Twilight Zone (1959 franchise)

From YSDC Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Promotional image for Twilight Zone (1959 series)

Summary

"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone."

The brainchild of Emmy Award-winner Rod Serling, who served as host and writer of over 80 episodes of the original show's 150-plus episode run. It's a strange mix of horror, science-fiction, drama, comedy and the supernatural, typically characterized by twist endings. The original series and the 1980s revival also made use of frequent contributions from writers Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont.

The franchise includes a well-received 1983 feature anthology film consisting of stories from the original series (mostly by Serling) and 1985 revival series consisting of new (mostly horror and dark urban fantasy-themed episodes).

An obscure 1994 film made from "lost" Serling scripts also appeared, followed by a well-meaning but less well-received 2002 revival series.

Additionally, the franchise includes many radio shows, books, magazines, comic books, and other franchise tie-ins.

See also The Night Gallery, another horror/dark fantasy anthology series hosted by Rod Serling, which included stories by H.P. Lovecraft.


Details

  • Release Date: 1959-1964; 1983 (film); 1985-1989 (first revival series); 1994 (Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Lost Classics); 2002 (second revival series)
  • Country/Language: US, English
  • Genres/Technical: Fantasy (urban fantasy), Science Fiction, Thriller, Horror, Mystery, Crime, Anthology, black-and-white (original series)
  • Starring: (various), Rod Serling as the original host
  • Creator: Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and others
  • Producer/Production Co: Rod Serling, Cayuga Productions, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros. (1983 film); Atlantis Films, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), London Film Productions (1980s revival); O'Hara-Horowitz Productions (1994 film); New Line Television, Spirit Dance Entertainment, Trilogy Entertainment Group (2002 revival)
  • View Trailer: (link), (link), (link), (link)
  • TVTropes: (link), (link), (link)
  • IMDB Page: (link), (link), (link), (link), (link)

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: TV-G to TV-14 (mild and typically off-screen/implied Violence and Adult Content)

The franchise ranges from the 1950s TV-friendly original series, through later incarnations that might require some parental guidance for sensitive children.

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • Ss___ (One and a Half Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian)

Over all, this franchise is of interest to "Lovecraftians" less for any of the (almost non-existent) traditional "Lovecraftian" content, and more for the contributions of other excellent Weird Fiction authors, and the possibilities for adaptation into mythos stories and scenarios.

The 1980s revival was the most horror-oriented incarnation of the series, and would have some of the most "Lovecraftian" content this franchise had to offer, particularly with Stephen King's "Gramma", and would feature contributions by Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, Arthur C. Clarke, Wes Craven, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, George R.R. Martin, Roger Zelazny, J. Michael Straczynski, in addition to Rod Serling (who had passed away before this series was developed.

The original 1959-1964 incarnation was filtered more through Rod Serling's unique take on urban fantasy, which often featured ironic plot twists and black humor; it's widely regarded as one of the greatest genre anthology series ever, and does include many classics dark fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories, including those by Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Manly Wade Wellman, Ray Bradbury, and Ambrose Bierce.

The 1983 film contains no "Lovecraftian" content, but does include a couple of fine horror segments in the form of remakes of some of the most unsettling classic episodes; a relatively obscure (and completely non-Lovecraftian) 1994 film was made based on stories either written by Rod Serling, or started by him and finished by long-time Twilight Zone contributor Charles Beaumont. A short-lived and mostly forgettable 2002 revival hosted by an uncomfortable-looking Forest Whitaker was also attempted, but suffered from a lack of vision from the producers and the wealth of quality writers that earlier incarnations were able to benefit from.

After the original series was canceled, Rod Serling would host the very similarly-themed Night_Gallery_(1970_series), which Serling had less control over (and which varied wildly in quality, but did include some fine adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft stories.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • (review needed)


Synopses of Suggested Episodes

Generally, the classic 1959 TV series is of excellent quality and a figurative "gold-mine" of plot twists and great story ideas, and the suggested episodes below are just a few of the many highlights of this recommended series. The 1980s revival was only slightly inferior, suffering from uneven quality, but with many gems of horror and dark fantasy to be found among the handful of clunkers. The short-lived 2002 revival had little to recommend it, and seems to have suffered the effects of being just a little bit too much like a generic horror anthology and from a loss of some of the great story-tellers that previous incarnations of The Twilight Zone enjoyed.

  • From the 1959 series:
    • "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" (1959, Episode 1x15) - Order breaks down between three surviving crewmen whose rocket ship crashes on an unknown world with limited water and supplies.
    • "The Howling Man" (1959, Episode 2x05) - Seeking refuge from a storm, a traveler comes upon a bizarre abbey of monks, who have imprisoned a man who begs for his help. When he confronts the head monk, he is told that the man is the Devil, and he must decide whom to believe. From a story by Charles Beaumont.
    • "Shadow Play" (1959, Episode 2x26) - Adam Grant is trapped in a recurring nightmare, in which he is sentenced to death by execution. He tries to convince the people around him that they are imaginary and that they will cease to exist if the execution is carried out. From a story by Charles Beaumont.
    • "It's a Good Life" (1959, Episode 3x08) - On an isolated family farm, a young boy with vast mental powers, but lacking emotional development, holds his terrified family in thrall to his every juvenile wish.
    • "To Serve man" (1959, Episode 3x24) - An alien race comes to earth, promising peace and sharing technology. A linguist and his team set out to translate the alien's language, using a book whose title they deduce is "To Serve Man".
    • "Little Girl Lost" (1959, Episode 3x26) - Awakened in the middle of the night by the cries of his daughter, a father enters the girl's room to find that she has vanished - even though he can still hear her crying out for help. From a story by Richard Matheson.
    • "The Thirty-Fathom Grave" (1959, Episode 4x02) - The sole survivor of a sunken sub is on board a U.S. Navy ship 20 years later when the ship's sonar detects a muted hammering on metal undesea from the sub he escaped on. From a story by Rod Serling.
    • "Death Ship" (1959, Episode 4x06) - An interplanetary expedition from earth finds an exact duplicate of their ship and themselves crashed on the planet they were surveying. Should they stay or risk taking off and crashing? From a story by Richard Matheson.
    • "The Parallel" (1959, Episode 4x11) - An astronaut returns from space to a world that is not exactly the one he left from. From a story by Rod Serling.
    • "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1959, Episode 5x03) - A man, newly recovered from a nervous breakdown, becomes convinced that a monster only he sees is damaging the plane he's flying in. From a story by Richard Matheson.
    • "Night Call" (1959, Episode 5x19) - Telephone calls begin to haunt a disabled elderly woman. From a story by Richard Matheson, directed by Jaques Torneur.
  • From the 1983 film:
    • "Prologue, Epilogue" (1983, Segment 1,6) - After the driver turns the car headlights off and drives in darkness for a moment, his passenger asks, Do you want to see something really scary?" In the epilogue, an ambulance driver asks the injured and terrified driver the same question....
    • "It's a Good Life" (1983, Segment 4) - An inferior remake of the famous story from the original series about a young boy with god-like power over a terrified small town.
    • "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1983, Segment 5) - A remake of the famous story from original series, about an acrophobic passenger who sees a hideous gremlin on the wing of the airplane.
  • From the 1985 reboot:
    • "Chameleon" (1985, Episode 1x03x3) - A group of NASA technicians encounter a strange shape-shifting alien life form.
    • "The Shadow Man" (1985, Episode 1x10x1) - The Shadow Man, a mysterious entity made of darkness, defends a boy in exchange for being allowed to stay under his bed. By Rockne S. O'Bannon.
    • "The Beacon" (1985, Episode 1x11x1) - A young doctor stumbles into a strange town where the citizens are a cult that fears and worships a mysterious lighthouse.
    • "The Star" (1985, Episode 1x13x3) - On an interstellar journey, an astrophysicist and a priest discover a long-dead world that has been emitting a signal for aeons, since the first Christmas. From a story by Arthur C. Clarke.
    • "The Little People of Killany Woods" (1985, Episode 1x14x2) - A story-telling town drunk has an encounter with the Little People.
    • "A Small Talent for War" (1985, Episode 1x15x2) - An alien race that claims to have engineered the human race returns to judge us for our "small talent for war".
    • "A Matter of Minutes" (1985, Episode 1x15x3) - A married couple awakens one morning to find reality being constructed around them. From a story by Theodore Sturgeon; also inspired The Langoliers (1995 series) by Stephen King.
    • "The Elevator" (1985, Episode 1x16x1) - Two brothers search for their father at his factory full of gigantic animal carcasses, and find a nightmare. From a story by Ray Bradbury.
    • "Gramma" (1985, Episode 1x18x1), from a story by Stephen King.
    • "Personal Demons" (1985, Episode 1x18x2) - A scriptwriter (Martin Balsam) suffering from writer's block is tormented by a group of small creatures. By Rockne S. O'Bannon.
    • "Dead Run" (1985, 1x19x2) - A truck driver accepts a job delivering truckloads of souls to Hell.
    • "Button, Button" (1985, 1x20x2) - A stranger gives a down-and-out couple a box with a button on it, promising that if they press the button they will recieve a large sum of money, but someone will die. (Would be remade as The Box (2009 film).)
    • "Need to Know" (1985, 1x21x1) - A government agent is sent to a small town to investigate a bizarre outbreak of insanity transmitted by telling a secret.
    • "Red Snow" (1985, 1x21x2) - A KGB colonel is sent to a Siberian town to investigate the disappearances of local Communist Party officials.
    • "The Toys of Caliban" (1985, 2x05) - A mentally-challenged child has strange powers.
    • "Shelter Skelter" (1985, 2x09x2) - A survivalist and his friend find themselves cut off from the rest of the world in his shelter after a nuclear bomb detonation.
    • "The Curious Case of Edgar Witherspoon" ( 1985, Episode 3x01) - An old man known as Uncle Edgar is ordered by a mysterious voice to collect junk in his apartment to keep the world in balance. From a story by J. Michael Straczynski.
    • "The Hellgramite Method" (1985, Episode 3x07) - An alcoholic goes through an extremely painful and potentially deadly cure for his drinking problem. He has to choose which is more important - the bottle or his life.
    • "Something in the Walls" (1985, Episode 3x19) - The case of a woman comitted to a sanitarium who claims to see something horrible in patterns on walls. From a story by J. Michael Straczynski.
    • "The Wall" (1985, Episode 3x23) - A military experiment opens a gate to an unknown world, and a specialist is sent on a follow-up expedition after the first expedition vanishes without a trace. From a story by J. Michael Straczynski.
  • From the 2002 reboot:
    • "Azoth the Avenger Is a Friend of Mine" (2002, Episode 1x10) - A young bullied boy with an abusive father wishes a fantasy barbarian hero into existence to teach him about courage.
    • "Hunted" (2002, Episode 1x17) - Officers from a futuristic civilization are targeted by a dangerous unseen enemy.
    • "It's Still a Good Life" (2002, Episode 1x30) - In the sequel to the 1961 episode "It's a Good Life", Anthony Fremont (Bill Mumy), the young boy who once terrorized his town with his amazing mental powers, is now a man and the proud father of a little girl (Bill Mumy's real-life daughter, Liliana Mumy) whose mental powers are stronger than his.


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • Season 1 intro: "There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone."
  • Season 2 intro: "You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Twilight Zone!"
  • Season 3 intro: "You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!"
  • Season 4&5 intro: "You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone."
  • Alternate intro: "You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!"


Associated Mythos Elements

  • TO DO


Keeper Notes

  • "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" - might work as a single-shot Cthulhu Icarus adventure about a group of astronauts whose ship crash-lands in a desert on an unknown world with limited supplies of water and supplies; alternatively, a group of explorers pass through an experimental gate and find themselves in a desert with no way back and limited supplies. Either way, they do not find out until too late that they are still on Earth....
  • "The Howling Man" - Actually a variation on the Lovecraftian "sealed evil in a can" plot device; the investigators raid a bizarre cult who hold a howling prisoner locked in their cellar, claiming he is the Devil; the prisoner claims to be a tortured victim of the cultists; the investigators must decide who to believe.
  • "Shadow Play" - The investigators of a one-shot adventure sit on a jury for the murder trial of a strange defendant who claims to be from another world, dreaming of Earth, and his execution will force him to wake up, ending the dream, and Earth with it.
  • "It's a Good Life" - The investigators are trapped in a small town populated by the terrifed cult to an all-powerful eldritch abomination in the form of a young human boy.
  • "Little Girl Lost" - The investigators are called for help when a family is awakened by their little girl's cries for help after she slips through an acute angle that behaves as if it were obtuse, into a strange alien dimension.
  • "The Thirty-Fathom Grave" - The investigators are the crew on a naval ship with an NPC survivor of a sunken submarine from years before that they are about to salvage, when a strange pounding sound comes from the wreckage. Is it caused by something natural? By ghosts? By Deep Ones?
  • "Death Ship" - In a Cthulhu Icarus story, a crew of an experimental interstellar ship discover an exact copy of their ship crashed on a planet's surface, and the NPC captain quickly becomes obsessed with it. Are the crew ghosts? Have they traveled through time? Are they seeing their doubles from an alternate dimension? Or is there an even more sinister cause?
  • "The Parallel" - In a Cthulhu Icarus story, the crew of an interplanetary expedition in an experimental faster-than-light ship return home to find unsettling differences from the world they left behind; they seem to have returned to a parallel dimension.
  • "Night Call" - A terrified, elderly invalid calls the investigators for help when she begins getting terrifying phone calls at night from people she knows have died. The investigators track the source of the calls down to a downed telephone line touching the ground in the local cemetary. Ghoul comedy ensues....
  • "Chameleon" - a scientific experiment causes a technician to vanish, replaced by an alien artifact, and the investigators become involved when the technician re-appears in the isolation room the artifact has been sealed away in; is this the real technician, or is he a shape-shifting alien from another dimension?
  • "The Shadow Man" - The investigators become involved in an investigation involving the disturbing disappearances of a number of children involved in a case of bullying, culminating in the disappearance of the victim of their bullying, a peculiar child with an imaginary friend he called "The Shadow Man"....
  • "The Beacon" - The investigators stumble into a strange town populated by a cult that fears and worships a mysterious lighthouse they call "the beacon", which shines its light on people who are to become the next human sacrifice....
  • The Star" - A Cthulhu Icarus Christmas story in which investigators traveling to a planet encircling a burned-out star pick up a feeble message from a dead world destroyed and its people made extinct when the star exploded to form the Star of Bethlehem during the first Christmas....
  • "The Little People of Killany Woods" - a group of backwoods investigators in an earlier century all meet in the local pub when the town drunk shows up with a strange story about meeting The Little People and being given faerie gold for lending them tools and Earth goods; investigators who dig deeper into the story find that the "Little People" are actually a saucer full of aliens repairing their crashed ship....
  • "A Matter of Minutes" - the investigators find themselves trapped between two moments in time while sanity-shattering agents of The Old Ones finish constructing the next moment....
  • "The Elevator" - investigators looking into the mysterious disappearance of an inventor trying to solve the problem of world hunger find that the inventor's latest invention has gone horribly right, turning tiny animals and vermin into beasts of monstrous size....
  • "Dead Run" - Nyarlathotep offers a group of investigators a job transporting a shipload of damned souls to the Dreamlands Plateau of Leng and beyond to serve hellish alien masters forever in an eternal nightmare....
  • "Red Snow" - Perhaps as a Cold Harvest (setting) sequel set early in the Cold War, a team of KGB agents are sent to investigate the mysterious disappearances of party officials in a remote Siberian village, and uncover a conspiracy of vampires.
  • "Shelter Skelter" - A group of investigators and paranoid NPCs touring a bomb shelter are cut off from the outside world after a nuclear detonation. After weeks of silence, strange noises can be heard outside....
  • "The Wall" - The investigators are part of a follow-up expedition into a gate to another world to find out what happened to the vanished first expedition.
  • "Hunted" - A one-shot Cthulhu End Times scenario might send a team of investigators out to hunt an eldritch abomination loose in a remote forest, but not all of the hunting party are who they seem to be....