Ever have one of those days, when everything seems to go wrong; when, as Hamlet said, the time is out of joint; when things just seem off; when you’re not on your game; when you woke up on the wrong side of the bed?
I believe it is not at all an exaggeration to posit that most people who grew up on television, where and when I did, think of the following when we’re having a day like that:
(Queue the haunting theme music by Marius Constant…)
You’re traveling through another dimension.
A dimension, not only of sight and sound, but of mind.
A journey through a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.
That’s the sign post up ahead!
Your next stop: The Twilight Zone.
— Rod Serling
This week I conclude my series of nostalgic Video Fridays posts, wherein I’ve reminisced about a late night lineup of TV reruns that I was fond of in my youth.
Having covered The Honeymooners, The Odd Couple, M*A*S*H, and Star Trek: The Original Series, it’s time now to enter…The Twilight Zone!
Thanks to the 1:00am airing time, it’s safe to say that, of all of these shows, I saw The Twilight Zone with less consistency, unless you include the many times I fell asleep in the middle of an episode.
And yet, when I did watch I was captivated and very often creeped out, thanks to the late hour and the often mysterious, mind-bending, and even scary stories.
The Twilight Zone resembled two of the other shows in particular ways.
First, like The Honeymooners, it was in black and white, and while not dating back quite as far — the last episode originally aired in June 1964, a few months before I was born — it was a terrific time capsule, offering up a charming glimpse of the clothing, furniture, appliances, and vehicles of the time, as well as many no-longer used colloquialisms.
Second, like Star Trek, The Twilight Zone often featured science fiction stories, including even more dated and, to our modern CGI-trained eyes, cheesy props and special effects, but always focused on human drama and ethical dilemmas rather than on action.
The Twilight Zone, unlike Star Trek, was mostly a half-hour show (season four featured hour-long episodes, but it returned to a half-hour for the fifth and final season), and I’d argue that this time constraint (actually 25 minutes without commercials) speaks to the show’s primary greatness, for each episode was a masterpiece in miniature, with solid story arcs, tight scripts offering a mixture of humorous and dead serious dialogue, incredible casting, deeply committed acting, and gorgeous photography, employing experimental techniques that were quite radical for the time.
In preparation for writing this post, this past week I re-watched numerous episodes, starting from the pilot, continuing in sequence through much of the first season, then skipping around amongst the remaining four seasons, and I was particularly struck by how good the show was right out of the gate.
In fact, the eighth episode of the first season may be the most famous one of all, titled Time Enough To Last, and starring the late great Burgess Meredith as a book worm, so distracted by his obsession with reading that his marriage and job are in jeopardy, until one day, while taking his lunch break in the vault of the bank where he works, a nuclear apocalypse goes down, and, after recovering from the shock and coming to the realization that he may be the last person alive on the planet, he discovers the rubble of the public library, enough books to last a lifetime, and time enough at last to indulge his reading obsession without interruption, only, as he’s about to dig into the first book, his super-thick eyeglasses, without which he can barely see a thing much less read, fall to the ground and smash completely, unusable.
It’s devastating and awesome.
And yet, this is not the episode I’ve chosen to include here. Rather, I’ve selected episode 21 of the first season, because it shares common ground with the episode I featured in last week’s Star Trek post.
Titled Mirror Image (the Star Trek episode was titled Mirror, Mirror), like it’s counterpart, it explores the possibility of a parallel or alternate universe, a copy of the one we exist in, only…different.
But, rather than me rambling on any further, let’s just get to the video fun!
Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!
(Disclaimer: I apologize that, due the video having been rendered in a different aspect ratio than the original, parts of the image are cut off throughout, especially noticeable during close-up dialogue.)