only once wants to see the meek inherit the Earth, and to be the biggest best gift giver of all? Don't we all have at least a little of that in us. Could This druinken St. Nick be Steve Rogers' long lost cousin? Soul brother? an astral projection of his goodness as he lay frozen? probably not, but don't they both give you that same beaming hope for mankind?

    "will the real martian please stand up?"- Finally a tale on this list that doesn't take itself too seriously. A fun tale that is saved from the depths of hokeyness from great characterization and a sense of fun.

    "Obsolete Man"- One of the best ending narrations to any episode. Truly a great slap in the face to any who would sacrifice their identity. Okay, okay, so yes it is somewhat reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451, but Rod makes it his own.Two ideology's clashing as violently as any, but all through the dialogue of two men, it's almost like a well played game of chess.

    "The grave" - no real lesson, but again everything is through a handful of people talking. Not necessarily scary, but definitely creepy as all Hell. And that end always sends chills up my spine.

  13. "The Hunt"-ONe of the most touching tales ever. This story could have ol' Rip replaced with a wife, or sibling, or parent or child, but the fact he's a dog packs more impact than any of those other choices. A tale of a humble man saved by his humble tastes and humble affections, and there is no problem with any of that. After all "in all the world there is no love as pure and uncompromising than a boy(man)'s love for his dog." And this proves it. Also, I like the idea of paradise being simple in the end.

    "To serve man"- "Goofy!?" This one scarred me to no end as a kid, and still does a little. Maybe that's because the idea of being prey is so engrained into our psyche from our ancient ancestors. Or maybe it's just a feeling that being dependent on someone else makes us vulnerable. Or maybe it's just the fact the aliens talk without even moving teir mouths and are always in a post-stroke like stare, I don't know. And okay o it's also the plot of 90% of EC comics Sci-fi tales (there horror is so highly praised, but there science fiction had a nack for the Shockley) TYhis one always makes me a tad uneasy.

    "In Praise of Pip"- you may like stories of Father's but as any true reader (or writer) of DC's Bat could infer from my listings of "Mr. Denton on Dooms Day," "people are alike all over," "Passage of a trumpet," "Night of the meek," and this tale, I have a soft spot for stories of losers and failures. In the end it's a tale of how it's never too late, too late to make good, too late to abandon our wicked ways, or too late to find nobility. and as they say "Most men, not all, but most, hald that greatest of God's gifts, the potential for a noble soul, though many, if not most, are not lucky enough to be able to tap into it." Also the first television show to mention the Vietnam war.

    "Probe & over and out"- classic.

    "I am the night color me black"- A tale of hate and the line we draw and the toll it takes on us. In the end no matter how good of a reason anyone has, no one really did anything for the right reason. And no matter if any action taken or mentioned in this tale is n a moral right area, they are still tainted. And the reverend's words to the condemned hold a good point. In our society we associate the term minority with race, or religion, or ethnicity, but what about the truer minorities, those of opinion and of thoughts?

    "He is alive"- one of only three of the hour longs I remember, and a good one. Like the topic of suicide in "passage of a Trumpet," this handle prejudice realistically. It's not treated as a boogey man, but rather as a real life problem that can be manipulated by people. And it smashes our delusion, the delusion that "It can't happen here." Terrifying, but in a very different way than any other except "The monsters are due on maple street."

    "Valley of the Shadow"- a simple tale with an often over looked conclusion, that any paradise that is exclusionary is indeed not paradise. I liked it.

    And an honorary mention to: "The printer's devil," "came wander with me," "the encounter," "I shot an arrow into the air," "Dust," "Twenty-two," "a game of pool," "Nothing in the dark," and "Changing of the guard," truly ll classics. And a special mention to what I believe to be the worst episode, "The bewitchin' pool"

    The great thing about the Twilight Zone is it was certainly about imagination, but just as much it was about the characters that drove it.

    Wishing you nothing, but goodwill and hipness from here to the stars,


  14. You hit on a great point when you talk about "Third from the Sun": some of the TZ twists seem incredibly obvious now, but they weren't then. They were, for the most part, clever, brilliant, shocking. It's only with time, and familiarity, that some of them have come to seem cliched.

    You touch on other favorites of mine: "In Praise of Pip" -- which is guaranteed to reduce me to tears (and I agree that Jack Klugman is an amazing actor), "The Monsters are due on Maple Street" -- a very dark view of human nature; "Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?" -- the ending of which still delights me.

    That's the beauty of the Zone: all these years later and we can still talk about them endlessly. More than that, you can find TZ's fingerprints all over modern storytelling. And, for the most part, Serling & Company did it better. I don't know how many times I've seen some bloated, two hour movie and thought, "That would make a great half hour Twilight Zone."

    Sometimes less most definitely is more.

  15. Ah, yes, Jack: "The Bewitching Pool." A good idea gone wrong.

    "Nothing in the Dark" and "Changing of the Guard" are two favorites of mine. Those episodes really bring out your point about the best Zones being based, first and foremost, in character.

    I think if I had a chance to write for a TZ-like show, crafting half hour tales in the Serling/Matheson/Beaumont tradition, I could do it for the rest of my life: the scope is so broad, the canvas is so big, the opportunities to say something of value are so vast.

  16. "Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?" still creeps me out to this day, even though I'm an adult (hollow laugh) and have seen a bajillion horror/scary movies since.

  17. You'd think that, as "sophisticated" as we are, that episode would seem corny and dumb; but it really holds up and is, as you point out, very creepy.

    I think the fact that TZ had low budgets -- and so had to depend on great scripts, directing, acting and sustaining mood -- contributed to the timeless nature of those stories. They really had to sell you a STORY, not just a series of special effects.

  18. Yep. Even tho the reveal is kinda cheesy, the whole thing leading up to it is so effective that it doesn't matter. Paranoia is such fertile ground for a scary story.

    I did an illustration based on that episode, and the granddaughter of one of the actors in it (John Hoyt) saw it and asked me for a copy! No word on whether she, too, is an alien.

  19. That's very cool, Rob.

    The ending, by today's standards, is a little cheesy but, when I was a kid, it was anything but. It left me jaw-dropped and wondering how many Martians and Venusians might be out there walking around. TZ once again poking holes in reality and widening my young, impressionable mind.

  20. Why must I be mocked for running out of space and having to go to two"

    Anyway, you really wondered how man martians and Venusians were walking around? in Brooklyn? weren't you paying attention? They like wooded out of the way places.

    And as for all this talk of cheesy, like I said and you agreed, The show is all about character, as long as these characters are as real as they were, as long as they believe it you do. That's the power of it. To relate the nature of the zone to your profession, you hear so many stories of writers who when they have to rebel against an editor they do amazing things, but flounder when they have free range, in essence I feel like the lack of funds and time aided the show just as those editors aided the writers. I doubt that Mr. Serling would be willingly sacrificing story for effects, but the execs upstairs might. The key to a good anthology is to lay the characterization on thick, but not suffocatingly so, because you don't have another opportunity to either make some one care, or to not alienate them. Rod did this masterfully, so in the end he could tell us the sun is made of ice cream and that within 48 hours we'd all be invaded by carott monsters who will crush under the weight of our own hair with just one touch, and we'd all just about believe it was possible.

    It was sad to see that I'm the only one giving Mr. Denton any respect.

    Next up: "Mr. Dematteis's favorite Simpsons episodes from then to now, a reflection in hilarity." I know, I know not very bloody likely, but a man can dream.

    Wishing you nothing, but goodwill and hipness from here to the stars,


  21. Your point about lack of funds stimulating creativity is spot on, Jack. It's possible that, with bigger budgets, the show wouldn't have been half as good!

    Have a great weekend! JMD

  22. No "Little Girl Lost?" I still love that one. As a youngster I though that who ever thought that one up must have been a genius who I would be very afraid to meet. That one scared me and made me think about...stuff...
    "The Twilight Zone" was a show that made me read.

  23. "Little Girl Lost" scared the hell out of me when I was a kid, Tim. The idea of going to sleep and rolling through the wall into another dimension was terrifying. And somehow magical, too. WHich of course was the beauty of the Zone: scared you and cracked open your mind at the same time.

  24. Excellent list of episodes (and subsequent comments.) I think you guys covered all my faves already.

    Literally anytime I'm on a train with a conductor, I think of "Willoughby" and, depending on whom I'm with, will either say or think "Push push push, Williams! PUSH PUSH PUSH, WILLIAMS!"

    Look forward to the post on 80s Twilight Zone and your experience with it.

  25. That "Willoughby" episode really has a way of lodging in the brain, doesn't it?

    I hope to get to the 80's ZONE post sooner than later. Thanks for the reminder!

  26. p.s. One of my favorite issues of your Cap run back in the proverbial day was #264, which always feel Twilight-Zone-ish to me.

    Being born in 1974, I started reading comics before I started tuning in to the Twilight Zone, but by the time I became a regular watcher, I remember even thinking that at the time: "hey, this reminds me of that one story where Cap keeps switching nightmare Americas..."

    We all benefited from Twilight Zone poking holes in your young reality!

  27. That was a loooong time ago!

    As I recall, that story was inspired by Ursula LeGuin's THE LATHE OF HEAVEN...although I seem to recall someone telling me it struck them as a knock-off of PKD's UBIK. Considering how much I love that book, it's very possible that crept in, too.

    In any case, in those days it was harder to filter my influences through my own sensibilities, so those influences really stuck out.

    All that said, that CAP story remains a favorite for the very reason you suggest: it was a very bizarre, TZ-feeling adventure and not typical for the character. So perhaps, in the end, it was Serling's ghost haunting that story.

  28. "Little Girl Lost" was the first time I remember something being slightly anti-climatic to me. I didn't know what Anti-Climatic WAS as a youngster but I knew how it felt. That episode would have been perfect and all the more creepy if we never saw the "other" dimension that the girl fell into. Mostly due to the low budget 1950's TV effects I realize. I think it was just an odd camera angle and some smoke we were shown. As I kid I thought, "oh, that's not as creepy as I imagined in my head." Great episode still. But I think it would have been all the better if we never were shown what that "Other" dimension looked like.
    You can't fool kids. Anti-climatic was usually something I felt when I knew a movie or book did not live up to it's promised quality.

  29. Considering how effective TZ was when they DIDN'T show us things, Tim, it's a wonder they took us into that other dimension.

    As much as I still enjoy that episode -- the basic concept is so wonderfully creepy -- the other element that I found funny as an adult viewer was that the father's first thought was to call his friend who just happened to be a physicist and knew all about other dimensions!

  30. <>

    Yes it was. Sorry if my reference was out of left field, haha - when I think of the Twilight Zone, my own personal association is "Oh, Cap 264!" :-)

    I'm familiar with the PKD but not the LeGuin book - something new to check out, thanks for that.

    I usually have Twilight Zone or Outer Limits on in the background Sunday mornings when I'm doing my domestic yoga (ie laundry, dishes) and this morning's episode is "The Grave." Forgot how good (and atmospheric) this one is. And quite a cast: Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef, Strother Martin... I see it mentioned in the comments above, but I'd truly forgotten about this one. Great stuff.

    Look forward to that 80s TZ blog. The one I remember most from that series is the guys-creating-time behind-the-scenes one; I always think of those blue-clothed time-construction workers when I'm up really early and the streets are deserted. I know I'll catch them unawares one of these days...)

  31. I'm sure I saw that time-construction episode of the 80's ZONE, bmcmolo (what's your name, by the way?). but I don't remember it: I'll have to seek it out on Youtube.

    Another 80's ZONE I remember fondly is "Personal Demons" by Rockne O'Bannon. As a writer, it's a story I couldn't resist.

    Absolutely check out the LeGuin book: it's a classic. It was made into a TV movie by PBS (believe it or not) back in 1980. But read the book first!

  32. "Personal Demons" is a great one, too - good call.

    My name's Bryan, by the way. Last name's McMillan - "B McMolo" just became a nickname somewhere along the way!

    Will definitely check out the LeGuin book, on that recommendation. Many thanks.

  33. A pleasure, Bryan. Feel free to check back in any time. Best -- JMD

  34. There are actually three or four here that I haven't seen! Damn, I'd better get on that, especially if you'd rate them above my two favorites: "A Game of Pool" and "The Obsolete Man." At least, those are the favorites that come to mind at the moment. When it comes to TZ, favorites tend to circulate like one of those display carousels in diners filled with several varieties of delicious, delicious pie. Which do I like most? That one! No wait, that one! No wait... oh, I love them all!

    I too am glad to see Brennert's wonderful episode brought up here! I've recently become a huge Brennert devotee due to the nine (I counted) stories he wrote for DC over twenty or so years. Every single one is a mini-masterpiece, but in such subtle, quiet, humane ways that most people don't seem to notice or give him his due. "Humane" really is the word I'd use to describe his superhero work, which often focuses on characters who are emotionally wounded in some way, and who find some manner of healing by the end. It's a wonderful trait than Brennert excels at in both his DC work and "Her Pilgrim Soul," and I dearly, dearly wish he'd be a bigger name to warrant an Alan Moore style "Complete DC Comics Works" collection. I'd love to write a whole essay about why Brennert's so great, but alas, I'm not sure where I'd post it or who'd care. So I hope you'll forgive me for taking this rare opportunity to sing his praises to someone who'd understand.

    Incidentally, have you heard or seen "Weird Romance," the musical that Brennert did with the great Alan Menken? I've only heard the soundtrack, but it's... interesting. Half of the show is a musical one-act adaptation of "Her Pilgrim Soul," and man, I'd love to see that staged with slightly better production values than the ones on that soundtrack.

  35. Humane is exactly the word I'd use to describe Alan's work, Hefner -- and I'd throw in compassionate, intelligent and moving. And he's a helluva nice guy, too. Write that essay, I'm sure you'll find a venue for it.

    "When it comes to TZ, favorites tend to circulate like one of those display carousels in diners filled with several varieties of delicious, delicious pie... oh, I love them all!" Me, too! Me, too!

    Thanks for your insights. We're clearly on the same wavelength.

  36. Great list! We have some in common.

    My favorites are:

    1."Nick of Time" as it's the first one my dad ever showed me and the one that stuck in my mind as a kid. That damned devil machine still is etched in my memory. Shatner was obsessed with having all the answers. And the couple that come in after them at the end who are enslaved to this machine...chilling. Plus, it has a diner and I love diners!

    2."Five Characters in Search of an Exit" That's one of my favorites because I only saw it recently and had no idea what the twist is. I never would have guessed it, either. And every time I watch it, I find something I didn't notice before...that and the ballerina is cute!

    3."The Dummy" Poor Cliff Robertson! That ending when the Dummy is laughing and he just puts his head down in defeat...that still scares me to this day.

    4."Two" Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery do so much with so little dialogue. Granted, Bronson is doing most of the talking but I love how both show us they're not just game pieces in a war, they're people.

    5."The Howling Man" For a while, I almost believed the guy in the cell rather than Brother Jerome and that's the beauty of this episode.

    1. Great choices, Jose. I'm especially fond of "Five Characters in Search of an Exit." That was one that seemed incredibly bizarre to me as a kid, even for a TZ episode. Plus it has the great William Windom in it. And you know from my list that I love "Nick of Time": eerie, unsettling and a wonderful performance from that young actor, WillIam Shatner. I wonder what ever happened to him?

  37. I'm also a fan of the 80's series. My dad has the first season on DVD. "Paladin of the Lost Hour" is such a powerful episode. I'm thinking about buying the season 2/season 3 box set so I can see the rest.

    1. There were some wonderful episodes in the 80's series, Jose. "Paladin" was excellent. (Written by Harlan Ellison, right?) And, as mentioned above, I sold my first TV script to that show so it will always hold a special place in my will the man responsible for that sale, the great writer Alan Brennert.