The Twilight Zone (1961) – The Arrival, The Shelter and The Passerby

The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series from Paramount Pictures takes me further this week, as we move deeper into Season 3.

First up is The Arrival, penned by series creator, Rod Serling,  this episode had its debut on 22 September, 1961.

Grant Sheckly (Harold J. Stone) is an aviation investigator, but even he’s not sure what to make of the latest case he’s been called in on. A plane has landed at an airport without pilots, crew, passengers or luggage.

Everyone puzzles over it, theorising what could have possibly happened, and no one has any answers. Sheckley is struck by the familiarity of all the names on the passenger manifest, and it takes him a while to figure out why, but when he does, it’s the key to everything.

What I really like is the fact that everyone sees a different plane and number. The climax when it comes is actually pretty tense as Sheckley attempts to prove his point, but then the reveals keep coming as the question of what is real and what is suggestion pervades everything in the story.

It actually is a little unnerving, because perhaps this story, this delusion, or illusion that is affecting everyone in the story, seems remotely possible.

The final reveals all centre on Sheckley, which is good, but I like the idea of it being something that affects the rest of the world, not just one character. Still, it’s a pretty solid tale.

The extras include an isolated score, a sponsor billboard, and a radio adaptation starring Blair Underwood.

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The Shelter is very much a product of its time. Written by Serling with an airdate of 19 September, 1961, the story follows a neighbourhood dinner party that goes sideways when word of a nuclear strike is imminent.

Everyone turns their attention, and anger towards the one family that has a bomb shelter in place. Bill Stockton (Larry Gates) is prepared for everything, but on this night, all of his neighbours, gathered to celebrate his birthday, hate him for it, and he’s not prepared for what happens next.

Everyone tries to get into the shelter, begging and pleading with Stockton to get in, despite the fact that it is already sealed. It’s kind of like the story of the ants and the grasshopper. I mean he prepared, and the rest all laughed at him, but when things go sideways, they all want his help.

It’s a scary thought that this could have happened at any time in the 60s, and rather bothersome that it could be rearing a similar head now. The story plays up xenophobia, and racism, and it’s frightening to see how quickly civilisation goes sideways when something terrible happens, or threatens to.

It plays up the Cold War Scare and terrifies as common men turn against one another, and is one of the only Zone episodes that contains no supernatural or paranormal elements.

The extras for this episode include an isolated score, sponsor billboards, and radio version with Ernie Hudson.

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The final tale this week is The Passerby. This one was also written by Serling and first aired on 6 October, 1961.

On his way home after the end of the Civil War, a former Confederate soldier (James Gregory) encounters an upset woman, Lavina Godwin (Joanne Linville).Both of their lives have been changed drastically by the war, and the pass the time by talking about the damages they have sustained.

This is actually a well-woven story, as we get to know the two characters, a sad one, when the reveal comes along, as we learn the fate of those soldiers, both Confederate and Union walking the road outside Godwin’s burnt out home.

It’s a great story, love, loss, war, and the cost of all… I rather like this episode a lot. Just a gentle, moving tale.

The extras include an isolated score by Fred Steiner, billboards, and a radio drama with Morgan Brittany.

Next week, join me as I venture further into The Twilight Zone with Paramount Picture’s Complete Series on blu-ray.

There’s the signpost up ahead!!

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