From an unsettlingly persistent hitchhiker to a malevolent slot machine, The Twilight Zone’s first season did plumb “the pit of man’s fears.” One forgets how moving the series could be. Three of this season’s most memorable and enduring episodes are the poignant and primal “stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off fantasies, “Walking Distance,” “A Stop at Willougby” and “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine,” in which desperate characters seek refuge in a simpler past. Serling’s few stabs at comedy (“Mr. Bevis,” “The Mighty Casey”) have not aged well, but the series finale, “A World of His Own,” starring Keenan Wynn as a playwright whose fictional characters come to life, has a brilliant capper.
The episodes are more deliberately paced than one might remember. Less patient younger viewers might be anxious to get to the payoffs, but once they settle into the rhythm, they will savor the literate writing and the performances by such veteran actors as Ed Wynn, Everett Sloan, and Ida Lupino, and newcomers such as Jack Klugman. The extras, including the unaired version of the pilot episode, “Where is Everybody?”, audio commentaries and recollections, and a Serling college lecture, truly take this six-disc set to another dimension.
Character to watch: Pick a unique character from each show.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the series.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?