There’s the signpost up ahead… Paramount takes me even further into The Twilight Zone as I explore the next three episodes of the series.
First up is People are Alike All Over written by Rod Serling, based on a short story by Paul Fairman. It stars one of my favourite character actors of all time, Roddy McDowall and aired on 25 March, 1960.
Sam Conrad (McDowall) is a biologist about to be part of an exploratory force to Mars. Conrad is anxious about what they will find, but the mission commander Mark Marcusson (Paul Comi) shares his own belief that if God made everyone, and made them in His own image, than most beings they will encounter must look human. People are alike all over, he says.
A crash landing on Mars puts that theory to the test.There is life there, and it welcomes Conrad, promising him a home, a way of life, all he could want…
After a fashion. The twist isn’t huge, but it makes sense, and keeps in line with the theme and idea of the episode. Would we do any different had they landed here?
McDowall is earnest and honest in his performance. He’s always been at his ease in the science fiction genre, and his portrayals always invest me.
The episode also features Star Trek alumnus Susan Oliver as Teenya who seems to have some reservations about what is planned for Conrad, especially when it is made very clear that Conrad is attracted to her.
A solid first episode to start the week!
The extras that round out this episode include an isolated score, and a radio adaptation starring Blair Underwood.
Execution aired 1 April, 1960 and was penned by Serling based on a story by George Clayton Johnson.
Professor Manion (Gilligan’s Professor, Russell Johnson) is testing out his time machine and it retrieves a man from the 19th century, Joe Caswell (Albert Saimi). Manion is unaware that the retrieved man has just been saved from the hangman’s noose. He’s a murderer.
Manion and Caswell seek to adjust the traveller to the 20th century, but it may be too much for him. As Manion begins to suspect Caswell’s true nature, the villain reveals his true colours and slays the Preofessor, fleeing into the night, discovering the wonders and the terrors of the 20th century, and he is unprepared for all of them. As his night unfurls seeing he is ill-prepared in oh so many ways, and maybe after decades, justice will be served after all.
It’s a fairly simple story, and there is no big reveal, twist, or ironic discovery (okay there’s a small one, but it’s telegraphed by Caswell’s own demise), it’s simply a tale of a man out of time, who gets what he deserves in the end after all. Perhaps there’s a commentary upon fate in that last bit.
This episode features an isolated score as a bonus feature.
The last episode this week, The Big Tall Wish aired on 8 April, 1960. It was written by Serling and follows an ageing boxer, Bolie Jackson (Ivan Dixon) who wins a fight he thought he had lost.
All of this hangs on the belief, and wishing of a young boy, Henry (Steven Perry). It seems Henry has a rare gift, something his mother (Kim Hamilton) calls the big wish. But even when his life changes from the things Henry’s wish affects, Bolie refuses to believe it’s anything more than his own skills and abilities.
Of course, in the Twilight Zone, that sort of thinking doesn’t hold, and there will be a payment by Bolie for non-belief.
This one, despite the fact that it’s about boxing, is a little gentle and full of whimsy, as everything centres on the belief and wants of a young child. Young Perry’s performances is enjoyable, and heartfelt, and you want to believe that things will work out for him, his mother, and his hero, Bolie.
I rather like this episode, but I think it’s because it appeals to the Spielbergian sense of childlike wonder that lives in my heart.
The extras on this one include an isolated score by the amazing Jerry Goldsmith and a radio drama, featuring Blair Underwood (again!).
There’s more to come next week as I continue to chart Paramount’s The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series on blu-ray!