Season 2 of Paramount’s The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series comes to a close this week, and we dive right into season 3.
But what a way to bring about the end of the season! The penultimate episode, Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? is just a lot of fun.
Written by series creator Rod Serling, this episode first screened on 26 May, 1961. Cashing in on the flying saucer stories that proliferated the 50s and 60s, the story follows the tale of a crashed saucer. As reports come in of the crash, two police officers, troopers Bill Padgett (John Archer) and Dan Perry (Morgan Jones) investigate a snowed-in diner, and learn that the bus out front has one more passenger than it should.
The diner’s bartender, Haley (Barney Phillips) helps out as he can, but will the troopers find the real alien?
The story is a lot of fun, and even if you’ve seen it before it’s fun to see how the tale is crafted, shots elevate tension, and dialogue is key, and the reveals work wonderfully. The episode also features the wonderful character actor Jack Elam, who stirs the pot, intentionally or not. The story plays up the panic and tension that seems to point at the Red Scare as much as it does Flying Saucers.
The extras for this episode include an isolated score, two commentaries, both by Zone historians (Marc Scott Zircee and Gary Gerani) as well as a radio version starring Richard Kind.
The Obsolete Man sees Burgess Meredith return for a third visit to the zone, and this is a story I rather quite like. Also penned by Serling, the episode aired, closing out the second season on 2 June, 1961.
Meredith plays Romney Wordsworth, a librarian in the distant future. Part of a totalitarian society, the government decides what the people need to know, what they need to worship, and they have decided that libraries have no place in their world. (This actually sounds terrifyingly relevant to today’s times).
Wordsworth, considered obsolete, is on trial for his life. As he argues his case to the Chancellor (Fritz Weaver), we can tell that the court’s ruling is moving against him.
But with death on the horizon, Romney still has a bit of a surprise to play before he breathes his last.
Serling’s introduction sounds prescient “You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future, not a future that will be but one that might be. This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace.”
Tell me we aren’t living in that era now…
The extras include another commentary by Zircee, an isolated score, billboards, and a radio version starring Jason Alexander.
Season 3 opens (amidst new title credits) with Two and is the final episode up for review this week. Written by Montgomery Pittman, who also directed the episode, season 3 got underway on 15 September, 1961.
The final war is over, and there are only two survivors, one from each side. There is The Woman (a brunette Elizabeth Montgomery who would later move on to Bewitched) and The Man (Charles Bronson).
The two struggle to get past their mistrust, and inability to communicate, and the ingrained hate the war has created in them.
Unlike most episodes there is no supernatural or paranormal moments in the story, it is simply a commentary on war.
The extras to conclude this week’s foray into The Zone is another commentary by Zone fans and historians, Scott Skelton and Jim Benson, a teaser by Rod Serling, an isolated score by Van Cleave, billboards, and a radio adaptation starring Don Johnson.
Next week, you can join me as I venture deeper into season 3 as I continue my exploration of The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series from Paramount Pictures, available now on blu-ray.
There’s the signpost up ahead…