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Old 08-03-2021, 12:28 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Title: “The Last Flight”
Original transmission date: February 5 1960
Written by: Richard Matheson
Directed by: William F. Claxton
Starring: Kenneth Haigh as Flight Lt. Decker
Simon Scott as Major Wilson
Alexander Scourby as General Harper
Robert Warwick as Air Vice Marshal Alexander Mackaye
Harry Raybould as Corporal
Jerry Catron as Guard
Jack Perkins as Mechanic
Paul Baxley as Jeep driver


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Cowardice, bravery, second chance, time travel
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A

Serling’s opening monologue

Witness Flight Lieutenant William Terrance Decker, Royal Flying Corps, returning from a patrol somewhere over France. The year is 1917. The problem is that the lieutenant is hopelessly lost. Lieutenant Decker will soon discover that a man can be lost not only in terms of maps and miles, but also in time - and time in this case can be measured in eternities.

A British pilot from World War I lands at an American airfield in the present, and when taken to the commanding officer is told he is in 1959. Finding this hard to believe - duh - he mentions his friend “Mac”, Alexander McKay, and is told with extreme scepticism for his story by the base commander that Air Vice Marshall McKay is in fact due there to inspect the facility. The pilot believes this impossible, as he tells them McKay is dead. He tells them that when he last saw McKay he was encircled by seven German aircraft, and later confesses that he himself is a coward, afraid to engage the enemy. He says he has to put on a face, because to be a coward is bad enough, but admitting to, or even worse, being proven one is a fate worse than death.

He’s placed under “protective custody” while the base awaits the arrival of the Air Vice Marshall, though Decker is reluctant to meet his old friend, believing he will be recognised for what he is. Unable to understand how McKay can still be alive, when, as he tells the major, he left him to die, ran off, Decker suddenly gets it. The only reason Mac is alive has to be that he, Decker, changed his mind and went back to help him. He had to come 42 years into the future to learn the truth, that he could save him, but if he stays where he is then the chances are, the two men will never meet in 1959 because McKay will have died in 1917.

Desperate, he slugs the major and breaks out, racing to his aircraft. The major tries to detain him but he gets away, back up into the sky. A short while later, the major is being upbraided by the general for having let him escape when Air Vice Marshall McKay arrives. The major asks him about Decker, and McKay tells them the man saved his life back in World War I. Says he looked as if he was running out on him but then came back, took out three of the German fighters before they got him. In amazement, the general shows McKay the personal effects he had confiscated from Decker, and McKay, dumbfounded, confirms they belong to his old friend.

Serling's closing monologue

Dialog from a play, Hamlet to Horatio: There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Dialog from a play written long before men took to the sky: There are more things in heaven and earth and in the sky than perhaps can be dreamt of. And somewhere in between heaven, the sky, and the earth, lies the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

A good one. A man who needs the courage to do what needs to be done finds it in the future, finding that his friend, who would otherwise be long dead, has distinguished himself in the next world war and risen in the ranks, and realises he has to go back to help him survive, facing his own cowardice and giving his life bravely.

The Moral

Everyone gets a second chance, it’s up to them how they use it?

Themes

Cowardice, bravery, being given a second chance. Time lines, which should, of course, have shifted when Decker came to the future, meaning McKay should have been dead. And maybe he was; until that helicopter bringing him to the air force base landed, who knew who would have stepped out of it, depending on what Decker did? It’s good to to see Matheson - this being entirely written by him - tackling the thorny idea of cowardice in the armed forces. It can’t be that every young man who went to war did so with no fear, and while cowardice would be liable to get you killed as much by your own side as that of the enemy, it was surely a constant threat to those who fought for liberty.

I believe this is also the first time travel story, if you don’t count “Walking Distance”.

The Times they are a Changin’

Decker mentions that he has often thought of allowing himself to be captured by the Germans, remarking that pilots get the best treatment. Yes, back in WW I they did, seen as some sort of knights of the sky, gentlemen flyers, worthy adversaries. By the time World War II came around though it was a very different matter!

Personal Notes

This is the very first Twilight Zone episode in which Serling basically has no input, the story having been written by Richard Matheson (whose stories had been adapted for two previous ones) from his own work, “Flight”.
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Old 08-03-2021, 01:39 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Title: “The Purple Testament”
Original transmission date: February 12 1960
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: Richard L. Bare
Starring: William Reynolds
Dick York
Barney Phillips
Warren Oates
Paul Mazursky
Ron Masak
William Phipps
S. John Launer
Marc Cavell


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Second World War, 1945
Theme(s): War, prediction of the future, death, isolation, paranoia
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A

Serling’s opening monologue

Infantry platoon, U.S. Army, Philippine Islands, 1945. These are the faces of the young men who fight, as if some omniscient painter had mixed a tube of oils that were at one time earth brown, dust gray, blood red, beard black, and fear—yellow white, and these men were the models. For this is the province of combat, and these are the faces of war.

An officer in the US Army serving in the Philippine Islands in World War II seems to have developed the strange - and unwanted - power to divine when men are going to die. He sees a purple light in their faces, and knows they’re marked for death. He confides this to his CO but of course is not believed. While visiting one of the wounded in the hospital, the officer, “Fitz” Fitzgerald sees the light in the kid’s face, faints and sure enough when he regains consciousness he finds that the soldier has passed away in the bed. When he sees the light in the face of his commanding officer he is shocked, and tries to get the captain not to go on the raid, but the captain thinks he’s just overworked and seeing things.

The captain is of course killed, and when Fitz is recalled to headquarters for observation, he sees in his shaving mirror the light in his own face, and knows he will never make it back alive. He is to be evacuated back home for medical evaluation, but soon after his jeep has disappeared into the jungle there's a loud explosion.

Serling’s closing monologue


From William Shakespeare, Richard the Third, a small excerpt. The line reads, 'He has come to open the purple testament of bleeding war.' And for Lieutenant William Fitzgerald, A Company, First Platoon, the testament is closed. Lieutenant Fitzgerald has found the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

Not bad. No explanation of course, but then you seldom if ever get one in The Twilight Zone.

The Moral

Other than war is hell? I guess when your number’s up, there’s not a lot you can do about it.

Themes

The horror of war is the main one here, allied to the pain of being able to predict which men will come back from a mission, and which won’t. So it involves combat and also a sense of precognition. Fear, too, which is of course endemic to war, but a different kind of fear. Fear from his own men, that he can see if they are going to die (and so, in some twisted way, they probably blame him for this) and fear, too, from the lieutenant, who feels he has become an albatross hanging around the neck of the squad, and refuses to tell the men whom he sees are marked for death that they're not coming back, but the relationship has changed, become strained, fraught with tension, and he must feel very isolated.

Iconic?

Not sure if it's the first to feature a sort of presentiment of death, probably not, but this would become a recurring theme in science fiction over the years. Wasn't there a movie called The Medusa Touch, or am I misremembering? What about Knowing? What about fuc - well, how rude!


Personal Notes


Just one comment to make: the captain in this is called Riker, spelled that way, and I just wonder if Roddenberry had seen this episode and if it influenced his naming of Captain Picard’s famous “Number One”?

Well, two actually. Isn't it interesting that Serling's closing quotes on both this and the last episode reference Shakespeare? No? Sod ya then.
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Old 08-03-2021, 02:20 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Title: “Elegy”
Original transmission date: February 19 1960
Written by: Charles Beaumont, from his story
Directed by: Douglas Heynes
Starring: Cecil Kellaway
Jeff Morrow
Kevin Hagen
Don Dubbins


Setting: An asteroid
Timeframe: 2085
Theme(s): Death, Commercialism, social status
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A



Serling’s opening monologue

The time is the day after tomorrow. The place: a far corner of the universe. A cast of characters: three men lost amongst the stars. Three men sharing the common urgency of all men lost. They're looking for home. And in a moment, they'll find home; not a home that is a place to be seen, but a strange unexplainable experience to be felt.

Off-course and drifting in space, the crew of a spaceship locate an Earthlike planet and land. More than Earthlike - it’s identical, except everything seems to be frozen in place. They’re soon disabused of the notion that this could in fact be Earth by the older technology - it appears to be about 200 years in the past - and, more importantly and conclusively, two suns in the sky. When they encounter people, they too all seem to be frozen, and one falls over when one of the spacemen pushes him lightly. Hearing music, they rush to the bandstand but the music seems to be piped in, though there’s a full band, standing like models.

They consider the possibility that time might be moving at a different speed for them. They decide to split up, to see if there is anyone living they can contact, but though they come across a party where a man is dancing with his wife, a beauty contest and a card game in session, nobody moves or talks, or responds. Then, unseen by the spaceman, one of the figures at the beauty contest does move, and smiles knowingly to himself. Meeting back up, the men go to check out houses, and are astonished to come across the old man who moved back at the beauty contest. He introduces himself as Jeremy Wickwire, and he explains that the asteroid they are on is a giant purpose-built cemetery.

Here, anyone who can afford it may have their body preserved in whatever fantasy or ambition they like, and because the company, Happy Glades (“The Biggest Mortuary Company in the World”) promises eternal peace, forever, to its, ah, clients, the place had to be built out in space. And so it was, says Wickwire, in 1973. He reveals that he is not human, merely the perception of a computerised image, a caretaker that looks after the place and ensures its denizens are not disturbed.

But they have been disturbed, and as he serves the space pilots drinks, he asks them what their fondest wish would be. As they lose consciousness, he ensures that it comes to pass, arranging their dead bodies in their ship, so that they can feel as if they are heading for home.

Serling’s closing monologue

Kirby, Webber, and Meyers, three men lost. They shared a common wish—a simple one, really. They wanted to be aboard their ship headed for home. And fate—a laughing fate—a practical jokester with a smile stretched across the stars, saw to it that they got their wish with just one reservation: the wish came true, but only in the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

Clever. Although you have to question the likelihood that bodies, even embalmed ones, would stay in pristine condition - and in place - for two centuries, the idea of a huge, exclusive and expensive graveyard in space is an interesting one, and once you know that this is the case, there can never be allowed any sort of disruption, least of all from humans. Or at least, live ones.

The Moral

Man will never achieve peace, for he can never bring it about.

Themes

Death, nuclear war, commercial entrepreneurism, and social strata all figure in here. Happy Glades is only available to those who can afford its, no doubt exorbitant rates, and so, as ever, even the cemetery maintains the human societal hierarchy. There’s mention of an “atomic war”, supposed to have taken place in 1985, which is interesting on two levels. Given that this was written in 1953, that means that Beaumont foresaw this apocalyptic disaster occurring a mere thirty years in the future, and considering what almost happened in a mere ten years - the Cuban missile crisis - he could have been right. Also, he puts the date of the war at one year after that predicted by George Orwell in his famous novel.

The idea of creating the cemetery on the asteroid is not fully explained: who built it? He says it was built in 1973, but that kind of technology would have been unlikely to be achieved in twenty years, so did some alien race build it?

Oops!

Again, we’re told the spacecraft is 65 million miles from Earth. That’s not even halfway out of the solar system, so where are they supposed to be?

And isn’t that…?



Jeff Morrow (1907 - 1993)

Famous as Exeter in the classic science fiction movie This Island Earth and also as Paulus in the Biblical epic The Robe.



Kevin Hagen (1928 - 2005)

Without question, the role he’s remembered for is the likeable Doc Baker in the series Little House on the Prairie.

Questions, and sometimes, Answers

I know these are supposed to be fine, moral, upstanding specimens of humanity, but still, when one of them comes across a card game where all the players seem frozen (like everyone and everything else) and there is literally money everywhere on the table, thousands, surely, of dollars, he doesn’t experience even the momentary temptation to take some, or all of it? Seems a little unlikely.

Who pays for the cemetery, for its upkeep and maintenance, now that the Earth has been mostly destroyed? The spacers say that it took nearly 200 years to get the planet back on its feet after the war, but if such an enterprise existed wouldn’t everyone on Earth know about it? And these guys certainly never seem to have heard about it. How can it be such a well-kept secret? Don’t they advertise?

Can you kill someone by pumping embalming fluid into them? I mean, I guess it would kill them, but wouldn’t it be horribly painful? And Wickwire assures the men it will not hurt. Surely there could have been some other way to get rid of them? I know this is two centuries in the future, and they may have some more humane process for death that involves embalming fluid, but still...

Iconic?

Very much so. The idea of a purpose-built planet has been used many times since, in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for one, and this very story is closely mirrored later in a Star Trek episode called “Shore Leave”. Different aim, same basic idea though. Similar attendant too. Also, to some slightly different extent, an early Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ("The Royale", I believe) in which aliens purpose-build a new home for a NASA astronaut who has been stranded far from his planet. I guess you could even attribute the last scenes in 2001 to it too, as Bowman is cared for by the aliens to whom the monoliths belong.

This also features a rocket-shaped exploration craft of the type which would become very popular in sixties science fiction movies and serials.

Those clever little touches

That Star Trek sound effect used on “Third From the Sun” is again in evidence in the opening scenes inside the spacecraft.

The Times they are a Changin’

Who would have thought that science fiction writers could have envisioned a basic space station being built in the 1970s, or that Earth would undergo a cataclysmic nuclear war in 1985? And yet, here we still are, bothering the galaxy with our presence over forty years later...

Personal Notes


So far as I can see, given that this was only 1960, I don’t think any special camera tricks are used in the “suspension” effect, which means all the actors are standing or sitting still of their own accord, and if so, it’s a testament to their acting that, while there are the odd almost imperceptible movements, as will happen when anyone tries to remain entirely still, they achieve the illusion really well.
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Old 08-04-2021, 05:42 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Okay. I'll do a quick review of the ones you've done up to now with my own rating (I rate A+ to F by the way and I use it by the standard of Twilight Zone episodes)

Where is Everybody- The pilot episode. Has it's good points. Earl Holliman was a quite successful actor in TV and movies, possibly best known for his role in Police Woman (no, he didn't play a woman). Another face you may recognize is James Gregory, an often seen character actor who would do more Twilight Zone's later. Not a bad pilot but I've seen better (Rating: B- ) (Note: I grade harder)

One for the Angels: I think I briefly mentioned this one. Ed Wynn is excellent as Bookman. This is the better of his two TZ appearances and it's a classic performance. Likewise, Murray Hamilton's performance as Mr. Death. Death, of course, is one of several themes Serling explores through TZ's run. I like this episode, it's fairly light-hearted and Mr. Death, while stern, is never cruel. (Rating: A-)

Mr. Denton on Doomsday- Serling also liked to set his Zones in the old west and this is one of the better of that genre. Al Denton (Dan Duryea) is excellent as the town drunk turned gunslinger. Martin Landau (I think you know him) more or less plays the villain in the piece and it's fun to see his young acting chops. Love that the seemingly sinister Henry J. Fate is actually trying to do good in his odd way. Solid episode to be sure (rating: B+ )

The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine- Yeah, this isn't one of my favorites either. Not terrible and I love Ida Lupino. Might note that the Twilight Zone wasn't very kind to actresses in general and even Lupino's performance as a washed up actress seems flat. Anyway, certainly watchable but not something I would jump up and watch at a moment's notice (rating:C)

PS- We're you in the Twilight Zone when you posted this three times?

Walking Distance- Now we definitely differ here. I think this falls more in the psychological vein as Martin Sloan (Gig Young), a middle aged man tired of the pressures of adulthood tries to discover a time when things seemed simpler. Especially liked the talk between him and his father (Frank Overton) who seems to sense that the adult Martin really is his son in the future. This is my favorite episode so far (rating:A)

PS- As for Ron Howard, you also forgot Opie

Escape Clause: Now you're come to my favorite TZ theme, the devil. It's also the first Zone that could be considered a comedy. David Wayne is excellent as the hypochondriac turned murderer Walter Bedeker when he make a deal with the devil (Thomas Gomez). He gets immortality and seems to make a fortune until he accidentally kills his wife and gets life. Given a choice of immortality behind bars and going to the depths of Hell, you can guess which choice he chose. (rating: A)

The Lonely: Corry (Jack Warden) is condemned on a distant asteroid and is given a female robot by a sympathetic captain of a ship that brings him supplies. Unfortunately he falls in love with the robot and the Captain has to shoot her to bring Corry back to reality so he can take him home. John Dehner, who will you see in other Twilight Zones and one of my faves, plays the Captain here and he's excellent. As far as the storyline goes though, well, it's okay, but... (rating: B)

Okay, that's page one. I'll comment on page two tomorrow.
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Old 08-05-2021, 07:20 AM   #35 (permalink)
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Okay, now for page two.

Time Enough At Last- I have to confess, I'm not a big fan of Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone. Oh, don't get me wrong, he's an excellent actor and he's done a lot more than the Penguin, obviously. And he's excellent here as well as in the other three TZs he starred in.

But I don't know. To me, with the exception of the Obsolete Man, his TZ's seem a little too light, even this one, while expertly written, seemed to trivialize a nuclear holocaust. Still a decent episode though (Rating:B)

Perchance To Dream- This is very psychological as the protagonist is subject to vivid nightmares that seem to foresee doom in his mind, thus he won't sleep.

You ask why Maya was trying to kill Hall. Perhaps she wasn't. Maybe he connected her with something and was the subject of his nightmares. I had a similar experience after a truamatic episode as a child. Anyway, not that great an episode in my book (Rating: B-)

Judgment Night- This is where Rod Serling goes into preachy territory a bit and, believe me, he gets much worse. Here, though, this is a great piece of Karma as we discover at the end that our Carl Lanser is doomed to the fate he enforced on the victims of the ship he sank. I like this episode a lot. It's always fun to see bad people get their comeuppance (rating: A)

And When the Sky Was Opened: I did mention this and Judgement Night earlier but I didn't go into what I thought about them. This one is intriguing as people forget about the astronauts one by one as if they never existed. Good performances, especially by Taylor and Hutton, who shakes in terror when he realizes his own fate. Solid episode, not one of my go to episodes, but solid (rating: B+)

Will do page three next time.
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Old 08-06-2021, 06:56 AM   #36 (permalink)
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Okay, the rest of my thoughts and you can have your journal back, Trolls

What You Need-Covered a bit in post 26. Loved the irony on this one. Ernest Truax as the peddler is excellent in this one. (Rating: A- )

The Four of Us Are Dying- I may have mentioned Ross Martin in particular in post 26. Basically, though, it's about a unscrupulous man who, with the gift of changing faces, can get what he wants, sometimes in a rather sinister way. Why do the voices change as well? Well, maybe when he changes into the face, he also changes into the voice and personality, just a thought (Rating: A)

Third From the Sun: I was really into this one, and I always like Fritz Weaver, until the twist when they say they are headed to planet Earth- who could have seen that one coming? (Rating: B+)

I Shot An Arrow Into the Air- Definitely a story about what happens when you run low on food and supplies and what one person will do to survive as long as he can. Solid story and really like the twist on this one where it turns out the astronauts never left Earth and our villain killed the other two for nothing. (Rating: B+)

The Hitchhiker- A rare occurance where the protagonist is actually a female. An Inger Stevens is quite good as Nan Adams, the beleagured traveler who keeps getting haunted by this hitchhiker who, as TZ fans know at the end, is, in fact, death. Chilling to be sure and a must for die hard TZ fans (Rating: A)

PS- Going my way?

The Fever: A weird one to be sure. Kind of a fan of Everett Sloane since Citizen Kane and I think he died a rather tragic death a few years later (Suicide from what I read). In this one he's a pious man with something stuck up his you know what who becomes obsessed with a slot machine. The best thing about this episode is the voice that sounds like rolling coins. Decent story, better sound affects (Rating: B)

The Last Flight: Interesting thesis. A coward of sorts leaves his flying partner in dire straits and ends up in the future. Love that he gets a chance to redeem himself and save his friend, but not really a favorite. Pretty average Zone in my opinion (Rating: B-)

The Purple Testament: Rod Serling, himself a World War II veteran, wrote a lot of Zones set in that war. This is one of his best. Dick York plays the afflicted protagonist and I have to say, he's a lot better here than he ever was in Bewitched. Another big name is William Reynolds who would later star in the FBI. Good visual effects which is something when you consider this is in black and white. A definite Twilight Zone classic (Rating: A+)

Elegy: And welcome to the world of Charles Beaumont, who I have to say, is my favorite Twilight Zone writer. Not for this one though. Maybe he was trying to get his feet wet first, I don't know. Don't get me wrong, it's a decent episode and I get that the caretaker had to turn the astronauts into wax figures. Still, Beaumont was going to do so much better. (Rating: B-)

And that's it. Post some more, Trolls, so I can throw more ratings at ya.
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Old 08-07-2021, 06:55 PM   #37 (permalink)
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Not sure what the hell happened with that triple post. Thanks for the heads-up, RS! On we go...


Title: “Mirror Image”
Original transmission date: February 26 1960
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: John Brahm
Starring: Vera Miles as Millicent Barnes
Martin Milner as Paul Grinstead
Joe Hamilton as Ticket Attendant
Naomi Stevens as Cleaning Lady


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Alienation, paranoia, madness, loneliness, parallel worlds, doppelganger
Parodied? Probably
Rating: A+

Serling’s opening monologue

Millicent Barnes, age twenty-five, young woman waiting for a bus on a rainy November night. Not a very imaginative type is Miss Barnes: not given to undue anxiety, or fears, or for that matter even the most temporal flights of fantasy. Like most young career women, she has a generic classification as a, quote, girl with a head on her shoulders, end of quote. All of which is mentioned now because, in just a moment, the head on Miss Barnes' shoulders will be put to a test. Circumstances will assault her sense of reality and a chain of nightmares will put her sanity on a block. Millicent Barnes, who, in one minute, will wonder if she's going mad.


It’s a dark and stormy night (well, it is!) and a woman is waiting inside a bus depot but the bus is half an hour late. Worried, she checks with the ticket attendant, who snappily tells her that he has the same answer for her as he did the last time she asked: it’ll be here when it gets here. She’s surprised - as well as a little taken aback by his bluff rudeness - because this is the first time she’s spoken to the man, but he is making the case that she has asked several times already, perhaps explaining why he’s so irascible. Then she spots a bag at the check-in that looks suspiciously like hers. She puts the coincidence from her mind, or tries to, not wishing to incur the further wrath of the old guy behind the desk, but the idea won’t leave her, and she has to have a closer look at the bag a few minutes later. Now she sees it is identical to hers (“Even down to the broken handle”) and the guy says it is hers, and that she checked it fifteen minutes ago! She says no, it’s like hers but - and as she turns to indicate her bag, which she had left beside her on the seat, it’s no longer there.

She goes into the ladies to wash her face and meets a cleaner in there, who also swears she was in there just a few minutes before. Now she wonders if she’s going mad. Why are two people both telling her she has done things she has not, that they’ve seen her before when she knows they have not? And how has her bag magically got itself checked in, when it never left her side? As she leaves the ladies in a huff though, she catches sight of herself in the mirror. Twice. She is standing in the restroom and also still sitting outside! When she goes outside, there is of course nobody sitting in her seat, however her case is back where she originally left it, and no longer checked in. As she begins to think she’s losing her mind, another traveller arrives and she starts talking to him, glad to have someone to share her anxieties with, probably eager to be told she’s worrying about nothing.

She introduces herself as Millicent Barnes, a secretary who has quit her job and is leaving town to start a new one, and he as Paul Grinstead. He listens to her story but can’t figure out if she’s crazy or not. He advances several weak theories for what might be happening, and then the bus arrives. As they go to get on it though, Millicent looks up and sees… herself, sitting there, already on the bus! She runs away in fright back into the depot and Paul pursues her, asking the bus driver to wait. However as she’s in no condition to travel he decides to stay with her, telling the bus driver to carry on without them. When Millicent regains consciousness she is gratified to see she is not alone, and begins to relate a strange tale she once heard about parallel universes and how they can sometimes intrude into ours, with the version of us in that universe having to replace the original in order to survive. Paul listens, and says he’s going to phone a friend (hah) who can drive them to their destination rather than wait for the next bus.

In reality, he’s phoning the police, believing she’s sick and needs help. While he’s on the phone though, she goes into the ladies again, intending to hunt down the other version of her. Concerned when he hears her, from outside, seemingly talking to herself, he convinces her to walk outside with him and has the cops pick her up. As they drive away with her, he shakes his head. Then, as he prepares to spend the night in the bus depot, he looks up from taking a drink at the water fountain to see his bag has disappeared, and a man is running out of the door. A man who looks very much like him...

Serling’s closing monologue

Obscure and metaphysical explanation to cover a phenomenon. Reasons dredged out of the shadows to explain away that which cannot be explained. Call it 'parallel planes' or just 'insanity'. Whatever it is, you'll find it in the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

Weirdly poetic justice. After deciding that Millicent is mad, Paul falls under the same spell as her, realising that against all odds, she was right, and that whatever parallel world her double came from, there’s one of him there too, and it wants his life. He’s left to rue losing his one ally, the one person who not only would have believed his now fantastical explanation of events, but might have had some knowledge as to what to do to stop them. Nobody will believe him now.

The Moral

As in many of these episodes, the words of Hamlet come back to haunt us: There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of...

Themes

The main one here is mostly paranoia, and the fear of going slowly mad, as everything Millicent has believed to be true, taken at face value, relied on, shatters and crumbles before her disbelieving eyes. The comfortable, safe world of reality and common sense has broken down into a nightmare existence of uncertainty, doubt and approaching madness. She can no longer trust her own eyes, and when she has made up her mind that she can, she can’t get anyone to believe her. For the first time, the idea of parallel worlds is here also explored, the idea that we all exist in infinite and perhaps very slightly different (or even identical, as in this instance) planes of existence, and, too, the idea, not original to this series and long held in folklore, of the doppelganger, a twin (often said to be evil) that everyone has somewhere in the world.

And isn’t that…?


Vera Miles (1929 - )

Another link to Psycho, as she played Lila Crane in both the original and the later sequel. She also, rather interestingly, featured in an episode of later “rival” anthology series The Outer Limits, and went on to have roles in some of the biggest shows of the day, including Mannix, Ironside, Marcus Welby, Bonanza, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Gunsmoke, Hawaii Five-0, Alias Smith and Jones, Cannon, Columbo, The Streets of San Francisco and Fantasy Island, to name but a few.

Iconic?

I would say a cautious yes. I’m sure this is not the first time an “evil double” story was written (I suppose in some ways you can even liken that idea to Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Mask) but it surely echoes elements of Jack Finney’s 1954 novel Invasion of the Body Snatchers and its later adaptation to the screen in 1956, in the building fear and paranoia that nothing is as it seems, that there is evil afoot and that people are changing, but nobody believes it’s happening. Of course, this idea would be carried on throughout science fiction, with such series as Star Trek using it to varying degrees of effect. It would, in time, become almost a cliche, the “evil twin” story, and turn into a lazy plot device for lazy authors.

Personal Notes

He’s an old guy, but I personally have a problem with the attitude of the ticket attendant towards Millicent. Yes, he’s fed up with her constantly asking, as he sees it, the same questions, but even when she faints and is clearly in trouble, he seems unsympathetic, and when Grinstead tells him he’s calling the cops, he becomes positively eager in a very disturbing way, as if he can’t wait to see her locked up. So much for the older generation protecting the flower of the sex!

Parallels

This is a new section I’m starting today. As I mentioned in the intro, themes and situations and causes and morals are reused throughout the series, and when one episode can be linked or compared with a previous one, when the overall theme or idea fits or builds on something that has already been explored, I’ll note that here.

"Perchance to Dream"

Although not the same thing, the idea of the double and of something or someone crossing over from another dimension is reflected earlier in the episode “Perchance to Dream”. Of course, in that case it’s the world of dreams that becomes real when Edward Hall sees what he believes to be Maya from his nightmare in the shape of the receptionist. Still, the idea of something being here that should not be, something that belongs in another place entirely, links these two episodes I believe.
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Old 08-07-2021, 07:05 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Title: “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”
Original transmission date: March 4 1960
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: Ronald Winston
Starring: Claude Akins
Barry Atwater
Jack Weston
Burt Metcalfe

Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Alienation, paranoia, mob mentality, distrust
Parodied? Yes, frequently.
Rating: A++


Serling’s opening monologue

Maple Street, U.S.A., late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice cream vendor. At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 P.M. on Maple Street...This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street in the last calm and reflective moment—before the monsters came.

There is a glow in the sky and a flash over quiet suburban Maple Street, and suddenly nothing electrical works any more. The phones are out, power tools are mute, clocks stop. Even the cars refuse to start up. As Steve Brand, one of the neighbourhood men, sets out to walk with his friend Charlie to the police station in town to check things out, Tommy, one of the local kids who has an interest in science fiction, tells him that he believes “whoever was in that thing that went overhead” doesn’t want them to leave, and that’s why they’ve shut off all the power. He says this is what happens in every book he reads about aliens. He further warns him that there may be aliens here now, infiltrating humanity and looking just like them. His story is greeted with derision - he’s only an impressionable kid, after all - but in a very few moments eyes are beginning to narrow, heads are inclined and you can see the cogs whirring inside the minds as Tommy tells them these aliens look just like them and really could be anyone.

Suspicion is further reinforced when another neighbour, Les, trying to start his car has it fire up into life all on its own. The cold hard (and illogical but irrepressible) finger of accusation begins to point at him, the more so when the car mysteriously stops, again by itself. Questions begin to be asked: who is this family anyway? Why didn’t Les come out when the “meteor”, as they believe(d) it was, flew overhead? What do they know about this guy and his family? Real oddballs, according to Charlie. The mood gets dark and they go over to confront him, but Les insists he knows nothing. Steve tries to keep the peace, ensure everyone maintains a level head, but it’s clear his calming, matter-of-fact influence will not last long. The seed has been planted, now it must grow and put forth its ugly and terrifying harvest.

Further accusations come forth. Why is Les always looking up at the sky at night, as if he’s waiting for something? He tells them it’s insomnia, but they move away from him as if frightened, as if they don’t know him anymore, if they ever did. As if he’s no longer one of them. As if he’s the enemy. He warns them they’re starting something terrible here, something that can’t end well, but they begin to keep watch on him and his house as darkness falls. When Steve again tries to inject some common sense into proceedings, he’s accused by Charlie of siding with the enemy, Charlie is then told by another neighbour that he isn’t exactly cleared of suspicion either, and things begin to spiral out of control.

Accusations fly, Steve tries to show everyone - especially Charlie, whom he seems to have taken a dislike to, seeing how his neighbour is now reacting, leading the protests - that they are in danger of doing something stupid. Note: when a lot of stupid people get together with a stupid aim, that’s usually the definition of a mob. Suddenly the sound of someone walking, and seized by fear and anger, and a definite idea that this is one of the aliens, come to kill them, Charlie shoots and kills the intruder, who happens to be another neighbour, Pete Van Horn, who had earlier gone off to check if the power was gone in the neighbouring street. As Pete lies dead at his feet, Charlie’s house suddenly lights up, and suspicion swings to him. Why did he kill Pete? Was he afraid he was going to be exposed as the invader? Why have the lights come on just now on only his house? From being the leader, the rabble-rouser, Charlie has just become suspect zero, public enemy number one, and abruptly feels what it’s like to be on the receiving end of unfounded suspicion.

As he runs to his house, people picking up rocks at throwing them at him, breaking his windows, Charlie swears he’s not the alien, and points the finger at Tommy. It actually makes sense: nobody even thought of aliens till the kid came up with his crazy story, and he was the one standing behind Charlie as Pete walked up the road, urging him to do something, that here was the alien, come to kill them all. They chase him, but just then lights come on in this house, and then that house, and then another. Suspicions go from one to the other, people pick up rocks, grab guns, chaos descends as the inhabitants of Maple Street run this way and that, convinced this guy or that guy is the alien, the stranger among them, the one who does not belong. Steve’s efforts to maintain order are useless and all goes to hell.

From a hill overlooking the street, two aliens nod, the one gratified that his demonstration has convinced the other that they do not need to expend manpower defeating the humans, that all they have to do is sow the seeds of discord and suspicion, and the earth people will destroy themselves. “They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find,” one notes, “and it is themselves.”

Serling’s closing monologue

The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices...to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill...and suspicion can destroy...and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own—for the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.


The Resolution

Excellent, though you can see it coming. All it needs to turn people against each other is for an idea to be floated that someone is different, someone is responsible, someone is dangerous. Then just sit back and watch the carnage.

The Moral

Sometimes the monsters that are within each one of us are more terrifying and powerful than any we can dream up, or any that may exist.

Themes

There are definite parallels with the previous episode, in that alienation figures quite prominently here, as it did there, although here it’s a mass thing, whereas in “Mirror Image” it was just one person, then another, having the experience, but both solitarily. There are of course very obvious nods to the paranoia that spread through Nazi Germany in the 1930s, when anyone deemed “undesirable” was suspected, arrested, often never seen again, where people were blamed for things they could not possibly have been responsible for, where the overwhelming fear and hatred of the “other” took over and drove a whole country mad. Also, naturally, the panic labelled “Reds under the bed” which took hold of America in the 1950s, as fear about Communist infiltrators was fanned to fever pitch. Anyone displaying the least hint of support for or tolerance of “reds” was labelled as one, or a sympathiser, with McCarthy ready to act as the Nazi judges had.

Themes of alien invasion, which also link back to the previous one, although that’s seen as a “quiet” invasion rather than one announced by a sonic boom and a flash in the sky which knocks all the power out. Still, the idea that there are people or things out there is floated for maybe only the third or fourth time. Another theme would be intolerance; when someone is suspected - without good reason - the cry goes up “he’s not like us!” and this is enough to damn him in the eyes of the neighbourhood. Trust, too, or the lack of it, or the very erosion of it, features, as everyone looks at everyone else and wonders just how far they can trust their neighbour, how well they know them, what they might be hiding, what they might really be like.

And isn’t that…?



Claude Akins (1926 - 1994)

Sheriff Lobo himself!


Questions, and sometimes, Answers

How come Pete Van Horn took so long to come back? He only went into the next street, and the sun was shining when he did, so we assume early to late afternoon, yet it’s dark before he returns. What the hell was he doing all that time?

What kind of science fiction comic books did Tommy read? Even in the 1960s, most would have been more concentrated on stories set in space. Some would undoubtedly have themes of alien invasion, but in EVERY ONE he read, the aliens impersonated humans? Surely not.

Iconic?

Not really, but the theme of often unfounded paranoia leading to mass panic and even murder has been used since, most notably to my knowledge in Philip K. Dick’s story “Kill All Others.”

Those clever little touches

I’m not at all sure it’s meant, but both as Pete leaves and as he returns, the camera focuses on the hammer he carries strapped to his leg. Hammer being one half of the Russian flag, are they telling us something here? Given that the theme can very easily dovetail in with the fear of Communism taking over the USA, I feel it might be a subtle hint.
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Old 08-07-2021, 07:15 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Title: “A World of Difference”
Original transmission date: March 11 1960
Written by: Richard Matheson
Directed by: Ted Post
Starring: Howard Duff as Arthur Curtis/Gerald "Gerry" Raigan
Eileen Ryan as Nora Raigan
David White as Brinkley
Gail Kobe as Sally
Peter Walker as Sam
Susan Dorn as Marian Curtis
Frank Maxwell as Marty Fisher
Bill Idelson as Stagehand
Thomas Martin as Technician
Robert McCord as Camera Crew


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Madness, despair, obsession, hope, parallel universes
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A+

Serling’s opening monologue

You're looking at a tableau of reality, things of substance, of physical material: a desk, a window, a light. These things exist and have dimension. Now this is Arthur Curtis, age thirty-six, who also is real. He has flesh and blood, muscle and mind. But in just a moment we will see how thin a line separates that which we assume to be real with that manufactured inside of a mind.


Arthur Curtis is looking forward to his first holiday in years, and the birthday of his daughter. As he makes a call though, or tries to, the phone in his office is dead. As he walks outside to ask his secretary to call the phone company someone growls “Cut!” Suddenly one wall of his office has disappeared, to reveal a camera crew, director, a whole film studio all watching him. One of the men, presumably the director, irritably asks him how hard can it be to make a phone call, using the name Gerry, not Arthur. He introduces himself as Marty, and he is the director, and it seems Arthur, or rather Gerry, is in a movie. Gerry is playing the part of Arthur, except Gerry thinks he is Arthur, and has no memory of any film, does not know the director, does not realise or believe this is a movie. Up until a few moments ago, this was his life, his real life, not some role being played by an actor.

A man purporting to be his agent, Sam, tells him he’s on his last chance and not to blow it. Marty tells one of the crew to phone for an ambulance, while Gerry - or Arthur, or whoever he is - goes to make his call. Suddenly though he can no longer remember his own number, and when he rings directory assistance they tell him there is no telephone registered at the address he has just given. Confused, scared, he leaves the studio - which moments before had been an office block, he remembers it; his own office, where he has worked for years - and is almost run over by a woman in a car, a woman who snarls that she is his wife. Ex-wife, actually, and he had better make sure she gets her alimony payments. Gerry/Arthur doesn’t recognise her at all, and while Marty tells “Mrs. Raigan” that her “husband” is having a nervous breakdown and they are awaiting the arrival of an ambulance, Gerry/Arthur jumps into the car and drives off with his “ex-wife”.

On the way he tries to convince her that he is not who she says or thinks he is, but she thinks he’s just trying to get out of his divorce commitments, and when they drive to where his home should be, and even the road isn’t there, she remains unconvinced. After all, he is an actor. Well, to her anyway he is. When he tries to ring his office and is told, again, no such place exists, he breaks down and passes out. When he comes to, his agent shows him the script for the movie he has been acting in, in which his character is called Arthur Curtis, and his wife, and his child, and the address he thinks he lives at, all match up. However that movie, he is told, has been cancelled due to the unacceptable behaviour of the lead actor - him - and they are at the moment tearing down the set.

Frantic to get back there, knowing somehow that if he can get back into that office, onto that set, things might be all right again, Arthur/Gerry drives at speed back to the studio where he sits in the empty chair at a desk which now contains two blank frames which used to house pictures of his wife and daughter. “Don’t leave me here” he begs, hiding his face in his hands, and when he looks up he sees the photo frames have been again filled with the pictures of his family. Jumping up, he sees his wife - his real wife, not the divorced, money-grasping harpy he left behind at an unfamiliar place he was told was his home - and grabbing her, taking the airline tickets from his secretary, he hurries her out of the office, as a ghostly voice calls “All right! Let’s get these tables and chairs broken down!”

Some short time later the agent appears, asking if anyone has seen Gerry, but nobody has.

And nobody ever will again.

Gerry Raigan is dead. Long live Arthur Curtis.


Serling’s closing monologue

The modus operandi for the departure from life is usually a pine box of such and such dimensions, and this is the ultimate in reality. But there are other ways for a man to exit from life. Take the case of Arthur Curtis, age thirty-six. His departure was along a highway with an exit sign that reads, "This Way To Escape". Arthur Curtis, en route to the Twilight Zone.


The Resolution

In many ways, this is very like “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine”, where Barbara, the fading actress, longed for a life on screen, while here Arthur Curtis, who is in fact (apparently) Gerry Raigan, wishes for his screen persona to be his real one. Both get their wish, in slightly different ways.

The Moral

I’m not entirely sure here. Maybe there’s always a way out, or a way back?

Themes

Madness and obsession are here, large as life. Everyone thinks “Gerry” has gone mad, insisting he is the character he is playing in the movie, and he is obsessed with getting “home”, though when he does reach the street where his house is supposed to be, there’s nothing there. A sense of loss too, as “Gerry” fears he has lost his wife, his child, his job, his very existence, and sees it replaced with that of a drunken actor on his last chance, shackled to a harridan who only cares about getting her pound of flesh out of him. And then hope rises. He hopes, prays that if he can just get back to his “office” everything will be all right, everything will go back to how it was. And it does.

Tentatively, the idea of parallel universes is probably touched on here too. Perhaps in another dimension, the movie is about Gerald Raigan and he is rushing around telling everyone he is not Arthur Curtis…

And isn’t that…?



Howard Duff (1913 - 1990)

Famed for his role as the attorney in the Dustin Hoffman movie Kramer vs Kramer, with Kevin Costner in No Way Out, he also appeared in Dallas, Charlie’s Angels, Flamingo Road, East of Eden, Knot’s Landing and Magnum, PI





Eileen Ryan (1927 - )

Appeared in many series of the 70s, 80s and 90s including Cannon, Matlock, CSI, Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, ER, Grey’s Anatomy and Prime Suspect, but arguably her greatest claim to fame is being the mother of the Penn brothers, Sean, Chris and Michael.


David White (1916 - 1990)

Best known for the series Bewitched, in which he played Darrin’s boss. Also appeared in the 1960 Jack Lemmon classic The Apartment as well as the later Richard Pryor vehicle Brewster’s Millions.

Iconic?

Marginally. Again, I doubt this was the first time this idea was used, but in the future the theme of someone living a life that turns out to be, or seem to be, false would be used a lot. You could probably link the likes of The Truman Show to this idea.

Parallels

As mentioned above, this episode is very close to the idea in “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine”, with both characters seeking, and finding (in Raigan/Curtis’s case, re-finding) sanctuary in a better life in what is a fantasy world. No explanation is given for either, but that has become and will continue to be par for the course with this series.

Personal Notes

This is only the fourth (check) episode so far not written by Serling, and the third I think written by Matheson.
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Old 08-07-2021, 07:23 PM   #40 (permalink)
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Title: “Long Live Walter Jameson”
Original transmission date: March 18 1960
Written by: Charles Beaumont
Directed by: Anton Leader
Starring: Kevin McCarthy as Walter Jameson/ Tom Bowen/ Maj. Hugh Skelton
Edgar Stehli as Prof. Samuel Kittridge
Estelle Winwood as Laurette Bowen
Dody Heath as Susanna Kittridge


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Immortality, Subterfuge, Time travel (of a sort), Callousness
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A

Serling’s opening monologue

You're looking at Act One, Scene One, of a nightmare, one not restricted to witching hours of dark, rainswept nights. Professor Walter Jameson, popular beyond words, who talks of the past as if it were the present, who conjures up the dead as if they were alive...In the view of this man, Professor Samuel Kittridge, Walter Jameson has access to knowledge that couldn't come out of a volume of history, but rather from a book on black magic, which is to say that this nightmare begins at noon.


Walter Jameson is a history teacher who holds his subjects enraptured by his delivery, making it seem as if he was there in the times of which he speaks. His professor, Sam Ketteridge, invites him to dinner; as he leaves, a strange old woman watches him from behind a tree. At Ketteridge’s house, it appears Jameson is engaged to his daughter, who is studying for her PhD. While she hits the books after dinner, Sam takes Walter aside and quizzes him on his age. He’s forty-four, Jameson tells him, but Sam is unconvinced, saying in twelve years he hasn't seen Walter age at all. Now he brings out a book of photographs taken during the American Civil War, and shows Walter one which looks very like him. Pushed by Sam, he admits it is him. When Sam asks him how old he is, he says he is old enough to have known Plato personally.

Now that his suspicions have been confirmed, Sam wants Walter to impart to him his secret, the secret of long life, perhaps immortality. But he is to be disappointed, as Walter tells him he doesn’t know why he has never died, why he goes on, why he doesn’t age like other men: he just does. He tells Sam that he too sought the secret of eternal life, and found it when he met an alchemist who wanted to experiment on him, for a price. Jameson paid the price, and lost consciousness. When he awoke the alchemist was gone, but the experiment had worked. He no longer aged, he could no longer die. He just went on living, but he laments that he did not become any wiser, any braver, any more honourable. More than anything, he wants to die, but he is too frightened to. He tells Sam he was a coward then, and he is a coward now.

This is illustrated in lurid detail when, knowing that it will only last a few decades for him, but unwilling to be lonely, he sticks to his plan of marrying Suzanne, even though Sam has now forbidden it. He looks triumphantly at the professor, knowing there is nothing her father can say to her to change her mind, without seeming as if he has lost his reason. Back in his own house he is accosted by the woman who was hiding behind the tree, who says she is his wife from a previous marriage. Grown very old now, she can’t explain why he has not, but she knows it is him, the man she knew as Tommy Bowen. She shoots him, and when Sam goes over to check out the noise, he finds Walter dying, and ageing. Ageing rapidly. Ageing till he’s nothing more than dust.


Serling’s closing monologue

Last stop on a long journey, as yet another human being returns to the vast nothingness that is the beginning and into the dust that is always the end.


The Resolution

Quite Dorian Grey-like, but a little simplistic and rushed in my opinion. I suppose he was eternal but not invulnerable, and in the end was as easy prey to a simple bullet as any of us. His sins caught him out in the end.

The Moral

Nobody lives forever, nor should they.

Themes

Eternal/long life is the main one here, something that would be revisited in films, books and series in the future, and which had previously been dealt with by writers as diverse as Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker. Selfishness, too, is here: Jameson knows he can only have a short time with Suzanne, but is prepared to marry her anyway to assuage his loneliness, if only for a comparatively brief moment in his long life. One might postulate that, were he to have children from the marriage, he could carry on the same with any daughters, though that is not mentioned nor even hinted at, and might not be in his makeup. I might have had a little more sympathy with him had he stayed with any wife until she had died, but his selfishness is shown in the fact that he clearly only stayed until each had grown old enough to no longer interest him, not till they died, as he is tracked down by one such, well, discarded wife as he went in search of a younger, fresher model.

Loneliness will almost always go hand in hand with immortality or very long life; if you’re the only one who can live beyond the span of a normal human existence, you’re going to be on your own for a lot of your time.

And isn’t that…?



Kevin McCarthy (1914 - 2010)

No, not that one! Interestingly, given my reference to the movie with regard to the previous episode, McCarthy starred in the original 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and a clever cameo in the remake of 1978. He also resurfaced to play a role when Twilight Zone was made into a movie, in 1983. In between, he had the usual roles in the usual shows, like The High Chapparal, Columbo, starred in the remake of Fantastic Voyage, 1987’s Innerspace and as Grampa Addams in Addams Family Reunion.

Iconic?

Nah. Stories about immortals or near-immortals have been around since the Bible - Cain, Noah, Methusaleh - and probably before, and have been absorbed into the likes of vampire stories and things like Highlander.


The Times they are a Changin’

Sam grins to Walter that his daughter is going to pass her exams, even if he has to spank her. You wouldn’t get away with even saying that today, not even as her parent. Probably.

I’d also like to pass on my compliments to the makeup department. While the transformation scene as Jameson ages and then dies would be far better today of course, for 1960 they did a very good job, and considering that Star Trek wouldn’t start in earnest till eight years later, and even then had some, shall we say, questionable effects, this is kind of state of the art for the time.

Parallels

Though not the same stories at all, there is a link here with earlier episode “Escape Clause”, as both men lament the brevity of human life, and while Bedeker did not consciously seek immortality, he was quick to grab it when it presented itself. Both men also found out that living forever (or in Bedeker’s case, being impervious to harm, as his immortality didn’t last very long) is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Personal Notes

I feel the writer missed a trick here. When Walter shows Sam the diary of the Civil War soldier, Major Hugh Skelton, who turns out to be him, Sam should have noted that the writing was Walter’s. After all, people’s handwriting doesn’t change over time, and Walter would have no reason to disguise his, especially in the middle of a war. Then Sam could have used this as incontrovertible proof that Walter was Skelton.
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